The heaven future is a future in which disease and poverty are eliminated. There will also be an increase in beauty, love, and wisdom. Garreau believes that these things happen of their own accord without the help or guidance of humans. hell, and that’s where people like Bill Joy and Francis Fukuyama enter the picture. They see our future as a bleak existence in which out of control nanotechnology devours every resource on the planet, or one in which humans use this fabulous technology against one another. The “Prevail” scenario takes the human factor and places it center stage.
A position advocated by a guy named Jaron Lanier and others, prevailing over the rise of GRIN essentially means people take a hands on role in new technologies. Rather than losing control of robots and genetic engineering, argues Lanier, humans will use them to strengthen the connections between individuals. The example of cell phones, where people use them to stay in constant touch with others in ways unanticipated by their creators, serves as a prime example of how we bend technology to our will instead of the other way around.
No new social classes will arise in the prevail scenario based on technology, nor will the world give up the ghost because of nanotechnology run amok. One assumes that genetic engineering will not sink to the sort of eugenics programs National Socialist Germany dabbled in during the 1940s. Prevail means humanity will change, since change is essential to the human experience regardless of culture or time, but we all will still keep that nebulous essence that makes each of us human.
The Prevail scenario looks likely to be the picture that we will be dealing with, and these will be real questions that we will be addressing a few decades down the road. The development of the exponential curve is another question altogether. I want to differentiate between capability and capacity. Japan has the capacity/potential to start a nuclear weapons program if it wanted to, although as yet, it does not have a capability for it.
The end results of the exponential curve in performance are likely to provide us with the capacity and potential to do all sorts of things, but the capabilities we will actually have is likely to be context drive. Studies in Science-Technology-Studies have revealed all sorts of path-dependence in the development of many of the technologies we take for granted, and it is the rare occasion that technical premises were the main drivers of the outcome. Nuclear power was one example, as is the QWERTY keyboard, and there are others. The translation from capacity to capability is a separate question.