Summary of Prevail and Transcend Scenario
In chapter six of Radical Evolution, author Joel Garreau shows through various interviews and examples that even though technology may be rising on an exponentially increasing Curve, humans may still be able to change the effects of technological advance in unpredictable ways. Deemed the Prevail scenario, it is also characterized by humans slowing down once-viewed inevitable change viewed as negative and speeding up positive change. Another great theme of the Prevail Scenario is its idea that technological advance will enable humans to acquire a better understanding of their society and nature. In addition to discussing the Prevail scenario, Garreau also discusses the possible change humans themselves may experience in chapter seven. He shows this possibility through a series of interviews and historic examples.
The first person whom Garreau interviewed was Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist who coined the term “virtual reality”. Garreau notes how Lanier “does not see The Curve yielding some inevitable, preordained result, as in the fashion of the Heaven and Hell Scenarios” (195). This would suggest that even though Lanier believes that technology advances on an exponential Curve, he differs from past technology futurists, such as Ray Kurzweil and Bill Joy, in that Lanier believes the effects of technology are unpredictable and wild. Lanier believes that humans have the power to gain more understanding about human nature through advancing technology.
Garreau describes Lanier’s predictions of the future: “…it would not be represented by smooth curves, either up or down, as in the first two scenarios. It would doubtless have fits and starts, hiccups and coughs, reverses and loops – not unlike the history we humans have always known” (196). Despite the chaotic nature of Lanier’s Prevail Scenario, the future of humans and technology would ultimately involve the humans being in control.
In addition to interviewing Lanier, Garreau also mentions James P. Carse, professor of the history of literature at NYU. Garreau mentions Carse because the former once discussed his definitions of finite games and infinite games. According to Carse, finite games have very controlled settings. For example, there are beginnings and endings and the overall atmosphere is predictable. By contrast, infinite games have many surprises and these surprises cause the game to last forever. Tying this case back to the Prevail Scenario, Garreau notes how Lanier believes that “ ‘Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ is an infinite game…Infinite games are the real transcendence games. They allow you to transcend your boundaries. They allow you to transcend who you are” (197).
Garreau also discusses how Lanier views technological change as a way for humans to come together – to forget their differences and become one interconnected society. So, the essence of Prevail is “the search for a complex, evolving, inventive transcendence” (Garreau, 200). Technology assists in this by helping humans come together. Lanier believes that human connectedness is a “much more profound kind of ramp [than Heaven and Hell Scenarios]”, which suggests that the Prevail Scenario will ultimately bring about the most interesting and meaningful future.
In his discussion of the Prevail Scenario, Garreau also clarifies the event by drawing on examples from past movies and literature. Garreau gives examples from the biblical Exodus, the novel Huckleberry Finn, and in the movie Casablanca. In all of these works, Garreau shows how various characters, against all odds, struggle against various external forces that in the end help shape a character or a group of characters’ minds for the better. This moral improvement is one of the major subjects of Lanier’s Prevail concept.
Near the end of the chapter, Garreau concludes that the Prevail Scenario cannot be predicted. It is notable for its uncertainties, resilience, and diversity of...
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