Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Prospects on the Future of the Human Race

Terry Ridon

The doomsayers will always be there preaching about the end in sight and remote predictions of asteroids and meteors crashing towards earth in the near future. The Discovery Channel documentary underscored the efforts of scientists the world over in discovering new ways and prospects in how to deal with the future of human civilization. A lot of tests have utterly failed but research continues to go on even as efforts to simulate earth conditions in a controlled environment were daunted by scientific errors in calculation and foresight. Nick Bostrom’s paper, although not entirely exhaustive, was able to provide examples in which humankind will eventually face its end and the ways and means on how to avoid such so called existential risks. His assertions were startling, if not downright overstretching horizons, but nevertheless leads scholars into rethinking strategies and policies towards preparing the world towards the inevitable – whether it be change or annihilation.

Science fiction gives us a glimpse of a future that is real. Centuries before, man have not ever imagined of flight, if at all space travel! Nor was there ever prospects on supercomputers and robotics. Did Niels Bohr or Ernest Rutherford ever dream of nuclear fission and the H-bomb? I don’t think so. But I believe humankind will soon be depending a lot of their lives on computers and information technology, whether to make their lives easier or more efficient. With the advent of nanotechnology, the opportunities are immense and a lot of the usual risks in living would eventually find its answers in that – more than the research that can be taken form stem cell studies as nanotechnologies have the capacity of creating molecular sized factories with the capability of hastening the time, for example, to bake Turkey during Thanksgiving, or cook puto-bumbong during Misa de Gallo. With advanced research being done on gene modification, it will only take a matter of time and lots of money to be able to reconfigure the genes and traits of infants, if at all able stifle the spread of hereditary diseases. And of course, human physiology will also adapt with the changing relationships of man with its environment, especially with regards to machines and computers. In the movie Manchurian candidate, the capacity of mind control is available to the highest bidder, needing only medical access to the brain’s tiny hypothalamus. Human culture will also change, not towards dynamism and variability, but a culture that homogenizes the entire human race. With the world getting smaller through globalization and new communications technology like fiber-optics, it is impossible not to imagine the hegemony of Western culture over indigenous ones. All tools of trade, communications, arts and music, literature will all be geared towards that standard, that modern Western standard of culture of subtlety and finesse in which all other cultures purportedly lack. And this change, I think towards this kind of society can never be separated from the political economy of a world order such as what we have today. Even as humankind evolves with new technologies to make their lives better, easier and faster, the exploitative nature of a system like this persists and would probably take on more cunning forms. A generation ago, all the workers wanted was to be regularized in their workplaces and factories in order to avail of benefits from their corporations. But now, most of the companies offer only contractualized labor in the guise of streamlining and rationalization. And society supposedly has developed so much from those days of large mainframes to these days of the iPod. All I am saying is that, although nanotechnology will inevitably be part of our lifestyles soon, in the way cellphones are right now, and sure, even the masa will all be listening to Brit-rock bands like Keane with a homogenized yet bastardized world culture, but the fact remains that no everybody will be able to avail these technologies if the humankind continues to be stuck in an exploitative world economic order such as this in which those who can pay are kings and all others who cannot can just cry their asses out, where then is the fulfillment in that? Where then is the progress and evolution of humankind in that? And I think it is in these contradictions from which man will start his race towards extinction. Nick Bostrom said that an asteroid hit is a remote possibility so we can rule it put for now and even the possibility of an extra-terrestrial invasion. But a war of nuclear proportions, or a nanowhatever war in the future continues to be a clear and present danger to entire humankind since the Cold War up to those times when we have nanoweapons already. This is based on the assumption that the states around the world and its military are only there to preserve and exploit the current economic order led by the US. They are the ones who stockpile and keep the most number of nuclear weapons now and they continue conducting classified researches on weapons technology, perhaps on nanoweapons. As I said, as the current economic order continues with its exploitative nature, the contradictions will lead to untenable heights and the exploited peoples and nations around the world will fire back in anger in desperation. Then you have another world war, a war with nuclear arsenals and possibly nanoweapons. I would like to believe that progressive countries such as Cuba, North Korea and Russia would be at the forefront in fighting the US and its allies with their own nuclear weapons and what you have is a world that is on the brink of annihilation with the immense number of nuclear warheads that will be used and bombed on every major city in the world. And the skyscrapers and steel bridges will crumble and New York City will be vaporized. So will the Havana cigars and the Pyongyang kimchis. Every country will eventually have to take sides and inevitably fall prey to the power of the nuclear bombs. Say goodbye to Japanese electronics and Tokyo University. The French can French Kiss their way to oblivion as the Champs de Elysees will be bombed, finally. (Hitler forgot to do that, the French were too scared to fight that they surrendered haha) Well, the Filipinos, well, will maybe survive a little. We’re like cockroaches. You can find us anywhere haha. If we play our cards right, people might survive this. If not, say hi to the cockroaches at the top of the food chain! But this I think, as Mao Zedong saw it, is the only way in which man can eventually progress towards a better society and a better people. It is from the ashes of a nuclear winter in which humankind can build an entirely equitable society because the notions of individualism will have vanished together with the structures that permit it as the surviving peoples will have to learn to depend on each other collectively to build and construct a new society and civilization better and more resilient than before, free from the exploitative and oppressive scheme of things that gave rise to the nuclear war. This I hope is how Nick Bostrom saw the posthuman society.

The surefire way to protect humankind from extinction is to rise above the world order that hastens its destruction. The world will not be having problems with global warming and the greenhouse effect if it were not for the culture of consumerism permitted by the global corporations today. The decreasing biodiversity and forest cover will not have happened not because they forgot about sustainable development but because there is money and profit from exploiting the mines and trees. Even the Philippine Supreme Court overturned a previous ruling banning the exploitation of mining areas by foreign corporations! There would be no protracted war today by the Commies if only those who owned vast tracts of land gave it the peasants and there would be no rallies during May One and November 30 if the captains of industry just gave the workers their due salary and benefits. But what we have is a world order that is centered on profit and money and institutions in government and society that allow this framework to flourish. These are the systems which we should change as these systems make way for cultures and world-views to be McDonaldized, to allow the continuing of such an inequitable scheme of things. Nuclear wars can be avoided if only the developed nations knew that in order for the Third World to industrialize, they should rechannel their intensive military spending to Debt relief and Food programs in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These acts are levelers and equalizers in the wake of depressing conditions around the world. Assuming that countries spend on weapons because of gathering threats from rogue states, what they do not tell you is that weapons together with wars are worth a lot of money, not because it costs a lot, but because it gives so much profits especially for governments with investments on weapons research. Again, at the center of it all is the raw reality of the interplay of money, profit and power. This is what consumes the leaders of the world order that we have and certainly this is what will lead us towards the war that hopefully, would be the Great Filter in the future.

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