A Tale of Two Futures

I think about the future more than any human being should. 

The idea that, in less than a decade, we have gone from T9 texting on textile phone pads to 4G touch screens built into six inch pocket computers seems like something out of a science fiction novel. The fact that our brains haven't exploded with awesome juices just yet is beyond me. 

We live in a world where corporations are always battling to release the next best thing. Competition is fierce. Why? Well, because there's always something new and brilliant to install. And, let's be honest, the one that gets it right - the one that makes the perfect handheld gadget - will be the company that skyrockets. They will be the one that will essentially rule the world, whether we like it or not.

But where is technology leading us? Should we be worried? Excited? Scared? The answers to these questions are unclear, but we can be certain that the future does hold one thing for us: we are stuck with technology for the long haul. It's not going away. 

Science Fiction authors across the globe usually depict the rise of technology in one of two ways. Allow me to elaborate:

1) The Rise of the Techno Empire Coinciding With The Fall of Humans

It starts as an innocent ploy for convenience. "Robots will make our lives easier!" they say. "You won't have to clean your house or take out the trash or even mow your lawn ever again!" People love them because of exactly that - it takes away the menial tasks of everyday life that we dread...until artificial intelligence takes over. Ask Issac Asimov. He knew what he was talking about. (He's the author of I, Robot, if you don't know).

More and more pop culture media have artificial intelligence on display these days. Age of Ultron, Ex Machina, and Terminator just to name a few. Take a look at that friendly thing in the photo above. That's Terminator. And let me just say, if given the opportunity, Skynet will destroy you and everyone you love. Why? Because it can.

The idea that artificial intelligence will rise up one day into a self-sustaining, mega race of conscious beings is not that bizarre. Think about it. If a decade of technological research can produce billions of smartphones that can do more than the human brain can comprehend already, how are we supposed to compete with an artificial intelligence that will have the one thing that separated humans from machine - awareness?

The answer is we can't. Inevitably, our future will look something like this: 

In other words, a barren landscape of shattered dreams and lost souls - a place that no longer needs oxygen, sunlight, warmth, or food to keep civilization going. It will be a place of darkness and despair meant only for machines and electricity. 

Sounds fun, right? But how about option #2? 

2) We Transcend Humanity, Intermingle With It, and Become Something Entirely Different

In all honesty, this option might be the more plausible of the two, despite popular opinion, BUT it could be more dangerous. Sure, dystopian robot takeovers may make for better films and stories, but look at where we're heading. The road is littered with clues that the separation between technology and human existence is shrinking dramatically. There are already pieces of tech that break the mold of standard machines and work alongside the biology of the human experience. It's conveniently called biotechnology. 

Just think. Microchips inserted into brain tissue. Nanotechnology able to enter the bloodstream through the human airways, like the mouth and nose. Three dimensional visuals projected right in front of your eyes. Guess what? These things already exist! It's amazing to me that we are on the cusp of their mass production. If that happens, I guarantee you our world will change for the better...or for the worst. 

This is Prey by Michael Crichton. It's all about nanotechnology and it's averse effects on humans. Yes, it's fiction, but it's more than that. Crichton is a master of incorporating real science into fictional stories. In Crichton's worlds, science feels real and very well could be a threat in the near future. Read it if you're interested in this stuff. Science fiction usually predicts what will happen in future years. And, a lot of the time, we're right. 

Right now, we have a choice to partake in these tech life-hacks. If you want to take the risks of changing your humanity, there are absolutely ways for you to do that. But what happens when microchips become so durable that they can be ingested and controlled without the knowledge of its host? When certain technology installation is required by the government? Will there be uproar? Revolution?

And what happens after that? Well that's a story for a different blog post in the near future. For now, I think I've crammed your brain enough with explosive information. Digest it. Savor it. Let it work its way through. Then, when you're ready, I'll come back with more. 

The R.T. Donlon Wishlist for Light Reading:

If there's a leader in the philosophies of "Superintelligence", it seems that Nick Bostrom is it. This is a wish list, so I actually haven't read it, but I sure will. If the likes of Joe Rogan and leading scientists are mentioning Bostrom's name, I'm ready to give his work a shot. It seems purely philosophical, so it's probably dense as all hell, but if you're like me and into this kind of stuff, you probably won't have any trouble getting through it. 

Until next time,