Technological revolutions call for social and political innovations
(...) In brief, the history of man's first technological revolution (irrigation - Ed. ) indicates the following:
1 .Technological revolutions create an objective need for social and political innovations. They create a need also for identifying the areas in which new institutions are needed and old ones are becoming obsolete.
2. The new institutions have to be appropriate to specific new needs There are right social and political responses to technology and wrong social and political responses. To the extent that only a right institutional response will do, society and government are largely circumscribed by new technology.
3. But the values these institutions attempt to realize, the human and social purposes to which they are applied, and, perhaps most important, the emphasis and stress laid on one purpose as against another, are largely within human control. The bony structure, the hard stuff of a society, is prescribed by the tasks it has to accomplish. But the ethos of the society is in man's hands and is largely a matter of the "how" rather than of the "what."
[automatic translation from French]
An example of a bad response from the government...
In 1812 that the steam train was born in England and in 1825 that the first railway line opened to people began operating.
Soon much more efficient transport services than the horse-drawn carriages used for public transport (stagecoaches) transformed the market. The train was an extraordinary step forward for the users of the time: vehicles were now on time, increased safety, much longer and more convenient timetables.
These new horseless careers created a terrifying competition for horse-drawn omnibuses, which could only foresee the imminent death of their activity.
And yet, through lobbying and the lack of vision of politicians, a law known as the "red flag law" was passed. The law imposed discriminatory rights of way on self-propelled vehicles, a speed limit of 4 km/h, and that they be preceded by a man on foot carrying a red flag.
This law, which was maintained for 30 years between 1865 and 1896 in England, severely hampered the development of the national road network and that of the still nascent English automobile industry.
We are still the masters of our fate. Rational thinking, even assisted by any conceivable electronic computors, cannot predict the future. All it can do is to map out the probability space as it appears at the present and which will be different tomorrow when one of the infinity of possible states will have materialized. Technological and social inventions are broadening this probability space all the time; it is now incomparably larger than it was before the industrial revolution—for good or for evil.
The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented.
It was man’s ability to invent which has made human society what it is. The mental processes of inventions are still mysterious. They are rational but not logical, that is to say, not deductive.
When I design online ads for American Apparel, I almost always look for an angle that will provoke. Outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation all work equally well. Naturally, the sexy ones are probably those you remember most, but the formula worked for all types of images. Photos of kids dressed up like adults, dogs wearing clothes, ad copy that didn’t make any sense—all high-valence, viral images. If I could generate a reaction, I could propel the ad from being something I had to pay for people to see (by buying ad inventory) to something people would gladly post on the front page of their highly trafficked websites.
In the past there were many things only humans could do. But now robots and computers are catching up, and may soon outperform humans in most tasks. True, computers function very differently from humans, and it seems unlikely that computers will become humanlike any time soon. In particular, it doesn’t seem that computers are about to gain consciousness and start experiencing emotions and sensations. Over the past half century there has been an immense advance in computer intelligence, but there has been exactly zero advance in computer consciousness. As far as we know, computers in 2016 are no more conscious than their prototypes in the 1950s. However, we are on the brink of a momentous revolution. Humans are in danger of losing their economic value because intelligence is decoupling from consciousness.