We presently live in a society of what I like to call “Jersey Shore millionaires.” A society where proletarian drift, as one transhumanist called it, has eroded the traditional expectations of the upper class. Sub-par to average intelligence has leveled out the playing field and not necessarily for the greater good.
We live in a society where people have gotten rich very quickly off of little effort. And while that’s always been the case, it’s never been to this degree, and certainly not broadcast in this way. People like the cast members of the Jersey Shore are richer than you and I will likely ever be. They are members of an elite 1%. Hard to imagine, the way they swear and carry on with their affairs.
To be fair, there is still much in the way of intelligent programming and intelligent wealthy individuals. But it really seems people are less intelligent overall, or at least concern themselves with issues that lack intellectual reward. People aren’t watching the news. People hardly even read books any more. The other day, Russel Brand appeared on MSNBC, where he mocked the hosts for what he chalked up to their stupidity promoting stupidity. Mindless, vapid thought; anchors no more intelligent than the average man he would later write in the Guardian, promoting what is essentially non-news and unintelligent analysis. And it is hardly an American phenomenon he would state in his editorial; it is that the world is becoming as a whole, more stupid. And when things like the NSA’s secret programs exist, ignorance is more dangerous than ever.
Back to Futurist and philosopher Michael Annisimov’s point of “proletarian drift.”
What Annisimov and others like myself have acknowledged is that we must overcome great societal problems prior to any moment of transcendence. Among those problems is the declining intelligence of man. The proletarian drift Annisimov speaks of is the emergence of a “proletarian elite” who are not really that elite at all — they are of average to sub-par intelligence, but who have status and money (something our society has always valued and thus accepts as legitimate). The problem is, it’s not legitimate, it is only legitimate because we assign that meaning to it. To be wealthy is not to merely have many things, wealth is subjective. I would argue Jersey Shore millionaires aren’t wealthy at all, at least as far as intellectual wealth is concerned. I suspect Annisimov would agree.
Where transcendence is concerned with promoting overall human progress, intelligence is a large part of that. A Singularity cannot occur without super intelligence. While this assumption relies on Kurzweil’s future prediction of intelligence related to super artificial general intelligence, as biology is transcended, it applies to the biological human mind as well.
If we wish to see a Singularity occur, whenever that may actually be, and affect all humans equally, we must be concerned about the everyman. And it is on this point where I disagree with Annisimov, the point that relates to more utilitarian methods of thinking — and more specifically that it shouldn’t just be intelligent folks who benefit. Transhumanism is an intellectual movement because it takes a sophisticated mind to make sense of the hard science, philosophy and social sciences behind it. But at its core, Transhumanism seeks utilitarian outcomes. They are concerned with minds of all levels so that man can achieve happiness, health and prosperity through technological progress.
The reason I am attracted to this way of thinking is not only because I enjoy associating with those who consider themselves intellectuals (and those who are passionate about technology) — it is because I want everyone to have that joy of intellectual fulfillment. Why not improve intelligence, PERIOD? Imagine a world of high-level discussion, absent the type of reality TV that makes intellectuals cringe. Imagine a world where human possibility is endless because of explosive intelligence.
I remain optimistic for mankind. While technology has made us somewhat less reliant upon using our own brains, it will also be what will eventually expand its intellectual and physical capacity. And if we wish for all of mankind to benefit from a Singularity or transcendent moment in human history, we should hope to not limit these visions to the intellectuals who already appreciate its merits.