( A ten minute read if you are over fifty, a lifetime read for those under.)
I could go down the road of Predictions like: In Germany, Angela Merkel looks likely to win re-election or there will be a Climate-Change-Driven Refugee Crisis, or there will be a Cyber war the West v Russia or England will come to its sense and vote again, or that the United Nations and the European Union will reform.
But we are standing on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.
Now it’s true that we do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.
However it is already changing not only what we do but also who we are.
It will affect our identity and all the issues associated with it: our sense of privacy, our notions of ownership, our consumption patterns, the time we devote to work and leisure, and how we develop our careers, cultivate our skills, meet people, and nurture relationships.
As the physical, digital, and biological worlds continue to converge, new technologies and platforms will increasingly enable citizens to engage with governments, voice their opinions, coordinate their efforts, and even circumvent the supervision of public authorities.
Governments will increasingly face pressure to change their current approach to public engagement and policy making, as their central role of conducting policy diminishes owing to new sources of competition and the redistribution and decentralization of power that new technologies make possible.
Given the rapid pace of change and broad impacts, legislators and regulators are being challenged to an unprecedented degree and for the most part are proving unable to cope.
It is already having a profound impact the nature of national and international security, affecting both the probability and the nature of conflict. The distinction between war and peace, combatant and non-combatant, and even violence and nonviolence (think cyber warfare) is becoming uncomfortably blurry.
It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. The breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.
The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.
More than 30 percent of the global population now uses social media platforms to connect, learn, and share information. In an ideal world, these interactions would provide an opportunity for cross-cultural understanding and cohesion. However, they can also create and propagate unrealistic expectations as to what constitutes success for an individual or a group, as well as offer opportunities for extreme ideas and ideologies to spread.
Digital fabrication technologies, meanwhile, are interacting with the biological world on a daily basis. Engineers, designers, and architects are combining computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering, and synthetic biology to pioneer a symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, the products we consume, and even the buildings we inhabit.
AI in recent years, driven by exponential increases in computing power and by the availability of vast amounts of data, from software used to discover new drugs to algorithms used to predict our cultural interests.
Our lives are accelerating even faster, but the largest beneficiaries of innovation tend to be the providers of intellectual and physical capital—the innovators, shareholders, and investors—which explains the rising gap in wealth between those dependent on capital versus labor. Yield greater inequality.
The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent.
Next year promises to be one of the most exciting and tragic in the history of the world with tech more overpowering, and the global climate more complex.
Populism will remain on the ballot, with great powers brace for change, challenges loom for news organizations, and the debate on automation and job creation will continue.
We are in the midst of serious challenges that threaten the whole world, and which require collective responsibility: extreme poverty, climate change, and the refugee crisis.
Even after an opposition defeat in east Aleppo, President Bashar al-Assad may struggle to reassert control over a fragmented Syria.
The conflict in Ukraine’s east will remain unresolved.
The West will become even more flummoxed by Putin.
Nationalism, political uncertainty, and stunted trade will create new headaches in 2017.
The election of Donald Trump to the presidency represents a seismic shift in American politics, an event with implications nearly impossible to predict. A Trump White House may defy predictability.
Russia has been most blatant in supporting France’s far-right National Front, which received an 11 million euro loan in 2014 from a Moscow-based bank and wants another 27 million euros to fight next year’s elections.
In an increasingly connected world, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50.
Deeply entrenched mindsets and beliefs sustain the culture of violence and impunity – the need to radically shift the consciousness of people is what the world has been missing.
We must release the tentacles of our false securities and interrupt the world as we know it. We must assume that anywhere we live or anything we are doing can change or disintegrate.
Widespread government access to encrypted communications has the potential to demolish internet privacy and devastate security.
It’s not all doom. There will be new food retailers with brands to speak to and advertise to consumers. There will be edible cannabis for medicinal use. Drones Will Deliver Pizza (but Not Toilet Paper)
There will be a shift in focus from broad-based attacks to more targeted attacks against specific firms or individuals. New rules for U.S. internet service providers will unleash a flurry of lawsuits.
There will be a new kind of consciousness – one where violence will be resisted until it is unthinkable.
I wonder whether the inexorable integration of technology in our lives could diminish some of our quintessential human capacities, such as compassion and cooperation. Our relationship with our smartphones is a case in point.
Constant connection may deprive us of one of life’s most important assets: the time to pause, reflect, and engage in meaningful conversation.
We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them.
Debates about fundamental issues such as the impact on our inner lives of the loss of control over our data will only intensify in the years ahead.
Barack Obama Will Get a $20 Million Book Deal. The transparency in the UN will be vetoed. The UK will have to vote again between being a British citizen, serving our local community and people, and being a Global Citizen, taking responsibility for their world as a whole?
Technology it’s here to stay.
The global dance of connection is both a disruption, a curse, with all beat, no heart.
Internet, artificial intelligence, robotics… all lead to one fundamental trend almost absent from the political debate despite its potential social impact.
These transformations (the premises of which we already feel) will produce their full effect after one or two decades, so there is still time to rationally analyze their consequences, without showing complete panic in regard to their extreme evolutionary perspectives.
Since there is still time to calmly consider the problems of AI, which is perhaps one of the most serious that humanity has ever faced.
I recommend the rapid creation of think-tanks focused on this technological revolution, groups composed of citizens, politicians, scientists, psychologists and … why not even science fiction writers, who will consider uninhibited possible future ways to keep human beings at the heart of our future.
From human enhancement to human … obsolescence?
This is no time for Amen. The only way forward is with a technologist’s mindset.
Happy new year.