It’s time for everyone to add a third “world” to their view of daily life. We are all used to thinking and talking in terms of the “natural” world and the “man-made” world. Some have always argued – and not without some excellent points – that those distinctions are themselves artificial, and yet for a variety of reasons almost all of us tend to see the world in that way.
Now, with the spread of machine automation across the world, it is time to start thinking in terms of three worlds: the natural world, the human world, and the machine world. As with the earlier distinction between man and nature, these three worlds are in fact deeply intertwined, yet it will be helpful for all of us to begin to understand that the machine world is now becoming distinct from the rest of the human world.
For the natural world we think of global systems and local ecosystems, and with the human world we think of global orders, nations, and local communities. And so it will be with the machine world, where it will pay for us to begin to see it as having both global and local dimensions, to understand how local machine “ecosystems” are connected both to human and natural worlds but also to other machine ecosystems across the planet.
This is not about anticipating the rise of a global machine consciousness, a global Gaia if you will, but rather starting to see the machine world as distinct from man and nature, having great local variation, and having its own ebbs and flows across the planet, and its own evolution.
It will be important for all of us to begin to study and understand these worlds on their own as well as where and how they intersect and interact.