The Singularity is near. If you didn’t know it already we are approaching a point where machines will out pace us and take over entirely, making humans obsolete on all levels. Maybe the best we can hope for is merging with machines as some kind of cyborgs capable of being gods. That is if you read enough Scifi-ish prophets like Ray Kurzweil (author of the book, “The Singularity is Near”) and listen to the warnings of tech giants like Elon Musk. I think recreating “life” will be harder than we know but there are an exponentially increasing number and types of interactions between technology and humans. CRISPR is editing genes. We can regrow body parts for replacement. We can control machines with our minds. So why is a personal service industry person talking about this? Because we still need to “unplug” and we are not quite at full integration yet (Kurzweil think is will be 2045).
Technology has the potential to improve our lives (as I type on my laptop, sip my microwaved coffee, and check my iphone). Yet, it has also presented problems we have yet to figure out how to manage. The cyber world is addictive. In the 80’s, parents worried about kids spending 4 hrs a night watching TV. Now adults and children have trouble going for four hours without some sort of screen entertainment. We are now connected to every person on the internet but have no relationships. Elon Musk says we have a bandwidth problem. Perhaps we have to spend so much time on social media because through the medium of technology it is taking us huge amounts of time to do what we could accomplish in just minutes during a face-to-face interaction. Scientists still do not fully understand the amount or even the full spectrum of the means of information transmitted from one person to another in a simple in person conversation. We have found no substitute for being in the same room with real people.
If Kurzweil is correct and humans at some point fully merge with machines then we might be able to accomplish online what we can now only do in an in human integration. Until such a time as the Singularity, we need to be cognizant to the need to connect with others the old fashion way. To this end, families must take the time to be with one another. Whether you like to stay home and play board games or travel the world, we have nothing else yet that will satisfy the basic need for human interaction. Studies have shown conclusively that the serotonin boost you get from online interactions has us addicted. So don’t be surprised when you and your children feel with drawl symptoms. I notice in myself and my kids that it is a few days before we can settle into a non-screen existence. I have to admit I find myself cheating at night, but it is good for everyone.
Not Yet Cyborgs
Elon Musk pointed out that if a person has a smart phone then they are already a cyborg. Interesting but we are not quite there yet. As he also said there is a band width problem. Even though we have more information at our fingertips we also cannot understand it all or even the important parts without a large amount of time. So while you can do almost anything for yourself online now, do you have the time and energy to do so? The generations growing up with the internet as a reality, the Millennials, have shown that they value that time and are MORE likely to use personal service industries. The amount time time and head aches saved is worth it for them. I am in the travel industry and I still get my head spun by the number and variety of travel available. The ability to specialize has been at the foundation of civilization and we still need it. My hardest clients are ones that “want to go somewhere warm.” Sure they think that is a simple demand, but with out search criteria to narrow it down there are 1000’s of options. Even a strick budget is helpful to get going in some direction. The valuable human interaction is where we can make a connection and I can then spend my time and expertise on finding the best experiences for you. Maybe when the first real cyborgs can access and assimilate the information available all personal services will be obsolete.
The philosophical ramifications of the Singularity are yet to be addressed. Will robots have consciousness? If they do, then do they have rights protected by laws? Will they have morels? I have no idea about those. I do know that in the mean time we will need to take the time to focus on our remaining humanity. Using our time wisely to be vulnerable and make real connections.