The world is populated by 7.75 billion people. The United States alone has upwards of 330 million according to the US Census Bureau. It’s starting to feel a little bit crowded, and heaven knows we could use a few more planets to stretch our legs and really get a chance to unwind. Wouldn’t that be nice? Just you, your own terraformed acre of Mars, all hipstered out with air plants hanging on industrial walls. I can picture it now. I can almost smell the oatmilk steaming.
Is there really any other choice? None that isn’t a war crime has been on the agenda.
While life seems to be on a one-way track to cybernetics and interstellar existence, there’s no certainty that we will reach this lofty goal. Still, you have to wonder how close we are getting. Some of those robotic prototypes being developed by Boston Dynamics have looked scary for at least six years by now, but last summer during the chaos of the pandemic they teamed up with Ford to develop Fluffy the Robot Dog.
This dog has four legs and prances around the factory, but instead of a head it has a configuration of cameras and scanners. Ford has been using Fluffy to create three dimensional maps of their manufacturing spaces and providing writers with science fiction scenarios that are now all too believable. If Ford is using robot dogs to save money and enhance efficiency, we can be sure that more robots are on their way.
Should we be scared of these robot dogs? Of course. The potential nightmare scenarios are baked into the technology, but are those real concerns or just fantasies of nervous techies? If the ways we have adapted to technology are useful predictors of how it will go in the future, then you can be sure that robot dogs will be used for the full range of their potential for benevolent and malicious purposes. That’s what humans do with technology. They find every possible use and then a bunch more.
What’s the upside? No more trying to breed poodles with other dogs for people with allergies. Instead of shedding hair, dogs will soon be vacuuming. Is the era of the Jetson’s finally here?
I will believe in technology more once we solve some of the major social problems here, like homelessness. Take that as an example. Homelessness has been on the rise and has reached tragic levels here and all around the country. There are people who are outside of society with little hope of making their way back to a normal lifestyle. What if Elon Musk implants some of his neuralink devices in homeless people and they transform into superstar celebrities of different fields in a couple of months? What then? You know what happens.
We are all getting that thing implanted in our heads.
What about virtual reality? How is that going to come into play? In a world with robots and artificial intelligence, we are also advancing our abilities to create worlds that are believable but that don’t exist. Alex Honnald recently discussed on Joe Rogan’s podcast that he is developing a virtual reality climb so people can experience what it looks like to see him climbing from the perspective of someone perched on the cliff.
With robots, neuralink implants and virtual reality on the horizon how will that divide people in the near future? Will we become two different species?
Elon Musk has envisioned a future where speaking is no longer necessary. What will that do to human psychology? With neural implants, what happens to the unconscious? If the unconscious is truly structured like a language as Lacan suggests, then what happens when language becomes less relevant? What are the potential psycho-sexual side effects of this plan?
While there are definitely some questions that have terrifying potential, things could also go well. The bright side of this transformation could be the chance to connect with likeminded people around the globe. Think about it this way. With 7.75 billion people in this world, there have to be an impossibly large number of people with whom you might have incredible professional and personal relationships, but as things are now you will never know of their existence. If technology renders language irrelevant andreveals the truth of who we are, maybe we will actually get to meet the people we would get along with best.
That utopian vision seems a long ways off, but with how things are advancing you always have to keep in mind the potential of exponential growth and acceleration. We are on the verge of something big.