#16: What's The Point?

Bow your head and stroke your master

Reading time: 2 minutes

"The Singularity is near”

Ray Kurzweil, inventor and futurist

The green line represents human strengths.

These strengths include reason, creativity, empathy, intelligence and adaptability. They are amoung the core characteristics of what makes humans such a uniquely successful species.

This second line, with its steep and rapid incline, reflects technological capabilities, increasing exponentially over time. 

Up, Up And Away

Technology is progressing at a faster rate than ever before.

Just think, thirty years ago, hardly anyone owned a computer. Today, everyone carries a supercomputer in their pocket.

Where the two lines intersect on this graph, indicates the future moment (Kurzweil predicts the year 2045) when Artificial Intelligence supersedes humankind's unique strengths.

This is what is known as the Singularity.

Techno-pop culture

For decades, we've obsessed and worried over this moment. 

Think back to films like Metropolis and Frankenstein, or in more recent years, Blade Runner and The Terminator. In TV, examples abound, with Westworld and Black Mirror being the most obvious examples of late. In literature, there’s Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.

The list is endless.

But this fixation is misguided.

Looking in the wrong direction

This graph is incomplete. 

There’s another line - a line representing human weakness and vulnerabilities. 

I’ve written about these vulnerabilities before - they include our need for social validation and a lack of self control. 

Technology, as this graph shows, starts to overwhelm such weaknesses, much earlier than our strengths.

In fact, it already has.

These vulnerabilities are being exploited by technology’s God-like powers (screen addiction, polarisation, social isolation to name a few). And the impulses of our Paleolithic brains have not yet evolved to cope with this intrusion.

What can we do?

Such human weaknesses need to be protected.

But so far, we’re failing.

While focusing on point B, we missed the moment we past point A. 

But fortunately, we haven't passed the point of no return. 

As technology becomes more and more powerful, there are ways of future-proofing tech, to ensure it is truly acting in our best interests.

Aza Raskin, co-founder of the Centre for Humane Technology outlines the solution in two parts:

  1. Create a new kind of human protective design

  2. Change to a new model of trust and duty of care

    • Big tech know more about us now than we know about ourselves. This asymmetric relationship needs regulation to stem abuse of power.

Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads. 

Either we continue to allow the power of technology to remain unchecked, or contain it by building a "humane technology" to protect and respect human beings - both our strengths and our weaknesses.

Share this newsletter