Saturday, September 5, 2015

Social and emotional transcendence enabled by technology

I got a question from a reader on my blog-post "From hybrid thinking to the upbringing of our children". This question could not be answered in a short sentence, so I decided to write a blog-post about it.

The digital world, even for the youngest ones among us, is a totally integrated phenomenon. Toddlers are playing on the tablet of their mother or father, and I look with wonder. To be able rely on our Cloud, we’re able to enhance our wisdom every single day. Gorgeous! But I wonder… Where is the individuality of us being a person? And would it not distract us (too much) in being who we are? Is it possible that it would give proper space to develop more on social and emotional aspects because energy and efforts does not need to aimed at "learning" and "remembering" facts?

You rightfully state that digital world as we know it is an integrated part of our daily lives for people of young and old. The Cloud (used to be just The Internet :) extends our memories and information sources by a million fold than we were used to roughly 20 years ago (probably even less).

You ask about where all this technology leaves us as an individual and how we will develop on a social and emotional level.

To answer that question we need to jump back in the history of our existence. One of our greatest inventions was not fire nor the wheel. It was language, both in speech and in writing. It gave mankind the possibility to move information on to the next generation and this technology is refined every since (think about the printing press, telephone, Internet, mobile). We often say that the strongest will survive, or the ones that can adapt the fastest will survive. Although this may be truth by itself, it is not the cause, it is the effect. The cause of us humans being the strongest and perhaps the fastest to adapt is the sheer fact that we are able to process information like no other species on Earth and use that capability to our survival and advantage.

I always say we as a species have two major addictions, one leading to the other. The first is our endless hunger for information. We want more, we need more and we generate more every second. In order to sustain such an addiction we need energy. And lots of it. Everything in the universe evolves around information and energy. From the information and energy in the cells of our body to energies that flow through our galaxy. Our DNA is information, our cells are, and our brain as a culmination of cells is an information processor like no other we have seen. Yet...

I say yet, because we will transcend biology with technology in the near future. At the time of this writing we are capable to simulate one second of brain activity of 1 human in 40 minutes using the current super computer. In 2 years from now this will be 20 minutes. In 4 years from now it will be 10. In 6 years from now it will be 5. You get the point, because in 30 years from now it will take only 0,000572205 seconds to simulate 1 second of brain activity. That are 1747 human brains by just one super computer. And it is likely that such a super computer is just as big as your blood-cell.

At that point we humans have the technological means to be ever more connected than we are now. Think about 'calling' with each-other just by thinking it, visiting other countries through the senses of other humans, and really sharing emotions like we experience them ourselves. We will become hybrids. Biological humans enhanced with integrated technology to become more connected, healthier, and most important of all, smarter.

And now back to your question about how this will affect our social and emotional development. I think it will impact tremendously and in such a way we now cannot even begin to comprehend that from where we are now. We don't have the technology now to predict what our future will look like with that kind of power. But I can do some assumptions though.

I think the collective will become more 'important' than the individual. Don't get me wrong, we are not becoming one mind nor careless about human life. We become (estimated) 9 billion minds that are interconnected in one giant Cloud. Yes, we can disconnect ourselves, but I think we would feel very lonely when we do that. Because when we will be become capable of truly sharing our inner-selves, our love for one another will grow. When we really understand another person to his or hers core of their being, how can we not love them? How is that not the ultimate level of emotional connectedness?

Socially we will become much more focused on each-other and our environment, rather than ourselves (without neglecting ourselves though). The way societies work will change accordingly. Everything will become much more automated and robotized. Because people don't have to worry about survival anymore we can focus more on the people around us, arts, dance, spirituality, religion, nature, (space) travel, growth, and much more.

This process to the future technology will have its struggles though. We need to teach children how to interact with and use technology. The days parents can excuse themselves for not understanding it and thus not educating their children in it are over. There is the real danger that people will get lost in technology and find themselves alone and disconnected from people. These are serious topics we as a society need to address.

But yes, future technology can (or will in my opinion) give us energy and time to become more human, to really be connected with each-other and with ourselves. The days of people staring on their phones will come to past. TV's will be gone from our living rooms and technology will be far less visible, but ever more present. We will finally be able to truly love our planet for which it is, our home.

I like to watch dystopian movies in which the Earth falls apart and everyone feels terrible and such. But I really think that an utopian future is waiting for us. I believe that we will transcend the flaws of us humans now and become more than we are now. We will not reach that point without struggle, loss and perhaps without war though. Change never goes without fight, pain, sorrow and grieve. My worries do not lie in the future after that change, but in the future during the change. And I believe that the first steps of the beginning of that future will be in 20 to 40 years from now.

The main question is, when such a future announces itself, will you change with it? And more importantly, how do we prepare children for such a change? But that topic is for another blog-post.

Thanks for your question and I hope I answered it to your liking.



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