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Story of the Future

By Dean Whittaker

We are all co-creating a future by the choices we make today.

There are three futures before us. The first is the future of all possibilities based on an infinite number of choices we make today. Then there is the probable future that is determined by the trajectory we are on at the moment based upon the choices we have made in the past. Lastly, there is the preferred future, which is a subset of the first two but containing the desired outcomes we seek.

Our future is determined by the choices we have made in the past and those we make today. We are at an important juncture in human history as we contemplate the choice to apply bio-engineering to create human 2.0 and the use of “artificial intelligence” (AI) to assume a larger role in our decision making. For example, many of us now rely on our vehicles navigation system to direct us to our destination. Will it someday recommend who we should marry or what career path we should follow? Some of us have hacked our bodies with surgically implanted chips, much like we use for our pets, but containing our medical records.

We are already reading stories of AI providing a more accurate diagnosis than a human doctor. The book Human + Machine – Reimagining Work in the Age of AI, by Paul Daugherty and Jim Wilson, describes how AI is transforming business processes. Alexa and Siri are becoming our virtual assistants.

How can we stay relevant in this technology-driven, rapidly changing world? Most of us are paid to produce results by doing tactical things with a very short-term focus of a few days. Others of us have a little longer timeframe of a few months or maybe even a year. Even a few of us are paid to think beyond a year or two at most. But, what about those decisions that impact beyond 2-3 years? Whose job is it to think about such things as how the use of Virtual Reality will change our brain and impact society and the people in it? At the moment, it seems like we will default to the “invisible hand” of the market place to make these critical choices.

Recently, I purchased the Oculus Go Virtual Realty goggles. (Note: The Oculus company was purchased by Facebook recently). After using the virtual goggles for a short period of time, I made the decision to return them. The reason I returned them was that I did not like the disoriented feeling caused by the cognitive dissonance created when I moved from the “real world” to the “virtual world” and back. It felt like my brain was being re-wired and, at some point, it would be difficult to tell real from virtual. It felt they were becoming addictive because of the chemical reaction they were causing in my brain.

The story of a future hasn’t been fully written yet. As a society and as a human species, we are approaching a decision point of no-return as discussed in Yuval Harari’s book, 21 Rules for the 21st Century. We will be required to make wise conscious choices in how we apply technology to solve problems and deal with the challenges these technological solutions create. Based on our past experiences, our current situation, and our future hopes and dreams, what are the wise choices to make?

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