The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Future Yet Has Arrived

The Future Yet Has Arrived
By Tim Krenz

COVID-19 and the emergency measures around it have accelerated the transitions started by the Information Age decades ago. With the world wired-in and logged-on, the soft quarantine in most states of the Union and other parts of the globe have forced the world to adapt using technology as it exists today. The quarantine, and the social isolation and distancing to prevent COVID-19's spread have also pointed the way for new and upcoming, and much needed, technologies to fill the spaces and gaps not now covered in the technology architecture. Future technology and how humans use it will continue to evolve.

As we always must say, “Change remains the only true constant in the universe.” Most people working, if at all, remotely, at home, or in more isolated work spaces; school terms shifting to remote, online coursework; home entertainment via digital streaming; and more expansive on-line shopping and home delivery; all these point the way to the future of work, education, amusement, and commerce—toward the direction information technology has always pointed us. If the COVID-19 emergency has done anything, it makes the opportunity presented by the danger into the necessity of innovation. Nonetheless, some choices remain, and a necessity for decision-making exists, in how we use these opportunities to adapt to the technology, both current and future. We mus set some priorities for these new tools and techniques.

Despite how things have changed due to COVID-19, even temporarily in some respects, some things have remained, like food supply, as important as before the emergency. People will still have to work, or labor, to create and distribute food and even all other household necessities. How digital means, including its use in the biological sciences, will assist feeding civilization brings both promises and dangers. Where we see that technology and its tools and applications can increase, secure, and facilitate feeding people, it will happen. This includes everything from creating better genetic strains of crops to more efficient storage and transportation processes via digital tools. Where the emergency shows shortcomings in these supply chains, technology and those who innovate with it will fill those gaps.

Energy, and by implication transportation, and even household machine controls, all can benefit from increased efficiency, utility, and cost-to-benefit advantages. The trend in business and engineering already point the way forward. The necessities of filling the gaps and improving energy exploitation and use as seen in the emergency will spur the innovations in untold, and perhaps unexpected ways. COVID-19 influenced areas where energy production, storage, price-point supports, and reduced pollution had noticeable impacts. Again, long-term trends pointed the direction for decades. COVID-19 merely gives impetus to rapidly advance technology's uses to cover the exposed shortcomings. If nothing else, the new ways and means of energy in this civilization will help prepare for new emergencies.

COVID-19 also created a direct line in the new way employment can function in dispersed physical locations and in on-line virtual networks. This, too, has profound implications in commercial business, industrial production, urban development, public transportation, and even the community design and construction industries. Not only does COVID-19's effects impact the nature of work and household types, locations, design and construction, it also, as we clearly see, accelerated the trending changes in how society educates its people. Everything associated with the education industry—school construction, learning materials and equipment, staffing expenses, and the very budgets, tuition, and taxes that support schools, colleges, and universities can undergo refinement, innovation, redesign, and rethinking. For education and employment, the very topics and subjects, and the way of teaching itself, may change after assessing the course and impact on education of the emergency quarantine. As far as the general economy of the United States and the world, the products, services, training, and uses of employment and education will move faster toward the trend lines have pointed the way for decades. COVID-19 now shows people how, in this recent socially scientific mass experiment, it can work and we can improve much in the future.

In the social-economic changes to come inevitable with or without COVID-19 ever happening, we arrive at perhaps the most critical changes that we can foresee, and the ones with the most dangers and opportunities, in the cultural-political areas of society.

First, in the cultural sense, during COVID-19, a new phrase entered the lexicon, called “social distancing.” By separation in public, and keeping apart, we use social distancing to stop or slow the spread of that virus by limiting person-to-person contact and physical transmission. A necessary measure, the social distancing must never become a cultural distortioning, a human civilization whereby we limit physical contact and disconnect ourselves emotionally, or withdraw fellowship, friendship, concern or empathy, from others. Such a distortioning could disengage people from mutual aid to others, stop recognizing their political, economic, social and other lawful natural rights, and cause even more division in society. At this stage of the reopening of society after the quarantine, if we have learned anything about the isolation, we should have learned that no matter what technology or tools we have to maintain digital or even just informational connection, people need human contact with each other. We exist as social animals, and our civilization with whatever peace it has cannot stand any more cultural disconnection than it already has endured. Hopefully, COVID-19 teaches us a lesson that technology cannot successfully cure everything in and by itself. Only by working together, and recognizing that we need to work together, and reconcile face-to-face, can the world survive future emergencies, even far more deadly or catastrophic ones than COVID-19.

Finally, in the political realm, we arrive at what could become the most important and critical of the effects of the pandemic. This potential phenomenon draws a straight line from the danger of cultural distortioning. Technology and its tools and innovations will always advance and evolve. We will have faster computing, more machine learning, near-sentient artificial intelligence, more autonomous machines, more dispersed and even more powerful and hyper-timed networks and connections. We can see it happening now. We know it will happen faster and faster. But we must use these things safely, and with foresight, in building them. Have we installed safeguards and trapdoors to turn off or unplug connections to preserve human dignity and natural rights? Furthermore, do these materials and processes serve us or will they or their controllers use us to serve them? We see the advantages of having technology and new ways of adapting and innovating them to the needs of civilization. Even if they present dangers of political corruption or tyranny, we must ensure that the opportunities they present at the edifice of a new era remain for the use of all, equally, in liberty and dignity for the culture of humanity.

The COVID-19 emergency points to how civilization can do things, if not better then more efficiently in the coming years and decades. New things and new ways can add to the collective safety, the survival envelope, and even the extensive comfort of life on earth. Unless we know the “why?” we want to change before we build the “what?” we would make a fatal error. Many questions remain, even questions we do not know yet. But life during COVID-19 at least can force us to ask, “What don't we know about the consequences of what we plan to do?” Answering this should assume the highest priority.