An unprecedented global "supersociety" may be emerging -- in spite of resource depletion, pollution and conflict that seem to be driving us to dystopia.
This surprisingly positive prospect is the fruition of key developments that are now germinating and sending out their first tentative shoots. They all engage a vastly underutilized resource: the best that is in people.
Among these highly-human developments, seven of the most imminent and notable are these:
These, only now being defined and framed, might be called hyperjobs, meta-jobs, ultra-jobs, post-information-age jobs, or no jobs.
Many observers and business leaders see -- and aim to fix -- a big looming problem in employment. Jobs are being taken over by ever-smarter electronic, mechanical, and bio-mechanical systems. No career category – factory worker, clerk, cab driver, accountant, doctor, or college professor – is exempt. It could be only a matter of time until practically everything we now call a “job” may be done cheaper, faster, and more reliably by a technological system. Who needs people any more?
The answer, as many economists and business leaders are coming to realize, is that people need people. Aliveness exists in its own right for its own pleasure and fulfillment. Productivity and profit, carried too far, become counterproductive. Productivity and profit are valuable means, but counterproductive or lethal ends.
If the robotic revolution proceeds too far within the old framework (efficiency and money rule), there could be enormous, unnecessary transitional pain. An economy that starts to run on automatic, with fewer and fewer "jobs" to support daily life, invites all kinds of unrest and upheaval.
If we come to define a new "employment" framework soon enough, we can avoid most of the pain. The outcome can be very good if we leverage rather then being leveled by the smart-technology. Good riddance to jobs when a “job” is defined as something you do for money.
Let all "jobs" go to smart bots, circuits, and systems. The human win will be to redefine a job as something we do because we love it or because we love the effect of our actions on others. (Some people already have jobs of this type; but they're a small minority.) From a highly-human focus, we can easily achieve 100% “employment,” with all people engaging in activities that are inherently fulfilling, helpful, and non-destructive.
This is the emerging clean, green, safe, dirt-cheap energy that has been called green energy, sustainable energy, free energy, exotic energy, and quantum energy.
Energy has always powered civilization, and let's tip our hats to fossil fuels, hydroelectric power, and even nuclear fission; but today's energy is dirty, expensive, and often dangerous -- stressing people and environment, and threatening our way of life. Today's energy is also centralized and controlled by large companies and governments, limiting the independence of individuals and communities.
Dirty energy's impact: NASA tracks climate change
Fortunately we're close to superenergy: new sources that are clean, green, safe, and almost free. Solar costs are declining steadily thanks to geometric improvements in photovoltaics; biomass, seawater conversion and other methods appear promising. And so does quantum energy research, seeking to tap vast sub-atomic reserves in cool, safe ways.
In addition to averting the worst effects of climate change, the emerging superenergy can enhance freedom and independence thanks to its decentralized nature and low cost.
Several startups are hard at work on commercial "quantum energy" products. For example, Brillouin Energy Corporation is developing what they call Controlled Electron Capture Reaction (CECR) technology with broad applications. A South Korean industrial company recently signed a manufacturing and distribution license with Brillouin.
An excellent source of superenergy developments by many firms, individuals and institutions is the Pure Energy Systems wiki site.
Oil companies and other energy giants -- so often criticized for polluting sea, land, and air -- should not be ruled out as major contributors to our superenergy future. Today's token efforts and PR can grow into tomorrow's multi-billion-dollar enterprises.
For example BP continues its alternative energy programs and could one day give the term "beyond petroleum" serious meaning. Chevron pursues emerging energy including geothermal, solar, and biofuels. Backed by ExxonMobil, Synthetic Genomics is plowing hundreds of millions into clean bio-energy and other green genomic-driven solutions.
This might also be called micro-money, cyber-money, cyber currency, cyber cash, or electronic money.
Money, our key medium of exchange, is clearly undergoing transformation. We're seeing cyber currency (such as Bitcoin and 100-plus rivals), new variations on barter, and the proliferation of "free." A new incarnation of "money" may be emerging. It's the medium of exchange of a synergistic, frictionless society. It will be central to advanced forms of everything economic: money management, jobs and entrepreneurship, business, investment and savings, and the economy.
Connections between digital currency users on Ripple network
Ripple Live Network, Ripple Labs
We may be moving toward a time when money as we know it disappears as a visible entity, replaced by a spectrum of ultra-efficient, eminently fair, and globally synergistic free-exchange mechanisms and practices. Beyond Bitcoin and other electronic currencies, this online system would eliminate most credit card and banking costs, boost international trade and exchanges of all types, and allow the emergence of micro-payments as low as a fraction of a cent. Universal, online micro-payments could usher in new ways of earning income, replacing traditional jobs in many cases. Entrepreneurship, free enterprise, and non-profit service could flourish as never before.
A leader in the supermoney field is Ripple Labs, developers of a new technology to power a global "value web" like the Internet and integrated with it.
This might also be called intercommunity (since it intimately incorporates and mirrors the Internet). Existing social spaces exemplifying some of its features call themselves intentional communities, ecovillages, cohousing neighborhoods, communes, co-ops, and cooperative living communities.
A supercommunity is a physical community like yesterday’s “home town,” yet hyper-connected to Internet services. This life-work venue is a budding replacement for today’s wasteful, expensive, obsolete suburbs and cities.
Intercommunities, once fully realized, will include indigenous agriculture, providing much of the food to sustain the residents. Work, education, and culture will be integrated. Almost everything will be within walking or low-impact, public, green transit distance, minimizing pollution and contributing to health. Some cities and suburbs, from New York to Singapore, appear to be morphing into intercommunities. To see which are leading, check out the Green City Index, developed bySiemens.
Hundreds of so-called “intentional communities” already embrace intercommunity components.The nearest thing to a supercommunity with all components incorporated may be Auroville in India, a stable, growing community since 1968. In the United States, leading supercommunity proving grounds include the Chautauqua Institution and Arcosanti.
The Intercommunity website -- eranova.com/intercommunity -- offers information and links to many intentional communities and precursors of the coming global "physical internet" of intercommunities or supercommunities.
Terms that also describe this development include life extension, radical life extension, posthumanism, transhumanism, and human enhancement. The superhuman development also embraces human improvement through wellness programs, preventive medicine, synthetic biology and bionic human enhancement.
The biological life of humans is being studied at a feverish pace. Unprecedented extensions are likely in three dimensions: the quality of life, its duration, and its basic structure. The healthcare industries, insurance companies, and governments -- not to mention the public -- can't abide the current levels of sickness and disability for long.
A radical wellness movement is necessary and shows signs of emerging. Longevity has been on the rise and healthy lifespans beyond 100 are possible and predicted. Positive outcomes include longer "workspans" or periods of productive contribution.
The basic structure of human life appears to be changing too. Many of us are being upgraded by artificial hips and lenses; we're also being augmented by sensors and aids that are swallowed, implanted, or worn. By technological means that are electronic, mechanical, or biological, we're changing our very structure -- evolving ourselves on the run.
Clearly we're becoming synthetically biological if not bionic, and if we proceed carefully, we can end up stronger, longer-lasting, more vital, more caring and more alive.
One perhaps surprising player in the superhuman development field is Google, led by their new director of engineering Ray Kurzweil, author of Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, co-authored by Terry Grossman. Their health and longevity website, one of countless in this field, offers information and products for fighting aging and more.
A report in National Underwriter and LifeHealthPro, Riding the Life Extension Wave, describes longer-life opportunities for insurance companies, health providers, governments, and employers as well as individuals.
This also goes by names such as meta-consciousness, ultra-consciousness, metamind, and supermind.
For years consciousness development has been pursued through meditation, prayer, and practices such as Yoga. Ditto for consciousness "research" conducted by monks and masters exploring the inner depths and outer expanses of knowing, being, and doing.
Today quantum physicists and others are turning their attention to consciousness, which is after all the basic tool of science and a necessary component of the understanding of anything. Artificial intelligence research has become hot and the human brain is being scrutinized with a view to eventual reverse-engineering. Training programs and apps are honing everything from memory and attention to creativity and lucid dreaming.
The beneficial results could range from brighter people to the emergence of an Internet-like "supermind" envisioned by Sri Aurobindo, Pierre Teilhard deChardan, and other visionaries.
This might also be called science 2.0, science on steroids, reformed science, post-industrial science, 21st-century science, open science, or pure science.
Some scientists are concluding that science, as typically practiced, is long overdue for an overhaul. There’s nothing wrong with the scientific method, they say; it needs no upgrade. But there’s plenty wrong with science as often practiced. Why? Because many in the scientific community fail to apply the scientific method consistently, broadly, and religiously.
Rupert Sheldrake discusses "Science Set Free" book at Oslo Conference
Money, in the form of government grants and corporate funding, skews what’s studied and how. Materialism in the form of reductionist assumptions (that brain activity creates mental activity, for example), limits the nature and scope of investigation and discovery. Materialistic biases are being challenged by some theoretical physicists, who have adopted a broader view that embraces consciousness along with today's mercurial matter that has been reduced to ethereal quantum waves.
To a smaller extent, materialism is also being challenged in biology, medicine, and other fields including electronics, opening the way to possible new perspectives, discoveries, and innovations. If the views prove sound and gain wide consideration, science could transition into science 2.0 within a few short years, opening new realms of discovery with vast harvests of technology and human enrichment.
CONTRARY TO NEGATIVE TRENDS
The seven key drivers of the supersociety appear to be emerging in spite of developments in the opposite direction..
Daily headlines portray environmental decay, economic misery, and physical violence -- mostly triggered by one factor: people. Since our main problems are self-inflicted and we seem so loath to change, are we riding an unstoppable train to lethal decay? Key trends support this prospect. As technology, mobility, and connectivity advance, the power of any individual to inflict harm multiplies. And as production and consumption increase, factions may be expected to contend more aggressively for the shrinking supply of available resources; never mind the emissions, inequalities, or fatalities.
Yet there's reason for hope. The seven developments -- simultaneous and mutually reinforcing -- could well trigger a relatively abrupt turn for the better. The developments are part of a megatrend that might be called "highly-human." Together the highly-human developments promise to turn things around by making quantum shifts in opportunity, mutually-beneficial interactivity, and human development. The result could be a harmonious global community -- humans and environment interacting sustainably and synergistically at a new level of health, aliveness, power, and possibility.
The emerging supersociety might also be heralded by terms such as meta-society, post-electronic society, superlife, unified world, hyper-human economy, one world, peaceful world, superculture, or society 2.0.
The idea is a bold one, and it requires a seemingly impossible shift: giving humanity an extreme makeover virtually overnight. That involves making our support systems a lot better for people NOW, and it means making people a lot better as people almost instantly. Slim odds of success, maybe, but consider the alternative: a dreary, degraded future.
The seven highly-human developments foster a number of human-support benefits at a planetary level. These benefits are --
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MEGATREND
When we lived as hunter-gatherers in tribes, we functioned as whole humans within synergistic groups (albeit stressed by danger and need). Then, when we created cities and nations, we specialized -- most of us serving as slaves, serfs or subjects. With the advent of industry, we moved up a notch, becoming wage slaves, giving up some of our freedom for money (unless lucky enough to love our work for its own sake).
Now we're moving into a time when automatic systems can take over most or all of our wage-slave functions. We'll be free to become whole humans again, but at a higher level and within supercharged, synergistic groups up close and personal, and spanning the globe.
A future of self-fulfillment? Students enjoy improving the day and
their skills at Chautauqua Institution, a supersociety proving ground
We'll have the unprecedented opportunity to embrace and release our highly-human qualities as never before. These are the unique, living qualities that robotic systems will acquire last, if ever.
The seven key developments, coming all at once, will exert strong reinforcing effects on one another. For example, supermoney, thanks to its fluidity, may make superenergy even easier to develop and consume; supermoney and superenergy may empower the growth of supercommunities; these in turn may provide creative environments for superscientific work; and so on.
Regardless of the odds of success, shooting for supersociety can be rewarding in itself. And who knows? Anything can happen in a time of make or break. It promises to be quite a ride!
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About the Author
Richard W. Samson is director of the EraNova Institute and has served as a consultant to IBM, AT&T, and other large organizations. His work appears in the SuperLife social network; the Highly Human Focus website; and The Futurist Magazine, published by the World Future Society. His books include The Mind Builder, Creative Analysis, The Language Ladder, and Mind Over Technology.