Ok, it is, at the writing of this, scant days away from the year 2020 of a crucified Lord.
I am old enough to remember when the year 2001, was the stuff of science fiction. and here we are decades removed even from that fantastic date.
The future has arrived, and it is never quite what we think.
I find here, 2 decades into the 21st century, 1/5th of the way toward the 22nd century, it is in the subtleties of how we interact with our technology that will determine, in the words of Lincoln, if ‘We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” .
He wrote those words Dec 1st, 1862, closing in on a 158 years ago, and they remain as true a call to wariness and hope and arms now, as they were then.
We live in miraculous times. But whether those miracles are used to turn water to wine, or to kill a whole generation of first borns, has never depended more… on us, and how we interact with the technologies, and the companies, and the lawmakers who are on the forefront of redefining the concept of intelligence, and autonomy, and by so doing are perilously close to redefining and restricting the rights of man.
Because we can do a thing, does not mean we should do a thing.
That was the cautionary heart, of Mary Shelly’s FRANKENSTEIN:THE MODERN PROMETHEUS , and Robert Louis Stevenson’s DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE ( I highly recommend the brilliant old time radio adaptation, which I will link below) , both were very much written by people who were then, where we are now, at a place of sweeping impending change, of technological and societal and even existential upheaval, that would create a future, that had at its core… no less of a conflict, than the very rights of man.
Those works were written as cautionary tales, and both at their heart… saw the dark path of science doing things, simply because it could.
We are at that place again, perhaps we never leave it, where our technology is poised to change irrevocably, our rights, our liberties, and even our definitions of happiness. From smart machines that our tasked with deciding if companies can trust us, to machines designed to kill men (science fact that makes even Asimov’s cautionary science fiction, comforting in comparison) to AIs designed to remove men from tasks such as driving (that companies are deeming that men, can no longer be trusted with), even to cloning and genetically engineered and grown lifeforms. Always man is smart enough to build Pandora’s Boxes, but is never smart enough to keep from opening them.
All this to say, in the days to come, the easiest way to do something, is perhaps not the best way. Bring an early stage AI into your home, in the form of an Echo or Alexa, or carry it around with you in the form of a Siri is not the best way going forward…because you can not be bothered to research something yourself, to type in the question yourself, is a step too far in your own obsolescence.
The ‘easiest way’ is not your friend.
A certain amount of autonomy and effort and self direction is required to be free.
Relinquish this to machines, they become the humans and we become the things, potentially.
You must change the goal, of everything.
The goal in the 21st century, and I love tech as much as the next guy, but the goal can not be smart things, it must always be smart people. And machines used to assist people, fine , to employ people, fine, to replace people… no.
Smart people guys, not smart things.
Start with your homes.
If it is not a laptop, that you the human can turn off, it should not be phoning home regarding your usage habits.
Your TV, your washing machine, your stove, your game console, should not at its core… be a surveillance device.
The smartest thing in your home should always be the owners of that home. And if we redefine machines as the smartest things in our home, increasingly how much longer before we become residents of homes rather owners. Perhaps even inmates in future homes, where for minor infractions, and to save the cost of mass incarceration, a person’s own home, at the flip of a switch, if it is determined he is guilty, can initiate a form of house arrest. Cameras in the home, cameras on the exterior of the home, feeds already setup to go directly to the police department (Why I do not own a Ring Device), smart locks and doors, lights and appliances all that can be controlled remotely. Our future homes, ready made prison cells, should we break the AI mandated and monitored rules.
And did you know the wi-fi signal in your home, can today be used as a form of sonar. So tomorrow’s gun packing drones, can ‘see’ the interior layout and occupants of a home by analyzing the wifi reflections. Wild, huh? And we thought all we had to worry about was 5G giving us cancer and messing with our reproductive organs 🙂 And don’t get me started on the military and privacy eradicating aspects of body imaging and location tech for VR headsets.
Absolute science fiction you say?
You walk around with an always on tracking device and computer, that can respond to your spoken questions in real time, and connect you, instantaneously to anyone of billions of people on the planet, even face to face, live video feed, as well as show you all the information, from every museum, every encyclopedia, every newspaper, every allowed Satellite, every language translated, every question answered, every item available for instantaneous purchase. Hell you can even open and close or summon your car remotely, using your phone. And you walk around with more Wisdom than has ever been amassed in the history of the world… in your pocket.
So yeah, it may be lost on you, who grew up with a smart phone in your hand, but we live in a time of science fiction. So it must be our job to keep our science fiction from descending into the dystopian and totalitarian realm of an HG Wells or Harlan Ellison.
So how do we make a good future, as opposed to a bad one?
You dream it.
You dream it into being.
Everything was first the dream. Every concept, and every creation, Every good, and every ill.
Everything started out, as someone’s dream.
So you dream it.
Then you live it.
So we have to start dreaming… better.
We make the future, in our thoughtful present.
Everything you do today, how you interact with technology today, what you allow to be the norm, thoughtfully or thoughtlessly, how you spend your day, interacting with technology… it shapes the days to come.
We make the future by how thoughtfully or how thoughtlessly we interact in the present.
So choose thoughtful.
Here Endeth the Lesson! 🙂
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