Why the Future Must Be More Human

Probably the most important reason for my blog is to document my own philosophical and academic work toward my long-term conviction that Kurzweil has it wrong: The future won’t see humans replaced, it will see us reconciled. This is our destiny–not our fate.

Consider most visions of the future in science fiction. Frequently they are automated worlds dominated by wealthy capitalists who keep the impoverished general populace in line with an army of robots and surveillance systems. But these are the dystopian visions of the late Industrial Age. In reality they represent the present, not the future. The one thing to remember about the future is that it’s never drawn on a straight line from the present.

In the Industrial Age, obsession with efficiency and calculation required human beings–the creatures on earth most capable of rational thought and complex tasks–to operate as machines, doing repetitive intellectual tasks because intellectual tasks are virtually impossible to achieve by mechanical means.

With the emergence of digital technologies that are capable of doing significantly more intellectual work than humans in far less time, a temporary gap is opening up. The work that previously employed the majority of the work force is disappearing completely in an effort to achieve maximum efficiency by automating everything. What happens when all the work is automated?

Those without much imagination suppose there won’t be any work left. Humans will live in a Wall-E utopia where all their needs are provided by machines until we inevitably go extinct because we’re too lazy to reproduce. Others believe humans will be replaced by machines superior to us, and humans will either be eliminated as a threat to the planet (a la Ultron), ignored, or tolerated as harmless until we eventually go extinct.

Any such future is farther off than any Musk or Gates would have you believe. In part this is because such thinkers believe synthetic intelligence will be like human intelligence in ways that defy explanation. For another part, such thinkers aren’t seeing the humans making synthetic intelligence as human. They ironically suffer from the Enlightenment blind spot that says human beings are capable of perfect rationality, when in reality it will be very difficult for humans to design a synthetic intelligence that isn’t inherently for humans.

So if humans aren’t going to be completely replaced by machines, what will the future look like? Perhaps just as importantly, what kind of future can we make?

That’s what my blog attempts to explore through philosophy, sociology, economics, organizational science, leadership, literature, pop songs, video games, stand-up comedy, and anything else I can get my hands on that describes how humans operate.