Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Future of Humanity



There are lots of speculations about the future development of humanity: the economical rise of China, global warming and other ecological disasters, technocratic utopias or a new dark age etc.
Most of these scenarios are very narrow-minded because they extrapolate a single variable and neglect others. Making predictions for the future is so difficult because of the enormous number of variables that are to consider. Therefore predictions, which reach several millennia into the future, are impossible given the current speed, in which the human species is developing.


The Technological Singularity

But we don't need to go so far, because in a rather near future there will be an event that will cause a radical change, which makes most other variables irrelevant. This event has been called the 'Technological Singularity'. It is the arrival of a super-human intelligence on this planet. It is when the first computer is build, which exceeds human capabilities. We know that it is technically possible, because we are already very close to achieve this goal. The fastest supercomputers today have probably already the hardware capabilities of the human brain, when it comes to processor speed (Fujitsu K computer in Japan 1016 floating point operations per second, expected fully operational in Nov. 2012. The human brain is estimated to have 1014 - 1015 floating point operations per second). So it has come down to a software problem.

We know it is possible, and we know that it will happen. The only thing we don't know is, when it will happen. But realistic scenarios point approx. 30 - 40 years into the future. 
This is relatively soon and possibly within the lifetime of most of us.
When the singularity happens, nothing will be as it was. It will be a radical change for humanity and it will be a major step in evolution, a jump from organic, carbon-based biochemistry to inorganic technology.

In today's society humans spend about 20% - 30% in preparation for their purpose in society (education, school, university), then they spend the next 50% with productive work for the society and then they enter in non-productive retirement. Already today the only really productive work is done by the brain, not by physical strength, because machines have become the muscles of our society. Machines are physically stronger and far more productive. To use a human for work that can be done better and faster by machines is a disadvantage and mostly occurs in developing countries, which are not able to compete with the leading economies. Humans are only needed to control the machines because machines lack intelligence. Productive work has more and more become brain work.
But from the moment on that a computer has become more intelligent than any human being, there is no need for humans in the economy anymore. Humans will not be able to compete in productivity with computers and machines. Therefore humans can't enter a productive work in the economy anymore. They would only stand in the way of superior machines.  Not even decision makers in the higher management ranks will be needed, because a computer analysis will provide far more trustworthy data than a human decision maker can get out of his experience. We don't even need humans to design new machines, because the superior computers can design far better machines than any human could.
Humanity will be left without a job.


Impact on Society

It will have a major impact on human society, because the working class will disappear. There will be no employees, no managers, no executives in the administrations. It will continue a trend that has already started. The economy needs less people because it gets more and more automatized. However we will be left with a shareholder class that actually owns the machines and computers and makes them work for their personal benefit. It will be a very small elite of the society. This is a development that we can already see in today's society. A small part of society does no productive work but just moves money around and forms the ruling class of our modern society.
The vast majority of the future high.-tech society will be either depend on welfare or be left on their own, depending on the economical system (more or less socialist).
But there will still be a few people who actually work, because there are jobs where machines and computers can't replace humans, since these jobs don't require efficiency. These will be people who are somehow in the entertainment industry, like artists, prostitutes and athletes.
Art is an irrational m├ętier that does not require any useful results. So we will still have musicians, writers, actors, painters etc. And they will still earn money with their work.
Although robots might eventually be able to replace sex-workers, for many people it will always make a huge difference if their partner is human or not. Therefore the market for sex-workers will also continue.
Sports has to do with physical work, but this work doesn't fulfill any purpose. And although somebody with a vehicle can drive faster than a runner, there are still competitions for runners. And the rules of a certain sport exclude the use of machines, even if they were more efficient. Athletes get paid by the people who want to watch their competitions.
Therefore these professions will be the last ones that don't become obsolete.

The Future Industrialized Society

There won't be much in the future industrialized society that we can't already see yet. 
We have a smaller and smaller upper class that doesn't actually work but lives from financial transactions. This includes politicians and shareholders. All the machines and computers work for them.
We have artists and athletes who earn more and more money, and of course we have the so called 'oldest profession of the world', which will even survive the singularity.
The employee class will cease to exist. So job training and universities become useless. Considering the little time that is most likely left until the singularity, it is already not recommendable to any child born  today to learn any job. Because when his education is finished there will be little time left that he could do any productive work before it is taken over by computers and machines.
Then there will be a huge class of recipients of welfare. It is necessary to continue the welfare program as long as there are so many jobless people in order to maintain social peace. Social unrest is a phenomenon that we can already see growing. And it might get worse. An entertainment an leisure industry is needed to keep this majority occupied when there is no work to do anymore.

With nothing left to do, ...
... future entertainment connected to cyber worlds
The lack of purpose for humans in the future high-tech society will increase psychological problems, depressions and drastically reduce fertility. It will only be a matter of time, when humans in these society stop reproducing. But it does not matter, because there is no need more for them. The economy will continue without them and the only use up resources. What will be left is an empire of machines and robots that is so sophisticated and advanced that we have no chance to understand it with our intellect. It will be the heir of human civilization. It will inherit all our achievements, our thoughts and whatever humanity stands for.


The Future Non-Industrialized Society

It is obvious that not all of humanity will take part in the computerization of the world. There will be countries that are just left behind. We already know more or less, which countries will dominate the future world economy and are developing technology at an increasing pace. Most of them are in Asia, like China, Japan, South-Korea etc. But also Russia, South- and North-America and Europe have a  certain possibility to take part in the technological singularity. Other regions like the Middle East, Africa, South Asia (Pakistan, Malaysia etc.) will be left behind, especially the rural areas.
And there will be others who are in the industrialized world but will reject the increasing computerization and this new society. It is a neo-Luddite that we can already observe today: the anti-globalization movement, the 'occupy'-movement, religious fanatics. These people don't want this new society, either because they feel that they are already not competitive in it or they foresee subconsciously that this development will mean that humanity will be replaced by computers.
Somehow the religious radicalization of the Islamic world is an expression of this resistance against the way that humanity is going. Radical Islam has more and more become a protest movement, a rejection of the modern world and all its aspects and an attempt to turn back time. They have often sympathizers from anti-globalist, anti-capitalist movements. The war on terror is a first phenomenon of this conflict between the rising high-tech society and the neo-Luddites.
However the neo-Luddites have not the means to stop the singularity. The technology they are up against is too superior. They have often to use the modern technology that they actually reject in order to be able to strike against the society, but in doing so they become part of what the are fighting against. Ultimately they will fail. But they will be the last biological humans that will be left, when the last humans in the high-tech society get absorbed into the computer civilization.

However these last humans will not be on the top of the ladder of evolution anymore. They will share the fate with the other animals whose natural environment is more and more destroyed. The same way as our human society today treats animals whose intelligence is lower than that of humans, so will the machine society treat the last remnants of humanity that did not integrate themselves into it. Where the machines will spread and will need new resources, biological humans will have to disappear.

It can't be predicted, if humanity will be extincted after the technological singularity, but it will not be the top of evolution on this planet. It will not be the supreme intelligence. It will be just one animal species among others.

Humans back on animal level - the future of Homo sapiens?