©Fernando Caracena 16 June 2015
I begin this series by asking some questions about where the human race is heading. Follow-up posts will consider some solutions.
Asking The Question
Where is the human race heading and why do we want to get there so fast? Will we be replaced by robots? What is the purpose of our business side of life anyway?
Of course, the motivation for speed of development in the business world is making money and lot of it. But, who invests the money, and and who gains the benefits? We like to think that the old saying applies,"He who pays the piper calls the tune."
Governments have always had the most money to invest. Of course that money comes from its citizen's. So the citizen's collectively form the biggest pool of investment capital. Who then profits from investments of public money?
Some time ago, I read Marshall T. Savage's book "The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps." I was then very optimistic about the future of humanity. That is before I saw the systematic top-down appropriation and removal of real capital in the United States by a well-organized, corporate "elite". A quote from the Wikipedia reference identifies a big problem with our potential future:
"The book has drawn some criticism in that while it is replete with details concerning OTEC construction and space colonization, it touches very little on the subject of how governments and societies will need to change to enact the Project. Defenders and the author himself maintain that one man writing one book cannot be expected to write out the entire course of human development over the next millennium, and that others more suited to the field of social psychology will be needed for the Project's completion."
Fig 3. An Industrial robot need not look like a person. (From Wikicommons) as licensed by its author, KUKA Roboter GmbH.
We Can't Get There from Here
I would not criticize Mr. Savage' s book, as is done in the Wikipedia article. His book is great: an optimistic vision for humanity. He visualises some of the types of technology required to reach the lofty goals that he imagines for humanity. However, I do see what stands in the way of humanity's achieving its lofty destiny. I wrote about it in a previous post, We Can't Get There from Here.
By the way, The Millennial Project 2.0 continues where Savage left off. There is still a spark of interest in man's potentially glorious future out there.
Discouraged to see how humanity is presently drifting backward in how it deals with its own issues, a new optimism was rekindled in me by my realizing what Rifkin saw as a pathology in Capitalism, in the form of zero marginal cost, is actually a good sign for future development. We are actually in a period of great transition of humanity: the end of Homo Sapiens versions 1.x and the beginning of Homo sapiens 2.0. What Rifkin sees as the problem is one face of the main problem of growing pains in economic terms. The real problem is a set of dysfunctions that have developed within humanity itself. Greed and lust of power are the real problems that stand in the way of human progress. At present these two evils are entrenched in the positions of "power" in our society. Some day, the word "power", as in physics, will apply to the flow of energy, not to the privileged exercise of human will against others. People working in higher positioned jobs, will simple be thought of as serving society at a higher level.
The transition that will take place to allow humanity to achieve its highest potential is for people to embrace the idea of service over that of exercising "authority", or gaining benefits at the expense of the rest of humanity. Real human authority is the presence of common goals, which individuals are willingness to cooperate in achieving. That willingness springs from the harmony of the human spirit. It is destroyed by the exercise of compulsive force.
Today we are seeing a contraction in willingness of the public, because people who want to control humanity are exercising that desire through brute force and by verbal threats.
Until a new level of human cooperativeness is reached, technological progress will actually result in the decay of the human condition. What will happen for example, when almost all work is replaced by robots running off almost free energy? The competing salary scale for a human must then fall so low, that individuals will no longer be able to survive. In that case, only those who have enough resources to isolate themselves from the general misery and disorder, will be able to to live a normal human life. Perhaps the wealthy already have a sense of that problem and realise that they will require much more money in the future than they now have. This may be part of the motivation of the race to capture a bigger share of the GNP pie. But all of this is a treadmill that does not lead to any security for humanity.
Instead of having deep worries about the future when we see articles, such as the following, we should be rejoicing over the great boons to humanity that they represent:
In the long run, there are even greater questions that can plague our rational mind. We cannot resolve all questions or problems that may surface in our minds. For example, listen to Issac Azimov's "The Last Question." For solutions to these type of questions we must have some kind of spiritual and philosophical faith--basically that there will somehow always be a positive future available for humanity. We need only optimize our choices as we live our lives, trusting that ultimately it all leads to a better life for our descendants.