The 1939 New York World’s Fair was a paean to the future. With its massive trylon and perisphere set as symbols for a new age of prosperity, the Fair celebrated the dual themes of democracy and progress. Looking back, many view the event as a harbinger not simply of a brave new world of science and technology but of the consumer-driven society that would explode after the Second World War.
But as historians note, visions of the future are almost always wrong. When we look to the future, what we usually look at are things but rarely at behaviors; at technologies but not the unintended consequences of these technologies.
Automation and artificial intelligence will almost certainly free us from the drudgery and labors of the past – but also from the jobs that give us meaning and a sense of self. Even if this new-found “freedom” of non-work is balanced by an economic safety net such as universal basic income, we still face the danger of having a large portion of the population rudderless and adrift.
No one foresaw this more clearly that Aldous Huxley. For Huxley, the Brave New World of tomorrow was one ruled by technology in the service of consumerism, a world in which the highs and lows of daily living have been replaced by a bland contentment.
Compare this to our current situation where both children and adults prefer to interact with computers, smartphones and virtual realities rather than other human beings and you begin to get a sense of the democratic dystopia Huxley envisioned.
Is it all inevitable? In a world without work, how will we define progress? If our basic needs are provided for, will we be content to merely exist? Or will we demand more?
"Look Closely at the Present You are Constructing, it Should Look Like the Future You are Creating"
VISIONS OF THE FUTURE
JASON SILVA DISCUSSES TECHNO-OPTIMISM