The conversation continues from Price – clarifying a concept to improve service.
Technology is all around us today. It seems to appear from nowhere and provide such seductive things like Cruise Control, GPS mapping and directions, all kinds of phone apps that link us to our security systems and kitchens, and of course the ability to share information and communicate anywhere in the World at any time, live. Where does this all come from, should we marry it, or do we need to understand and manage some aspects around it more consciously? How would we see technology in relation to the Threefold Social Order?
A friend of mine in the USA sent me the following email on disruptive ideas. It is essential to read as it is the base for the rest of the article. Here goes –
Recently I interviewed my friend Ray Kurzweil at the Googleplex for a 90-minute (live) webinar on disruptive and dangerous ideas, a prelude to my fireside chat with Ray at Abundance 360 this January. (Watch the replay here)
Ray is my friend and the Co-founder and Chancellor of Singularity University. He is also an XPRIZE Trustee, the Director of Engineering at Google, and one of the best predictors of our exponential future.
It’s my pleasure to share with you 3 compelling ideas that came from our conversation.
- The Nation-State Will Soon Be Irrelevant
Historically, we humans don’t like change. We like waking up in the morning and knowing that that the world is the same as the night before.
That’s one reason why government institutions exist: to stabilize society.
But how will this change in 20 or 30 years? What role will stabilizing institutions play in a world of continuous, accelerating change?
“Institutions stick around, but they change their role in our lives,” Ray explained. “They already have. The nation-state is not as profound as it was. Religion used to direct every aspect of your life, minute to minute. It’s still important in some ways, but it’s much less important, much less pervasive. [It] plays a much smaller role in most people’s lives than it did, and the same is true for governments.”
Ray continues: “We are fantastically interconnected already. Nation-states are not islands anymore. So we’re already much more of a global community. The generation growing up today really feels like world citizens much more than ever before, because they’re talking to people all over the world and it’s not a novelty.”
I’ve previously shared my belief that national borders have become extremely porous, with ideas, people, capital and technology rapidly flowing between nations. In decades past, your cultural identity was tied to your birthplace. In the decades ahead, your identity is more a function of many other external factors. If you love space, you’ll be connected with fellow space-cadets around the globe more than you’ll be tied to someone born next door.
- We’ll hit longevity escape velocity before we realize we’ve hit it.
Ray and I share a passion for extending the healthy human lifespan.
I frequently discuss Ray’s concept of “longevity escape velocity” — the point at which, for every year that you’re alive, science is able to extend your life for more than a year.
Scientists are continually extending the human lifespan, helping us cure heart disease, cancer, and eventually neurodegenerative disease. This will keep accelerating as technology improves.
During my discussion with Ray, I asked him when he expects we’ll reach “escape velocity…”
His answer? “I predict it’s likely just another 10 to 12 years before the general public will hit longevity escape velocity.”
“At that point, biotechnology is going to have taken over medicine,” Ray added. “The next decade is going to be a profound revolution.”
From there, Ray predicts that nanorobots will “basically finish the job of the immune system,” with the ability to seek and destroy cancerous cells and repair damaged organs.
As we head into this sci-fi-like future, your most important job for the next 15 years is to stay alive. “Wear your seatbelt until we get the self-driving cars going,” Ray jokes.
The implications to society will be profound. While the scarcity-minded in government will react saying, “Social Security will be destroyed,” the more abundance-minded will realize that extending a person’s productive earning lifespace from 65 to 75 or 85 years old would be a massive boom to the GDP.
- Technology will help us define and actualize human freedoms.
The third dangerous idea from my conversation with Ray is about how technology will enhance our humanity, not detract from it.
You may have heard critics complain that technology is making us less human, and increasingly disconnected.
Ray and I share a slightly different viewpoint: that technology enables us to tap into the very essence of what it means to be human.
“I don’t think humans even have to be biological,” explained Ray. “I think humans are the species that changes who we are.”
Ray argues that this began when humans developed the earliest technologies — fire and stone tools. These tools gave people new capabilities, and became extensions of our physical bodies.
At its base level, technology is the means by which we change our environment, and change ourselves. This will continue, even as the technologies themselves evolve.
“People say, ‘Well, do I really want to become part machine?’ You’re not even going to notice it,” says Ray, “because it’s going to be a sensible thing to do at each point.”
Today, we take medicine to fight disease and maintain good health, and would likely consider it irresponsible if someone refused to take a proven, life-saving medicine.
In the future, this will still happen — except the medicine might have nanobots that can target disease, or will also improve your memory so you can recall things more easily.
And because this new medicine works so well for so many, public perception will change. Eventually, it will become the norm… as ubiquitous as penicillin and ibuprofen are today.
In this way, ingesting nanorobots, uploading your brain to the cloud, and using devices like smart contact lenses can help humans become, well, better at being human.
Ray sums it up: “We are the species that changes who we are to become smarter and more profound, more beautiful, more creative, more musical, funnier, sexier.”
Speaking of sexuality and beauty, Ray also sees technology expanding these concepts. “In virtual reality, you can be someone else. Right now, actually changing your gender in real reality is a pretty significant, profound process, but you could do it in virtual reality much more easily and you can be someone else. A couple could become each other and discover their relationship from the other’s perspective.”
In the 2030s, when Ray predicts sensor-laden nano robots will be able to go inside the nervous system, virtual or augmented reality will become exceptionally realistic, enabling us to “be someone else and have other kinds of experiences.”
Why Dangerous Ideas Matter
Why is it so important to discuss dangerous ideas?
I often say that the day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.
By consuming and considering a steady diet of “crazy ideas,” you train yourself to think bigger and bolder… a critical requirement for making impact.
As humans, we are linear and scarcity-minded.
As entrepreneurs, we must think exponentially and abundantly.
At the end of the day, the formula for a true breakthrough is equal to “having a crazy idea” you believe in, plus the passion to pursue that idea against all naysayers and obstacles.
My Inner Response
I had to say that I was taken by these ideas and concepts. They found a sympathy in my soul immediately and I felt an urge not to be left behind in this. I then decided to check this all against my core concepts as expressed and contained within the Threefold concept of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. I then found my orientation to the content of the above article and the reality or otherwise of it. I wrote back to my friend the following:
‘This is taken from a very specific world view. It is hugely engaging and convincing at first blush. On considering my own life experience and what I have searched to find as stable truths on which to base my world view, technology comes from mankind but only because he is mankind. If he takes the steps to become ‘mechanical’, he will have made the decision to discard his real capacities and will send off but a robot running out of gas as his creation. Bigger realities will determine the way back for this ‘mankind’. Some, those who know themselves to be both physical and spiritual, will be there for those that find it irresistible to place themselves in the hands of their own desires to be eternal in a physical sense rather than a spiritual sense.
I write this in the hope that it brings balance. What actually ends up to be reality awaits us all, you and me included.
My friend then wrote back:
‘I just saw an example where an engineering company flies a drone over a forest scanning the area. The data is downloaded to IBM’s massive computer known as Watson. Once downloaded you ask Watson how many trees there are in the forest and in a split second Watson counts them and gives you an exact number.
Then you ask about the types of trees and likewise you get an immediate answer.
Watson can also tell you which trees are sick and which are healthy and give you information about soil conditions and moisture down to any area in the forest. This is all AI (Artificial Intelligence).
In the past people would have to go in and physically count the trees and inspect for disease and could easily miss some. Now the engineering firm may be able to charge less for the service and get back to their client with all the answers in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the price.
Maybe this actually gives us more time to focus on being human and connecting with one another.
The interesting thing is that the millennial generation is more focused than any before it on the “purpose” of what they do. And much of that purpose is to make the world a better place – remove poverty, saving the planet, etc.…they are far more human focused in their jobs and careers than any generation before them.
Ask 23-33 year old’s what their purpose is in what they do and ask older generations the same question. It will be interesting to see the difference in the answers.
I think they and the technologies they’re innovating may just make the world a better place.’
‘I agree with you that innovation is relevant and will continue. As regards the tree scanning by Watson, well Watson got his knowledge from a human being’s experience, skill and more. Take this ‘tree’ human being away and there would be no value for Watson to add. So, this leads to the essential question of ‘is there knowledge without the human being?’ If not, surely we need to preserve and strengthen the human being? How do we do this? Are the drivers of human value systems all good for him? Should we encourage him to give himself up because innovation is something that comes from technology? This is of course upside down logic. It is only the human being that can innovate and provide technology. He must be careful not to allow upside down logic to find a sound foothold in his soul. If he does, he will become a servant of falsity as this is all he has left. If getting something for less is his only value, where does this lead him? Does he get to understand anything but price? If technology is all that makes him happy, where will future technology come from without the human being managing not only his own humanity but also the extent and kind of technology allowed? He might suddenly find that technology is intrusive and manipulative for example.
Technology will come and will assist us, but there is a fork in the road here. We have to develop love, compassion, openness, courage, selflessness, ownership of self, positivity, diligence and more as a balance, or technology and efficiency will run wild – to the point where we have none of the counter balances required to remain human. The pendulum will have swung too far to the one side. So we as businesses need to find ways – while doing what we can to stay relevant – to drag our staff, suppliers, customers into their humanity – back into their humanity. By this I mean for example, demonstrating the value of reflection, patience, and the other qualities mentioned above. If we can add this to our own value systems, we are at least trying to keep the human within the human. There are very specific things that we, in our company, do in this regard – for later if interested. We believe that with this as part of what we are trying to achieve in efficiency and technology, we will be sustainable from a human quality point of view, be free from unwanted temptations and fantasies, always knowing where we are relative to things going on around us, and so on. Without these qualities being consciously sought after and encouraged within us, our souls seek out technology and efficiencies at any cost.
I don’t think that it is real anymore that many people will use their free time constructively. There are too many temptations, mostly technological, that are impediments to this. I believe that business needs to invest in ‘humanity’ real fast or find markets shrinking or, at the extreme, only supportive of immoral products.’
Anthroposophy gives us the understanding of Man as both a physical and spiritual being. It is our spiritual capacity and orientation that we have more and more access to. This is the exciting part. The reality check is that this ‘access’ is a letting go by the higher spiritual beings – a gesture of freedom and accountability at the same time. We no longer have the Goodness and Truth filling our souls from above. We have to fill our souls with whatever we choose, ourselves. This is a chaotic phase in our development and temptations such as technology for technology’s sake is just one very large challenge facing human morality. The Liberty sphere of humanity, the people that end up in all three parts of society, as well as the Associations, need to recognise the need to hold fast to their humanity themselves in this newfound freedom part of our evolution. Associations need to come into being that are vigorously grounded in self-discipline and self-knowledge. One such existing association is Eliant. These types of associations will be the protectors of our humanity and guard against the fantasies of businesses and law makers alike that allow rampant technology – the fruit of ill-disciplined souls disconnected from their core human qualities. Such disconnection is coming from the Luciferic and Ahrimanic attractions of technology because we, as humanity, have not yet decided to own what we are spiritually. Technology needs to be bridled by our beautiful humanity.