BarnOwl

Gazing through futuristic eyes – get ready for fundamental change

24 January 2019

It’s a mild early summers day, with temperatures only just creeping up over 36 degrees Celsius, and I’m standing at the McDonalds 4D vending machine, old technology, but still reliable. I can’t decide between the insect patty McMuffin, or the synthetic beef Big Mac. Closing my eyes, I activate the body maintenance menu on my neural link device, and it’s clear from the readings that the McMuffin is the lesser of two evils. Ever since the “Et Ius Illud” principle was enacted, what we ordinary folk call the “do the right thing law”, it’s a lot more difficult, if not impossible to do anything that has the potential to cause harm to yourself or to others. I know I’ll have to work this off with a compulsory exercise session, but the smell emanating from the steaming order just distributed to the fellow in front of me assures me it will be worthwhile. While watching the soon-to-be satisfied customer, I notice he is wearing a wedding ring, and I reminisce back to the days when marriage was still the fashionable thing to do. Since then traditional marriages have become the realm of the ultra-religious, or the culturally fixated, partnerships have become the de facto standard and staying single for longer has become the new normal. The drive to love and be loved has never changed, but the vehicles to getting there are more and more complex.

I take the last bite of my delicious Big Mac, and almost immediately I feel that familiar pulsing that signals a message on my neural link. “You have received a health notification based on meal consumption, please select one of the following options to restore your designated personal balance ratio…”. Being quite active I’ve opted for a high fitness level balance point, and I select a walk with optimally engineered heart rate. I up my pace, and almost instantly I can feel my body morphing into what I like to call “the burn zone”, heart rate pumping, blood oxygen levels artificially raised, and fast twitch muscle fibres electrically stimulated. How did our ancestors get fit naturally considering fitness levels had a genetic ceiling in those days?

The steady whoosh of the hyperloop doors opening out of the pavement to my left snap me out of my day-walking slumber. It amazes me that this relic of the 2020’s has still remained such a popular mode of transport considering it’s antiquated nature. Technology seems to have such a short shelf life these days. I remember reading about “Moore’s Law” and “Rock’s Law” in my university course notes, and chuckling at how it was theorised that the number of transistors on a microchip doubled every two years, or how the cost of a semiconductor chip fabrication plant doubled every four years. Looking back now, it seems such slow progress.

As people exit their transport pods, and make their way to the community occupation centre, it dawns on me how this centre of entrepreneurship, instant production, and AI assisted learning and discovery has transformed our lives in terms of the contribution of every individual, no matter how small, to the overall benefit of the community. Robot replacement in an increasingly polarized world saw our home become a sleepy town of semi-retirees, left unemployed, and living fairly comfortably on universal basic income. Now here we were, performing so many vital roles in global society. Who knew we even had the level of expertise evidenced so clearly here before me. My grandparents would often regale us with stories of how humanity feared for their continued existence when artificial intelligence became such an entrenched part of our lives. I mean sure, we’ve had some challenges, but I simply cannot imagine how backward and unevolved we still would have been had we not embraced the technology.

Aside from being a terrible contribution to the world of science fiction writing, the paragraphs above contain several scenarios that have been plotted out and discussed in numerous conferences, roundtables and debates around the world, as we sit on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution. A recent World Economic Forum white paper entitled “Eight Futures of Work. Scenarios and their Implications” discusses how just the world of work is undergoing a period of dramatic and fundamental change. Robotics, AI, 3D printing, big data analytics, MagLev (passive magnetic levitation) in transport, bio-innovation in agriculture, anti-ageing breakthroughs in medicine. All of these have the potential to fundamentally change the way we live, work, eat, travel and play. And we most certainly can no longer rely on a reactive, wait and see approach to dealing with these changes. Every individual, organization, community and culture has to come up with innovative ways to jump on the runaway technology train before it departs the station and leaves them behind.

I’d certainly recommend a read through the WEF white paper mentioned in the previous paragraph. In a very interesting exploration, the contributors to the paper go on to analyse important causal and influencing factors (spoiler alert) such as workforce autarkies, mass movement, robot replacement, the polarized world, empowered entrepreneurs, skilled flows, productive locals and agile adapters, and their impact on the envisaged future of the working world. The paper goes on to conclude that “it is imperative that governments, businesses, academic institutions and individuals consider how to proactively shape a new, positive future of work – one that we want rather than one created through inertia”. Some of the recommended actions involve workforce reskilling, educational system reform, enhanced digital access, agile safety nets, job protection and smart job creation incentives, support to mass entrepreneurship, governance of online platform work, mobility management and participation incentives.

Of course, the one thing missing from this type of paper is the vital role every individual plays in making a positive contribution to the community and society in which they are raised. The only way to do this is to make a concerted effort to be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be, and to do so without detriment to your fellow local or global community members. I, and many others believe that we as human beings are about to embark on the most exciting part of our evolutionary journey so far. Only be embracing that journey, and doing so in a way that conserves the best parts of our human nature can we come out the other side having had both an awesome road trip, as well as ended up in a destination perfect for our continued growth and improvement.

Jordan Pieterson’s 12 Rules for Life

  • Stand up straight with your shoulders back
  • Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
  • Make friends with people who want the best for you
  • Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
  • Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
  • Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
  • Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
  • Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
  • Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
  • Be precise in your speech
  • Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
  • Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

Author – Paul van der Struys
January 2019

Acknowledgements:
WEF white paper – Eight Futures of Work: Scenarios and their implications
Jordan Pieterson – 12 Rules to Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Dean Evans – What will life be like in 2035

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