How to Survive the Future If You’re A Human
Sometimes, we have to learn about our past in order to excel in the future.
Our kind — starting with the genus Homo — was first introduced to Mother Nature as primitive hunter-gatherers 2.4 million years ago. When fire, lightning, and the Internet have not been invented yet, ancient humans roamed the land for food and shelter with nothing but their spears.
When I was in primary school, I used to make fun of those primeval people in historical textbooks who were dressed in leaves and lived inside caves.
Little did I know that they were actually better than us in so many ways; they were able to smell predators from far distance, built their own houses from stone and woods, and walk for hours under the scorching sun.
All their five senses and two sides of the brain were simultaneously trained throughout decades in the wilderness. Ancient humans were basically superhumans.
However, as the economic landscape kept on changing, humans were also subject to changes in how they work and cooperate.
It all started with the Agricultural Revolution (350 generations ago), followed by the Industrial Revolution (7 generations ago) and the Digital Age (2 generations ago and still extends up to present time).
These changes from generation to generation are accompanied by evolution in the human biological makeup, in which modern humans are divided into specialized niches according only to their most dominant traits.
Today, instead of hunter-gatherers, we have lawyers, telemarketers, CEOs, doctors, and chefs. People nowadays no longer have to do excessive labor-intensive work; we let the machines do it for us.
Nevertheless, there is an anomaly in the equation. When we invented machines, we envisioned them to be slaves that would only serve to lessen our workload.
They are hired for cheap labor. Yet, throughout the years, machines have proven to be even more powerful than their masters. Semi-Automated Mason (SAM), a robotic bricklayer manufactured by Construction Robotics, has been claimed to be 2–3 times faster than human at building houses.
In the medical sector, algorithm-based machines were able to diagnose malignant skin cancer forms more accurately (95% accuracy) than senior dermatologists (87% accuracy).
As the machines — now often dubbed “artificial intelligence” — become better day by day, humans are losing their value and importance in the labor market.
The football industry has begun to observe VAR (video assistant referee) taking over the job of human referees at making crucial decisions that may change the course of the game.
Some are not too happy about it. In a scathing remark, Jose Mourinho — the decorated manager of Tottenham Hotspurs football team — told the press:
“The VAR should change their name because ‘video assistant referee’, that’s not true. It should be VR, video referees, because they are the referees.”
The worst possible future — as Yuval Noah Harari said in his best-selling book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century — is not where humans lose power or authority, but where they become irrelevant that life becomes pointless.
How, then, can we make sure that humans remain relevant in the future? The key is probably on improving the quantity instead of the quality of skills. One powerful trait that humans possess is our ability to multitask, a feature that not many machines have acquired yet.
Our brain comprises of nearly 100 billion neurons forming synapses and pathways, each with specific functions and often interconnected with one another.
This system allows us to do multiple things at once; the best CEOs might be able to negotiate billion-dollar deals by phone, drive their cars on a busy highway, and ponder their child’s kindergarten tuition fee all at the same time.
Machines may already be better than us in certain skills, but when they are pitted against us in making multiple appropriate decisions at the same time, we still have a winning chance. In fact, one of the long-term goals for artificial intelligence is to learn multitasking to be able to compete with humans.
So, the next time you think of skipping your piano lessons, think again. Pick up a new hobby. Go play some sports you have never tried before. If you hate arts, ask your painter friend to teach you some drawing skills. Right now is the perfect time to achieve back some of our ancestors’ multitasking abilities.
Humans have always been the main characters in the world’s narrativeas we continuously shape the future. However, with the rise of artificial intelligence, we now face an uncertain future where we might be deemed irrelevant and unimportant.
If we fail to improve ourselves by learning new skills and multitasking, we might regress to become these one-dimensional characters in the periphery, serving no purpose but to fill in the blank. There is no better time than now to study how our ancestors were able to do so many things and juggle a dozen tasks at once.
However, we should remember that this is only a temporary solution. No one knows what the future holds. We need to think of other ways on how to survive the future as humans.