Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us
In Lord of The Rings, Tolkien describes in graphic detail the works of Saruman whose defining act as a wizard of the dark force was to destroy the forest of grand old trees surrounding his castle. These would fuel infernal workshops and plans for domination, enslavement and destruction. While Tolkien intended the life-destroying ways of Saruman as a metaphor for the rise of Nazism in Europe he found a frighteningly accurate descriptor for the global destruction of our ecosystem. The rate of extinction of species has now reached an estimated three species an hour. We are living through a mass extinction event.
Humanity finds itself at the crossroads. In April 2000 a crossroads article par excellence appeared in Wired Magazine. Titled Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us by Bill Joy, then Chief Scientist and co-founder of SUN Microsystems, the piece caused massive controversy. Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us is one of many warning bells for humanity, sounded clearly enough over the past half century or so. Quoting a number of dystopian alarmists including none other than Theodore Kaczynski AKA the Unabomber, Bill Joy summarises their outlook: Robots will eventually succeed us – that humans clearly face extinction. Joy does not agree with the Unabomber’s methods but thinks he has an important point. Billy Joy quotes Ray Kurzweil from The Age of Spiritual Machines quoting Kaczynski.
. . . because machine-made decisions will bring better results than man-made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won’t be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent . . . that turning them off would amount to suicide.
Consider the nature of the world system for it is a machine of sorts. With the logging of our old forests, despite loud protests from certain quarters we seem more or less incapable of halting their destruction. At the time of the first Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro 1992 the rate of destruction of old growth forests was approximately 1 acre every 3 seconds. Twenty one years later the rate is one acre destroyed every second.
Deep and Mysterious Complexity
In 1900 Max Planck made a remarkable discovery concerning electrodynamics requiring an entirely new theoretical framework to explain how the universe and nature works at an essential, deep level. Planck’s discovery opened the gates for a radical new framework . . .Quantum Theory. The findings and implications of Quantum Theory are bizarre by comparison with our common, Newtonian, and above all logical way of seeing the world . . .to be continued
The Full text of this essay will be published in This Next Wave – a print publication. Premier issue due out in February 2012. Discover more at http://www.thisnextwave.com/