On Human Destiny and the Value of an Acceleration-Aware World View

Below is start of an interview I did last month with Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon, my futurist friends who run Speculist.com and Fast Forward Radio. The topic was human destiny, and the personal and social value of cultivating a big picture, acceleration-aware view of the world and our opportunities within it. You can find the full text interview here, at WorldTransformed.com, and listen to a related Aug 31st, 2011 audio interview, on a panel with fellow futurists Venessa Miemis and Robin Hanson, at WT2: Human Destiny Transformed.

Thoughts? Responses? Please feel free to use the comments section here, at my new blog home, and I’ll do my best to respond.  Thanks!

1. If you were to pick just one current or coming transformation that you would advise people to focus on, which one would that be?

I run the Acceleration Studies Foundation, so I’m a tad biased, but I would say one thing to focus on is to try to understand the meaning, risks, and opportunities presented by accelerating technological change, in your own life and in society.  Accelerating change is causing a whole number of transformations today, and several of these are giving us more options for what to do and how to live than we’ve had at any time in the past. Others (automation, globalization, fossil fuels, IEDs) are causing disruption in more ways than ever before. Read Martin Ford’s Lights in the Tunnel, 2009, for one of many thoughtful works on the way technology improves us in some ways, while disrupting us in others.

When you think carefully about accelerating change, you may conclude, as I have, that just a few technologies, specifically computing, communications, and nanotechnologies, are continually accelerating because every new generation of these particular technologies uses less resources per computation or physical transformation than the previous one, a phenomenon I call STEM compression. So these special technologies continually escape the “limits to growth” we see in traditional technologies. And it is these same technologies, as they perennially accelerate, that increasingly shape our future. We can think of them as the growing framework, or cage which restrains and directs all the most powerful actors today, the corporations, the governments, the ultrawealthy, the terrorists, everyone.

Our parents saw minicomputers, cheap telecom and the PC fuel the growth of multinationals, and at the same time, flatten corporate hierarchies. We’ve seen the iPod and internet disrupt the music industry, tablets are now starting to change the publishing industry, and as I argue in How the Television Will be Revolutionized, 2010, a few years from now  iTV will disrupt the television and film industries in even more powerful ways, bringing millions of channels to every device. Blogs, Wikis, virtual worlds, mirror worlds, social networks, and other facets of the internet are flowering and enhancing our collective intelligence. Twitter gives us a window on the thoughts of humanity. Smartphones connect us 24/7 to each other and the web. Sensors are proliferating across the planet, making every nation a transparent society. Lifelogs, wearable computing, telepresence, and augmented reality are just now emerging.

Today, Facebook and Twitter empower the Arab Spring. Tomorrow, we’ll have a conversational interface to the web, and cybertwins (digital assistants that model our personality and can act and transact for us, at first in simple ways, later in very intelligent ways) assisting us in our information consumption, communication, commerce, and political activities. We can expect a valuecosm to eventually emerge, quantitated versions of the publicly expressed values that each of us all hold on all kinds of topics, allowing us to connect with others who share our values, to work with others on projects that we care about, and helping us to generate a whole new level of specialization and subcultural diversity. [The rest of the interview].

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