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Reboot the future

Opinion

Reboot the future

 

Depending on your personality or your personal situation, the future is either a source of excitement or a cause for anxiety. Either way it rarely leaves anyone indifferent. For businesses, it comes loaded with implications, particularly if they need to be ready to react to rapid changes. No strategy has ever been conceived with eyes only focused on the past.

Evolution is a key concept because the roots of the future have been laid in both our past and our present. It’s clear that several aspects of our lives are evolving more and more rapidly, largely due to technological developments. There is evidence that our brains are being rewired as the result of the use of modern media, particularly among teens.

What else is evolving without us noticing? To absorb the latest technological and research developments and consider their implications for mankind as well as corporations, it takes a wonder junkie obsessed with the co-evolution of humans and technology like Jason Silva. Media personality, futurist, philosopher and filmmaker; Silva has turned technology and science into an art form. Having studied many of the most important trends in technology, he has created a YouTube channel, Shots of Awe, where he shares his inspirational films about creativity and the future. Many will know him as the host of Brain Games; a National Geographic show about the workings of the human mind.

Silva talks of a future driven by developments in GNR (genetics, nanotechnology and robotics or artificial intelligence). Computing power will fuel this triple revolution and allow us to create artificial neurons. Moore’s Law, formulated by the co-founder of Intel Gordon Moore, states that the number of transistors in a computer chip will roughly double every two years, meaning that with miniaturisation, the computing power in a mobile phone will be over two billion times greater in 60 years time than it is today. A computer the size of a blood cell could be millions of times more powerful than today’s supercomputers.

Futurologist Ray Kurzweil also predicts that GNR will create fundamental changes in humanity. He created the metaphor of the “singularity”, that moment in time, which could be just a few decades away, when machines become intelligent enough to develop their own consciousness and start designing their own machines. This will be a decisive rupture with the rest of human history. Luc Besson’s film Lucy is another great example of a kind of future that focuses on the process of natural human evolution and the percentage of brainpower a human uses. If we can use up to 80 percent of our brain, then some believe we are capable of bending space, time and matter itself to see the future without the use of machines. This may sound like science fiction but it seemed serious enough to Google, which hired Kurzweil as its head of engineering.

It’s not just about technological data and analytics. Silva believes that creativity will be at the heart of this revolution. Artists will use the technology to express our human culture in new terms. Physicist Freeman Dyson once declared “a new generation of artists will be writing genomes with the fluency that Blake and Byron wrote verses”.

The future will, of course, be an incredible time for marketing and advertising as we move from a world of genes to the world of memes. “Memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation,” wrote Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene.

Looking at the future helps us better understand the developments that are happening today. When Twitter launched in 2007, many of us thought it was just a glorified form of text messaging because we interpreted it in terms of the technology of the past. Little did we realize that it was the start of a completely new form of communication: micro-blogging and live storytelling.

Look, at wearable technology for instance. Will it become a medical sensor that tells us if we are about to get seriously ill? Will it develop the ability to tap into our brain waves and read our emotions, perhaps helping to cheer us up? Silva believes that ultimately, we will be able to engineer our consciousness through the GNR revolution. Our minds are restricted by the fact we have 100 billion neurons but in the future, we will be able to hire and rent out extra neurons to expand our mental capacity.

This can seem far-fetched but look back at today’s world through the eyes of your own grandparents at your age. Technology is at the heart of human evolution today. Soldiers injured in battle are already being fitted with mind-controlled bionic limbs. The limits of the past will no longer hold us back and taking the future into account, it’s time to reboot our thinking.

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