Around 300 years after the the invention of the printing press, which ushered in an era of rationalism, Britain rose to become the empire where the sun never sets by being the first to utilize the industrial revolution.
Now, around 300 years later, some speak of a fourth industrial revolution. It can be called the digital age, or maybe the dynamic coding era, but what is it?
The invention of the internet around three decades ago has had a considerable effect so far, but they have been largely limited to consuming information. Buying a book online instead of at a store, reading a newspaper on a computer instead of at a coffee table, watching TV on demand instead of when directed by editors.
Much of the internet’s effects have come by simply bringing previous physical knowledge into the digital realm, making it easily available for everyone to access, combining it with everyone else’s ability to share.
Then, there is the social networking aspect, but here too there is a degree of simply extending vision, voice and the ability to quickly reach great distance. You can keep in touch with families and friends wherever they are, you can see them, talk to them, and almost feel as if physically present.
At the same time, you can go to the modern coffee houses. Places like Reddit, or Hacker News, or some Facebook group, and read what others are sharing, comment, discuss.
The effects have been significant. There is a workers revolution going on of the kind Marx could not envision. More and more are becoming self-employed, empowering themselves to lead their own productive livelihoods in their own terms and with their own freedom at a scale of some 60 million in America.
That is now possible because much of our work revolves around a computer where we perform the necessary tasks in databases or word processors and give the reports and all the rest. All of which can be done from Starbucks.
More widely, we have seen the role Twitter played in the Arab spring, which has now unfortunately become an Arab winter, and the role 4chan played in the election of President Trump.
The people have been empowered, incrementally, but that is just the beginning for it only provides an increased speed or efficiency of abilities to shorten distance, vision, voice, that we previously had before the internet. It does do it far better and that is significant, but now we are in the brink of a new ability that hasn’t existed before.
The Extension of the Reasoning Mind
What is to think is a question many have asked for centuries. Does a tree think? It knows how to turn carbon into oxygen. How to extract water, set roots, grow branches, even fruits. There are flowers which seduce bees or trap and eat them. Does that mean they think?
The flowers did not sit there with pen and paper wondering how they can increase their attraction to bees, but are we really any different? Are we simply not machines coded by our DNA?
We now have the ability to extend our own thinking, our own DNA code, to inanimate matters, like a table, and provide them with what previously was impossible, the ability to act and think, albeit in a very primitive manner.
A simple example is weekly shopping. A menial task no one likes, but everyone has to do because our fridges right now can not think. If they could think, albeit what we have told them to think, they could automatically order milk and eggs, some fish and meat, some veg, maybe some ready food for lazy nights, maybe you can tell them what randomness to create.
The way it can do so is by us giving it a number of things. Firstly, awareness, through wireless technology. That allows them to communicate. To, in effect, speak and hear.
Then, we give it the ability to feel, through sensors. Then, the ability to think through data analytics and deep algorithms. Then, the ability to have memory through cloud storage or decentralized versions such as IPFS. And, finally, the ability to act through ethereum’s blockchain and its smart contracts.
If we are freed from undertaking menial tasks, then we have more time for lateral thinking, a commodity in great demand currently, but nothing like the expected levels once the knowledge economy truly begins.
Because imagine a full cycle where the fridge’s order goes to the supermarket’s algorithm, which, after confirming payment, orders the warehouse machines – which have been told what to look for, when, where, and how – to undertake the required somewhat simple task that fills the order.
In turn, they give a time estimate to the self driving car , demanding it arrives at say 7PM, paying for it automatically as required. The specialized car, on its way, stops at a charging station, automatically pays for the energy, then stops at your front garden, at a designated special area for food – and other items – automatic delivery.
The car may break down, so humans will need to oversee all of this, but even if 10% of the above is achieved, the effects may be profound, because it creates a machines economy, where they simply operate on their own.
The Thinking Machines
That is what ethereum’s blockchain, its smart contracts capabilities, in combination with new advances in computing such as wireless tech, sensors, deep algorithms, and the rest, could achieve.
Because code can make content and things not only accessible, but also dynamic, as code is ultimately orders that are followed. Orders which tell things to do this or that through if:then, in a way that is only limited by our own thinking ability.
That means, in each line of code, we extend our own lateral intelligence. Just like the printing revolution extended our memory through paper, or telegrams the distance, energy our sight, phones our hearing, TVs our vision, so too code extends our thinking.
Because code thinks. Just like flowers. Not at our level, because we extended it, but maybe at a higher level than plantation, as it is dynamic, which means code moves, has memory, a very primitive level of awareness, can communicate, can act.
All of which is interesting, but would have been limited to mere robots if it was not for blockchain technology that now allows code to do what only humans have ever done. To communicate with each other in an economic manner where they can exchange abstract representation of value. To become economic actors.
It is because blockchain technology allows them to transfer money itself in an autonomous manner with no third party intervention that we can now dream of a future where machines become autonomous.
A future which some may fear, but the machines can think just as much as the code of whatever software you are running. Flowers are probably more advanced than them and no one wonders whether a flower might randomly smack you or rise to enslave all men.
These aren’t living beings, just as the images on TV are not quite real, but a mere extension, a mere representation. A representation which in this case allows us to extend our ultimate ability, thought itself, in such a manner where basic tasks can be delegated not to humans, but to bots, which so kindly serve us, in an unquestionable manner, exactly as we have asked, with no questions, no judgment passed, as we give life to whatever may in six billion years become what we are, just as, whatever was, gave life to us.