Adapt to What Comes Next

This leads us to our final recommendation: Adapt to what comes next or become obsolete. In this module, we’re going to look at the big picture for AI and humanity. Our timeframe will extend out beyond our careers, into retirement, and beyond. Were also going to get a bit more philosophical as well. However, we’ll keep things practical by learning how you can adapt to whatever comes next to avoid becoming obsolete. What becomes obsolete vs. what becomes the norm? Why do some aspects of society disappear into obscurity while others become so common that we take them for granted? During the previous technological revolutions, some things become obsolete while others become the norm? During the Agricultural revolution, hunter-gatherers and nomadic tribes became obsolete while farmers and cities became the norm. During the Industrial revolution, slave labor and draft animals became obsolete while factory workers and industrial machines became the norm. During the Information revolution human computers and analog data became obsolete while office workers and digital computers became the norm. During the AI revolution, the question naturally becomes: which parts of our world will become obsolete vs. what new things will become the norm? No matter how things play out over the next few years, in the long run, there are really only three likely paths forward for humanity. AI and humanity peacefully co-exist together forever. AI destroys humanity (if we don’t accidentally destroy ourselves first). Or AI and humanity eventually merge and become one-in-the-same. If you really think about it, there really aren’t any other real possibilities in the long run. Given humanity’s historical track record (in similar situations), it’s unlikely that humans will be able to peacefully co-exist with AI forever. We’ve simply seen too many past scenarios where a sufficiently advanced civilization displaced the indigenous population. It’s actually much more likely that we will either destroy ourselves first or AI will eventual displaces humanity. This might be good for AI but it would definitely be bad news for us humans. So given these three options, the most realistic and hopeful path forward for humanity is that we eventually merge with our technology. Essentially, we merge to the extent that humanity and our technology become indistinguishable. This idea may seem far fetched now but these cell phones in our hands are already an extension of our brains. And the younger generation is ready and willing to have them directly connected to their minds if and when the technology becomes available. In many ways, we’re already augmenting our human bodies and minds with man-made technologies on a daily basis. For example: wearable devices, artificial limbs, pace-makers, contact lenses, hearing aids, and more. In the next decade and beyond, it’s likely that we’ll be even more deeply and continuously connected to our technology. For example, coming soon are: light-weight augmented-reality glasses, implantable IoT devices, and eventually brain-computer interfaces. It may sounds strange, but we are likely one of the last generations of homo sapiens to inhabit the Earth. Whatever comes next will likely be very different from what we’ve known for the past 200,000 years. How do you adapt to what comes next to avoid becoming obsolete? What should you be doing today to prepare for whatever comes next? First, embrace change. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said: “Change is the only constant in life.” Technically, he actually said “panta rhei” which translates to “everything flows”, but I think you get the point. If you fight change, you will continuously struggle your entire life as the world changes around you. Not only will you struggle with change, but you will inevitably lose every time. If you embrace change, you can adapt to what comes next. Adaptability is highly valuable from an evolutionary perspective. This is why it is a key pillar of the Agile Manifesto and of many philosophical and religious worldviews. Second, be skeptical but not too skeptical. In the post-truth era it’s really easy to be duped into believing incorrect information. Skepticism is the natural antidote to this intellectual disease of modern society. In addition, you need to be skeptical of your own beliefs as well. Always question and continually update your beliefs based on new evidence as it becomes available. This idea is the essence of the scientific method. Third, keep an open mind. One of the worst things we can do today is get ourselves stuck in our own dogmatic worldview. The information bubbles we create in our society produce echo chambers that reinforce our own confirmation bias. So it’s important that you are constantly confronted with alternative perspectives to challenge your own beliefs. Also, you need to keep an open mind when new information disagrees with your current beliefs. It’s quite likely that a good portion of your belief system may become obsolete yet within your lifetime. If you’re not sure what I mean, just ask your grandparents how much the world has changed since they were children. Fourth, pick your battles wisely. There are some things that you should “stick to your guns” on and others things that you should be more flexible about. Figure out what your core beliefs are and fight for those beliefs when necessary. However, be flexible and open-minded about everything else. Ultimately, when picking your battles, just make sure you end up on “the right side of history”. Finally, be mindful. Our brains evolved to survive in a very different environment than our modern technology-driven society. As a result, much of our suffering today is caused by this conflict between human nature and our technology. Mindfulness is how we minimize this suffering and learn to peacefully co-exist with our technology. Honestly, making the commitment to practice mindfulness daily is probably the smartest thing that I’ve done in my adult life. I highly recommend it to everyone. So to recap our final recommendation: adapt to what comes next or become obsolete. Embrace change, be skeptical, but keep an open mind, pick your battles wisely, and be mindful.