Have you considered the role that the Media should play in creating our collective future?
When I recall movies, TV shows or novels that deal with our future, I have visions of robots, of artificial intelligence or planetary travel and the multitude of advancements we might make. The irony is that media shows us these possible futures, but its role in creating them is often rendered invisible.
Media in many ways is the matrix by which we are all now connected. It serves as a vast network through which we manage and share knowledge. It could in fact be seen as a kind of super-organism itself. A cultural creature of all of our collective human achievements – both positive and negative.
So it begs the question, how do we accelerate the positive?
I believe it is the Media’s role to accelerate our ability to a.) achieve the technological progression, and b.) wisely manage what we do with our advancing world. Not just to enable the science part, but to grasp what we as a species need to achieve in order to navigate and survive our future reality. How? It’s really a question of scope.
To explain it, we need to look at a concept that has moved into “science faction”. Its called the singularity, and in the context of computing it is defined as:
(noun) A hypothetical future point in time when artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence and be able to self-replicate and improve itself autonomously.
The concept of a singularity is based on the fact that we are advancing at an ever faster pace. In fact it’s exponential (and it looks like the graph on the left). The math is not intuitive, which makes it difficult to fully grasp (the best illustration of exponential growth is the famous story of the Indian King playing against Krishna in the “wheat and chessboard problem“; starting with a single grain of rice, and ending at what would amount to 210 billion tons).
With exponential growth there will come a time when the rate of growth becomes almost instantaneous; a stratospheric jump into the infinite.
There are many ways to explain what this could mean, as Kevin Kelly of WIRED said:
all the change in the last million years will be superseded by the change in the next five minutes.
or as Ray Kurzweil’s defined it:
… a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed.
Kurzweil’s prediction places the date of this singularity around 2045. The fields considered to be key in defining this leap into tomorrow are: robotics, genetics (bio-engineering) and nano-technology. Exciting? Absolutely.
What you might notice is that there is a distinct lack of humanity in the discussion; and that needs to change.
The role of media & creatives
The book Abundance, by Diamandis and Kotler, is a wonderful alternative to the avalanche of negativity we are daily subject to. It points to the technology that can (and is) solving problems across many spheres at an unprecedented rate; providing ways of alleviating poverty, climate change, health issues and well, you name it, they are working on it. If you think it’s an exaggeration, then visit the Singularity University and hear about having Google inside your head so you can answer questions as you think them.
Now forget any of the Orwellian 1984 stuff for the moment. The idea that we will no longer have large-scale suffering is pretty much a universal desire for most of us, and in “Abundance”, Diamantis and Kotler examine how this is playing out right now. There is a deep irony at work however. They identify one of the greatest blocks to achieving these breakthroughs is our collective negativity. Basically, the media has us believing that we are on the brink of Armageddon, and this is becoming the largest stumbling block to overcoming the negative and aggregating the positive.
The problem, they explain succinctly, is that as a species we are designed to pay attention to the bad, and thus it’s all we see. Here is the conundrum. Our perception is creating our reality. Our belief that we are in fact “a lost cause”, is the most likely factor in preventing the exponential growth of our best opportunities. And that’s where we as media makers need to enter into the story; not to sell a false positivity, but to change the Zeitgeist into harnessing the good, and not focussing on the abyss.
Freedom and the spreading of good ideas.
What I want to propose is that we as media makers, as storytellers & creators, are just as much part of this revolution; but with a very specific role in bringing it about.
It is a simple numbers game. There are 7 billion people out there. Amongst these multitudes are the undiscovered Mandelas, Einsteins and Curies, and millions of names still to come. How do you activate those minds? You connect them. That’s it. Media provides the gateway to finding and unlocking our greatest creative potential. Most of these incredible individuals don’t have access to the education, the mentors or the ideas that could awaken their brilliance. But that is changing; and the message is embedded in the medium (just check out the statistics for mobile use in developing countries). Our human creativity is woven into the network of spreading communication, into sharing at this exponential scale.
As our technological singularity evolves, the human singularity cascades in concert with it. Nothing in human history can even fathom the scale of this. Yes, it is also vital we consider what kind of ideas we are spreading. But don’t miss the wood by focussing on the trees. Previously insular, isolated and uneducated communities are fast connecting into this limitless ocean of knowledge and ideas. Plugging into that democracy of knowledge means we accelerate the creative singularity. So hold onto your hat, because as millions upon millions of eager minds join in on the conversation, the graph spikes ever upwards. Collectively, the human race is the largest intelligent system for problem solving that has ever existed (read about the Wisdom of Crowds to see the power in action). Simply unstoppable.
So what is the role of the Media in creating our future?
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
She captures the essence of the problem outlined in Abundance. The bad news is true and real, but it’s a story we are re-living because we are constantly re-telling it. Let me challenge YOU to start telling a different story. A story that is also true, but in the very telling, shapes a wholly different world to look forward to. As she ends her famous quote with;
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Brett Lotriet Best is the Founder & Creative Director of EdenRage Media, check out their Immersive Storytelling work at www.edenrage.tv. Go on, take a bite! Picture thanks to Unsplash, Greg Rakozy.