5 Reasons for Technological Optimism
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who ought to know, says that the future won't be anything like The Terminator. "I live in the real world, and in the real world that’s simply not the robots we’re making and even if we did, they would just be really good computers of things and they’d give me access to information."
Still, the proliferation of technology inspires awe in some, fear in others. Jaron Lanier, an early internet and virtual reality pioneer, musician, and something of a shaman for the computer age says it all comes down to the human element. Machines aren't supposed to replace human life, he says, they're supposed to improve it. As long as we can keep that in mind, we'll be in good shape.
As Big Think and Bing wind up our Humanizing Technology series, which culminated this past weekend in the extraordinary For Humankind event in New York City, we bring you an inspiring mosaic of five thinkers on our future relationship with technology. How it turns out, they all agree, is entirely up to us.
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The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.
- Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
- To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
- They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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