Innovation Future Specialist
What is the purpose of people? Some ask this question, but perhaps more ask "what is my purpose?". Some might never consider it, and some might not care. A common related question is "what do you wish for", and a common answer is "health and happiness". That sounds like a good answer so let us start by pursuing that...
What is it to be healthy? We might say:
» To have no diseases
» Free from viral and bacterial infections
» Good functioning biology
» Good eye sight and hearing
» Mentally alert and a sense of well-being
What about the effects of old age? Does good health mean having the same functionality and capabilities as when you were younger?
Science, technology and innovation have done a lot to give us better health, and there is much more to come.
Science and technology has delivered massive health improvements so far: antibiotics; anaesthetics; pain killers; drugs that aim to stop depression; drugs to restore or correct biological functions; artificial organs and limbs; implants to restore hearing and (to an extent) sight; implants to control the symptoms of Parkinsons disease; and, in an extreme case, an implant to cure a chronic feeling of sadness.
Many more benefits are expected. Now the human genome (the DNA) has been mapped we are starting to identify what different parts of it do (the genes and the functions of epi-genetics). We are starting to map proteins, and to study what they do. Human biology is a complex system and there are many molecular interactions to study. This requires the collection and analysis of massive amounts of data; so much so that it requires the assistance of laboratory robots, the processing of huge amounts of data, and the emerging analytical capabilities of artificial intelligence. All of these areas of research are progressing - some at an exponential rate of improvement.
Is good health having the same biological functionality and capability as the average person? Is it to have the best biological functionality and capability of any person? What about going beyond the best attributes of any person today? - stronger, faster, brighter, happier ...
People always say they want to be happy; that is understandable. But what is happiness? Perhaps we can a agree that it is a feeling (within the brain). We know that chemicals in the brain are associated with happiness. Some try to stimulate this feeling by adding their own chemicals to the mix: drugs and alcohol. This often has undesirable side effects.
What if you could have a "Happy Chip"? You might smile but take a look at the above health examples again. Did you notice the brain implants, for Parkinsons and to cure sadness? It appears that on rare occasions happiness chips might already exist. Years ago a woman had one of these and when it was being calibrated you could see a smile appear on her face, and she felt happy!
Clearly these chips are not widely available, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility to imagine them becoming so in the near future. This raises big questions:
» What are the implications of being happy all of the time?
» Would it be ethical?
» What are the psychological implications?
» If you could be happy all of the time, what would that mean for motivation and productivity?
» Would happiness be rationed; would you have to buy happy time?
Advertisement: Buy Happy Time: just 5 digital Bitolein coins for 20 minutes of artificial happiness, from The Happy Chip People Ltd.
Does that make you think about the value of happiness and the purpose of life? If we can have artificial happiness when we want, what will that mean? What is the purpose of life, when you always have happiness?
Given that we can have happiness at the flick of a switch or the purchase of some "Happy Time", it might be worth reflecting a little deeper as to what really matters. Perhaps it is happiness and fulfilment that we seek.
Here are ten things that seem to make us happy and give us a sense of fulfilment:
» Positive attitude
» Sense of achievement
» Physical pleasures
» Bright light (e.g. sunny days) [and for some, spiritual enlightenment]
» Uplifting music
» Adventure, excitement and variety
» Helping others
Some of those examples [just] make us feel good, whereas others can have a deeper meaning and give us a sense of purpose, worth and achievement.
These points might be useful when thinking about future policies for society and its technologies.
And for those wanting to exercise their intellect: if all of the above examples were satisfied by placing us inside a sophisticated life-like virtual reality environment, would that be less meaningful?
We might associate some of our purpose to our intellect: being the smartest animal on the planet. However, within just a few decades we will no longer be the smartest intellect on the planet; that award will go to artificial intelligence (AI). There is a great deal of progress now being made in AI because we have started to copy the way the human brain works. There is much talk about the AI Singularity: the point where AI becomes as smart as humans. AI is already smarter than us in a number of areas, but not overall [yet]. The important point is to recognise that AI will continue to get smarter, even after the Singularity. Imagine an AI with an IQ of 300, 500 or 1000! What will that do for our sense of purpose?
See: AI Predictions
What will it mean for our purpose when our intellect is no longer superior? What is our purpose when AI can analyse masses of data at incredibly fast speeds and make more effective and efficient decisions than we can? What is our purpose when AI can manufacture everything better and faster than us, and provide efficient services? What is our purpose when there are few opportunities for work?
What will our purpose be when there is little need for our intellect? We have never faced this scenario before, but it is something we have to start considering now, as the AI Singularity is close. In AI Predictions it is suggested that we do not give AI human emotions, for reasons related to our own survival. Hopefully, this would also allow us to keep a sense of purpose in our new lives of leisure.
Purpose: To explore the Future and Beyond!
Process: It is all in the mind
People: Happiness and fulfilment
This is an article in To the Future and Beyond!
If you work in the UK you can get more of these articles in the Innovation Future Forum.
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