If Everything Was Fixed, Would We Finally Be Happy?
What if we solved all of the grand challenges we face?
What if we figured out how to switch from fossil fuels to clean energy, stop the spread of disease, eat up all the plastic in our oceans, cure cancer, end sex slavery, grant worldwide access to clean water, stop cultural appropriation, instate a worldwide peace agreement, reinvigorate our soil, create stability in the marketplace, put the republic back in the hands of the people, revitalize our education system, and more?
What would happen if all the grand challenges we face today on the technical, tactical, and practical side of things just disappeared? Kaput. Solved.
Where would that leave us?
[Of course having all of these problems solved is a far-off utopian ideal, one that we likely will not see realized in our lifetimes. But bear with me for a second… imagine a world in which there are no resource or resource allocation problems.]
The tech and health industries are making some big claims on where we are headed in the next few decades. We are looking at potential quantum leaps in our understanding of the human body that will lead to longer, higher quality lives. Artificial intelligence is set to either destroy us entirely or grant us superhuman cognition (for now we will assume the latter).
What I want to know is whether or not we will be more fulfilled if and when this happens.
Will depression be solved?
Will suicide be an archaic past time?
Will gun violence go away?
Will we know how to communicate well with others?
Will we understand our nature better?
Will we have more fulfilling relationships and work?
Or will continuing to try and override our biology have a high price?
Will depression keep increasing? And suicide, too?
Will mass murders continue to rise?
Will we continue to settle for 2-D communication in a 3-D world?
Will we refuse to accept what is true about us?
Will we continue going to jobs that we hate and staying put in friendships and romantic partnerships that don’t feed our souls?
Technologically speaking, human progress, as we’ve long defined it, is only one part of true human progress. The other part is an elevation in consciousness, in emotional well-being, in our feeling of connectedness. And it would seem, that as we’ve gone along, we’ve started to lose sight of that.
Technology, government, medicine, religion, any human systems—are all a reflection of our humanity. They are a reflection of the good AND the bad in our nature.
And so when progress on the consciousness front doesn’t match progress in technology, when we can’t speed up to the rate of change, we consistently feel like we are disconnected. Technology drives a wedge between us in the world around us, rather than facilitating a bridge.
I don’t think that’s because of the technology itself, but rather our failure to place equal weight on the emotional and psychological problems we face as we do on the technological, social, environmental, and economic inefficiencies we’ve created.
I don’t want to just live in a future where our grand challenges have been solved. I want to live in a future where people are happy to be alive because they are deeply connected with meaningful work and meaningful relationships. In which our collective well-being, the technology we use, and the medicine we deploy is a true reflection of the good humanity has to offer.
As the world continues to shape shift in front of us, this is something we need to keep in mind.
If the external grand challenges are solved, we still need to deal with the internal ones.