Six months ago, I had a casual Skype conversation with techno-philosopher Gray Scott, a contributing blogger for the World Future Society and the founder and executive director of the futurist, technology, and consciousness website Serious Wonder
. We discussed how the world could benefit from embracing a new "psychology" to contend with the future—a transhuman future that is coming much more quickly than most people realize.
Our civilization is being rapidly transformed through advancing science and technology. Despite this transformation, I feel most people are lagging behind philosophically, culturally, and psychologically when it comes to understanding and believing what is possible for human beings. Last week, I sent Gray Scott some questions so we could continue our dialogue. Here are my questions and his answers:
Q. Gray, we once discussed how a new psychology could be beneficial for society in regards to its understanding of the future and advancing technology. Can you elaborate your thoughts on this and why this might be desired?
A. We are experiencing unbelievable technological and psychological exponential change on this planet. We need a new set of psychological skills to cope with this change. Our world looks very different culturally, psychologically, and environmentally than it did 15 years ago. The mobile revolution has dramatically changed our world view, empowered women, and increased our empathy. Corrupt governments have been toppled and wars avoided because our species has become so digitally connected.
Negative and pessimistic views of technology have always existed. I can just imagine some pessimistic Sumerian in 3500 B.C. screaming about the evils of the wheel. We still deal with this fear based psychology in modern culture. Technology will mirror the culture and the psychology creating it. We need new psychological scaffolding to work with. Less fear and more optimism. A more holistic overview of how we look at ourselves and these new technological advancements could transform our planet.
I would love to see a future filled with abundance for everyone, however, we will not achieve this utopia until our cultural shadow-self is integrated. Taking psychological ownership of our fear is the first step. Technology is just a reflection of the deep unconscious cultural mind.
Q. What are some of the hang-ups you see with the current psychology that society seems to be stuck in when it comes to topics like transhumanism and radical life extension ideas?
A. Some people are hung up by fear. They are frightened of the changes they see around them. They are operating on old religious beliefs, old mythologies, and old information. The new techno-generation or transhuman generation are not buying it. They want to thrive. They want to live hundreds of years. They are not waiting on a rapture, doomsday, or cancer. They want utopia and they want it now. How can any culture be psychologically sound if we are told that we are "only human?" We have been conditioned to be frightened of our power, our love, our worth. Watch a child play and you will see real power. They are fearless. We are taught to desire the death wish, and it is not natural. Immortality may be impossible, but imagine what humanity could learn if we all lived 700 years. We could travel deep into utopia and beyond. We are experiencing a shedding of old psychological, political, and religious references. We could call it a psyco-digital-moulting.
Q. What are some good methods for getting society to embrace a new psychology for dealing better with the future?
A. One method is too seek out social support systems that are open and techno-positive. We need psychologists, elected representatives, and teachers to fully embrace technology. Transhumanism gives us a chance to unleash our biological and digital imagination into the material world. We can use bio-hacking and brain computer interface devices to allow people to walk again, see again, or communicate again. Showing the positive impacts of technology will help society embrace a new set of skills. The future is inclusive, not exclusive.
Q. I feel like technology is expanding very quickly, but human culture and psychology are not keeping up with it. How long can this go on before this discrepancy seriously hurts our species?
A. The technological singularity has been predicted to happen around 2045 so I would say that is our make or break time. As a futurist-philosopher, I am fascinated by the future of psychology. We have already crossed the threshold into the unknown. If we do not educate ourselves psychologically, we will face huge catastrophes in the near future. Digital outliers, like the elderly, Luddites, and poverty stricken will have a harder time understanding the new techno-psychology. Imagine a world filled with clones or artificially intelligent robots that can pass the "Turring Test" of believability. Are psychologists talking about the near future issues of robotic romance, digital-death remorse, or clone envy? Sounds like science fiction, but it is closer than most people would believe.
Q. How can the media play a better role in bringing forth a new psychology of the future and advancing technology?
A. Media consumption is no longer a passive experience. We touch, pinch, and swipe our way through the media world today. This interactive experience of seeking out knowledge and getting media from our social networks allows an entirely new psychology to emerge.
The way we consume media has radically shifted in the last 15 years. We can "binge-watch" entire seasons of shows in one day now that we have YouTube and Netflix. We can create individual "programming" based on our own psychological needs and desires.
The major media networks need to focus more on the positive implications of technology and less on dystopian fears. The people in the media need to be information leaders. They need to educate and enlighten. Our cultural amygdala is worn out. No more terror alerts. No more fear. We are ready for a higher road.
Zoltan Istvan is an award-winning journalist, philosopher, and activist. You can find him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook,and LinkedIn. Zoltan is also the author of the recently published #1 Philosophical bestseller novel The Transhumanist Wager. Available in ebook or paperback, the controversial novel is a revolutionary reading experience. You can check it out here.