How will man keep his humanity in the future?
From time to time we respond to questions about the future sent in via email by readers. We don’t have a lot of time for this, but when a question seems especially interesting we offer our thoughts.
Salman Mumtaz asked this question.
Response by Glen Hiemstra, 2000
Nothing like starting with the big issues. Salman reflects the larger concern in society that eventually technology will replace humanity, even that machine intelligence will find humans no longer necessary and eliminate the species (see Futurist.com article “Joy and the Future”).
At the least there is concern that humans will become isolated, interacting only through machines with little human contact and thus little of what we think of as humanity.
Here is another way of looking at the issue. Recently I spoke to the Advanced Management Program at Cornell University. The audience consisted of managers and leaders in the hospitality business from all over the world – U.S., Australia, Hong Kong, Peru, Sweden, Malta, Nigeria, Egypt, and more.
After the morning program, I joined a table for lunch. I expected these hotel, resort and restaurant managers to probe more deeply. What is the future of fast food around the world? Should they be building more golf course resorts? Where will the hot spots for tourism be as the world population ages.
But these were not the questions these hotel managers asked. Instead they asked, “What is the future of how we see God? Will people believe in God, will we reinvent or redefine God, will Religions survive or change?” A lively discussion ensued.
In this discussion is part of the answer to Salman’s question. Human beings are spiritual beings, no matter their belief or lack of belief in any particular expression of this spirit. Life itself is spiritual. Our scientific search to understand the genome, or to understand both the larger universe and the sub-atomic universe can be seen as an expression of a universal human longing to understand the essence of existence. Some believe this search will ultimately eliminate the concept of spirit, while others believe it will serve to enhance the concept.
I believe it will do both simultaneously, but no amount of understanding will eliminate the search itself. And in that search humanity will survive. One can even imagine scenarios in which an emphasis on becoming more human becomes our dominant activity, in a highly technological world. Such is the thesis of Taichi Sakaiya, in The Knowledge Value Revolution, a book we recommend in our Future Bookstore.