The Future Looks Amazing

My recent piece on what the future has in store for us produced a lot of interesting responses.  One in particular was a rehash of a fairly recent piece written by entrepreneur Udo Gollub and originated by two fairly infamous predictors of the future, Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil.  I am passing this along to you for a reference point you may want to remember as the years pass.

Artificial Intelligence: Computers will become exponentially better in understanding the world. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will be widely available for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. The changes that result will be global and systemic.

Health: Technology will allow more personalized healthcare and as a result, quality of life and longevity will greatly increase.

3D printing: 3D-Printing will take over more and more of manufacturing, which could have profound effects on the way people live.

Work: 70-80% of today’s jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a short time.

Agriculture:  Farmers in preindustrial countries can become managers of their field robots instead of working all days on their fields. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces is used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore due to the prevalence of lab-grown meat and alternative protein sources.

Education: The cheapest smart phones are already at $10 in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. That means, everyone will have the same access to world class education.

Some of these changes are scary, and some are VERY exciting. Many people will be better off, but many others may permanently be out of work. The timing of it all may be the hardest question to understand and manage.

No matter what, there is little doubt that the world will be a very different place in just a few decades.

This year’s election may reveal peoples’ subliminal worries. This surely is a time to put caution aside and be innovative. But that does not mean we should “throw the baby out with the bath water” or simply “upset the apple cart” to stir change.

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Gentleman

It is an interesting word—somewhat archaic and loaded—particularly in today’s world.

The word was originally used in feudal society to designate a member of the landed gentry, but we live in a more egalitarian culture, and have accepted a less rigid definition of gentleman—one who holds himself to a high standard of conduct. A gentleman is honest, fair, and cultured. He observes good etiquette and treats people with respect.

‘Gentleman’ is inherently gendered. ‘Ladies’, its female “equivalent” has different connotations. However, women can have all the traits of gentlemen. Perhaps it is time for a non-gendered term to take its place—gentlepeople, maybe.

In today’s world, these people are not born, but made. They are shaped by their education and experience into thoughtful members of society.

Gentlepeople are often thought of as good romantic partners—they are respectful, generous, and make good parents and partners.

They can, however, be intimidating. They can unwittingly make others feel inferior, which can lead to a lack of trust. However, gentlepeople often overcome others’ mistrust by treating them with magnanimity and respect.

Gentlepeople generally make excellent leaders, BUT others often doubt that they have the grit to fight to the end to get their goal; but they are excellent at making fair and intelligent compromises instead of tolerating stalemates forever.

Whatever word we use, it is worth noting the lack of gentility in today’s political climate—the lack of moderation, respect, and honesty. It seems clear to me that part of the appeal of Trump and Sanders is their lack of moderation and respect, which is thought of as straight-shooting or speaking truth to power. But we want results today not just noise.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton is the most “gentle” of the candidates. She speaks with moderation, cares about etiquette, and refuses to sell the American people unachievable dreams.

Perhaps that’s why she is struggling.

However, if we could shift the national conversation towards the value of electing gentlepeople to work out fair and rational compromises, perhaps more people might better understand today’s choices.

BREXIT – Yea or Nay

In the US we have been reading for weeks about the BREXIT vote, and a stopover in London for a couple of days shed a lot of light on the subject for me, and I would like to share what I’ve learned.

The basic question is, of course, whether the UK should leave the European Union. It seems to many of us Americans that leaving a Union is unthinkable—remember our Civil War!

Moreover, today’s world needs more not less togetherness!

So what are the Euroskeptics thinking?

The pros on leaving are:

1-Leaving the customs and trading union will unleash Britain’s economy, which Brexit advocates believe has been hampered by EU regulations.

2-Leaving the passport-free zone will allow Britain to regain control over its borders.

3-Abandoning the leadership of Brussels will allow Britain to regain full sovereignty, an important point for the citizens of a nation that once ruled half of the world.

The cons on leaving are:

1-A possible economic meltdown, as predicted by the Prime Minister and the Treasury, may result from leaving the EU.

2-UK could splinter if pro-EU Scotland holds another referendum on independence.

3-Britain could be ostracized by the Continent, and find themselves also bypassed by the United States, which would diminish Britain’s geopolitical standing.

Finally, there is the great uncertainty of it all. No one really knows what effect the Brexit would have on the local and global economies or on geopolitics.

And it is that uncertainty that might explain why the polls are split 50/50, and why many well-educated, upper-middle-class couples are split.

Hope this helps with what I know is a worrisome issue for you!

Hamilton is a Timely Show – But?

Alexander Hamilton was an important but (until recently, at least) unsung hero in American history.

In light of Trump’s presumptive Presidential nomination (and the incredible success of the Broadway musical Hamilton), it is worth remembering the prescient warning Hamilton delivered in “Federalist 68”, in which he offered the following defense of the Electoral College, which was recognized even then as a fundamentally undemocratic institution:

Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.

Hamilton envisioned the College as made up of men like him—thoughtful, intelligent, and well-educated. And while they would be elected by the general populace, electors would not be beholden to the wishes of their voters. They would provide a buffer between the will of the masses and the highest office in the land. In providing that buffer, Hamilton hoped to prevent the election of a man who might have great charisma, but no ability to actually run the country.

Trump is undoubtedly a talented man, particularly in what Hamilton calls “low cunning” and “the little arts of popularity”. But, as many have observed, those talents are not at all good predictors of the ability to be a good president.

Hamilton clearly foresaw the problem with allowing direct elections (and now that electors have been legally bound to vote for the winner of their state, we are close to directly electing the president), but his proposed solution was wrong. While checks and balances are necessary in a democracy, the most important voice should always be that of the people. But, if a mind such as Hamilton’s could not arrive at a correct solution, what can we do?

Trump has succeeded in no small part by being allowed to contradict himself and lie through his teeth, but it is not entirely correct to paint his supporters as ignoring the facts. The problem, rather, is that they have no idea how to tell the difference between fact and fiction. And that may not be entirely their fault.

The Internet, television, and social media have made for a swirling cocktail of contradiction and misinformation, and without a clear and easy way to discover truth, people tend to accept the “facts” that they see and hear that fit what they already believe.

In a somewhat ironic twist, this phenomenon has given disproportionate power to a certain class of people that Hamilton wanted choosing our president: the wealthy, educated elite of the country. But it turns out that they are the ones who have the means and time to flood cyberspace and the airwaves with nonsense and bunkum.

And however educated and wealthy these people might be, they are not the disinterested philosophers Hamilton might have imagined. (Nor are they elected by an Electoral College.) The result is the disproportionate power of a few people, a tyranny of the minority manufactured by ad buys and internet hit pieces.

Of course, even Hamilton would likely deny that a solution would be to restrict voting rights. Rather, what we need is a way to cut through the noise and suss out fact from fiction, prejudice from wisdom, caviar from baloney.

What we need is not a better Electoral College, but an Information College—a group of wise people, citizens who have arrived at a place “beyond fear or favor” who cannot be influenced or bribed: retired judges, former Presidents, etc. Such a group could review (with help from staff of their own choosing, paid for by the government) all of the relevant material that flows through the modern media. It would be monitored and studied, and such an Information College board could/would issue pronouncements to set the record straight.

If such a process were conducted wisely—often enough to be well recognized, but rarely enough to stand out from the general noise—it could acquire real credibility and help all open-minded people sort out right from wrong.

It could be a body resembling our highest court, but its ‘check’ would not be on the Executive or Legislative branches, but on the validity of the whole world of free speech, and thus the power that the wealthy can impose through all forms of modern media.

Consideration should also be given to granting such a new institution powers of investigation—similar to a grand jury—and some powers to sanction repeat offenders of disseminating serious misinformation.

Yes, this is radical stuff, but we are dealing with radical problems.

It will take a serious change to stem the tide, which—if we do not act quickly and decisively—may drown us all.