In just two generations, we managed to get from “I don’t know, maybe he / she will survive to all those child illnesses” to “we will save everybody on Earth, from everything, and we actually have the tech to do it”. Just 50 years ago, we were still unsure if we can recover from a powerful flu, TBC, measles and polio were still running around, and, generally speaking, our life expectancy was way lower than it is today. We live incredible times.
My hunch is that this progress is due largely to technology. Of course, it’s also about public health, and policies supporting that area play their role, fewer wars have also a significant impact, and so on. But even if these factors are there, I think the most important one is technology. By that I don’t mean only computers, but also genetics, transportations (flying around the globe, high-speed trains), construction and infrastructure. All these combined are now at a level never seen in human history.
And this level seems so high to me, that a pullback is due. It’s like in trading charts – when an asset is evolving very fast (up or down, doesn’t matter) a correction will sooner or later stop the trend. What goes up, must come down.
In this case, I believe technology is pulling humans faster than they can cope.
We can reach instantaneously to a person on the other side of the globe, but we’re still unable to coordinate, as communities, on projects larger than a few months. This pandemic (or the way the pandemic was handled, to be more precise) showed that very clear. Confusion, stupidity, contradicting measures, under or over enforcing of already ineffective scenarios, domino effects in health by blocking the public system for spikes, greed and opportunism surfacing every minute, manipulation, and so on.
We do have the tech to face such a pandemic, it’s still not Ebola, and we moved, technologically speaking (symptomatic treatments and vaccines) faster than with the Spanish Influenza. But we don’t have the social skills to understand and coordinate in an effective way.
We either lean too much on the paternalist side, asking to be protected (by the same governments we keep belittling for being constantly idiotic), or we succumb to nonsensical conspiracy theories, like The Flat Earth Society (which, as their presentation says, has member all around the globe – sic!). We invented rockets that can carry helicopters on Mars, but we’re not able to contain a virus. Tech is working, the rocket is functioning, and so is the helicopter, but the communities, the collective humanity, well, that it doesn’t.
And as it’s always the case in history, the weaker part of the fabric will give up. The rupture already shows, there are polarization signs that are clearly indicating some trends. Some humans will adjust their social skills, fostering more understanding, more compassion, more communication, while others will give in to brain washing, anger and manipulation. Some humans may start challenging “official” messaging, which is (and always was) only aiming at maintaining a status quo, while others will regroup in totalitarian factions, trying to impose a skewed version of reality, eradicating human rights in the name of a “global do good” campaign. All totalitarian states are claiming they work for their citizen. And, indeed, they work for a very little part of that, the part that maintains the regime. The rest is either powerless, or, in case they want to fight back, silenced. And there’s also the most significant part, the one that still believes the propaganda. Maneuver mass. No totalitarian regime was ever created without “true believers”.
What I can’t understand yet is how tech will behave in this scenario. Will the totalitarian half of the world will keep pushing in this direction, by fostering innovation? Will the coordinated half manage to keep up with what wonders they will create? How much independence the tech will acquire? Or, in other words, how long until AI will take the lead in front of both factions, leading the entire world by algorithms, in a direction we can’t imagine, let alone control?
For some of us, AI already took the lead, they just don’t realize how much their lifestyle is affected by it, how much their thought processes and reactions are in fact the result of carefully crafted algorithms, trained with trillions of parameters.