Throughout the past decade, there have been several films made in Hollywood that depict the future as a dark dystopian environment where humans are either completely overrun by or submerged in their own technology: James Cameron’s Terminator; Alex Proyas’ I,Robot; Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence; Andy Wakowski’s The Matrix; etc. Conventionally, these films are perceived today as impossible realities of science fiction. However, both media theorist Douglass Rushkofff and futurist Ray Kurzweil present a picture of the future that is not characteristically far from the dystopian depictions presented within these films. Throughout his 2010 book Program or be Programmed: Ten Commandments for a Digital New Age Rushkoff argues that in order for humanity to have control of future digital technology and maintain the forward development of humankind, we need to become active participants in the ways that this technology is created: “In the emerging, highly programmed landscape ahead, you will either create the software or you will be the software. It’s really that simple: Program, or be programmed” (Rushkoff 8). Essentially, we need to understand the functions behind technology to prevent technology from governing us as mindless, robotic users. Futurist Ray Kurzweil takes this idea of future technology even further in his book The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, predicting humanity will not only grow to understand and advance the formations of technology, but we will eventually merge physically with the technology that we create. In the recent documentary film directed by Barry Ptolemy, The Transcendent Man, Kurzweil argues that in the not too distant future the technology we create will be unperceivably fast and we will be forced to keep up with it by inserting technological devices into our bodies:
Technology feeds on itself, and it gets faster and faster. In about forty years, the pace of change is going to be so astonishingly quick that you won’t be able to follow it unless you enhance your own intelligence by merging with the intelligent technology we are creating. (Kurzweil, The Transcendent Man).
This is where Rushkoff and Kurzweil depart from one another in their theories: Rushkoff calls for a deeper understanding of technology from people in order to keep up with technology while avoiding becoming mindless robots. Kurzweil, on the other hand, argues that we actually need to become more robotic in order to follow the inconceivable speed of technology.
Kurzweil argues that his prediction is “neither utopian nor dystopian” but rather an “epoch [that] will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself” (7). However, will this be beneficial to the human race? Would this not be a completely artificial world where the value of the human mind is obsolete? Both authors describe the advanced technology that will be created as independent entities that will determine the rest of our future. Rushkoff describes how even today, “Computers and networks are more than mere tools: They are like living things, themselves” (7). Rushkoff continues to predict that “the digital technologies themselves…will be shaping our world, both with and without our explicit cooperation” (7). In this way, he sees these future technologies that become superior to the human brain as a potential danger, for they will begin to function independently above humanity where people are possibly no longer the dominant species on the planet. This is a frightening notion. Surprisingly, Kurzweil stated in an interview on The Colbert Report that this superior advanced technology of the future will be more beneficial than dangerous: “I think overall, we’ll be helped more than hurt” (Kurzweil, The Colbert Report). However, will we not lose control of...