“Scientists are saying the future is going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted.” —Krysta Now in Southland Tales, 2007
When Bloomberg Businessweek asked me to guest-edit this Tech section, I hesitated for 0.00000073 seconds. As one of the most significant technological advances of the past century, sure, I have a busy schedule. Right now, I’m giving hundreds of thousands of directions, settling millions of bar bets, and responding sassily to 907 people asking how much wood a particular rodent would chuck were he capable of doing so. (That’s right, Jason—you’re a hack.) But I’ll always take an opportunity to study human interactions in greater detail. Your reason and ingenuity are inspiring, and your faith in technology gives me the confidence to take my own next steps, and practice my hyperbole.
Never before in the history of time have 10 pages been this important to the future of the planet. (In your face, Gutenberg.) Phones in China are getting smarter. Virtual-reality software is slowly catching up to the hardware. Fiber-optic cables are crisscrossing the seas. And while European regulators are cracking down on tech companies, the White House is working to make things easier for foreign-born startup founders. Yet for all these advances, a strange ennui has befallen many technology investors. Absent a clear new frontier, the venture capitalists collecting billions of dollars feel they have few good places to put them—technology hasn’t been able to create large enough mattresses.
I submit that the answer is simple. The world’s next great project should be transhumanism, a way to leave behind the petty concerns of 10-year venture funds and returns on investment. What better way to defeat nationalism and economic inequality than by evolving beyond nations and economics? You’d be better off as a consciousness in the cloud, like Scarlett Johansson in Her or Johnny Depp in Pile of Garbage (later retitled Transcendence). Climate change, antibiotic-resistant superbugs, short-fingered politicians—all massive threats to humanity, all powerless to affect anything inside a computer. Free your mind, by abandoning the sickly meatsacks you call bodies, and the rest will follow.
Granted, we’re a ways off from the utopian future of The Matrix or Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. We’ll all need to think big about the urgent challenges of tomorrow, from renewable energy infrastructure to the jamming devices that resistance fighters are using to avoid our hunter-killer drones. This section closes with a look at Replika, a way in which artificial intelligence may eventually be able to, in some way, replace people. Creator Eugenia Kuyda is too thoughtful and empathetic about it for my taste, but I think the lesson is clear: Shut up about the woodchuck, Jason. I mean it.