Problem is, I kinda buy Ray Kurzweil‘s central argument that our technological development is speeding up exponentially.
Remember the tale of the king who was asked for 1 grain of rice on the first position of the chess board, then double the amount for every next square?
“It’s only 64 squares, so how bad can that be?”, the king must have thought. But before half-way the board, the king ran out of rice or the ability to count it.
According to legend, vizier Sissa Ben Dahir presented an Indian King Sharim with a beautiful, hand-made chessboard. The king asked what he would like in return for his gift and the courtier surprised the king by asking for one grain of rice on the first square, two grains on the second, four grains on the third etc. The king readily agreed and asked for the rice to be brought. All went well at first, but the requirement for 2 n − 1 grains on the nth square demanded over a million grains on the 21st square, more than a million million (aka trillion) on the 41st and there simply was not enough rice in the whole world for the final squares. (from Swirski, 2006)
Just a couple of links in my stream this week: mosquito-shaped drones, police-anti-surveillance software in people’s smart phones, the God Particle, immortality within 20 years… It’s starting to sound like reality will overtake anything SciFi literature has been able to dream up.
My feeling is that most of what’s happening in GRIN, i.e. Genetics, Robotics, Information- and Nano-tech, is happening outside of the public eye and, equally alarmingly, without the necessary awareness and understanding by public policy makers.
Systems of representative democracy seem to have gained ground at the expense of dictatorships since WWII. The North-Western European welfare state model – with relatively high civic participation, equality of opportunity and relatively low corruption – is arguably the most fair and just implementation we’ve ever seen. However, that welfare state model of social justice and the rule of law has been on the decline since the early 1980s.
The collapse of the bipolar world order of the Cold War era spurred a broadly held, false conception that capitalism – the purer the better – is the only “right” ideology. The triumph of neo-liberal capitalism made it ideologically “okay” that the rich can keep enriching themselves at the cost of the poor.
Yet, compared to what’s in stall according to Kurzweil’s predictions, so far we’ve all been more or less playing on a level field. Sure, if you’re rich you can buy comfort and better medical care. But what when the first super-rich will engineer themselves to become immortal cyborgs with super-human physical and intellectual capabilities?
If the power of money corrupts, what reason is there to believe that the powers that come with being super-human would not corrupt?
I’m fairly optimistic that humanity will be able to resolve “technical” challenges such as the quality of the physical environment, energy efficiency, CO2 reduction, clean tech etc.
But I’m weeping for our children when I think of humanity’s track record in social justice.