If you watch the news for more than five minutes these days it isn’t hard to get the idea that the world as we know it could come to crashing halt
at any moment. Even beyond the doomsday fervor that surrounds the impending date of 12/21/2012, just everyday events seem to be leading to some sort
of breaking point. The impending sense of turmoil can sometimes be suffocating if you dwell on things for too long. I find myself sometimes caught up
in thinking about what kinds of catastrophic ends the current world situation might come too.
From just a straight forward factual standpoint we seem to find ourselves at a crossroads of human history. All of the institutions that have defined
the modern world for the last hundred years are coming into question. Our financial situation is as dire as it has been since what we call the great
depression. Religious turmoil appears to be at a peak as the world’s two main religions come into conflict all over the world on what seems like a
daily basis. In no less than a dozen sensitive political situations around the world it seems as if a full blown world war could break out at any
From a personal standpoint, I find myself in an almost constant state of uncertainty. At almost thirty years of age, it seems as if the world I have
been prepared to live in since grade school might not exist anymore. We all know how things were supposed to work. You went to college and you got a
good job. You found the right person to spend your life with, you bought a house, and you settled down and had a family. After you put in your
pre-requisite number of years, you retired and lived out your golden years on your pension, your savings, and a little help from Uncle Sam.
I think I was 23 when I first started realizing that the system that had worked for my forbears wasn’t going to work out for me. It was during the
Clinton administration and economists had just started to worry about social security being there when it was time for me to retire. I remember
wandering if I could opt out of the system if it wasn’t going to be around to help me out. Nowadays I find myself wondering if I am even going to
have a job in the near future, let alone social security in the distant future.
So to recap, we find ourselves at the end of many things. The current social system of the working young supporting the retired poor is coming to a
halt. The entire economic system of the world is coming unraveled for that matter. It may appear that we are headed for a global great depression and
that WWIII is likely to break out at any moment. I would argue it only, “appears” that way. O don’t get me wrong, the world is changing
rapidly. Despite what you might think about the Mayan calendar, what we are witnessing is not the end of the world, but the beginning of what I would
label true civilization.
There are two things happening that most people don’t realize. I myself only became aware of these trends very recently. These two trends are the
cause of all the turmoil we currently face. They are also the first steps in a profound change in the human experience. These aren’t new trends;
in fact they have been around since the invention of the printing press. Technology has been doing two things to us since the invention of invention.
The first trend that I believe is driving all of our current global turmoil is technological unemployment. One of the main examples that are used for
technological unemployment is the invention of the printing press. I think this is the first invention to cause any type of unemployment backlash.
All of a sudden with the invention of the printing press, one of the most respectable professions of that time became obsolete. Once there was a
machine that could reproduce texts quickly and accurately, scribes where no longer needed. The next great example of technological unemployment
causing an upheaval I think comes from the invention of modern agriculture. Almost overnight, the world’s primary occupation dwindled to obscurity.
Some would say the advent of modern agriculture caused the great depression. It most certainly caused the mass migration of the world’s population
from rural farms to the urban cities of today. Something else it is credited with is the industrial revolution. Technological unemployment led the
world from an agrarian economy to a manufacturing economy. The advent of automation quickly causes technological unemployment in the manufacturing
economy, which has lead us into a very short lived service economy and even now that is threatened by artificial intelligence and the internet.
The pace of technological unemployment as continued to speed up over time. I would even argue that it might be progressing at an exponential rate.
There are many arguments made by inventor Ray Kurzweil about the exponential progress of technological development. It only makes sense that
technology that develops exponentially would just as quickly make the work that humans are capable of obsolete. What we are witnessing today, would
be called the knee of the curve in exponential terms. Technology is causing unemployment so fast, that we don’t have the ability to develop new job
sectors to replace the jobs that are lost.
Did you know the invention of the mp3 player ended up putting over 70,000 people out work? Technologies employed by companies like Netflix and
Redbox have literally closed down every movie rental store in my neighborhood. Before we even had a chance to fully realize the impact of those
technologies, along comes the Kindle and the Ipad. Just yesterday the headline read that Barnes and Noble the largest book retailer in the world was
forced to put itself up for sale. The sale of e-books has already surpassed the sale of physical books. We will soon be counting tens of thousands
of bookstore employees among the victims of technological unemployment. Soon there won’t be any jobs left that machines, computers and the internet
can’t do better than people and this is why we see the turmoil we see today. Capitalism, which has served us so well throughout the 20th century,
just doesn’t work when there are no jobs. I’ll touch more deeply on this in my conclusion.
I would like to briefly touch on the second trend I see causing so much upheaval. This trend is also an offshoot of rapid technological progress and
it also has been exponentially affecting us since the advent of the printing press. The world is getting smaller. All of the differences that we
have be they religious, cultural, ethnic or even trivial are being brought under global scrutiny for the first time in human history. Distance can no
longer act as a peace keeper. The miles and years of cultural isolation that have separated our nations since the dawn of what we call civilization
can no longer act as a buffer.
What we see manifesting itself in all this geopolitical turmoil we face currently, is the inability for nations of the world to ignore each other. We
are made aware almost immediately of anything of importance that his happening anywhere in the world. We are reminded with perfect recollection of
whatever transgressions our neighbors may have made against us in the past. The internet and modern communications technology is forcing the
countries of the world to confront whatever differences they may have with their neighbors. It is also forcing the more backward nations to confront
themselves and their definition of normalcy in the face of the reality enjoyed by the rest of the world.
I’ve said all that to say this. The world isn’t ending. I have come to the conclusion that we aren’t really headed for a great depression like
dystopia, nor are we on the brink of an apocalyptic world war. What we are experiencing are the birth pangs of civilization. Maybe the first true
civilization actually experienced by human beings. It even makes sense scientifically if you look at the theories of physicist Michio Kaku. He
believes that we on the brink of the transition from a Type 0 civilization to a Type 1 civilization. However the systems and institutions that we
have employed thus far will not see us through that transition.
As I have stated above the rapid advancement we are experiencing in technology is leading us towards unprecedented technological unemployment. The
economic stress that we face today is the result of capitalism breaking down. It is no longer able to function as the pace of technological progress
begins to quicken. As we have discussed rapid technological advance leads to a period of unemployment. Capitalism is unable to function effectively
without work being done, it breaks down the consumption cycle.
This becomes even more evident when you think about the ways in which capitalism is an enemy of technological progress. Take the oil industry as the
primary example. If I invented a machine tomorrow that would provide all of the world’s energy at almost no cost and with zero emissions, I might be
afraid of what the oil industry would do to me. Any energy technology that could replace oil besides being devastating to the oil industry would be
significantly disruptive to the economy. All of those workers employed by the oil industry would overnight find themselves obsolete. They would no
longer be productive members of society and would need to be retrained into some new industry that hadn’t yet been replaced by technology.
Technological progress and capitalism have been locked in an epic struggle for decades now. Up until now however, capitalism has been able to slow
technological progress down enough to create new industries that could absorb those victims of technological unemployment. Up until now if a person
developed a disruptive technology or idea he could be isolated and the disruption could be discredited, squashed or at least delayed. I would argue
that we are in the knee of the curve and technological progress is moving far faster now than anyone can hope to keep up with.
I read about new disruptive technologies being developed almost daily. Whether it be energy, agriculture, transportation or communication; new
breakthrough technologies are coming at historic speeds. As technology progresses things become cheaper, abundant, more effective and more efficient.
These attributes are the exact opposite of the current paradigms of our civilization; which is built on profit, scarcity, bureaucracy, and
inefficiency. When I labeled this essay the birth pangs of civilization, what I mean is this; In order for us to transition into the birth of a Type 1
civilization the paradigms of our current civilization must for the most part pass away. We are currently experiencing simultaneously the death throes
of our type 0 institutions and the birth pangs of our new Type 1.
In a type 1 civilization we will first and foremost be faced with abundance. Advances in technology will make all the necessities of life abundant.
Clean water, food, energy, clothing and shelter will be able to be produced abundantly at almost no cost. Some would argue, myself included, that the
technology to produce all these things abundantly and cheaply already exist. Unfortunately, our capitalist dominated world is not suited to deal with
abundance. Our capitalist society thrives on the profit made by scarcity and for this it must pass away.
The other major theme for human society as we transition into a type 1 civilization is almost complete technological unemployment. We are quickly
approaching a period in time when the most complex human jobs will be performed by machines and performed at a level that humans aren’t currently
capable of matching. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, composers, actors and sports players are all on the verge of being replaced by machines. If you look
you will see the beginning in all of these fields of the rise of machine intelligence and robotics.
You can see the dilemma that we face as our current economic models collapse around the globe. The one thing that could stir an advance in GDP,
“technological advance”, is the same thing that is collapsing the economy. The world needs to wake up and realize that the way we have been doing
things just isn’t going to cut it anymore. No amount of money is going to fix the system. And really we need to ask ourselves why we would want to
fix the system. If you think about it, currently the majority of the industrialized world spends almost the entirety of their waking lives working a
meaningless service job. There are some exceptions to this scenario, but for most of us, we spend 40-60 hours a week in food service, customer
service, retail service or some other nonsensical field that is completely irrelevant to the survival of humanity. The rest of the world that
doesn’t have the luxury of the sacrificing their lives to systemic capitalistic slavery, live in abject poverty, because they can afford to buy into
In the near future the world is not going to spiral into apocalypse, although it may feel that way for a while. What is going to happen, whether we
want it to or not is the passing away of all of our current institutions. While we currently cling to capitalism in order for us to fully make use of
our technological advances, we will need to give it up. We will soon be forced to let go of our outdated ideas of wealth as a status symbol, profit
and labor. We will also be forced to relinquish our antiquated attachment to nationality, ethnicity and religious dogma. The world we are quickly
approaching will not suffer us to kill each other over irrelevant borders, perceived ethnic differences, or resources that no longer generate a
profit. We will witness the birth of a true civilization and though it will be a painful process, humanity will be so much better for it.
edit on 6-8-2011 by wisintel because: Edit for spelling