Everyday brings new technological breakthroughs – and one of the most fascinating is the development of sensors that enable the tongue to actually see. This ability is rudimentary now, like seeing a series of pointillist patterns, perhaps a little like the earliest video games.
In works like Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World, Tim Wu has written clear and incisive critiques of a whole generation's conjoining of facile to flabbergasting market libertarian/ crypto-anarchist/ neoliberal assumptions and aspirations and conceits to an irrationally exuberant, digi-utopian, techno-triumphalist hype endlessly promising an end to borders, nation-states, identities, limits-to-growth. Of course, by 2006 the writing was really on the wall as far as the crypto-anarchistic Extropian no death! no taxes! Cyberspace home of mind crowd went -- and, gee, just sayin', some of us were already pointing out how imbecilic this sort of vision was in 1996, if not well before then -- but, the point is, Tim Wu was a critic of a prevailing techno-utopian ideology that symptomatically played out in variations and in levels of intensity across layers of discourse from the pages of WIRED to B-movie plots to ad copy to editorials to DARPA reports.
Two overarching trends that get little attention today are those of rapidly increasing precision and awareness. As both travel up the exponential growth curves of the emerging big data industry, what inevitably becomes possible is an ability to distinguish a person’s identity from a distance, even space. On the surface this may be a frightening prospect. Having someone know where I am at any moment of the day, does indeed make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
I have been reading Al Gore's The Future over the last few days. He talks about the emergence of a global paradigm that puts into question the survival of nation states as we know them today. Of course he sees the world through an American lens and therefore projects its primacy and influence in the forward evolution of society and politics.
“Democratic governance will thrive in Asia, once Asian narratives – myths and metaphors – are used to provide support and give meaning to it.”
“Democratic governance in 2030 will be radically different from how we see it today. We need new lenses to see the future.”
The Future - Six Drivers of Global Change, former Vice President Al Gore replied, "Random House came up with that title." It's not an auspicious beginning to a talk about the perils of the Global Megacrisis, when you more or less say your title was chosen because the marketing team liked it best.
"I shouldn’t have been surprised at the controversy that arose."
The cause was an hour-long lecture with 55 slides, ranging far and wide over a range of disruptive near-future scenarios, covering both upside and downside. The basic format of the lecture was: first the good news, and then the bad news. As stated on the opening slide,
Continuing to look at what our political processes and institutions will look like in the year 2100, I raise the issue of how the Internet and mobile smart phones are altering engagement.
There has never been a better time in history for us to become collectively engaged in addressing the challenges humanity faces including climate change, energy, food production, social, religious, national and political unrest, space and more.