Future tech always comes with two things: promise and unintended consequences. And it's those consequences that I want to explore. And before we get to how future tech may affect us, I'd like to spend a little time exploring the unintended consequences of some of our recent tech, namely, social media. Social media, a few short years ago, was the tech of future you. Now it just is you. Social media was supposed to bring us together in ways we could never imagine. And the predictors were correct. These three girls are talking to one another without the awkward discomfort of eye contact.
I call that advancement.
We were supposed to be caught up in a communication tsunami, the likes of which the world has never seen. And that did happen. And so did this.
One of these things is not like the other.
Now, look at this picture. If you picked the guy with the book, you're wrong—or, as a certain president would say, "Wrong!"
Clearly, three of these guys are reading, and one guy, on the end, is listening to music and playing "Candy Crush."
So are we more connected, or are we just more connected to our devices? Social media was supposed to place us in a veritable town square, where we could engage one another with challenging ideas and debates. And instead what we got were trolls. This is an actual tweet that I received. "Chuck, no one wants to hear your stupid, ill-informed political views! I hope you get leprosy and die. Love, Dad"
Now, the great thing about that tweet if you look at it, just like most trolls, it's not that bad, because he wished "leporsy" on me instead of "leprosy," and "leporsy" is not dangerous at all.
Along with trolls, we got a brand new way of torturing teenagers—cyberbullying. A concept that my 75-year-old mother just can't seem to wrap her head around.
"So, uh, did they hit him?"
"No, Mom, they didn't hit him."
"Did they take his money?"
"No, Mom, they didn't take his money."
"Did they put his face in the toilet?"
"No, Mom, they didn't—"
"Well, what did they do?"
"They attacked him on the internet."
"Attacked him on the internet?"
"Well, why don't you just turn off the internet?"
"Your whole generation is a bunch of wussies."
She's got a point.
She's got a point.
And I don't even want to talk about what social media has done to dating. I was on Grindr until I found out it wasn't a sandwich app.
And I can't even tell you about Tinder, except for the fact that if you think there is a limit to the amount of anonymous sex we can have on this planet, you are sadly mistaken.
So where do we go from here? Well, let's just jump right in and play the hits. Driverless cars. Something that has already been around for many years, just without the assistance of computers.
Because for years, we have been driving while texting, putting on makeup, shaving, reading—actually reading—that would be me.
The other thing is that since driverless cars will be shared, most people won't own cars, and that means the DMV will go away. The DMV—I know what you're saying right now. "There's no way this guy is going to stand up here and make a case for the DMV." Well, I don't know about you, but I do not want to live in a world where harsh fluorescent lights, endless lines, terrible forms to fill out and disaffected, soulless bureaucrats remind me that I am pretty damn lucky not to work here.
That is the real service they provide. The DMV: come for the registration renewal, stay for the satisfaction of knowing you made some pretty good life choices.
Nobody will own their car in the future, and that means teenagers will not have a place to make out. So you know what that means. That means they will order driverless cars to do just that. I do not want to step into a vehicle and ask the question: "Why does this car smell like awkwardness, failure and shame?"
If I want to ask that question, I'll walk into my own bedroom.
So what else do we have to look forward to? That's right, artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence, yes. You know, there was a time when artificial intelligence was a joke. I mean, literally a quip that you would hear at a cocktail party when somebody would bring it up in conversation: "Artificial intelligence. The only real artificial intelligence is our American Congress. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha." Well, it's not funny anymore.
Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates have all gone on record expressing grave reservations about artificial intelligence. That's like Jesus, Moses and Muhammad coming together and saying, "Guy, guys—here's something we can all believe in."
You might want to go with that, is all I'm saying. We are actually teaching machines how to think, how to understand our behavior, how to defend themselves and even practice deception. What could possibly go wrong?
The one thing that's for sure: the creation always despises its creator. OK? The Titans rose up against the gods; Lucifer against Jehovah. And anybody who has a teenager has heard these words: "I hate you and you're ruining my life! I hate you!" Now just imagine that sentiment with a machine that can outthink you and is heavily armed.
The result? Absolutely.
What we need to do before we perfect artificial intelligence is perfect artificial emotions. That way, we can teach the robots or machines how to love us unconditionally, so that when they figure out that the only real problem on this planet is us, instead of destroying us—which, by the way, is totally logical—they will find us adorable—like baby poop.
"Oh my god, I just love the way you just destroyed the planet. I can't stay mad at you, you're so cute! You're so cute!"
Can't talk about this without talking about robotics. OK? Remember when you thought robotics were cool? I remember when I thought robotics were cool, until I figured out that they were going to take everybody's place, from the delivery guy down to the heart surgeon. The one thing, though, that is very disappointing about robotics is the holy grail of robotics, and it hasn't even happened. I'm talking about the robot girlfriend, the dream of one lonely geek in a windowless basement who vowed one day: "I am going to marry my creation." And there actually is a movement underway to stop this from happening, for fear of exploitation. And I, for one, am against that movement. I believe we should have robot girlfriends. I just believe that they should come with a feminist protocol and artificial intelligence, so she can take one look at that guy and go, "I am too good for you. I'm leaving."
And finally, I have to talk about bioengineering, an area of science that promises to end disease before it even begins, to help us live longer, fuller, healthier lives. And when you couple that with implantable hardware, you are looking at the next incarnation of human evolution. And all of that sounds great, until you figure out where it's really going. One place: designer babies, where, no matter where you are on the globe or what your ethnicity, babies will end up looking like that.
That boy is surprised because he just found out both his parents are black.
Can you imagine him at a cocktail party in 20 years? "Yeah, both my parents are black. I mean, it's a little awkward at times, but you should see my credit rating. Impressive, very impressive."
Now, all of this seems scary, and everybody in this room knows that it isn't. Technology isn't scary. Never has been and it never will be. What's scary is us and what we will do with technology. Will we allow it to expose our humanity, showing our true selves and reinforcing the fact that we are indeed our brother's keeper? Or will we allow it to reveal our deepest, darkest demons?
The true question is not whether or not technology is scary. The true question is: How human are you?