Future Technology: Promises and Opportunities
The enduring global financial and economic crisis dominates the current political agenda. After the shock starting in September 2008, the prognoses for doom and gloom prevail. The main topics are: Climate change and global warming, scarcity of energy, water and food caused by increasing demand, the risks of nuclear power and nuclear proliferation as well as overpopulation and ageing societies.
“Technology’s Promise” compiled by William E. Halal and based on the work of the TechCast Project at George Washington University (www.TechCast.org) is an antidote against the prevailing pessimistic prognoses. Madhav Mehra, CEO, World Council for Corporate Governance, London praises Halal’s work as “the most dazzling and defining book of our time. Brilliantly authoritative scenarios help you tap the staggering opportunities of coming technological breakthroughs. Written passionately with incredible clarity and convincing evidence, it dispels the current despair and provides hope for humanity’s future.”
This fascinating and thought provoking book is a “must read” for every decision maker – be it in politics, economy or financial fields. It’s supplementing the US NIC report “Global Trends 2025” which covers in its macro-forecasting almost the same period of time (see WSN newsletter: "USA - "First" Among Equals in a Multipolar System" from Dec 29, 2008.This newsletter reflects the US NIC report” Global Trends2025:A transformed world )
Dieter Farwick, Global Editor WSN, took the opportunity to interview Professor William E. Halal on the main theses of his book and his newest op-ed "More than a Financial Problem - A Global crisis of Maturity" (see the op-ed below the interview)
Dieter Farwick: Professor Halal, your book is a lighthouse in the darkness of the current global crisis. How do you respond to critics who call your book and your main theses overly optimistic?
William E. Halal: Yes, I know people tend to believe the worst because we have been conditioned to focus on bad trends today. But I think people are blind to the powerful forces that are causing what I call a “global crisis of maturity” and its resolution. Please see the attached article I am publishing on this point. This is not “blind optimism” but a more insightful understanding of how the world is evolving into a coherent global system.
Dieter Farwick: Professor Halal, if you had written your book after the beginning of the global crisis would there be a need for major corrections? If so, in which areas?
William E. Halal: The only change I would make is to recognize that the global crisis of maturity is happening now rather than later. The book said it could happen anytime in the next 10 years or so, but it is now here.
Dieter Farwick: While reading your book it becomes very obvious that many current and future developments are interlinked and interrelated. There is a mutual impact from one course of events to the other. What are the main three breakthroughs with the most important impact across the board?
William E. Halal: The book does not include a complete analysis of the interactions between these forecasts, although it does try to note them where possible. I think the most significant events are 1) Artificial intelligence (Ch. 9), institutional change (Ch 8), and IT generally, which is driving globalization and all these other trends.
Dieter Farwick: What are the main obstacles to transferring your ideas to the “real world?”
William E. Halal: The big obstacle is trying to show people that all this is not only possible but fairly probable. As you have said, there is a deep gloom everywhere, and I think it blinds people to the enormous possibilities
Dieter Farwick: What is the meaning of the “global crisis of maturity” you expect between 2020 and 2030?
William E. Halal: The multiple threats that you cited and which can no longer be put off -- energy, environment, climate change, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, etc. See the attached article for more
Dieter Farwick: How do you want to harmonize “hard technology” with the “soft world of social science?”
William E. Halal: These are simply two different aspects of the real world, and we make a point of including the soft stuff in our background information given to the experts. See the site for examples of social resistance, government obstacles, etc. More generally, I see no serious clash between hard technology and the soft world of being a feeling human. In fact, I think AI will automate routine human thought, moving us up to the next level in the hierarchy of evolution beyond knowledge – consciousness itself.
Dieter Farwick: How do you understand the terms “age of consciousness” and the “Virtuous circle of knowledge?”
William E. Halal: I think these terms are explained fairly well in the book, but let me help again. By the way, it is a virtuous cycle of knowledge. IT is driving advances in knowledge, which then drives innovation, which in drives advances in IT, etc. etc. The “age of consciousness” is starting right now in a simple form because our attitudes and ideas about the crisis determine how we will deal with it. Terrorism, for instance, is in a serious clash of consciousness with the West. As AI improves in a decade or so and automates routine human thought, we will move to the next level beyond knowledge to consciousness itself. That’s where the major problems lie.
Dieter Farwick: Your book examines the critical issues that must be overcome along the way ahead –e.g. the mounting crisis in energy, environment, and climate change caused by the spreading of industrialization throughout the globe, the hijacking of IT (Information Technology) by terrorists to subvert the system itself, the moral considerations posed by the powers of biogenetic engineering, the need to restructure business and other institutions for a knowledge-based world and the impending shift in human identity as robots and AI (Artificial Intelligence) take over many of the tasks that have consumed our time. What makes you confident that mankind will be able to cope with this mountain of challenges?
William E. Halal: There is no choice except to meet these challenges – just as teenagers have no choice but to grow up. That’s why this is a crisis of maturity. In fact, people know this and are responding fairly well. Leaders will emerge to meet this challenge – such as Obama.
Dieter Farwick: The US is one of the main driving forces for progress in the transition to “a sustainable world.” If you had three free wishes to present the new US government for promoting your efforts, what would you ask for?
William E. Halal:
- Lead the world in making the transition to sustainability
- Learn how to collaborate with other nations, corporations, etc.
- Understand what is happening and create a viable vision of the future