Monday, January 27, 2014
The Utopian Gambit
When people talk about the future, they can mean some very different things. Some times the future refers simply to the time that is to come, but sometimes it is used in such a way as to reference an imaginary apex of civilization and society. "The future" has become something we strive and work for, even imagine for ourselves anew, yet how can we sort between the utopian and distopian, how can we be sure of our creations, or even of our very survival?
Sometimes as an individual it is difficult to see oneself as having any impact in the huge world, we see ourselves as becoming tinier each day as the centralized authorities and industrial superstructure grow in magnitude. Yet as centralized power grows, it loses its ability to control the many disparate elements within society efficiently. There is also greater and greater power available to ordinary individuals who live within the society, so society must constantly defend itself from its own innovations and assets.
Each person has more individual power and impact from each moment to the next, this is based on the fact that at every moment there is more technological capability and availability than the last moment. With this effect, we can assume each individual will continue to experience a greater and greater capability over the years to come, the kind of behavior exhibited when presented with such capability is a direct reflection of the internal imagination of the individual.
But we can't really know what is going to happen in the future, just as we can't know every possible impact of every action we take. So when we imagine the future, we tend to think about what we would want to happen instead of thinking about what will probably happen.
But should we think more about what will probably happen, can we even know what is probably going to happen? More importantly, does anyone know what is going to happen? Even with advanced predictive software, its still difficult to accurately forecast the weather, let alone the societal impacts of exponential technological growth in five years.
So when we talk about the future, often it has come to mean the apex of societal advancement, not because this is what will definitely happen in the future, but because it's what every day people want to happen, and each person has their own vision of what it could be like. By using new technology in imaginative ways that reflect personal vision, each individual takes a hand in sculpting the evolution of technology.
Ultimately what will define the survivors of change is what has always defined survival through millions of years of evolution; adaptability. Those who can adapt to new ways of interacting with technology and with the world around us will be the ones who decide how the future unfolds. In this new century, the distopic and utopic visions are guides and each is a potential outcome, it is our job to sort between them and find a realistic solution to our problems that stays away from some of the darker distopic scenarios.