Blog: Post-digital — a stepping stone for the post-human
In 2016 UN released a resolution proclaiming the intentional disruption of Internet to be akin to a violation of a basic human right. One day we might be in a situation where the right to food and right to water might be on-par with the right to “re/connect” to our digital alter ego. As it was mentioned mentioned at the beginning of our class, digital has become part and parcel of daily living. In the same way in which electricity powers everything from brick-and-mortar retail shops to glass-façade skyscraper offices, the digital empowers and changes in a positive way the modern economies everywhere. Both consumers and businesses need to adapt to the new realities created by the digital, which is reshaping the infrastructure of countries and societies in the same fashion in which a steam engine train or the Gutenberg changed the course of history forever. Therefore it is only fair to describe our era as a post-digital one.
Every technological advancement not only evolutionized but revolutionized our lives. From clothes and tools made of stone to printing and molecular medicine, for better or worse by adapting a new technology we left behind a trait/behavior/idiosyncrasy – and for most part the change is for better. Clothes and tools, such as a fur coat or a hammer, are the original artificial augmentations to our bodies. Printing and medicine such as penicillin changed forever the exchange of information and the fight against infections. Technology is also the reasons the past can be often times rendered as much smaller in scope and scale. An ancient smith’s workshop is the equivalent of a modern factory and a medieval chevalier is the equivalent of a warfare tank. The impact of the Gutenberg press is overshadowed by the massive wave of change brought by its digital equivalent in a much shorter time-span.
If speaking and writing gave us a new reality, a new identity, a new consciousness, then is it fair to say that telecommunications and coding are having the same impact which goes to the marrow of human condition ? Now that we irreversibly integrated the digital and the screen-free past seems far away, what awaits us in the near future ? To answer both questions a provocative answer can be provided: the post-digital world of today does indeed impact our human condition, arguably, it is a stepping stone for a post-human future. In other words, as technology progressed throughout history we gave up parts of our state of nature for better ways of living, indeed cities can be considered as highly artificial creation. And as technology progresses towards the future it is it inevitable that we humans will be erased.
We can assume that the future is bright and the ideal post-digital society is thriving and consists of tech-savvy citizens and entrepreneurs whose businesses are infused with digital proficiency in every branch of their activity. In this utopia, Artificial Intelligence and its digital omnipresence can be seen as the nuclear power plant that provides the energy for a city to function properly. AI is a prosthetic arm both on an individual level and on a group one. However we might not call it “Artificial”, as Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, puts it: It Should Be Augmented Intelligence, Not Artificial
Even though the term Augmented Intelligence remains broad it’s impact will change not only the structure of global economy but also the lifestyle of each individual. Because attempting to predict the large scale economical impact might too ambitious, complicated and plainly impossible, it might be more interesting to try and foretell how our lives might change as a result of the 4th Industrial Revolution and it is in this foretelling that we can allow ourselves to be dystopian.
Gradually, as the the digital oasis of the life behind the screens becomes a norm and we resemble the couch people of Pixar’s Wall-E. If Amazon delivery drone seem novel and futuristic today, in the near future they’ll be a norm. The instant satisfaction of needs and the lack of discomfort, be it physical or mental, allows for a world of commodity-only. It can also be a world where the act of owning might disappear. As pay-per-month services are becoming more wide spread (Netflix & Apple TV+) coupled with the increase in short-term renting of both living and working spaces (AirBnb & WeWork), pure consumption/use is replacing the old-fashion idea of owning the “physical” product or space. In this context, the famous line from Fight Club: The things you own end up owning you, might be very well be replace by: the things you consume end up consuming you.
“It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to create him.”
Arthur C. Clarke
Even if it sounds provocative, as a tool which augments our humanity our use of machines/robots/AI can eventually backfire and turn an 180° where humans become the tools at the mercy of the greater power that they created — such a Frankensteinian tragedy. AI is still mostly mere machine learning, yet once it is finally conceived and implemented it will open a Pandora Box which will plunge us into a new era of Enlightenment or Dark Age (for humans).
The title of this memo made the premise that post-digital is a foundation element of post-human, yet there is an intermediary between the two. Trans humanism might represent the transition of us humans towards a new evolutionary stage.
“What is a human being, then?’
‘A … seed?’
‘An acorn that is unafraid to destroy itself in growing into a tree.”
David Zindell, The Broken God
Trans humanism might represent the push of humanity causing its disappearance and in the same time its fruition towards a new form of life. The end-point of trans humanism might be the act of Singularity. The merge between the natural and the artificial might very well be the fate of life on Earth.
As soon as it becomes possible, by dint of a strong will, to overthrow the entire past of the world, then, in a single moment, we will join the ranks of independent gods. World history for us will then be nothing but a dreamlike otherworldly being. The curtain falls, and man once more finds himself a child playing with whole worlds — a child, awoken by the first glow of morning, who laughingly wipes the frightful dreams from his brow.
Even though many sentences in this memo were written to be provocative on propose, many of them sparked from different tit-bits of information and topics I happened to consume online or throughout the course of Post-Digital Entrepreneurship. It is important to speculate and attempt to find a verosimile theory regarding our near or distant future. Of course the erasure of humanity is a pessimistic, if not a depressive outlook, yet it is by describing dystopias that we can get close to utopias.