World should be ready to deal with massive upcoming technological and environmental changes, says futurist at Arab Media Forum
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 27 March 2019: The world is going through massive technological and environmental changes, which are set to transform societies and the lives of individuals in the future, futurist Jamais Cascio said at a 20-minute session held on the first day of the 18th Arab Media Forum.
Cascio, who was selected by Foreign Policy magazine as a Top 100 Global Thinker, took the audience ’20-minutes into the Future’ to talk about future possibilities that could change our world in the next decade.
Using the phrase ‘incoming asteroids’ as a metaphor to describe the massive changes impacting our world today, Cascio said societies need to start thinking about what they need to do to deal with challenges rising from climate disruptions, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and systems that are able to manipulate reality.
“We currently have AI in our phones, in our homes and even in our cars. It’s not just that they can learn how to understand what we say, these are systems that are capable of doing things better than people can. As they become more complex, it becomes harder for us to understand how they come up with their own answers,” said Cascio, who is also an author of the book Hacking the Earth: Understanding the Consequences of Geoengineering.
He added that as AI becomes more powerful, we are going to be facing plenty of situations where people are going to rely on AI to do things for them without knowing why. “In the next decade, there will be a race between cars and phones, as to which one will be the most important AI system in our lives,” he said.
Cascio mentioned how the rules made in the past increasingly no longer apply to the global issues humanity is facing now.
He added that the ‘asteroid’ that is going to be really destructive and is going to be the most critical for the media to wrestle with, is the manipulation of reality. The boundary between reality and deception has become dangerously thin. Increasingly, our tools allow us to create falsehoods that are indistinguishable from reality.”
Cascio gave the example of systems that can generate faces of people who do not exist through neural-network driven algorithm. “We are doing this right now with still images and soon with video. Humans are coming up with easy ways to manipulate reality, whether through social networks, sending out tweets, using Facebook, or even through buying votes to push posts on the first page on reddit.”
Cascio believes mobile phones are powerful tools to combat manipulations. “Mobile phones allow us to capture images, and when you have multiple people in one place with their phones and cameras taking pictures, it makes it hard to manipulate reality, because you have a diversity of perspectives on the event.”
He further said that global warming is real, dangerous and getting worse much faster than we thought. “The warming we are experiencing today is from carbon put into the atmosphere up until the 1980s. What that also means whatever we do to push back against climate change and whatever we do to reduce carbon globally, we won’t see the results and benefits of that immediately.”
He said it was important to think in terms of how to convince people to change their lives, “knowing that they won’t see any improvement until generations, and that’s going to be one of the big issues.”
Despite all of this, Cascio was optimistic about the human race being able to grapple with these changes successfully. “It will be a long and difficult process, but it won’t be impossible. We need to think about how we can respond to these metaphorical asteroids and the choices we have to make and might want to make in order to adapt, survive and thrive.”
Held under the theme ‘Arab Media: From Now to the Future’, the region’s leading annual event for the media industry has brought together more than 3,000 prominent regional and international media leaders, scholars, writers and experts, to share their views on the current state of the Arab media and the shifts that are shaping the future of the industry.