Prominently known as the “noir prophet” of the cyberpunk subgenre, sci-fi novelist William Ford Gibson once said, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
We are living in a point of time in which we can conceivably recognize the emergence of a future once envisioned throughout science-fiction literature. Unfortunately, as stated by Gibson, the future doesn’t appear to be evenly distributed. Whether or not this is merely the hallmark of a future emerging from its infancy, only to then mature over time, shouldn’t prevent us from recognizing the current problems laid before us.
Like any problem, the first step is the recognition of its existence. While there is good reason to expect that the exponential growth rate of information technologies will help us surpass the unfortunate reality of our uneven distribution of said technologies, we mustn’t fall back on the apathetic notion that our inaction will not cause detrimental effects to achieving the future we all desire. Don’t forget, while it remains true that the common layperson is in equal access to necessary medical technologies, the means of which we distribute them are at the cost of a massive debt for most people below an upper-class status.
Instead, by adhering to the Proactionary Principle – that is, an ethical decision-making principle which relies on modern science (as opposed to popular perception) in assessing and mitigating possible future risks – we must enforce a state of dialogue to ensure action plans are set in motion to help alleviate, if not completely expropriate, both present and future problems if and when they present themselves.
Here in the United States, we have an entire set of different problems that are in need of being addressed – poverty, homelessness, climate change, etc. Unlike the politicians in Washington D.C., we are not here to compromise, let alone serve special interest groups, to try to tip-toe our way towards the issues at hand. Instead our interests are with the people and, subsequently, to that of a future contrary to Gibson’s statement. We have a fundamental belief that, by using modern science and advanced technologies, we could feasibly address each issue that has stricken this nation to its core.
The means of which we’ll ensure these technologies see the light of day will come from innumerable sources. Today we’re no longer left with a binary source of funding – whether it’s via taxes or private corporations. In the last few years we’ve witnessed the skyrocketing emergence of crowdfunding, in which the common people are given a say as to which ideas are worth spending large sums of money on. Neither source of funding holds greater importance over the other. We’re left with an amazing opportunity to ensure everyone has a voice – whether it’s the government, private corporations, or the everyday citizen. The key, however, is transparency – one in which we strongly emphasize.
Though, who is “we”? We are what are known as Techno-Optimists – a diverse collective of individuals from all walks of life who envision an optimistic future made up of technologies that, at first glance, appear almost magical in nature, e.g. virtual and mixed reality, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), cyborgs and genetically enhanced human beings, so on and so forth. But what we envision is in conflict with the current socio-economic situation we all bear witness to on a daily basis. It is that unfortunate truth in which our existence carries the utmost importance.
Unlike other organizations and groups that remain focused on specific technologies, our emphasis isn’t just on technological growth, but subsequently the insurance that everyone will be granted access to these technologies as we continue moving forward.
So far, we’re currently lacking in the technological race to the top. Keeping the present state of advancements in mind, the U.S. clearly downplays the importance of updating our systems to accommodate the acceleration of technological growth. In the U.S. we’re known for our poor public transportation systems, refusing to keep pace with the rest of the world in both efficiency and safety precautions, leaving people at risk. If we’re to ensure the horrific Amtrak crash doesn’t occur again, we need to follow NASA’s lead by abandoning the archaic methods of transport and replace them for a more future-oriented system.
In the next 5 to 10 years, expect the emergence of virtual and mixed reality in every home, in every hospital, and every store you walk into. 3D printing will be used throughout every major manufacturing industry, including but not limited to the automobile industry, architecture, and space exploration. Soft A.I. will be integrated into our mobile devices, scanning our medical literature in search of treatments and cures to numerous diseases at the behest of each individual’s bodily self-determination. They’ll subsequently be working hand ‘n hand with our top climate scientists to help better extrapolate massive amounts of data and empower us with greater knowledge of our own planet, including better ways of living on it, e.g. the most efficient methods of cleaning oil spills, keeping environmental corporations in check to ensure they’re adhering to safety procedures, etc.
Getting from here to there, however, is a much more tedious task, one in which necessitates our willingness to act ahead of schedule. It is in this pursuit in which we feel obligated to stand in the frontlines of this massive paradigm shift and help fight in the interests of those falling behind – or, as it would seem, being forced to remain behind by corporate greed and governmental bureaucracy. What is a home coupled with virtual reality and A.I. to whom cannot afford a home? What is a car that is completely autonomous and augmentable to 3D printed enhancements to whom cannot afford a car? And what is a planet flooded with marvelous technological advancements beyond our wildest dreams to whom is smothered by an atmosphere veiled by greenhouse gases?
Not only that, were none of these issues real, we’d still find ourselves in a dangerous predicament exacerbated by our very own robotics industry – technological unemployment. The issue itself has been debated widely, though with little effect as a result. As the market continues to exponentially march into an autonomous realm – the next industrial revolution – thousands, if not millions, of people will be left without a job. And if we don’t act now, they’ll equally be left without a proper welfare system in place to ensure they remain afloat.
Thankfully a global dialogue has already been initiated in the attempts to address this very serious issue, one in which goes against everything we’ve previously been taught throughout the history of economics. It goes by the name of a Basic Income Guarantee (or a Universal Basic Income), whereby everyone will be granted a fixed income – either monthly or annually – regardless if employed or not, and which doesn’t affect one’s income by other means. This kind of radical policy, however, goes strictly against the interests of those profiting from the widening wage gap, necessitating a new grassroots movement demanding that a UBI welfare policy be discussed and implemented at a nationwide scale.
And finally, with talks of A.I. research reaching out into mainstream headlines for the first time in history, we’re now witnessing the gradual steps of another possible prohibition movement – that is, the prohibition of strong A.I. in fear of a Terminator-esque situation as a result. We might recognize the reasoning of this fear, but we certainly don’t share them. With all the progress that could come as a result of continuing A.I. research – medically, financially, etc. – the withholding of its growth would certainly set us back as the rest of the world moves ahead. If we don’t wish to be thrown into the dustbin of history, fighting in the interests of A.I. will be in tandem of fighting in the interests of our species who’ll greatly benefit from its awakening.
The goal of Techno-Optimists should be to provide public safety information; to advocate for a sweeping technological transformation of society as a whole; and to engineer policies that’ll ensure a positive future equally distributed for everyone to enjoy. Technology by itself will not create the change we wish to convey for our future citizenry; rather technology must be guided with an ethical hand and a keen eye that is prepared for what is to come. To negate the importance of this understanding, one would surely hand over the future to the status quo.
1. 2012, “The Future Has Arrived — It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed Yet,” article.
2. Kurzweil, R., 2001, “The Law of Accelerating Returns,” article.
3. Skinner, J. S., 2013, “The Costly Paradox of Health-Care Technology,” article.
4. More, M., 2004, “The Proactionary Principle,” essay.
5. Neiss, S., Best, J., 2014, “Crowdfunding report signals increased revenue, jobs, and deal flow,” article.
6. Barry, K., 2013, “Public Transit Is Underfunded Because the Wealthy Don’t Rely On It,” article.
7. Orland, K., 2014, “Beyond gaming, the VR boom is everywhere—from classrooms to therapy couches,” article.
8. Ludwig, A., Harvey, S. E., 2013, “3D Printing Affects Every Industry, Even Homebuilding,” article.
9. Krawczyk, K., 2014, “Healthcare, Travel, Other Industries Making IBM Watson Apps,” article.
10. Temperley, J., 2015, “Artificial intelligence: can scientists stop ‘negative’ outcomes?,” article.
11. United States Census Bureau, 2013, “Housing Vacancies and Homeownership (CPS/HVS),” report.
12. Woodyard, C., 2015, “Used-car prices still on the rise,” article.
13. National Climatic Data Center, 2015, “Global Analysis – April 2015,” report.
14. Pistono, F., 2014, Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK: How to Survive the Economic Collapse and Be Happy, CreateSpace.
15. 2015, “Open Letter on the Digital Economy,” letter.
16. The U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network, website.
17. Future of Life Institute, 2015, “Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence: an Open Letter,” letter.