Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Future Smart?" If You Would LIke Beiing a BORG

The book “FUTURE SMART-managing the game changing trends that will transform your world” by James Canton is a must-read. We need to know what most of society is banking on in the future. But, while the author claims to be guided by cutting edge science, he is not above human nature: his biases and background are evident. Mr. Canton is a product of his environment as we all are. His views are understandable given he was on the ground floor when the high tech company APPLE was born. Mr. Canton is proud to have associated with Steve Jobs.

So, if you are fond of that culture, enjoy the book.

If you have doubts, read on.

Mr. Canton makes some predictions I hope come true:

· Future institutions will succeed if they implement the “triple bottom line” of Profits, Social and Environmental responsibility. They will put Social Purpose first and empower people.

· Private entrepreneurship, not governments, will lead the way and provide answers for present vexing problems like pollution, poverty, wars, etc.

· Technology will provide amazing gadgets to make our lives easier.

But, my suspicions were confirmed when I got to the chapter on Medicine.

While reading the book I had to work hard at keeping an open mind. Historically, doubters of new technologies have been left in the dust while those who embraced them conquered the world. I certainly want to avoid the former fate. But, it seems to me that there is a big difference between intelligence and wisdom. I could not avoid a vague feeling that Mr. Canton and others like Kurzweil (“Singularity is Near”) are long on brains but short on wisdom. Just because we CAN does not mean we SHOULD. [1]

These authors maintain that we are close to becoming bionic men, or TRANSHUMAN. By augmenting our faculties (chip implants to learn everything, and I mean everything, replacing organs and limbs with mechanical and 3D-printed devices, and manipulating our DNA or genes, we may live forever and prevent disease altogether.

How does that strike you?

While I am all for improving our lot in life, stamp out suffering and prevent diseases, I feel that not understanding LIFE and DEATH is a major obstacle to seeing high technology under a more balanced light. [2] An irrational fear of death is a sure sign, in my opinion, of not understanding NATURE and a spiritual realm where we continue to live. Death is a mere transition to that realm. Not believing in the natural cycles of DEATH and RENEWAL can get us into a heap of trouble.

Do you believe in History as we are taught in our schools?

I don’t.

I feel that humanity has had MANY DEATHS and REBIRTHS. I believe in ANCIENT ANTIQUITY. We have been around for millions of years and obtained loftier pinnacles of technology, only to destroy ourselves by forgetting the basic principles of LIFE and DEATH noted above. Perhaps NATURE catches up to this “Tower of Babel” mentality that seems to embody a belief that we can harness the powers of creation for our own selfish, blind purposes. Perhaps NATURE takes care of business by wiping us off the face of the Earth now and again to correct the imbalances that super egos tend to bring to unsuspecting societies.

Mr. Canton’s chapter on THE FUTURE OF MEDICINE does not mention NUTRITION. He is totally immersed in the technology-based medicine that fails to consider basic principles of health because they are not as sexy, nor glamorous, nor profitable in the short run; they are in the long run. But, authors like Mr. Canton do not seem to have an interest in the exploding body of evidence pointing in that direction. [3] He has not kept up with the fact that genes are greatly influenced by the foods we eat and the environment we live in, a concept we call Epigenetics. Genetic intervention, even while in utero, has its merits in preventing disease. But, ignoring Epigenetic principles is folly.

Mr. Canton’s vision is a futuristic concession to “Boutique Medicine.” The rich would greatly benefit from the expensive, high tech approach Mr. Canton hopes to see fulfilled.

Do you believe we have enough money for the common folk to enjoy such utopia? Do you envision some low-income person getting implanted with brain chips containing the whole internet, getting augmented by bionic limbs, and getting genetic therapy to live forever?

If you do, enjoy the book.

If you don’t, read it anyway. We need to be prepared to deal with THE BORG.

[1] Conquer Yourself, Conquer the World J Sci Am April 2015

[2] Too much medicine BMJ 2015; 350 :h1217

[3] Science 21 September 2012: Vol. 337 no. 6101 pp. 1466-1467


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