We live in a two-track world, a Fast Track and a Slow Track, where the tracks seem to run parallel to each other on a day-to-day basis, but we know they will eventually meet and either merge into one track, or collide with each other. The one I see coming will change future history in ways we can only imagine, but I’m betting on a collision before a merging of the two is possible.
The Fast Track is taken by those deeply excited and involved with the “Singularity”, automation, virtual reality, artificial/machine intelligence, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, autonomous vehicles, and a host of related areas. In my experience, they are almost uniformly delighted and proud that they are on the Fast Track and look forward to the future with great hope and expectations. They believe they think exponentially, emphasizing fast change.
The Slow Track is taken by those who spend 98% of their time just trying to keep up with their jobs, families, professions and so forth in the present. Many are not happy with what they have now or the direction we are taking. Their unhappiness in the US and Europe is obvious. They are said to think in linear terms which assumes a more gentle growth in the alternative technologies mentioned above.
Those on each track are aware of those on the other.
Fast Track people are a global group where nationality takes a back seat to tech expertise. Appropriately or not, they tend to ignore the Slow Track because, in their opinion, those people are clueless and much too far behind to make it worthwhile to try to bring them up to speed. Intentional or otherwise, a certain arrogance marks their work. I think many of them believe that, by the time the Slow Track catches on to what is happening, they will be impressed by the results and want more. And if they don’t, then they will be left behind.
Slow track people are not a global group. Nationality, among other factors, remains important. They hear from the Fast Track folks more and more, but still sporadically and at a distance. Often, it relates to their coming loss of employment due to AI and automation. Or it is their negative reaction to the whole idea of being programmed by their DNA with a lot less “free will” than they like to think they have. It is important to remember that they are the majority and by a substantial margin. And, by the way, they include many very, very well-educated and “sophisticated” people too, but people whose work is unrelated to the Fast Track’s goals. They will make their judgment when they have to make it, and if the Fast Track doesn’t appreciate that, they can take a short leap off a very tall cliff. The majority rules when the majority demands it. And if they are not dealt with intelligently, they will be the Fast Track’s worst nightmare.
There are two problems with this Fast Track/Slow Track analogy.
Neither track is either faster or slower than the other. They are both at exactly the same “point in time”, moving in exactly the same direction in time, and moving at exactly the same speed. The “speed” is just a reflection of what is going on in their heads. This is something the folks who like to think they are Fast Track seem to sometimes forget. It’s that arrogance thing again.
The second problem is that we might think the “tracks” run parallel to each other. But as I mentioned at the outset of this essay, not so. Whether slowly or suddenly, the two tracks will meet and either merge successfully into one, or provide a spectacular collision. If I were you, I would place my bet on the collision.
What will bring on this collision? Well, there will be a number of small collisions, but the Big One that really starts the societal debate can be any of a number of possibilities. The only qualification is that it is something that smacks people emotionally and which is presented by the Fast Track without taking that very understandable emotional reaction from the Slow Track into consideration.
It could be something along the lines of In Search For Cures, Scientists Create Embryos That Are Both Animal And Human, but more dramatically presented. Or it could be something along the lines of Soon you will be able to ride in a robo-taxi when both taxi drivers and Uber drivers find themselves without fares, and every other employed driver can start to sweat. That target date of 2018 is a lot earlier than was being discussed, even a few months ago.
It could be something that seems small at the time, or something obviously huge, but we all have to wait and see. I just don’t think we will have to wait that long.
Whatever triggers the collision, it is likely to be based on the failure of Fast Track people to convince Slow Track people that all this is being done for them, not to them. My experience with people from both tracks, and I am fortunate to have plenty of both, is that this is the real question and it will need to be answered clearly and positively, not just dropped on the public from above as a fait accompli.
A note to my hardly little band of readers! I have not written much over the last few months, as you know if you have been following Future Brief for awhile. My problem (it’s a genetic predisposition, I’m sure) is that I try to cover too many points at one time and the essay drags on forever. So I will return to what this blog was about from the beginning – a personal notebook where I collect ideas that may later be used for publication. So I expect to post more, but shorter essays (yes, this is a short essay…for me). Think of them as pieces of a much bigger puzzle. I do. Eventually, we can put them together.
This is a personal blog, more of a personal notebook, unadvertised and without promotion. I try to post on a weekly basis, but there is no guarantee. Should you stumble across it and wish to be notified of new posts, just enter your email address at the upper-right of this page. I have no other use for email addresses. Rest assured, yours will be kept private. I also now tweet to share articles and essays that I think are important, but do not have room for here. You are welcome to make comments, if they are on topic and polite. I have no time or space for insults, foul language, or anything I judge to be offensive to readers.