What to do with the 21st Century in the mind?
Last night I went to sleep thinking about the overall question facing the project: What to do with the mind in the 21st Century? And what came back was a different question: What to do with the 21st Century in the mind? Meaning, "what will the 21st Century be bringing that may be relevant to the mind?"
So here are a few trends that could be seen as potentially arriving over the next 80ish years that may impact the mind, and perhaps the way we think about developing Literacy of Mind to accommodate them:
1) Hyper-connectivity between humans – for the first time, perhaps in all of human history, humanity will have the ability to connect directly with every other human alive. It will start with the phone and chip and then evolve from there. In his Nexus Trilogy, Ramez Naam presents a vivid and credible, view of what this could look like. Kurzweil AI has a good overview of the mind linking technology described in the books - http://www.kurzweilai.net/book-review-nexus-continues-in-crux-by-ramez-naam
2) Universal access to mega-knowledge – Thanks to the internet and whatever it may evolve into, a bank of knowledge greater than any assembled will become accessible to all of humanity. This will be the first time that so much knowledge will be directly accessible to any one human, and will also be the first time that all of humanity will have access to such knowledge, as opposed to the chosen few. For a slight taste of what's already out there look at a few examples of what Wolfram Alpha is providing: http://www.wolframalpha.com/examples/?src=input
3) Universal access to cheap computational power and "AI" assistance – As internet access spreads and the price of computing power continues to decline, greater parts of the population will have access to computing power which even just a few decades ago was reserved only for the rich and powerful. (For example the graphing calculator used today in math classes in much of the West costs over $100, while online there is a free version here: https://www.desmos.com/calculator) Additionally, with the rise of AI assistants previous tasks that were required a human professional – drawing up a contract, business accounting, basic medicine, etc – will be available for cheap or even free. Perhaps even more sophisitacated endeavours like running simulations and generating mathematical formulas to describe certain phenomenon would also be available for free or cheap to anyone with a connection. Recently IBM started offering the possibility to run experiments for free on their newly developed Q-bit quantum computing cores. It's still in early stages but you can read more here: https://www.research.ibm.com/ibm-q/
4) Radical "health span" extension, potential radical lifespan extension, potential to "raise the dead" (cryonics), and even giving us enhanced abilities (transhumanism) – On the very possible end of this trend humans will live their full normal life spans, but have health and vigor all the way until the end of life (as opposed to "growing old"). On the more improbable end is radical life extension such that basically humans would choose if and when they would want to die. And taking this further, what happens if the promise of cryonics is fulfilled and scientists are able to revive all the heads and bodies that are now sitting in cold storage in a "mostly dead" state? An interesting perspective on cryonics and how they view death can be found on Tim Urban's blog: https://waitbutwhy.com/2016/03/cryonics.html. And finally, what about changing our biology or adding machines to enhance our abilities (h+)? Ted Chiang's novelette "Understand" has an imaginitive take on what happens when a human suddenly develops super intelligence. Here is a link to an audio version of the story (can't find a text version, if you find one please post the link below): https://archive.org/details/TedChiangUnderstand
5) Massive shift in employment and work – potentially huge portions of the population wouldn't have work as we know it. Either they would be completely unemployed or engaged in other activities to "keep their minds busy". The setting of the book Ready Player One has a interesting take on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ready_Player_One#Setting
6) Increase in power and speed of waves of change – as the world becomes more interconnected it means that both waves of innovation and waves of catastrophe can spread with greater ease and speed. This speaks to both natural and societal domains. A view of how this is already playing out in the financial world of the capital markets can be seen here from former IMF economist Min Zhu: https://www.ted.com/watch/ted-institute/ted-bcg/min-zhu-interconnectivity-the-new-structure-of-the-world-economy
7) Increase in the gap between super wealthy/powerful and the rest – As humanity and systems become more connected large swaths of power and capital will aggregate in fewer places. For a loose example, do you know what is the largest "country" on Earth today? Facebook. It has more users than the three biggest countries in the world combined (China, USA and Brazil): https://www.cbsnews.com/news/facebook-users-2-billion-biggest-countries/
8) Humans becoming a "space-faring" and interplanetary species – Earth is no longer the only home for human kind. Here is an overly rosy picture of how this could happen with Mars: https://www.ted.com/talks/stephen_petranek_your_kids_might_live_on_mars_here_s_how_they_ll_survive#t-27944
9) Contact with an alien intelligence – this could either be an intelligence that is truly alien, meaning coming from somewhere beyond Earth, or the emergence of an AI that has General Intelligence and perhaps even consciousness. The human intelligence is no longer alone and perhaps no longer the superior one.
10) Virtual reality that is indistinguishable from the real world – think Holodeck from Star Treck, or the Matrix (but with you controlling the machine and not vice versa :). Caprica, the prequel to Battlestar Galactica, had a very explicit image of what teenagers may do with this technology. (This clip is explicit in its depiction of violence, so think twice before clicking play.) http://www.criticalcommons.org/Members/ccManager/clips/capricavrsexhmdavatar.mp4/view)
11) True abundance – The state of affairs in the world transforms from scarcity to true abundance. In this scenario humans don't have to struggle to get their needs met. Everyone can and does have enough to live and no one has to "work". Peter Diamandis provided a particular techno-optimistic view in 2012 https://www.ted.com/talks/peter_diamandis_abundance_is_our_future/transcript)
Given these, and other potential trends from the possible futures, what may be the implications for the mind? How would the mind deal with them and what sort of Literacy may help grow the range of options for potential responses?