The Social Singularity
- Social technology—The way in which collectives organizes their information.
There are cracks in the pillars upon which civilization has depended
- Media no longer functions in a centralized fashion.
- Religion has served as a mediating structure for morality and meaning, but does it still serve that same purpose?
- The Morning Star Packing Company got rid of managers to allow individuals to take on more responsibility.
- Organizations gets more self-managed.
Is science always telling the truth?
- Half of scientific academic articles cannot be proven
The education system is not working
- Blended learning—the hybridization of educational tech and traditional pedagogy.
- Project based learning.
- Launch micro-ventures.
Technological singularity—when a machine gets so intelligent that it can create a better version of itself.
- When we reach that point it will lead to an “intelligence explosion”.
- Mankind will be left behind.
- The forces behind social evolution are culture, institutions, technology, and human nature.
- Subversive innovation—transforming of traditional structures in fundamental ways.
The experience economy
- People crave experiences since our lifetime is limited.
- We already feel a sense of “stuffocation”
- Material possessions are not enough anymore.
- When we lay on our deathbed we just have our memories.
- Experiences gets better even when they “go wrong.”
- Helping people find purpose could be a career path.
- Decentralization of the state means more options to find a place to live that suits you.
- Government can no longer treat people as subjects or citizens. They will have to treat them as customers.
When we consider that the great bulk of the voting population is made up of people who either know very little about anything (and don’t really care) or only want to know things that confirm what they already believe, we’ve got a system that runs primarily on a mix of ignorance and ideology.
“telling someone they can’t complain about an election if they didn’t vote is akin to telling a homeless person that they can’t complain about being poor unless they play the lottery every day.”
As our society becomes more complex, it becomes even less plausible to think that people in distant capitals have the requisite knowledge to plan for anything so far away from their spheres of understanding.
Knowledge of specific circumstances, or “local knowledge,” is the most important and overlooked feature of complex societies.
Social technology is shorthand for how people organize themselves.
More and more of the world is self-organizing.
Complexity science tells us the battle lines will be drawn mainly in terms of how each organization processes information and applies knowledge to make decisions. And if there is a way for an organization to deal with complexity beyond hierarchy, that form of organization is poised to challenge the reigning paradigm.
I want to leave you with more than just the image of clashing social technologies. Because what we’re really interested in here is flourishing or, more specifically, how people can organize themselves to improve their well-being.
The extent to which we can organize ourselves to be happier, healthier people is the extent to which we can organize ourselves to create more peace and prosperity.
Decentralized environments are more “antifragile.” Social coherence need only develop locally in most cases.
So, up to a certain point, firms (organizations) arranged like hierarchies have been less costly to organize because it is usually cheaper for some people to give orders and some to take them, with the former paying the latter for the privilege.
Richard Horton, editor of the British medical journal The Lancet, writes that the “case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.”
When you get an army of networked people—sometimes amateurs—thinking, talking, tinkering, and toying with ideas—you can hasten a paradigm shift. And this is exactly what we are witnessing. It’s becoming harder for experts to count on the obscurity of their disciplines to keep power.
In the Republic of Science, there is certainly room for experts. But they are hubs among nodes. And in this network, leadership is earned not by sitting atop an institutional hierarchy with the plumage of a tenured professor, but by contributing, experimenting, communicating, and learning with the rest of a larger hive mind. This is science in the peer-to-peer age.
How can technological decentralization help catalyze education reform?
In another sense, it’s like an evolving organism, in that if you try to kill it, it will adapt to become stronger, smarter, or more subversive—whether that happens through “obfuscating technologies” that will “continue to conceal flows between wallets” or through international smart contracts that change the rules by which people live without the permission of authorities.
A coder strings together lines of instruction. Once he publishes his code, there is a potential butterfly effect.
These structures are the hierarchies we trust and accept as a given. They are now vulnerable. Banks. Universities. Government itself.
“We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”
Technology and culture thus coevolve. This vacillation occurs in waves as technology changes culture, which changes technology, which changes culture, and so on through time.
Thus human nature is the fourth force behind social evolution. Combined they are culture, institutions, technology, and human nature. That’s a lot of forces at play. And when these forces churn, life can seem quite dizzying.
A thousand coders code, a million users adopt, and eventually whole populations wake up in very different circumstances.
Those who benefit from old ways of doing things will fiercely guard outdated systems.
According to Pine and Gilmore, the experience economy is a “long-term structural shift in the very fabric of advanced economies.”
It makes us happier, it fulfills our need for status more effectively, it creates a life of far greater meaning, and it solves stuffocation. With material goods, if you buy something that isn’t very good—like a pair of shoes that squeak—there isn’t much you can do about it. But when an experience goes wrong, it somehow gets better each time you retell the tale.
Stuff just isn’t that interesting anymore. It’s stuff plus experience.
Of course, most people still won’t be able to afford a van Gogh. But as more people shift from jobs machines can do to jobs they can’t, there will be more painters and more original paintings. And many of us will find that we can afford original artworks by lesser-known artists whose creations resonate with us—and that we’d rather buy those originals than posters of van Goghs.
But it’s not just that we’re living experiences and curating memories. It’s also that experience is how we define and display status these days. Social media has made it possible to share our experiences with others in real time. We want to give others a sense that we are important by virtue of the kind of life we’re able to live. It used to be that you signaled your status by driving a Mercedes.
I suggest plotting all the world’s countries on a graph between mostly centralized (e.g. North Korea) and mostly decentralized (Switzerland). Then ask yourself: Where would you want to live?
Could all of this decentralization have anything to do with why Liechtenstein has the highest per capita income in the world? The tiny country is of course a tax haven. But so is its neighbor Switzerland. After a certain point, we need to start looking at the rules of the game in a given country. Institutions that devolve power seem to correlate with stability and prosperity.
If we think about decentralization as representing exit options, it means there are simply more places to go if you don’t like how things are done where you are. So people can choose to live in systems that are closer to their respective ideals.
Democracy is a system that leaves us all at the whim of mob rule.
Democracy is not a system designed to grant us our political wishes. It is a system in which others’ preferences get clustered together, bizarrely, as a feature of the system. And the rules we have to live under are arbitrary with respect to our real political preferences.
With this challenge, we can go a long way in exposing the fact that politics is just another sort of religion—a belief system that is fundamentally about forcing others to live exactly the way we want them to. (That’s so twentieth century.)
Can we believe not only that each of us is sacred as a distinct self, but also that we are all connected and are becoming more and more connected each day? Could it be that each of us—each self—is a window, an “aperture” into a greater consciousness to which we all belong?
Look inward, not just outward, for change.
Yes, humans interface with each other through language. And humans interface with computers through code. But if we were to attempt to connect human intelligence with machine cognition, finding translation standards between modes of operation could continue to elude us.
when robots are capable of taking all our jobs, the line between human and robot will have already blurred.