Monday, December 26, 2005

Fast Forward...

As we move towards greater technological achievement, I cant help but wonder when this shall stop. Looking into my little crystal ball, the following possibilities pop into my head.

1) Man stops innovating and agrees to live with the status quo. If history is any guide, this is unlikely to happen. Humans have a strong tendency to get bored, and our descendants will certainly get tired of their 90th generation iPods pretty soon and demand a 91st generation. If man ends his quest for exploration, whether the geographical, spiritual, or scientific kinds, his life will be far less meaningful. Considering that seeking meaning in one's life is one of his greatest pursuits, it is highly unlikely that people would lead satisfactory lives without such exploratory activities.

2) There is a massive disaster that destroys civilization and returns us to the caveman ages - The quintessential Armageddon. Except it wont be very Armageddon-like - in the sense that mankind, as we know it, would probably end with a whimper rather than a bang. There might be a spectacular, natural, or man-made (think world war 3), disaster that sets off a series of epidemics that leads to people dying slow and painful deaths. This seems to me to be a very likely scenario especially looking at how in the last few years, pollution issues, social strife, military related violence and natural disasters have all intensified, without showing any signs of abating. Besides, the deterioration of civilization idea fits in with scientific concepts such as the Second Law of Thermodynamics as well as evolution. Yet, history has never been a favorite subject of mine, so I am sure I will not find it very interesting to talk about the repetition of history either. This brings me to the third possibility. We do have a future, and we continue developing sophisticated technologies.

3) Already, with the rapid advancement in technologies, older jobs are being automated. Empirical studies have shown that technology creates a net increase in jobs for humans, because the technologies that get rid of older jobs, need humans to be maintained and improved, for a substantial period of time. However, I find interesting the time when technology itself is capable of spawning new technologies as well as improving on it, without requiring any human input. It seems a far-fetched idea, but read-up something like the history of flight and you will see that the impossible rarely ever remains so. Besides, computers have already become more intelligent than people, although their intelligence is limited to specialized activities, like in chess. As man learns more about himself and his brain, he is incorporating those ideas in developing better thinking robots and machines and I believe that there will be a point where he will be able to create a thinking machine that emulates his ability, if not exceeds it.

In such a situation, what happens to mankind? If machines do all our work, economic systems would collapse because in today's day and age, you earn the right to food to eat and luxuries to enjoy by virtue of the work you do (there are always exceptions, politicians, bollywood actors, etc). However, when there is no work left for man to do, on what basis do you distribute food and resources? The only system that seems capable of working would be a socialist one that requires equal division of all essential and non-essential resources. However, after millennia of competition and working his ass off to pay for the Tommy Hilfiger label, how is man going to adjust to socialism, a concept that is currently reviled and out of vogue. The only purpose in our lives right now seems to be doing our jobs and doing them really well. So how would the destruction of the foundation on which his life is based affect him? Would he descend into a state of perpetual nihilism, where suddenly everything seems meaningless to him? Would he learn to live like a slob as well as enjoy such a life? Alternatively, would such a situation never really pan out in such a fashion, because now that robots are as smart as humans are, they would not settle for just working as slaves?

While this is certainly not a comprehensive list of all the possibilities, it is an interesting start to a mind game which involves trying to predict different directions that human life can take. Feel free to correct any wrong thoughts or curse anything that seems disturbing. Also, make sure you do add your own theories and ideas.

2 comments:

nuances said...

interesting post. didnt know you think so much. thot you might but this is impressive. :-)

The_Insomniac said...

eventually with a capatalist society, if the assets arent managed properly i think, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, power struggle, uprising, temporary balance, then capitalism takes over again and the gap widens again

its going to repeat over and over throughout time just like it has before [kinda like the french revolution]