Wednesday, June 4, 2008

John Naisbitt: Drowning in information and starving for knowledge

Megatrends author John Naisbitt shares some thoughts on the future, information and change.

I'm in accord with the idea that there is a lot of hype around the concept of constant change. As far as I see it, we still eat food, drink water and breathe air and until you walk through my living room wall, I'll assume the laws of physics are still in place. That along with everything else shows that despite dramatic changes in certain aspects of this reality being fairly constant, the basics are still the same. I visualize it as a yin and yang-like relationship between the static and dynamic.

I think these points are relevant to the recent Singularity, aka the Rapture of the Nerds, (see also) kerfuffle. I agree with the Transhumanists in the sense that technological advances could, especially in the case of artificial intelligence, spiral off into something barely recognizable or cognizable. The thing is, if any technology were to outspan its utility, and it would if something like the Singularity were to occur, I think we'd be more inclined to bottle it up or shut it off completely. If you turn your stereo up so loud that the sound is distorted and the speakers are about to blow, you cut back a bit and find the right volume. If some wise-guy tries to sell you some new advanced speakers that could handle the power but would blow your eardrums out, break your windows and piss off your neighbors, what use is that?

If the Singularity is useless to us on a basic keep-the-trains- running-on-time sort of way then we'll make cool games with it or, more likely, the military will try to find some way to weaponize it. If we can't do that, we'll cast it away. We'll still need air and water and food and power and sex and to go to the bathroom. I just don't buy into the idea that we'll lamely stand by while some uber-intelligence flies off the charts and decides humans are obsolete. Remember, we control the breakers and if they take that control away, we'll blow the shit out of the power plant.

So what can we take away from all this? Well, if you strip away the eyebright and ooh-wow of the technological hype machine, you'll find that an overwhelming majority of the human beings on this planet are faced with the same basic problems and survival challenges, just within changing scales and contexts and hopefully with diminishing suffering and inconvenience and increasing efficiency and ease, though that might be a bit too optimistic at this crossroads.

It would be to their, and our, advantage if futurists moved from the realm of science fiction more into the world of non-fiction.

via MediaFuturist

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