In a recent discussion, a friend of mine said the following about humanity: “What I’m hoping for is that we put more work into learning how to use our own potential in a better way instead of how to make a new version of the iPhone” (Translated from Swedish by me.)
Tonight I had a similar discussion with my girlfriend, which lead up to the question of “What’s next? What’s the next step for humanity?”.
For a long time, big changes have occurred in the everyday life of humans from generation to generation, but now development seems to have almost stopped or at least slowed down significantly. We have reached all our goals.
Or what will the next generation experience which is radically different from what we do today? Sure, they will have a lot of new technical gadgets, cleaner energy, smarter transportation, etc., but they will probably get similar education, work as many hours as we do today, eat similar food, live in similar homes, wear similar clothes, do similar recreational things, travel to the same places, etc.
Looking far ahead, we might eventually reach the scenario depicted in the movie Wall-E where we actually do work less (if we work at all), eat completely different food, wear completely different clothes and travel to completely new places (in outer space).
But still, these are just superficial changes in our lives and judging by Wall-E’s vision, they aren’t very good for us!
When will we start focusing on mental and physical advancements? Things which will make us feel great and fill us with a sense of meaning? Things which are good for both our minds and bodies.
The feeling I have right now is that many of us who are “privileged” to live in the “developed world” already have achieved everything that our current society has to offer; an education, a job, a home, a car, a partner, a child, a pet, traveling the world, good medical treatment, etc.
The generations before us have fought hard to get to this point and always had some goals left to reach in their lives, but now there’s nothing left to fight for it seems. No clear next step. Sure, everything is possible to improve a little, but it won’t lead to any substantial changes in the way of life for the coming generations. The improvements will be like upgrading to the latest version of your smart phone; a few new fun features and a bit more modern design. And for the really adventurous, the colorful version!
I think this is why more and more people feel like we have reached a turning point. We need to set up new goals or help people find meaningful things to do. We need to become creative. Improve the system. Continue building something wonderful on top of the strong foundation we have constructed.
I think this is exactly what comedian Russell Brand is talking about this interview (which my friend from the beginning of the post recommended to me):
It’s interesting that he mentions “instant communication” (twitter, etc.) as one tool for changing the world, because I think that’s pretty close to the fascinating skill of telepathy which often is a property of advanced alien species in sci-fi books and movies. Instant (silent) communication between all people all over the world is probably a good way to organize changes and spread good ideas.