I’ve noticed a tangible change in mood over the last few years which concerns me.  Our whole outlook on life has become incredibly negative, fearful and chaotic.  There are a number of reasons for this such as Brexit, Politics, Geo-political tensions, Climate Change etc, but I’m worried that Technology isn’t helping.  And we need to change that.

In real terms, technology probably hasn’t helped itself in terms of creating a positive and optimistic society.  The mobile phone has made us all slaves to the screen; social media has made us all disappointed with our lives compared to others; connectivity improvements and media broadcast technologies have made us acutely aware of all of the problems on the planet.  It is for good reason that people are sensing that the world is on the precipice of oblivion, both caused by – and live streamed by – technology.  We have created a society based on fear and chaos.

This is all perfectly manifested for me around the media hype regarding ChatGPT.  Some really clever people have created a technology that can converse in multiple languages across multiple disciplines, processing and summarising the entire internet in seconds, to help navigate highly complex data sets.  This should really be celebrated, we are on the cusp of some truly amazing changes in our world that could level inequalities in society and create opportunity for loads more people. 

But the media focus has been on job losses and threats to humanity.  I understand after decades of science fiction films, people are attuned to “the Robots are coming”, just look at i-Robot or M3GAN!  But in order to influence the outcome positively, we need to focus on the incredible potential positives and not the potential downsides.  Self-fulfilling prophecies are quite real.

The reality of the situation is technology is still, and will probably always be, a slave to humanity.  It’s sole purpose is to make humanity more efficient, more productive and ultimately healthier and happier.  There are some corporations who use technology to focus exclusively on profitability or wealth for specific individuals, but as a society we can call out and address those bad actors.  Fundamentally, if we are all focused on technology enabling an improved shared society we can do some great things.

Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Robotics could, and should, replace all mundane, repetitive tasks that humans currently perform.  This is not a bad thing.  For a happy and healthy life, people should not be spending their time doing work that could be done by a robot – its boring and unfulfilling for them, and probably expensive for their employers.  One of the key things humanity has going for it, is its ability to “create”, to use imagination to do something new or different.  Providing this creative guile is used for positive outcomes, then reducing the mundane tasks should increase our capacity to do more creating – or just enjoy ourselves!

In the book “Future Automated Luxury Communism” , Aaron Bastani discusses a potential utopian future where AI and Robotics automates all daily life leaving the whole of society free to do whatever it enjoys.  The “communism” references explores the potential that commoditising everything down to an automated process will remove the capacity of individuals to profit from others, therefore creating a fairer and happier society.

In reality this is impractical, but its an interesting pathway that maybe should be respected.  And even if its not ever practically realisable, why can we not use our imagination to focus on that as a future – one where technology is harnessed to deliver societal improvement for everyone and solve the problems we currently face around poverty, inequality, health, climate?

Similarly, the Venus Project by Jacque Fresco, imagines a world where science and technology creates a civilisation of abundance, leveraging tech and design skills to overcome barriers to quality of life currently existent relating to our economic models.  All positive and exciting stuff.

And how much quicker could we solve these problems if we didn’t have to worry about the mundane, repeatable tasks we’re currently doing.  We could give people genuine purpose and focus, planet saving stuff, if they weren’t so distracted with their “day-jobs”.  Get a robot to write this blog so I can go off and invent a cure for climate change.

The trick with managing all of this technology-based negativity has to be:

  • Ensure we understand what it can do, and can’t do, and focus on the “can”
  • Ensure we control what it can do to focus on positives for society, using ethical development to establish what good looks like and continuing with that as a direction of travel. Ignore the capitalist drivers for individual wealth creation, find and support tech that delivers true societal improvement (and fund that).
  • Use this positive potential outcome as inspiration for people to embrace and engage with technology, not be scared by it.
  • Ensure that people feel they can influence it and shape its application, not have it “done to them”. Bring people on the journey
  • Have confidence that the future is brighter if we use technology to support and improve society.

I’m an optimist.  Technology has improved all of our lives to such an extent that if we can use our imagination and positive outlooks properly, we can use it to do literally anything in the future.  This short term might need to be overcoming climate change or health concerns, but longer term it could be used to create a happier, healthier, more free society.  And the sooner we realise that, the quicker we will embrace it and realise it.

Technology for Hope, not Fear.  It HAS TO BE the case.

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