The Future: Apocalyptic Fury or Technological Fantasy?
I grew up in a house filled with superstition. My mother is a wonderful, devout, and cynical woman. For years I sat on the living room floor while she relentlessly watched the 700 Club. I remember a white-haired Jack Van Impe spouting off “anti-christ” revelations and how he targeted individuals and machines. There was a computer in specific that was called the B.E.A.S.T. and was located ,supposedly, in Belgium. Jack implicated it as the tool that would provide the “mark of the beast”. In reality, the computer did not even exist but was taken from a novel by Joe Musser. He even went as far as to call Juan Carlos, prince of Spain, the anti-christ. I imagine something similar lead to the crusades.
All this was amusing to me at the time, and I actually thought there was truth in it. I didn’t know any better, but in the end I embodied the destructive force which it created. As a result, my thoughts and opinions were shaped for years afterward. I would go around telling people the way the world was and there was no other alternative. Either believe or burn. What a fool I was, but luckily I opened my eyes one day.
The simple truth is that apocalyptic beliefs have existed since the beginning of time. Each generation comes up with a new way that the world is going to end and when it doesn’t happen, they pass the torch. Don’t get me wrong, we could be nuked tomorrow, but spending any amount of time worrying about or anticipating it is frivolous. The fact that anyone would try to incite panic over such an event is, frankly, cruel and causes undue stress and tension. Furthermore, it takes focus off of much more important issues. If this is your belief, I respect it and I will not put you down for it, but don’t force it on other people as I did.
I find it much more likely that the world will go on, just as it always does. It will be greedy, loving, cruel, kind, crime-ridden, and just all at the same time. The world around us reflects our nature as beings. I have no misconceptions that doomsday prophecies will go away at any point. They have always been, and they will always be. Now, there are even doomsday television shows. If you can count on the media to do one thing, it’s to exploit a general fear and turn it into a spectacle.
I propose that we instead look at our future as if there were no end. Where will we be in 50 years, 100 years, or even 1000 years? I think it’s fair to say that technology will be exponentially increasing. Ray Kurzweil has put out some postulation on where we will be at certain time periods. A lot of his message reveals an Asimov-esque quality, but I think his general idea is in the ballpark. It only seems logical that as technology improves we will steadily begin to incorporate it into our bodies.
You might think it completely bizarre, but it’s really not. We have been infusing technology and our flesh for years, although mostly for handicaps and medical conditions. We look at these with wonder and gratitude but look at very similar technologies as strange.
Let’s take for example a tattoo. You inject pigment into your skin with a needle and it becomes a permanent fixture on your body. A very similar procedure was envisioned for a health monitoring system. You would be injected with miniscule circuitry that would monitor things like blood pressure, heart rate, insulin levels, etc. Diabetics wouldn’t need to carry around testing kits, they could simply open an app on their phone and check all of their vital information.
Going even further, many optical receiving devices have been theorized. If we can enable the blind to see with virtual optics, why could we not then feed visual information to the ones with sight? You could walk around with live feeds of news, stocks, social media information, etc. Augmented reality is still in its infant stages at this point, but making progress. I know that a lot of people would say this is going too far and we might be playing God. My question to you is this, if God created us and we obviously have the capability to create on such a mass scale with such grand proficiency, why would it be so far-fetched to imagine that it was in the plans for us to one day use our god-given talent to improve our way of life. Technically we are already doing it, only with limitations. If you are an Atheist, then I don’t even need to propose this notion to you. Simply the fact that we can should suffice.
Kurzweil explains in his book, “The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Technology”, that the law of accelerating returns drives technology (specifically biology, nanotechnology, and robotics) toward the event called “singularity” in which man and machine become one. He literally talks about quantifying the brain and transferring it into machines to create a seemingly infinite longevity.
The ethics and philosophy of such a transition will be the subject of a future blog, as they span too vast an area for me to cover in this one. However, the point I am trying to make is that we have already envisioned a point at which we become cyborgs and we are progressing toward that point. From what I’ve seen from human ingenuity, it cannot be stopped. It will roll over opposition with a smiting blow. I’m not saying that I think we should go that direction, or that we will even achieve the capability, but I am saying that it is within the realm of possibility as were flight, computers, and the wheel.
In conclusion, I am not trying to push any form of machinery or circuitry upon you, only advising that it is more prudent to keep your eyes on the future, aside from proposed catastrophes. Whether we are all cyborgs, irradiated nuclear mutants, or gaseous clouds drifting aimlessly, we will get there when we get there. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to arrive at the destination. The journey is what really matters.