Is there no Future for Humans?

The three forecasters of future

There are valid reasons why we look with hope into the future. Most pertain to living a better life. This hope leads us to understand forecasts and what measures we must take to adapt. For example, what profession should I get into, what financial investments should I make, where should I settle, what should I learn, and so on.

There are essentially three entities that predict the future. The first is the astrologer or fortune-teller you meet on grandma’s insistence to sort out issues. The guy who leans on self-fulfilling prophecies to predict what the future might hold for you.

The second is science, where tools like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans can predict your actions before taking them. Today the experiments can predict your actions eleven seconds before you take them. However, it is plausible that technology will broaden the seconds to hours or days.

It is also conceivable to have the technology used over other living and non-living beings which display intelligence. Such synthesis will forecast the most accurate predictions ever known to us.

The third is the future we imagine through human insights – knowledge and expert analysis. We trust this form of prediction the most because it speaks through data and trends, research papers, books, and expert opinions rather than occult occurrences.

While the first lingers high on the absurdity scale, the second is based on science and is as precise as it can get. The convergence of these two paradigms is likely to displace the third dimension of predictions.

The bug in humans

We develop insights into the future with our world progressing at an understandable pace. But our brain’s processing capacity can capture information, analyze and predict the outcome of events in proportion to the size of the grey matter. In millions of years of human evolution, the grey matter responsible for how we emote, think, and act has barely grown or instead decreased, as per some researchers. While this change is happening in the garden of Eden, you have the accelerated change freewheeling in the other section of the park. Accelerated change is how technology changes compared to the current pace.

An explanation of the accelerated change is as follows. The first twenty-five years of this century will achieve the technological progress of the entire twentieth century. The next twenty-five may match the past 150 years, and the numbers progress in that ratio. We are staring at a possibility where the progress of an entire century will happen not in years but in days. That future is perceivable in the current century.

Compare the event with the processing capacity of the human brain. The accelerated change is incomprehensible to it. Neither Darwin nor Moore have prescribed a way around this. As the brain will not process data of this magnitude, the skill of deriving meaningful insight ceases. Even in current times, it is difficult for anyone to say what will hold good for the next couple of years or the emerging trends or jobs in the next five years.

Look at Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) that has turned the world on its head. Two years ago, we had never heard of this medium. The drift will see the end of any significant prediction of the future. But we are anxiety-laden creatures who want to know what the future might hold for us.

The inexistence of any credible insight could lead to the rise of fortune-tellers and astrologers. As the psychologist, Daniel Kahneman writes, “When faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.“ In a way, we will walk backward while robots march ahead.

Schemes and deceit

Machines will generate tons of intelligence which we can and will utilize. But this will be the end of organic human intellect that can create any meaning related to the future. Importantly, will the access to such rich intelligence created by supercomputers be accessible to all? Currently, powerful corporations control this. It’s a common guess that such information will suit the owner’s interests and not the general public.

What stops an organization from manipulating important information to bolster sales and broadcast it to the world. In the pharma, healthcare, and finance industries, such stories of deceit are in abundance. And yet, we will be at the mercy of such sources of information purely because it processes millions of bits of information in fractions of seconds. Therefore, the above scenario is murky if Artificial Intelligence will benefit us as it benefits the bots.

An exhilarating film narrative

The reality sets us up for an exciting sci-fi script. Imagine the protagonist trying to save humanity from an exodus and is desperately seeking information to access the necessities to survive. They cannot foresee or predict a solution with swift changes in the ecosystem.

The hero only has fortune tellers to bank on who comes up with their absurd forecasts. He cannot trust the data from devious capitalist corporations. What does he do in the script? What would you do in the real world? For me, it ceases all scope for human thoughts to dwell in the future.

A possible solution could be to set up an independent ethical body that regulates data usage and management. A difficult task to achieve, but governments will have to play a substantial role in this. The unit should not collude with business entities in any form. Nevertheless, it can comprise people with a background in analytics, data science, the dark web, ethical hacking, and social engineering.

Until now, we have witnessed such bodies represented by distinguished senior officials but with limited knowledge of the domain. I remember watching US officials questioning tech giant CEOs over user privacy. The questions were from a fifth-grade textbook. We need aggressive compliance in the area.

Tampering with data meant for public use is a criminal offense and requires swift justice. Measures taken in these directions can bring us the utopian life technology promises today. I hope I haven’t seen too far into that future. Maybe there is a real-life protagonist who rises.

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