7. The Age Of Algorithms: A Transhumanist's Dream
The Age of Algorithms is upon us. A time of artificial intelligence, automated industry and driverless vehicles. A world in which data is the new currency, and where the algorithms tracking our lifestyle choices may soon come to know us better than we know ourselves. But as our applied ethics continue to lag further and further behind the breakneck pace of technological development, it’s a time when many of us will soon be left to grapple with the stark realisation that we’ve become essentially superfluous components in an increasingly faceless and technical economic system.
Looming alongside the prospect of such a heavily centralised algorithmic future, is the emerging Transhumanist narrative. It envisages an ongoing blend of man and machine until the two become indistinguishable, promising advanced genetic engineering, direct brain to computer interfaces, extended lifespans and freedom from the shackles of all of our biological limitations. However, without a radical shift in the way power and wealth is shared throughout society, such developments may only result in the bifurcation of humanity into new genetic castes. But as the biologist Lee Silver warns, if we allow only the wealthiest amongst us to access such technologies, then over time the haves and have nots within society may become soon entirely seperate species, at some point accruing so much genetic difference that they lose romantic interest in each other and no longer choose to procreate.24
While dazzling us with promises of a kind of techno utopia, I often find that such cornucopian visions of the future fail to meaningfully engage with the political, social and environmental issues that already threaten our survival as a species. In many ways, such narratives are really just accelerated versions of the Hollow Oppressive Economic Materialism we already have today. It’s my belief that if we continue on with business as usual, blindly rushing into an increasingly technological age, then it will become even easier for the small number of individuals who already own the lions share of the worlds intellectual property to control even wider tracts of society. Which means that if the rest of us become distracted by increasingly intoxicating and addictive virtual worlds, then we face the very real prospect of waking up one day to discover that increasingly Draconian forms of Digital Authoritarianism have curtailed our rights and usurped our freedoms.
And yet, there is hope. As outside of the mainstream media coverage, a new consensus is beginning to emerge. And although each of the individual narratives it’s comprised of has a distinct flavour of their own, when overlaid on one another, they begin to create the outlines of a markedly more egalitarian and inspiring future for our species. Let’s take a look now at the kinds of narratives that are pointing towards a new era of compassionate togetherness.