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Episode 29 – Nikola Danaylov (Dark Futures 5/5)

March 27, 2020

This special episode is the fifth of 5 talks delivered on stage at StartWell’s Event Space on King St W in downtown Toronto on November 28, 2019 for a globally roaming annual series called Dark Futures.

This talk was presented by Nikola Danaylov, founder of Singularity Media Inc, and is titled “NeoTechnocracy The Future is Worse than You Think.”

*Dark Futures is presented by globally renowned Futurist, speaker, researcher, and author Nikolas Badminton. (http://nikolasbadminton.com/)

Podcast Transcript

Qasim Virjee 0:19
Welcome back to the 29th episode of The Star well podcast. My name is Qasim and I’m start will CEO and founder and for this special episode, which is the fifth talk captured at dark futures YYC, an event we hosted in our event space in downtown Toronto on November 28 2019. We’ve got a very special talk by Nikola. Dan I love and the talk is called Neil technocracy. The future is worse than you think.

Nikola Danaylov 0:59
In 2016, my wife Julia, Nas, and I did a road trip across California. Naturally, among the points of interest, were San Francisco and Los Angeles. Now, if you’re driving in, like we were, chances are that the very first thing you would see upon entering LA is those makeshift tent camps with 10s of 1000s of homeless Americans. And that’s interesting before because two years before our trip, Peter Diamandis published his New York Times bestselling book, abundance, and told us that the future is better than we think. And he said that we not only can, but also will solve all of humanity, humanity’s grand challenges, with three things, more capital, more technology, and what people called what Peter called the right people. Later on in his book, he defined them as the new techno philanthropists. Well, strange enough, there we were, in Peters backyard, in ground zero, in the one place in the world with the highest concentration of all of the above. And somehow, all that we saw, was shocking level of poverty, environmental destruction, wildfires completely out of control, crumbling infrastructure, and allegedly very high rates of crime, especially compared to us. I got so shocked that I decided to do some research on it to get even more shocked in discovering that if you actually calculate the cost of living, the so called Golden State of California, is actually the poorest state in the United States of America. Because perhaps as many as one out of four, live either at or below the poverty line. Now, California is the fifth largest economy in the world, and of course, the largest economy within the United States. And yet, according to McKinsey’s, it ranks dead last, in terms of quality of life. Now, this paradoxical situation raises a number of very important questions. For example, how is it that poorer countries such as Canada, that have less access to capital, less access to advanced tech, somehow managed to have happier, healthier and longer living population? By the way, we live for years longer than Americans on average? And have lower degree of homelessness, lower crime rates, and free health care to boot? Another question is, is it a mere coincidence that the richest state in the United States with the highest concentrations of billionaires, billion multi billion and trillion dollar approaching companies, and the most high tech ever is at the same time the poorest state? And finally, the ultimate question? What if the future is worse than we think? How would we know it? Well, one way to know it is to hear all the people in front of me, they did a great job. And if you haven’t convinced you yet, I’m going to give it my best shot too. So we would know that the future is worse than we think by looking at the present. And by looking at California, we already know that abundance is a myth. I have spoken before at length, about how tech companies create deliberate scarcity, in order to sell you abundance, while charging an arm and a leg for it, while at the same time pretending to be saving the world.

Nikola Danaylov 5:48
So let’s take Facebook, we all know Facebook is not here to save the world. Right? We all know that all the day do is mark micro targeting of ads, to sell your stuff. But that’s also true of Google, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and most others you can think of. So if you think of it, despite their novel rhetoric, there’s very little saving the world going on, and a whole lot of selling. And this is the myth of the techno philanthropists. It is the myth that a few nerdy entrepreneurs would save the world by technological revolution, while of course, making trillions of dollars in the process. Now, this revolution is not your grandfather’s revolution. Because this revolution is a revolution where venture capitalists can invest in this revolution is run from the top, not from the bottom. This revolution is market friendly. And of course, this revolution is for profit. So we shouldn’t be surprised, perhaps, perhaps, if the greatest accomplishment of this revolution is that it merely has managed to translate our old school consumerism into the digital realm. But of course, a revolution that merely changes the people on the top with others, is no revolution at all. It is a coup. Because there is no paradigm shift. And so Facebook has given us not only I mean, Silicon Valley, and big tech have given us not only fake news, and fake friends, but also fake saving the world. Fake ethics, fake privacy, fake revolution, fake change. And if you go and look on the streets of San Fran in LA, fake abundance. The reality is that the big tech business model is a classic, old school extractive business model. Now we all know that in the 20th century, the biggest companies in the world were the mining companies mining fossil fuels. Well, today, the biggest companies in the world are data data miners. And just like in the 20th century, the mining companies devastated our natural environment. Today, big tech is devastating our social environment. Just like in the 20th century, many terrible crimes were committed in the developing world, where we have we had colonialism in order to provide cheap access to natural resources and with the occasional genocide. Today, we have data colonialism, and in places such as Myanmar, a genocide powered by Facebook, so far, 10,000 confirmed dead and 1 million refugees.

Nikola Danaylov 9:36
You see, it used to be the case that people believe that biology is destiny. But as we have seen today, biology is becoming an information science. So it may well turn out that actually, data is destiny. And if it is true to say that data is power, Then absolute data about absolutely everyone, absolutely everywhere. Absolutely. All of the time must be the absolute power. But the key to understand here is that when those companies are extracting, classifying, trading and selling our data, they’re selling us. They’re selling our hopes. They’re selling our dreams. They’re selling our fears. They’re selling our identities. They’re selling our values. They’re selling our past, and they’re selling our future. Ultimately, they’re selling our ability to make a free choice. Ultimately, they’re selling our power of self determination. Elon Musk once said that, whatever disseminates power, promotes democracy, and whatever concentrates power undermines democracy. I say that today, we have the largest concentration of power the world has ever seen. And we are in danger of becoming a new technocracy, Neo technocracy, where those who own the tech and sell it to us, even for free, can tell us what to see, and what not to see what books to buy, what movie to watch, where to live, where to go to school, where to work, who to be pushed to be our friends, who we should date, whom we should believe, who we should vote for, when to feel happy, and when to feel sad. This is the greatest brainwashing propaganda machine the world has ever seen. And we are running the risk of becoming a technological panopticon kind of a society where even our most private most intimate thoughts are not going to be saved forever, from the data miners. This is the story of Silicon Valley. It’s a story of idealism, turned narcissism turned sociopathy. It is the story of big tech, which, like it’s one of its biggest protagonist, Facebook, started off as magic, then it went manic. And now we’re watching it go monsters. They say they want to save the world, I say they may end up destroying it. Because when you have a concentration of ignorance, power, and arrogance, you have not only a recipe for self deception, but you have a recipe for self destruction. Those are the stories I wanted to share with you today. And those are stories not about the future. They’re about the present. They’re about how things are and an invitation to consider how they may be different. There’s a an indigenous tribe in South America, for whom, in their own original language called a narrow AI narrow dialect in South America, the future is called time behind. Because they’re very correct in observing that we can all see the past right in front of us. But the future starts from behind us and only comes into view when it becomes the present. So no one can see the future. And therefore, it is equally ridiculous. To sell you the claim that the future is better than you think. As it is ridiculous to sell you the claim that the future is worse than you think. Because the future is not the place that we arrive at. It is not like Disneyland, a trademarked property owned by a corporation. The future is a public good. And we’re all responsible for creating it. And while doing so, we might remember an old story by Frank Herbert from 1965 where he said that they were these people Whoa, who outsourced their thinking to the machines in the hope that this will set them free only to find themselves enslaved to other people with machines.

Nikola Danaylov 15:16
Now, most conferences you guys are going to go to nowadays will tell you about the greatest incredible opportunities that exponentially growing technology is creating in our world and how it’s going to disrupt everything. Direct futures is different. So perhaps you’re feeling a little dark. But please, do not be afraid. Because fear is the mind killer. Please allow your mind to adjust to the darkness, even though it may wants to simply run away. Because dark futures are not necessarily hopeless futures. And because the biggest the bigger the obstacles that we overcome, the better we’re going to be able to navigate the darkness and eventually, hopefully create a brighter future. Thank you Wow, wow. How awesome was that? Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much. That was amazing.