Technology and Progress

by Martin Ford
 Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford

by Steven Kotler
 Tommorowland by Steven Kotler

Noted technological maven and futurist Ford returns with more reasons for working men and women to fear for their futures.

Imagine a world in which the want ads, if they appear at all, simply read: "Humans Need Not Apply." That nightmarish scenario might be enough to cause all but the idle rich to lay awake at night. The most terrifying thing about the author's fearful forecast, however, is that this dystopian future - where shrewdly sophisticated and ruthlessly cost-effective robots eliminate the need for those anachronistic things once called "jobs" - sounds much more inevitable than incredible. For both scientific and economic reasons, which Ford outlines with a comprehensiveness that boarders on chilling, there is simply no way in this relentlessly capitalist society to avoid being replaced by a robot. In the labor pyramid to come, even some of the lucky few occupying the white-collar pinnacle will not be safe. Ford's argument is frightening because it does not offer even a whiff of alarm or hysteria. Instead, the author's discourse feels as dispassionate and merciless as the circuitry silently running inside his subjects' metallically whirring bodies. Humankind's inescapable predicament appears so bleak that the only alternative to total societal collapse that Ford can identify is to fashion a system in which the great majority of the working class receives "a basic income guarantee." Elected officials—from President Barack Obama all the way down to a small-town mayor—may steadfastly bang the drum for more education and training as the way out of the unemployment morass, but Ford clearly demonstrates that free market forces and consumer demand (already on display in Amazon's increasingly automated warehouses) will soon make it nearly impossible to continue employing large numbers of human beings in the workplace.

A careful and courageous examination of automation and its possible impact on society. (Kirkus Reviews)
An examination of the scientific and technological developments that have transformed fantasy into reality.

It's not quite the age of flying cars and space colonies, but we are not that far off either. The dreams of yesteryear are becoming the reality of the present day with remarkable speed. Flow Genome Project director of research Kotler (The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance, 2014, etc.) first realized this paradigm shift in technological development during a pivotal meeting in the late 1990s, when he learned about new competitions and ventures into commercial space travel. From that moment onward, the author began cataloging the disruptive moments that would change how humanity interacts with and envisions technology. From the awe-inspiring wonders of bionics helping disabled veterans return to a life of normalcy to the unnerving possibility of inserting microchips into human brains to record and store memories, thoughts, and emotions for future downloading, the trends of the current technological revolution point to the seemingly inevitable moment when man and machine finally merge. That moment, known as the singularity, might even be achieved as quickly as 2029. Examples like the latter also raise serious ethical issues and question the very nature of ontology and epistemology. If a person's thoughts can be replayed infinitely, can he live forever? The scale of Kotler's entertaining investigation encapsulates the future of asteroid mining, the microscopic frontier of stem cells, the human world and the insect world, the natural environment, and the environment of the mind. More than just focusing on technology, the author studies the obsessive people behind the science. His portraits range from humane and gripping stories of redemption to indifferent research scientists unsure if their developments will even make the world a better place.

An insightful overview of the many ways technology has caught, if not surpassed, our wildest dreams—and it shows no signs of stopping. (Kirkus Reviews)

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