The Future is Faster Than You Think
The Future is Faster Than You Think?
Gosh, picking up a book at O’Hare airport can be perilous. It can stick in the grooves of your update. Like gum in the treads of your running shoes.
I have dailies to write, promises to keep, and many miles to fly before I sleep. And I already think the future is sweeping by me.
But I have to keep up my prophetic chops and this book is “turbo-boosted,” with “accelerated acceleration,” “jumping to lightspeed,” exponentiating exponentials in every chapter. How can this codger compete with that?
If I don’t read it, I’ll slip behind in the race across “the second half of the chessboard.”
You all know the story of the Chinese emperor and the inventor of chess? Thrilled with the new game, the emperor offered the inventor anything he wanted. “Just a grain of rice in the first square,” said the inventor, “doubled on every square across the chessboard.”
This eventually added up to more than the total of all the rice on the planet: some 18 million trillion grains. But the exponentials do not get astronomical until the second half of the chessboard.
The thesis of the book is that we are now well into the second half where Patrick Mahomes is in charge and things get wild and weird and faster than you think.
Two plausible outcomes to the chessboard story are: One is the emperor goes broke and the inventor takes over the empire. The other is the inventor is executed.
My lesson is “if you are an inventor, you have to keep an eye on the emperor.”
Think of Xi Jinping. Which outcome is more likely?
At least, in the case of Jack Ma, preening on the second half of the chessboard in China after the exponential growth of the Alibaba platform, the Emperor throws out the inventor. In that story, maybe apocryphal, Xi had Ma banished to some UN sinecure on “digital cooperation,” where he is at risk of eventually dying of boredom.
But I digress. Back to The Future is Faster than You Think.
Meta-Intelligence is in Our Future
It’s “converging,” revealing, on the cover no less, “How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives.”
“What have they done to my song, Ma?”
The peril? This shiny new book by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, previous authors of Abundant and BOLD, celebrators of the “Singularity,” tempts me to read it and review it.
And that’s despite the fact that I am nowhere near fast enough to get through it in time to file this prophecy.
No question it is fast. And it is accelerating exponentially. The authors are in full flight, fueled with “data.” Is it “the gasoline of the driverless world?” as they write, or the “morphine of the mindless book…”
Only kidding. The book is not mindless at all. They herald a “final migration” of mind, “a sojourn out of our normal brain-based singular consciousness and into a cloud-based collective consciousness.” It will be a “meta-intelligence” that emerges in our future.
After all, as I discovered, “our brain — which hasn’t really had a hardware update in 200,000 years — wasn’t designed” for the “scale or speed” of this book. But Elon Musk’s “Neuralink has a plan for a two-gigabit-per-second wireless connection from the brain to the cloud and wants to begin human trials by the end of 2021.”
With a Neuralink “lace implantation” maybe I’ll be able to meet my editor Nicole’s remorseless deadlines.
At that point, “the once slow and passive process of natural selection is being transformed into one rapid and proactive: evolution by human direction.”
Okay, I’m in the first chapter and we’re already boarding “flying cars” (Uber Elevate is on the case). Hyper looping tunnels propel us up and down the coasts, and 30-minute rockets take us to any point on the planet. That’s surely fast. “All of this,” the authors vow, “will happen over the next ten years.”
Not quite fast enough for Nicole. But with quantum computing, as the authors say, I’ll be able to speed it up.
Zooming through these pages, I conclude that Diamandis and Kotler do not solve all my problems. This is a book that takes every claim and press release and passes it on without filters, every trend and extends it without diminishing returns, every figment of Elon Musk’s and reifies it into a new self-driving space ship or “bioscaffold” to the singularity of machine-made minds.
For investors, the authors do cite lots of companies. They visit many famous laboratories. But they warn that the companies in the book may well not prevail.
And about climate change hype, our authors are as gullible as any other hive minds. As a research plan, reading press releases has its limits, and it cannot really be done by machine learning scanners. And their silly view that our energy needs will be fulfilled by “one cent wind” and one cent solar by 2030 makes you doubt many of their other ideas.
So I guess I still have to go out on the road after all. I still have to interview the actual engineers and entrepreneurs who might make it all happen if the emperors allow it. I still have to question assumptions. I still have to go to Shenzhen, Kiev, Tel Aviv, and London.
I still have to do things like interrogate “Satoshi” Craig Wright on his new vision of the blockchain. I still have to run it by Giuseppe Gori of Gorbyte and Mike Kendall, the Man on the Margin. I still have to question the meaning of “quantum supremacy.” Is it not just a new form of analog computing that moves the burden from processing to input-output? I still have regularly to visit Nick Tredennick in Los Altos and Carver Mead at Caltech.
I still have to keep an eye on the emperors and inventors, entrepreneurs and philosophers, physicists and historians.
Figuring out the future still is slower than the authors think. And still too slow for editor Nicole!
Editor, Gilder’s Daily Prophecy