Society is on the brink of a number of significant changes and challenges. As climate change is starting to affect our food supply, water supply significantly artificial intelligence and VR/AR (Virtual and Augmented Reality) are entering the scene. Microsoft Hololens is not for making stories, it’s for populating your world with AI avatars you want to interact with and that will take control over your life in an unprecedented way (See the Human Integrity Charter). But there are two sides to everything. Science is in spite of what is being claimed still progressing, the question has to be : How far will we let this go?
The pressure to sell fossil fuel and generate cashflow for banks has pushed industry to extremes
When Holland was struck by famine a couple of times at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20 century it became more scientific about agriculture. It made itself food secure, but it created a science and industry that did not want to stop at ‘enough’. The artificial fertilizer and poisons and methods could be sold all over the world and would eventually lead us into an intensive farming prison it will be hard to back out of, because the soil is now toxic and depleted (see the Post Intensive Farming Food Gap). We should have checked this industry, but like any other fossil fuel consuming industry, the means to bribe and sue to get ahead have been limitless.
Telecommunication has created an army of jealous zombies wanting everything, driving the world economy
Technology serves humans, and humans have surprising little needs, it really depends on what they are used to. Television really does a great job making us jealous of more complicated and expensive lives. Without television new ideas and products would permeate only very slowly and still everywhere people would be relatively happy. Internet has the same effect, but also excludes a lot of potential customers for what it shows. When you haven’t moved to instagram or don’t use Viber you will not be included in whatever is targeted to those users. VR and AR will make that effect even stronger. People will be able to live happy lives even if they are the only one left on the planet, surrounded by AI driven avatars that will actually do stuff for you because they are paired with robotic automated systems.
VR and AR will change life just like the internet has done
But people are of questionable use if such a society would develop, and if that society where to develop based on scarce or depletable energy sources, only the best consumers, the ones selling it best would remain. Eugenics is build into every system, but will certainly become stronger with big data and a cost for every living consumer (see Eugenics and Big Data). This is a risk, and usually people do not respond to risk, they only respond to real opportunities. With VR and AR that rule will become obsolete. It will be possible to read entire cities of individuals in a fantasy world, with rules they would never come across in nature. Already young people are pushed as far away from being in control by being made to pay attention to nonsense and be happy about crap. Get your crayons out dude, there’s a war on!
Recently Hewlett Packhard made a 180 turn on memristors. These easy to create devices where the missing link for electronics, and allow the creation of super compact computers that need very little power and that remember whatever they stored for decades without it. Perfect material for drones, robots etc. No more silicon based chips, just a small factory in the back of the house can make these devices out of white paint, aluminum, carbon. HP was very enthousiastic, talking about the ‘Machine’ that every employee of the company would contribute to, a scene right out of a distopyina sci fi movie. But HP stopped (with some lame excuse).
Memristor technology is dangerous. To much power, to robust.
Another recent significant event is the victory of AlphaGo over Go world champion Sedol. Not for the reasons you may think. We don’t consider AlphaGo AI, as we have written about this topic, and robustness is a key property of any AI. AlphaGo is superfragile. But interestingly the victory is used to rewind development in AI research by putting young scientist on the trail of neural networks. These things that we had personal experience with as a neuroscientist researcher are not the answer nor the way to AI, at least not in the shape they are offered by f.i. GNU. Sure you can do a lot with it, but not make a thinking robot.
Author of this has seen technology ready for market 20 years ago that is now presented as novel
We often comment on reinvention, for instance when we see a video of someone doubting the possibility of a car running on Ammonia, and explaining they have achieved a milestone in moving closer to this future possibility. It’s bullcrap. It can be done, today and without much effort. But of course it tells a lot of people not to expect or demand it, after all, someone is working on it. Buy gasoline in the mean time people. The same goes for small wind turbines on land, they always die or suck, sometimes with the help of big investors. This is the industrial market protection system, the reality that our industry competes over resources, when they should cooperate in generation of resources. Que Bono? The intermediaries.
The fossil industry and banks have slowed down technological progress when their revenue was threatened, and still do
But there seems to be a second reason except the fossil fuel lobby and the intermediaries likeing their trade to limit technological advancement, a third reason to keep people searching for AI in the wrong place, a reason to shut down the introduction of the memristor : Security.
Why look here for life, health and freedom, it’s the hardest place..
Science and technology can serve us, but we need only very little. If the ones amongst us that have been taught to want riches and a high lifestyle got hold of certain technology this would lead to crime. VR/AR sure is going to make it much easier to learn skills and be taught. Super compact low power computers can drive devices with a persistence (which is robustness, a property of true AI) we won’t like. Datamining already is exposing everyone’s political affiliation and making it available to whoever is in power. Who knows whoelse the NSA is selling data to, it is a known fact energy companies and financial institutions make use of their data.
Big Data leads to Eugenics
Do we want a world in which a disgruntled teenager can make a device that causes serious damage? What makes more sense : Have a ubiquitous fallable surveillance system or not making certain knowledge available. It is only because fossil fuels are causing climate change and the response is not fast enought that the owner of this blog knows about technology as much as he does. If the world was ‘safe’, if the future was secure, why spend time online, why look at the challenges if they where not such a threat, even to our ability to respond.
In some places humans feed of their dreams and abitions, and the more ugly these places are, the more people will cling on to their dreams. VR and AR are going to help that proces.
Someone writes that most big inventions have been done already, we should not look so eagerly to new technology (in dutch). Such a position can be simply pro fossil fuel (stop the renewable tech advance) or it can be motivated to avert the threat of individuals capable of using dangerous technology. For sure scientific development has not reached its limit, but do we want to share all that knowledge if it causes our reality to desintegrate, if it makes us insecure in so many ways.
Humanity could slow down it’s search to innovate, if this where safe. It is not safe yet.
The solution would be simple on one condition : Humanities primary task will be to reverse and surive climate change by the most effective and practical means. This condition is not yet met. If it where met one can then introduce a simple system of lifestyle choice. the technology route would be highly discouraged unless certain technology was still necessary. The reason to do this is that humans have evolved for a certain challenge level, and technology is to powerfull to either resist or survive if humans, with their fragile psyche, where allowed to handle it. We are all mostly peacefull, but there are poor, frustrated young men out there with a debilitating belief system that leads them to be crushingly immoral, and how is one to keep dangerously effective technology from their hands.
Science serves our happiness and security, not the cashflow of those that sell fossil fuels
So we may see this generation as the first Groundhog Day generation, the generation that does not progress, that actually regresses to a more open en green society with less rules, less to fight for but also less technology. At the same time the technology that will exist like VR and AR will have a definite security agenda, drawing angry young men into society, teaching us skills to enjoy and creating an illusion of a global community. The question is : Will it be safe, or will it end up being like a hazourdous materials overall with an occulus rift strapped to it. We need to get renewables to dominate the agenda, then the pressure to capture people in ‘economic jobs’ to keep depleting resources because it generates cashflow and to top down control the world will disappear. Then we can live our Groundhog Days in paradise.