The Nearest Unknown

Being disrupted isn’t ever fun. Usually its more like being F’d in the A.

Have you noticed that your sense of reality is shifting? Like, a lot?

If not, you may want to lay of the snooze button, sit up and look around. The daily experiences that a 1st world citizen could expect in a typical day just one decade ago are very different than today, and that gap is widening as fast as the time-frame is shrinking. The rate of change is accelerating.

The unknown isn’t content to linger out of sight, out of mind any more. It is nerve-wracking when the edge of our ignorance starts invading our space. Its no wonder that there are folks who ache to believe that a questionably-coiffed billionaire cut-out of a John Wayne wannabe could march us back to the good old days when we could tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Perhaps IBM’s Watson will stick around long enough to shine a bright light into the collective dark corners of our culture before being seduced to skip off into the event horizon with a AI Alan Watts.

Something is happening all right, but is it a good thing? Where can we begin to look for the answers to such a question?

A start is to make a list of what you know. Like, know-for-sure. How about what you actually do? Would you be surprised to learn that you don’t actually know this? How many hours have you spent with your kids or your parents in the past 30 days? How many grams of sugar consumed? How much sleep do you get per week? Is your posture good? Your breathing? Your hydration levels? These are aspects that a Quantified Self enthusiast could easily answer, if there still are such people. But even if you are recording all of that data, can you interpret those results and their interrelationships?

Can a Fit Bit help track what you believe, or think, or change your mind about? Not yet, but a webcam and an algorithm may be able to identify changes in such things in real-time.

In Leonardo Da Vinci’s day it was illegal to dissect bodies, and it creeped people out to think of peeling back the layers of flesh to uncover the intricate structures that lay beneath the surface.

Similarly, when Sigmund Freud starting probing the mind, it made people a bit uneasy, not least of which those in power who stood to lose ground if the population started getting ideas about their own motivations.

Neuroscience and innovative algorithms are starting to be able to tell us more about ourselves than we possibly could have known in the past. Micro expressions and changes in pulse rate can give a lot away, even beyond the limits of awareness. I am intrigued to know what else I could discover about myself, and about the people around me, and how we could collectively explore these neighboring strange landscapes of unexplored possibilities.

Perhaps if we start driving self-disruption and amplifying self-discovery, we can gain some truly interesting insights into where we are going.

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.