I am currently reading Daniel Suarez’ Change Agent, and it got me to thinking about the landscape in which we now live…this mixed reality of one foot on the ground and one foot in cyberspace. This past 15 years or more have been dominated by Computer Tech and the emergence of the digital world into our lives. We are developing new skill sets and lexicons…digital literacies, disruption, being agile and on and on. The Fourth Transformation we are told by Klaus Schwab:
“…the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.”
And this has transformed our landscape and the forests in which we now roam; augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality have ushered in a new way of looking at things, a new experience of both the world around us as well as new mediated and virtual worlds that exist ‘on the screen’. We now enhance the world which we experience and experience new virtual worlds that seem to have no bounds.
Many of these have become rabbit holes; endless diversions and distractions from an increasing unsustainable world where air, food and water are no longer in abundance – where a future is more and more a hostile environment. It is no wonder so many people prefer to focus on their screens, immerse themselves in other worlds and disconnect from this one.
Just as we discovered the Old World, we need explorers, adventurers, trailblazers and scouts. As William Gibson said way, way back in 2003, there are No Maps For These Territories. We need map makers! And we haven’t seen anything yet, as Robert Scoble and Shel Israel so vividly detail in The Fourth Transformation.
The Cyberpunk fictions of 30 years ago are becoming all too real….near science fiction is written now about possible futures only 10 and 15 years away….and all too plausible. Our reactions to all of this range from Luddite, to Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway, all the way to the embracing of the Singularity as envisioned by Ray Kurzweil.
That’s the landscape. But something new is about to occur which is what Suarez focuses on in Change Agent. The inhabitants of the forest are about to change as well. Daniel scopes out CRISPR, gene editing technology to its conclusions in a world easily imagined as just around the corner. Technology presents us with both the good and the bad in terms of applications. So far, history shows us that with each new tech the earliest adopters and beneficiaries are crime, porn and fundamentalist preachers. Blockchain to Bitcoin to Silk Road. Online banking and payments to identity theft, ransomware, etc.
We are about to see human, plant, animal and cellular modifications introduced into the landscape. That’s a world we better be brave for.
There’s a Fifth Transformation coming, and it’s US!