Left Behind

Tomorrow, I speak again on the ship. The lecture is titled the “Four Horsemen of the Robot Apocalypse.” It is, I not so humbly submit, a pretty good talk. Relevant. Timely. Looking at a set of issues that the just released National Security Strategy considers to be one of the top concerns going forward. It looks at the intersection of the revolutions in biotech, information technology, and artificial intelligence, and the implications of their confluence for our futures.

OK…its only 45 minutes long and I’m not an expert on these issues, so don’t expect all the answers. Hell, I’m not even sure of all the questions. But, like all of us, I’m capable of looking at the world that is changing so rapidly around us, and recognizing that there are issues we can and should discuss That’s what I try to do in the lecture and it IS surprising just how much you can say in 45 minutes with 6403 words.

But it is such a striking juxtaposition to be giving this lecture after visiting Fanning Island today. The 2500 or so souls who live there…or who did at least at the last census, have no electricity. Have no real jobs. Little hope that the future will be different from the past. They have little opportunity. Nanobots curing their cancers won’t be part of their future. Biosensors to monitor their health? Inconceivable to them. Labor saving devices? Nada.

They do not know that the world beyond the edge of the atoll is changing at a pace that boggles the imagination. And they have little sense that the inexorable rise of the sea threatens their homes. That storm driven waves on the ever-rising ocean will foul their fresh water aquifers and contaminate the soil that supports their meager agricultural efforts.

They don’t know that their future is being written in a language that they don’t understand. And the beautiful kids we saw today have no way of really knowing that their lives will twist beyond all recognition in the years ahead — if they survive to see those years unfold.

It was beautiful, in the way that you expect an island in the Pacific to be. But it isn’t paradise. Far from it. The children and their parents and their dogs and piglets and chickens are all being left behind in a world in transition. Someone is always left behind….it was just a bit hard to see it up close and personal today.

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