August 08 2008 / by AJ0111
Category: Government Year: 2020 Rating: 3
Global unification has not been welcomed in the past, biblically that is, but in the flattening world of today and tomorrow one language awaits us all: technology.
The biblical tower of Babel is a symbol of unity. Back when everyone spoke one language it was built “for the glory of man,” and not to worship God. Stretching to the heavens, the prosperous city showcased the collective power of mankind. Angered by the audacity, God then confused human language and scattered the builders all across the Earth.
Today, we are seeing bodies like the UN functioning as unifying global entities, coordinating between countries at a higher level. In fact, futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts there will be a World Government by 2020.
This globalization faces many obstacles, the most basic of which is language. The soultion? Kurzweil argues that by 2019 language translation will be widely used. In fact, it’s already been deployed by the U.S. military. Using a program IBM developed, troops in Iraq automatically get Arabic-to-English translations. IBM is also using a program for translating television broadcasts in Arabic and Chinese.
Director of the International Center for Advanced Communication Technologies Alex Waibel says this translation technology is a decade away from being used commercially. Electrodes attached to the mouth and throat can pick up words even when they are only mouthed.
Waibel argues, “In the future, we could implant the electrodes into your mouth and throat if you want and have your mouth become multilingual.”
In the past we have consumed certain drugs because they keep us
awake or make us feel good, even if they had dangerous side
effects; but soon we will come across powerful drugs and techniques
to boost our cognitive capabilities.
As an example, a recently developed drug has caught some
attention. In the healthy human being, Provigil
fatigue and suppresses sleep. That sounds great when you walk into
your office exhausted and you can’t imagine going through the rest
of the day without it; but it was originally used in the treatment
of narcolepsy. (The off-label use of this drug resulted in a $425
million penalty for Cephalon), the
producer.) Provigil is known to boost working memory, executive
function and attention and has attracted a variety of fans ranging
from athletes to the French military.
In comparison, tobacco was promoted in 1560 for their medicinal
uses, and as early as the Stone Age humans chewed plants containing
caffeine to stimulate awareness, ease fatigue, and elevate mood.
We’ve seen how both the caffeine and nicotine industries have
shaped today. Provigil, our contemporary counterpart, is newer to
the game but its effects are stronger and safety is still debated.
Might they be even safer than caffeine and nicotine? How will
Provigil and other developing enhancers shape the future?
From an ethical dimension, humans have been taking drugs for a
while, including the aforementioned, and in a way we have
co-evolved together with them. They were useful to us, and so we
helped them to reproduce and scale. We might try to imagine how the
world would be without coffee and cigarettes – might that lead to
lower productivity or other negatives? It’s certainly difficult to
quantify. Jumping forward, what if we increased productivity by 10%
by using new drugs such as Provigil? How would/will this transform
our economy? How intrusive are we willing to get?