The following is the article outline for my presentation at Arse Elektronika, late september in San Francisco. YES This sob is long, with 23K words, almost like an ebook. I am on the spaker list thanks to the generous sponsorship and support from VenusPlusX for which I am excrutiatingly grateful. More information about my attendance at AE and the visit to SF can be found here. This article takes earlier themes from my previous Creating Change presentation and extends them a bit. The schedule for Arse Elektronika can be found here. Look like it will be fun!
Many statements and links in this article will be mature themes, outspoken, may use coarse language or may otherwise politically incorrect. I will be sexually outspoken and my statements may be experienced to be offensive to some. Reader discretion is advised.
Due to constant re-editing some parts of the text may have minor (…) flow errors. Mewl.
During my Arse Elektronika presentation I will argue the global human species in general, and the developed world in particular has massive societal problems, which will potentially cause our current societal paradigm to unravel, and may very well do so catastrophically. I will suggest we have a major crisis of societal value and values. I will argue we need to purposefully synthesize a new societal meaning, and I will offer some non-imposing suggestions how some good changes may come about. I will agree it will be extreme hard to make these changes, but I will insist we need to try. I will argue that a “much more pleasant” society world wide is well within out grasp (in our (potentially much extended lifetime) if only most people would give a damn. I will insist the future will be by necessity driven by Social Networks, Communication, Games, Virtual Reality and Augmented reality (which I will summarize as “Metaverse”) and this will signify a new sexual revolution that will sweep the planet and has the potential to change human society significantly.
The most pressing problems we face:
Each of these problems will require sacrifice by segments of society that have long resisted any change in their destructive behaviors. What to do? Can we avoid ending up with violent outcomes?
In all these problems I will look at human values. Humans are value driven, it’s just that most of the time they have lousy values which were imposed on them by bullies. In an ideal world humans would generate their own value systems, and ‘democratically’ select them to be nice values. Gamifying reality itself (by means of a tidal wave of social and sexual-inclined games) gives us an opportunity to closely connect the human in a whole. IUt would be easier to be tolerant of difference as soon as these differences are visible. This would signify the crowdsourced engineering of new and consistent planetary value systems and the alternative would displace any quickly out-dating values. AQ small minority of educated and concerned people can not keep arguing endlessly for change. We need to automate the introduction of new paradigms by purposefully gamifying socializing and sexuality. We need to automate service and kindness in to the very existential fabric of automated reality around us. While this objective might sounds bizarre at this time we will soon have the technological means to do so, and do so with ease.
The end resilt might be a great deal better than the mess we had so far.
Why all this won’t make sense – most people don’t have a clue about the future
It isn’t popular or easy thing for a social critic to arrogantly claim than to state “most people out there” have less of a clue than the speaker has. But – when we start thinking in terms of solutions and “the future” we face a crisis of apathy with our potential audience about the whole idea of “Future”. There is a pervasive and perverse hostility towards thinking about the future and about progress in western society.
Describe a high tech future in boldly technological Utopian terms – and people will refer to your predictions as “the rapture of the nerds”. Describe the world in persistently Dystopian terms – and the people will refer to you as ‘negative’ or ‘depressed’. Describe the abstractions of futurism and trends and the world will label you a geek. It is hard to win in futurism or futurological endeavours. Try to preach idealism and people will back away from you as if you just advocated nazi or stalinist ideology. The worst taboo you can violate is describe problematic trends of a political character – and speculate about preferred solutions.
The tragedy of our current age is that most humans are faced with utterly and uniquely new patterns in history.
What is happening in the world is a revolutionary transition. What is happening this very moment (and has been happening for a few decades) in the world eludes common metaphor, allegory, and the host of available trendy neologisms. What strange thing which is happening before us transcends the complacency of casual understanding and recognition, and can only be perceived in the most ephemerally abstract terms. This makes understanding in particularly (the often “obfuscated”) macro-economic trends inaccessible to the majority of humans around. Most humans perceive the world not in abstractions but in allusion, so “these people won’t get it”.
Sadly most humans have a functional IQ (or “cognitive ability”) below the median 100. This statement is condescendingly intellectualist but it is no less true. This makes the vast majority of humans strongly predisposed towards Kruger-Dunning, and variants of cognitive dissonance. This is the first problem we all face; because of that problem most humans can only be explained about trends in future macro-developments only by means of constant repetition, cartoon-esque theater or the equivalent of puppet shows. Sadly there are also forces that diametrically and intentionally oppose this process of “scientantment”. There are people out there that actively oppose science and education.
The challenges we face in the global debate about an imminent future is that the future is so complex this future quickly becomes incomprehensibly weird to most people. The gut reaction of people is to throw legislation at what changes they regard as alien or threatening, and these laws generally achieve the opposite of what is intended. Thus – futurology is a potential quagmire in any debate. Superstition, prejudice, polarized politics and crass apophenia take over in most debates. To make functional mental models of the near future is a constant exercise in political heresy and the violation of sacred taboo and by definition most people recoil from taboo and heresy.
What we need is new ways of making an incontrovertible point. The only tool we can use to do this is by means of metaverse.
Problem Cluster One – we have lousy and corrupt politicians
Politics has gone Viral. Politics is changing from a management system in to a form of weed.
The political system self-replicates like any system on this planet. Morpheus might say – “politicians are a virus”. This system of politics and politicians we are stuck with is quite adaptable and versatile. Politics experiments. This disease has likes and dislikes. And when provided with easy solutions to challenges it will perpetuate and grow accustomed to any available easy (or bad) solutions. Right now we are seeing bad solutions achieve predominance over good ones.
Take for instance this whole debacle of fiat money. No politicial system world wide can resist generating infinite rewards for its stakeholders – and that is the singlemost tragedy of pluriform competetive democracy – everyone conspires knowingly or unknowingky to game the system straight into a crisis or a collapse state. And it will do so cyclically if need be. And with new technologies these cycles risk becoming ever more catastrophic.. Worst case scenario, politicians may come to regard crisis (and human misery) as an inescapable part of the system.
The most simple function of politics is to “acceptably” divide societal benefits, and to “acceptably” mitigate risk. The problem is that complex society requires a very large political caste, and this caste then evolves to be self-serving.
Our politicians function nicely to equitably divide growth as long as there is any discernible growth. Sadly, the immediate future will offer primarily shrinkage, and politicians (who exist to get elected by people who demand a share of the profits) are incapable of being elected with a message that we need to “acceptably divide shrinkage”. This is the main problem for current electoral politics. I myself tried running this summer as member of the Dutch pirate party, and its founder reminded me that you can not run on a ticket of “bad news” – you simply won’t get elected with bad news. That’s not to say that running on bad news is impossible – Populist tyrants such as Hitler do so routinely.. But Hitler externalized bad news by finding someone to blame and then taking all the acccumulate assets of that someone (in his case : the Jews, in our age; Immigrants and Muslims). In other words – once development and growth stagnates, the Chimpansee part of the human brain gets upset and its lower faculties take over. The human (or political) beast reverts to a policy of competition, attrition or predation. The crisis of shrinkage is a crisis of instinctive predation. Once thinks turn sour, humans tend to act predatory.
A predatory-inclined humanity was bad enough in any age before gunpowder. Read the bible for ideas on resolving scarcity conflicts; I believe iron age society also had leaders that propagated similar policies as today’s politicians do. In other words – a pervasive culture of imposed (or genocidal) attrition (or austerity) is unsustainable in a world with IED’s, terrorism, nuclear suitcase bombs, garage cooked nerve gas or hacked military drone craft. In a few years most people will be able to manufacture drones that operate just as effectively as do current military drones. That means that relatively poorest of people will be able to band together and generate strike capability (which will then be labeled “terrorism“) that can affect mass death in the most affluent countries of the world. But even without resorting to speculative technologies such as home grown radiological or chemical threats, there are some particularly ghastly problems in the United States, where there are almost as many deadly firearms as there are people.
In this world we can not afford widespread insurrection.
We live in an age where people
are have a vested interest in being pretending to be stupid and under-informed. In the current world the human brain is individually or collectively unable to come to any meaningful solutions. We are “solution averse” because the solutions might hurt too much.
Problem Cluster Two – the world will know an end to mass employment very soon
Work is quickly becoming a privilege. “Economy” is no longer assured (Dysconomy?). There are plausible states of near future economy where there is no economic growth, and where over half adult humans will beyond demand for even the most spartan of paid employment. In such a world there will be no consumers with money to consume goods and consequently there will be significant economic shrinkage. And that may be just what those who own all the money and resources desire – in a world with no economy only they will be left as consumers.
We might end up in a future quite soon where we may still have economic growth, but the growth will exclusively benefit an ever smaller segment of society. In the next few years we will see a revolution of ubiquitous robotization and automation. This process is inescapable. The problem is that it becomes easier every single year to irreversibly displace human work with automated alternatives. This will be a prevailing crisis for the human spirit between 2012 and 2050 – every year over 1% total unemployment will irreversibly fall. There will be some new jobs but these will be mostly high tech and design jobs. The people of the world remain mostly clueless of this process of deterioration. As a consequence the transition from a human centered to investment-centered labour markets means that those making the investments will inceasingly take a commensurately bigger share of the gains in society at the expense of those who will be left de-sourced.
But there is a silver lining here – this transition to a “post-human economy” will potentially give people world wide a lot more free time in the form of irreversible unemployment. There will be big incentive to fill this time with something that’s better than merely bread and games. This “something better” is where Metaverse Designers and enthusiasts should do well to focus their efforts.
So, what is the relevance Transhumanism in this context?
I would label myself a transhumanist, since I personally like the existential hope Transhumanism espouses, and the opportunities for lifting the human spirit it promises. I think Transhumanism is neat. I like progress and I adore all these related fields of thinking about progress. I adore automation, efficiency, streamlining, “wikinomics”, “flattening the earth”, robotization, 3D printing, nanotechnology.
Sadly “transhumanism” has become associated with some elements of market-fetishism. According to some Transhumanism more or less implies Capitalism. And i wouldn’t even object to Capitalism, insofar this were balanced with insurances and human protection. So when Transhuman thinking becomes entailed with a form of entrepreneurial-ism that no longer honors basic human rights, I find myself a de facto Transhumanist critic. Some parts of Transhumanism have a hard time ideologically acknowledging unemployment and I regard this as unacceptable. Many transhumanists lean towards a form of progress-idealization that occasionally gravitates towards the Randian or fiercely libertarian ethic, and I fear this mindset is not viable in a world where the end result will be skyrocketing unemployment. Moral outrage from populists with the high tax cost for welfare and social safety nets will not do much to constrain the rise of protest, vandalism, crime, violence (and eventually the useof guillotines). No amount of government or corporate sponsored coercion will be able to roll back democratic entitlements, and at actual unemployment levels over 25% free society simply stops functioning – under these circumstances society either degenerates in to corporate feudalism (what we used to call fascism mid last century) or it is forced by protest and anger to accommodate the needs of its legal constituents – even if these needs end of collapsing society altogether.
Most Transhumanists are staunch optimists and as such they need to insist the future will be universally magnificient. At this stage I am no longer inclined to agree. I would go as far as insist that these ‘transoptimists’ are deluded. I am sick and tired of the transhumanists who keep insisting pots of gold at the end of the rainbow of progress. I am not myself disinclined from Utopian thinking, but I am critical of the set of Transhumanists who have an unlimited faith in the current capitalist system as a means to make everyone respectively happier or richer.
The most extreme form of optimist-fetishism is coralled in to the idea of The Singularity. I find it naive to conclude a Singularity will always be good. When I hear some of these expectations I use the term “Santalarity”. I do not believe that progress without grass roots social and political activism and purposeful idealistic societal engineering will causally result in a pleasant future. I don’t believe progress itself with automatically lift all boats. Au Contraire! I allege that much of the problems in the international economy are precisely the result of the leverage of automated technologies to make the few richer and everyone else poorer.
There are some Transhumanists out there that make money spreading an uncritical optimist message of “market-based progress”. Optimism sells; with an optimist message one gets invited and paid to attend big conferences. Take for instance the recent book by one Peter Diamandis. Peter Diamandis is religiously optimist in his recent work “Abundance“. I am critical of this one-sided emphasis, largely because Peter doesn’t seem to appreciate the temporal suffering caused by progress to people who will have to cast a vote (or worse, have stopped altogether casting a vote). Peter Diamandis (and his side kick Ray Kurzweil) all hammer on the horn of plenty in the realm of technological advance and reading Peters recent book there is a constant attempt to seduce me in this kind of thinking. We do not have to look far to conclude this is mostly bunk for the 99% of people out there.
I love Peter’s book, but I think He is being dangerously naive. The way we are letting progress get grabbed by corporate investment progress will only generate victimization at an exponential rate, and these victims
are too often abandoned by politics.
The best protection against any form of tyranny is an involved and informed populace. To get people involved it has to be easy and easy and seductive to be so. The current political process has evolved all these tricks to make involvement in politics anything but compelling or inviting. We can’t rely on governments or any corporate sector to facilitate a resolved population.
In the 1980s faxes were instrumental in bringing down the Tyrannical USSR. In the 2010s Facebook was instrumental in bringing down a swath of Dictatorships in the middle east. We should look at the mechanisms for bringing down oppression and coercion, of whatever nature this oppression is. I’d label this mechanism a form of Hive mind; the ability for minds to quickly interface and for groups of people to quickly self-organize beyond the grasp of state or corporate censorship. The mechanism is already in place in the form of Internet, but Internet itself may not be enough to facilitate overcoming of censorship, repairing or even removing existing oppressive statist structures. The approach of Metaverse is twofold; (1) attacking oppression and coercion; exposing and bypassing manipulation and censorship; exposing incompetence and hypocrisy and (2) educating the majorities of people, allowing self-organization, stimulating education and fact-centered thinking, allowing new mechanisms of thought. allowing emancipation and liberation of the people while at the same time stimulating self-organization and disciplined structures in populations. I might even add a third (3) faculty: to create artificial intelligence that actively helps the population in to doing (3).
The Internet is not finished by a long shot. By purposefully engineering new infrastructures of interconnected-ness and hive mind we bypass the need for relying on hand-outs from corrupted State power structures, or we allow democratic mechanics to bring idealist and reliable people quicker to positions of responsibility. Democratic-elected government in our world is still essential to provide a collectivized and involuntary insurance mechanism against predation by the powerful; anarchy may be just too dangerous. That government is often arguably incompetent, overwhelmed inadequate at this task does not mean we have anything resembling an alternative. As such we need to somehow generate crowd-sourced alternative to monolithic state bureaucracies, or we need to “weaponize” citizens by means of an exponential growth in metaverse technologies. If several years after its inception Facebook has become the battleground between massive billion dollar government initiatives to datamine as many citizens as possible (on the one hand) and Facebook being used to facilitate and empower half a continent erupting in to protest (on the other hand) is no surprise – “they” are getting this mechanism as well.
Politicians are human beings, and in their role of vulnerable humans with self interest, they can be made increasingly irrelevant as mediators when ever special interest throws billions at getting the preferred politicians in positions of control. Maybe we need some form of metaverse driven democracy. The current mechanism of governance has become corrupted and is prone to negative feedback loops. There is a evolutionary feedback in the political system to not care about any vulnerable minorities in society. This negative feedback mechanism is sponsored by the predictable negative elements in society. This money makes manipulation and voter pacification just too easy. It allows fake politics to turn voters in to complacent voting cattle, or dissuade key demographics to vote altogether.
In a world where humanity is rapidly hitting the constraints there is considerable incentive for those that have extensive properties to invest part of their assets to irrevocably consolidate their estate. In other words – the poor get poorer and the rich use their technological advantage to will stay rich forever. In such a consolidating “end game” those who own big properties will regard the interests of other people with pathologically impaired human empathy.
The success of the human species is in large part how we can program the human mind towards constructive actions. In essence the very rich on the planet have become neurologically “weaponized” to cultivate their own self-interest at everyone else’s expense. This is nothing new – but the tools available to protect privilege are new. In this climate the concerns of a few million arguably desperate and traumatized welfare recipients or senior citizens becomes an inconvenience and a distraction for these hyper-empowered minorities. As a result any bit of collectivized social security has become consistently associated with forms of despondency or laziness. Or some sort of skin pigmentation. Living of welfare is not very “hip”. Despite evidence to the contrary, the right wing (or populist) elements of society will attempt to deconstruct safeguards based on sadistic or eugenic arguments. Same old.
There are two main paths ahead of the entire human species; one path would entail a return to a more primal and primitive feudal state, where meaning is based on a more historical stratification. This would be a return to an acutely violent society, after most of the western world had a few decades of reprieve from such a ruthless existence. But as social and economic disparity is spreading like an affliction, we are seeing a new sinister glare of desperation – what people accepted in the 1800s or before they won’t accept in this purposeful attempt to deconstruct. People regard the material, education, entertainment, sexual, health, informational and affluence context as the new default and even the most humble of our societies won’t ever accept going back – they’d rather die. The conclusion should be obvious – any form of extreme societal disparity is unacceptable – the mere attempt will destroy society eventually.
With the end of work we may see an end to life being fun. We’ll see the bully silverbacks of society use their power to dictate their ideal social preferences , in terms of repressive conservative morality, or what to consume or not to consume, hard-won protection against sexual selfdeterminacy, or degree and accessibility of procreative freedoms. Once feudal leaders attain a measure of unilateral control over society, by whatever mechanism of empowerment, they will dictate terms. That’s why we call these “silverbacks” dictators for most of history.
All this is crucial when looking at work, and the question on where paid labour might be headed. To be a ‘successful’ human has always been very strongly linked to he willingness and ability of a person to do unique or irreplaceable labour. As a human being you have been by and large defined by what you owned, or were able to accumulate through work. Sadly, for most people work seriously sucks, hence we all compete for doing as little as possible. Many people struggle to only do only the fun work (i.e. “play”), and let other people take care of the unpleasant or hard work, and a small elite has become highly efficient at doing precisely that. This ‘dis-equilibrium of value’ can be represented as an excess of the “free market of work”, and the trade-off between human beings is essentially a predatory affair. Money accumulates and affluence escalates. People lie and cheat to do as little hard work as possible, and they will try to obtain rewards that are in now way comparable to the work they have done. This might make sense if it were sustainable and the vulnerable wouldn’t end up crushed. Sadly, the forces of entitlement are working with purpose to dis-empower the losers in the economic game. The game has become rigged.
In the last century we have seen remarkable opportunities for people to aspire to self-improvement, especially in the “developed” world. I characterize the freedom to self-advance as a good thing, insofar it is actually real and true. Sadly since the 1980s it become less true. In the same period of glorious advancement (the last century up till Reagan) the human species (with all its needs and entitlements) exploded across the face of the planet much with the same impact as a geological force. Humanity now numbers over seven billion, and the highest UN estimate poptulates a high end 14 billion human population somewhere this century.
In our world those in charge offer the people little alternative but to work, with precious few exceptions. The victories over drudgery or the ascent of dignity has been hard won, and we have end up with a triple paradox:
Humanity shares the world with another highly socialized primate – The Bonobo. For those who don’t know, Bonobo’s are a form of Chimpansee who are ‘uncannily’ gregarious and peaceful. I wouldn’t want to idealize Bonobo’s, but i strikes me we as a species might want to assimilate a few of their psychological traits. One well-documented trait among the Bonobo species is the insistence on using sexuality as a constant and pervasive mechanism to resolve conflicts. For Bonobo’s social acceptance implies this particularly demonstrative gregarious behavior. The mechanism entails forms of pack charity and potlatch; Bonobo’s can only ‘handjob’ each other so much and at some point their need to share food as well.
I believe human beings have dormant qualities that are reminiscent of the Bonobo chimpansee subspecies, and these qualities might do well to be awakened. I’d invoke the concept of Rishathra popularized by Larry Niven, to try and visualize this mechanism. There is clear evidence that easy access to gaming, pornography and masturbation reduces violence. In other words – all these forms of play satiate the negative instincts in humanity, probably help reduce stress and resolve inner “primitive brain” neurological conflict states and leave the human a more peaceful creature. So when we aim to make humans more socially active and politically more determined we have at the same time the tools to placate the negative instincts in the human species as well. For some reason the conservative elements in society don’t like either prospect. They used to hate comic books too, a few decades ago.
By 2030 we may lose 2 billion jobs. In my view that means that by 2050 we will probably have lost most jobs still left after 2030. If things are going where they are headed the world of 2050 will be run by two categories of people – those few with extremely rare or unique skills that have not yet been replaced, and by those people who because of a historical artifact just happened to own all the money. I am not disinclined to well-reward those who do the remaining jobs (maybe by a factor of as much as 1000:1) but I strongly propose we have no other way to organize society than to completely stop rewarding investment as a sole vessel for material gain.
In such a future we will see the emergence of a what’d call a form of nano-socialism, where the assets held by the investor class are to an increasing degree nationalized just to keep those with no jobs living somewhat dignified lives. While this reality and end conclusion seems at least completely self-evident to me, the dynamic conflict that would be the result of this tug of war between entitlement and social safety nets will not be easy. The tension between these two societal diametrically opposed urgencies can only mean that for at least several decades (let’s say between now and the 2030s) we will see “the entitled” (and I could use more slanderous terms) will fight tooth and nail to resist “full relinquishment” (to use a fairly safe euphemism). This period must quickly come to entail an infrastructure that provides a meaningful alternative to the established time sink of mass employment. What better to use this meaningful alternative in ways that would make people fundamentally happier and more universally satisfied as well?
* The Pink Collar Future
* The Withering of the Affluent Society
* Historic Drought, Dust Storms & Power Grid Failures Are Sending Food Prices Higher
* The Elites Are Unanimous: Lower Everyone’s Wages and Standard of Living — Except They Don’t Say it Out Loud
* The extinction of the middle class.
* Low-paying jobs are here to stay.
* Can the Big Shift in Energy bring a Return of Industrial Demand?
* More than 700 Million Left without Power after Latest Blackouts in India
* Skilled Work, Without the Worker
* Federico Pistono – Robots Will Steal Your Job
* Capitalism Hits the Fan – Richard Wolff
Problem Cluster Three – We will soon face massive resource depletion
Of all scares natural resources, there is almost none (except solar energy) that will be left accessible (or an economic factor) beyond 2100.
Anything from fish to uncontaminated water, to climatic stability to aluminium – will gravitate towards complete depletion or outright destruction within decades. The most troubling depleting natural resource is oil. When fossil oil runs out – and in case we would not prepare for a transition towards a post fossil fuel state – we might very well subject ourselves to a 476 AD die off. In that decade the Roman population quickly started its decline from over a million to under ten thousand. The same event the world of post 2000 would reduce the world irreversibly to a dark age best described as a world wide Afghanistan. Poor, backward, desperate and extremly violent. No sane human should regard this contingency as acceptable.
Any topic that would propose a “renegotiation” of the world’s available resources has become extremely politicized. The idea that there isn’t enough “to go around” makes people very angry, and most that anger funnels in to denial. Take peak oil. Climate change. Mineral depletion. Colonial extraction of minerals in third world countries. Overfishing. Water scarcity. Overpopulation. Land hoarding… It all means that some allegedly privileged group or powerful minority is allegedly over-exploiting the constrained resources of a planet that’s too small. It’s very annoying if someone alleged you are part of that privileged group, because it is an outright challenge to the privilege itself.
Mind you, provided we had sufficient energy resources none of these concerns would be a problem in the foreseeable future. Humanity uses about 17 terawatt/year of energy (quite a bit of that burning biomass, yes) and there is absolutely no easy alternative to the petrochemical bulk of that consumption. If we would be able to generate enough energy tens of billions of humans can sustainably live on this planet, and do so with great affluence, freedom and luxury. Doing the math on that – if americans have arguably the best materialistic standard of living, and just 5% of Americans consume some 25% of the world’s resources (the US imports a lot). Now let’s assume (beyond political constraints of obstinacy, superstition or ignoring the question whether or not the american way of life would make people actually “happy”) a fully electricity-driven world would need the equivalent energy for the united states to come to a fully “developed” status of existence. Now let’s assume we would not do much in terms of energy efficiency. If we’d wanted to elevate the world to an energy consumption corresponding with US standards of living we would have to somehow generate well over (back of the napkin) 200 terawattyear. Current projections assume that with “alleged” anthropic global warming we might level off at 30 tW.y or so, assuming we aren’t too far progressed in peak oil (and the energy generation would go down quickly!). Anything above that won’t happen. We’d have to build the whole world full of coal plants. And yes, many of these means of energy generation have arguably severe consequences, not least of which might be global warming.
So we probably need a very good energy source on this planet to just survive, let alone grow. Sadly I am not seeing this energy source emerge any time soon. I do personally advocate SBPS, but that solution would be exceedingly difficult to generate, especially in the current state of international energy politics. I will not speculate here what that would mean for the EU and the US in specific, other than speculate the transition will happen between 2015 and 2025 and the transition to a lower energy state will be exceedingly traumatizing for people who have come to feel entitled to a very high level of material consumption.
I allege politicians and policymakers understand the mechanism of fossil fuel depletion quite well and are (insidiously!) preparing for this eventuality. The question is whether or not the preparations undertaken will allow for ‘luxuries’ such democracy, trillion dollar armies, widespread mechanized agriculture, woefully inefficient transportation infrastructures, cities smack in the middle of the desert or any of that remains open to debate. I however personally conclude by 2030 all of the above will be gone, and have come subject to a very unpleasant process of renegotiation. I assume this process of reconciliation with constraint will not come at too high a loss of human life, but I may be mistaken.
There is a silver lining here – reduction in available material resources and energy does mean two things – people will have less access to jobs. There will be more unemployment. People will have to consume less. They will have time for other things and they will be more eager to experiment with alternative lifestyles. And since computational and communications devices increasingly constitute a critical interface between people, there will be continued demand for ever more such sophisticated devices. A house or a car may become unaffordable, and bigger pieces of hardware may become costly, so the push will be to manufacture (and recycle) smaller and energy efficient electronics. As long as there will be new generations of such devices people will keep wanting to replace them for good alternatives – a car or house can last you theoretically decades in a “diminished consumption” world. People will be strongly inclined to upgrade their hardware every few years, which means lasting consumer demand for a long long time. All these developments funnel directly in to a future with a very persistent ‘metaverse’ component.
Problem Cluster Four – We Are Very Close To Being Forced To Constrain Procreation.
Any talk about population policies is politically unsellable. You won’t be able to get voters to agree to anything you could call a policy until it’s well too late. In a world of dwindling resources and a collapse of innate human rights, many people generally default in to poverty. Generally poverty means one thing – people breed more. Sadly while we were at a few billion in 1900, we have seen ever speedy human population growth. Highest UN estimates postulate 14 billion by 2100. Having so many people on the planet forces us to make hard choices, even if most of these people will live in a hellish third world. In 2012 we are already see populations numbers face severe food scarcity and high prices. It looks very doubtful whether or not the highly population third world can achieve a developed world standard of living, let alone sustain it indefinitely. The inescapable conclusion is that very soon – somewhere the next few decades – the planet or the collective sum of human civilization will be forced to evolve means to constrain human populations – by either oppression or by some form of ruthless attrition.
I suppose we could have 30 billion humans live on this planet, if space were the only consideration. I could even imagine everyone having very spacious apartments, a high level of personal material affluence and probably have great sex too. I am however pessimistic if we can sustain these populations with the current means to harvest energy from the planetary surface. We will probably need large amounts if solar energy harvesting to just survive as an industrial society, without forcing most humans world wide back in to a style of living somewhat similar to indentured agricultural society (the one without widespread mechanization).
We have however seen some fairly powerful population growth in the last century.
This is the now familiar completely unsustainable exponential graph, and to put it bluntly – that this can go on this century is unacceptable and impossible. Even worse, claiming it can go on for anything more than “a few decades” brandishes the claimant either callous or very naive. Note that I am largely skeptical of scenarios of legally enforced constraint to population numbers….. It’s just that I am more skeptical of any scenario that assumes population growth will somehow “naturally” diminish. I don’t advocate a social order that perceives the urgency to enforce procreation quota, largely because such an enforcement in the real world would (almost certainly?) turn out brutal, fascist and very authoritarian. And it will have almost certainly a range of grotesque side effects.. My problem is that any alternative would be substantially worse.
In other words – we have a problem with global population growth – and we have this problem most in countries least equipped to mitigate the consequences of unbridled economic growth. Or geographic regions most likely to regard procreation as an innate and sacred right. While at the same time we have nationalism, racism and populism emerge decidedly anti-immigration sentiments in most of the “developed” world. We probably won’t be able to effectively disallow people to not breed, but not finding a way in which to constrain procreative output might be substantially more unacceptable in the long run. To let this disaster “just happen” because of political expediency would be unacceptable.
To make this situation worse – in the next few decades it will become feasible to extend human lives. These treatments will yield some (difficult to verify – how do you measure life extension while it’s still taking place, right?) results. In other words – the next decade will see subtle yet effective treatments that will extend human life expectancy anywhere between a few years to a few decades. These treatments or regimen will initially be very expensive. Beyond ten years we will see more reliable and less expensive treatments and my expectation is that in 20 to 40 years from now these medical treatments will offer reliable statistical benefits in the range of over decades, the treatments will actually replicate the functional benefits of rejuvenation, and the treatments themselves will become gradually affordable to most people in the developed world. By 2050 governments will be considerably concerned about the global consequences life extension (since old and frail people mostly consume resources and a lot of society’s money and effort) so governments will come to quickly recognize the urgency of seeking rejuvenation of their respective constituents. Rejuvenation will be harder to realize but there’s no reason to assume high demand will spur on a solution somewhere this century. The most extreme optimist scenario for affordable and safe variants would be 2025 for “indefinite” life extension (as a statistical mean) and robust, affordable and safe rejuvenation somewhere around 2040.
While I personally don’t assume I will benefit much from any of these hypothetical future treatment regimen, I do conclude that in the long run these treatments will increase statistical population levels on this planet. Note that these treatments will do so only slowly. To “notice” a change in demographics (taking all factors in to account) you would have to wait half a century – any form of life extension will only very slowly have an impact on population levels.
Nevertheless – what I am claiming is that somewhere this century we will see population levels will increase even faster, as aging people will be able to turn money (or government tax revenues) in to their share of engineered youth. A little at first but more as time and medical science progresses. I expect this benefit to be of considerable statistical consequence by 2050. In other words – our current demographic analysis may have become distorted by life extension, vis-a-vis rejuvenation treatments.
That again means we will have to decide at some stage to constrain population growth, by any reasonable (peaceful) means possible. Even worse – rich nations may have to decide to somehow seduce (or force) mostly relatively less affluent regions to do so. Bear in mind – very soon (in 10-20 years) the labour potential of these countries might quickly deflate, as labour is more effectively done by machines, even in the poorest countries.
A Severe State of Disillusionment
Billions of people have a religious faith in the ideal “happy life”. This idealized state has become defined as a mix of personal freedom, a nice job, consumerism and having children. The next decades will see a world-wide frustration to these sacred desires, one way or another. We need a new “happy life” ideal, and the transition from the current ideal to a sustainable ideal will take many years and will be very frustrating to people.
“Things” are going bad globally, whereas self-evidently “things” could be headed towards a wonderful place. The main impediment for a future where the majority of humans would actually be happy and satisfied seems to come down to a range of cynical assumptions about human nature. The fact remains is that too many humans are living in stress, persecution, marginalization, anxiety, poverty and outright misery. Making a loud and demonstrative claims about the “pursuit of happiness” has not guaranteed people actually have a halfway decent short at acquiring happiness. And the trend is that this will get worse.
Happiness is comprised by a mixture of health, affluence, freedom, safety, beauty, hope, space, sexual satisfaction, peace and creativity, and many a few other things hard to capture in any bucket list. The problem in deciding upon a society which the majority of people would find acceptable is that people don’t agree on what constitutes a ‘good’ life. This is the tragedy of both the established cliche dualistic extremes of capitalism as well as communism – they don’t succeed sufficiently in providing universal (or even halfway probable) states of satisfaction and success. I won’t make a claim on how people should aspire to living. But what we have in global systems is mostly inadequate right now. I won’t claim to be anywhere near able to make even very cursory suggestions about how we might want the world to go in the next generations, but I can only voice my deliberated preferences in a manner that others can judge on their own merits. And I will use three arguments in creating a showcase for a differently organized world;
In the next 1-3 generations we
1 – can’t afford to do what we have done so far. It’s no longer business as usual;
2 – we must start to acknowledge the real needs of humans and not the needs we imagine humans have;
3 – we must proactively affirm and integrate the emerging constraints of the world we are evolving in to.
The 20th century were better than what we had before. But that wasn’t so easy, as the 19th century was pretty much horrific world-wide. The majority of human beings lived in states of horrific squallor the further we go back in history. So far the world has been over all improving, but as we look upon historical trends it is doubtful how far these trends are allowed to persist. In this regard I am a progressive, and I am convinced we can do better. I am not convinced we should try making human existence better in the current societal paradigm. Humans in the ‘developed’ world had a long and gluttonous party, but this ride is over. We are bartering our collective societal freedoms and affluence for abstractions of safety and order. This freedom we enjoyed is a very precious thing and with all things “precious”, they cost someone money. That perversely means that to reduce some people’s freedom makes certain other people profit.
Now imagine all those people who lived all their lives having faith in a global leitmotiff of fair reward for fair personal sacrifice. This has been exemplified in the ideal of the American Dream, and it has become a universal global aspiration. The United States of America established a system, mostly in the 1920s, that for the first time in history carried a plausible promise to generate dignity for everyone (except for maybe the truly useless). The american dream has been largely a marketing effort, based on a production apparatus that was largely embedded in a climate of (1) reliable democratic policies; (2) universal employment; (3) the freedom to have your own family and societally guaranteed contract of marital sexual gratification and most importantly (4) a glut of easily accessible minerals and energy resources. These four assumptions will fall away in a matter of decades. The dream is now being replaced by a pervasive global sense of disillusionment and disappointment. The world could very well be wonderful, but the human species might not have the collective sense to realize an acceptably pleasant world.
Soon the majorities of humanity will be faced with the onset of exponentially spreading technologies, virtual reality, nanotechnology, advanced prototyping, robotization, automated logistics and extremes of efficiency we have not seen before on this planet in billions of years. This will sever the human species completely from the previous biological paradigm – “survival requires achievement”. Soon people will just live, and the only contextual meaning they’ll have will depend on full legal recognition.
This emerging new age needs protection. And since nobody will take it upon themselves to act as “heroic protagonist” we need to automate and mechanize protection. Unions are dead. Heroes are all gone. Faith has gone morally bankrupt. Politicians and politics don’t stand a change against political lobbying. There are no more major political movements espousing consumer protections or human rights. There is very little residual space in the margins for traditional forms of revolt or protest. Wages are going down, careers are aborted, consumption becomes bitter and hollow, traditional pursuit of pleasure has turned in to a demeaning spectacle. Sex has become a rushed ten minute daily engagement as empty and hollow and abusive as today’s cardboard pornography.
We need automated tools of affirmation. We need an infrastructure of human rights affirmation. We need to implement an automated machinery that terrifies our politicians and unionizes forms of peaceful dissent. We need an automated infrastructure of emergent education and we need industrial means of guaranteed enlightenment and sexual engagement. I know of only one last realm of power the common people (the 99%?) have that allows power amplification on par with the titanic power of corporate financial clout – and this is the combined realm of sexual liberation, gamification and communication. We need all three to bootstrap the change we can believe in.
If there is another way out of this era disillusionment, I certainly don’t see it.
An Age Of Chaos – “The Inner Age”
Internet has completely changed the political landscape, even if politics is still playing catchup. A single small organization of a dozen activists has wiped the slate in the middle east clean, and is challenging the one remaining hyperpower. There is good reason to believe this is just small fries compared to what’s in store in the next decades. We are beyond the era of massive industrial or infrastructural projects and until we see an emergence of a new cheap source of energy (which might either be thorium, very cheap thin film solar, SBSP or Fusion) the only plausible advances the human species will make will be internalized and mostly based on ubiquitous computational and communication tools. And precisely that realm is the realm of greatest potential disruption for politics, the manner in which humans think, and how we see the world.
Right now consumer preferences are changing – car manufacturers are frantic; young people prefer internet and gaming over owning a car. This is a significant change in personal preferences, and one that has shaken corporate assumptions to the core. The old establishment has woken up, more than ten years after Internet took of, and don’t like it (insofar they “get it”). Internet is empowering the electorate in ways “conservative and financial rulers of the world” resent to. Aside from the value of the internet as a tool for interpersonal connection, research, renewal, play, the Internet has spurred on a demographic shift of epic proportions; the availability of pornography is completely changing relationships, for good or for bad. The unifying theme is (for the young as well as the old), a sense of rebellion against established mores. Often not publicly then most certainly implicitly; Accessibility to pornography arguably reduces incidence of rape. It reduces the average length of marriage or relationships. I will argue that this is just the beginning, and it isn’t just porn or unconstrained global communication.
While we see the ideal affluent western democratic collapse around us, we will see a world accelerate and deteriorate in many contradictory ways. The best way to create an volatile mixture is to introduce a wide range of random catalysts, volatiles, corrosives and accelerants into a compressed space, most of these the result of exponentially expanding informational technologies.
These list of technological destabilizers is already large and does not include any wild cards we may still have. Imagine the compound impact of Nanotechnology, Advanced Prototyping, 3D printing, Life Extension, Robotization, Virtual Reality, Virtual Currency, Stem Cell therapies, Augmented Reality, Space Industrialization, a New energy infrastructure, Biogenetics, Cloning, Artificial Intelligence, Nootropics on the next decades of human existence. Each of these has the capacity to be very disruptive to lifestyles we are all used to. Internet itself was a relatively change compared to the impact of each of the above. Throw all of these changes together and we have potential for a severe and irreversible impact to society. My expectation is every single one of the above will have an impact.
Take on the other hand the negative (or de-constructive) influences in future analysis and scenario-building such as population growth, synthetic narcotics, organized crime, terrorism, state oppression (and roll-back of democracy), political incompetence, the societal debt crises, the pension crisis, the pervasive rot in the global financial system, the perfidious corruption in the political and executive systems world wide, weapons everywhere, drones, the environment, pollution, global weirding, mass-migration… and the picture becomes an exponent of ambiguity, and not in a sexy alluring way.
This is truly the dawn of the age of Chaos. And this chaos will be profoundly desorienting to the human animal. It may very well prove to be the most interesting and adventurous age in human history, but we need to come to terms it may end up killing a lot of people and it may end up making a lot of people very miserable. This is referred to in common parlance as, I believe, a “shit storm”.
So – if ten, fifteen years of ubiquitous access to communication already has such a profound effect it can fundamentally change and warp human relationships, expectations of individual human beings,
Fixing the Problem – Earth Growing Its Own Global Neural Network
I both predict as well as advocate this change. I believe we face some major challenges in terms of human meaning in the next decades. Religion can be argued to have failed in synthesizing meaning, and we need a solution (most cynically interpreted) to keep humans busy. The Germans tried their own solution to provide meaning and unity under the iron clad boot of national socialism. Half a century ago the unifying solution was cynically postulated to be a drug – soma. I believe we can do substantially better than anything that came before.
I propose we all work to inundate as much as possible of the world in a virtual and augmented reality substrate that is deeply involving. I am not talking any one single game or game ecology – I am talking a literal ecology of game and pornographic immersionism of a degree that anyone would eventually be seduced by it. And I go even further – I advocate a universe of fun and education, excitement and hedonistic engegement (visual or haptic) to take the place of consumerism, unfettered procreation,
stupidityflawed mental reasoning, current miserable educational systems, resource depletion and the depraved political system.
We are stuck in the current historical mess of dead cliche’s largely because human minds only grow to their constrained intelligence. Individual humans are not smart enough to come up with meaningful solutions, or to see the sense in other people’s solutions. 1350 grams of brain just isn’t all that much, and the human brain evolved with a lot of evolutionary bugs. So if there’s one way to solve problems I seriously believe in it is crowd-sourcing solutions. This is the antithesis of centrally controlled, generated and dictated solutions as we have seen so far. We need to extend free markets in to the realm of hedonism, personal responsibility and involvement.
Take for instance “Sim City”. After playing a while with Sim City most people understand why complexity is irreducible, why complex systems fail, and why management of complex takes intense effort and consistency. In that effect Sim City (or any of its family of simulation tools) allows insights most people would never be able to generate on their own. I believe this “learning by simulating” is a fundamentally new development in human culture, especially if it is done with computational games and virtual worlds.
The ability to generate insight from simulation is being estimated as valuable. Airplane simulators are good enough to be accredited as actual experience hours for pilot certification. Some companies value management experience as in games such as World of Warcraft or Eve Online and award people with either on their resumee with responsible jobs. These are still over all simple game environments. What we could extend the complexity of games in to a realm where they wouldn’t be “merely” games any longer? How far can we extend simulation environments with game-like achievements and goals in to the realm of education? Many professional educators would feel somewhat threatened by this possibility (..that we could largely automate education itself? What if a proposed game environment such as Clang would allow people to learn actual combat skills?
We already see these simulation environments have daunting consequences; many lone wolf violent attackers trained in First Person Shooter games. Can “FPS environments” be a critical catalyst for changing quiet despair and dissatisfaction with the world in to active and violent acts of terrorism? The 9/11 attackers allegedly acquired much trained their terrorism skills with aforementioned simulators.
I believe we are just scratching the surface of what is possible in the “metaverse”. I think this isn’t just a matter of what just should be merely possible – we might actually acquiring real world skills fun. In the actual world I wouldn’t be caught dead in management training school; with the benefit of Eve Online I could actually envision ascending in a highly disciplined and challenging corporate environment and running a corporation, on a personal level of involvement and cutthroat competition on par with an actual corporate environment.
Imagine hundreds of highly diverse games flooding world markets and inundating the human environment with these simulatory challenges – and not just in discrete crated game boxes, each with their own constraint and context – but seamlessly interlocking in a massive virtual, simulatory, interactive environment?
The most acute example of such an environment – where users can endlessly Linux new options and additions was developed in Second Life. And specifically Second Life has opened up sexuality for everyone to explore with. I have repeatedly claimed that Second Life is a “bisexuality, kink and sexual freedom academy”. It may be more than that. In an environment such as Second Life people around the world (especially the experimental and sexually deviant) are able to explore alternative arrangements. This is exploration in still purely in the context of a clumsy and awkward visualization tool. But this visualization is starting to generate visible societal fall-out. Why are (Stav Strashko, Andrej Pejic) new female fashion models actually males? So by any measure – isn’t this a new expression of personal freedom and creativity?
I wouldn’t go on the record and claim Second Life had any real effect on these developments, but I do suspect it does and had. Maybe SL is just a sign of the times. But I do claim that if we had 100 million people in SL, we would most certainly also see a lot more of these cross-gender or other forms of highly liberalized sexual adventure.
And that’s a very interesting societal development. The reason why most people work is to generate money. A very important reason why especially men work hard and have elaborate empowering, exhausting and high-paying careers is without a shadow of a doubt to secure access to preferable sexual partners. Even an unattractive old man can secure himself access to arguably attractive and very young sexual partners. Provided he has enough money. I could almost argue that todays career world is in large part an arena of sexual competition rather than anything else.
My immediate first question is – how can we hack this mechanism to suit our ambitions? Or even; how can we crash the pathologies on this paradigm? One look outside these four walls and we see a world inundated with plastic, corporate generated imagery of idealized sex. For most people reality does not live up these ideals, and never will. So – is this merely “good advertising” ? Or is this plain bold faced lying and deception?
My question – “generating a collective brain for the human species” is a question about solving problems and challenges and making the world a better place for all humans (who actually desire a more pleasant world – not everyone does). Right now I’d argue we are stuck in a world that mostly sucks, and is set to potentially suck even more.
What Do Humans Really Want – Engineering Utopia
The next few decades provide humanity with a paradox of constraints in some fields and abundance in some fields. The question of relevance we are all faced with is how we can use the current means at our disposal to evolve a national or international social that combined sustainability as well as a pleasant existence. There are examples of societies that already experimented with highly sustainable organizations. An example is to be found in most of South America, in particular Cuba. Cuba may not be the example of ‘paradise’, but Cuban society has succeeded for decades to be a post-carbon society where people do have a lot of fun by means of various forms of social engagement (and sex). The question for the developed world is to take examples such as these world wide and learn from them – and then add the excitement, fun and opportunities for social engagement new media and technologies provide us.
Making a perfect world is not somewhat that makes any sense, largely because humanity would never agree on what would be an acceptable degree of perfection. But aside from that lame truism, we also have to contend with the reality of our physical world coming with increasing scarcity (in terms of available time, health, resource, intelligence and energy), at the same time dealing with the innate complexity and contradictions embedded in our world. So the world may barge in on our current feeding frenzy and impose its long list of constraints thereby forcing the human animal to inviolable limits. This process of imposed quota will not be fair, and many will try and resist the change, and as a result many will be victimized. But we’ll have to deal with this, as the consequences of failure at any stage will be collapse of orderly society.
In states of relative emergency we need to look with great honesty at the nature of the problem, and ask ourselves with even greater honesty what kind of solutions we have, and which ones we prefer. Jamais Cascio offers a great first start in the form of resilience economy, but that should only be a start.
But weatherproofing human existence against the vicissitudes of accelerating chance we need a leitmotiff for all of humanity, especially the distressed parts of humanity and the traumatized human spirit.
The solution lies in the new technologies, in particular in games, virtual reality, artificial intelligence. And these solutions should entail protective “agents” that guard over their human wards, or immersive virtual environments that challenge and stimulate human minds, or new forms of emergent service infrastructures that work to resolve conflicts, offer arbitrage or efficiently connect supply with demand. The old forms of passive entertainment should die a peaceful death. It is the time of stimutaintment.
A good example of a treshold (intermediate) of this is world of warcraft. WoW is based on outdated models of passive entertainment, in many ways taking the old passive immersive paradigm of Disney corporation. Wow is a sequence of repetitive acts, immersed in a “minimum” aesthetic context. The problem with WoW is that the diversion provided is superficial and non-repeatable. It is intended to be safe, predictable. Wow is however new in that it allows people to secure enjoyment by engagement with other people, in the forms of e-sports. I would argue that companies of Blizzard are terrified of letting their service “run out of control”. They carefully garden the experience provided in parameters. They aggressively hunt for outliers and try to keep out what they deem unacceptable experiences from their manicured environment. This form of manicured environments is often of an excruciatingly prejudicial conservative character. The experienced of the prevalent corporate-infused entertainment world are consistently paranoid of alternative lifestyles – in particular alternative sexual views.
The corporate culture is one of conformity, oversimplification, complacency and conservatism. It is a culture of “the lowest common denominator” in consumerism, with often dire consequences. This world view deals with “ideal consumers” and has often very little resource but to excommunicate everyone else. Sadly, this cookie cutter culture has become prevalent in political culture as well, and the primary reason is constituent passivity. People just sit on their hands awaiting a range of services from which they are expected to make a weighed choice. The motto is “if you don’t like what we offer go find an alternative somewhere else”. The corporate culture does not care if these alternatives are “attritioned” to become largely unavailable or unaffordable. In this sense consumerism is strongly Darwinian in that actively punishes originality, unicity, dissent or eccentricity. And clearly we are seeing the same process reflected in politics and law enforcement.
The new paradigm is wikileaks, anon and (to a lesser degree) wikinomics. The new paradigm is based on active and outspoken involvement, as in “I want this and I want it precisely like this”, and then taking responsibility (alone or in a unionized context) for getting what you desire. The previous world was akin to a garden, the future world is becoming more like a sand box environment where the consumer is free to create their own plethora of experiences. The future is a version 2.0 Disney World or World of Warcraft that is intentionally “left without central governance or planning”, is constantly surprising who takes part, and is constantly out of control.
Advertising is dying. The idea that corporate sponsors with endlessly deep pockets endlessly throw money at an equally dying entertainment industry is also dying. Television (or politics) can’t exist without a constant revenue stream of self-serving corporate sponsorship money. Consumers will have the ability to ignore the constant trolling attempts from these self-serving corporate sponsors, thereby destroying the inherent passivity of the medium of entertainment itself. This model, in the same manner as we saw happen with digitized music, dissolves in an ocean of casual replication, hacking and mashing up. Print media is dying right now, for this very reason, and it is doing so in an painful and undignified manner. Television will die not long after, and will do so even more undignified and painful. Then will come mass production in general – and even though the industries behind it will put up a decade long fight they will completely fail. The very concept of money and central government taxation may be next.
The great disillision and future shock will arrive for people who insist on passivity. This future will be cruel to passive consumers; their key assumptions in life will quickly evaporate between 2015 and 2025, leaving behind a confusing wasteland of self-generated (lunix-like) crowd sourced solutions to life. This will spur on a market of AI agents – or subscriber-based software applications that protest the interests of confused and desoriented people. In essence we are already there: a car navigator is just a simple AI agent solution for people who can’t go through the bother of reading maps. We’ll see similarly simple software solutions to navigate most parts of existence, and we’ll see them soon. Right now these solutions are still clumsy and constrained and ugly – in the form of apps on hand held devices. Soon we’ll say goodbye to the chains of uniform hand-helds and devices.
An augmented (or virtual) reality world is a healthier world. Right now most of the computational(gaming) fun I can cheaply have is shackled to my desktop. Facebook is (still) run mostly on firmware. Very soon (in less than a decade) these environments will become embedded in a range of metaverse synthetic environments. Google Earth will have features of lifelogging environments, virtual game(s/worlds) and augmented reality. The contradiction of our time is an exercise in true irony – the new metaverse/immersive media will be in extreme demand from the prevailing capitalist world, yet these environments/tools will also be extremely effective in deconstructing the competitive world of global/corporate supply and demand business. In essence, the market of profit-based supply and demand is generating the seeds of its own demise. In the future there will still be supply and demand markets, but since people will have considerably less spending power and a lot more time on their hands, these markets will in all respects gravitate towards more voluntary and noncommercial contracts and engagements.
Now visualise over a billion Chinese, many of the male Chinese not having access to a wife. That’s not to say a few hundred sex starved Chinese won’t secure access to sex. The Japanese already had rerceived this message a decade ago – human-to-human sex is not necessarily fun. Well it is, but not with supply and demand thrown in the mix – for a very large percentage of people available supply is thoroughly unsatisfactory. Even worse, porn and sex toys vector males (and quite a few females) away from actual sex. The result is that more women can’t get a guy.
For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.
– Naomi Wolf
My question then is “why wouldn’t this be a manifestation of supply and demand?”. My follow-up question would be “why is this instinctively regarded as bad?”. I’d actually see this as a good thing. People will select from whatever options they have, and they may reject options they simply don’t like. Why would anyone spend time with a person he or she finds boring or non-stimulating? Why don’t people redefine their sexuality to fit their actual needs? My evaluation is that is precisely what they were doing all along, and they are only just getting the memo.
Making The Human Matter – Harnessing The
Cognitive Erogenous Surplus
Gamifying all of reality around us can not be seen separate from gamifying the essential aspects of human nature. Games were all about passions – as granularity of games decrease we find the game environment mesh with new aspects of human nature. We started out with games as being a predominantly “nerdy adolescent male” endeavor, and as such games started in most cases as testosterone male fantasy affirming escapism. Passive, ladled up young male violence fantasies. But the rising waters of gamification are lifting everyone’s boat and ringing an increasingly wider range of bells. Soon the quality of games will reach sophistication as to reach billion people audiences far exceeding with forms of interactive psycho-therapy, interactive sexual gratification, interactive education and much more. This market of supply and demand can only expand exponentially, and contrary to all other world wide markets the cost per single product experience can only go down as time goes along. In essence the competitive character of automated synthesis of experience (whether as a game or an AI agent or metaverse reality or any way otherwise) will push commercialized and physically produced alternatives out of the market. A game experience lasting months costs less than a single date to a movie. In a few years the price of a physical date will only go up, as the corresponding price and range of experience of a “metaverse” experience will have gone sharply down. Hence – in the future anything Metaverse will exponentially become more appealing than anything competing from a purely physical basis.
It is a cliche to assume that online games are unhealthy and passive. This is far from true, and will decreasingly be the case. It is also not true that computer games will always be mind numbing and repetitive. Entertain with me the following scenario as an example what will be technically possible (and affordable) in less than a decade.
You stroll in to a park. It is cloudy. In the park a few dozen kids are playing. They are wearing augmented reality headsets. They are gesturing wildly and running back and forth. Half of the children there are in their teens, a few are younger and a few aren’t children but clearly adults. Due to the physical activity they are engaging not one of them looks acutely overweight or unhealthy. They respond constantly to a range of virtual stimuli and their physical activity reflects this. Part of the success in the virtual game they are engaged in is determined by their capacity to run back and forth. You can’t see what they are doing, but you can clearly see they are having great fun.
There’s a girl sitting nearby who is taking a break from the game. She sprained her ankle and you strike up a conversation with her. She wears clothes and sports shoes that reflect the game she is taking part in. She explains to you its a wargame where you have to be in a specific place to execute orders to your units – so you can’t just sit around passively waving your hand – you have to touch your troops, respectively where they are on the battlefield and engage in complex instructions using a virtual floating keypad, icons, gestures and voice commands. And since you play in a team you also need to engage in close contact with your team members. And since team members can and do defect you have to be constantly active and on your guard. She massages her feet and quickly intends to join the game, but she has a spare headset and offers you to join on her team.
You join them and don the spare helmets, seduced by the fun you clearly witness. After activating the game they are playing and joining them in their virtual game you see a fantasy landscape superimposed over the real world. In this fantasy landscape a war is brewing between variously aligned fantasy armies. You witness an assortment of quality rendered fantasy armies, where equivalent human soldiers each no bigger than a hand, wage battles with fantasy monsters, dragons, demons, angels, all with beautifully ornamented fantasy weapons, siege instruments and with frequent use of intimidating magical spells. You see swirls of fire lance around the battlefield, dragons soaring, and the thundering sound of troops marching under a disciplined drumbeat. The game is overwhelmingly complex, but it offers starter units, and you start with several small units of cavalry archers on fleetfooted dinosaurs that closely resemble mean looking animated black werewolves – very nimble and versatile units. This way you can easily enter the game and are not bedevilled with the intricacies of the advances game …. but these units move fast and as a consequence everyone playing is laughing at you with smiling eyes as you are close to an asthmatic attack from sheer exhaustion running back and forth in the park instructing your dinosaur cavalry. The girl gave you a very exhausting unit to manage, and you are faced with an engaging mental and physical challenge.
Imagine this scene taking place in 2019, some seven years from now. It might even happen earlier but I do not anticipate it will be much later than 2019. A game such as this could be a world-wide affair. In fact, a game such as this may take place in the actual world, and battles may take place in designated safe zones such as parks and sports halls (you wouldn’t want troop maneuvers to take place on busy streets and intersections where your 11 year old might impulsively charge in to traffic to intercept some unfriendly orcs moving in from a nearby mateverse enemy Kingdom). These games could very well be modular; some players might focus on a “world builder” aspect of the game, meticulously constructing fantastic castles and towns in virtual superimposition over the world. Others might focus on the “e-sports” aspect and be engages in pitched immersive virtual battles. And a third category of players might treat these games as immersive social, trading, exploration or storytelling experiences.
Clearly – the amount of game design “assets” (sounds, animations, 3D designed figurines, programmable story freedoms, interactive scripts) for such immersive environments would be far greater than the current assets of any existing game. Whereas I am certain that the mere availability of these games would quickly create a high demand, I am also fairly certain that many of these games would have to be developed in a crowd-sourced effort, maybe with a range of quality controls and democratic decission making, what would be part of the game and what would not be. In some regions there might be allowances for steam punk elements, in others there would be a prevalence of “evil” elements. And in some parts of the game the content might have a more mature, or sexualized component.
People who would play these games might desire to consume little more than food, their mutual social interaction and computational devices and software. The culture and values of these players might still lean towards ruthlessly meritocratic, but they would also be participants in many competing persistently gregarious, social and political environments. And it would be attractive for all involved to design these games to be physically as well as intellectually challenging. I could also add that many of these games would also quickly attain a visibly adult (18+, NSFW, PG) erotic or sexual component. Even young heterosexual boys wouldn’t mind playing with half-nakid elf amazon warriors, “largely because it looks nice”, but who would be in charge enforcing constraints in this regard? These could be acutely democratic game environments where participants would quickly establish all by themselves (without the usual conservative imposition of moralist values from a corporate boardroom filled with dull old people) what they want and don’t want to see in the Game. (“No Slaanesh units this week, Michael, your Daemonettes constantly distract everyone with their X rated rapacious attack routine !!”).
This would be possible in less than a decade. I’d argue that environments such as these would be inescapable in less than a decade, and initially they would cater to the generations that were born knowing nothing but Internet access. And there wouldn’t just one such environment, there would be a jungle of potentially interlocking virtual environments, each competing to seduce people with what they have to offer. And these services wouldn’t just be bland entertainment, adolescent power fantasies or a barrage of endless pornographic images – the dawn of the virtual kosmos would quickly rival reality, and then surpass it in the ability to provide meaning, intellectual stimulation, education, adventure and social intertwinement.
In fact – there is no reason to assume this process itself stop beyond the next decade. The expansion of the metaverse would go on and on becoming ever more sophisticated.
Human beings should be attributed innate value. There’s a golden utilitarian rule that strongly suggests we need to include every single human being as valued. This is the social contract and it is a fundamental insurance. For centuries human history has been a struggle with this end point – the valuation of humans, the emancipation of every human minority, down to the individual. This process of emancipation and affirming value of every human has been a steady march through revolutions, unionization, suffrage, protest, activism. Each time there was progress in this regard, technology itself progressed. The liberation of humans consistently went hand in hand with technological liberation of individual humans from scarcity and enslavement.
One aspect of this process is economic liberation. So now we find ourselves in a period of relatively severe crisis. We see a society with an absolutely new context and meaning. The old meaning, where humans struggled to survive, must end since it has become impossible to compete against a world filled with automated machines. There are two alternatives – reduce the vast majority of humanity to the most minimum of poverty (or worse – some mechanism of contrived attrition), or spread the existing ability to satiate human needs around by means of common law.
There is not other sane pathway to the future other than guarantee the basic rights of humans. And that will include a right to basic income. The arguments for a universal basic income are abundant, and we either evolve there as a society, or we devolve in to a global state of neo-feudalism. And the latter road almost inescapably implies collapse, revolution and a death whimper to the human species.
The acknowledgement of humans having an inalienable right to service (money) goes against most of the instincts of human alive today. Giving away even a very small amount of money to all people (in the form of a basic income, or through any other means) would be regarded as a form of theft from those who “work”. but there is a simple answer to this.
Assume a world where 99% would be unemployable and 1% of humans would be able to engage in economic traffic of some sort that generates monetary reward. In such a world it would be completely rational to take the vast majority of all affluence and somehow redistribute it to those whose services would not be in demand at all. In a reality where nobody would be able to generate an income that itself would not be quickly be replaced by an automated service system (thereby making the person investing in that system rich, and all other human beings dependent) there would have to be a fairly quick economic readjustment. In other words – in a world where a small selection of people are able to generate an income (and everyone else is left either struggling in torturous jobs, or completely marginalized and destitute) the degree of redistribution must be commensurate with the degree of marginalization.
In other words – the degree of redistribution should be fairly close to the actual degree of unemployability. So – if 50% of people are unemployed there will either be a consensus (democracy)-driven redistribution of generated affluence and collective resources of an amount of means equal to 50% of societal affluence and collective means. Those who actually still do the hard work should be rewarded, but not endlessly, their claims and demands notwithstanding.
Sadly, to say that “human beings have value” is no longer a self-evident statement. Humans have precious little resource to legal rights, even in “developed” countries. Our democratic systems have evolved to deny rights that were only a generation ago regarded as sacred, and it is quickly developing a police state infrastructure to mop up dissent. Democracy does not seem to want to grant its constituents any systemic or inherent merit beyond that of their marketing value. Historically human value was embedded in religious code. Human value was acknowledged by an external celestial reality or a godhood. However religion no longer seems to represent a social value system that can compel social equality, assuming it ever was. Humanity can’t live off faith. I’d rather survive from legal assurances for guaranteed income rather than hope for the best in terms of charity.
We have known a very brief era were we were deluded to conclude that human value was a derivative of his or her credit rating, but for the vast majority of humans we are very close to making that mechanism to have become largely meaningless. If we are to be free humans, to be liberated from misery and fear, we most implement a society where value is embedded in the programmed substrate of existence.
So far only other humans are able to bestow value on humans, largely based on whatever clothes (or lack of clothes) they are wearing at the time, or their explicit beauty, or their sexual barter value, or their talents, or their possessions. To a lesser degree reputation allows humans to be esteemed as valuable. By default the majority of humans have always been regarded as garbage, and beyond interest. We have existed in the era of capricious meritocratic fascism and determinism. We need to evolve automated systems of human recognition. In essence we need to outsource human value (and constrain excesses) into devices. This would be best represented as “automated unionization”, where systems on the internet proactively and intelligently guard against human rights violations, lobby, act as legal representatives, and conspire to exert strong pressure on opposing or antidemocratic forces.
Human-derivative unions only work in times of considerable despair. It takes a lot of effort to stay “militant” for a long time, and “militant” people are in turn fairly exhausting. That’s why unions failed throughout the 20th century. Unions as associated with desperate people, and union membership quickly stigmatizes as an “underclass” state of affairs. To have unions work we need Artificial Intelligences that can take care of our estates assertively. Each human being would eventually need a completely trustworthy legal agent, bankers, investor, nanny, secretary, therapist, councillor (consiglieri?) and confessional rolled in to one. These entities can become commonplace before 2025 and will be in use probably a lot earlier. These AI agents would themselves be able to seamlessly organize according to the religion, consumption patterns, lifestyle choices, affluence levels and political color of their clients.
Not everyone would want to use such a device, but many would. It would liberate humans from the extremely tedious and distracting parts of everyday life – to constantly have to be on guard from other human predators.
Once liberated from excessive amounts of labour, once no longer able to waste many hours a week on work or consumption, and as soon as reality forces us to somehow constrain procreation by some form of fertility constraints or quota, humans will be left with a lot of time on their hands, and they should be able to focus on what they like doing. There will be still quite some work left (easily enough for 24 hours per week in most of the developed world) and we should reward those that still do something for which there still will be demand for human work, but not excessively so.
But imagine the incredible human creativity to work on meaningful matters as soon as we get there. Humans who know they are fed, who have their medical needs and basic necessities safeguarded should quickly come to volunteer for something in which they feel their involvement is meaningful. Many will just choose an existence of drug use, arena sports, idle gaming, sex or laziness, but I don’t thing that should be a problem, as long as we societally generate ways to constrain destructive or pathological behavior.
In essence we need to saturate the world with fun – An ubiquity ludusphere. Not to be confused with Luddites, a Ludusphere would a pervasive metaverse service infrastructure where the determining mechanism is a mix of sustainable generation of games, fun, play and gregariousness.
Solving Problem One – RedPilling Reality
To mobilize the western world electorate we have a high hill to climb. We need powerful tools to reach all those billions of relatively apathetic people. Most voters and consumers just want to be left alone, and how things are going that is precisely what will happen – the macro-economic system will abandon people, largely because there is no discernible incentive left for politicians, bankers and corporations to include any economically non-productive people in the exchange. Endemic apathy is a win for those “in charge”, and the mindset is very easy to cultivate.
The converse – to engineer independent and critical thought in the majority of any electorate – can only be achieved with considerable difficult.
Internet has succeeded in scaring people in charge. Money is the power amplifier of those who have power. On the converse Internet is the power amplifier of those who have less power but are more numerous. Having a lot of money is the mechanism that allows someone very rich to make non-negotiable claims over anything in the world, and unless people have the freedom to blankly refuse money from the affluent, they will need that money. Sadly humanity is evolving in to a world where the affluent can secure access to the ever scarcer natural resources, energy resource, living space and labour solely through means of investment of money in non-peopled resources. In less than three, four decades this process will have consolidated and money as an intermediary medium will have completely outlived its use – those who own will own enough to perpetuate their standard of living through automated means. They will have seceded from human(e) society at large, and they may very well be evolving to become posthuman themselves, progress allowing. Those “left behind” will inherit a standard of living more familiar in third world countries – or worse.
For the next one or two decade the majority of humans on the planet have a remaining asset, and that is the Internet. The majority of people will gain in time, and they will have to use this time some how. Affluence won’t dwindle to attrition/subsistence levels of poverty over night – at least not for everyone. As jobs quickly fall away, and only the miserable jobs are left, those abandoned still give a damn will struggle hard to engineer a new sense of meaning for their existence. This new meaning can entail many mindsets, many of which will be acutely criminal in nature. But the majority oif society will weigh the risks and benefits and can easily be seduced in a new paradigm.
The “poor” can secede from society just as well as can the affluent. In the 1960s there was a popular mass movement of sex, drugs and rock&roll. People seceded from established moral value systems by “dropping out” and becoming volunteer ‘bums’. The hippie movement was relatively short-lived, as it offered little appeal and many quickly found more palatable alternatives. In the next decades the appeal of “trying to compete with the joneses” will dwindle exponentially. People will be thrust back in a low materialism lifestyle and be left with little alternative than to engage in the seduction of “hyper-facebook socializing”, in “serial online self-education”, in “elaborate competitive game metaverses”, in “slow incremental world trips through couch surfing”, in “persistent arts and aesthetic communal pursuits” and most importantly “in endlessly seductive sexual fantasies and conquests”. People want a pleasant world, and the only affordable route is through an exponentially seductive internet.
This will not be people sitting at home behind a desk top. These will be people anywhere, everywhere many living extremely gregarious and low consumption rate yet high tech lifestyles. This construct of accelerating human community can compete with the alternative, which is based on hoarding resources at the explicit exclusion of others – as soon as 99% of humanity wake up and set themselves to a mix of self-management, self-development, rational potlatsch, hedonism and beauty, these vast majority of human beings represent a force for great change. The trick is to convince enough people of this new societal paradigm. I am sure it will be labelled “cyber-socialism”, bur that is not what this is about. This new paradigm is a new form of democracy, where the medium of democratic engagement is owned by the vast majority of human beings, and is automated to the benefit and utility maximization of every single human being.
This new social paradigm also isn’t about escapism or anesthesia. The current contrivances in mainstream media and mass entertainment signify escapism and anastesia – the intended alternatives will be anything like MSN or X factor; the new paradigm will be like Reddit, 4Chan, wikileaks and wikipedia.
Solving Problem Two – Providing A Basic Income
I refer you to the recent publication of my good friend Nyc Labretš, and his take on Basic Income. I can’t add any more than his treatise on the topic.
Solving Problem Three – Immaterial Consumerism
Second Life is a primitive social and creative environment. Many claim it is a failure, but by any reasonable standard Second Life is a success. The numbers of users is still growing. Second Life beats any alternative in concurrency of users. Second Life has a 500 million dollar+ economy in 2012. Contrary to many other companies Second Life makes people money (55 million anually) and makes Linden Lab money. Whereas it grows quite slowly these days, Second Life is still actually growing, whereas facebook is shrinking.
Second Life will never be a mass market medium in its current format. The interface is unwieldy and to benefit from a good range of experiences requires a lot of time, persistence and a very motivated user. Second Life is in most places hideously unattractive, although this is changing fast. If Second Life would have to dedicate itself to quickly expand its user base it would have to conquer a great many number of hurdles, least of which would be substantial designs to its over all usability. These hurdles will gradually be overcome, not because SL will itself become any easier to use, but by and large as users themselves generate better interaction design for the medium. Judging from the slow incremental pace between the creation of Second Life, somewhat less than ten years ago on June 23 2003, the medium has made some distinctive advances. I must confess that having spend some seven years there, the environment is still quite dear to me.
But I am not sure whether or not Second Life will ever attain mass exposure, meaning the levels of use and user confidence as for instance Facebook currently enjoys. There may be alternative Metaverses that can thrive in the current market of interactive, online experiences, and they will thrive by and large in how well they succeed escaping from the straight jacket of respectively QWERTY, the monitor, the desktop and the DOS-analogue interface. Second Life could in theory do just that, but I sense a great trepidation and unwillingness on behalf of Linden Lab to deal with the apparently insurmountable legacy design mistakes that riddle the environment.
Linden Lab should not be held accountable. When Philip envisioned Second Life at Burning Man somewhere in 1999 he was probably severely inebriated. While the over all vision (loosely based on Snow Crash’s Metaverse) remains compelling and extremely promissing, Linden Lab had to jump through a large number of daunting software and hardware hoops to make this environment work. There have been numerous challenges and scandals and to have them still be alive nine years later is nothing less than admirable. But the question is whether Second Life (or its numerous derivatives) can continue to persevere in a world that will increasingly generate an demand for a Metaverse that does scale. The question these days is whether Linden Lab still wants to.
Take for instance Google Earth. I will readily admit I am not endowed with great technical expertise in the matter, but I could easily envision parts of SL being exported from SL (legally or not!), retrofitted and embedded in other platforms. Yes I insist that in a few years copyrights issues may not be a consideration – it is technically feasible (if not quite easy) to collect all available assets inside Second Life, organize these in a manner that makes them readily editable and accessible, and make these assets available as either a torrent file, or accessible streamed from a geographic region on the planet that is less interested in formal enforcement of traditionally copyrighted virtual world assets. I need to insist that to my knowledge this can happen anytime in the next few years. If something like this happens, it wouldn’t be a death blow to Second Life, but it would dry up a considerable part of the Linden Lab revenue stream.
I can envision stable, user run, more consistently designed embedding of private sims in different environments. Right now Linden Lab is still somewhat guardedly protective of its databases and corporate hegemony over its virtual land services, but as soon as more flexible alternatives become an economic viability, it would be probably that in just a few years from now it I’d see more robust sections of Second Life run as web sites from anywhere in the world, allowing some forms of interoperability and transversability (legally or not..). By 2015 it would not unthinkable to see (for instance) Second Life sims visibly embedded in Google Earth or other such environments. This would neatly solve useability in two ways – these sims would offer easy access to billions of potential users (and customers), as well as all the world’s stores who offer something to sell. Imagine a real world economy run by Google, using discrete virtual pockets of emulated reality, possibly accessible through virtual world interfaces or through local augmented reality interfaces. Imagine google using laser scanners to recreate extremely detailed real world renditions, including the inside of existing stores. This prospect would no doubt turn Google in to an instant competitor of Amazon. More likely, I see them cooperate.
I will insist this to be inescapable. By 2020 (roughly) people world wide will walk their avatar in to virtual stores, and purchase virtual goods. Robots in those stores will collect any articles desired from magazines, package these articles 24 hours a day, deliver them with automated delivery services, and do so cheaper than as if there were any human workers involved. And people wouldn’t just be ordering from home – they would be ordering anywhere in the world, requesting delivery at any specific time and place.
This signifies a trillions dollar market for goods and sales in real world items. This also implies a thriving market many times bigger than Second Life will be in its most wildest dreams for virtual goods and services. It will potentially expose several billion people (affordable wearable computing allowing) to billions of people well before 2025, most of these in the third world. And more than half these people will occasionally get sexually aroused, spurring on a world wide market for sexual exploration, sexual games, sexual socializing or anything in-between.
Solving Problem Four – A Tidal Wave of Virtual Kink
Billions of people world wide frustrated from sexual procreation will arguably suffer from overwhelming trauma. Yet the fact remains that population is still increasing and will keep increasing for decades.
Still hundreds of millions of human beings contend with having no access to a “procreative” partner. In other words, throughout most of their loves most human beings survive with having no immediate access to someone whose function is to have children with. I am aware that many men and women have an insatiable urge to have children, and they will have children no matter what the consequences, and my estimates for this sense of procreative entitlement to continue unimpeded I regard as quite slim.
If we would be able to settle near space in relatively short order by means of elaborate space habitats and infrastructures, and have affordable access to the means to emigrate then sure, population growth of animate apes in cans could theoretically continue with little or no constraint for centuries. In a few centuries we could have a thousand billion people in the solar system, easily. But that would in effect be long term, and considering the constraints of a planetary environment this prospect seems increasingly unlikely in the short run. So my expectation is that we have to contend with a quickly and potentially catastrophically overpopulating planet.
The sex drive of humans will find different ways of self-realization. Right now the highest form of self realization (In most cases more compelling than art, science, making money, adventure or anything else) would be to have a pleasant spouse and children. When barred from this instinct, the human animal will exhibit severe states of behavioral pathology.
And that is precisely while I favor “gamification of sexuality”. The essence of sexuality isn’t just about attainment of a balanced orgasm and most people don’t even get that in life. We are clearly seeing a response to that simple reality : in the real world sex is very unsatisfying and most often people that barely tolerate one another stay together out of fear of being alone, or worry about the children.
This is an extremely unromantic view of relationships, and quite often couples find great satisfaction with one another. The problem is for the increasing numbers of singles world wide, and the often daunting demographic issues in some regions world wide. Or the changing attitudes towards sex in other regions.
Women are by and large not the problem here. If a woman wants to raise a child by herself, any woman can easily find a donor, even one without engaging in sexual activity. It’s the men that tend to want more sex than the men, though there are exceptions to that rule. But I don’t think this will last. My expectation is that as soon as the world will somehow generate a lasting constraint to births (one way or another) men and women alike will vent their biological imperatives in masturbatory activity.
Take for instance Cuba. In Cuba there is not much of an economy, people are generally dirt poor and most of them don’t hold anything resembling a meaningful job. A similar societal phenomenon is visible in several eastern European countries that still have a surplus in females. In such an environment young women have turned quite sexual, often out of economic necessity. The net effect is female sexual competition for suitable male partners, or male financial support. This is clearly a mechanism of supply and demand.
There are wonderful, amazing, spectacular opportunities in the future for either sex. My expectation that various demographic constraints will yield sharply increases appetite for non-conventional and purely recreational sexual activity. The future is full of kink.
Virtual worlds don’t just exemplify pornographic renditions of sexual acts. I have good friend in Second Life who are exploring how to shatter taboos, and Second Life would just be scratching the surface. Of course my argument can easily be invalidated by stating that the sample does not anywhere near signify a scientifically falsifiable sampling, but my expectation is that anyone (male or female) long exposed to liberalized (consequence-free) environments where forms of personal beauty are more casually realized, will experiment with increasingly exotic forms of kink.
Most people are (still) fairly passive in this exploration. There is clearly a sharply increased incidence of Sado-masochism in any of these virtual settings, largely because this facilitates one partner being roled in to taking a proactive role, and another partner roles in to being the sexual subject. Again, even if this involves an outwardly female avatar in Second Life, most avatars in Second Life are still portrayed by males in the real world.
The kink tends to quickly gravitate in to an exceedingly interesting direction. In Second Life there is an epidemic of males that strongly experience a transgenderal personal awareness. Maybe I move in select circles, but I can vouch for years of intimate experience with the subject matter. I knew what I was before I was ten, and I myself always had an intimate affinity with my ambiguous gender awareness, as well as my ambiguous sexual expression, so I was able to gauge it quite often correctly when other people (by and large males) experienced the same transitory affinity. I can safely conclude that because of the unique mechanism occasionally referred to as the “protean effect” males that selected a female avatar in any virtual world experience an increasing affinity with the avatar over time. It goes something like this:
1 – In world of warcraft I took a female Night Elf because its nice to have something to look at when I am playing Wow
2 – In (whatever online game I currently play) I found it arousing to have my female avatar flirt with other (male or female) avatars.
3 – in (whatever online game I currently play) I found it arousing the fantasize about sex as (the other gender).
4 – In (whatever online game I currently play) I found I’d rather not be my own gender, since “the other gender has more fun”.
5 – In (whatever online game I currently play) I found myself fantasizing about sexual experiences with my own gender, or variants of my own gender.
6 – Because of (whatever online game I play or have played) I have experienced sex with people of my own gender.
7 – Because of (whatever online game I play or have played) I have come to regard myself as bisexual and/or (in some measure) transgendered.
8 – Because of (whatever online game I play or have played) I now have feelings of arousal for transgenders, the same gender or (more extremely) sadomasochism.
9 – Because of (whatever online game I play or have played) I may entertain forms of transgender desire.
10 – Because of (whatever online game I play or have played) I have concluded I do whatever the hell I want regardless of labels.
I found that in the circles I explore in Second Life this mechanism is common, with both RL males as well as females.
A Vision In Three Stages
The future can be engineered with any sufficiently compelling vision, as long as you postulate the vision early enough.
The world is what we make it.
It does not take a long analysis to objectify how far information (and game) media have advanced in just a few decades. Most people in their 30s and 40s remember an era where the transition from B&W TV was quite something. The emergence of Internet caught many people and many industries completely off-guard not just a few years later. I can attest to having been in a constant state of awe for 3 decades. And clearly we haven’t even scratched the surface.
The willful ignorance of most average people is most amusing. People who are not immediately emotionally invested in technological fields insist on going about their lives with not a care in the world, but as I have been insisting – information technologies have been destroying forms of employment (and generating a living income), and in the world we are living in “work” will never return, or return only for very small selections of human beings. So we can should conversely try and use the post-historical leverage of information technologies to come up with a solution.
The “computer game” has been by far a constrictive experience in the last few decades. Progress has been very fast, but even then vested interests have made choices that have clearly constrained advance. The computing and game world are inundated by archaic legacies.
Pretty soon we will have programmable interfaces that transcend the straight jacket of IBM dictates. Not long after we will get rid of the screen. The next ten years will have intuitive gestural interfaces that can be skinned according to need and preferences. We’ll have HD/HDR stereoscopic headsets, then 3D displays (that do not make their users nauseous) and not long after these displays will be as big and as wide-angled as we want them. And in the same period we will see more than half the world’s population come online to enjoy major advances in connectivity, either by virtue the next generations of mobile communications devices (and these won’t be “phones”) or the range of desktops or gaming consoles, or by new configurations of interactivity and programmable processes we care to come up with. Billions of highly educated, competitive people will struggle to make an income. Imagine all the bankers that will soon be laid off as their current business models evaporate, scrambling to beg for a job designing, coding and scripting and programming. The informational industries will keep mass employment somewhat alive for a decade, maybe two, but imagine having to compete with highly skilled, highly motivated software engineers in India or Bangladesh or North Korea. These people work for a fraction of the wages devoted to “developed” world competitors, so this won’t last.
Look at the advances between 2002 and 2012 and we can’t even sanely compare hardware performance. We’ll see vastly more fundamental advances between 2012 and 2022. There won’t be formal “desktops” or “mobile devices” by then. Small carried devices of 2022 may offer vastly more storage capacity, more computational ability than the most advanced desktop devices of 2002, potentially more than the best ones of 2012. If this is true, the content generated in these devices, in particular the hungry markets catering to restless, bored, alienated people will be growing exponentially. In other words – there will be a lot of people with time and frustration on their hands on the one end, and a multitude of people seeking to seduce them in to using their particular devices, infrastructural and software. Politicians will be swept aside – right now people get more upset if you throttle their internet access than whether you throttle their access to drinking water. And if we gauge the trends of resource depletion, people will at the same time be left frustrated by not being able to buy useless stuff.
The solution will likely be a range of virtual environments existing in forms of cutthroat competition to cater to very restless, very angry people. Political management can not offer a proactive solution – voters will vote with their belly and with their glands. They will want food, security and entertainment and they will use whatever is left of the democratic system to get it. At the same time all this access will unlock vast reserves of currently dormant intellectual and creative capacity. Having unfettered access to dynamic virtual environments for play, education, spiritual experience, political activism, creativity and erotic satisfaction will break most established societal stereotypes and assumptions.
I have concluded some time ago that Second Life is effectively the most powerful training academy for alternative sexual endeavor. And even then Second Life runs from QWERTY and flatscreens. Imagine a dozen Second Life like environments, competing for user hours, dwindling advertising dollars, creative output and validation, and you will see hundreds of millions of people using these media to constantly push the envelope of masturbatory endeavor.
Focus on that image for a second.
Right now mention the phrase “Second Life” and “Genderbending” and “Masturbation” and you evoke a mental image generally dismissed as icky by the typical civilian. Ten years from now that civilian, “dad”, will walk in on his son or daughter “doing homework” and find him or her impaled on a vibrator having cybersex using some form of interface and a programmed gestural handset. Kids pick up new sexual freedoms very fast. The Goth subculture of yesterday may become the androgynous sexual fetish culture of tomorrow. Yes I know, Fox pundits (assuming they will exist in beyond ten year margin) will decry this societal degeneracy, and who will care? These old media will die an undignified death, and the newly emerging media will be creative, interactive and crowd sourced media. We’ll see a world population who will no longer be competing for jobs and income – we’ll see a world population that will spam politicians to death demanding a higher basic income and faster internet access.
And that’s a rough picture of the potential state of affairs ten or so years from now. What about 20 or 30 years?
Beyond 2025 it becomes ever more difficult to postulate what we will have in terms of interfaces, computational power, societal value models, but the point is we don’t have to go into the plausible or arguable minutiae. The point here is that the avant garde of silicon valley (as a shorthand for where the software/hardware action currently still resides) can start deciding where we want to go in the next decades.
Key interest points would be to
* empower people and provide them with tools that give them more creating freedom. The future hungers for more people who each invest more time, are compelled to think about the world in ever deeper and critical ways and made to feel compelled to generate ever more lateral solutions. We need solutions that work, not just solutions that are politically expedient.
* create software and hardware where the end users have a great say in what they want – and then go beyond what they think they desire and give them something that will surprise them even further. This can be done, just crowd source smarter.
* create devices and software that will cater to the youngest audiences, and accept that sexual play will be inescapable. Right now you can’t argue this, but at the same time the majority of adolescents are using media handheld devices to generate porn for their own mutual use. These are people who actually do still have sex lives left, contrary to the billions of married and overworked couples out there, who generally don’t.
* The key word (IMHO!) is virtual. Virtual desktops, virtual gestural interfaces, virtual worlds, virtual education. And clearly that encompasses the realms of augmented and enhanced as well. I don’t need to explain why in The Future Virtual Is Intensely Sexy. And, incidentally, pretty much kinky and depraved as well.
Stage One : 2015-2025 : The Pot of Gold at Rainbows End
In 2025 the world will be inundated with Metaverse. Most people will use the Metaverse for every step of their functional lives. In 2025 the people who are well versed in use of their surrounding connectivity tools will casually perform miracles of cognitive and creative achievement that for them will be casual and rote, but from the under-educated perspective of someone from 2012 will appear as nothing short of miraculous. In fact the casual tool/connectivity enhanced achievements of even the most dull-witted person of 2012 will be more awe inspiring thirteen years from now than our own achievements with todays tools are when compared to people twenty years in the past. This puts a massive amount of potential education, sexual liberation, game play, social ability, business potential and spiritual enlightenment in the hands of potentially more than half the world population in less than one generation. 2025 will roughly be a watershed moment in the relatively near future of what we as people in 2012 can possible still comprehend. Any societal development based on computation tools,advancing interface design and ubiquitous connectivity beyond 2025 will become ever more arcane and not immediately intuitive for people from the year 2012. We might still have a chance to understand 2025, but we will have no chance whatsoever to still function in any meaningful social or other capacity for every year beyond 2025. Beyond 2025 the future will turn every more opague and incomprehensible from the primitive perspective of 2012.
My ideal (and most plausible) transitional vision of a future anno 2025 (written in 2005!) is described in the novel Rainbows End. The novel postulates a future where everyone can afford virtual reality contact lenses and peripherals that replicate the function of the best desktop computers as well as communications devices of 2012 many times over, combining it with fully interactive, highly intuitive interfaces and a world of people to interact with in play and education. Most “normal” people who read the book regard the setting as highly speculative, and probably an exaggerated description of 2025. Nonetheless the technologies depicted in the novel are being researched today, and are a fairly modest extrapolation of the progress we have seen in the previous 20 years. In essence this entire article (and presentation) is superfluous for anyone who has in fact read that particular novel. I am saying nothing particularly thought-provoking when squared with the genius of Vernor Vinge.
Let me describe a scene that could potentially transpire in 2025 that shows the full power of people that grew up gradually to get accustomed to such a rapidly advancing environment.
You take a stroll in any relatively large in the world. You notice the buildings are outwardly the same as in 2012. The difference is in the people. There are more people out and about than in 2012, largely because less people are working. More people seem to aggregate in places where they have have social experiences. Most of those people have more eccentric appearances than the people of 2012, but over all most are more physically attractive as well. Men inhabit a more pronounced range of states between hypermasculine and metrosexual, well in to the transgendered ranges. Females do so likewise, and there is a clear intersection in (as soon as) 2025 where a noticeable portion of people you meet have outwardly gender confusing features of either visible sex. Most people you’d meet on the street are moving in groups, some of which have a somewhat intimidating quality, but due to the constant surveillance from visible and invisible CCTV systems, as well as the constant sousveillance from wearable devices everyone seems to be wearing little actual violence actually occurs. You occasionally spot people engaged in near sexual activity, especially in inner city social aggregation zones. More people are slender than they were in 2012. On average older people look in considerably better physical condition than they would have been in 2012.
What is most striking is that nearly everyone (with some exceptions) is wearing a form of HUD headset, a VR headset or some kind of visibly artificial contact lenses. These devices are clearly all very well designed and easy to carry and each category of devices seems to have different uses or different niches of applications, and some of these devices are ornamented like jewelry. Since you are not wearing any such device you find yourself shunned for some reason. People wearing devices glance at you and exhibit suspicion.
Then you don a set of contact lenses. Once you do an extremely beautiful world opens up around you. It was dark, and the contact lenses adjust for relative light conditions. The contact lenses grant a view of reality which is optically corrected for any lack of focus in the eye. The image you see of the world is superimposed as to subtly enhance conditions of illumination as well as the vibrancy of the color. You look at the world in something approximating a High Dynamic Range video, generated real time.
But most strikingly is the superimposition of people. You are were apparently tricked in to “wearing” a pornographically inclined (and pretty wild) augmented recreation of the real world and the people in it. You see virtual characters of a distinctly sexual character. In the place where you are a select crowd has gathered and they convey the desired re-visualization of their self-hood to your contact lenses as to make you see them as wholly alternate persons or beings. And the style of the people you are looking at is breathtakingly pornographic. Your eyes water as your 2012 brain can not process the input. You stagger back and close your eyes in disorientation. It is too much too handle, since what you see transpires all around you constantly and in high resolution animate detail. There are fantasy creatures all around you, and they are unnerving to watch. Some people here elect to be demons, others angels. The imagery doesn’t perfectly line up in some cases, but even the graphic rendering errors are interesting and captivating to watch. In some cases the avatars projected act differently as the people in the flesh world do. The material people stand apart gesticulation in to a private interface with subtle spasming hand gestures, but their engendered avatar shapes engage in a vicious coital embrace that involves multiple limbs, massive over-sized sexual organs, an elaborate and breath-taking fetish costume and tentacles. You see them penetrate each other, and the sound accompanying the sexual act is a full surround wetness of organic violence.
The crowd sees you stagger back in confusion and sensory overload and laughs. They see the signs and know you have become sexually aroused, but they don’t mock you. They laugh with you, and one holds you up “be careful there buddy, we know this can be harsh to someone who isn’t used to it…“.
* “It’s the 21st Century, and everyone is a performance artist” ~ Anonymous
* The next billion seconds.
* How World of Warcraft Could Save Your Business and The Economy
* How augmented reality will change the way we live
Stage Two : 2026-2040 : The Radical Hedonist Gnostic
What’s left is fun. What’s left is personal growth and survival and staying sane in a progressively more incomprehensible and counter-intuitive world. What’s left is loving as many people as you can and be nice in a very turbulent world. But what is probably a new given is the increasingly and pervasively psychedelic and artistic and spiritual manner in which the world we are in has the potential to lead human beings in to otherwise very rare states of enlightenment. We are now seeing profound truths become commonplace. We are now witnessing (often very young people) routinely experiment with powerful tools and technologies in a manner which we can not conceive of the long term outcomes. The world can amplify the base animal desires, the intense sexual perversion, the urges to play and experiment, as well as the potential to transcend and find enlightenment with all these new technologies beyond anything we have seen in human history.
I would not want to live in any other era of human history. For starters I could not live without the technological means I have at my disposal (even though I am poor by any standard) and I would not want to live with the hope I have for continued access to technologies. Whereas I have grown quite disillusioned in politics, human nature and “the good life” as defined in western culture, I have found a state of existence that is deeply liberating and empowering. I may be poor in material means, but I am richer than Royalty in intellectual and knowledge means. I know and understand profound (and almost self-evident) truths that would unnerve the most cynical philosophers of just a mere century ago. Even better, nearly everyone around me can also know these truths and cherish the same insights if you’d care to spend a few hours on wikipedia.
My future will be play, sex, adventure. While my chances are I’ll probably die fairly materially poor and unknown in a few decades (like over a hundred billion people before me) there is now an actual credible and remote but unmistakable chance I’ll be “alive in some form” centuries from now. I have ring side seats to the greatest spectacle that ever transpired on this planet, and I know and claim without a shadow of hesitation I am well informed in the actual nature of what is happening, as well as in potentially direct contact with the most influential thinkers on this planet.
Just saying this proves the world has gone completely and irrevocably absurd. I am no longer a human. My mind has meshed with the interface cloud surrounding my desktop PC. I would fall in a severe state of mental distress akin to amputation if I was left severed from access to this new storm of savage memes that humanity has created in just a few decades.
I hunger for more. I can’t wait to walk in a store and get a device some ten, fifteen years from now that has more computational capacity, more data storage capacity, more design quality, more graphic display sophistication than probably all computational devices and tools in this building, combined.
Stage Three : 2040 and beyond : Pussyriotting In To The Singularity
The 21st centuty rushes on to humanity much like the rapids in a river. That distinctive rumbling in the distance is the waterfall beyond the rapids. In this metaphor being unable to leave the river on account of the sharp rocks left and right is the fact that we are all still mortal, we all have desperate physical needs and we are stuck in a ruthlessly competitive world. The future has us imprisoned and paddling upstream won’t do much good.
Humans evolved as a tragedy. Evolution left all life on this planet deeply flawed and aberrant. We can scarcely agree on what would be a better state, but somewhere this century numerous people and ideologies can sure as hell engineer viable alternatives. And yes, those people will do so haphazardly, experimentally and they will make many mistakes, but many people will do precisely that – experiment with the human state in a range of often contradictory ways. This is the challenge posed by Transhumanism; the ideal that we can take the default of evolutionary existence and subject it to a new technological mechanism of survival of the fittest.
What we are implicitly doing is to to exorcise a demon. We are ritualized the casting out of the unwanted aspects of accumulate evolutionary damage. The inescapable push to become something is not exclusive to radical progressives – conservative elements in society also have their post-human, anti-evolutionary agenda. Transhuman aspirations are not linked to any particular or exclusive political denomination; the Transhuman ideal will be a universal mindset, or “just taking engineering to the next level”.
The outcome is gnostic transcendance of the world. What thousands of years of well-intentioned navel staring didn’t accomplish, progress in this century may accomplish.
There is a problem with Luddite thinking, and it is the assumption we have a choice. We won’t. There’s billions of people out there and even if only the smallest fraction of these humans would experiment with the greater ambitions of Transhuman progress, these advances would trickle sideways to every other human before long. As an example – your smartphone is a transhuman prosthetic device. In just ten years we have gone from a smartphone being an unthinkable idea to the reality being regarded as indispensable. These technologies will tend towards moving from the realm of “highly speculative” or “fantastic” to your children’s left back pocket in a matter of years.
That is why it is of paramount importance to come to grips with the allegorical reality of being in that river, being caught in the rapids, and doing what we need to do to come out in one piece at the other end. The only way to do that is to enlighten – to seduce as many humans as possible in the compelling and truthful state of understanding of what is actually happening on this planet, and what the respective and most truthful SWOT analysis of this process is.
Only when we can envision, emulate and contemplate the changes before us, can we deal with them. Only by artistically and compelling visualizing the changes before us can we negotiate and discuss them. Take for instance the year 1998. In the year 1998 very few people knew what a direct machine-to-mind interface was. It would have been very difficult to explain to most human beings what such a union mind entail. A year later hundreds of millions of people had seen the movie “The Matrix” and after seeing it those people had at least a rudimentary range of metaphors at their disposal to come to grips with the idea of a Mind-Machine interface. Crude as the metaphors in The Matrix were, they were compelling, sexy, seductive and did the job of explaining this idea quite well. So on essence, a single movie completely changed the potential to understand the world for hundreds of millions of people world wide. Now envision what a decade of immersion in an actual metaverse would do for the ability to understand of billions of human beings?
The goal should be to emphasize unambiguously human positives, and to expose unambiguous negatives. For instance – sex is positive, death is negative. Beyond that we can have fun and bicker over shades of gray for all of subjective eternity. We actually do have the ability to erect not just one ‘Matrix’, but a bewildering jungle of Parallel virtual worlds, life-logging worlds, mirror worlds, gaming realities, social networks and augmented reality layers. Once enough people start doing this, the whole endeavor becomes a competitive affair between competing elements of society, regardless of political or even religious denomination. By 2025 even the Vatican will see the urgency to own a Virtual Reality sim to welcome visitors.
We are negotiating the early stage of disassociating the human soul from its shackles of flesh, and to emancipate the human from its evolutionary prison. The process does not have to imply an elimination of passions or sexuality – on the contrary; I can imagine most people in the late 21st century having a lot more sexual interactivity than they do now. It’s just that the choice should be a free one. The future of the human spirit must be as much a free choice – to opt in or to opt out. To connect or to not connect. To take part in the mechanism of interlocking experiences or not.
This seduction must entail a virtual place of so much wonder and beauty it will allow humanity to transcend and cast off its base bestial side and grow up. I don’t know what we will become, in that unknown beyond, but this is the era where it must happen, lest the demons cast adrift in our very souls destroy us all.
There is this idea called “the Singularity”. I don’t wish to argue the basic premises of the Singularity, other than that I am a “yes, but! Singularitarian”. The most relevant premise of the Singularity is the idea that we would generate technological means of problem solving that are effectively opague to human understanding. The most self-evident means of such opague problem solving is generally regarded as “artificial intelligence” or “superhuman intelligence”, but there may very well be a range of hitherto unfathomable ways to solve problems that elude easy understanding or intuition, and (which is the crux of why a Singularity entails an opague future) leave us unable to make statements of what happens beyond any such escalatory scenario.
The dearth of convenient allegories leaves many interpreting this whole Singularity hypothesis as having qualities akin of mysticism, eschatology or “heaven” (respectively hell). My personal preference is more to regard the idea of a Singularity occurring as a cosmic lottery, with the full range of bad outcomes, good outcomes as well as utterly alien outcomes. And probably all at the same time.
So when I say “yes, but! Singularitarian” I am basicly saying that there area lot of mistaken assumptions, unknown unknowns and superstitions in interpreting this whole phenomenon.
That’s not to say any sequence of years closing in to a “causally inescapable Singular state” would be gentle and placid. There’s that river/rapids/waterfall analogy again. The world as it is now was in many ways inconceivable for the vast majority of people as recently as the 1990s. That isn’t to say that anyone who puts in an effort (or like me, is pathologically obsessive about it) can’t make some good guesstimates. But very few people saw coming what we now have all around is in communications technologies, by and large because these new media are all growing exponentially, and exponential growth distorts any model, since the outcomes tend to generate extremely chaotic and turbulent implications.
There is a chain of thought that assumes a “Singularity” would be an end point to a cosmic trainwreck of accumulated technological developments. In other words; these people conclude that a Singularity will probably happen when a whole range of key technologies “ripen” to a sufficient level of sophistication that we can have the unique prerequisites to Superhuman Artificial Intelligence.
But to be frank about it, we have no such guarantee. We may be living in the universe where some Doc Brown comes up with a runaway kind of self-amplifying AI system way before the usual guesstimates (2045?) for a Singularity. In fact this might actually happen in less than ten years. In other words, the whole analysis I have given above is discounting “wild card” technological changes, and is a median scenario.
I will cautiously allege therefore that we will see a range of technologies between 2025 and “The Date Where Singularity Becomes Pretty Much Inescapable” that will create a distinctly alien world, and a world more disruptively alien than the world has gone cookoo right now in 2025 when compared to the world 25 years ago. In other words – I strongly “allege” that there will be more objective change per year, and distinctly more disruptive change to boot, as we go in to the future. And yes, in many cases this change will make people miserable or end up causing human deaths.
We do not have a reliable SHIELD like organization that guards over human well-being in the face of widespread corporate malfeasance (or widespread fallout from disruptive technologies, or the emergence of dangerous technologies themselves). In fact – the establishment is bootstrapping highly disruptive change and leveraging it for all its power. The consequences are already heart-wrenching and I shall not give examples (maybe one – Monsanto) but there are many. Technologies more quickly make the world uninhabitable than it allows human beings to adapt or empower with them. Emerging technologies are so thoroughly underestimated (or held in utter contempt) by the majority of humans alive that there is no other rational conclusion – this whole transition won’t be pretty.
Not pretty means basicly at this stage that “we” (humanity) are likely to lose a few billion people between now and any Singularity. These will be the people that gave less of a flying fuck about the world changing around them – militantly traditional people in third world countries, or people in self-imposed states of severe denial. Or people who weren’t all that smart to begin with. These people will wake up shocked and very angry one day and the next day they will be simply gone.
Such an escalatory future should be about damage mitigation. The future will have to be about honest and sincerity. The future will be about creating sustainable and very resilient communities that take care of their own interests, and insofar possible will use some surplus resources to help a few other people – but sustainably and affordably. In this perspective I regard the science community, the sexually liberated community, the IT community (and hackers?), the avant-gardist and artistic communities and the “future-fetishist inclined” as composing a spectrum of naturally aligned factions. The future is wild and unpredictable, but it is a smorgasbord of opportunity for visionary design choices. If only we have the courage to do so.
All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.
– Dalai Lama