The Motive & The Mystery 
Part III     
March 2013                       David Skinner
To Read:    " Part I - Out of the Mist or Part II - Off The Cloud"        


Two hundred thousand years ago, Homo Sapiens leapt from tree limbs and vine to the jungle floor and commenced upon a journey. One fraught with the dangers of ferocious animals and other ape like men. Each challenged the other for habitat and passage. It was after all, a world for the fittest. There could be only one! Survival therefore, required dominating the land, reaping its resources and defending one’s own. Likely Homo Sapiens, you and I, early-on adopted simple technologies such as stone tools and weaponry to overcome an environment that would have easily starved us and enemies that wanted to harm us.


[Click Here for an astounding slide show of facial renderings of our distant cousins.] 

My Own Family’s Migration

Shown here is the actual Paternal DNA Mapping of my ancestral journey out of Africa some 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. I obtained it by sending an oral cotton swab to Ancestry.com. The world’s current DNA library is extensive and growing. There are other service providers on the web you might seek out. I encourage you to investigate your own roots.


By the time my kin reached Western Europe and Iberia, now Spain, only the Neanderthals remained as human combatants. They could run faster over short distances, had larger brains, more brawn, but they apparently had not adopted all the technologies needed to survive and conquer.


What Were They Thinking?


Through all of this the question remains: What was the ‘psychological motivation’, the reason why, that drove Homo Sapiens to sharpen that stick, to build that fire, to fend off enemies and search for a better life -- against all odds and all comers. What drove them to so whole heartedly embrace technology? Do these primitive needs still drive us today? And what of the questions put forward in Parts I and II of this series, the future effects of technology and the predicted Singularity in 2045, when intelligent machines exceed man’s capacity to control? What kind of world will we live in – what benefits – what pain – at what cost? What are the possible outcomes?


For a break from your reading and before we discuss a possible motive, watch this movie trailer “The Singularity Is Near”, then come back!  


 “The Singularity Is Near” – Movie Trailer


Maslow Infers a Motive 

Abraham Maslow (April 1, 1908 - June 8, 1970), a prominent psychologist in the field of Humanistic Psychology, proffered a framework which has come to be iconically represented by this pyramidic illustration below. 


His theory, The Hierarchy of Human Motivation was first published in 1943. Famous for its simplicity, applicability and universality, it has remained a “Power Point” favorite ever since. Could his theory shed light on early man’s aspirations as it does today upon our own?


I realize this is not a scientific examination complete with rigorous peer review, but the similarity between the evolutionary stages of Homo Sapiens and the hierarchy of motivational needs of today cannot escape even a lay person’s notice. Here are the salient points of Maslow’s Theory of Motivation: 

  • Humanistic Psychology believes that every person has a strong desire to realize his or her full potential.
  • Maslow’s hierarchy contends the four lowest needs, known as Deficit Needs are objective motivations which while fluid in their appearance must be fully satiated, lowest to highest, to reach a level of freedom to attain the highest subjective need – Self-Actualization. The states of human motivation are:
    • Physiological – Basic needs to survive as a physical individual, food, water, shelter, etc. So too the evolution of Homo Sapiens.
    • Safety – security from outside forces threatening the individual, the close and extended family or clan. So too the evolution of Homo Sapiens.
    • Love/belonging – Formation of emotional relationships with others: family, tribes, social groups, orderliness and traditions. So too the evolution of Homo Sapiens.
    • Esteem – Awareness of personal standing: Institutional formations like religions, geo-political groups, nation states. So too the evolution of Homo Sapiens.
    • Self-Actualization, a Subjective Need defined as a state of: “Being all that one can be”, marked by freedom, transcendence, flow and Oneness! What everyone wants, but few attain. So too the evolution of Homo Sapiens.
  • Humanistic Psychology focuses on the lives of healthy individuals rather than pathologies, i.e. the Freudian view or behavioral aspects like B.F. Skinner. It lends itself well to studies as wide and diverse as social, cultural, religious and technological influences. (Read more on this in: Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks: A Framework About Societal Evolution  by David Ronfeldt, 1996 - PDF Download)

 

These two views, the ‘micro-personal’ and the ‘macro-species’ seem congruent enough, if not equal in applicability to Maslow’s hierarchy. Does this not suggest modern man’s psychological needs and the drivers behind the evolution of Homo Sapiens are likely the same? Whatever motivated early man’s evolution is still active in our modern psyches today – alive in our DNA! 

  

Can futurists such as Ray Kurzwell correctly and optimistically predict we as a species will be standing on the threshold of Singularity, as cohorts of technology, a whole societal Self-Actualization or would you share a more pessimistic end -- at the precipice and under the command of Technological Superiority?


Make a Deal With . . .

In a time fast approaching, on a poorly lit country crossroads, man meets machine and a deal is struck . . . A deal perhaps not with the devil, but with technology. The machine says, “You share with me your humanity and in exchange you’ll receive an infinite life of leisure.” And man responds, “Yes of course, but what do I do with all that free time?” 

Controversial Economist Predicts Singularity 145 Years Earlier 

In his “Essays in Persuasion” (1930), John Maynard Keynes (yes the one being hotly debated in Washington over the stimulus) wrote that our embrace of technology would someday relieve us of the drudgery of work, allowing for more free time. He called this phenomenon “technological unemployment”. Humans eventually and wherever possible would be replaced by technology. The percentages of the unemployed would reach upwards of 90%.


Currently the world economy is driven by scarcity. Income is distributed by labor. In Keynes’ future, the adoption of advanced robotics and technology will cause a paradigm shift to a world of “abundance and free time”.  


New ways of producing foods based upon genetic engineering will assure plentiful crops. Bio-energy production and robotic manufacturing will provide the needed materials and most of the labor. Governance, culture and society will undergo disruptive change. Without shortages there would be no reason to make war. The global populace would have little more to do than draw their guaranteed incomes and figuratively -- “go fishing”. 


Keynes warned, however, the need to prepare for this coming new “age of leisure” lest we suffer a meaningless existence void of fulfillment and lacking the Self-Actualization we have so dearly sought.


Are We Just "Waiting for Godot"?


A discussion of leisure and its many meanings is better left for another day, but one thing is certain, leisure requires “free-time” and technology offers it. Free-time however, does not assure leisure!


Robbie the Robot & Dr. Edward Morbious