It is primarily technocrats who are occupied with preparations for tomorrow. They are good at what they do: innovation. For them, the compression of time is a celebration of accelerated monetization. Never before in history have there been as many young first-generation millionaires and billionaires as there are today.
Academics in the humanities are paid for tradition. And thus the lag in the humanities and the liberal arts may lead to society’s losing cohesion and the ability to understand itself. Scholars usually apply their talents to what has already happened, that is, to the present moment, thanks to which it becomes familiar, that is, the past
There is a certain logic to this temporal allocation of competencies. Technocrats move human technical abilities forward, while proponents of the humanities maintain social cohesion, transforming the new into a habit.
This balancing mechanism of the new and the old worked very well when the time was not running so fast. In the old days, a single political, economic or technological era stretched over tens and even hundreds of generations. Technocrats were not very productive and proponents of the humanities were able to cope with the pace of innovation.
At the same time, common people are, for the first time ever, assimilating the change of era personally, even sensually, through changes in their tactile skills. What Toffler described as Future Shock has already become Present Shock (Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now is the name of Rushkoff’s new book ).
Contemporary barbarism does not predate civilization, but accompanies it. Extremism is motivated not by poverty, but by a feeling of injury and loss. The growth in extremism and terrorism is the flip side of ICT (information and communications technology) development. This is the other price that humankind pays for successful Silicon Valley startups. But these troubles do not concern technocrats because they cannot and should not see the connection between these two phenomena.
…Humankind resembles a comet with a dense core and an enormous tail. The core gathers speed, with the nearest part of the tail following close behind, while parts that are further away move along at their historical pace of development, ever more slowly, and the furthest parts exist as if frozen in a distant historical past. As a result, the tail stretches across the spectrum of historical formations: from hunting and gathering to the culminating point of digital avant-garde.
The moment of compression of the digital avant-garde into a culminating point will become the moment of Singularity, the moment of the appearance of non-biological intelligence, the successor to all of humankind. Taking into account the exponential acceleration of historical time, this event is not that far from us. It may occur within the current century.
Humankind, as an evolving species, undoubtedly will get all the expected benefits of progress. But this doesn’t mean humankind, as people. If we take into account how quickly and far ahead the technological avant-garde of humankind is racing, it is fair to assume that perhaps only the avant-garde will reap the majority of these advantages. The rest, the less well prepared, will experience culture shock from this rapid transformation, and envy towards the more advanced groups and societies. This envy will express itself in the radicalization of the behaviour of those groups that are left behind, which will pose a serious threat to the digital avant-garde.