Almost two years ago I developed an idea for a Fourth Stage of Humanity Index. I have wanted to follow up on it and would like to share my ideas with you here. I am very interested in your feedback and critiques.
Since 2020, I’ve argued that the human race is moving into a fourth grand stage of existence. The first stage was as hunters and gatherers, and which goes back hundreds of thousands of years – millions if you want to include the ancestors we had that didn’t quite look like us.
Stage Two started roughly around ten thousand years ago and was our transition to a more settled existence, dependent upon agriculture and animal husbandry. The agricultural revolution. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight but took place over thousands of years in different places across the globe. But it eventually became the dominant form of existence for most people and lasted until fairly recently.
Stage Three was/is the age of science and industry. The science part started before the industry did, but we can say from around the year 1700 onward (yes, we can move it back a bit if you like) and which has lasted until … about now.
Stage Four is the digital stage. I sometimes call this the transhumanist stage but I’m leaning toward digital for now. Who knows. In any case, you could say this is a continuation of the age of science and, sure, that could work. Except for the fact that this digital stage is combining so many technologies at one time that, taken together, they are fundamentally transforming human society at its most basic level. They are leading to the creation of a society fundamentally different from anything we’ve ever seen in the past. To my way of thinking, this is as strong a break with the past as the Stage Two and Three were with what preceded them.
A partial list of the key technologies/developments that are creating this new stage are:
1. Increasingly pervasive AI and digital programs to manage our world.
2. Smart devices to monitor people’s activities and behaviors.
3. Genetic tweaking and editing for those who can afford it (and perhaps illegal but widespread DIY gene therapies for ordinary people).
4. Increasingly more powerful forms of computing.
5. Increasingly better and more plentiful robots to do things that we used to do.
6. And so on.
There are of course people in this world who are explicitly using these new technologies to drive us all toward specific goals. By now we all know about the World Economic Forum and its stated goal of a Great Reset. I cannot keep track of all the things they want, but here are some good examples.
– “Smart” cities. “Smart” here means AI- and centrally-managed systems that are integrated according to specific guidelines and parameters, and which monitor essentially everything that can be monitored in a massive data crunching exercise.
– “Smart” agriculture. Again, this is centrally planned, controlled, and monitored by AI algorithms for optimal use. It also includes what the WEF calls “autonomous” farming which sounds pretty much like farming without the people doing the work.
– “Smart” energy grids that will allocate energy along the grid to where it is needed most, especially in an era of energy scarcity (which, surprise, is really upon us now!)
– The automation of many, many jobs, essentially resulting in their elimination, such as telemarketers, accountants, retail personnel, technical writers, real estate agents, machinists, commercial pilots, drivers, and much more. Sure, there will be new jobs, but economists are talking about the elimination of as much as thirty percent of the world’s human labor being replaced within the next decade. It seems unrealistic to think that most of them will smoothly transition into one of the new jobs that may crop up. It seems much more likely that they will simply become redundant and unemployed.
– The soon to be globally implemented digital currencies that will track every purchase and transaction you make, essentially like a State-monitored blockchain that leaves a forever footprint of everything you do with your money.
– The pervasiveness of smart devices monitoring more or less everything we do, with all kinds of metadata monitoring and tracking and data-crunching.
– And of course life modeled on the mantra, “you will own nothing and be happy.” They see this as a positive thing. Communities that will share all sorts of resources — basically lease, rent, borrow the things you need and return them when you don’t. One obvious thing about such a system is that it would be impossible to work unless it’s within a genuinely totalitarian model. Otherwise it fails. Well, it’s likely to fail anyway but I think you see my point.
Essentially, we are talking about pervasive monitoring systems and massive data collection in order to devise “intelligent solutions,” as the WEF people love to put it, to the problems created by messy human beings. We are so messy and the problem is that we are creating a tightly controlled, I would say manicured, world order that has a single common denominator.
That denominator is order and predictability. Everything the WEF is pushing for comes down to that. You can’t run a highly complex and technologically integrated world system without order and predictability. That’s why you need the technocrats to manage it all, and not actual elected politicians. It’s why nearly all elected politicians, especially in the collective West, are all ciphers at this point, void of personality and independence of character. There’s no room for those types any longer. Any politician or statesman, or private individual with any public influence for that matter, must be shamed, shunned, and surgically removed from public discourse. They have to disappear.
Looking at the kind of society that seems likely to be created by all this — a true Fourth Stage of Humanity — perhaps we can characterize it as follows:
- Pervasive online/digital monitoring. The complete end of privacy.
- Smart grid surveillance (supercharged by AI)
- Smart aerial drones
- Searchable high-res video surveillance
- Comprehensive facial and voice recognition
- Behavioral analysis by AI algorithms
- Massive digital databases
- Widespread unemployment and redundant people.
- The perceived need by state authorities to control such an unruly and unpredictable bunch of people.
- Pervasive and immersive authoritative state-sanctioned narratives.
- Mind hacking (just ask Yuval Noah Harari)
- Immersion into some form of Metaverse.
- And so on. I know I am missing a lot but basically, what I call a human anthill. A Black Mirror future.
Yes, I know, it’s a bleak picture. Geez, Richard. Can’t you lighten up? Isn’t there an upside to any of this?
Well, yes, I suppose it’s all how you decide to look at it. If you take the very long view of human development and evolution, it is not difficult to argue along with most social theorists of the 19th and 20th centuries who saw the necessity and inevitability of human beings to change their ways from primitive traditional modes of living to something more rational, scientific, and orderly. This vision is embedded in basically every futuristic vision I can think of, and is perhaps mostly epitomized in the various Star Trek iterations.
As an aside, you notice that those Star Trek episodes did continue to allow for the existence of some level of freedom and uncertainty, but only because of the pretense that the Enterprise crew was out on the periphery of civilization and therefore had to deal with chaos and danger. It made for good television because the fact is that human beings crave some level of chaos, unpredictability, and freedom. Notice those shows almost never portrayed the settled parts of the Federation specifically because they were so boring and predictable.
But back to looking at the positive. You can say that humanity, by creating its latest and greatest infrastructure, backed by powerful science, requires a new breed of human. Perhaps there’s no way around this. The old form of human was one that was well adapted to the natural world. Therefore it required human beings – as animals, of course – to be rooted within our biological realities. These realities were well adapted for living at one with nature. It’s how we evolved.
But we don’t live in the natural world any longer. Yes, we still exploit it, but very few of us actually live in it any more. We live in an artificial environment, and moreover one that is becoming extremely controlled and regulated in every way. Therefore you could say that a new form of human being is required to live within such an environment and that this is what we are of necessity seeing develop now.
And I think that is basically true. You can see this as a refutation of our genuine innermost being as humans, or you can see it as genuine progress toward whatever it is we are destined to become. Either way, the change is happening. That much seems clear. And, as I’ve said many times by now, I truly believe that you can boil down most of our political culture wars down to one’s perspective on this transformation. It has supplanted the older Left/Right paradigm, which is why you increasingly see elements of the old left and right agreeing to oppose — or support — this transformation. Whether it’s someone like traditional leftist Naomi Wolf taking on the WEF position on mRNA vaccines on the one side (and there are many examples like her of course), or the otherwise strange marriage between “liberals” and “conservatives” (essentially neolibs and neocons) who fully support the goals of the WEF.
In other words, our transformation into this next stage of human existence is rewriting our politics. Not everyone realizes it yet, although more and more do seem to be getting it.
And I mention the WEF in this context because frankly this organization has become the focal point for all of the changes we are experiencing. They ARE the force driving this along. Yes, we all know there are other forces at play, but the WEF does serve, I think, as a useful face for the powers that are driving these changes. They’ve got their hands on all the levers of our world. Whether we are dealing with forces (cough cough) behind the WEF that are guiding it can be left for another missive.
Okay, with all that as prologue, I’ve been thinking about how I would like to actually track the transformation of our world into this Fourth Stage. I sat down and tried to come up with the most basic and relevant categories and then tried to think of subcategories for each of them. I haven’t weighted any of them – which ones are more important than others, for instance – and certainly have not included everything that belongs here. I have no doubt I have forgotten elements, probably important ones at that.
So what I am presenting here is provisional, and the truth is that I would like your feedback. At this time, I seem to have five major categories: (1) Privacy, (2) Freedom of speech and expression, (3) Economic freedom, (4) Digital integration, and what I call (5) “Denaturing.” This last category strikes me as important because it tracks us along the path of transhumanism, something that I think will be an important component of this next stage. That category seems to overlap quite a bit with the one preceding it (digital integration), so perhaps they should be combined.
What I am trying to do is develop a proper conceptual framework for this. Then, hopefully, actually to find a way to assign values to each of the categories and find a practical way of “measuring” these across the nations and societies of our world.
Once that’s in place, we will have an actual Fourth Stage Index.
Here’s what I have so far. Please let me know what you think.
– Privacy in public digital space
– Privacy in public non-digital space
– Privacy at work
– Privacy at home
– Privacy in one’s mind
– Private home ownership (I have this because home ownership is on the decline and strikes me as a key element to maintaining one’s privacy).
Freedom of Speech and Expression
– Non-political speech in public forums and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
– Political speech in public forums and social media
– Speech on websites (not social media)
– Speech for government and corporate employees
– Speech for private individuals in non-digital spaces
– Restrictions on dissenting speech (misinformation, disinformation, hate speech, etc.)
– Pervasiveness of “authorized” speech (State propaganda) in one’s daily life.
– Corporate control over entertainment, music, arts.
– Centralization of corporate/financial power.
– Implementation of trackable digital currency
– Ability to purchase anonymously (ie. cash)
– Ease of starting/operating a new business
– Ease of changing employment
– Independence of one’s employment from personal life
– Implementation of “social credit score” society.
– Hours per day facing a screen
– Percentage of population who rely on: social media, digital monetary transactions, Alexa etc,
– Percentage of population with digital/tech implants
Denaturing of humanity
– Indoor/outdoor ratio (simple: how much time do we spend indoors vs. outdoors)
– Average number of real-life interactions with other people on a daily basis.
– Percentage of organic vs. transactional relationships (eg. natural human relationships in which we treat each other as human beings as opposed to fulfilling legal, bureaucratic, or transactional needs in which one is a consumer, or client, or otherwise subject to bureaucratic/legal regulation and effectively dehumanized).
– Percentage of meals prepared from basic ingredients (eg. from scratch). This strikes me as a useful thing to measure. How in touch are we with our own food?
– Hours per week of unstructured and unsupervised play for children. (another important thing that increasingly is disappearing in western countries and clearly leads to increased mental illness).
– Physical health measurement (obesity, nutrition, exercise, etc.)
– Pervasiveness of mental illnesses
– Pervasiveness of mood/cognitive altering pharmaceuticals among population (obviously related to the above category)
– Percentage of people in marriages/partnerships that either (a) are in their first marriage or committed partnership or (b) have lasted more than ten years. (I include this because it seems that relationship stability is a key traditional feature of all human societies and is very much seeming like a thing of the past).
– Percentage of in vitro pregnancies, gender reassignment surgeries, and (soon) genetic modifications, etc. (this is NOT to criticize people who do either of these things. I believe in choice for such people if it’s that important to them. However, we can also see that these two examples are clear transhumanist markers and are poised to become increasingly common. They seem symptomatic of a larger trend).
Again, I wish to emphasize that I am all too aware of the limitations of what I have just put together. Therefore I would be grateful for your input. Once I have it, I will revisit this and compile something more accurate.