The night was tempestuous and nobody dared go out or even open a window. That is, nobody except an irascible, pudgy man who was rather excited with what he was doing. His life research had been put on the line. If this didn’t work, he’d lose any hope for redemption because on his way here he had already lost everything of value, except his own ambition. “FOR SCIENCE,” he suddenly screams as his hunchback assistant lowers a lever which causes a lightning bolt to go through the room and into the body of a dead man. After he sees the result, he starts laughing maniacally and says, “This will show those old coots. I have created life!”
How many times have we come across a story as mediocre as that? Probably many hundreds of times. It has come to the ridiculous point where only a handful of people actually know that Frankenstein isn’t the monster but the scientist. However, who’s to blame them? Ever since cinema started, scientists have been portrayed as evil and crazy. Moreover, the tale of Frankenstein is the embodiment of what some people would call “playing god.” So naturally it is to be vilified because it represents a modern version of the Tower of Babel.
However, it was not always so. Before Fritz Lang’s movie, Metropolis, the modern public respected science. Metropolis is the movie that created the stereotype of the “mad scientist,” but once again, who can blame it? Metropolis is nothing more and nothing less than the product of its time. When we see that the director fought in the First World War and was wounded no less than three times, we can see why he’d be somewhat inclined to portray the future in a pessimistic light. This is especially obvious when we consider that the First World War unveiled many horrible new weapons created by new scientific breakthroughs like tanks and poisonous gasses.
Nevertheless, with science, there’s been new technologies which improve the living standards of all who use them. So it is wrong to vilify science simply because it’s capable of creating weapons of enormous power. Science has its uses and its abuses, like any other idea used by mankind.
Nonetheless, the time is coming when science’s effectiveness will force mankind to make a choice. The choice is whether to shape our culture to accommodate the new ideas and possibilities or continue as we are doing and ignore the problem.
The latter, if given enough time, will provoke civil unrest and maybe even revolution simply because we’re coming to the point where machines can do the exact same tasks we’re doing but better. The same thing happened in the industrial revolution, which led to the creation of the luddites – who opposed any progress in technology because it led to joblessness. The problem eventually solved itself because their manufacturing power could be used somewhere else.
However, this time around, the same thing won’t happen. There will be massive unemployment but the problem won’t solve itself because there will not be any area where the jobless workforce can be relocated since machines will be able to do the same work any human can do, for less money and much more efficiently.
This apocalyptic scenario may be even closer than you think. Ray Kurzweil, the so called “Cybernostradamus” because all of his predictions about future technologies have come true, said in an interview that by 2029 machines will be able to pass the Turing test. If a machine is able to pass the Turing Test it means that it’s impossible to tell it apart from a human being, at least in terms of cognitive abilities.
What all this would provoke is a massive production of goods but no market to sell them in. Essentially, what would happen is sort of like the recent economic turmoil. The goods physically existed but the purchasing power of the people didn’t, which led some companies to completely abandon production until they sold their inventory.
With no jobs, people’s purchasing power goes away and they’re unable to buy anything. Maybe we won’t immediately fall into such things as crime, since there seems to be new evidence saying that the correlation between poverty and crime is wrong but people will not be happy with the incredible social stratification that comes about.
With enough manipulation, such unhappiness can lead to revolution. Sometimes, to start a movement, the least you need is a reason. However, such incredible unhappiness and needless poverty need not happen. If we take the first option, we may configure society in such a way that allows people to get any resource they need, and since there will be a massive output of goods they will have a minuscule cost or maybe not one at all because of their commonness.
In reality we only have one option if we want to consider the wellbeing as the human species. So, which will it be: annihilation or a bright future?
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