For futurist nerds the world over, there is perhaps no better outlet than Yuval Noah Harari's "Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow". The 400-page manifesto speculates on humanity's future, specifically our quest to upgrade humans into gods. From AI to cyborgs to designer babies and genetic engineering, Harari covers everything you'd expect from a forward-thinking look at our species -- and much, much more.
In "The New Human Agenda", Harari contends that one reason we cannot "hit the brakes" on barreling headfirst into an unknown future is because nobody knows where the brakes are. This may be so. He further argues that no one is capable of connecting all the dots and seeing the full scope of our future -- the big picture, if you will. Experts are segmented by field and familiar with developments within one field, such as AI, nanotechnology, big data or genetics. No one is an expert on everything, no one understands the system, and therefore nobody can predict what the global economy will look like in the next ten years.
Here he is wrong.
We live in a day and age when information is available at our fingertips, where experts can connect at the touch of a button, and virtual collaboration tools unite employees around the world.
We also live in the age of Wikipedia.
If you are old enough to recall life before the internet, you probably remember Encyclopedia Encarta on CD-rom. Roll back another decade or so and find rows of encyclopedias on shelves, volumes at one time sold by traveling salesmen that might take a lifetime to collect.
Wikipedia, founded in 2001, democratized the information inherent in those encyclopedias, leveling the playing field for access by all. Perhaps more importantly, it enabled the updating of events in real-time, eliminating the gaps between history and the here-and-now.
Which leads me to wonder: if Wikipedia can address the past and present, can we collectively "connect the dots" of the future? Can we build a forward-looking global roadmap like Wikipedia, a roadmap anyone -- from roboticists to geneticists to everyday people -- can edit?
Perhaps the most important question is whether or not, absent a monetary incentive, people will contribute. If Wikipedia is any indication, we have reason to believe so.
Why did people write and edit Wikipedia -- for free? Founder Jimmy Wales said it best:
"We can’t avoid looking at the big picture vision and recognizing that people think that this is a worthwhile project. It’s something that’s just big picture worth doing, and that should exist in the world and that people enjoy helping to make that happen."
Am I on to something?