Will civilization collapse? | WIRED’s Kevin Kelly

– I’m definitely not the
foremost technology historian. I don’t even call myself a futurist. I like to say, I like
to predict the future. I have pinned to my Twitter profile, ”Over the long term, the future
is decided by optimists.” This is not a world we
have fewer problems. This is a world we have as
many, if not more problems, But those problems
themselves are opportunities. It is much, much harder to create a future That we would like to live in- Unless we can imagine it first. I’m Kevin Kelly, I’m Senior
Maverick at Wired Magazine, And author of a bunch of books, Including ”What Technology Wants.” Imagine if I had a magic wand, And I could make the world 1% better. You wouldn’t be able to tell. Nothing would really change very much. But if I took that 1% and
compounded it year by year, Over time we would notice that. That very mild 1% progress is ’Protopia.’ We are very slowly crawling
towards betterment. Protopia is a direction. It’s not a destiny. I bought into the hippie perspective. I wanted that small is beautiful, The Henry David Thoreau,
simplified ”Walden” life. It was the big systems
that I didn’t trust. The big technology, the big corporations- But I did go to Asia, and
there, things began to change. I began to live in very
remote parts of Asia That had no technology. It was like being on a time machine. I was transported back centuries-

A city like Kathmandu that
had no vehicles whatsoever- To Northern Afghanistan. These towns there without electricity. And then there were these
cities, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Right before my eyes, were
emerging out of the ground. So I would go by a rice paddy, And then I would come
back a couple years later, And there would be like factories
and people who had money. Right before my eyes, I saw what technology was bringing people. So that was the first
glimmers of changing my mind About what this stuff was really about. Part of Protopia is to
envision a desirable future. The problem so far is that A lot of those visions of
the future are dystopias. People have trouble imagining
a world filled of technology, Where it’s a world that they want to live Because the robots are gonna
take over and kill us all: The rogue AI, or AI taking
over, AI trampling us. The problem with dystopia is
that it’s just not sustainable. In history, dystopias
just don’t last long. The first thing that
happens is the war lords, In their greed, install
some form of order. It’s not an order that we
prefer, but it’s a form of order. Utopia has a similar problem, In that it’s actually
not a desirable place. First of all, it’s impossible: There can’t really be a
world that has no problems. I think if you made an eternal world That was forever getting worse, And an eternal world that never changed, The way you punish someone eternally Is you put ’em in the world
that doesn’t ever change. There is a role, if not
a duty, for Protopia,

In helping us to imagine what That preferable future would be like. After almost a decade
traveling, I came back. I decided to ride my bicycle
across to see the U.S., Which I’d never seen. I was attracted to the Amish. In my initial interactions with them, They weren’t anti-technology. They actually liked to hack technology To work around their own rules. I became interested in how
did they actually decide Which technologies to
accept and which didn’t. Americans, and my friends, and myself, We are also choosing technologies. Should I have Twitter or not? Should I have a phone or not? Do I wanna have an electric car or not? But we aren’t choosing very deliberately, And we are certainly not
doing it collectively. That’s what I discovered
the Amish are doing- Is they actually have criteria To help them make those choices. And their criteria is: ’Will this technology keep
our communities together And spend as much time
with our communities Versus going out?’ And that’s one of the reasons Why they’re actually
embracing cell phones. They’ve been very slow, but
they are embracing cell phones, Because their communities
are not contiguous, They’re actually kind of broken up. And they found, big surprise, That the phone actually brings
their communities together. Everything is optimized.

And technologies, they feel,
take them away from that, They’re going to reject. And technologies that would
enable them to do that, They’re going to embrace. The more important point for Protopia Is that they have those
criteria that they use To govern what technologies
that they want to use. Most of the problems in the
future are gonna be caused By the technologies today- That’s the Protopian view. But, the solution to the problems made By those new technologies
is not less technology. It’s not to dial back the technology. It’s not to stop AI. It’s to make better AI. I want to emphasize, of course, That this is not a prediction, Because every prediction is wrong. These are scenarios. These are wishes. This is aspirational. But just like ”Star Trek”
has been an inspiration To so many people making things, Because they said, ”I wanna
make that communicator.” And that’s basically what
we got with smartphones. They can be instrumental and powerful, To actually have a picture of something That we’re aiming for in
order to actualize it. – [NASA OPERATOR] ’We have ignition.’ – I don’t think there is a dark side. Part of Protopia is it
incorporates pessimism. It actually says the
problems are valuable. When you drive a car down the road, You need an engine to move it forward

And you need brakes to steer. The vehicle technology requires Both the engine of optimism
and the breaks of pessimism In order to steer. The entire world should endorse Protopia. I don’t believe in an endpoint- That we’re moving in some
way to some final endpoint, Some perfection. We are moving, rather, in directions. And Protopia is a direction, Which is moving towards
increasing options. More choices in the world.

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