The Speculist: Where We're Headed

logo.jpg

Live to see it.


« When Oprah gets on board, it is mainstream or about to be. | Main | FFR Postponed »


Where We're Headed



Dispatches from a rapidly changing, rapidly improving world

Special Dispatch
April 17, 2009

Inspired by some extraordinarily positive developments from last week, we are running a series of Better All the Time special dispatches this week and next.

Articulating the Future of Humanity

I'm a big believer in the Human Imperative, which states that human beings are, essentially, reconfigurers of the universe in search of an optimum configuration. What will that eventual configuration look like? I can't begin to describe it. If the first single-celled organism had been capable of thinking, it might have imagined -- given the hint that its descendants would eventually evolve into something called "human beings" -- that the primary advantage of being human would be a vastly expanded capacity for finding food. And, yes, that is an advantage, but I think we can all agree that -- from where we sit -- it misses the point by a fairly significant margin.

Likewise, I can assert that the endgame for the Human Imperative is a vastly expanded capacity for, and realization of, human understanding, capability, and happiness. And, yes, our optimum configuration of the universe will provide those things. But it will provide so much more. If we as a species continue in the direction that we're currently going, we will at some point achieve the most wonderful world imaginable. At that point, we will carry on in the direction of improvement towards either

a) an unimaginably wonderful world, or

b) a newly defined most wonderful world imaginable, provided courtesy of a great leap forward in our ability to imagine.

Trying to define the most wonderful world imaginable is challenge enough. If I try to tell you anything about the world described by either a) or b), above, I'm in the position of that single-celled organism attempting to wrap its metaphorical head around string theory or a Mozart aria or even -- keeping it within that creature's sphere of interest -- a pint of Haagen Dazs.

It just can't be done.

So we have to stick with what we've got, even though it is, at best, the faintest shadow of what the reality will be. Just to reiterate, what we've got is "a vastly expanded capacity for, and realization of, human understanding, capability, and happiness." So we'll all be smarter. We'll all be more capable. And we'll all be happier. (And by the way, that's a lot smarter, a lot more capable, and a lot happier.)

Some might want to argue that third point. After all, haven't people always been happy and unhappy? Isn't it fair to say that our modern technological society has brought as much grief and misery as it has goodness? Weren't, say, our hunter-gatherer ancestors just as happy as we are today?

I would have to say yes, no, and definitely not.

Yes, there have always been happy and unhappy people.

No, technology has not brought as much grief and misery as it has goodness. Granted, it has brought a lot of grief and misery. But keep in mind that we are reconfigurers of the universe. Each new configuration seeks to build on improvements from the past. Our aim, however misguided our attempts to achieve it might be, is to increase the amount of human understanding, capability, and happiness. We get it wrong a lot -- a lot -- but we get it right more often. Besides, if technology really brought more misery than happiness, we would see massive efforts to relinquish and suppress it. But those movements are by and large fringe affairs.

No, the hunter-gatherers were not as happy as we are. I would venture to guess that they had pretty much the same capacity for happiness that we have, but daily hand-to-mouth survival tends limit opportunities for exploring that capacity. Many of them lived under constant threat of being eaten by predators. Oh, and their chances of being killed by one of their fellow human beings were about 20 times as great as what we face today. It wasn't quite the idyllic existence many like to picture.

So we'll be happier. Why? Because our material needs will be met better?

Um, yes.

Maybe money doesn't buy happiness, but not having to worry about money could sure buy a lot of peace of mind for a lot of folks. It's like our ancestors and being eaten. Take another item off the list of human woes and you've got a happier human population.

Or put it this way. Take your time machine back to the middle ages. Find some locals and explain to them that in the era you're from, most people live better than the king does in their day. What do they think -- will people be happier in such a world? I think they would laugh at that question. The answer is so obvious. Likewise, if we had even a rough approximation of what life will be like for people in the future, we would be equally amused at the suggestion that those folks might be less happy than we are.

So what will their lives be like? Again, this is just a sketch:

They will be able to do more and understand more. They will be physically perfect--healthier than we are, as well as stronger and less prone to injury or illness. There lives will go on indefinitely and they will be young and healthy throughout. They will live in what we would take for unbelievable luxury and opulence (although they won't see it that way.) Their improved understanding of how the world works, coupled with their vastly improved technology, will give them the ability to perform amazing feats, things that today can be done only in science fiction and fantasy stories.

To summarize -- and I repeat, this is a single-celled organism describing humanity -- they will be sexy immortal billionaires with super powers. And even at that stage, we'll be a long way from the optimum configuration. But that at least gives us something to work with.

transhuman.jpg

 

Live to see it!

Comments

naked galaxy man...hee hee

Been there, done that.

The Scientology ad that follows this is a nice reminder that no matter what happiness science promises, some people will search for more in the worst possible places, be taken advantage of, and eventually kill themselves when they realize holding a couple of tin cans wishing imaginary demons away doesn't make you better.

RIP Greg Bashaw

Until humans know that happiness results from virtuous behavior and that such knowledge informs and directs our own behavior, we will continue to pursue the gratification of our sensory appetites. Such behavior leads to an every increasing level of vice, accelerating one on the downward spiral into the abyss of despair and unhappiness. It is happiness, so understood, that is the basis of the phrase in our Declaration of Independence, "Pursuit of Happiness".

If you extrapolate the evolution from single cell to human (more power, knowledge and longevity) into the future, you eventually get to omnipotence, omniscience and immortality which is a common definition of God. So, perhaps God did not create man, but man's destiny is to evolve into God.

"I think they would laugh at that question. The answer is so obvious. Likewise, if we had even a rough approximation of what life will be like for people in the future, we would be equally amused at the suggestion that those folks might be less happy than we are."

That's quite an amazing fallacy. Just because something seems "obvious" to an outsider with no data doesn't make it true.

Thou art God.

No matter how good things get, humans will find a way to discontent.

God bless 'em.

Westward the wagons, etc.

"Man will make it his purpose to master his own feelings, to raise his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent, to extend the wires of his will into hidden recesses, and thereby to raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman.

. . . Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonized, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise."

-Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution

Is the "new transhuman man" just the "new socialist man" with slightly updated wishful thinking?

"sexy immortal billionaires with super powers"

And when humans have achieved that, one of them will write an article just like this one. Humans advance, that is what we do. There is no endpoint.

Leo: "Until humans know that happiness results from virtuous behavior and that such knowledge informs and directs our own behavior, we will continue to pursue the gratification of our sensory appetites. Such behavior leads to an every increasing level of vice, accelerating one on the downward spiral into the abyss of despair and unhappiness."

My Answer: Generally, at least for most people, if they spent most of their time on their "vices" they didn't get important work done, didn't take care of themselves or their families, etc.

However, the kind of capabilities Singulatarians are projecting for future people and societies allow people to pursue all kinds of fun and take care of their responsibilities and themselves. They want more, more, more, and they get it.

The dissipation of alcohol, sex, drugs noted yesteryear and today are a function of comparatively low level of technological capability as expressed in our amusements rather than punishment for sinners.

A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellas with compassion and vision
We'll be free when their work is done
We'll be eternaly free, yes, and eternally young

What a beautiful world this will be!
What a glorious time to be free!

". . . Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonized, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise."

-Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution"

Good prognosis from Trotsky, but Marxism was a very bad treatment.

Turns out Trotsky was right for all the wrong reasons.

Marx KNEW technological development was accelerating in the 19th century, but failed miserably by not studying the tech itself and not extrapolating those trends.

Well, that was ONE of his many mistakes. :(

Yesterday is a memory.
Tomorrow is a dream.
All we have is today.

Dum vivamus, Vivamus:
While we are alive,
let us _Live_ !

for a longer answer, see
Poul Anderson's story,
"Avatar".

You're ignoring the "happiness set point." No matter how our circumstances change, our level of happiness changes only temporarily...after a while we get used to the situation, then we're back where we were before.

So I don't think hunter-gatherers are significantly less happy than we are. Whether people will be happier in the future depends on whether they choose to modify their set points.

I believe it was Aristotle who defined happiness as "doing well in relation to ones fellow men." That may be an incomplete definition of happiness, but I think that no matter how advanced we become there will always be "have-nots" among us (especially in a non-socialistic society with large amounts of personal freedom.) There will always be hierarchies and "pecking orders" of one form or another (human nature!) and there will necessarily always be people at the bottom of said hierarchies (a sure-fire recipe for misery for such people.) Thus I say that there is, has always been, and will always be a fairly constant level of unhappiness in human society, no matter how advanced that society becomes.

Post a comment

(Comments are moderated, and sometimes they take a while to appear. Thanks for waiting.)






Be a Speculist

Share your thoughts on the future with more than

70,000

Speculist readers. Write to us at:

speculist1@yahoo.com

(More details here.)



Blogroll



Categories

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2