The Wiring of Humanity

Today I received my Apple Watch. Compared to the three Android Wear watches and a few fitness sensors, I can safely say it’s the first smart watch that merely sucks instead of being truly horrible. All of these devices will continue to get better and better, longer battery life, simplified UI, etc.  Soon we won’t know how we lived without them. But that’s not important right now. What’s important is when we look back in history we will say 2015 is the day we started to wire up humanity.

Try to imagine the world one hundred years from now. It’s really hard.  Predicting even 20 years in the future is a crap shoot.  In a hundred years we’ll have cheap space flight and cheap power. Unlimited food and objects thanks to advanced bio-farming and 3d printers. Day to day living has been rewired around the self driving car. We finally cleaned up the atmosphere and started bringing some extinct species back to life. The average person is effectively infinitely wealthy by today’s standards. In short, minus the warp drive, we live in Star Trek.

It’s an idillic vision. While I have undoubtedly gotten details and timelines wrong (self driving cars are coming much sooner that I expected), I think the core is correct. Pretty much any physical problem has been solved or is at least solvable. That doesn’t mean we have world peace, however.  People are still people so people problems will remain.  Unless something else changes.

The smart watch is the first computer that is on you 24/7, or at least the waking part of your life (why don’t we have body heat charging yet?). This is powerful. Eventually the devices will disappear into an earbud or an implant. Humans will be connected to the global network and each other in a far more intimate way than ever possible.

Today I can know my wife’s location at any time, and she can know mine.  I can instantly take photos of my son doing something cute and share them with my mother 2500 miles away. Instantly. For free (marginal cost, anyway). I can tweet my immediate thoughts to anyone who cares to know them, instantly, for free.  Smartphones and Twitter didn’t exist a decade ago. Now imagine a hundred more years of progress. 

I know. You can’t. It’s fairly impossible to imagine life after being connected to the cloud brain for a century. But one thing is for sure. Anyone will be able to know what anyone else is doing or thinking at any time, if they simply choose to.  This is a fundamental change in humanity. We all become wired together.  We become, in essence, a planet of telepaths.

Does this blown your mind? It certainly blows mine.  I don’t know what the future holds but the potential is literally mind boggling. Will we be happy telepaths like the Betazeds? Will we hate each other and long for isolation? What social norms must we develop to protect our sanity? How will we balance physical relationships with the virtual ones? Perhaps all travel will end as we experience everyone and everything remotely and instantly.

I only know one thing. It’s going to be a helluva a ride.

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Posted May 5th, 2015

Tagged: future watch