Kevin Kelly on the future of progress and prosperity

Here’s a dose of optimism from KK – part of his excellent series of videos on The Future of X. It’s well worth checking out.

I believe there are going to be another two decades of increased productivity, increased prosperity, around the world on average. That doesn’t mean everywhere, it doesn’t mean every person, but taken as a whole, the next two decades at least, maybe 25 years, will probably be a long boom.

There are a number of different reasons [and trends]… that are driving this long-term prosperity.

1. The continuation of urbanisation and industrialisation [3.00]

By far the majority of the people on the planet will be living in urban areas. This urbanisation is a huge multiplier and enabler of many of the other trends that I’ll be talking about.

2. Universal connectivity [5.30]

… Not just to other people of course – what we’re connected to is this world library, all the information in the world, the YouTubes, the Wikipedias. And also all the machines in the world – all the AIs, all the individual machines. And the machines themselves are connected to all the other machines.

This ability to connect with any human being on the planet in real time… is aided by things like universal translation software, which would allow anyone in some remote area to communicate… What this does is this releases the great pent-up resource of billions of people, and we make one global economy where anybody anywhere can participate in this economy, meaning they can share their genius, they can share their talent, they can share their resources, they can share their drive, their creativity, and be part of the same global economy that you and I are part of. … We are harnessing the creativity and the work and the ambition of everybody alive.

[KK discusses the dangers of this too]

3. Ubiquitous AI [12.05]

… these are AIs, these are plural. There are many different kinds of AIs, many different types with many different types of thinking, they;ll be used for many different things. It’s not just a single AI, it’s many AIs. Each will have their own characteristics and properties, their own plusses and minuses.

The idea is that they will be generally available – like electricity has become a commodity everywhere in the world where you can buy as much electricity as you want, Artificial Intelligence to some degree will also become a commodity … that will be available – you can buy as much as you want – you don’t have to just make it yourself. And like power, it’s a new kind of power that can be used and applied in thousands if not millions of ways.

For the most part, a lot of this is going to be boring, very pragmatic.

Just like what we got from artificial power was the ability to amplify our muscles … it allowed anybody to hire muscle power to make a road, to make a building… Anybody anywhere will be able to purchase some of that [AI] power to be able to assist whatever their ambition is… and that power is going to be cheap.

4. Sustainable Energy [18.20]

We are going to continue to use more and more energy. Learning to decarbonise our energy system is very very powerful… It’s a commodity that enables progress for all peoples of the world.

5. Accelerated Innovation [23.05]

One of the things that universal connectivity gives us is a way in which to speed our learning… What’s happening is that learning how to innovate and make things new and better has spread from science, a small group of scientists that learned how to do this with the scientific method, and has spread from tech companies, that learned how to do this to make money, and now it’s starting to spread beyond that so that we have all companies and even governments understanding that the key to their progress, the key to their prosperity, was to become innovative.

Tools like AI, universal technology accelerate that innovation… and it becomes a norm for most businesses… for most institutions, for most governments…. it will come out of Silicon Valley and out of Shenzhen and go into other regions of the world.

6. Bioengineering [28.30]

The bioengineering future is a very wide field… right now there seem to be not very many benefits to having your genes sequenced, but in 25 years there will be absolutely unarguable benefits from having your genes sequenced, from getting personalised therapies to avoiding certain diseases entirely.

7. The Generational Hand-off [32:15]

The baby boom generation which I am part of will have died and retired and be redundant, and in 25 years there will be another generation at the helm of power. And that’s good news because, I take a civilisational view of generations and I think every generation has its own kind of personality, and sometimes it’s in reaction to the previous one.

And if history is any kind of a guide, the generation after a generation like the boomers will often by very civic minded, and a “builder” generation. And I think that’s what the world needs right now… is to have a generation who has a natural tendency to build civic infrastructure. I think we’re at that moment… I think that understanding that infrastructure, not just physical but also conceptual, needs to be built in an innovative way, and that becomes an investment for future generations.

Kevin Kelly – The Future of Progress

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