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Recent progress in technology has put an ideal future well within the reach of mankind.
That is, if we can find the will and intelligence to properly accelerate and deploy these newly developed capabilities.
The technologies involved include (but are not limited to) Nanotech, Biotech, Infotech, and one you will be hearing more about, Cogtech. We now have an unprecedented command of nature and natural resources.
What then prevents us from moving into the utopia this should imply?
First, we can (and will) nitpick the meaning of utopia almost indefinitely. Second, we do not have the ability to evaluate and allocate resources as needed to achieve this goal. (This is primarily an economic structure problem, which we will discuss shortly.)
Third is greed, which prevents us from postponing near term gratification for the longer term benefit of all. And, all must include the entire world population. That’s a long way to go.
But if we don’t take this approach, suffering and strife will continue indefinitely.
Economics 101 – In order for capitalism to do the job it is designed to do (allocate resources optimally), two things are essential. First and foremost goods and services must be fairly and rationally valued as to both their present and future importance to humanity.
Second, the importance of intangibles must be included in such a way that economic policy can be tailored to optimize them.
The present economic meltdown is an example of the failure to do either of the above tasks adequately. Using wealth alone to select and set relative priorities as we now seem to do is obviously a recipe for long-term disaster.
It should be a no-brainer to choose a better way to allocate resources, but it is obviously beyond the capability of our present economic team.
The technologies – A very brief summary of the utility of the previously mentioned tech areas will perhaps help the reader understand the title of this essay a bit better.
Nanotech has made possible the re-purposing of natural resources to eliminate shortages in a wide variety of critical areas of future fabrication and development needs. Infotech and the Internet have made available vast quantities of information and entertainment available to the world’s population at very low cost.
Biotech is capable of completely eliminating pain and suffering throughout the globe. Cogtech is giving machines the ability to relieve mankind of nearly all the onerous tasks that otherwise interfere with a truly enjoyable life.
The problem – The first is income. As machines and automation replace the workforce, how will the population procure the necessities (and luxuries) of life. There are many solutions to this problem, but at present all seem to be well beyond the cognitive ability of our politicians!
Second, satisfaction. People have a need to feel useful and that they are contributing in some way to society. Without that, much mischief will result, as in “idle hands,” etc. The religions of the world can be of great help in this area, but not sufficient by themselves.
Third, population growth. As disease is controlled and life span is extended, the carrying capacity of the earth will tend to be exceeded. There may be ways to substantially increase this limit but this will require much planning and thinking. Many believe we are already substantially beyond what is sustainable.
Conclusion – If we can marshal the intelligence to redesign our economic, political, social and religious structure, there is the possibility that mankind’s future can be bright indeed.
We will likely co-exist with machines that in many ways are smarter than we are and perhaps allow them to make the most complex decisions for us.
Developing and appropriately programming these machines should be a very high priority.
A future in which super human intelligent machines serve as CEOs and managers and we humans give guidance at a policy board level could be ideal.
Art Morse, firstname.lastname@example.org, is president of Los Alamos Center for Science and Economic Policy and a cogtech entrepreneur.