In order to give focus to some major changes she sees on the horizon, Sramana Mitra has written several pieces that grew out of her original article, Man and Superman: Human History Bifurcates. Please share your thoughts and help get the conversation going.
In the first segment of this series, I said that human history is about to bifurcate into two distinct classes: the wealthy, powerful, highly educated class that will come to dominate the future; and the useless zombie class that will be the planet’s majority.
Let’s explore this in some detail.
Already, eight of the world’s richest people own as much wealth as 50% of the world population combined. The poorest half of the population, comprising of some 3.6 billion people, owns $409 billion in wealth. The eight people, including tech multi-billionaires Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos, own $426 billion.
Inequality will increase further, as automation sweeps through society, further hollowing out the middle-classes.
Already, the highly educated are stratifying themselves into isolation. Social mobility is declining, even in America, where the American Dream was once a matter of great pride.
Imagine what would happen when simply being reasonably educated is no longer enough! With even white-collar jobs getting automated, you pretty much need to be a genius to have any ability to make a living, let alone create wealth.
And add to that yet another scientific curveball: medical advancement and genetic engineering. The rich geniuses will not only get the best medical treatments for their ailments, they will also be able to afford more esoteric and expensive enhancements and other longevity-extending medical procedures. Harari’s second book, Homo Deus, discusses genetic engineering at length, and I have to agree that the benefits of this scientific discipline will accrue to the Superman, leaving Man further behind. The progeny of the wealthy will be designed to specifications of brilliance, editing out all diseases and genetic disorders that have often been handicaps thus far.
Inequality increases even further, and in a few centuries, are we then looking at Superman – Homo Deus, as Harari calls this new species – driving Man (Homo Sapiens) to extinction?
Harari points out that the reason humanity has been able to survive and scale at such a dramatic pace is that Humanism is the religion that stabilizes the current world order. All men are created equal and have the same inalienable rights. So, governments try to provide a welfare system – a safety net – with which the common man, the poor man, the uneducated man – can still survive. Even Christianity and Hinduism have extensive Humanism built into their codes of conduct. Thus, through taxation and philanthropy, humanity slows down evolution. The weak are artificially and systemically empowered to survive. Pure biology, pure anthropology, would not let this happen. Evolution would not allow this. Economics and Politics, however, make it possible.
Harari questions the root motivation behind Humanism. After all, Economics and Politics are self-serving, not altruistic disciplines. Until recently, Economics dictated that labor is a key part of production. And Politics dictated that soldiers are a key part of wars.
Neither holds true anymore. Robots work. Robots fight wars.
On pure spiritual grounds, then, would Humanism survive?
Then comes a series of derivative questions, the most dominant of them in the minds of educated readers today ought to be: would Democracy survive?
We have already seen several Western liberal democracies devolve into Idiocracies. Stories of immigrants or foreign trading partners taking away jobs is one can of rubbish that has been masterfully peddled to a population of angry, frustrated citizens in the US, UK, France. Jobs are going to machines, not to immigrants.
How long would the institutions that have held together a more or less peaceful and prosperous world order hold up?
Capitalism coupled with Science and Technology, in the last two centuries, has advanced humankind to become an extraordinarily powerful species. Humanism was a necessary part of that equation as long as both Capitalism, as well as Science and Technology needed humans in large numbers to function.
Now, a decoupling is taking place. The Capitalism-Science and Technology combination will still survive and be effective in a very small population of the Superman species. Even democracy is an okay system for that segment of the population.
For Man, however, not only is Capitalism no longer viable, Democracy may also no longer work. If Superman wants to branch off, and create a separate order, refusing to subsidize Man through taxes and welfare, how will Man survive?
Does evolution then kick in? Survival of the fittest? Survival of the Superman, as Man becomes extinct?
I have enjoyed Harari’s books immensely as the first of its kind to look at where we have come from and where we are going at a really profound level.
In Silicon Valley, where I live, people have little sense of history. They think of trivial innovations as world-changing phenomenon. The self-aggrandizement and the delusions of grandeur are colossal.
Well, to all of you who have interest in humanity’s future, and especially those who are under the misconception that your world-changing enterprises matter, let me suggest you read Sapiens and Homo Deus.
In the grand scheme of things, if you simply extend the timeline a few hundred years in each direction – past and future – most of us are working with a few tiny specs of insignificant trivia.
There are gigantic question marks looming.
Do we have any control over any of them?
This segment is a part in the series : Man and Superman