Internet shopping and searching sound harmless, but are they? No. They are danger itself. Every harmless little “Buy Now With 1-Click” is making certain people as rich as Croesus – and give corporate techies frankly insane amounts of cash and they may very well decide to create their own brave new world and make us live in it.
This might sound alarmist were this sort of thing not happening now. The geeky software giant billionaires are funding loads of wildly unaccountable, egomaniacal initiatives aimed at achieving everything from living in space to living forever (they’re all pretty keen on living forever). They are doing this for us, they sometimes say. They’re not really, though.
Google are doing pretty much everything, from working on artificially intelligent robots in a secret Bay Area facility/layre called Google X, to building a supercomputer explicitly modeled on HAL from 2001 (the one that killed everyone). They are also funding people who believe we are only a couple of decades away from uploading our brains to computers and living forever. Yes, calling your Bond-like secret hideout Google X does show a certain self-consciousness. But does that mean they are not plotting to take over the world? Or just that they are plotting to take over the world ironically?
Elsewhere, Sean Parker, the Napster/ Facebook guy most famous for not being as handsome as Justin Timberlake is funding genetics experiments to try halting the ageing process.
Elsewhere, Sean Parker, the Napster/ Facebook guy most famous for not being as handsome as Justin Timberlake is funding genetics experiments to try halting the ageing process. And Robert Downey Jr’s take on the Tony Starks/Iron Man character was, according to director John Favreau, based on the superbly named PayPal co-founder Elon Musk (proving that the online shopping safety guys truly are the real super-heroes of the modern age). Okay, so Musk is not developing ballistics to blow up troublesome Muslims, but he is taking over where NASA cannot afford to tread by funding his own private rocket programme (Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is working on a space vehicle too).
But even pootling about in space is relatively sane compared the plans hatched by another PayPal co-founder, the extreme libertarian freak that is Peter Thiel. This guy hates government so much he is keen on funding settlements where there are none (so far): the high seas. He is funding a project to launch new libertarian “nations” on oil rig-type structures on the high seas (it’s called seasteading). Imagine oil rigs gone hip hotel with no taxes or gun laws. This is a new crazy. A brave new crazy.
Are these people taking over our future? Yes. Should you be scared? Well, only if you are easily spooked by unaccountable megalomaniacs living forever as artificially intelligent robotic life-forms invading your brains and colonising the universe. If that’s your bag, then don’t worry – everything’s cool.
The Shape of Shit To Come, written by Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur, is on sale now. Click here to buy a copy
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