Monday, September 03, 2007

Maslow's Future...

Consider what you would do when all of your needs are met...

You do not hunger, you do not thirst, you are not tired and you require no adjustment to your health.

Your environment is safe, you fear no evil and you consider no dangers.

You feel listened to, your thoughts are validated and your affections are reciprocated.

You are good at your job, your peers recognize your expertise, and your employer fairly compensates you.

You understand your environment, your place in the world and have a sense of what is meaningful.

What do you do then?

I believe that this is the real goal of the Singularity Institute. Rather than deciding what we should do with AI (Artificial Intelligence), we are exploring what we should do with ourselves once we have AI.

My turn to explore...

Consider what a child does when left alone with little or no guidance. They tend to express themselves in creative ways. The more sophisticated the environment that contains the child, the more sophisticated the expression. Each new generation represents a departure from the last, but the amount of time they have remains constant, thus the quantity of expression remains more or less constant. The sophistication of the expression is the differentiating factor. I would postulate that this variable sophistication is a combination of generations building on where the previous left off and the general availability of different tools.

Fast forward... True AI exists and machines do all repetitive work. Food and drink cost nothing because they are delivered from ground to mouth by machines. A calculus of the body has been developed thus eliminating all forms of ailment. Shelter, again built and maintained by machines, has no imperfections and can be built, repaired, remodeled and rebuilt with no effort. The only value to be arbitrated will be the location of the property, not what is built on it. And finally, at the risk of stating the obvious, the machines that do the work are maintained by other machines.

What will it be like? On the downside, we'll probably see new forms of the problems of oversupply that we see today. Where today we see a growing percentage of people in first world countries becoming overweight, we'll see widespread laziness and entitlement. A corollary to that is how society will react to those problems. Where people today discriminate against those who appear overweight, they'll discriminate against those who seem to be lazy and entitled. In other words, oddly enough, peer pressure and discrimination based on controllable traits (think Paris Hilton), may be what saves the human race from sociopathy.

For those who do wish to contribute to society in this new world, there will be no need for manual labor skills. I believe, and we can already see this happening today, that those who wish to contribute will do so in a knowledge based world. Exploration will be a central goal of this new world. Where today you see only the best and brighest taking positions of research and exploration, in the future, society will be able to handle people at all levels who wish to self-actualize in this manner.

To summarize, humans are a curious species whose greatest delight is in homesteading. In America, homesteading once meant staking a claim on a piece of property in the "wild west". Later it meant staking a claim in the "American Dream". In the Internet age, we Homestead the Noosphere. In the future, when Maslow is quietly sleeping in the corner with nothing more to do, we'll finally be able to "Homestead Ourselves".

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