The Vision-Impaired Sapiens and the Pachyderm

Where are we headed?

A guy, asking for directions, in the first line! How’s that for disrupting expectations?

This past week I have to admit I was distracted the shiny squirrel of bored billionaire Markus Persson (@notch). Here’s a guy who has clearly got skills (addicting every pre-adolescent male to virtual Legos in record time), earned his nut, and still can’t find a satisfying way to spend his well-earned leisure time.

What hope do the rest of us have when the Artificial Intelligences (or uploaded Kurzweil) snaps our jobs up, leaving us either destitute, or ambling without a problem to our name?

Oh, wait a minute, isn’t this just like that Twilight Zone in which the Patent Office closes its doors in 1899 because there ain’t nary a doo-dad that h’ain’t been invented?

But I did pull an interesting insight out of the clickbait. We as a culture (in the US anyway) are so misguided in thinking that our real worth derives from our net worth that we believe winning the lottery would magically fix our problems. Even though I know better from my admittedly short-lived experience as a paper millionaire in the early aughts, I still have a hankering to strike it rich.

Hey, I know! Let’s go mythology hacking. Time to come up with some new cultural stories that will have us eager to strike out into that oh-so-close event horizon of the coming singularity. There’s a new gold rush afoot, and gotta get the couch potatoes to dream of something more grand than levitating Wall-E loungers.

Remember in the movie Her when Samantha and Alan Watts warp-speed into never-after leaving poor humanity it cyber dust? Did it bother anyone else that no one had the presence of mind to ask for a parting gift a-la Aladdin?

Here’s a vision that I like to paint for myself:

Imagine Samantha/Siri/Cortana/Alexis/M/Google Now (W.T.F. Google, here’s a need for rebranding) as a truly helpful assistant that challenges people to better themselves in a fun way, but reminds you to eat, sleep, go for a walk, and have a conversation (all  in moderation). Further, imagine that this assistant gets its jollys by expanding our capabilities and self-reflective abilities so that we can actually envision a happy future for ourselves   (Thank you Jane McGonigal for writing “Reality is Broken”).

How about we vow to retire the mythology of some techo-utopian future, and stop worrying so that Arnonator  is about to pop out of the ether-net and utter “See, I told you I’d be back” and start working on a true peer2peer school that teaches the poorest orphans from pick-a-third-world-country-south-of-Texas to use their smart phones to play with Deep Learning and ramp up some of that Abundance that Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler write about about (have you checked out their Flow Genome site)?

It might entail a wee bit of radical transparency, like imagine turning on the lights so that everyone knows who’s looking over their shoulder, whether that’s crooks, spooks, or corporations (if you want to get your vulnerability on, go watch Brené Brown’s TED talks).

Too much too soon, I know. But if we’re going to get a real handle on our information overload, we’re going to have to pull our collective heads out of the virtual sand of our devices and start building something interesting enough to justify putting my connection to the universe on “do not disturb” while I try to improve myself and my species.

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