Are You Worried About The Coming Year?

While there is certainly good news in the world, there are several areas that may be cause for concern in the coming year. Are you worried?

As a new year begins, sometimes you can be optimistic about the future. However, if your tendency is to be pessimistic, there are plenty of things to be worried about.

A notable one, at least in the U.S., is that it is a presidential election year. Politics are already dividing our nation in a way not seen for decades, and a presidential race threatens to cause even further inflame tensions. As misinformation spreads quickly, the two sides have difficulty agreeing on basic facts.

Another concern is climate change. Each year is warmer than the previous year, which has led to a stunning number of environmental disasters: floods, wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, and so on. The pattern would seem to suggest this year will see even more extreme weather across the globe.

Two ongoing wars, one between Russia and Ukraine, and another between Israel and Hamas, have many feeling uneasy. In addition to the increase of immigrants fleeing for their lives, both conflicts could have drastic impacts on the world.

Technology continues to shape our lives in radical ways. The rise of social media has left many users feeling isolated and depressed. The coming age of artificial intelligence may touch nearly every sector of the economy, threatening to change our lives in ways we don’t yet understand.

Is this doom and gloom warranted? There are also positive news stories — do they get pushed aside for headline-grabbing bad news? Is our anxiety legitimate, or are we kept in a state of fear by corporations and governments with ulterior motives?

Are you worried about the coming year?

Related questions: What is the greatest problem facing humanity? How is climate change impacting you? Will the future be better than the present?

 

What Do You Think About Artificial Intelligence?

As the quality of artificial intelligence continues to increase, it is easy to imagine that it will have a significant impact in many areas of our everyday life. How might it impact your life, and how do you feel about it?

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has long been a staple of science fiction. From Asimov’s robot stories to the computer HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey, the possibilities of AI has often been the source of futurist stories.

Now, however, science fiction is beginning to merge with science fact. The recent advances in AI-generated text and images have captured the public imagination. People are using AI interfaces to generate marketing text, or to make pictures of any prompt they can think of.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘Is technology neutral?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘Freedom or security?’


But while individuals play with the various interfaces, some have started sound alarm bells. While the output of many of the AI platforms can be spotted fairly easily now, the advances are happening quickly. It is not clear where the technology will go next, and some see a dire future.

Students could generate school essays with minimal research. Any conspiracy theorist can create legitimate-sounding content to dupe unsuspecting members pf the public. And in the ultimate nightmare scenario, AI could become so advanced that it has an agenda of its own, and ignores the wishes and desires of the humans who created it.

But is this all just fear of the unknown? Are the people spreading panic just not seeing — or not choosing to see — the benefits of the new technology? Will artificial intelligence be a tool of mankind, used to multiply our productivity, or is it instead an existential threat? Or somewhere in between?

What do you think about artificial intelligence?

Related questions: Will technology save us? What new technology do you want? What is the greatest problem facing humanity? How can we measure intelligence?

 

Is Future You Or Past You A Different Person?

You know more than your past self knew. Your future self will have more experiences than your current self. Is that enough to make them different people?

Occasionally, it can be helpful to consider your future self a different person from your present self.

“That’s not my problem,” you might think to yourself. “That’s my future self’s problem.”

Similarly, if there is one person you can be sure that you are smarter than, it is you from the past. You have all the knowledge and experience that that person had, plus whatever you have learned or experienced since then.

But is that enough to define a different person?

Obviously, your past self, present self, and future self have some commonalities. The decisions that your past self made led to the current you, and what you do now will set the stage for who you will become.

In addition, you all share the same DNA, have the same parents, went to the same high school, and so on. You share a temporal existence.

However, your body, and everything around you, is constantly in flux. Each breath you take is slightly different in composition, the food you eat from meal to meal varies, your microbiome is always changing, and so on.

As the saying goes, you can never step inĀ  the same river twice — all the water changes from moment to moment, as it rushes downstream and is replaced with the water coming after.

Is it the same with your body? As cells live, divide, and die, to be replaced by new cells, are you the same when most, or all, of your cells are replaced?

When you think about the person you used to be, or the person you will become, do you consider that a different person? Or are they all just you, with some minor tweaks and changes?

Related questions: What advice would you give your past self? Past, present, or future? How much does your past determine your future? What do we owe the future? How do you plan for the future?