Oct 19, 2016

Temple of Experience

An emerald green lake shaped like a guitar as seen from above.

 In the book Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow, historian and author Yuval Harari writes that the future of mankind will be marked by the presence of great classes of people who are, essentially useless. A confluence of technologies and development will make the work of most human beings completely irrelevant.  As we approach a world population ten billion. The 'Useless Class,'  will define the narrative of the age, much the way the proletariat class did during the industrial revolution.

Mount Whitney and Guitar Lake.

Already we can feel this shift toward uselessness occurring.  During the Great Depression unemployment was said to be 25-30%  These days it is almost as high, if not higher, in large part because unemployment is not calculated the way it once was. The New York Times, in a recent editorial, lamented the millions of men missing from the job market and addicted to opioid painkillers. Is the job market really missing these millions upon millions of working age men?

No. I'm afraid not.  They are now part of that vast useless class that Harari spoke of. Workers in the modern world are expected to upgrade their skills, and learn new ones regularly. No skill is relevant for very long in an age when technology is pushing ahead at an exponential rate.

A Rocky outpost on the trail to Mount Whitney

 At this very moment Artificial Intelligence is being used by the world's most advanced companies to help us with our most complex problems. Very few industries have remained unchanged by the explosion of productivity-enhancing technologies. As these technologies have revolutionized industry, less and less real labor has been needed and yet the industries themselves are now able to support greater and greater populations. As time moves on this issue will become ever greater.  Having defeated the killer natural phenomenon of famine (non-political famines at least) and war that once plagued mankind so thoroughly, we are no longer held back as species.
We are becoming as Gods.
Well, some of us are.  

Massive mountains in the distance hang over shimmering lakes.

But what of the rest of mankind?  What of the faceless billions left behind? Have you ever asked yourself exactly how useful you are to human civilization?  Stock-brokers, bartenders, Real estate agents... We are all quite useless as tools to a civilization that will very soon no longer require these things.  I would argue it doesn't require them now.  We live in a world of make-believe.  Fictional values attached to fictional professions.  It is a testament to the human mind to have created so many varied and complex systems around what are universally meaningless fictional agreements born of our intellect.

If you are on top of your game, you might have realized that my question is loaded and demands that we answer another first: what exactly is the function of civilization?  To continue?  Is that it?  Are we nothing more than a virus meant to spread ourselves throughout the Universe, commoditize all that we come into contact with?  In a recent interview, Elon Musk stated that all we wanted since beginning his studies in college was to 'be useful' and to 'move the species forward,'  Although he wasn't asked the question directly, I think it might have been better to ask him what 'forward' meant? Exactly what are we heading for?
Universal domination?
Either seems just as likely at this stage history.

Rocky formations from the climb of Mt. Whitney

This information is not meant to scare anyone.  On the contrary, I believe the situation and the questions that it demands of us will lead mankind not to its ultimate destruction, but on the path to enlightenment. Everyone must find their own meaning in life. But I would like to posit that perhaps as we enter the new post industrial, post-consumerist world, the answers to these questions must not come from outside but from within ourselves, trite as that may sound.

To "Know Thyself" is as important now as it ever was for the ancients, and that maxim will not suffer from lack of necessity as time goes on. Experience drives knowledge. If you would know yourself, I submit, the best way to so is to get out there and experience life. Climb a mountain, hike a trail, meet new people, test yourself, and as I said before, allow yourself the indulgence of wonder.  Build yourself a beautiful temple of experience and use it to grow your soul.  After all, it is said that at the end of our lives it is only the things that we did not experience that we will regret.
From the Top of Mt Whitney

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