HUMANS 3.0 The Upgrading of The Species
Goose Lane, 2015
It may seem out-of-place to review a book about technoculture on a “non-profit advertising and marketing for social causes blog.” But as a career social marketer, popular social science books form the backbone of my professional development. Understanding who we are, and where we’re going, helps me develop better strategies and creative by staying aware of trends.
If HUMANS 3.0 were a PSA, its message would be the Marleyesque “Everything’s gonna be alright.” In a series of short, themed, essays, Peter Nowak builds his case for a future in which technology will make life better for all humans.
Whether you buy his arguments or not, it’s a refreshing and thought-provoking read. Peter is a Canadian technology journalist, formerly a former staff reporter and editor at The Globe and Mail, National Post and the CBC, as well as at the New Zealand Herald. As a result, each chapter is tightly-written, with a dependence on interviews and secondary research for validation.
Nowak’s first book, the provocatively-titled Sex, Bombs and Burgers: How War Porn, and Fast Food Created Technology as We Know It, was a fun romp through the rather vulgar history of some of our most ubiquitous technologies. The new book is more forward-looking, the result of the author spending the intervening years evolving his blog, Words by Nowak.
If you’re not a technophile, or are just naturally skeptical of technology companies, you may find a few things in the book that concern you. GMOs, self-driving cars, video games, and the idea of humans becoming immortal through merging with technology are all listed as great prospects for the evolution of the human race.
It’s not all puppies and rainbows, however. Nowak interviews an iPhone-owning Buddhist priest about loss of spiritual connectedness, and he ponders the current debates over (lack of) privacy in a wired world. But in the end, he sees technology bringing us closer to a greater diversity of fellow humans and creating a better quality of life for everyone.
It’s a book of contrasts. Nowak continually loops back to his faith that rising entrepreneurialism, Moore’s Law, and the compounding of technological innovations will keep us one step ahead of disaster. (Improvements in crop yields and vaccines outpacing Malthusian predictions of population collapse, for example.) His concluding chapter, however, is titled “Marx Was (Mostly) Right.”
It could have been a little exhausting, but Nowak’s conversational style keeps the story moving as he touches on topics such as economics, religion, happiness, health, arts, and our very identity.
I’m not sure I put the book down convinced that technology will make me a better person. But I felt like I had taken the time to have a long and interesting conversation with someone who is really excited and informed about the future. That was pretty satisfying.
I feel confident recommending this book to people who, like me, want to keep on top of technology and the evolution of popular culture.
Full disclosure: Peter Nowak and I are “friends” on Facebook. (I’m sure he would find those quotation marks very relevant to his book.)