Back to the Future
The convergence of neurotech, biotech, and the amassed data from our digital lives’ coupled with biological systems, our functionings of society has completely evolved. You’re able to 3D print anything you need by a simple request from an AI system to make it for you. Whether it be a full-course meal for your family, the newest fashion trend to wear, or an entirely new piece of furniture.
At this convergence, we have perfected the human. We’ve taken out the guesswork and eliminated the genetic lottery, so you can program the exact traits you want in your children — from eye color, height, cognitive ability — using advanced genetic and biological engineering. With advanced healthcare biometrics and molecular nanomedicine, you will always know what’s wrong and cure it instantaneously so no one dies of diseases — only of old age. If you lose your limbs in an accident, with next-gen prosthetics and 3D bioprinters, you can have your limbs back.
Our social life consists of interacting with each other in virtual worlds with digital avatars. When we leave our virtual worlds to interact with the physical space, we are accompanied by spatial computing headsets with an embedded personal voice-controlled AI — the virtual worlds and physical space are blended into one reality. When you step outside, you don’t hear anything because most, if not, all the cars on the road are electric and autonomous.
To make a living, we work as avatars in the virtual world to pre-train AI models and as surrogates for service jobs in the physical one. We don’t need to do the difficult jobs because super-intelligent AI outperforms humans and are faster and more efficient at solving them. Humans are left with service and maintenance jobs through robotic avatars to minimize fatigue and maximize throughput. The disabled and handicapped are now able to work through brain-computer interfaces connected to avatars to make a living.
Public, government and international policy will be weighed and decided by a globally governing super-intelligent AI because it’s the only entity that’s objective enough to handle human affairs without error. Now, world peace is possible across nations and people. Global climate change is being reversed as a result of AI-developed ecological policy and innovative green, renewable technology.
Quality and affordable education are now accessible all over the globe with on-demand pre-trained AI models to multiple edge devices, such as brain-computer interfaces, AR, and IoT devices, to eliminate any human biases. Teachers have either have been replaced or work alongside a more capable AI system to teach the next generation of humans.
When you look up to the moon and beyond, you’ll notice that our neighboring cosmic rock is beaming brighter than ever from the moon base station — which is constantly conducting supply missions to and from our Mars Settlement. On occasion, you’ll see BFR flying overhead to drop-off passengers on the other side of Earth.
Of course, this isn’t exactly going to happen, but it is one of our possible futures of what 2050 may turn out to be. Some may become true; some may not. We can’t know for certain what we expect to happen in that decade, next century or tomorrow for that matter.
But, this begs the question: What’s it going to mean to be “Human” in 2050 in a techno-utopia? As a species, we are at the divergence between a technological utopia and our humanity. As we have grown more reliant on technology in our day-to-day lives, how we work, socialize, and play is a departure from how we used to. Are we losing our humanity as we unconsciously innovate to live like The Jeffersons?
I am a 90s baby. I grew up watching morning cartoons on Saturdays, playing outside or staying in to play video games and looking through encyclopedias and Britannicas when I was bored. Since then, I’ve seen the dramatic transition from what were the 90s and early 2000s to the 2010s. The Third Industrial Revolution brought the use of electronics and information technology to automate production. I witnessed the death of Blockbuster and the rise of Netflix and Hulu, departure of dumbphones and the arrival of iPhones and Galaxies, and archive of encyclopedias and the takeover of Google and Wikipedia. Our AOL chatrooms transformed into Facebook and Twitter. Big box retail is being replaced by Amazon but don’t be mistaken. This is not an exhaustive list…
For scope and context, the First Industrial Revolution, in 1760, used water and steam power to mechanize production and the Second, in 1870, used electric power to create mass production lines. The century isn’t yet over and we’re already experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “[It] is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century,” according to Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.
He continues, “[The Fourth Industrial Revolution] is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.” That’s exactly what we are seeing. We are seeing exponential growth of multiple technologies, such as AI, VR/AR/XR, IoT, Blockchain, Quantum Computing, etc. This next Revolution is changing the very fabric of our humanity. Are we living our authentic selves as a species? Are living the way biology and genetics have pre-ordained or are we unknowingly rewiring our humanity for the Matrix.
Today, many already live their lives through their smartphones, computers, and tablets. We text instead of call. We’ll post to our IG and Snapchat stories instead of being present. We’ll share on our Twitter and Facebook before we tell most of our friends and family. Dating consists of sliding into the DMs and swiping left or right. Shopping happens in the comfort of our homes with same-day shipping. We can even see how something looks on us or in the house before we buy using Augmented Reality in real-time. Oh, and we all have personal assistants built right into our smartphones and smart home devices.
Our lives are embedded and interwoven into a virtual fabric of zeros and ones and we are constantly adding to our digital selves with trillions of data points. We are unconscious, unintentional creating the Matrix through the various products we use day-to-day… The virtual world and physical worlds are going to be indistinguishable. Who is going to own this data when we don’t currently own our data on various digital platforms? What’s going to mean once we fully immerse ourselves into the virtual world? Put it simply. Who is going to “own” us or who already “owns” us? As a good friend of mine put it, “When you ride the waves, you’ll eventually crash on the shore.”
Here’s a list of data breaches in the last year.
- 8/8/19 — Capital One Breach, 106 million accounts.
- 12/7/18 — Quora Breach, 100 million accounts
- 11/30/18 — Marriott Starwood Breach, 500 million accounts
- 9/28/18 — Facebook Breach, 50 million accounts
- 8/28/18 — T-Mobile Breach, 2 million accounts
However, this list doesn’t account breaches in other industries such as healthcare, and the selling of user data, such as Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections (There’s a great documentary on Netflix about this.) In the last ten years, there have been approximately 2,546 healthcare data breaches which have exposed more than 189,945,874 healthcare records, according to a HIPAA Journal report. Take for example. In 2015, three of the biggest health care data breaches occurred. Anthem Inc’s database was breached via hacking/IT incident and exposed about 78,800,000 health records. Premera Blue Cross was breached and there were about 11,000,000 records exposed. In another instance, Excellus Health Plan Inc. was also breached and exposed 10,000,000 records.
The concern of who owns our data and challenge of protecting said data becomes exponentially more complicated with the proliferation of IoT, AI, and globalization of smartphones and connectivity, to name a few. How can we ensure that our data, our virtual selves, are adequately protected and controlled by us?
With a comprehensive dataset of our virtual selves, interests, behaviors, likes, and dislikes coupled with our human biases, we’ve created the perfect storm for mass social engineering. We are extremely susceptible to influence from the wiring of our brain to the opinion of a stranger. Our brain takes shortcuts to make a quick judgment and decision to save energy but as well as survive — well, that was the case for our hunter-gather ancestors. During that time, we have developed several cognitive biases to survive but times have changed and most of these biases can be detrimental to thrive in the coming decades.
Recently, during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, the data, personal information of millions of Americans, was “allegedly” used to manipulate the outcome. Supposedly, Cambridge Analytica has a history of leveraging data and propaganda to influence certain political outcomes in various countries (again, watch this documentary on Netflix).
On a smaller scale, think of Facebook and Instagram ads. Have you ever had a conversation about something with a friend or mentioned a product in passing to yourself only to see an ad for the same thing? Scary stuff, right? That’s how much data is used to predict your online behavior. Companies can successfully target your interests and intents based on your digital footprints. Are your decisions based on your own will or are they engineered that way? How is this going to potentially snowball in 2050?
What does it mean to be human today? According to Vocabulary.com, “Humanity is the human race, which includes everyone on Earth. It’s also a word for the qualities that make us human, such as the ability to love and have compassion, be creative, and not be a robot or alien.” Are we already losing touch with our humanity? Has technology changed the very fabric of what makes us human? Or has it transformed into something new? What’s going to be different for humanity in tech-centric society? Are we really at the divergence between a technological utopia and our humanity?
These are questions that we need to answer now because we don’t have much more time. We are on the brink of ecological collapse and technological disruptions are happening in ways we don’t know how to respond. Both of which will indefinitely affect our humanity. Some say we’re passed the turning point of both. Others are more hopeful. Regardless of your stance, we need to come together and collaborate on viable solutions today.