We are once again at a transition moment in history. Where our journey goes from here could be exceptionally good or absurdly bad. This mirrors past moments, such as the transition into the Agrarian Age, which gave us early high cultures but also various dark ages. Or more recently the transition into the Industrial Age, with democracies flourishing, but also fascism and communism killing tens of millions.
In the past few years we have had incredible unlocks across many fields. To name just a few, in computation we are making real progress on artificial intelligence; in biology, we can now read and write genetic code; in energy, we are closing in on nuclear fusion.
At the same time we are facing unprecedented threats. The climate crisis is accelerating at a pace faster than most of the dire predictions. Our democracies are moribund with bloated and risk-averse bureaucracies. With social media and easy image/video manipulation and creation we live in post-truth world. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has edged us closer to the possibility of nuclear war.
The threats are truly scary and I completely understand why some people find it hard to get out of bed. The opportunities can be anxiety inducing in their own ways, even if you don’t think a superintelligence will wipe out humanity any day now. At all times there are people seeing that opportunity is elsewhere, finding themselves trapped in stagnant fields. Personally I am excited by the opportunities. But even excitement carries potential failure modes (Read more...)