Yesterday over lunch, we discussed the libertarian notion of essentially getting rid of legacy complexity, such as legislation, regulation, etc. Some of the early proponents and creators of crypto currencies have expressed libertarian world views by trying to leave the monetary system of central banks and hand over the power of money creation to the people.
I don’t want to assess the libertarian paradigm here, but what strikes me whenever I listen to people drawing a bigger picture, is a missing link between their view of the future and the now. Often, this gap between what people envision and what actually exists and is real, takes place in in the realm of technology: proponents of technology (technologists as they name themselves in their extreme version) like to paint a picture of a technology-enabled future, but without taking care of the integration of this into existing legislation, regulation, or a human being’s ability to cope with these technologies. In the fields of AI, robotics, and blockchain, it’s obvious that there is a huge gap that has to be filled with education, and much more time for adaption than all of us imagine.
Geofffrey A. Moore coined the term Crossing the Chasm in 1991, focusing on the specifics of marketing high-tech products during the early period of a company. The challenge every startup faces to explain and then sell its innovative product to the market, represents the broader challenge of the technology industry to explain and sell their new technologies to the people. When we invent AI, we then should be prepared to answer the question how to cope with machines that define their actions themselves and behave differently than we originally intended them to behave. We have to make sure that the future behaviour of autonomous machines is reflected in our legislation and law enforcement systems. We have to make sure that we create the legal, regulatory and social infrastructure for a system of participants that don’t necessarily obey to a central authority – a challenge which itself sounds like an intractable problem, itself.
Of course, it is not helpful to create a never-ending list of challenges and ToDos that technological progress alone entails What makes much sense, however, is to first accept that there is a super-fast technological change happening and that we somehow have to cope with it in order not to destroy our planet – by damaging our environment or creating buggy algorithms – you choose. After having accepted this reality, we should start building bridges from where we are now to where we want to be or to where we most probably will be in the future.
Bridging the gaps between now and then, is in my opinion the most noble and pressing task of today. Bridges may be understood in a ‘hardware way’: we have to create and use tools that enable us to make our future worth living. Bridges may also be understood as ‘software’: we have to educate and to support people in learning about and using new technologies and we have to allow for adequate amounts of time to adapt to new technologies.
In my opinion, Bridging the Gap is an elementary aspect of any serious vision of the future. Without it, technologists should think twice before they enlighten the world with their yet detached singletons.. The complexity of our today’s world requires that we take the responsibility of bridging the gaps. And, perhaps the most inspiring aspect of this is, that everybody can start with building bridges: by simply helping others to understand what they don’t, by behaving in a positive, constructive way and helping other people to solve their problems. Even small bridges can help to overcome deep gaps.