I'm a little depressed. It’s hard for me not to be emotionally swayed by two disparate visions about the future. The first describes a time in, say, 20 years, where computers have become so complex they are effectively conscious.
The growth of tech power is logarithmic and we are profoundly under prepared for what log changes feel like. When I put on this hat I think: Schools are not preparing our kids for the future. This is a future of electric vehicles, of quantum computing, personalized medicine, surveillance and drones…
Then there is this other conversation. The dystopic one. The planet is changing quickly. Global warming. Water and food scarcity. Impending droughts. Civil breakdown.
In the next 20 years it’s posited that civilization as we know it will collapse. Or perhaps just western civilization. (Whew.) When I put on this hat I also think: schools are not preparing our kids for the future. This is a future of survivalism and minimalism, distributed power and control, and other depressing shit.
So what is proper preparation? Do we make our kids learn to program computers and macroeconomics? or do we teach them guns, farming and how to build mechanical engines?
Are the issues of the day things like income disparity, grade school bullying, human enslavement, non-GMO organic foods? Or is it tool late to worry about such trivialities of civilization and instead we should we cash out of our 401Ks and buy gold bullion and water and underground facilities in Montana?
Twenty years isn’t very long. My kids will be pretty grown – it will be largely their problem to address, but I’ll still have my home loan to pay off and retirement to negotiate. And whatever will happen it’s going to happen during the next twenty years, not all of a sudden in 20 years.
So here's what i've come to: the two futures aren’t mutually exclusive. The first “future” is about tools; the second “future” is about what we need to apply these tools to. People have been predicting the end of the world for quite some time. They’re usually wrong (but occasionally right). Perhaps the only really wrong attitude is one that says “it can’t happen here. It won’t happen to me. Everything is status quo.” I’ve also found that any time I stress about some future outcome, it’s usually neither as good nor as bad as I can imagine. The reality is always more in the middle.
Even though this is the most peaceful and safe time in human history, yes, things are also bad. The environment is changing quickly. And luckily technology is changing just as quickly – maybe moreso. What i want for my kids: to have the wisdom to remain calm with an uncertain future, the nimbleness and persistence to try and fail and try again, and the creativity to think of things we cannot even imagine as they address these gargantuan global and societal issues. The tech will be there to support them.
Kids: go do your homework.
Kids: go do your homework.