On Thursday night, I was privileged to be one of the speakers at Ignite Salem 5.
It was an incredible night. 12 speakers, plus music by Rich McCloud!
You can read some responses to the night on Ignite Salem’s Facebook page.
Here is the text of my presentation—although I cut several sentences during the talk to keep up with the slides (I might put my slides in here, too):
(The time and numbers in “chicken-beaks” are timing notes for myself)
The future, when we arrive there, always looks like the past on the surface, and always looks like the past underneath. The present always functions just like the past. The years and decades and millennia will continue <:15-2> to look the same because human nature stays the same. So… predicting the future is easy: look at what happened earlier. Look at what is happening now.
Here is one prediction for the future: more inequality. <:30-3>
“No advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer.” – George Orwell, 1984.
“You will always have the poor among you.” Deut 15:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8.
Years from now, the world, even our world, could look like a feudal system. <45-4> Fewer and fewer people owning more and more of the property, money, and industry. Greater numbers of people owning less and less. And the second group will work for or serve the first group.
And that is what we see when we look at <1:00-5> any time in history. And when we look at now. Certainly in other countries. But even in this country.
We are aware of it. We remember “Occupy Wall Street”–and why it happened.
So the future will have a lot of inequality <1:15-6>. Financial and otherwise.
But here is a second prediction that could upset the first: the future will also see greater empathy, and there are a bunch of reasons to believe this.
First: Education is better than ever before. <1:30-7> It is more informed, faster, more thorough, more individualized. Studies, research, observation, trial and error, reflection, technology, and sharing have sharpened education exponentially.
<1:45-8> We are getting smarter. In the 1980s, psychologist James Flynn discovered that, over the past century, our average IQ has increased dramatically. The difference, in fact, is so stark that the phenomenon has its own name: the Flynn Effect.
<2:00-9> Which brings us to the second point: we have more access to more information. The ability to search the internet has been around only since 1990. Wikipedia started in 2001. Youtube started in 2005. The modern smart phone <2:15-10> has been around only since 2007. In the timeline of human history, all that is but a moment. (snap fingers)
Prior to those inventions, it was difficult to encounter the idea of Plato’s cave. It was impossible to encounter it by accident. <2:30-11> You had to pick up a copy of “Plato’s Republic”.. and make it to chapter 7. The chances of that happening were slim. And the chances of that happening by accident were… slimmer.
Now, however, people are getting philosophical tattoos. <2:45-12> There are Plato’s Cave T-shirts for sale online and Youtube videos explaining it.
Which brings us to the third point: the internet has connected us all. Even as the gap between the rich and the rest increases, our sense of connectedness has increased. <3:00-13> We see more people seeking to serve their brothers and sisters in need. Here in Salem, and all over the world.
George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Ayn Rand, Aldous Huxley, Philip K. Dick, H . G. Wells. All our prophets feared that our technology would consume, devour, and destroy our humanity. <3:15-14> And though our tech has done some mutating (slide of teens staring at phones), Our tech has connected us. Connected us with family and friends. Connected us with long lost schoolmates. Connected us with strangers. Connected us across distances. Connected us constantly. <3:30-15> I have heard our time called The Relationship Age. In the past, we’ve had the Mechanical Age, the Industrial Age, the Modern Age. These are also called revolutions. We are in the relationship revolution. Which cannot help but <3:45-16> increase empathy.
All of which brings us to the fourth point: the increase in knowledge will cause an increase in understanding, which will, in turn, cause an increase in empathy. Even as we know exponentially more information, <4:00-17> so our understanding of human experience and how life works increases exponentially.
Not only is our average IQ dramatically higher than it was 100 years ago, our average level of enlightenment has increased as well. So says Dr. David R. Hawkins, in his seminal book: Power vs Force. <4:15-18>
All of these are reasons to predict that empathy will increase.
And if that continues, human nature, for the first time ever, could change. My first prediction makes sense. But so does the second. Empathy could not only offset inequality, empathy could upset it. Empathy could change everything. <4:30-19> If human nature changes, for the first time ever, years from now, the future would look different than the past. We could, for example, get that elusive millimeter Orwell mentions. I’m optimistic. <4:45-20>