The Concept of Human Equivalence

Human equivalence— is the point when the collective capacity and capability of integrative technologies equal or exceed the thinking and decision making powers of humans— and represents a unique stage in the development of human civilization. It can be easily argued that due to the fuzzy mix of outright complexity and occasional irrationality that characterizes the functioning of the human mind, equivalence by “the machine”” is a theoretical supposition that is unachievable in the real world. However, each year that passes brings a significant uptick in the power of technology to blend human and non-human processing and behavior patterns. Writers such as Hans Moravec, Ray Kurzweil, and Eric Drexler point to these trends and postulate futures where not only is equivalence reached, but exceeded in a transhumanistic experience associated with technological singularity. For the most part looking at the near future, as Bill Joy, co-founder and former chief scientist at Sun Microsystems outlined in his Wired Magazine article entitled “Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us”, the combination of robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology is having a profound, transformative affect on the integration of humans and machines— right now.

These changes in technology complement changes underway in two interrelated streams of development: energy and environment (specifically, an environment for life).

The diagram above illustrates how energy, an environment for life, and technology converge at a point of human equivalence and extend beyond into an unseen future. These three constitute a “strategic framework”” upon which updates on the rapid changes taking place along each line can be attached. These postings document the transition from dependence on fossil fuel to adopting alternative sources ranging from an established choice like nuclear to less advocated possibilities like solar, wind, and geo-thermal. They also include acknowledging the condition of the planet in its varying capacity to sustain life and tracking a commensurate bifurcation within agriculture toward globalization of fuel, fiber, and feed production and localization of food production for human consumption.

The central theme is that as convergence on human equivalence draws nearer, circumstances press us to reconsider and redefine our relationships with “the machine,”” the environment that sustains us, the sources of energy required make it all work, and, ultimately, one another. Although these responses and reactions are as unpredictable as the context that shapes them, our ongoing commentary on trends, conditions, and events within a logical, strategic framework guides the purposeful action and collective influence that ensues. The dawn of human equivalence is a clarion call to rise-up as individuals and co-determine destiny.

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Monday, August 29, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005

Displacement and Globalization

From the dawn of human civilization the dominant “organizing principle” for everything done that is considered of value is the production of something to be consumed, traded, or sold. The definition of what is worthy work, the merit of an individual doing such work, and the potential for an organization to focus the efforts of many to accomplish great deeds are based on producing something deemed of value as the outcome. However, the underlying theme of the Industrial Age is the displacement of people from paid work by technology. From the time of the Luddite uprisings nearly two hundred years ago to last decade’s Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and his manifesto entitled, Industrial Society and Its Future and The Culture of Fear as described by Barry Glassner in his book by that title, recent history is replete with examples of worker displacement and its negative consequences on the self-image and self-worth of the individual in modern society.

In keeping with this primary theme, a stream of profound developments over the past 40 years and continuing into the foreseeable future, information and communication technologies are challenging conventional wisdom about what constitutes paid work in a global economy, how such work is packaged, and who has the opportunity to do it. The first wave of work redefinition and reductions-in-force occurred in the 1980’s as data collection became automated. As this was concluding, the stage was already set for the second wave of redefinition and reductions beginning in the late 1990’s and early this decade. This wave was fueled by the advent of the PC and its distributed information-generating capabilities in a globally networked environment.

Even now, the foundation for the third wave of redefinition and reduction is rapidly coming into place. Pushing this wave forward are irresistible, knowledge-building forces driving technologies to integrate so effectively and efficiently that their collective capacity and capability equal or exceed human performance—a point termed human equivalence. Regardless of when, exactly, this point arrives, as it nears people will be relieved of a significant amount of work associated with making things. As a result, nothing short of a sea change is impacting almost every dimension of human existence marking the final chapter of the Industrial Age.

Accompanying this climatic conclusion of the Industrial Age is the birth of the Knowledge Era wherein the value of human effort is no longer pegged to productive output. A new economy is emerging that establishes responsiveness, flexibility, and creativity in relationships between and among people as the metric around which human endeavor is determined, measured, and compensated. Whether termed the relationship economy, as proposed by Bruce Morgan in his book, Strategy and Enterprise Value in the Relationship Economy, or the support economy as suggested by Shoshana Zuboff and James Maxmin in their book, The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism, clearly we are in the midst of dramatic change.

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Globalization is a natural outcome of second wave progress. Enterprises invest as quickly and deeply as they can in those technologies that improve performance in consistent, timely deliveries of quality, reliable products and services. Still, due to inadequacies or cost that precludes existing technology as the solution, inefficiencies persist in the production environment requiring people to do paid work in order to bridge. Increasingly, this remaining paid work is outsourced to the lowest cost labor provider wherever in the world those labor sources might reside. As technology continues to evolve and is adopted, a more favorable cost-benefit scenario is established that insources work —but without the people. As the diagram above suggests, the relationship between technology adoption work flow is akin to an infinity symbol, as technology goes in, work is outsourced and the number of people doing paid work is reduced, more technology goes in and the same work that was previously outsourced is insourced, but with much less paid work required.

This cycle is repeated over and over in quicker loops as technology gets faster, smaller, more integrated— and more human-like. The globalizing labor force promotes top-down behavior. From the macro economics view, value chains drive cheap labor and automation. The net result is profit for companies and readily available goods for the individual. The increasing displacement is driving a bottom-up phenomenon. From the micro-economic view people are ill equipped to adapt to the increasing rate-of-change.

The transition from an Industrial Age drawing to a close to a Knowledge Era rising from the ashes affects every aspect of our lives. Despite the harsh realities posed by displacement and globalization, this trend hastens the advent of a new economy based on relationships of people to each other rather than things. These relationships are the building blocks for healthy communities and successful families. There is a lot to look forward to!

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Friday, August 26, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005.

Welcome

Welcome to my blogsite, Diary of a Knowledge Broker. It is often by quite circuitous and coincidental routes people find one another: the results of Googling, an email reference, a URL embedded in another article or posted on a website. Whatever the case, I am glad you are here. Feel encouraged through the postings on this site to find your voice, ask yourself the next right question to further your individual search for what is true, and witness to the truth as you experience it so that others may have the opportunity to benefit from what you now know. This blog is as good as you and others respond with comments on this site or positive action in your lives. Participation, regardless of means, is the central theme!

I, too, am glad to be here. This is perhaps as unexpected an occasion for me as it is for you. This past June, I attended the Open Culture conference in Milan, Italy. As with most conferences, I go because someone else is there I want to meet. The person who invited me was Andrius Kulikauskas, founder of Minciu Sodas a social networking organization based in Lithuania. He and I knew one another from email exchanges, but had not met in person. This conference gave us a face-to-face convening point.

As in all social situations, having the opportunity to talk with one person may have been a compelling reason for going in the first place; but once there one meets so many others. One of these was Robin Good. You see Robin’s picture in the top, left-hand corner of the Communication Agents homepage. If you click it you will be led to Robin’s various websites starting with MasterNewMedia and moving to others such as Kolabora and MasterViews.

It is quickly obvious that Robin is heavily involved in Information Communication Technology (ICT). His passion for these technologies and associated tools is borne out in his presentations on the subject. Robin gave one of them entitled, “The Long Tail,” based on the work of Chris Anderson, at the Open Culture conference. His content knowledge, hands-on experience, and overt passion concerning what ICT is and how it functions triggered my excitement about the impact advances in ICT would have on people, especially in their relationships to one another in their personal development, their work, and their communities. As Robin and I discovered what the other was doing, the complementary aspects of our work became obvious. The result was an invitation to join the ranks of Communication Agents, to which I accepted. And that brings me here. My heartfelt thanks to Robin for making this opportunity possible—this a precious gift, indeed!

I describe myself as a “knowledge broker.” With the pervasiveness of ICT capabilities, the roles we play in our work and relationships to one another are a complex mix of saying our truths, aggregating these diverse points of truth into recognizable frameworks of patterns, and putting theories into action we believe will influence the patterns we see and experience. Knowledge brokers move easily and freely among these three roles depending upon the current circumstances in which they find themselves. My fellow communication agents— Sepp, Chris, Tom, Rinaldo, Ivan, Emma, and Robin —are excellent examples of knowledge brokers. The content of their posts pertains to topics of vital interest to each of us. Their perspectives span the full breadth of a knowledge broker’s world and speak about truth, patterns, or action. Please invite them into your mind and heart and give them a read.

Regardless of what brings us to this point, I am looking forward to our interactions, knowing your truth, and seeing where this leads us!

Steve Bosserman

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Thursday, August 25, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005