Part 1. Three Doors to the Future
A meal prepared by a robot. An automated barman. A robot cleaner. A Quantum computer. Your purchase, delivered by a drone. All this is no longer science fiction, or a concept from a distant future. This is a part of our life.
However, we’ve heard about it even before.
And after six hundred years of the sixth thousand there will be opened the [water]gates of wisdom above and the fountains of wisdom below, and the world will make preparations to enter on the seventh thousand as man makes preparation on the sixth day of the week, when the sun is about to set.
Zohar, part I, 117a
In Kabala, water is a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. And we know that right now we are experiencing the period of human history which was described so vividly in the Zohar.
The year 5600 (the six hundredth year of the sixth millennium) corresponds to the year 1740 in the Georgian calendar. It was just before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The proceeding period brought with it innovations in technology, transportation, and communication.
It is prophesied in the Zohar that scientific revelation (the earthly wisdom, ‘the knowledge from below’) is caused and accompanied by a breakthrough in spiritual knowledge – revelation of the inner dimension of the Torah in the chassidic teachings. This is exactly what happened about 200 years ago, when the Chabad movement began to spread and grow.
It’s really surprising to think of it, but before these transformations, only some 250-300 years ago, the civilized world looked drastically different:
- main transport: horses,
- means of communication: mail (delivered for days, weeks and months),
- main occupation: agriculture.
This went on for hundreds and thousands of years, seemingly without change.
Now fast forward to today:
- main transport: cars (increasingly getting self-driven),
- means of communication: internet (your message delivered in seconds),
- occupations: extremely varied (as estimated, there’s less than 5% of the population working in agriculture in developed countries).
A whole new world is evolving in front of our eyes. What will be next?
Today, we are creating a world where there will be more and more technology and less and less routine work. Will there still be jobs for people in the future? What will they look like?
It’s expected that robots and electronics will replace half of the existing jobs in the next 20 years. For large corporations it’s a chance to increase profits. Technologies are efficient. People are complex and harder to manage.
In our future world we might begin to see more and more things that look like science fiction, and less things that look like labor:
- Our cars might soon become completely self-driven. This poses a risk for the jobs truck and taxi drivers.
- In large warehouses teams of robots work alongside humans. This means fewer people roaming the warehouse aisles.
- The forecasts of retail future draw pictures of fully automated retail locations. Shoppers will no longer have to stand in queues. Cashiers will be replaced by modern technology.
- Another booming technology is artificial intelligence. Scientists claim that in future robots might be able to write their own computer programs, organize advertising campaigns, and analyze large amounts of data. Some of this stuff is already happening. One of the examples is “Albert” – marketing AI software, which optimizes Google advertising much better than people who work in advertising departments.
If in the long run we continue to develop an economy based more on technology than on labor, we are likely to get the following results:
- Basic energy is free (sun, wind, water).
- Fully robotic factories.
- Free access to food for everyone.
- Life expectancy: hundreds of years.
At first glance, it looks good. But here’s the question:
What will billions of people do if they don't have to earn a living or go to work? Let’s imagine a world where this is no longer a necessity. What will it look like? What will the people occupy themselves with?
Now this question is getting increasingly popular with experts in economics, politics, and artificial intelligence. And they don’t have a single answer that suits everyone.
Futurists might be able to see some opportunities and risks of the future, but they can’t give answers to the most important questions of human life: “What is it worth living for?”, “What is considered the right way of life?”.
These questions have become especially crucial, because today we’re standing at the doorstep of a whole new world. All our technology, all our advances in science and social justice drive us up to something unknown.
It’s like we’re facing a few doors – each leading us in a different direction…
Part 1 of a three-part series. To be continued.