In this column I submit 10 big ideas for the next decade, which is bound to be a dangerous one, including: the coming of self-aware artificial intelligence; fusion between AI and humanity to create homo-digitus; the prospect of people living to 150 years or more; the powerful influence of demographics, and rapidly increasing and decreasing population bases in Australia, the US, China and Japan; and my prediction for what will cause the next great financial crisis and Australia's first recession since 1991, which will almost certainly result in record declines in house prices the likes of which have not been seen in around a century. To read the full column click here or AFR subs can click here. Except enclosed:
After being evacuated from Sydney’s south coast because of the bushfires, we’ve relocated to Palm Beach for a family reunion of sorts. I pity the poor residents because no less than six different Joye family units have descended on this enclave for the break.
As a fund manager, I’ve naturally been doing my bit to save humanity, whipping the search and rescue drone up and down the coast hunting for sharks zeroing in on surfers and swimmers. During one recent flight I received a call from an individual known simply as the “waterboarder”, a mentor who chairs a multibillion-dollar hedge fund, among other things.
He had been alerted to my arrival by his wife after the drone asked her where her husband was through its emergency speaker system, which can be heard 500 metres away. “Bro, you’re gonna find more sharks on land than in the water in these parts,” he said in his thick, Lebanese-Australian accent.
And he’s right of course. Standing only metres away from this gnarled human equivalent to a great white shark were the likes of VGI’s Rob Luciano and Moelis’s Andrew Pridham, stealthily surveying their domains. When it comes to investing, there a few more well-honed killers than this superficially chummy triumvirate.
As I continued my search for water-borne sharks, the drone temporarily lost radio contact. The artificial intelligence in its processor immediately kicked in and the drone flew itself in a perfectly stabilised arc back to its base where it safely landed.
AI is so good now that scientists are developing drones with superior shark-spotting capabilities to the human eye. And in the next decade we face the spectre of a possible “singularity” in which AI gains self-awareness and exceeds human intelligence, after which it is projected to recursively self-improve its capabilities until the gap between man and machine is massive.
If Elon Musk is right, this could be a Terminator-like extinction event for our race as the machines seek to eliminate us or subvert us into organic slaves. My own view is that a more likely outcome than this terrifyingly binary hypothetical is a complementary fusion between AI and homo sapiens in what will be a profound evolutionary step towards a hyper-intelligent “homo-digitus”. If you cannot beat the machines, become one!
A parallel innovation could be Professor David Sinclair’s life-long effort to thwart the “disease” that is ageing by reversing DNA decay and finally giving humans hope of living for hundreds of years. Sinclair has previously told this column that the first person to live to 150 has already been born, and he’s "age reversed" mice aged three years to just six months in his labs. As with the singularity, this could be revolutionary in both positive and negative ways!
Dwell on these tectonic shifts for any period and one’s mind inevitably gravitates towards the Middle Kingdom. Many seem to have forgotten that in the 1980s large tomes were being written about the rise of Pax Nipponica, or Japan, which appeared set to supersede Pax Americana (aka US hegemony)...
I'm guessing Musk, Sinclair, Vinge, Kurzweil, and all the other tech futurists referred to here would make pretty damned ordinary fixed interest managers, yes?