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. The previous article in this series: Man and Superman: Two Distinct Species. Please share your thoughts and help get the conversation going
It has been 500 years since the Scientific Revolution.
It has been a mere 200 years since the Industrial Revolution.
The pace of change humanity has experienced in the last 500 years, especially in the last 200 years, is immense. Science, coupled with the force of Capitalism, has created an intoxicating pace of change.
We call this change Progress.
Now, humanity faces the critical question: Will relentless Progress eventually lead to the extinction of humankind?
We are already looking at the death of Capitalism as a possible outcome of automation.
We are looking at the rise of a useless zombie class as the predominant segment of the population. This class would need to be supported by enormous welfare programs such as a Universal Basic Income.
Is it necessarily such a great idea to march so thoughtlessly towards this future without pausing to think about the consequences?
And even if we do pause to think, what can be controlled?
The answer, unfortunately, is, probably not much.
You see, Capitalism and Science & Technology, at present, are deeply coupled. Wherever there is an opportunity to push the frontiers of Science and Technology to generate monumental breakthroughs that lead to the creation of serious wealth, there is not a chance of things slowing down.
The only force that is supposed to think things through and design policy to mitigate the consequences of these dramatic shifts is the Government. But, we’re seeing around the world the rise of Idiocracies led by populists who are not thinking deeply about the true threats. They are busy peddling nonsensical bedtime stories to angry spectators.
As such, the more real questions go unaddressed.
Should driverless cars be allowed to operate despite their massive implications on employment loss? Or, even if technology can operate cars autonomously, a driver is required to be in the car or truck per regulation? Short-term, Capitalistic thinking wants regulation to be minimal so that Progress isn’t hindered. But long-term threats are looming large, and no one is worrying about those. World leaders are busy curbing immigration.
On the contrary, powerful companies with their ultra-powerful lobbies like Google are bullying Governments to authorize driverless cars with fierce urgency.
To fund large-scale welfare, especially Universal Basic Income, Bill Gates has proposed Robot Taxes. Every business that deploys robots and fires people will need to pay substantial taxes. Not a bad idea, although it would make the proponents of market economics bristle.
What about Genetic Engineering? Today, around the world, there are over 50 million people with Schizophrenia. If Science could enable the detection of this disease at the embryonic stage, the fetus can be aborted, eliminating tremendous human suffering, not to mention huge expenses in managing the disease at such scale. Not only should such measures be authorized, it would be wonderful if they can be made compulsory en masse. It would, of course, offend many religious belief systems. Perhaps it even offends the Humanists. But it IS humane to not subject people to unnecessary and avoidable suffering.
However, if unregulated Genetic Engineering is allowed to stretch to Intelligent Design, the consequences would be quite different. Assuming that there are limits to what the world can afford in terms of free healthcare, Intelligent Design would not be available to the masses. Only the rich can afford it. As such, options for Designer Babies for the rich is a disturbing prospect.
For the health and well being of society, as long as we’re still operating within the principles of Humanism, universal health care funded by taxes is a desirable thing. And while medicine will see tremendous automation, caring for people in humane ways could still be a reasonable employment generator in the long run. Perhaps, while all other sectors of the economy shrink, the care giving professions are allowed to expand.
But all these humane welfare aspects are only affordable if the rest of the players do not cheat. Today, the largest corporations like Apple and Google are also the largest cheaters. They are masters at legally avoiding taxes. Therefore, governments are left with huge holes in their budgets.
Humanity seems to have been stumped by certain humans whose short-term thinking makes it impossible for all these equations to balance.
The human species came to dominate Planet Earth because of its immense collaboration power.
But the propensity to cheat is also a human instinct, and perhaps, it will be one of the core instincts that will eventually destroy humankind.
Those who CAN, WILL cheat.
If they can get away with it, they WILL create Designer Babies and leapfrog all the uncertainties of natural selection.
Survival of the fittest will still hold true.
The ones who survive will be the ones who can afford to not only take advantage of the gifts that nature and birth bestowed on them, but also afford technologies that offer supernatural customization potential.
Is this bifurcation of humanity to Man and Superman controllable?
I don’t think so.
This segment is a part in the series : Man and Superman