Asymmetric Opportunities and Risks

By september 25, 2015 Algemeen

The developments and innovations produced by passion, and aided by technology, have stretched the imagination. From the realization of many concepts formerly considered science fiction, to the creation of new forms of art, we already stand in awe of what passion and innovation can achieve.

Information and communication technologies — of all kinds — double their power measured in terms of price performance, capacity and bandwidth almost every year. As a result, we are witnessing accelerating trends of exponential growth in the Bio-Info-Nano-Cognitive (BINC) revolution unfolding all around us.

Just as soon as we have grasped the relevance of some new BINC innovation, we are challenged by yet more extraordinary discoveries and inventions that completely overwhelm our expectations and understanding. The paradigm shifts, taken together, present asymmetric opportunities for unparalleled growth as well as rising asymmetric risks for humankind’s globalized structure, its sustainability and longevity. This phenomenon of constant acceleration in new technologies is referred to as the Bio-Info-Nano- Cognitive singularity. A singularity is a point at which an otherwise continuous mathematical progression becomes infinite, implying that all continuous extrapolation breaks down beyond that point.

The rise of this singularity suggests that technological progress is reaching such an extremely high, near infinite, value at a point in the near future that it will be impossible to predict what happens next based on extrapolations of past experience. In fact, that experience may be an obstacle to grasping the paradigm shift, which is forcing a multi-generational change.

The human capacity for information processing is limited, yet there is an accelerating change in the development and deployment of new technology. This relentless wave upon wave of new information and technology causes an overload on the human mind by eventually flooding it. The resulting acopia — inability to cope — has to be solved by the use of ever more sophisticated information intelligence which reverse engineers the human brain. Extrapolating these capabilities suggests the near-term emergence and visibility of self-improving neural networks, sophisticated artificial intelligence, quantum algorithms, quantum computing and super-intelligence. This metamorphosis is so much beyond present human capabilities that it becomes impossible to understand it with the pre-conceptions and conditioning of the present mindset, societal make-up and existing technology.

They key problem is that these technology-driven developments are certain to further increase existing inequalities and create new ones at a time when, and we are already back at unsustainable levels. What analysis suggests is that even though the first impacts of the digital revolution have already become visible over recent years, we have by far not seen the worst yet. New developments likely to accelerate social polarisation are just about to kick in with full force as the economic and social impact of digital technologies accelerates. If you look at the problem of inequality through the combined lenses of the exposed deep-seated structural problems in the primary distribution system – and Brynjolfsson the increasing impact of digi­tal technology will reinforce these problems and even create new ones – you discover a major political problem. When large parts of the mid­dle classes are threatened with unemployment through no fault of their own, the level of political pressure will rise. At times in which the political process is more and more focussed on the short term, it is dangerous that long-term policy think­ing is widely neglected.