Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.
Yesterday, I came across the following work in a charity shop. It’s authored by white male futurist Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine, a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Review and, crucuailly, a born-again Christian.
Kelly identifies the aforementioned 12 technogical forces as Becoming, Cognifying, Flowing, Screening, Accessing, Sharing, Filtering, Remixing, Interacting, Tracking, Questioning, and then Beginning. He also insists that “these forces are trajectories, not destinies. They offer no predictions of where we end up. They tell us simply that in the near future we are headed inevitably in these directions.”
Check out the following extracts from the final chapter entitled Beginning:
Braiding nerves out of glass, copper, and airy radio waves, our species began wiring up all regions, all processes, all people, all artifacts, all sensors, all facts and notions into a grand network of hitherto unimagined complexity. From this embryonic net was born a collaborative interface for our civilization, a sensing, cognitive apparatus with power that exceeded any previous invention. This megainvention, this organism, this machine—if we want to call it that—subsumes all the other machines made, so that in effect there is only one thing that permeates our lives to such a degree that it becomes essential to our identity. This very large thing provides a new way of thinking (perfect search, total recall, planetary scope) and a new mind for an old species. It is the Beginning.
What to call this very large masterpiece? Is it more alive than machine? At its core 7 billion humans, soon to be 9 billion, are quickly cloaking themselves with an always-on layer of connectivity that comes close to directly linking their brains to each other. A hundred years ago H. G. Wells imagined this large thing as the world brain. Teilhard de Chardin named it the noosphere, the sphere of thought. Some call it a global mind, others liken it to a global superorganism since it includes billions of manufactured silicon neurons. For simple convenience and to keep it short, I’m calling this planetary layer the holos. By holos I include the collective intelligence of all humans combined with the collective behavior of all machines, plus the intelligence of nature, plus whatever behavior emerges from this whole. This whole equals holos.
This is the new platform that our lives will run on. International in scope. Always on. At current rates of technological adoption I estimate that by the year 2025 every person alive—that is, 100 percent of the planet’s inhabitants—will have access to this platform via some almost-free device. Everyone will be on it. Or in it. Or, simply, everyone will be it.
This big global system will not be utopia. Even three decades from now, regional fences will remain in this cloud. Parts will be firewalled, censored, privatized. Corporate monopolies will control aspects of the infrastructure, though these internet monopolies are fragile and ephemeral, subject to sudden displacement by competitors. Although minimal access will be universal, higher bandwidth will be uneven and clumped around urban areas. The rich will get the premium access. In short, the distribution of resources will resemble the rest of life. But this is critical and transformative, and even the least of us will be part of it.
Cities are the neurons of the holos. We live inside this thing.
This picture of an emerging superorganism reminds some scientists of the concept of “the singularity.” A “singularity” is a term borrowed from physics to describe a frontier beyond which nothing can be known. There are two versions in pop culture: a hard singularity and a soft singularity. The hard version is a future brought about by the triumph of a superintelligence. When we create an AI that is capable of making an intelligence smarter than itself, it can in theory make generations of ever smarter AIs. In effect, AI would bootstrap itself in an infinite accelerating cascade so that each smarter generation is completed faster than the previous generation until AIs very suddenly get so smart that they solve all existing problems in godlike wisdom and leave us humans behind. It is called a singularity because it is beyond what we can perceive. Some call that our “last invention.” For various reasons, I think that scenario is unlikely.
A soft singularity is more likely. In this future scenario AIs don’t get so smart that they enslave us (like evil versions of smart humans); rather AI and robots and filtering and tracking and all the technologies I outline in this book converge—humans plus machines—and together we move to a complex interdependence. At this level many phenomenon occur at scales greater than our current lives, and greater than we can perceive—which is the mark of a singularity. It’s a new regime wherein our creations makes us better humans, but also one where we can’t live without what we’ve made. If we have been living in rigid ice, this is liquid—a new phase state.
This phase change has already begun. We are marching inexorably toward firmly connecting all humans and all machines into a global matrix. This matrix is not an artifact, but a process. Our new supernetwork is a standing wave of change that steadily spills forward new arrangements of our needs and desires. The particular products, brands, and companies that will surround us in 30 years are entirely unpredictable. The specifics at that time hinge on the crosswinds of individual chance and fortune. But the overall direction of this large-scale vibrant process is clear and unmistakable. In the next 30 years the holos will continue to lean in the same direction it has for the last 30 years: toward increased flowing, sharing, tracking, accessing, interacting, screening, remixing, filtering, cognifying, questioning, and becoming. We stand at this moment at the Beginning. The Beginning, of course, is just beginning [emphases added].
In this connection check out the following two presentations by Kelly: