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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

Name:

The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Don't Let It Drive You Crazy -- AI

And so researchers have announced that their victorious racing robot, triumphant in the recent DARPA challenge (to traverse a 132-mile desert course with no human assistance), learned how to drive by watching as experienced humans took the wheel of its vehicle and showed it how.

As with many "revolutions in automation," it's arguably the tiny adjustments that we aren't focusing on right now that could have the most impact. While autonomous vehicles are the next step towards robust, independent robots handling tasks without constant human supervision, the key thing here may be that we're taking yet another significant step towards eliminating even more mindless, repetitive work for humans. This has proven to be a colossal force for change in the past, beginning with the Industrial Revolution and continuing all the way to the present.

What we may be seeing in this innovation as well as others that strike even more to the heart of high prestige drudgery -- such as computers that can perform biotech research or experiments and derive basic theories from the results, or advanced software to assess your taxes -- is the elimination of even more jobs that have in the past required a certain level of demonstrable skill and intelligence, though very little in the way of human creativity. In other words, the truck driving positions and lab tech/junior lab researcher jobs that once served as either respectable blue-collar careers or entry level white collar work may be going away along with those of the clearly unskilled.

What does this mean for the rest of us? Not necessarily Armageddon at all. We'll have to make some serious adjustments when more of these less complex jobs get outsourced not to India but to microchips. For example, one thing that makes the public feel better about the idea that some people have high-paying, prestigious careers with a lot of power, and other people have to work for minimum wage or at least accept their lot in the middle class is the idea that only a handful of people can do the most rewarding jobs (or start the most rewarding businesses) out there.

There has been a certain degree of truth to this idea. But conveniently enough, we're seeing many of the "make work" jobs that keep our middle and lower classes occupied fading away at just the moment when radical human enhancement has become a realistic option for the rest of us. Nootropics, gene therapy, accelerated learning, cybernetics, mindtech and more... all of them open up the possibility of creating vastly more gifted "average" human beings.

People in the near future may still have to "prove themselves" in less prominent positions before being entrusted with the full measure of an organization's available resources, but the "enfant terrible" -- the young prodigy suddenly emerging to prominence -- may become far more common in business circles, government labs and eventually all walks of life. Indeed, depending on how flexible we older generations are in absorbing new enhancement methods and technologies, we may quickly find ourselves put to one side by the unmatched intellect of children who have absorbed the benefits of these resources without suffering from our prejudices. They aren't going to wonder whether or not the modifications made to their DNA before birth, or the "supplement" their mother has been giving them since they were toddlers (and ground up into their baby food before that), or the way their teacher taught them in pre-school or college somehow makes them a "freak," a "mutant," or a "cheater." It will just be a part of their world, as natural as breathing.

Having said all that, the open prize money and competition format used by DARPA appears to be an excellent method for making key breakthroughs in open competitions. Especially when they pick breakthroughs which, if they existed, would open up whole new industries or fields of research.

But it's the little adjustments to society, such as this adjustment in available careers and human potential, that can really change everything.


You can discuss this topic here.

Future Imperative

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Thank you for your wonderful site. Although I did not find admin jobs as a directmatch to your site, I did however enjoy the career advice from other posts.
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