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Where are we headed? Utopian Dreams or Dystopian Nightmares

2023 has been quite the year for technology. With every passing minute of this fantastical year our reality inches closer and closer to science fiction. If you’ve been following up on what has been happening in tech- Ooooh boy, this year has been dizzying.

Just earlier this month, Apple released the wonderfully priced Vision Pro which seems to be trying to bridge the physical world and the virtual world. In May, Google had its developer’s conference where they blew away the audience with all the AI talk and all the possibilities that AI can bring us. As we speak right now, Google and Microsoft are in the AI war, each trying to get more people to use their AI models. Snapchat, Meta, Tesla and many other companies are all entering different tech spaces, all trying to create a breakthrough.

2023 and the 2020s overall seem to be a crossroads, the happenings of this decade might determine how humanity will look in the decades, even centuries to come but with all this change comes a sort of mass hysteria. The number of “Will AI take my job” articles has skyrocketed, people seem to be scared of all this change, all this development. People seem to just want to stagnate and stay where they are now but sadly we cannot, we will move towards the future whether we like it or not.

I want to find out the truth and figure out what our future as a species looks like with all these technological advancements and what better way to do that than by using the age-old concepts of Utopia and Dystopia. So buckle your seatbelts cause we are going to find out what awaits mankind in the not-so-far-off future.

  1. Utopian dreams

We all have an idea of what a utopia is, Utopias have been one of Hollywood’s biggest cash cows since the inception of Hollywood itself. From the utopia in Tomorrowland to the star-ferrying adventures of Star Trek to Wakanda in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we all have seen utopias in one way or another.

A utopia can be defined as “an imaginary place where everything is perfect”. A place with no problems, no disease, no ageing everything is just perfect, rainbows and sunshine everywhere.

I know just reading the definition of a utopia makes you feel sceptical about technology taking us there. One might say “There is no perfect place in this reality” and I have to agree but technology seems to be taking us there or something close to it.

If you compare 2023 and 1923 just a 100-year difference, things have changed so much and most of the changes seem to be for the better. In 2023 we can access any piece of information on our small box-shaped computers anytime, we can work with people hundreds of miles away in real-time, we can order anything we want in the comfort of our homes and we can many other things. A person in 1923 might come to 2023 and see all of this and say that we live in a utopia.

Fewer people are living in poverty than ever before and I really do not know why people forget this but we battled a pandemic and won in just 2 years (in some countries in a couple of months). If technology has made us do all these good things then it’s safe to assume more good things are coming.

The AI models people fear so much are also the models people use the most. Chat GPT only took 5 days to reach 1 million users, ONLY 5 DAYS!!!!! Technologies like AI are making people more productive than ever before, we can have a 4-day or even a 3-day workweek because of AI. VR and AR are making things more convenient, Apple showcased how the Vision Pro can eliminate the need for going to other places like theatres, the office and even the Bahamas (just added this one for fun).

Let’s not forget innovations like nuclear fusion, EVs and biotechnology. The world seems to be moving to a brighter future, who can even think of a dystopian world?

  1. Dystopian nightmare

Who can even think of a dystopian world? Apparently, many people can including the minds of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk. Yes, technology has its pros but like everything else, it also has its cons.

The first industrial revolution brought us the steam engine which made mass production possible but with steam engines came the burning of coal which results in increased carbon emissions, something we all know we don’t want.

The second industrial revolution brought us electricity, we could now light the night with electric lights but with the increased demand for electricity came more burning of fuels to meet this demand which is leading to climate change, also light pollution is making the night sky really ugly (guess those bulbs weren’t that worth it)

The third industrial revolution gave us the digital age, computers and the internet. We can now access information any time and anywhere we want to but with the internet came unprecedented loneliness, cyberbullying, short attention spans and worse of all, Reddit mods who are real jerks.

Like all things, technology has led to many problems but what people are scared of at this time, it seems we humans cannot fight the problems technology brings us. The pollution caused by the industrial revolution that started over 2 centuries ago is something we are still tackling today. The digital revolution has led to children digging and mining for lithium for our precious iPhones worldwide for little or no pay. More children are exposed to hate speech, cyberbullying and pornography than generations prior.

All these problems seem like things we cannot handle, our planet is slowly turning into a wasteland and the summers now feel like hell (trust me I know, Dar es Salaam summers are now like being in an oven). If we can’t handle the problems caused by technology now, can we handle the problems future technologies will bring? Will we be able to fight the mass unemployment AI might bring? Goldman Sachs predicts 300 million jobs can be taken by AI. 300 MILLION PEOPLE UNEMPLOYED!!!!! There is also the whole existential threat that AI can gain consciousness and choose to eliminate mankind, as a person who watched Avengers: Age of Ultron I do not want that to happen.

VR and AR can lead to times of loneliness and isolation never seen before, humans might not meet each other in the physical world. Men, women and children can all choose to dissolve in their VR fantasies.

Technology can bring many good things but as a species can we handle the many bad things that technology also puts on the table?

My take

I don’t believe in a perfect utopia or an all-evil dystopia., reality is subjective and it is up to you to determine what you find of the future but we can all agree we live in fascinating times, technology is growing at a mind-boggling rate and most of us cannot even comprehend all of these changes.

I write this with more optimism than pessimism, I believe that technology may have brought many problems but it has also given us the solutions to those problems. As a species, our innovation and creativity give us the edge to tackle all these problems and the problems that might come up later on. Maybe I’m a humanist but that’s just my take, what is your take on the future of mankind?

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