What happened to all the gung-ho hyper-optimistic transhumanists, myself included? When and how and why did we lose our wild deep optimism?
Perhaps some of for many of us that were around for the hyper-optimistic 90s and early 21st century we simply got older. But this doesn’t seem accurate. I see younger generations much more subdued in hope and expectations as well.
Perhaps we did a bit of a pump and dump on ourselves – we had such far out dreams and expectations of what was just around the corner that a crash was inevitable when few of those expectations were realized quickly. I had a nagging feeling in those days that too much was seen as inevitable with super-human AGI supposedly just around the corner. I even knew some younger folks in the movement that thought going to college was pointless and superintelligence would far outshine them. Too many seemed to think that all matter of milk and honey was just around the corner and was indeed inevitable.
It didn’t help that we had 9/11 and the crash of 2008 to deflate our wild optimism and that of many others. More recently 2020 has certainly not helped anyone keep their best and happiest visions for what is possible in mind.
There is something else that I think may be part of it. I saw so much and participated in a lot of wild eyed technological optimism and focus on technology. That was cool for a hyper-geek like myself.. But I felt even back in the mid-90s that there was en element missing. It seemed to me that there was a missing spiritual or consciousness raising element. It seemed to me that we were missing a compelling deeply inspiring Vision of where we wanted to go. Perhaps without that there was not the unifying uplifting core that was needed to fully gel as a movement and as a community.
In my opinion it would have helped tremendously if we had a vision of Everyone Makes It. A vision of such Radical Abundance that there was no reason to leave anyone behind. I think the hardest challenge is of our evolved psychology, deeply steeped in assumed scarcity, dealing with the overheating of accelerating technology. It is hard for us to conceive of actual abundance. We so deeply assume scarcity. This bleeds over into all our institutions.
It is hard for us to accept and fully utilize and incorporate into our lives and institutions the Abundance that is already ours. We have a device in our hand that can give us near instant access to all the knowledge of humanity! Yet much of it is locked up behind various paywalls, middlemen and IP laws that assume at their base scarcity – that the only way to have enough is to put up pay stations across such knowledge and access to it.
Those same devices enable us to have near photographic memory for all we see and hear. But that also breaks a lot of IP laws. If our electronic devices are true extensions of our minds or ever can be such then why settle for partial lobotomy of what our increasingly extended mind is capable of apprehending and doing? The why is again the assumption of scarcity.
I am not trying to blame here but to point to where we are. We are in a transition period between scarcity being honest and realistic and it becoming far less so – sometimes gradually and sometimes in some areas all in a rush. We are caught flat-footed. Old business models no longer make sense and the people involved feel threatened. People fear becoming obsolete and their way of “making a living” going bye-bye. They don’t know what comes next. Their fear is not unjustified as we try to navigate into the uncharted waters of accelerating change.
I think part of what happened to us is the reaction of what is to such radical notions of what could be. And to be honest much of it was not at all grounded or reasonably thought through. I also have a sneaking suspicion that an even harder question was waiting in the wings.
“How must we ourselves change to reach the future of our dreams?”
Both how we as individuals need to confront our evolved psychology and transcend some highly limiting parts of that and how we need to change our institutions to ever get to and live in and enjoy Radical Abundance. I think many shied away from such deep questions. It is indeed hard to think of them from within old comfortable paradigms.