Humanity Upgrade explores the most vital issue of our time. We are in the midst of the greatest transformation in human history. As the pace of change approaches the speed of light, you need an entirely new way of navigating life. These times are filled with unlimited opportunities and significant challenges. This relentless progress is accelerating, causing untold amounts of stress and uncertainty. We have organized ourselves into civilizations and societies in a microsecond on the cosmic time scale. Twelve-thousand years is not nearly enough time for our brains to adjust to the stresses and uncertainties of modern life. We need to accelerate our evolution. You will be introduced to five key principles that will help you adapt and accelerate your progress. A brief story and some important background will reinforce how vital Humanity Upgrade is to your life.
My young nephew was visiting me in NYC from the hills of West Virginia. He lives in a beautiful town named Lewisburg. His parents own a large property where you can hunt and fish in their backyard. Their nearest neighbor is over a mile away. NYC was a shock to his system. He stood very close to me as we walked down Fifth Avenue. He scanned every person and got a little bit closer every time a bus or taxi zoomed by. A NYC native came up to us in Times Square asking for money, and I turned to Sean to see what he thought. All he could do was grab my leg for dear life. On one corner, he exclaimed in amazement, “I can’t even see one tree.” This was a completely foreign environment for him and it automatically activated all his instinctual safety and survival mechanisms.
A trip to NYC can be a stressful experience for some people but most New Yorkers will tell you it is perfectly safe. This is true no matter where you live. In the last half-century, we have witnessed amazing progress, and it has made the world a much safer place. The three major causes of death: violence, famine and plague, have been virtually eliminated. When people hear these facts, they snap back with things like, “What about AIDS or the conflict in the Middle East?” These are very difficult and tragic situations, but the reality is that we live in the safest most prosperous times in human history. Steven Pinker, in Enlightenment Now and Yuval Noah Harari, in Sapiens, go into exquisite detail on how this happened and why it is totally accurate.
A Safer World: The Facts
- For the first time in history, far more people will die from obesity than hunger. Over 330,000 people died of malnutrition in 2017, while an estimated three million people died of complications related to obesity. These included diabetes (1,570,100), heart disease, cancer and stroke.
- Suicide and substance abuse have surpassed violence as a major cause of death. There were 156,238 people who died in military conflict and another 466,060 who died in violent incidents. This is compared to suicide (783,407), alcoholism (128,513) and drug overdose (167,165). Over one million unnecessary deaths: It is a tragedy. This is a minuscule amount when compared to the first half of the 20th century when over 90,000,000 people died in WWI and WWII.
- Life expectancy is on the rise. Thirty-eight countries have an average life expectancy of 78 or better (The United States is 78.5, ranking number 34). This is in the context of a world where, for the greater part of human history, the average life expectancy was 30.
- Experts at the World Bank predict that extreme poverty, now below 10% for the first time in history, will be eliminated by 2030.
There are many other amazing facts regarding our progress. This does not mean that we do not face immense challenges, including social and environmental issues: Global warming, nuclear holocaust and over-population, to name a few. DeWitt Jones may have said it best:
“When we focus on what’s right with the world, we have the energy to fix what’s wrong.”
Despite this unequivocal progress the youngest segment of our population is the most concerned about their future. Sixty percent of millennials report that they are stressed. What are the root causes of this stress? Where is the next opportunity to make a major advance in human existence? The answers will be found in what we are calling “humanity upgrade.” We must first, however, deal with the new root causes of stress and uncertainty.
We are in the midst of a global stress test. Our planet is dealing with unprecedented amounts of rapid change. Borrowing the definition of stress testing from engineering will help illustrate this point:
“Stress testing is a form of deliberately intense or thorough testing used to determine the stability of a given system or entity. It involves testing beyond normal operational capacity, often to a breaking point, in order to observe the results.”
Our ability to handle stress is being pushed to the breaking point. Change causes stress and your ability to handle change determines your success. The challenge humanity faces is that we are in the greatest era of change in human history. Automation, digitization, robotics and artificial intelligence are transforming our society. These monumental advances are happening at a blisteringly fast pace. Society is being transformed, and so is your potential value in the marketplace. This is a societal stress test of epic proportions creating untold levels of uncertainty.
Intellect and Artificial Intelligence
Historically, the economic value of human beings was based on three primary skills: physical labor, intellectual abilities and/or interpersonal skills. For the greater part of history, value was determined by a person’s ability to perform physical labor. There was a small and elite ruling class, but the clear majority earned their living through difficult manual exertion. With the awakening of intelligence during the renaissance, reformation, enlightenment and, ultimately, the industrial revolution, social structure changed dramatically. Intellectual abilities became increasingly important.
The computer age initially augmented humankind’s intellectual ability and productivity. However, computers have now surpassed human cognitive skills in many endeavors not even dreamed of a generation ago. These include skills we take for granted in the workplace and in our daily lives. Driving your car or truck is an example of a soon-to-be-obsolete intellectual skill, due to the rise of artificial intelligence. Operating an automobile takes an amazing amount of integrated brainpower. During your daily drive home, you are instantaneously calculating multiple variables at speeds of 65mph or more while talking on the phone.
Unfortunately, your intellect is often distracted by your mind. Distractions are what cause most accidents. There were 1,339,206 traffic fatalities in 2017; it was the tenth leading cause of death in the world. These tragedies will be virtually eliminated by computers that possess much greater computing power than we do. Ms. AI is already a much safer driver than you are. She doesn’t get distracted, doesn’t text, doesn’t fall asleep, doesn’t drink and drive and doesn’t reprimand the kids in the back seat. Your car or truck will communicate with all the other vehicles on the road, track the weather, stop for a charge and remind you to pick up flowers for your spouse. In 30 states, including California, truck driving is the number one occupation.
Artificial intelligence is surpassing human beings in many advanced intellectual fields such as engineering, medical diagnosis and in the legal profession. Simultaneously, automation is replacing the backbreaking, mindless drudgery of physical labor.
Change and Uncertainty
Two commonly cited reports tell a foreboding story of tumultuous change. The Martin school at Oxford University claims in their 2013 report that 47% of US jobs are at risk of automation by the year 2033. For telemarketers, it’s an astounding 99%. A 2016 report to congress predicts that 83% of workers earning less than $20 an hour will lose their jobs to automation and 31% of people earning $40 per hour are also at risk.
This amazing progress is creating astounding amounts of change and uncertainty. Thomas L. Friedman in his book Thank You for Being Late, aptly calls this the age of acceleration and predicts that what a college freshman learns will be obsolete by the time he graduates (STEM).
Let’s get back to my nephew Sean and his trip to NYC. This strange environment created two major stressors for him, dramatic change and tremendous uncertainty. Sean’s developing brain automatically went into safety and survival mode. This was as instinctual and subconscious response rooted in hundreds of millions of years of brain evolution. Dr. Rick Hanson discusses this evolutionary process and how it applies to modern society. Safety mechanisms are automated responses generally centered in the reptilian brain (brainstem). Survival skills are centered in the midbrain or emotional system (limbic system). These brain mechanisms have been amazingly successful at keeping you and your genes alive. The challenge is that these primitive brain areas are activated they automatically suppress your higher cognitive functions. In any situation that you are stressed it dramatically decreases your cognitive abilities.
Overcoming Uncertainty: Humanity Upgrade
Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning sums it up nicely: “Your brain was not designed to make you happy, it was designed for your survival.” She discusses the four happy brain chemicals, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins (D.O.S.E.), as well as the unhappy chemical, cortisol. These are hard-wired into our brains. You can learn to work with these chemicals and your evolutionary brain, but it will take a major upgrade in understanding and awareness, a Humanity Upgrade. We have organized ourselves in civilizations and societies for a microsecond on the cosmic scale. Twelve-thousand years is not nearly enough time for our brains to adapt to the stresses and uncertainties of modern life. We need to accelerate our evolution.
The following outlines how to begin:
- Transformational Intelligence (TQ). This builds on the concepts of IQ and emotional intelligence (EQ). IQ, or intelligence, has been increasing for hundreds of years. EQ first described by Daniel Goleman in the mid-nineties has revolutionized the positive psychology movement and leadership management. TQ builds on, and upgrades, the breakthrough work of emotional intelligence. You must become fully competent in emotional intelligence and adapt it to this new era of humanity. With rapid change, rising levels of uncertainty and increasing stress, we must do more than manage our emotions. We must learn to create them in advance (i.e., your TQ). This is the only way to counteract the automated safety/survival responses your brain produces in stressful uncertain situations.
- Become comfortable with the wisdom of uncertainty. Our brains love certainty and hate gaps. We have never been exposed to change at such a rapid pace, creating levels of uncertainty never faced by humanity. You must become aware of, learn to expect and embrace uncertainty. The old-world, slow pace of change gave us the illusion of certainty. It clearly no longer exists. Uncertainty is what makes life interesting. There is, of course, one certainty that we must live with: the certainty of our death. This awareness will help you live a better life, now.
- Consciousness processing. Knowledge is doubling every 12-13 months. You must be aware of and able to navigate this rapid growth in a healthy, effective and productive way. Consciousness processing embodies four skills:
- Identifying relevant sources of information. Relevance is determined in the context of your mission/vision for life. There is very little time to waste on the multitude of distractions.
- Identifying reliable sources. This can be extremely difficult in the age of fake news.
- Assimilating information effectively and rapidly.
- Identifying when you need an expert. It is impossible to learn everything. You must know how to pick and when to defer to an expert.
- Intentional Transformation Technology (ITT). This method builds on the understanding of our transforming world, and it is specifically designed to overcome challenges (including those that have plagued humanity since we organized ourselves into civilizations). They include:
- Negativity bias
- Cultural bias
- Emotional contagion
- Comparison (The Law of Relativity)
- Psychological time
- Expansion Mindset (EM). This is the new level of thinking necessary to thrive in this era for humanity. EM encompasses TQ, ITT and includes a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. Expansion mindset is the essence of humanity upgrade.
These are the most exciting times in human history. They are filled with unlimited opportunities and some significant challenges. My wife comes from the IT industry and coined the phrase “Humanity Upgrade.” She was telling me about her brief but jampacked history with technology: MSDOS (which I had to look up), to Windows, the Internet, cloud computing, virtualization, big data, digital transformation and artificial intelligence. She learned early on to constantly upgrade her technology. When she didn’t, her computer and IT systems would gradually slow down and eventually crash. We must do the same. Don’t allow your life to slow down and certainly not to crash. In our accelerating and transforming world your mind and your skills need an upgrade; a Humanity Upgrade!