The Atlas of the Future
By Adriana Hoyos
Groundbreaking and disruptive technological change is the new common. A generation of nimble ventures are offering avant-garde services and products that are setting revolutionary standards in innovation, speed, flexibility and convenience. It seems that concepts like blockchain, fintech, gene-editing, artificial intelligence and transhumanism, are becoming increasingly used by the general public, creating a massive interest in the meaning, applicability, impact and consequences of these ideas.
Jerome Glenn and his team at The Millennium Project (1), are presenting The State of the Future V.19.0, a fantastic, robust and complex -but handy compendium that describes how human change “2.0” is unfolding at a faster rate than ever considered possible.
This fascinating study presents data, questions and challenges about the most important facts that explain why and how the speed of human evolution is increasing exponentially, to the point that our species is on the frontier of a complete new face, with almost no comparison or precedent. It shows how the human race transitions from a slow and random Darwinian evolution by natural selection, to a keen-oriented, hyper-accelerated and precisely-designed period of collective expansion driven by intelligence.
The 200-page report is a thorough study that passionately guides the reader, through a serious journey that addresses 15 Global Challenges, a keen State of the Future Index, a deep reflection on Emerging Technologies and on Counter-terrorism Tactics, and a carefully elaborated perspective on the Future of Work / Technology 2050 Global Scenarios and Strategies.
The 15 challenges, established using their own State of the Future Index Methodology and Global Futures Intelligence System, are a concrete framework that serve as a tool to grasp the future of global change, as well as a clear and detailed roadmap to improve what is to come. The Index is a well-constructed scenario of a decade outlook for the future, that uses a thorough methodology based on 20 years of data, and a combination of variables designed to illustrate and smartly interpret systemic change.
Regarding the Counter-Terrorist Strategies, the authors propose a set of cardinal solutions to prevent the current terrorism trends, reach a peaceful coexistence of ideologies, religious views and politics, and create a multicultural society based on respect and diversity. The presented tactics include a versatile blend of collective action, artificial intelligence, public policy and civil participation, all connected under the scope of the latest technologies.
According to Harvard Professor Ricardo Hausmann, in his recent article “Making the Future Work for Us”, the principal uncertain issue of the new technologies is their diffusion capacity. He argues that if they do not diffuse somehow similarly worldwide, they will end up increasing the income gap between countries and regions, where a pivot of a technology’s capability to be diffused, is what he calls its “knowhow intensity”.
Codes and most tools are easy to move from one place to another, but the same cannot be applied when moving the knowhow needed to use them. He presents the example of what
happens with guns, which require little to no training to operate. While much of the technologies designed for the common good, such as electrical utilities, require a complex chain of logistics that include large teams of people with varied sets of expertise, specific knowledge and a minimum experience.
In the section The Future of Work / Technology 2050 Scenarios, the authors address key issues, such as inequality, unemployment, education, health, security and economic prosperity, through a blend of new ways of thinking and new technologies, leveraged by over 450 futurists. We happen to live in the most extraordinary time in the history of humanity, rapidly advancing towards a future of quantum leap transformations. The new norm is to be all highly connected (even brain to brain -using the cloud). The ideas and initiatives that impact our lives come all from having the ability to catalyze collective knowledge, and to curate the crowdsourced inputs. 2.9 billion people are currently connected online, and according to Singularity University’s Founder and Chairman -Peter Diamandis, within the next decade, that number is expected to grow to over 7 billion, meaning that almost every person on the planet will have access to a megabit-per-second connection.
In accordance with The State of the Future, futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil suggests that a there are important ventures creating lasting, high-bandwidth connections between the Internet (via the cloud) and the human brain (via the neocortex). This implies an unprecedented increase of human memory capacity, as well as cognitive function that will give access to brain-to-brain connection, and to brain-to Artificial Intelligence items (via the Internet of Things).
The State of the Future presents some scenarios regarding what will happen to the role of humans, and their place in the economy, with these revolutionary -no turning back changes. For instance, it explains an interesting theory on how our species is “being freed from the necessity of having a job, in order to earn a living or to achieve self-respect”. One of the ‘2050 scenarios presented by the authors, infers that the transition to what they call SelfActualization Economy has already started.
The report describes how human capabilities are shifting towards machine labor. Linked to this idea, the authors guide the reader through the differences between Artificial Narrow Intelligence, Artificial General Intelligence, Artificial Super Intelligence and other Next Technologies.
Probably the most remarkable revolution in technology is the birth of Artificial Intelligence, that fueled by deep learning, will continue to exponentially accelerate breakthroughs that use aggregate intelligence (human or artificial) as the most decisive predictor of success.
In his studies on Blockchain, MIT Professor Christian Catalini states that technology is what economists call a general-purpose technology, where applications are landing spots across different verticals. A perfect example of this, are Elon Musk’s disruptive ventures (Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, OpenAI, etc.), that are shaping the fundamentals of innovation and marking the path of the large-scale entrepreneurship of tomorrow.
Acknowledging that humanity is at a crossroads, Noah Harari exhibits in his new book Homo Deus, that there are two basic scenarios for the future: to become Homo Deus (superhumans augmented by technology), or to give free pass to smart machines, and let them run the show. He argues that in the future, we may see wider gaps in cognitive and physical abilities, between what he calls an “upgraded upper class” and the rest of society.
As the globe gets connected in ways never imagined, human interaction is also experiencing something similar to what happens with quantum entanglement; where a group (or pair) of particles interact in ways, such that it is not possible to describe the reality of each particle independently of the others, -even when separated by large distances. Meaning that a particle’s quantum state can just be described as a system of the whole: “One in terms of the crowd”. Humans must tweak their way of thinking and revise their purpose on earth in order to create a better future. The Millennium Project’s report not only presents a detailed wide panorama of where the world is tilting, but offers different well-thought solutions and strategies for several of the most pressing challenges that we face.
(1) The Millennium Project is a voluntary global participatory think tank of futurists, scholars, scientists, business planners, and policymakers who work for international organizations, governments, corporations, NGOs, and universities and who volunteer their time to improve each edition of the State of the Future. The purposes of The Millennium Project are to assist in organizing futures research, improve thinking about the future, and make that thinking available through a variety of media for consideration in policymaking, advanced training, public education, and feedback, ideally in order to accumulate wisdom about potential futures. The Project’s diversity of opinions and global views is ensured by its 63 Nodes around the world. These are groups of individuals and organizations that interconnect global and local perspectives. They identify participants, conduct interviews, translate and distribute questionnaires, and conduct research and conferences. It is through their contributions that the world picture of this report and indeed all of The Millennium Project’s work emerges. The Node Chairs and Co-chairs are listed in the Appendix. Through its research, publications, addresses at conferences, and Nodes, The Millennium Project helps to nurture an international collaborative spirit of free inquiry and feedback for increasing collective intelligence to improve social, technical, and environmental viability for human development. Feedback on any sections of the book is most welcome at and may help shape the next State of the Future, GFIS, and the general work of The Millennium Project. www.millennium-project.org