Readers should be clear by now that I don’t record these thoughts to endear myself to as many hearts as possible. I saw a piece on today’s WSJ online edition that called to mind the important things that I believe our country (world?) is facing. And it isn’t global warming or healthcare or immigration reform or … .
Instead, according to my lights the world shaking issues we are facing are 1) the approach of the Singularity, 2) the entrenchment of national dumbth, 3) the race between tyranny and the war between civilizations. Singularity’s approach is driven by AI, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering. It’s byproducts are universal online education, destabilizing systemic unemployment, accelerating inequities, and species threatening ‘plague’.
The country's dumbth (google it) is here and politically ineradicable. The national commons has been established and is well on its way to being destroyed, while the attempts to maintain it will take America to the brink of revolution.
Due to the inexorable course of issues 1 and 2 our present progress toward a post-constitutional tyranny is also well established and abetted by technology. And given our refusal to acknowledge the dominant dynamism of Islam, its colonization of infidel lands will accelerate, punctuated by ever greater incidents of terror that will have the weaker societies suing for peace at any cost – adoption of Sharia being the least of them (more here, here, and here). Only a ‘great awakening’ in the west, of which no harbinger is evident, would preclude such a pre-Singularity future. If the Singularity ‘wins’ this race, all bets are off by definition.
These are all issues and predictions that have decorated these pages for years now. I see no observables that would cause me to recant any of this record. So I was surprised to see an interview with Jaan Tallinn in the 2jun13 WSJ. Tallinn is the inventor of Skype and co-founder of the early stage company that capitalized the technology. He is now building a new company “MetaMed, which promises customers personalized health-care research and analysis of their medical conditions.” (These are the kind of innovations that will wind up providing the real improvements in healthcare.)
In the interview Tallinn goes on to outline his own apprehensions about mankind’s shared future which are eerily in lockstep with what I have been trying to alert my family, friends, and RR readers.
What risks worry him? "The first one is artificial intelligence," he says. "The second is the things that technological progress might create that we're unaware of right now." … His third fear is biological risk. "There could be synthetic viruses that evolution doesn't even know how to create," says Mr. Tallinn. For all practical purposes, he suggests, evolution stopped with the advent of gene technology. "The future of the planet depends much more on technology than evolution," he adds.
When one’s notions are so frequently out of step with popularly received wisdom, it is heartening to run across yet another respected co-traveler with similar views. Maybe it’s just an Estonian thing, but I don’t think so.