Futurism on NPR

NPR gives some air time to Singularity: the idea (among others) that artificial intelligence will one day be smart enough to learn on its own, and grow exponentially smarter day-by-day until it surpasses the collective intelligence of humanity. And continues to grow.

I enjoyed Ray Kurzweil’s book of same name and agree with him that we are making a mistake – thinking that the pace of change in the future will be the same as the past. Change, of all kinds, is accelerating. And while I’m more reserved about humanity’s future than Ray, both in time scale and degree of social disruption, I do think that many futurists are underestimating the power of accelerating returns.

Tech-fueled globalism will continue to flourish relentlessly into the future, connecting all humanity on increasingly deeper levels of understanding and empathy. Technology assures this unstoppable human bonding – it is who we are as a species: we connect. This frightens many people, especially those with strong religious-tribal or nationalistic agendas. Personally, I believe that a deeply networked planet can’t come soon enough.

What concerns me is not the world becoming a single place of meeting, but the institutional interests (ideological, financial, etc.) who seek  to dominate this emerging global town square. The organic nature of a free and open global network assures that every ideology has a voice. It’s only when we have a flattened sharing of all ideas that the most universally helpful ideas can truly rise to eminence.

But when a free and open network is not assured (think China, Iran, and even recent attempts by the U.S. FCC to control the Internet), imbalances emerge and grow – voices are institutionally silenced – the network no longer collectively reflects the planet’s inhabitants, but rather becomes a platform for the narrow interests of old pre-networked institutions grasping for power.

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