Stross’ term “accelerando,” defined in scifi-land, is not quite the same thing as the “Singularity.” It is movement towards a technological Singularity, but it’s not specifically one.
The future will be better. It will, actually, be MUCH better. Malthusians like Keynes and Ehlich were wrong. But as with any change or dislocation, there are going to be bumps along the way. Change is happening, change is real, and the vast majority of humanity is living in a world it no longer actually comprehends.
Let’s look at some examples:
- (Re-)Globalization: Globalized trade is nothing new — it’s just new to Baby Boomers and their parents, who spent most of their formative years without it due to unusual historical circumstances. BUT, the globalization of intellectual capital is new. Culture now counts more than raw materials for economic success, and culture can be readily adopted and transplanted.
- The Death of Sclerotic Institution: Transparency now allows society to comment on things it wouldn’t even have known about even in the 1990s when the Internet became quite common. Institutions are being subjected to far greater critique than before, and in very many cases, being found to be profoundly lacking. In the 1990s, if you ranted about what a bunch of idiots Central Bankers are in their attempts to dictate entire economies, you were a conspiracy-theorist nut (or a very well-informed insider). Today, it means you have access to the Internet and/or cable t.v.
- The Death of the Gatekeeper: empowered people are now able to bypass institutions for much of their goals. This has been one of the primary themes of this blog and many others. I can raise vast capital without a bank. I can publish thousands of pages of text, without a publisher. Rent-seekers and gate-keepers are in a panic about this.
- Tyranny of the Algorithm: if your job can be reduced to a rules-based procedure, your job will soon no longer exist. The only jobs which will exist moving forwards into the future are those which require problem solving, or those which create intangible value which cannot be produced by going from A to B to C. This was always the case for brute labor and automation (the sewing machine is crude but quite legitimate example of automation!), but it’s not fully expressing itself in the intellectual occupations. If you’re a button-sorter or bottle-washer functionary, your livelihood is going away, whether your field is fast-food pharmacy tech, or patent law.
- The Death of “Cool” and of Social Conformity: Yes. “Cool” is a measure of conformity. Always has been, even, and especially, when it came to “conforming to a standard of non-conformity.” Align with the taste-makers, and you were cool. Fall out of it, you’re not. “Geek Culture,” in this case defined as “I’m really into this thing that I’m into, and I don’t feel the need to be apologetic to you, the taste-maker or social scold, because of that” is now ascendant.
- Rapid Human Evolution(!!): The Pill, Combined with ready access to abortion, is creating an immediately-documentable example of Punctuated Equilibrium in our lifetimes. Simply acting upon a sex drive no longer guarantees childbirth. It’s optional, even for the poorest of the poor. While some decry an Idiocracy-Like future where the well-educated fail to breed and out-of-control nimrods breed like rabbits, that doesn’t seem to be the case. What IS the case, is that literally millions of people are choosing, voluntarily, to go extinct rather than suffer inconvenience to their modern lives, and in the process, they are not passing either their genes or their values to the next generations. Within the next sixty years there will be, statistically speaking, no children born to anybody who did not want kids. Society at large is passing from a contemporary adult-friendly/child-hostile paradigm with rapidly-dropping birthrates, to a pro-child social stance which will, in the long term, see them recover.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So when your talking bobblehead on the news tries to explain “issues” to you… remember, they don’t have any more of a clue than you do. And by having an investment in an older paradigm, there’s a good chance they have less of a clue.