In part one I described how due to the growth of the Internet, ordinary men will have a louder voice and a greater influence in the world than ever before.
The ability of the Internet to allow ordinary people to coalesce into powerful groups is not to be underestimated.
As a recent article in Business Week said: “The nearly 1 billion people online worldwide – along with their shared knowledge, social contacts, online reputations, computing power, and more – are rapidly becoming a collective force of unprecedented power.”
The things that this force could achieve will be the subject of part 4 of these articles.
The voice of ordinary men across the globe is getting stronger, and how this has big implications for the men’s movement. I pointed out that up until now the world has been run by a minority of men for the benefit of them and of women. I also pointed out how a tiny cabal of women calling themselves feminists have dominated all discussions about gender issues over the last three decades, effectively warping what ordinary women think they want, and silencing them if they dare say otherwise. However, the dawn of the Internet age is allowing ordinary men to regain their voice, and their voice will be orders of magnitude stronger than the minority of male rulers or the feminists. Also, due in part to things like male competitiveness, and the fact that there are a core number of issues over which the vast majority of men strongly support, the male voice will also be stronger than the female one.
There is another, related point that needs to be made,
Next I want to talk about how some of the new technologies will also play to the strengths of men.
First let us take a look at a curious phenomenon: the fact that IQ scores have been increasing throughout the second half of the twentieth century to the present. Between 1932 and 1978 there was an average 14 point increase in IQ scores in America. Between 1947 and 2001 there was an average 17 point increase in IQ scores. Per year, from 1947 to 1972, IQ was going up 0.31 points per year. By the 1990s it was going up 0.39 points.
About 60% of variation in IQ is due to genetics. This raises a mystery, because if only 40% of IQ variation is due to environmental factors, then how come such huge gains are being made over a relatively short period of time? Education and nutrition have been ruled out as the reason as only minor increases in the quality and availability of these were made after the 1940s.
So what is the reason?
The current leading theory as to why this is occurring is the increase in new media technologies that the public has had to interact with since just after the second world war. Firstly television, then VCRs, video games, personal computers, the Internet, DVDs and so on. A great deal of Intelligence tests are based around visual patterns, and predicting the next item in a series of visual patterns. With successive generations of youngsters in the second half of the 20th Century being more used to decoding complex visual information it would not be surprising if they are becoming more adept at dealing with complex visual patterns.
And it seems that this trend will continue into the future as computing and visual-interface technologies continue to develop and become more widespread.
In essence, what I am saying is that children – and in particular boys – are going to become more and more fluent in ‘visual grammar’. We can already see this as today’s youth are extremely visually sophisticated, and navigate computer interfaces and video game environments with virtuoso ease.
This shift towards a visual culture is far more beneficial to men as it is well known that males tend to perform better on tests of visual and special awareness (things like mentally rotating objects, and map-reading). Indeed, many of the greatest thinkers of all time, such as Albert Einstein, made their intellectual breakthroughs through imagining visual representations. Tesla was said to be able to invent mechanical devices in his visual imagination
Furthermore, this visual ‘culture’ could gradually elaborate into what one might call a visual language, or at least a visual mode of communication.
Consider the technology of ‘virtual reality’. This was something hyped in the early 1990s but pretty much forgotten about now. The reason is that the technology hasn’t quite developed to the complexity and cheapness needed to make it available on a commercial basis to the public. But do not think it has died. Its merely being developed gradually and largely out of sight. There are plenty of industrial and military applications for it already. As computer processors become cheaper and faster, eventually virtual reality applications will start emerging into the mainstream. To begin with they will probably be driven by the games industry, but then eventually become the way we interact with computers and visual interfaces. Think of the scene in the film ‘Minority report’, where the characters navigate their ‘windows’ type screen (which is a 3D holographic projection hovering in the air in front of them) by moving their hands around, and literally picking up windows to move them, and pressing things in the air with their fingers.
Humans evolved mental mechanisms for dealing with navigating the landscape. These mechanisms are particularly developed in men, as during the hundreds of thousands of years that men spend their days hunting, they would have to be able to navigate large distances and remember where they had been. The power and efficiency of our visual navigation systems can be shown by the powerful memory techniques developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans and still used today by world memory champions. How it works is if you have a list of items to remember, you imagine a physical location, such as your house, and imagine placing those items along a route in your house. Because of the strength of our visual/navigation abilities, this trick allows us to easily remember vastly more things than we could otherwise.
So think of the potential for computers once we can interact with them in a 3-dimentional visual way. It will create the ultimate man-machine interface, and I predict that men will be much more at home with this than women will be.
Eventually we will be able to create whole environments that we can walk around in and share with other people. Imagine walking around in a futuristic version of photoshop, in which you can create apparent 3-D objects with a movement of your hand, or a command such as “Computer: show me a box, about 3 feet square.”; as they do on the Holodeck in the TV series Star Trek.
And, in the not too distant future, it’s possible to imagine a braincap that you wear on your head which gives you the ability to interface with the computer and navigate and create such 3D environments directly with your thoughts. This is not as distant and science-fictional as it sounds. Devices are already in existence that use the electrical patterns produced by the brain to allow disabled people to move a cursor around on the screen or make a selection from a number of options just by thinking. Also, recent fMRI studies demonstrated the ability to tell from a brain scan which of several possible images the subjects had been viewing several moments earlier.
It will be like dreaming while awake and being able to share that dream with others.
This technology is possible, its coming soon, it will revolutionise the world and it will be particularly good for men.
In part three I will cover some of the inherent dangers of new technologies, and explain why these will actually work in favour of the men’s movement.
The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except our way of thinking – Albert Einstein
Thousands of individuals, perhaps even millions, may someday acquire the capability to disseminate “Weapons” that could cause widespread (even worldwide) epidemics. A few adherents of a death-seeking cult, or even a single embittered individual, could unleash an attack - Britain’s astronomer Royale, Martin Rees
In the first two parts of this series I argued for some redeeming potentials of new technologies that will greatly empower men and boys. However, there are also dangers of some new technologies, and it is these dangers I wish to address in this part.
Put simply, during the decades ahead, the technology to create widespread destruction is liable to become widely available to anyone who should so wish to access it.
However, the problem is far larger than just a wide accessibility…
The problem is also that the new ‘weapons of mass destruction’ have the potential for much wider destruction than the ‘traditional’ weapons such as bombs (even nuclear or radio-active bombs).
Furthermore, the ability to create such weaponry is being brought nearer to the public by the ever increasing powers of computers – which could bring problems of their own (of which more later).
Fields of material science and biology are merging with computing – turning these fields into information sciences. Knowledge about the genetic structure of various lifeforms, and of the atomic structure of various ‘objects’ (including little micro-scopic machines), can be held digitally on computers and passed on to other people, and manipulated and used to build such viruses and machines. Within a decade or two, the ability to create new life and new atomic structures will be able to be carried out on desktop computers.
Within two or three decades computer processors will be a million times faster than they are today, and this will allow us to re-engineer the world at a fundamental level.
But it’s not just the physical processors that will continually improve, there are likely to be vast improvements in computer algorithms (i.e. the efficiency with which our computing codes solves problems).
Combining the vast improvements in processors and algorithms, it has been estimated that by 2030 computers will be 1,000,000,000,000 times more powerful than the ones we have today. This is the same ratio of the power of a match-head with the power of a nuclear explosion. Therefore it is pretty clear that the true computing revolution has barely started. What we are currently seeing is just the little glow from a match that is about to light a very big bomb.
A calculation that would take 1,000 years on today’s computers could be done in 8 hours on the computers of 2030. One that would take a year today would 30 seconds in 2030.
It is this extraordinary power that will enable easy storage and manipulation of genetic and atomic information during the 21st Century.
During 20th Century we faced the threat of nuclear, and to a lesser extent, biological and chemical weapons. These weapons were developed with military resources, with little commercial value, and requiring large scale activity to create and operate, mining of rare materials and the knowledge required was not widely available. Only really a couple of nation states – the USA and USSR – had the capability to destroy us all with these weapons.
However, the weapons of mass destruction of the 21st Century will be much easier to create.
Genetic engineering and nanotech are largely being developed by the commercial sector. These technologies have huge commercial value. As I mentioned before, they are fast becoming information sciences, operable small scale facilities, even on person computers. Knowledge about them could become widely available.
In the information age, everything is information. Weapons of mass destruction will be available to an individual or small group.
These new technologies are also self-replicating, a virus might not just effect a city, but could spread across a whole country, continent or even the world. The same is true of some kind of nanotech machine that could be created to eat away at our very biosphere, replicating itself along the way. It would be nigh on impossible to stop or contain such an attack once unleashed.
Therefore they represent a form of WMD that is potentially far more lethal than a 20th Century WMD such as a nuclear bomb.
The knowledge itself is also self-replicating. The blueprint for smallpox or ebola only needs to be made public once for it to spread and get into the hands of a terrorist, psychopath or just a disgruntled individual. An artificial disease could be created within two decades according to experts in this field. Such a disease could be engineered to be as virulent, or more, as smallpox or ebola.
It could be argued by some that the huge risks posed by these fields mean that they should not even be pursued. However, the trouble with controlling information from the sciences of genetic engineering and nanotech is the same techniques that could be used to cure diseases and improve Human health are likely to be the same as those for creating such weapons. These fields will be the subject of huge research efforts because of the expected pay-off. It will not be easy to control information from these fields.
Such technologies represent the prospect of 21st Century pestilences. Modern people have little first hand experience of even natural pestilences. We haven’t seen such things in our living memory, but history is full of them: the 14th Century plague (during which a third of Europe’s population died) the 16th Century Americas had a smallpox epidemic, and there was an influenza epidemic in 1918. Antibiotics and sanitation in the 20th Century helped us keep such pestilences at bay.
These threats are like giving everyone access to the nuclear button. It is very unlikely that we can engineer any perfect solutions. Therefore the best we can do is vigorously pursue ways to minimise the likelihood of these things happening.