The digital age has only just begun. Our great-great-grand-children in 100 years time, are likely to work in a world where Artificial Intelligence systems have taken over much of the repetitive grunt work that occupies so many of us. Administration like sending emails, compiling presentations, writing reports and using spreadsheets will be done by voice command on dashboards that anticipate the kind of information you want. The laptops we work on currently will be seen as curiosities, similar to the way we see the first wave of industrial machines like the Spinning Jenny. Scientists tell us that the world we live in now is the best world that people have ever lived in. Sure, we know there are problems with the way humans treat the earth, but we are likely to evolve for the better as we colonise space and possibly nearby planets. Earth could be restored to a giant parkland that we leave to heal while we float on manufactured Pods high above the ground. Of course, this could all be nonsense. We just don’t know.

The Growth of Gamification

There is much to learn from the way in which computer games have developed in the last 50 years. Here is the first computer game I played:

It was great. My friends and I played for hours. About 10 years later games looked something like this:

Wow, much more complex. The development was astounding. It took way longer to master. Here is an example from the 1990’s:

A very complex simulation (SimCity) and there were countless others, getting more and more complicated, 100’s of variables, multiple paths to win and lose.

By the early 2000’s there were networks of people playing each other, and generally killing each other in ever more realistic settings:

The graphics, the speed and agility of games, the complexity of scoring and the realism have increased 1000 fold in 50 years.

So what is next?

If the complexity of games increases at a similar rate, and there is no reason to believe anything different, then what awaits us in 100 years, 200 years, 500 years? Some, like Elon Musk, argue that reality itself could be the end-product of the gamification growth. We, me and you, could actually be in someone else’s game. The game ends when we destroy the earth, or create a better one. Like Sim City on steroids. There are several serious philosophers who endorse this view.

The philosophers

Nick Bostrom

In 2003, Nick Bostrom, a Swedish philosopher at the University of Oxford, proposed a trilemma called ‘The Simulation Argument’ in which he argues that one of three unlikely-seeming propositions is almost certainly true:

1. the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage;

2. any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof);

3. we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

The trilemma means, among other things, that an advanced civilization with computing power we couldn’t possibly begin to comprehend have decided to run simulations of their ancestors. This in turn means that right now, in this very moment, we are living in a simulated world. This advanced civilization would have the ability to run many, many such simulations to the point where most minds would be artificial ones within the simulation, instead of the original ancestral minds. This also would suggest that we are among the simulated minds.

It’s also worth noting that Bostrom appended to his trilemma the following: “Unless we are now living in a simulation, our descendants will almost certainly never run an ancestor-simulation.”

David Chalmers

In 2005, David John Chalmers, an Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist, argued that we should consider the “simulation hypothesis” not as a sceptical hypothesis but rather as a metaphysical hypothesis. What this means is that, instead of our knowledge of an advanced civilization or external world being threatened, we can rather consider what our world is made of. That being what we already know — math.

Zohar Ringel and Dmitry L. Kovrizhin

These two theoretical physicists recently published a very complicated paper which, according to many, definitively confirmed that reality and life as we know it are not products of a computer simulation. They arrived at this conclusion by observing a link between gravitational anomalies and computational complexity.

What this means is, if you look at Bostrom’s trilemma as a massive interactive virtual reality, much like modern day games but on an infinitely grander scale, Ringel and Kovrizhin argued that there simply aren’t enough particles in the known universe to sustain the computer power necessary for that kind of simulation.

Responding as a Business

Businesses have to continually look to the future. The best business people don’t anticipate the future, they create it. One way or another we need to always be preparing for what is coming. If you’re doing it now, its already old. Like every other business Omnicor is continually caught up in this space. While our core business is arguably Talent Management, Assessments, Coaching, Surveys etc, the way we do them is never static. Its why about 50% of our staff are IT people, business analysts, coders and testers. We have to be developing for the future while living in the present. That’s not only necessary for survival, its just brilliant for flourishing. Its both terrifying and exhilarating. I cannot tell you how our business will look in 2023, a mere 5 years away. But I can tell you this. It won’t look the same.

Authors: William Irwin (Senior Developer) and Dr. Hilton Rudnick (Managing Director) at Omnicor