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Pathway for Global Communications

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[David Orban] I want to talk to you about what are, in my opinion, very important principles for designing in the next decades types of social structures that are inducive to desirable futures. And our society is brittle, and the more complex, the more global it gets, the less we can afford this brittleness to lead to wider and deeper crisis as it has been the case in the past periods because, for the moment, we do not have an alternative. Social collapse or the passing of empires does not mean that the human civilization will be put in peril in the past. If a planet-wide civilization collapses as it could very well today after globalization that would do exactly that.

My name is David Orban, and I am a member of the faculty of Singularity University and an advisor to the organization as well as the CEO of dotsub, which is a New York-based startup that has a mission of eliminating the language barrier to global communication in online video. And I want to start with a few assumptions that I want to share with you because these are the basis of my talk.

The assumption that the exponential trends that we see around us — the most famous example of which is Moore's Law stating that the density of electronic circuits doubles every 18 months and it's prized hubs during that time, but there are many, many others that these trends will continue. The linear thinking that purveys our policies and that is the basis of thinking of our policy makers is something that we cannot afford anymore because the prevalence and the visibility of these tendencies is just too strong.

At the same time, as much as I would want otherwise, the assumption for this tool is that within the next few decades we will not have radically new physics such as a warp drive would represent. Yet, there are no shortcuts. If we want to colonize the galaxy, we will have to do it the hard way. It is going to take a couple of million years to do so, and we have to do it step-by-step. We cannot jump across to 100,000 light years. And even if I have been the chairman of the world of transhumanist organization which defines humanity as an entity that overcomes itself, that sees it's limits as the barrier to go through and redefining what it means to be human, I will assume that for the next few decades what it means to be human is not going to change.

[Female Speaker] What was that a picture of? Intestines? [David Orban] A brain. >>[Female Speaker] Oh, okay. [David Orban] And this is a black hole.

And my final assumption, and I am a card carrying singularitarian, is that what is called the technological singularity the theoretical moment in time, in the future when self-modifying artificial intelligence is brought to the scene many more active agents, participants, in the global civilization alongside humanity with their own goals, with their own rules, with their own active capacity of acquiring and managing the sources. I will assume that is not going to happen. If any of these happens, every bet is off.

So, however, what we are seeing, and this is the original 1963 organizational chart of NASA, and what we are seeing around us, in my opinion, is that hierarchies are breaking down everywhere. They are breaking down at the level of the family, at the level of a city, at a level of the company, at the level of the nation's state. What used to be the case that hierarchies defined the role that plays the behavior of individuals and groups of individuals is now turning into what I call the network society which is defined by distributed peer-to-peer systems substituting centralized systems— energy production based on solar, 3D printing, distributed manufacturing. Plant labs allow food production to be available at every home rather than centralizing agra E-businesses.

Massively online open courses make learning and education available to everybody regardless of their economical means or geographical or social provenience. And our financial technologies are also explosively changing, so much so that the nation's state is taking notice and is enacting policies that are more and more virulently, violently against those new entities that appear to the nation's state as invading forces. And it's immune system is rebelling against it.

However, we have a power as individuals, as emotional machines, and if somebody asked me what my superpower would be if I could have one, this is what it will be. It will be the arbitrary extension of the circle of empathy in a given moment. Empathy is our strongest power to overcome in people and groups of people artificial isolation that is engendered by our superstructures. We can overcome. We have this power. And it is also not only something that is available to us, we have to use this power. If we do not then the existential risk of global annihilation, there is a better pronunciation of that word, global destruction of planetary civilization is almost guaranteed.

We have a tool that is available today that these—the most powerful with the broadest, emotional bandwidth in order to overcome our communication barriers, and it is online media. When we see another person in our discussions, in our conversations, there is a subtext of emotional content that written or verbal communication without seeing the other person is not capable of transmitting. That is why we are so excited about seeing video. That is why on YouTube today every minute 72 hours of new content is uploaded because we just love seeing another human person. Seeing is not enough. We have to understand. We have to engage. And it is, today, possible in online video to eliminate the language barrier.

We are not going to be able to crowd fund the creation of a Starship. We can dream of it, but it is not going to happen. We have to be extremely persuasive, not only among the group of passionate individuals regardless of their connections, regardless of their knowledge and skills. We have to be persuasive among tens and hundreds of millions, hopefully billions, of people who have to share our mission. We have to be almost evangelistic, you know, or desire of and making sure that what we learn, what we know is shared among as many of us as possible. And today this is available in online video. We can start doing it; we actually have started doing it.

One of the members of the 100-year starship community just took what were static images from the website, and turne dit into a beautiful video. And the organization took that and is now on the homepage of this symposium. Others can do the same, and the way to do this is in a distributed, closeted way rather than in a talk down manner in a hierarchical decision making process because it would have been made may be natural for NASA to make in the 20th century.

But we are in the 21st century now And in this century, as I said, the risks and the opportunities that we have are huge. And we have to minimize the risks, and we have to maximize the opportunities ahead of us. So, in conclusion, our industrial civilization is unsustainable.

On Starship Earth unsustainability is unsustainable. We have to learn that; we have to realize that. Only sustainable systems can sustain themselves. And the way we go into our network society, and it will be crucial, to try and minimize the violent reactions of the dying nation states as we achieve this phase change. As we go into new organization of the network society, we have to face what are the new questions that we have in front of us. Is it right? Is it wrong? What is a natural path? What is some extremely artificial legislation that is being promoted? Because it is in the interest of a very, very restricted group. These are the questions that we have to ask in order to bridge our knowledge through our ignorance. And we have to be extremely inventive because the only way we can try to succeed in our exponential dreams is by powerful application of our inventiveness.

There is no guarantee Moore's Law, as well as many others, is a total misnomer. It is the common self-fulfilling prophecy of engineers worldwide who have been inspired for the past 40 years by the little dots that Gordon Moore jotted down in his notebook when the transistor has been invented, and he said, "Yeah, this is how I think it's going to work." And he just kept going at it to prove him right and that is the only way to go. So in our dream of going to make the dream of the 100 years Starship true we have to prove our green stripe.

We have to try, and we will fail a lot of times, but that is it. Sometimes we will win, and sometimes we will learn. Thank you.

Video Details

Duration: 13 minutes and 2 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 64
Posted by: davidorban on Sep 24, 2013

David Orban's talk at the "Building an Interstellar Civilization" track at the 100 Year Starship Symposium.

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