Despite the dire state of the world today here is some good false news.
Let’s start with an issue that has not received enough attention in the media and popular understanding.
The Earth is finite and this fact will have real-world physical, economic, social, and political implications.
Thus, we are using an economic theory that is simply incapable and inapplicable for informing an unprecedented transformation of the economy by technology.
We need a discussion as to what political leaders, business leaders, and citizens think is an appropriate distribution of wealth across the entire population of the world. This focuses on the real question (how many people have what, independent of the size of the economy, though the two are linked) instead of discussing how to shape policies and taxes to achieve an unspecified growth target independent of wealth distribution.
Trump, Brexit, and Le Pen are representations that people understand growth only for the elite in the West are no longer tenable. Neoclassical economics ignores this obvious fact, yet it is used to guide most policy (eg, economic projections and scenarios), including that for climate change mitigation.
Perhaps a summary is that the human enterprise has outgrown the long-ability of the planet’s renewable resources to support us at our current numbers and our current rates of consumption and waste generation.
Climate change is just one piece of evidence of this fact.
By 2050, over 7 billion people will live in cities (80% of the world), and cities will be responsible for 75% of global carbon emissions. The battle for sustainable development will be won or lost in cities.
Urban planning needs to incorporate total populations, not simply the rich and middle classes; this is the only way that the economic potential of the majority can be harnessed for the national good.
The reality is that any activity that is not sustainable HAS TO STOP.
So far, non-renewable resources are what is primarily driving our economic engine. But by definition, non-renewables are being depleted and for the most part, will stop being economically available in this century. So we must plan rapidly for the day when humanity can live using just renewable resources while maintaining the biodiversity that makes the planet habitable.
In truth, sustainability is the ultimate environmental issue, the ultimate health issue, and the ultimate human rights issue.
The days when scientists could not care about the impact of their work on cultural, values and society are over. If they ever existed, which they didn’t, but that’s water over the dam.
Data-driven technologies are increasingly being integrated into many different parts of society, from judicial decision-making processes to automated vehicles to the dissemination of news.
Each of these implementations raises serious questions about what values are being implemented and to whom these implementations are accountable.
There is an increasing desire by regulators, civil society, and social theorists to see these technologies be “fair” and “ethical,” but these concepts are fuzzy at best.
As we are developing more and more ways to let computers take over reasoning through adaptive learning, we are faced with an existential question: What is it – long term – that makes us human?
AI, although very useful, will never approach human intelligence until it is embodied.
My #1 issue is not the future of democracy. The future is a complicated subject. Now more than ever, it’s fast-moving, complicated, increasingly immediate. We can’t keep thinking about the future as a far-off intangible. Today, things move so quickly, that the future already is happening, and already affecting us. And in many ways, we’re struggling to adapt quickly enough.
That’s only the beginning of the genetics, robotics, information and nano revolutions – which are advancing on a curve.
Meanwhile, we humans are trying to process this exponential change with our good old v. 1.0 brains. With precious little help at all from those creating this upheaval.
Algorithms by their very nature reason probabilistically and as uncertainty increases in the world, uncertainty increases in an algorithm’s ability to successfully and safely come to a solution.
Presently we have no commonly-accepted approaches and without an industry standard for testing such stochastic systems, it is difficult for these technologies to be widely implemented.
As technological developments increasingly drive social change, how can democratic societies empower ordinary people to have a say in the decisions that shape the technological trajectories that will, in turn, determine what the future looks like?
How can the public have meaningful input into the character of the algorithms that will increasingly determine both the nature of their relationships with other people on social media and their access to various important social goods?
How can we prevent an underwater arms race involving autonomous submersibles over the coming decades?
How can we ensure that questions about meaning and values, and not just calculations of risks and benefits, are addressed in decisions about human genome editing?
If there are people who are willing to blatantly refuse to believe that something is a lie, no matter how hard you try, they won’t listen. I’m not sure what amount of evidence is needed in this new paradigm of journalism to get newsreaders out of their new bubbles.
Human psychology is the main obstacle, unwillingness to bend one’s mind around facts that don’t agree with one’s own viewpoint.
The fundamental challenge we now face is how to handle a setting where anybody can get their views disseminated without intermediaries to prevent the distribution.
Somehow there still has to be some process of collectively coming to some agreement of what we are going to believe and what we think are consensual facts.
Instead, we have the golden age of the algorithm surveillance, automation, virtual reality, gene editing, the widening gap between wealthy and impoverished people, the worldwide questions of immigration, social media inserting a new level of governance in society, rapid urban growth isolating us from nature, smartphones isolating us from each other.
The challenge now is to make sure everyone benefits from this technology. It’s important that machine learning is researched openly, and spread via open publications and open source code, so we can all share in the rewards.
Our major challenge is related to our new capability of digitizing human beings.
The scale of popular social networks has democratized publishing, which effectively lets anyone – regardless of their intentions or qualifications – produce content that can appear journalistic.
Rather than waiting for politicians to make decisions and then we all argue over whether what they say reflects reality, we could have tools that engage people much earlier in the process so they can be involved in formulating ideas and drafting legislation.
As we begin in 2019 we have only 48.8% worried by Climate change/destruction of nature, 29.2% of us worried by Poverty, 22.7% worried by Government accountability and transparency/corruption, with only 18.2% worried by Food and water security.
Water is a social issue, a political issue, an energy issue, even a gender issue
– and how clean water scarcity triggers a host of problems, from disease
outbreaks to government feuds.
So the challenge before us is to begin to construct a truth signalling layer into the fabric of facts, particularly online. Even if we have structures that impose constraints on people in power and we put pressure on powerful people to be honest with us, in a sense, all of that is being circumvented by social media.
We need to turn social media upside down by changing the algorithms in Facebook or on Google to nudge people into sharing or consuming news that is slightly outside their normal comfort zone. We have to have a setting where we trust other people.
Fix it. Get out of your silo. If you can’t figure out the societal and cultural
implications of what you’re doing, start seeking out people who might.
A major issue most people face, without knowing it, is the bubble they live in.
Our world is far too beautiful to allow Social Media and profit-seeking algorithms to rip it apart. Happy New year.
All human comments appreciated/ All abuse and like clicks and false news chucked in the bin.