I think about the future, a lot. How can I not? Never before was so much as stake. Sure, there were plagues, but plagues are easier to control now than ever. Yeah, there were volcanoes, but they were localized and took out, at most, a city or two. Sure, there were meteors but … wait, no but about that; they wiped out entire populations. Okay, once before was so much at stake, and it wiped out the dominant life on Earth. Small consolation.
Although it’s fun to try, it’s hard to predict the future. I mean, some futures are easy to see. It was easy to see the presidency of Donald Trump was going to be a disaster, and it is. It’s easy to predict the Warriors in 4. It is simple to predict that Ludo will, in some capacity, amuse and infuriate me today. Some futures are, indeed, written.
Much harder to predict is how the world is going to change in the decades to come, with the rush of new technology. It is such a hopeful and frightening time to be alive. We are experiencing rapid change today that was the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago. It seems as though anything is possible.
My vision of the future tends to come with a degree of optimism that many find amusing. Some have called me naive. But I always hope for the best. Why not? With so much unwritten, and every possibility in play, hope rewards us so much greater than despair. There are studies to show us the physical and emotional benefits of hope.
I’m aware of everything that can go wrong. I know of man’s long history of avarice and pride. I know that egalitarianism is a dream, and that most prognostications degrade humanity into dystopia.
Yuval Noah Harari introduced me to a darker future last week. His dystopian vision prepares us for the possibility that inequality will get worse. Much, much worse. And, if the past is any indicator of the present, he is right.
The history of mankind is a history of brutality. The powerful have always exploited the powerless. Used them up. Hate, in history, has proven far more powerful than love. And perhaps the only force that has proven more powerful than hate is greed.
In Harari’s vision, the rich and powerful do not just control all the resources, they horde them entirely. In an age when the common man is not needed to work in plants or fight in wars, the elite have no use for them at all. They simply let the “useless class” die.
But this does not have to be our fate. Although humanity has shown an overwhelming willingness to accept their plight, to muddle along through their days in masses and trust in rotten leaders to guide them, it does not have to be that way. We can change the future.
To avoid the dystopia of Harari’s vision we must evolve. Technology is automating so many of the things we exploited humans for, in the past – for work and for war. We have to stop thinking in terms of exploitation now. We need to make certain that the benefits of advancing technologies reward everyone. Not just the few. Not just the greedy. Everyone.
We are on the verge of the biggest transition in human history. We are on the verge of becoming all but obsolete. Advances in science are threatening to do to humanity what an asteroid did to T-Rex. But humans, I think, are more than tools or warriors; they are not born only to work or fight.
I resist Harari’s vision. I see a future of egalitarianism and enlightenment. A future where we break through the tangled web of (mis)information and peer through the guises of our leaders, finding a future for mankind that is hopeful and, dare I say, utopian. I see democracy, unity, and association. I see reason for optimism.
Anything else would be unthinkable.