By Charles Mueller
At the Center for Revolutionary & Scientific Thought (CReST) we spend a lot of our time contemplating the future and imagining the kinds of impacts (both good and bad) science & technology (S&T) can have on the world. We talk about S&T impacts in terms of 3 phases:
- Phase I is where S&T changes the way an existing process is implemented, making it more efficient.
- Phase II is where S&T leads to new processes that affect businesses, government and society
- Phase III is where S&T leads to entirely new paradigms, with new systems, industries and/or governments.
Last night, with all the world watching the President’s last State of the Union (SOTU) address, I thought the President was finally going to say the things we at CReST have been saying. I thought he was going to finally call out to the world that it is time to imagine the kind of future only created by the Phase II and III impacts of revolutionary S&T. Instead he described a future where we only imagined a world changed by Phase I impacts. A world of automation would change things, but a world where we co-exist with AI or communicate to each other with our thoughts would revolutionize things more. I’m sorry Mr. President, but the next moon shot is not a cure to cancer, it would be closer to a cure to all disease.
I wish the President had painted a future maximized by the Phase III impacts of revolutionary S&T. Maybe he didn’t paint that picture because he knows his audience. Maybe we have become so obsessed with “now” that we’ve started to forget to imagine tomorrow. Maybe we simply don’t know where to look anymore for information to help us imagine a future where anything is possible.
When we go to a restaurant we ask to see the menu; our leaders need to be distilling the kinds of futures S&T can foster into a menu. People need to talk about this menu of the future, people need to get excited about this menu and people need to elect leaders that will bring some of the those items of the menu to the table. While I am glad our President told us to think about the future, I had hoped he would talk about a bigger future, a bolder Phase III impact kind of future. There are many more items that should have been on his menu.
At CReST we will continue to do our best to communicate to the world about the important S&T, the ones whose Phase III impacts will revolutionize the world. If we do it right, hopefully next year in the SOTU address we will hear of a future maximized by the benefits of revolutionary S&T and well prepared to deal with its potential misuses.