There are many reasons why you should be excited, nay! Deliriously enthusiastic about our future. The incredible growth of technology, the democratization of the world, the slow but steady decline of racism, sexism, and segregation, and the societal focus on personal freedom with its increasing emphasis on happiness are just some of the current movements which project an incredible future. But one historical force, gathering strength and momentum for the last 5,000 years, is rapidly approaching culmination… and it will bloom this century.
The story of Srinivasa Ramanujan is an inspiring one, a wonderful anecdote for your next cocktail party. As an impoverished Indian boy, Ramanujan discovered a unique passion and gift for mathematics. Luckily a single gift ensured this passion would not go to waste, a textbook on advanced trigonometry which he mastered by the age of 13. Later discovered by a professor from Cambridge University, Ramanujan went on to provide massive contributions to the field of mathematics. Heart felt though it may be, the story also serves as a poignant reminder of the line between those whose genius is nurtured, and those that are left behind. Ramanujan just barely made it past that line, a couple of villages away or a little less access to mathematical education and his genius could have been lost forever. The question then becomes, how many geniuses have lived right below the line of nurturing? How many Einsteins, Newtons, and Teslas have we lost and what discoveries delayed? How many Mozarts, Davincis, or Socrates’ never read, wrote, or found a medium of expression? How many ideas where never posed, and what artistic creations have we missed because a prodigy was left to starve?
Human capital is our greatest resource, a single discovery or innovation can forever change and improve a society. Luckily historical trends towards equality and opportunity have drastically increased the number of people whose genius has a chance to flourish. Today, people in most western societies of all races and sexes have ample educational and expressive opportunities, while scientific progress continues to create new opportunities in the developing world. The accessibility of information and education in the western world has reached unimaginable levels in just a few generations. Even children today carry with them a phone with more computing power than was used to put a man on the moon, and they can use it to answer almost any question they desire. Instructional articles, videos, and audios on nearly every conceivable subject, discipline, hobby, or medium. If information truly is power there are children today more powerful than the kings of Europe ever dreamed. If you have a gift… chess, math, music, philosophy, or even cooking, our society will not only train you, but also display your accomplishments and contributions for all to benefit.
But this only covers the developed world, there are billions of people today who still lack access to basic needs such as potable water, proper nutrition, necessary health care, and educational opportunities… there are still billions who remain unconnected. Increased worldwide development and humanitarian efforts have made incredible progress tackling this issue. One of the most notable of these is One.Laptop, a non-profit organization fixated on giving each and every child a cheap, durable, and easy to use laptop accessible in any language.
There is no doubt that programs like this will succeed, it is only a matter of time. Our shared human network will continue to grow, reaching a higher and higher percentage of our population. It will not be long before each and every child on this planet will have access to the virtually limitless reservoir of information the rest of us are privy to… then the biggest explosion of knowledge and culture in human history is born. What does a group produce, create, and accomplish when it has a talent pool seven billion deep to draw from? What is the rate of growth and development when each and every kind of genius and talent is maximized? Seven, eight, someday ten billion uniquely gifted individuals will be connected, learning, composing, painting, thinking, discussing, and feeding off each other at a currently unimaginable pace. This network of creativity, individuality, support, and innovation will be the single most important factor in the exponential development of our species. The first true singularity will come not from supercomputers and AI systems, but from the network connecting Calcutta to New York and Zimbawe to Vienna. Humanity’s greatest resource, the uniquely productive quality of our variations, will finally be operating at its full potential.