Developing consciousness seems to be the preferable and necessary next step for the humankind. I can conclude it from the list of human desires that remain unfulfilled and from the growing risks of undeterred intelligence.
Unfulfilled desires? Why do they matter in futures thinking?
Because they come true, most of the time. Not always, but more often than not. Not always fast, not always during one human life, yet they do. I cannot name a single human dream that has not come true yet or that is not in the process of being achieved. Telecommunication, flying, terraforming, we are just about to reach immortality and we create powerful machines for nearly anything. The remaining unfulfilled desires are, in fact, not so numerous. Thousands of scientists already work to realize them. It is not unreasonable to assume that, if time horizon is unlimited, anything can be achieved.
What unfulfilled desires do we have?
Below is an extract from my Master’s thesis (briefly presented here) showing possible transformative changes to the human world. The diagram below does not list all changes: only liveable and transformative ones are presented, i.e. significant changes that natural humans are likely to survive. Possible transformative changes are divided into three classes: agents, operant resources (e.g. know-how, skills, knowledge, technologies etc.) and operand resources (objects to which action is applied).
Most of the changes above can arguably be seen as human desires, even if they are not shared by each and every human. For instance, sci-fi movies often present aliens or demons as dangerous for humans, yet some people are seeking to discover and contact such beings.
Most desires can be fulfilled by developing intelligence, but not all.
It is not unimaginable that nearly all the transformative changes can be accomplished if our intelligence, including artificial intelligence, is powerful enough. We can probably invent mind-blowing means of space travel, discover other inhabited worlds, create molecular assemblers and meet aliens – why not, given enough time?
Yet some transformative changes are different by definition and cannot be achieved this way, no matter how powerful intelligence is available. These changes are always or sometimes defined as abilities that humans possess, without any help from machines. Oftentimes these abilities are described as inborn and natural.
For example, clairvoyance (also called sixth sense) is often attributed to spiritual masters, wizards, fortune tellers, witches and healers, all of whom are mere humans. Similarly, abilities to travel in time and to teleport (maybe mentally only) are sometimes described as inherent: more in fantasy literature, less so in sci-fi.
Inherent abilities are not obtained by creating another piece of software – they are innate and can be developed further through learning, training, practicing. They are in people. People must develop themselves.
Like all learning, such self-development is likely to relate to better understanding of the universe and its laws. Unsurprisingly, some people who reportedly had such advanced abilities like clairvoyance or fortune telling (a form of time travel) were also regarded as having higher consciousness and morals. They seemed to understand better the implications of all actions, and to self-limit, in spite of being superpowerful. The most famous were probably Buddha and Christ. Mediums, healers, advanced yogis and other spiritual masters – maybe we should ask them how to develop our consciousness?
Being more conscious does not guarantee a better moral automatically, but I believe that a radically better understanding of the universe increases chances of the physical survival of the humankind, at the very least. Higher consciousness is likely to make violence obsolete because we will understand the interconnectedness of the universe better.
Is it the only possible option for humans to advance?
Of course, not. We can choose to die instead of developing consciousness. As our power grows exponentially, some already anticipate that individuals will soon be able to manufacture and apply weapons of mass destruction remotely. What prevents it? As well as other growing risks?
It feels like ‘more-of-the-same’ approach where we deter bombs with more bombs is unlikely to work eternally. A complete change of direction is needed. After we have developed our hands, then our brains, the time has come for our consciousness. I believe we can fly faster, do more and be wiser in every respect if we focus on developing our souls.
When does it need to happen?
To answer this question, let us get acquainted with the idea of long development cycles first. They are called Kondratieff waves, and this is how they may have been unrolling in time, according to futurists Markku Wilenius and Sofi Kurki.
Source: Surfing the Sixth Wave: Exploring the next 40 years of global change. Wilenius, Markku; Kurki, Sofi. (2019-05-22)
Unfortunately, the existential risks we are facing are not in the future anymore, they are already here: climate, weapons of mass destruction, pandemic etc. This is why consciousness development cannot wait, we must do it now. Therefore, the sixth Kondratieff wave may be very short (if it’s not over yet) and is likely to cede to the seventh one soon. Then the updated figure of Kondratieff waves looks like this:
The next K-wave is likely to be dominated by development of consciousness.
The figure was adapted by Aleksej Nareiko. Source of the original figure: Surfing the Sixth Wave: Exploring the next 40 years of global change. Wilenius, Markku; Kurki, Sofi. (2019-05-22)
P.S. The beginning of the next wave does not imply that a dominant technology of the previous wave disappears or stops advancing. Like cars, intelligence can continue develop. A change of waves implies a change in dominant technologies.