It’s 30 years in the future. Imagine that you are walking into work… no wait… imagine that your home is also your where you work. (“familiar enough” you might say, “what’s so crazy about that?”)
Because Artificial Intelligences (AIs) have so thoroughly taken over “the boring stuff” your “working” role is to help facilitate productive relationships between human and machine minds. (“ok… could happen… I’ve been reading articles about this… go on.”)
Because this sort of work is crowd-sourced from participants around the world, you really only “work” if and when you have the impulse, and inspiration to contribute. (“huh? that economy doesn’t even make sense to me!”)
There are a series of global wicked problems that you can contribute some time and effort to, and some local ones too. There are others that you haven’t unlocked yet… higher levels, so to speak, that you might one day master. It’s like a game. Or, you might contribute to creative endeavors unassociated with any wicked problems–choosing to instead work in “Centaur” formations with AIs that are programmed to accompany humans in their journey to plumb the depths of cultural expression through the traditional arts. (“ok this is getting weird… you mean I can just roll out of bed and choose whether or not to ‘work’ or to do art?”)
Today? You’re feeling inspired to contribute to the public good, so you decide to work away at some wicked problems in the domain of carbon capture technology implementation. You summon your Cynefin AI, your Bayesian AI, as well as a bunch of other experimental AIs that have developed their own type of non-human thinking that you can’t even fathom–some using quantum computing, others modeled on the thought and behavior patterns of dolphins. (“what? weirder still!”)
This little team–this “Centaur team”–presents a number of solutions, perspectives and angles to the matter at hand. As the human, your job is to make judgement calls, use your creativity and intuition, think laterally, combine solutions and elements of solutions, broker key partnerships and develop relationships, etc. The AIs of your “Centaur team” are also simultaneously presenting the same info to other “players” working on the problem. Your job, along with all the other human participants, is to come up with novel solutions, collaborations, implementation strategies, etc. All of which are aggregated and explored by all the participants according to different selection criteria–some random, some determined by AIs designed for the sole purpose of selecting.
Your job is to be human. It’s all about providing what the AIs still can’t provide–an element of surprise, creativity, love, passion, etc.–and initiating the difficult task of brokering relationships and coming to agreement with other players about how best to proceed. (“but wait, am I not just being further domesticated?… or maybe this is a good thing?… yea… we finally get the help we need to implement solutions and get traction on some stuff!… or maybe it’s terrible!? I’m so confused!”)
This is just one iota of technological possibility inspired by Kevin Kelly’s new book, The Inevitable.
Like Kevin’s other books, there is so much to think and act on–1000s of startup ideas, and social innovations, just waiting to be attempted.
In episode 18 of the Working Together Podcast, I am lucky enough to have a conversation with Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired, and author of many fascinating books on technology (of which The Inevitable is only one).
In our conversation, we barely scratch the surface of Kevin’s thinking on the past, present and future of technology, culture, and society. And yet… we still managed to cover a lot of ground. Everything from Kevin’s travels throughout Asia in the 1970s, to how the internet is the world’s biggest city, to what collaboration between 2 billion people might look like… think “Massive Open Online Collaboration”… a different kind of MOOC. 😉
How can technology help us work together, better? How can we work together, better… with technology?
Are the next thirty years of technological trends inevitable?
What kind of opportunities lie on the horizon–and right here in the present moment!–that we can start to take advantage of, today?
As it turns out, it’s less about answering the question “What do we want?” and more about answering the question: What does technology want?
Some Big Ideas Exchanged: the possible futures of technology, the discerning Amish, travel as time machine, the importance of slacking off, your life through the metaphor of a landscape, and more!
“The Amish, unlike the rest of us, make their decisions about what technologies to use, collectively. So they actually have to have a discussion, a consensus… they actually have to articulate what their criteria are. Most of us haven’t really thought about what are criteria are for deciding whether we use a technology or not.”
“The time I was travelling through Asia was a very special moment. It was like a time machine. Someone like me who had very little money could travel to places that were still living many centuries earlier.”
“We have powerful tools that allow us to collaborate at a vast planetary scale. If you consider the 2 billion people on Facebook, they are collaborating at a very minimal, trivial layer of sharing gossip and cat videos. There certainly is a potential to do something like Wikipedia which is being done at the scale of millions. But imagine if 2 billion people decided to do something together–to actually collaborate on something–that would be mind bogglingly powerful. In terms of working together, I think the prospect of having even a million people work on something, all at once, is something that we have very little experience with on this planet… and it will become more and more common, as the tools make it possible, and as the global problems make it more and more necessary. I’m excited by the idea of these planetary collaborations.”
“I’m a big believer in slack and wasting time. I think it’s one of the advantages of youth. Youth can spend 50 hours on a game or spend a lot of time doing things without any productive goal in mind. Out of that slack comes an insight, or an appreciation, or an awareness, or mastery. That’s one thing that we do get from “progress”, we do have the possibility of leisure… to waste time in that way. […] Kids [today] aren’t wasting enough time. They’re over scheduled.”
“[Your life] is a landscape. You are ascending a mountain. And then you descent [and] open up into a big valley. And then you go into the woods. And then you are floating down the river […] And then you cross the valley and you have to ascend the mountains again. For a period of time, you’re just climbing, and then there’s a period of time when you are just meandering. There’s a period of time where you are exploring. There’s a period of time where you’re thrashing through the mud. It’s a landscape view of life.”
References, allusions, and mentions implied:
- Wired magazine
- The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future
- What Technology Wants
- The Amish
- China: Shanghai, province of Jiangsu, province of Yunnan.
- Reddit Place, April Fools
- “1000 True Fans” and “1000 True Fans – Revisited”
- Call of Duty 3
- Cool Tools: A Catalogue of Possibilities
- The super fat long tail
- Whole Earth Catalogue
- Woodstock, New York
- The image of the evolution of the hammer (above) is from Walter Hough’s fascinatin’ Synoptic series of objects in the United States National Museum illustrating the history of inventions (1922).
Credit where credit is due:
- Intro music: Kosmiche Slop by Anenon, licensed under CC BY 2.0.
- Outro music: Scattered Wave by Asura, licensed under CC BY 2.0.