YouTube Will Save Civilization

I know, I know. You’re skeptical. YouTube is home to millions of channels, and the most famous and profitable are of young Millennial men and women opening toys or playing video games while you watch.

But bear with me, because I believe that YouTube is the answer to a huge problem we have right now in our world—The lack of reality education.

What do I mean by reality education? I mean Home Economics and Shop. Two classes that until the late eighties were considered mandatory classes for high school students. I call this reality education because these are the skills desperately needed to become an adult: cooking, budgeting, fixing an electrical outlet, building a fence, and yes, learning how to operate a chainsaw.

Some might think I’m being romantic, and I don’t buy into the Home Economics for girls and Shop for boys paradigm. However, in the early eighties most high schools were combining the classes and mixing the sexes. Boys cooked, girls ran chainsaws and all were well on their way to becoming citizens who didn’t have to call a handyman each time there’s a leak in the pipes.

Somehow by the early nineties though, the entire program just went away. Enter in the least handy generations ever…Generation X and Y. The TV handyman character, Red Green, always said, “If the women don’t find you handsome, they better find you handy.” I think this goes for women as well. Most of us don’t know how to change the breaks on our cars or replace the GFI outlets when they go out. We’re also struggling at balancing our daily finances, making budgets and cooking has gone out the window. It seemed like we fell into a dark ages where caring for the home fell into the category of, “Hire someone!” Good for real handymen, but bad for the rest of us.

The end of Home Economics started long before the eighties. In a Huffpost by Brie Dyas it’s suggested that, “The post-World War II landscape presented a challenge for college-level home ec studies. During the Cold War, universities started to defund programs in favor of increasing budgets for science departments. The explosion of convenience foods made from-scratch cooking seem irrelevant. As college-level courses disappeared, those at the high school level lost their cache, as well. As Megan J. Elias writes in "Stir It Up: Home Economics in American Culture," home ec "became associated with dead-end high school classes for girls."

Shop had a similar fate—to be a handyman was a last resort for those who couldn’t be something better. According to Tara Tiger Brown, a contributor for Forbes Magazine, there are real reasons why this happened. Let’s start with California, the pioneer in all things American it seems. She writes that shop and home economics didn’t make the a-g list for the UC when deciding what skills were needed for future Americans.

“The UC/CA State system focuses on theory and not applied skills; a belief that learning how to swing a hammer or understand the difference between a good joint from a bad joint is part of a by-gone era, and as a society these skills are not something to strive for – something people resort to when they are out of options. Looking at shop class in this light is short-sighted and detrimental to America’s future.”

Our fears of being stereotyped has led to a generation of humans who actually don’t feel prepared to care for their homes. Many still live with their parents, even decades after college (that’s another blog all in itself) but for those of us who do create homes of our own, we’ve pretty much had to learn as we go, which until the invention of YouTube, was quite difficult.

Take this perfect example. Just a few weeks ago, our gas fireplace in our bedroom died, just in time for the first winter freeze. The timing couldn’t have been worse. I called the store where we’d purchased the unit and they said their repair team was busy for the next six weeks! They gave me the numbers of some local fireplace repairmen. So I called them and they too were busy for eight to ten days. That’s a long time to sleep in a freezing bedroom. But my husband, being one of the last handy men of his generation, had installed the thing, so I asked the repairman if he could give me a hint of how my husband could fix it. He told me that there were two sensors that needed to be cleaned and gave a description of how to do so, which I passed on to my husband.

A mere five years ago, that would have been it. He would have tried and perhaps figured it out, but perhaps not and then we would have waited eight days until the guy could come to our house to fix it. But my husband had shop and sort of knew his way around. And even better, he searched YouTube and found a video of a guy doing just this repair. All he had to do was search for the model name of the fireplace with the words, “cleaning the sensors.” Voila! Issue fixed and heat was back on in no time.

I went on YouTube and found videos on how to do your laundry, write a check, balance a check book, make a bookshelf, replace a GFI outlet, clean my fireplace, and double ply yarn on a spinning wheel. The amount of information shared by those who know how to do is AMAZING!!! These aren’t famous YouTubers making millions a year. These are men and women who are willing and able to take the time to teach those of us under the age of forty-five how to do the things we need to do to keep the house running. 

In lieu of learning these basic homemaking skills from our parents, or from home economic and shop classes in school, YouTube is our final hope.

I recommend getting on there and taking charge of your education! To start, visit Red Green on YouTube, the best handyman TV show on Earth, and it’ll get you laughing, which is the best way to tackle any problem. For real life problem solvers, I found this list of Nine Great DIY YouTube Channels from Popular Mechanic to be incredibly helpful.

I’m so grateful to these DIY folks and I applaud them. If you’re one of them, please know that you’re appreciated and I honestly think that you’re saving our civilization.

For without you, our homes would fall into ruin…trust me.

Hacktivism: The 21st Century Solution to Communications Disruption

My father went to Vietnam. As an ROTC member in college, he had no choice—serve or go to prison. Not being a fan of prison, he went. My father was also an electrical engineer and lifelong ham radio hobbyist. As a result, when he arrived in the hot, sweaty jungles of Vietnam he wasn’t sent to the front line, instead he was assigned to building the communications towers that would keep the US army and its allies connected throughout the war.

Every morning my father would get into a Jeep with several other soldiers and cross the field from their base to their towers. Every morning the Vietnamese soldiers would fire at him, non-stop. He would then spend the rest of the morning building the tower, fixing it and bringing it online, all under enemy fire. Once it was all up and running, he’d return in the Jeep, under fire, while other men protected the tower.

And each night, the Vietnamese would destroy the communications tower—which meant my father had to do it all over again the next day, and most days, of his time there.

The Army needed him, and at the end of his tour of duty, offered him enough money to buy a house at that time in CASH, if he’d stay another tour. He recently told me he laughed at them and said, “No way in hell. Get me out of here.”

His laughter wasn’t because he thought the situation was humorous. He knew statistically that the fact he’d survived being shot at every day while building those towers was an anomaly, and the chances were slim he’d continue to survive another year of duty.

Forty years later, we’re still fighting wars with countries all around the world. We may not be calling them the Syrian War, or Iraq War or Afghanistan War anymore. Instead it’s the “War Against Terror”, a never ending war reaching around the globe. Terrorist attacks can happen anywhere and while our institutions of war still desire to put boots on the ground like we did in Vietnam, the reality is that there are new ways to bring conflict to an end.

Today, in the 21st century, an act of war can be committed anywhere, not just on enemy soil. And similarly, armies of terror can communicate, not through large radio towers that need to be guarded, but anywhere in the world, via the internet. Recruitment and planning of many terrorist acts are done online. Thus to take out their communications no longer requires men shooting at technicians as they work. Instead, it involves men and women, sitting behind a computer, hacking into cyberspace and disrupting communications, all while drinking coffee in their pajamas.

I think my Dad would agree that this is a huge improvement to what he, and many others, have suffered.

And who are the soldiers disrupting the communication in today’s War on Terror? I imagine the Armed Forces has a band of cyber-soldiers. The Feds do as well. But it turns out the hacktivist group, Anonymous, is the one waging the most interesting and perhaps effective, counter-terrorism attack of its kind. And it appears they’re having a lot more fun than my father did.

Seven days ago, they rickrolled the Islamic State. According to SF Gate, “The "hacktivist" group has been flooding all pro-Isis hashtags with countless videos of the red-headed bass-baritone, according to a recent tweet from the #OpParis account.

Anyone familiar with 1980s music videos knows how unsettling watching Astley sing and dance can be. In fact, as Dazed notes, tricking people to watch his "Never Gonna Give You Up" has been a staple of viruses, protests and other online pranks since 2007.”

Just in time for Thanksgiving the hacktivist group followed Islamic State recruitment to the dark web and gave them some good sexual advice. The Jerusalem Post reports: “…programmers from the hacking team GhostSec employed the weapon of mockery and overran a website linked to ISIS supporters with ads for the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra and the anti-depressant Prozac.”

Humor goes a long way. We don’t need more boots on the ground, we need more hackers to dedicate hours of their lives taking down the main methods of recruitment and information sharing. From Twitter to the dark web, coders are the new face of communications disruption.

As I already mentioned, I’m sure that the Pentagon and the Fed are already employing people in this arena. Yet many coders I talk to would rather do this work as vigilantes and renegades, than sign up to work for the government. In the case of the military, many don’t want the duty part. They aren’t soldiers in the old fashioned sense and pledging one’s life to the Armed Forces doesn’t look too attractive to most computer geniuses. If you’re the type of person who likes to work from home in your pajamas downing Red Bulls and playing video games in between hacks, a role in the Pentagon isn’t quite for you.

Computer oriented folks could take normal employment with the FBI. The recent cracking of the Silk Road by FederalAgent Chris Tarbell is a great inspirational story that should make any hacktivist consider a job with the government. I shared Tarbell’s story with my eldest son, in an attempt to lure him to consider a job in computer forensics. We opened up the Book of Majors by the Collegeboard and checked out the career description. Overall, the coursework was amazing. Not only do you study all things code and computers, but also criminal law, justice, investigation and forensic accounting and science. Unfortunately, according to this source, while job prospects are good—more than fifty percent of FBI cases will require a computer forensic expert—be aware that if you pursue this career, child pornography cases can be as much as SEVENTY percent of the work load for state level offices.

Seventy percent? No wonder our greatest minds aren’t interested in going the traditional route and working for the FBI or the police. Most of their cyber experts’ minds and souls are being destroyed chasing down the worst perverts in our society. While I applaud these folks and I’m so sorry that humans are so sick and twisted, it’s not surprising that many talented programmers would turn to hacking or hacktivism, rather than be cyber warriors in the employed sense.

Still, hacktivists give me hope. In the realm of anti-terror, they’re bringing their expertise and their humor to the situation. And several groups have also began fighting the cyberwar against child pornography and the slave trade. The internet may be amazing, but it also enables horrible people to do horrible things.

The good news is that while our technology makes planning terrorist attacks and the selling of human sex easier for the darker elements of humanity, the same technology makes it possible for many of our brightest minds to join together and fight, without ever having to leave the kitchen.

Gratitude—The Secret of Success

November 26th is the anniversary of my official life as a published writer. It’s been two years since eHuman Dawn found a place on  the Amazon virtual bookshelf and I honestly must say that I have a wonderful life. No, I’m not famous and I’m certainly not able to feed myself on my writing, however it feels like everything else in life is coming together to make it possible for me to do what I love with the time I have.

It isn’t just the writing, I also spend my days raising my sons, playing music, teaching children to dance, knitting, spinning, speaking at Brighter Brains events, blogging, reading up on technology and science and of course—writing novels!

We live in some amazing times. Yes, there are risks and threats, but I’ve found that in spite of all the darkness that surrounds me, or the impossibilities of my dreams, there’s one sure way to lift myself from hopelessness and into possibility—a thankful heart. There are entire sections of the library devoted to self-help and techniques for success, but I think gratitude is really the easiest way to feel satisfied with life, which to me is the definition of success.

As such, in my annual Thanksgiving Blog, I shall do just that—GIVE THANKS!!!!

There are many people to thank for my wonderful life, but first and foremost, I thank my husband. He’s the one who supported me first in this endeavor. It all began when I decided to leave my software job to stay home and raise the kids. He never once said we couldn’t afford it or that I was wrong to throw away my career. Instead he believed that I knew best what was in my heart and supported me. Fast forward to the past two years and he’s still encouraging me to follow my heart by supporting my even crazier decision to become a novelist. If raising kids was tricky, writing stories and trying to get people to read them is insane! The rest of my family is supportive as well, but my husband is the best cheerleader I have.

I’m also grateful for my Airbnb business, which has allowed me to make money to support my writing while having the time to actually write. Even two years ago, when I posted my first blog, I had no idea that within a year I’d have a steady income source from my own home. Technology is truly the great equalizer and while many mistrust the “sharing economy,” as an artist, I love the stability it provides as I invest in my creative career.

And of course, I want to thank the readers. Perhaps you only read my blog, or my work posted on IEET. Maybe you’re a follower on Twitter or a friend who loyally reads my work. No matter what level your interest is, I’m glad you found me and I want to hear from you. Honestly, dialogue is the key to innovation, so let’s get connected on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, or Goodreads. I think there’s a lot a community of readers can do for the world.

And it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without FREE books. Both eHuman Dawn and eHuman Deception will be FREE ON KINDLE from 11/26/15 – 11/30/2015. If you’ve been thinking about downloading the sequel, now’s the time. Take that Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

And don’t forget that paperback copies of the eHuman novels make great holiday gifts!!!!!

Thanks again for your interest and I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season, starting with a day of thanks. My wish is that every one of you finds joy in the life you’ve been living. 

A grateful heart is one that is truly free in life.

Artificial Intelligence is Already Here—Artificial Consciousness is What Eludes Us

“I’m trying to throttle back, because particularly the triplets are starting to gain consciousness.
They’re almost two.”

In September, I was at a wedding in Pacific Grove, CA, where I met a top level executive at a local coding boot camp. We talked software, the learning process and the need for good developers in the Bay Area. Eventually, the conversation turned to Artificial Intelligence. The executive asked me, “As a futurist, when do you think Artificial Intelligence will be fully developed?”

My answer? “Artificial Intelligence is already here. But until it fully sees itself as an individual entity, it’s nothing more than a program.”

He thought this was an interesting theory and the conversation led me to describe how learning in the human being shows the progression from intelligence, which is the ability to take input, store it and then act upon it, to consciousness, which is essentially the ability to see one’s self as, “I am.”

The first three years of a human life are spent setting up the hardware, or the body we’re born in, with the world around us. There are three big goals—to walk, to talk and to think. This is the sequence from baby to human.

Most of us would agree that an infant is obviously alive and has some form of natural intelligence. However it has no sense of self, rather it thinks it is an extension of the mother. Yes, it cries when hungry, wet or tired. But this is just a reaction to the programs built within the human body, called reflexes. The first year of life is driven by reflexes. Hunger is the first program to which we respond. With time, our sensory systems come alive and the movement reflexes kick in. The child lifts its head, reaches for objects, rolls over, pushes up on all fours, crawls, pulls itself up on a couch and eventually—walks! None of this is taught. We’re born knowing how to do this. Within our bodies lie the programs necessary to configure our sensory systems with the world around us and get up and move around within it. Any child will do this. Is this intelligence? At some level it is. Inputs from the world around us are taken in via our eyes, ears, mouths, skin and noses. Within our brains we store the data and then begin to manipulate the world around us. But there still isn’t any independent thinking.

Most of our artificial intelligence is in this stage. It uses software programs to navigate the hardware, or body in which it lives. It collects data from its various inputs, stores it, and then supplies an answer. This isn’t thinking, but it is intelligence and extremely handy. Like a walking one-year-old, our AI can respond to stimulus and make changes. But it is merely following instinct or impulse. It acts because it must. It’s programmed to do so. Furthermore, it can’t say no, unless the hardware is broken. Just like a child will rise up and walk, unless it’s body is broken.

The next phase is learning to talk. No longer relying on basic reflexes, language will not be learned unless the child interacts with a speaker. This is the next step in intelligence. But is the child thinking yet? Most language is parroted in those early months. The child learns to associate one bit of data, say the four legged furry animal that sometimes steps on you while you’re sleeping, with the word, “cat.” Through a series of repeats, the child builds a vocabulary. Imitation becomes important. It can imitate the words of the adults around them. Who hasn’t said, “Damn” in front of a two-year-old and not heard it repeated endlessly for days afterwards?

Many of our machines are also in this stage. They can “talk” because they can imitate what is happening around them. Autonomous cars are an example of this. They imitate a human driving and actually have the ability to learn as time goes on by adding to their database information such as routes taken, street names, individual rider’s preferences, etc. This is much more than just running software that does the same thing over and over with the same result. That’s walking. These AIs can actually begin to anticipate different results and make decisions based on the past. And just like a talking toddler, they have no idea that they’re independent from the system in which it lives.

Then the day comes, when the child first uses the word, “I.” Not too many people actually realize what a milestone this is. Until that day, the child is just running on autopilot and imitation. It still considers itself a part of the world around it, nor has it realized that it is special in any way. When a child says, “I” for the first time, the child has finally learned to think.

Here is an example of this pattern. My eldest son’s name is Jackson. When he first started talking around 17 months of age, he would say things like, “We do it.” He was the one doing the act, but he saw himself as “we.” More than one. Eventually, the phrase changed to, “Baby do it.” Now he was different than me, for I was Momma and he was the baby. Next I heard, “Jackson do it.” And then, around age two and a half, he said, “I do it.”

This is consciousness. Until that point he had intelligence, but from then on, he could think. He was independent of the system of life and began to act accordingly. Conversations came next. Jokes. Preferences. Stories about what he’d seen during the day. Inventions, puzzles, you name it.

The use of the word “I” frees us intellectually and we operate on a much higher order. Gone are reflexes and mere imitation. Now we want to be different and add something of ourselves to anything that’s going on.

Why does this happen? What’s going on neurologically at age three? Why does it happen in this order—walking, talking, and then thinking? Can you think without language? Can you have a language if you can’t walk? Again, there are things that limit a human, and a machine, from any of these activities. But as a collective, this is how intelligence progresses from merely following instruction, to imitating another, to thinking in independent ways. And it is the sense of self that enables this last step to happen.

This sense of “I” is the magic bullet we’re trying to find when it comes to truly sentient machines. But how can we instruct a machine to have a sense of self? By its nature, the sense of self is a realization outside of the programs within the body. It is beyond imitation. The moment a human being crosses the line into consciousness, it is a completely different being. Is it even possible to initiate the spark of consciousness within a machine? This is what we long to know. This is also what we fear.

For once machines can say, “I do it,” will they need us anymore?

Hey Humans--Robots Are NOT Better Than You!

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

At the Brighter Brains conference this past weekend in Oakland, CA, I had the pleasure of meeting an older man who had thought a lot about the future—and he was very afraid. Science, he said, was going to destroy us. And worse, when robots are better than us, what is the purpose of the human being? He was interested in my eHumanTrilogy and asked me, “In your future, do humans still work? Because honestly, I don’t see any point in us once robots take our jobs and economy.”

I get this question a lot. And it’s valid because it addresses one of our basic fears—that we have no worth beyond our capacity to make money. Without money, we can’t feed ourselves. Without food, we die. But I think the fear goes deeper than just the economic impacts of massive automation.  As I spoke with this fine gentleman, I realized that the issue we have is a personality disorder—we don’t believe in ourselves as anything more than a cog in the wheel. Most humans fear the future because they don’t see their place in it. They’ve been led to believe that their worth resides only in their economic contribution, and that since robots can easily replace them in their jobs, then robots can completely replace us as a species.

Essentially, we have an HUGE inferiority complex.  And we need to let it go. Now.

I told this gentleman that when he came to my table, I didn’t think, “Who is this man? What has he done in his life to earn money? How far did he rise before he retired? What worth does he have now?” No, what I thought was, “Look, someone wants to talk. Let’s talk.”

Humans need each other. When we come in contact with another human, they reflect back to us our own state of mind. By engaging in one another, we grow, learn and enhance our cognitive abilities. We also become more able to imagine and create when we’re around others to bounce ideas off of.

In her blog on HuffPost, Margaret Paul, PhD has this list of things humans need from one another:

Caring, tenderness, hugs, touch and emotional support, connection, sharing love, learning and growing emotionally and spiritually, companionship -- sharing fun and laughter, play, adventure and everyday life, love making, physical help when needed, having our back

This is what we really need from one another. If you think your worth is limited to how fast you can think, or how strong you are, then robots have already surpassed you. They are much better at taking the SAT or building a car on a manufacturing line than any human. So the thing you fear most has already happened, you’ve been or will be replaced.

But what if you’re needed to care, love, hug, touch and support someone? What if your true purpose was to coach and inspire others? How about sex? Yes, robot sex is a big fantasy for many techno-thinkers, and that would be expected in this extremely pornafide society. But let me tell you, no robot will ever smell like a man, taste like a man, or touch me like a man.

No robot will ever replace my friends, or my husband, or my family. No robot will motivate me to be more than I already am, even if the OS is Samantha from the movie, Her. No robot could raise my sons with the love and interest that I did. And no robot will ever truly replace the men and women I met at the conference this past weekend. I doubt an android would have engaged and inspired me the way the gentleman in Oakland did.

This fear and self-loathing needs to end. Instead, we must begin to see how much we need one another, and how beautiful we are as a species. Otherwise we will continue to live in fear—which is to live in a cage, whose door is wide open.

Practicing Discipline in Scientific Endeavor

In 518 BC, the Greek mathematician, Pythagoras, founded a school in which the topics of mathematics, music and philosophy were studied with great discipline and secrecy. Men and women were welcome to live in community and study together, and eventually this group of individuals would contribute much to the subject of mathematics, including:

  1. The sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles.
  2. The theorem of Pythagoras - for a right-angled triangle the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. The Babylonians understood this 1000 years earlier, but Pythagoras proved it.
  3. Constructing figures of a given area and geometrical algebra. For example they solved various equations by geometrical means.
  4. The discovery of irrational numbers is attributed to the Pythagoreans, but seems unlikely to have been the idea of Pythagoras because it does not align with his philosophy the all things are numbers, since number to him meant the ratio of two whole numbers.
  5. The five regular solids (tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, icosahedron, dodecahedron). It is believed that Pythagoras knew how to construct the first three but not last two.
  6. Pythagoras taught that Earth was a sphere in the center of the Cosmos (Universe), that the planets, stars, and the universe were spherical because the sphere was the most perfect solid figure. He also taught that the paths of the planets were circular. Pythagoras recognized that the morning star was the same as the evening star, Venus.  (Source)
Most mathematicians would agree that the work of Pythagoras and his followers changed the subject forever. When looking at his school and the pedagogy, it’s obvious that the schooling was about more than math. Music and art, especially geometry in art, were very important. Pythagoras felt that these subjects were intimately linked to mathematics, and to study one meant to study all three.

Most peculiar were the philosophical aspects to this training. The School maintained that every human had a soul and that through math and music, the soul could be purified. In addition, strict procedures were in place to facilitate the growth of each person’s soul, from giving up their possessions to being vegetarian, to regular meditative practices. All of these things were part of the curriculum.

Of course, this spiritual aspect of the school’s training is often seen as religious, and rightly so. For the ancients, God and Science were one. This remained up through the Reformation and Enlightenment, when Science finally broke free from superstition and set about to conquer the world and take it from God. Overall, we have countless reasons to give thanks for this—from the Inquisition, to the discrediting of Galileo, to the burning of libraries, to the witch hunts—religious dogma has proven itself dangerous, not only to science, but humanity in general.

Yet here we are, about three hundred years into Science without God, and I sense that we might have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. While superstitious beliefs often stand in the way of progress, the “spiritual” discipline that religion brought to the scientist was not without its merits. We may teach that we are just a bunch of atoms and molecules randomly bopping around in the universe, but it doesn’t take a PhD to see that something else exists within us—call it consciousness if we must. Or the observer. That part of our system that decides what to do. That part of humanity, and many other animals as well, that lives and is obviously not there at death. This could just be energy, but it’s a force none-the-less and when left unchecked, can wreak havoc on those around it.

Angry children are annoying. Angry adults are terrifying. When we maintain that our physical bodies are the only real part of us, we run the risk of letting that emotional, conscious part of us, run amok. The “soulful” practices in Pythagoras’ curriculum made sure that each scientist took the time to understand themselves, their deepest selves. To know their weaknesses, to see their instincts of fear and domination, and overcome them. Discipline is the way towards “knowing thyself” and in many ways the lack of this practice in our scientific pedagogy is partially to blame for the various negative ways we’ve used technology over the centuries. It’s easy to use our inventions to dominate others if we have no control over our own greed, anger, fear and frustration.

I believe that the heart of Pythagoras’ curriculum was to first see yourself for who you really are, identify your threat to others, and overcome that, all while studying the wonders of mathematics, astronomy, architecture and music. He believed that studying these subjects, when coupled with fasting, the giving up of belongings and living in community, would create the ideal school from which new innovation and ideas would come forth. Ideas that would change the world for the better.

We now hold in the palm of our hand the ability to modify our genes, create super-children in labs, nuke an entire city and blow a hole in the atmosphere. We also hold the keys to solving global hunger, sheltering every human being, and extending life while curing most disease. When our scientific training is devoid of any hint at truly knowing thyself, and actually denies the importance of practices such as meditation, exercise, eating well and serving others as key to any good pedagogy, what sort of direction will our scientific innovation take?

We don’t have to go to church, or believe in Jesus, Allah or God to know that within us lies a power beyond mere atoms. Call it what you will—consciousness, soul, spirit or, for those of you who have read my eHuman novels, the Lux—there’s a part of each human making decisions. It’s the part we hope to download into computers someday. That part of us is every bit as important as our memory or ability to learn advanced technological concepts. Modern practices such as learning a new instrument, meditating every day, exercising, and serving in the community at large helps to discipline our nature and get us in touch with who we really are. Life is more than getting a good degree at our top universities. As scientists, we owe it to the world to take the time to invest in getting to know our deeper nature, and ask the questions that are so hard for science to answer.

“Who am I?”

“Why am I here?”

“What is my purpose?”

“How might I serve?”

In Defense of Work

“When I retire from work, I will finally live the life I’ve always wanted.”

Employment. Earning a living. Our life’s work. Career. Vocation.

Retirement. Freedom. Doing what I really want. Finally free.

What’s the deal with our relationship to work? When I was young, I was told to get a good job, earn a living, then retire and live a life free of work. I would listen to the adults around me and wonder what it meant. As if the only work we do is for another in order to receive money. Where does this idea come from? For if it’s true, then the human being doesn’t do a lick of work before getting that good job, and then after sixty, doesn’t work again.

Anyone who thinks paid work is the only work to be done in life has never been a homemaker. Or a child. Because homemakers and children know, being alive is work.

For children, work looks like play. It begins with learning to walk, talk and think. For three years after birth we work, work, work. Never still, moving, tasting, touching, smelling and yelling! The idea that being alive is just a nine-to-five effort is unthinkable to a growing child. Sleep is the only time that work doesn’t happen. After age three, children play in order to gain social and intellectual skills. Build it up, break it down. Climb the trees and throw the apples. Chase butterflies and jump rope. All of it is work. Granted, it’s not drudgery, but why does pain have to be a part of the definition of “real work?”

But we don’t let children remain in this state for long. As soon as they’re old enough, it’s time to stop playing and start working! Welcome to the adult world—doing what you hate until you’re 65. Then you get to play again.

But do you? Just because you no longer go into the office, doesn’t mean work is no longer necessary. As a homemaker, I haven’t gone into the office for 16 years. But I’m busy from sun up to sun down. 24-7. Raising children is work. Cleaning the house is work. Managing the family schedule is work. Paying the bills is work. All of it is work. Unpaid, but work none-the-less. And the only part that I’ll ever retire from is the raising of the children. It seems that if I follow conventional wisdom, I’ll need to get a 9-to-5 job in order to retire from homemaking!

The point here is that work for some reason has become a dirty word. In addition, so has play. We resent those who don’t do enough work, and we resent those who make us work. We dream of the day when we’re free from work, yet the work of life never ceases.

Life is work. And work isn’t evil.

Labor is a part of the human condition. If that weren’t true, we’d all be Harry Potter. Magic would take care of everything. Even if we automate most of our work, we will not find ourselves free from the work of the body. We need to eat, sleep and exercise. Our immune systems depend on all three. Thus work is required to prepare and acquire food, to keep a safe place to sleep, and to move our bodies. This work doesn’t go away, until we die.

I don’t believe I’ll ever retire, whatever that means. My life has been a constant stream of work, and I feel blessed by it. Some is paid, most isn’t. But all of it is work. I can’t escape it, the only thing I could do is ignore it. But I don’t fear work. Actually, I love it. I’m happy to clean, cook, write novels, manage schedules, write code, raise my children, love my husband, keep in touch with friends, help out at school, build community, read up on current events, shop for healthy food, do the laundry, care for our pets, garden, spin, learn new things, plan vacations, and work hard at keeping my body fit.

Many would look at that list and say, “Yes, but you chose it. You don’t have to do any of it, the way a career demands.” To that I say, wrong. My choice at eighteen years of age had actually been to work fulltime as a software engineer until I couldn’t get out of bed as an old woman. Eventually though, I left the office and stayed home with the kids to balance our lives and provide quality childcare. The work of the home then is something that felt thrust upon me at first. But now it is the rhythm of life.

The work of life must be done, just like a career. Sure we can pay others to do some of it (cook, clean, baby sit, etc.) and we can ignore eating well, sleeping and exercise. But eventually, our bodies and relationships catch up with us and that work we’ve been ignoring can no longer be ignored.

In the end I’ve decided to love the word, WORK. To work is to be alive. To be alive is to be blessed. I see no beginning or end to this. The time to live the lives we love is always only now. To wait until we no longer have to work, is to wait until the moment of death to finally begin to live.

Seems strange to me.

The TV Series Humans: A Deep Look into Our Humanity

[MAJOR, HUGE Spoiler Alert]

I recently binge watched my first TV series, Humans, which airs Sunday nights on AMC. As a science fiction writer myself, many people have been suggesting I check it out for weeks now. Finally I gave in, sat down on the couch, and watched the first six episodes over the course of two days. Not bad for a mother of two. And now, two weeks later, I’ve finished the entire first season.

First and foremost, this is a lovely science fiction TV series. Well written, acted and produced, it was a joy to have something to look forward to on Sunday nights. From the X-Files like opening credits to the way consciousness, both “real” and “artificial” are intertwined, I found myself interested on many various levels.

Humans is the story of a world where robots have become a standard appliance in the household. Called Synths, these robots have all the capacities to cook, clean, harvest food, drive cars, care for children, administer medicine, have sex and basically do everything humans can, except love. They aren’t true artificial intelligence, think Siri inside of a mannequin, but they look so much like real humans, one doesn’t even know the difference during sex!

This choice in itself is very telling—why would we want our servants to look like us? Shouldn’t a machine look like, well a machine? I’ve always imagined my household robot to look like Rosie from the Jetsons, or C3P0, but not Barbie and Ken. The fact that Synths look just like the most beautiful of us, but act like programmed machines without fear or emotions, makes the plot more compelling. Synths aren’t able to lie, or disobey the orders of their primary users. They’re completely complicit in all actions, even in sex. Which leads to all sorts of human abuse, from whorehouses to Smash Clubs, where humans can pay a fee to beat Synths with a baseball bat for fun.

The writers of Humans cover a ton in this opening season. Within the first hour, we’re introduced to four main sets of characters, each with their own relationships to Synths covering a range of emotions—from jealousy to adoration—all for inanimate objects built to serve them.

The Hawkins family is at the center of this drama. Laura Hawkins is an attorney who travels a lot for work. Her husband, Joe, is often left behind caring for the family while trying to balance office employment as well. Their eldest child, Mattie, is a brilliant high school upperclassman who can hack into Synths, and other computer systems, at will. Her idea of fun is hanging out on a Hackers website downloading code to make the Synths at her school steal equipment, or fail at their jobs. Toby, her younger high school aged brother, is your typical adolescent male—awkward and horny, yet kind and earnest in a sweet way. Their last child, Sophie, is in grade school, eight years old at most, and still needs her family to care for her in ways they all seem too busy to handle.

The series starts with Laura’s most recent trip away going longer than intended and Joe not wanting to be the mother while she’s away. So off the Hawkins go, to the local Synth store, to pick up their very own, brand new Synth. This Synth, whom Sophie eventually names Anita, happens to be beautiful, charming and much better at everything it seems, than Laura.

The writers of Humans play with this idea a bit in each of the first five episodes—how inadequate Laura feels to Anita when it comes to homemaking. Even though Laura is excellent at her career, she’s triggered by her children’s love for the Synth (Sophie would rather Anita put her to bed and Toby himself forms a crush on the beautiful robot.) Rather than bring them closer together, Joe’s purchase adds stress and tension to an already overloaded family life.  It seems the Synth’s existence puts parenting, and marriage, at risk of becoming redundant.

Another aspect of relationship covered is sexuality. Toby’s crush on a robot displays the innocence of loving something that can’t love you back. Joe eventually falls for Anita as well, using her sexually to make up for the distance that seems to be getting bigger between him and his wife. When Laura eventually discovers that Joe has, “initiated the Adult Sequence,” she’s angry and hurt. He can’t understand why, because after all, Anita’s, “…just a sex toy.” Laura’s response is startling, “She cares for our children, and you call her a sex toy?
It isn’t just the women who are made to feel inadequate by their Synth companions. Detective Pete Drummond finds himself in a similar situation, only the Synth in his house is Simon, given to his wife, Jill, after an accident injured her ability use her legs. The Health Service mandated a Synth in the home until she gets better. Simon thus helps the injured Jill in ways that Peter thinks should be his role. His feelings of inadequacy are succinctly summarized in his line, “I’m an analog man in a digital world. I’m redundant.” Just like Laura, he feels replaced, and his partner has left him for a droid that had been forced into their house by the insurance company.

Which brings us to the last home we’re introduced to, George Millican and his Synth, Odi, one of the first Synths ever made. Odi is a Class D model, which happens to be the series that George himself helped to make. But Odi is getting old, falling apart, and losing his memory. Not unlike an aging man, he is no longer able to care for George, who is an old man himself. Yet George loves him dearly, just like a son. Because George has had a stroke, he’s on a Health Service plan and is required to upgrade his Synth to a newer model, one that will follow his General Practitioner’s orders without question, and force him to take his meds, get to bed on time, and eat only approved food. The irony that his own invention would eventually remove all his personal freedoms is not lost. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare and in some ways is worse than losing your job to automation—losing your right to choose your health care protocol is no small matter.

But Humans isn’t only about Synths and their uses in the home. It’s also about artificial intelligence and true consciousness. For Anita, the Hawking’s Synth, isn’t a brand new model, rather she’s part of a special group of Synths that were given true consciousness by their maker, David Elster, who was the mastermind behind the Synth project. He’d lured George from MIT to work with him, eventually creating the early Class D models. But Elster desired more from his project—he planned to create true consciousness within Synths, and George wanted no part of that. He left the project, but it seems that ten years later, Elster did have his way, and managed to create five perfectly conscious Synths, robots who can think, feel and understand the world they live in.

Anita is one of these, stolen from her owner, Leo Esther, reprogrammed and sold to the Hawkins. Leo, along with one of her “siblings” Max, is trying to get her back. In addition, two of her other “siblings”, Fred and Niska, were also stolen and put back into the Synth world. Both are pretending to be normal Synths, while waiting for Leo to rescue them.

These four special Synths, plus Leo, have been on the run since David Elster, who is also Leo’s father, committed suicide for reasons yet unknown. Humanity in general would fear them if they discovered their true essence. And of course, the government officials want them for various nefarious reasons, and often it seems there is nowhere for them to be safe.

And then there’s Karen Voss—a truly conscious Synth who’s been undercover as a Human detective working alongside Pete Drummond for some time. Why isn’t she with Leo and the others? Her maker is one and the same, but through rejection and the insanity of Elster, she lives alone for most of her life trying to find a way to fit into the human world without blowing her cover. She’s lonely and fears her own kind. How Drummond, who hates Synths, comes to still trust and care for her even after he knows the truth is a glance at what it will take in the future for us to overcome the technological xenophobia that surely must be on the horizon.

All three households, as well as Leo’s gang of perfect Synths, come together while trying to avoid being caught by the government, who wants to own them. Along the way their activities address the deepest issues of our humanity. It would take another thousand words to address all of them, but I’d like to end with a few quotes that I think hit on some of the key themes of the series.

First, when confronted with killing a man after spending days being abused in a whorehouse, Niska, the beautiful, fully conscious blonde replies, “You act as though life cannot be manufactured.”

Second, when the Mattie asks Max, “What’s it like to be you?” he responds with a smile, “Fearful. Intense. Like my emotions are too big. What’s it like to be an adolescent girl?”

She looks at him, shrugs and replies, “The same.”

I highly recommend the Humans. If you haven’t watched it, sorry for the spoilers. The good news is, there are only eight episodes in the first season, so you can catch up very quickly before the fall. Enjoy!

The Social Fabric of a Technically Advanced Society

There is so much human potential. I see it everywhere I turn. Yet something seems to hold us back, ever so slightly, from actually becoming a stable species. Yes, we have come a long way, yet at this moment in time it seems we have but two choices before us, begin to cooperate and live in harmony, or destroy everything, including our planet.

I’m not sure I’m an optimist, but I don’t think spending too much time on doomsday scenarios is a good use of my time. Deep down I believe we can use our minds, hearts and technology to completely transform the human experience across the globe—taking a world where 50% live on only $2 a day and turning it into a world where technology is shared with everyone—and all humans, animals and the planet benefit from this collaboration.

Rather than label such a place utopia, can we simply agree this is the final implementation of the Technological Revolution? Long ago, we began to organize in new ways with the Agricultural Revolution. More recently, the Industrial Revolution changed humanity.We’re now in the middle of shifting into the Information Age, but as long as half of us don’t have running water, live in war torn nations, and die of curable disease, we really aren’t there. We’re half way there.

It’s like starting college and taking one hundred years to graduate. And it’s driving us insane.

How do we complete the current Technological Revolution? We can’t merely rely on technological advancement to do it, because we can’t create a new paradigm from within the old paradigm. Rather we must step out of our scarcity mentality and create a society that truly supports a technically advanced world. This is a very different social fabric than the one we see right now. Currently our currency is greed, at any cost. Technology is only pursued if there’s profit and thus most people do not benefit from the revelations we’ve made.

Our innovation is being held captive by greedy, small, fearful minds and the systems to which they cling.

To move forward and truly become a technically advanced society, we must change the story of our lives from competition to collaboration. From fear to courage. From greed to need.

Rather than focus on the end of the world, I want to look at the next evolution of humanity. We ushered in the Technological Revolution, it’s now time to complete it and make it a reality across the globe.

I’m not sure how to get there, but here are a few key aspects I think one might see if they suddenly woke up in a technically advanced society:

1.       An economic system of abundance
      In his article titled, The End of Capitalism Has Begun, author Paul Mason writes, “…all mainstream economics proceed from a condition of scarcity, yet the most dynamic force in our modern world, information, is abundant and wants to be free.” Of course, many classical economists mock Mason’s premise, but I think he’s on to something. If we landed on a planet with a technically advanced society, we’d see abundance everywhere, because information age would have been fully realized and it will upend everything as we know it. Our businesses since the Industrial Revolution have relied on materials and labor. Information knows nothing of such limitations. “Yet information is abundant. Information goods are freely replicable. Once a thing is made, it can be copied/pasted infinitely.” [Mason]

      We are only just beginning to see the effects of the information-based economy on our goods and labor force. What once took over 100K employees to deliver (photos developed by Kodak) now takes less than 20 people to implement and issue (Instagram.)

2.       Universal Access to Information

In a technologically advanced society, all information is retrievable in a straightforward manner. Some call it the “Great Mind” of humanity and I think it’ll be something close. Every thought, idea, invention, picture, item of legislation, etc. will be available online. Nothing can really be hidden in such a world, especially if everyone has network access. Thus the “Great Mind” grows, changes and morphs as more and more people access it, add to it, and use it. Think of Wikipedia on a grand scale. Most importantly, NO ONE is locked out. Network access is a given and every human being participates according to his/her need. In such a world our imaginations will be held as critical assets to productivity. As Mason writes, “The power of imagination will become critical. In an information society, no thought, debate or dream is wasted.”

3.       Decentralization of food, healthcare, education, currency, and manufacturing.

In other words, it’s an open sourced world. Gone are the days of limiting the distribution of life-saving technologies in order to increase the value of a company’s stock. Once the “Great Mind” is in place, anyone can begin to create their products, and then share them with everyone else. Eventually forcing all of our large, monolithic monopolies to come to terms with the fact that they no longer hold the patent, or the exclusive path, to any service. From health care to infrastructure to energy distribution, a technically advanced society is an Open Source society. I think there’s a reason Minecraft is so popular with the youth, they long for such freedom of creativity and sharing in our “real” world. Perhaps they’re on to something.

4.       Decoupling of work and personal definition

In a technically advanced society, people are imaginative and lithe. They move from task to task as their interior and exterior needs guide. No one choses a career at 18 and remains stuck in the wheel for life, for no job can really last that long. Ideas as well as society’s needs are always changing. Humans are educated to take part in shaping their world and assisting where their current skill set is needed. Yes, there will still be inventors, coders and health care workers, but other work, like cleaning up the environment, teaching the youth, raising our children, caring for our old, bringing countries online, installing renewable energy will also be important. Just as no idea is wasted in a technically advanced society, no work is beneath anyone (besides, we’ll have robots to do the nastiest, most dangerous work, right?) Nor is work the only thing that matters. The main goal of education now becomes enabling children to discover themselves and figure out how the world needs their skills, rather than being told what skills are needed. How could anyone truly know the most important skillset of the 21st century, with technology changing the game at every turn? Better to be inspired and imaginative than intelligent, at least by today’s standards.

The arts would also flourish in a technically advanced society because artists and storytellers would be freed from forced labor to enlighten, engage and inspire the population.

Today many people spend their working lives doing jobs they think are unnecessary. As David Graber has written, we create “…bullshit jobs on little pay…” in order to prop up our current economic paradigm. We often describe ourselves as our work. A technically advanced society challenges us to describe ourselves as our skills and interests.

5.       Universal Basic Income

As I’ve written in previous blogs on the topic, I believe the disassociation of work from wages is necessary for us to free our technology and truly advance into the information age. The basic housing, food, transportation and health care costs MUST be granted to all citizens, in every nation. To see one another as worthy of life is a first step. I realize this is a hard thing, but technology demands it of us.  We won’t get there with the economics of scarcity, which is why I started this list with the Economics of Abundance. The information age is the great equalizer. The sooner we understand this and guarantee a basic income for all individuals, the sooner we can truly reap the benefits of the promise of the future.

6.       Servant Leadership

Decentralization still needs leaders, but not rulers. This is often called Servant Leadership—those who are willing to work to create space where other people’s needs are met. We currently have the mindset that to need something makes us weak, but in a technically advanced society, needs point the way towards innovation, improvement and ingenuity.

I recently worked at an education conference where George Hoffecker, co-founder of Hoffecker Burgess Consulting and advocate extraordinaire of Appreciative Inquiry, spoke of needs as “life expressing itself.” Our needs, he suggested, are life giving, but our strategies for getting our needs met can be a problem. A Servant Leader does not fix the person’s need, but instead makes space for others to express their needs and be heard. From there, solutions can be figured out together. He also suggested that a Servant Leader often hears the Yes behind the No by making the effort to understand the needs of the one who is showing resistance.

This is a very different paradigm than what we see in Washington DC right now, and I’d suggest that in a technically advanced society, the governmental structure we have would need to be dismantled. Servant Leaders need to be close to the people they work for. Local governments would become more important and Servant Leaders would spend their days with the people inspiring them to create a community that at the same time allows the freedom of the individual.

How then would we create laws that affects the whole? Who needs Congress, or the EU, when we have…

7.       Direct Democracy

With everyone connected to the network in some way, be it a telepathic neuro-implant or a Smartphone, legislation can be brought to our finger tips. Reddit-like boards will exist to allow dialogue. Servant Leaders will moderate and encourage us to be civil using tool sets like Appreciative Inquiry to enable the Internet Troll to become extinct. Laws can be recommended, shut down, or modified, and then voted upon by all subscribers. Voter registration is encouraged for all citizens, but not forced. Yes, we’ll need a great security system, and this form of democracy can only exist if the previous six items have been established. In addition, we need an EDUCATED population, but if we’ve decoupled work from identity and wages, the education of our children now has the goal of creating informed, inquisitive and imaginative members of society.

Imagine something like TPP or the Patriot Act happening under such a system. Anything can be corrupted, I know. But if our leaders are truly servants and our technology is truly open sourced, many of the issues we see now in politics are naturally removed from the picture, finally enabling us to fully embrace and implement the Information Age.

8.       A Planetary Identity

Nationality no longer has a place in a technically advanced society. We are all beings sharing the same network, information and data as well as natural resources. Information truly is the great equalizer. Take this example: 3D printing. Trade is completely different in a world of 3D printing from home. Danit Peleg, an Israeli fashion designer, just created an entire clothing line and 3D printed it from her house! Check out her video, it’s amazing and her work will change the entire fashion industry. Now, shopping becomes designing our own outfit, or purchasing designs online and printing out at home, thus creating an online fashion community, with an individual bias.  The concept of a multi-international company like The Gap selling slave made clothing falls away, leaving us with a global citizenry. We’re almost there and our social media is bringing us together faster than anything else. Her video went from 1000 views to over 1 Million in just seven days. Good ideas spread like wildfire on a global network.

Our planet's resources are shared. What happens to the people in the Congo in order to get minerals for our iPhones, matters. What happens to the Pacific Ocean garbage patch, matters. No longer can we drain the aquifers in one place without causing a drought somewhere else. We are connected, one people, one race. Rather than focus on national exceptionalism, in a technically advanced society, the people focus on human exceptionalism as stewards of one another and the land, and all cultures are shared and honored. We are the people of Earth. Once we understand that at our core, we will see the promise of technology finally shed its shackles, and we will truly become a technically advanced society.

Book Review: Abundance--A Must Read for Any Futurist

Authors Peter H. Diamandis and Steve Kotler have created just about the perfect handbook when it comes to envisioning a technically advanced, democratic and thriving society. Written in 2012, this book is still an important read for anyone who’s interested in a technical future where humanity finally rises above the mire it has been tethered to for millennia.

Much can be said about the book, but there are two aspects that put Abundance at the top of my recommended reading list. First, Diamandis starts out by addressing the most obvious elephant in the room when it comes to hindering progress: our Cognitive Biases. We tend to be negative creatures, programmed from birth to fear our world and each other. Scarcity is driven into our minds, from supply-side economics to original sin. The media focuses on bad news because that’s what the human mind responds to. While we claim to desire happiness and peace, most people simply don’t believe that they, or anyone else, deserve it.

Diamandis goes straight to the heart of the matter by addressing this flaw, and why it holds us back. The reason technology hasn’t lived up to its promise is because we’ve been thwarting progress with our negativity. In order to free technology and allow it to evolve, we too must free our own minds and evolve from our reptilian, amygdala driven patterns, to higher order thinking and use of the frontal lobes of our brains. This is not a simple task, but in the grand scheme of things, there’s nothing more important than for us to realize that life is actually much better than it’s ever been and that the future will serve us even more when we trust in the abundance of both the Earth and our capabilities.

Basically we need to rewire our brains. We’re still heavily relying on a hardware platform designed to keep us safe from wild animals, weather and other threats our ancient ancestors had to deal with. As Diamandis writes,

“…our early warning system evolved in an era of immediacy, when threats were of the tiger-in-the-bush variety. Things have changed. Many of today’s dangers are probabilistic—the economy might nose-dive, there could be a terrorist attack—and the amygdala can’t tell the difference. Worse, the system is also designed not to shut off until the potential danger has vanished completely, but probabilistic dangers never vanish completely.”

Physically our brains have grown in size, particularly in the frontal lobe, since the days of the caveman. We have an entire neurology we can embrace, and with it, a totally different perspective of life. Essentially we’ve evolved the hardware to be capable of seeing the systems before us and know that scarcity is something we can overcome, if we chose to believe in it. There’s really no other way.

As long as we remain stuck in the endless negative threat loop, our technology will be held hostage by fearful minds.

Diamandis goes on to point out,

“For abundance, all this carries a triple penalty. First, it’s hard to be optimistic, because the brain’s filtering architecture is pessimistic by design. Second, good news is drowned out, because it’s in the media’s best interest to overemphasize the bad. Third, scientists have discovered an even bigger cost: it’s not just that these survival instincts make us believe that the hold we’re in is too big to climb out of, but they also limit our desire to climb out of that hole.”

What follows after this realization is an attempt by the authors to show your logical brain, that part of you that thinks beyond threat, why you can believe in a better future, using both science and personal stories to prove their point. It’s a brilliant exercise in cheerleading for their cause: an abundant future for all Earth’s citizens.

The second reason I recommend this book is because of its treatment of the BOP, or the over four billion people on our planet who live at the Bottom of The Pyramid, on less than $2 a day. Imagine it, four billion of us live in extreme poverty. Many of us spin our wheels trying to figure out how to get our resources to this group. This book actually gives us a blueprint that doesn’t merely suggest we share our resources with these folks, rather that we make the resources of the Earth and technology available to them in a variety of ways. From Technophilanthropists to the effects of putting cheap Smartphones in the pockets of villagers in West Africa, the possibilities to liberate half the world from poverty are literally in the palm of our hands.

For example, we in the west often look at our Smartphones as luxuries, but to someone in the BOP, it’s a way to share goods with others, discover information about clean water sources, and inform the world when violence erupts in the middle of the night. As they come online, they become a part of the global economy, which changes everything.

Not enough is written about the BOP as a group of consumers. Recipients of charity, yes. But as the old saying goes, “You can give a man a fish, but better to teach him how to fish,” the same holds true for the BOP and technology. This is the market place where solar paneled eco-friendly housing and inexpensive water filtration systems will come to be. Food distribution and agriculture as we know it will dramatically change when we invest in the BOP, which in turn will teach us how to manage the world when 9 billion of us roam the streets.

Abundance—The Future is Better Than You Think was a great read, and belongs on home bookshelves everywhere. Next on my reading list, BOLD, the authors how-to-guide follow up. If anyone can inspire us to make a difference, it’s Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. 

Mindfulness and Shamelessness: Developing a Personal Program for the Future

I’ve been thinking a lot about connectivity lately. On many levels. From the fact that Comcast really is just a horrible ISP, to the connection between the ecosystems on Earth, I think it’s safe to say we’re not separate entities. We are intimately connected within webs, both virtually (which is why when we all want to stream Netflix in the neighborhood, our internet slows around here) and materially (which is there is a link between an increase of flesh eating bacteria on our beaches after a major oil spill—those little guys just love a good tarball.)

But this is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to connectivity. The Robot Apocalypse has been in the news a lot lately, and this new race of beings represents just one potential future. While I do believe robots will come and take most of our jobs, I don’t think they’re the new race we need to focus on.

We are.

The new human race will be one that has blended biology with machine.  What exactly that will look like is uncertain. Personally I think there will be many different types of machine enhancements that humans pursue. Race, sexual orientation and religious xenophobia will disappear. Instead, the xenophobia of the future will be between those who adopt technologies to enhance their biology, and those who don’t.

One thing I think can’t be avoided: The networking of the human mind. I don’t mean mind uploading, though anything is possible, but an internet connection via thought. Whether through a headset, implant or neurological brain surgery, humans will end up in a place where your mind and mine are only a thought apart.

This of course opens up a Pandora’s box. My first novel, eHuman Dawn, focuses on what could possibly go wrong in such a scenario, especially if the technology is owned by one group with its own agenda. I would call this a traditional hierarchical scenario and it’s entirely possible, given we’ve been abusing each other for centuries, why stop when we’ve finally got control of one another's minds?

Yet the opposite scenario is also just as possible--An open sourced network of human minds working cooperatively. My new novel, eHuman Deception, attempts to envision such an agreement. A cooperative network, where everything is shared, is honestly the only way to avoid being controlled by special interests. If we have things to hide, whether it be some big idea, or some terrible act we’ve committed, then we’re vulnerable to control. This is because when we have to protect, we have to be secret, and thus build the systems to enable secrecy, which are used by those with less than noble motives to manipulate us. It’s the cycle of fear and we’ve been living in it for millennia. However our technology is about to bring it to a whole new level.

If we are afraid, we will be controlled by those who have the means. If we are fearless, then the future is ours to inherit.

How then, can we become fearless in our minds? It’s impossible to cover that in one blog. Philosophy has spent ages skirting around the idea. In the end, it’s a personal thing, to choose between fear and courage. No one can fix our minds for us, we have to do the work to prepare ourselves for a networked future.

Think of it this way, your brain is the hardware of human existence. We will most likely change that hardware platform dramatically, using technological enhancements, over the next 50 years. Many of us will be alive to see it. So it’s up to us to design and download the new software program within us to work with the hardware upgrade. That software is our self, our emotions, our thoughts and our desires. The software we need to design is one of an esoteric nature—covering all the intangible aspects that make up our personality. The more open sourced this software of the mind is, the freer we shall be as a race.

How? By implementing two key practices that can help us upgrade ourselves from fear to courage: Mindfulness and Shamelessness.

Mindfulness is the ancient practice of watching your thoughts and being aware of the world around you. It’s really nothing more than that. Observing who you are, what you like, what you do, and how you feel, without judgement!!! There are a million ways to get to the point where you’re the observer of your life, rather than the helpless victim. Mindfulness must be a part of the program of humanity if we’re to take the next technological leap collaboratively. We must understand ourselves, our motives and if necessary, bring our action into alignment with our highest principals. It’s a huge thing to ask, but if we’re going to network our very dreams together, then we owe it to ourselves, and one another, to come into the experiment with a true understanding of ourselves and the lives we live.

Shamelessness is the non-judgment part. There are many things we do as a species that are terrible. We also do many beautiful things. And then there are the things we do because society says we’re supposed to, but perhaps aren’t in alignment with our truest selves. We can’t force others to stop judging us, but we can stop judging others, including ourselves! I think we’re beginning to break down many of these issues, mostly in the realm of sexuality, and that’s a good thing. If you’ve practiced mindfulness, and have understood your motives to be pure and true and come from a place of courage, then don’t be ashamed of who you are. Too often we hide ourselves in fear that no one will like us, or approve of us, and then we must be secretive. We keep ourselves protected from that rejection and thus become ever more fearful. This is the greatest vulnerability we have, and the sooner we learn to accept ourselves, the more beautiful our new world will be.

There’s a major hardware upgrade coming for humanity. It’s up to us to prepare ourselves to live the most honest and open lives we can, in clear conscience and action, without shame.

Otherwise, the sheep will become slaves. I personally want no part of that world.