Hope Springs Eternal

By Tom Dardick

Last month I wrote about potential impending doom and gloom. But despite volatility in the markets, the barbarism and violence of Islamofascism, hostile clashes with Russia and China, and domestic race and immigration tensions, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful.

Perhaps the area that holds the most hope for me is technological innovation. It is the hallmark of our time. Society is being transformed by technology. This will not only continue but accelerate. Ray Kurzweil, one of the most accomplished and respected futurists, predicts radical change, and soon. He believes that the way we live in the world will be so different than we do today that will we experience an inflection point. In his 2006 book The Singularity is Near, he predicts the timeframe to be around 2049. I’ll leave it to you as to whether you believe this and whether you think it is a good or bad thing.

Kurzweil’s approach is this: he plots the growth curve of a particular technology, analyzes its theoretical limits, and looks at the capabilities and implications at that ultimate point. You may be familiar with one of the most famous of these growth curves; it’s known as Moore’s Law. Originally applied to integrated circuits by Intel’s founder, the history of this analysis shows how mind-bogglingly complex the world truly is. It makes prediction near folly. But it’s still fun. 

The technologies that hold the most potential for transformation are: Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Nanotechnology, Superconductivity, Medicine, and Genetics. These technologies hold the following potentials:

  • End of world hunger
  • End of disease/suffering
  • End of pollution/waste disposal
  • End of the need for menial labor
  • Radical extension of life
  • Expansion of human intelligence
  • The preservation/recreation of all possible lifeforms
  • Non-biological consciousness
  • The obsoleting of major bodily systems such as cardio-pulmonary and gastro-intestinal
  • Unlimited localized energy sources
  • Seamless virtual reality
  • Mind cloning

Of course no path is without its potholes and bumps. There will be difficulties with these and in other areas we cannot predict. Human nature does not change along with technology. Our base desires will remain. This means that there will be those who use technology for their own ends, regardless of the cost to others. The downside is the stuff of science fiction plots. Powerful technologies can not only build possibilities, but cause nightmare destruction.

I confess that I don’t worry that much about that. Could we build SkyNet (The Terminator), Gray Goo (Engines of Creation), HAL 9000(2001: A Space Odyssey), or Omnius/Erasmus (Dune: The Butlerian Jihad)? Sure. It’s just not likely to have the devastating effects that we fear.

My faith tempers my worry about what mankind will do. I believe that man cannot trump God’s plan, that we are a part of it. We do what we’re supposed to do. The drama of today and tomorrow are largely our own creations. We choose whether or not we will waste energy worrying about it. In the end in God’s timing, it’s all good.