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Ten years hence

Ten Points About Humans and Technology Advancements

April 13, 2007

On April 13, 2007, Joel Garreau, author, reporter and editor at The Washington Post, presented "Radical Evolution," which contained the following excerpts:

  • For the first time in history, we are aiming technology inward, modifying our minds, personalities, memories, metabolisms—even our children. This means that we're becoming the first species to control our nature.
  • In 1965, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, stated that the number of transistors and resistors on a chip doubles every 18 months, which became known as Moore's Law. One implication of the doubling of technology is that change accelerates.
  • The future is not a straight-lined projection of the present. Change over time forms an "S" shaped pattern, so the last 20 years is a guide to the next eight years, at best.
  • There have been three kinds of evolution: biological, which spanned about 600 million years as life evolved from single cells to upright humans; cultural, a period of about 20,000 years as we progressed from cave-painting to the Information Age; and the present-day start of the radical evolution, where technology allows us to change the definition of "human."
  • The technologies driving the evolutionary changes fall into four categories, which are signified in the acronym, GRIN: genetics, robotics, information and nanotechnology.
  • Genetic technologies entail manipulating cells at the most basic levels, which can be used to change basic functions. Medications already exist to enhance memory, burn fat and turn off the sleep trigger.
  • Advancements in robotics meld humans and machines in ways that give humans all the powers of comic book heroes. For example, exoskeletons allow a person to lift 180 pounds as if it were four; predator military drones give telescopic vision to operators thousands of miles away.
  • There are three plausible scenarios for how these technological advances could impact the human species: heaven, hell and prevail. "Heaven" proponents see technology as conquering stupidity, pain, disease, suffering—even death. Humans essentially could become immortal.
  • In the "hell" scenario, the technologies fall into the wrong hands and are used to wipe out the human race or even all life on earth.
  • The "prevail" scenario is the only one that is not techno-deterministic, but recognizes that humans have a way of confounding expectations and finding new futures not imagined. It posits a second change curve—one for technology, one for human response—which means that humans have the amazing ability to collectively create solutions as challenges arrive.

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