I just finished another good book. Tony Orb takes us to the precipice in a new book that explores existential risk. He looks at natural risks like asteroids, comets, supervolcanic eruptions, stellar explosions, brightening of our sun, and orbital dynamics. He then explores those risks stemming from human activity (anthropogenic). These include nuclear weapons, climate change, environmental damage, pandemics, unaligned artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and back contamination (from space microbes). The remainder of the book focuses on quantifying risks and safeguarding humanity. I highly recommend the book for those looking well into the future and focused on humanity. I have added the book to my library. Here is the Amazon abstract.Continue reading
In a recent Article by Bryan Walsh, he describes the mega-trends that are likely to shape this century. These trends are driven by the Acceleration of innovation and a growing set of Societal Factors. In describing the seriousness of these trends, our author points to a forthcoming book titled “The Precipice”. In the book, author Toby Ord of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute gives one in six odds that humanity will suffer an existential catastrophe during the next 100 years — almost certainly due to our own actions.
In the book The Fourth Turning, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe illuminate the past, explain the present, and reimagine the future. They offer an utterly persuasive prophecy about how America’s past will predict its future. Here is what they had to say:
“When considering potential risks from future technology, one should not be content with merely analyzing what’s likely to happen—instead, one should look at what’s possible, even if unlikely.” – Jaan Tallinn, founding member of Skype, and co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
Very well said. I’m a big believer in that quote – the reason I spend so much time painting pictures of possible futures. Mr. Tallinn expects the backbone of technology in the 2020s to be defined by gradual improvements in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and Artificial Intelligence. What else can we expect in the next decade? A recent Article by George Dvosrsky – a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo – explores the futuristic developments in the next ten years.
Although I believe prediction in this era is a fools errand, we can look at the trajectory of our Science and Technology Curve to make some informed guesses. That’s precisely what the above article attempts to do. Here are the author’s informed guesses.
In a recent post, I asked my readers to help me identify those catalysts that force the actions required to steer our future towards advancing our human development. Feel free to respond to the Poll. The number one response was the rapid pace of innovation. That response supports my own opinion that the pace will ultimately force stakeholders across multiple domains to take action. Much like the Domain Convergence that occurred during our most Transformative Period in History, convergence is required if we are to take the correct path towards human flourishing.
Knowledge is the engine that drives human development – and it has been throughout history. Knowledge expanded in the hunter-gatherer days with the invention of fire. In those days, a human obtained all its food by foraging. Although the source of food did not change, fire allowed humans to cook food and consume more calories. The human brain expanded with this caloric increase, and soon we invented language – the first in a series of innovations that drove the growth of knowledge.
One of the paradigm shifts on the future scenarios curve is healthy life extension. When I mention to an audience that the first person to live to 200 has already been born – it gets quite the reaction. Extending our healthy lives has many implications to very long held beliefs. These challenges to our belief systems are the reason I believe humanity is heading towards another Tipping Point – that moment in time where intuitions and beliefs built over long periods experience a considerable shift. It is the reason I titled my presentation “A Journey through the Looking Glass”.
Through the looking glass is a metaphorical expression. It means: on the strange side, in the twilight zone, in a strange parallel world. It comes from the idea of Lewis Carol’s novel: “Through the Looking–Glass“, and the strange and mysterious world Alice finds when she steps through a mirror. I firmly believe we are stepping through the looking glass.
Healthy life extension is a great example of a scenario on the curve upending long standing institutions. As visualized below, multiple building blocks converge to deliver this scenario.
Healthy life extension is a future scenario depicted on this emerging future visual. In this era of genomics, precision medicine, and rejuvenation biotechnology, extending our healthy lives is not only possible, but likely. It is believed in some circles that the first person to live to 200 may have already been born. This animated video was developed to support a recent event on the topic of life and health. It closes with a quick glimpse of TCS capability via a next generation sequencing facility and an analytics platform for genomics and metagenomics.
I saw a glimpse into a possible future in a book titled Homo Deus, written by Yuval Noah Harari in 2016. Before his journey forward, the author explores the past. His conclusions challenged my core belief system in a very uncomfortable way. His arguments were logical and thoughtful (whether I agree with them or not), and based on a foundation of life science, algorithms, and biotechnology. This look forward once again raises the question of Ethics. The author himself makes this point when he says:
“The rise of AI and biotechnology will certainly transform the world, but it does not mandate a single deterministic outcome. All the scenarios outlined in this book should be understood as possibilities rather than prophecies. If you don’t like some of these possibilities you are welcome to think and behave in new ways that will prevent these particular possibilities from materializing.”
I’ve given the main themes of this possible future a label and provide a quick look using excerpts directly from the book. You decide for yourself if this future represents an enhanced or diminished humanity.