Cosmic transformation and mobile phones
Mobile phones act as a stigmatic, always on view of the world; this can be easily observed when visiting a foreign city. Getting bus routes, calling taxis and finding where to eat all become trivial. Given the amount of people that would have visited each place, there is probably a healthy amount of exploration to cover everything (and a good degree of exploitation, top tripadvisor restaurants have queues outside). The phone radically changes behaviour – you no longer need to start an exploration/exploitation process everytime from scratch when you are in new place – previous visitors have collectively done it for you, so you play the e-greedy game with reasonably good initial estimates.
When it comes to technology, this tranformational ability is everything – cosmic transformation after cosmic transformation, until heaven. Major technological advances seem to come to us in bursts (more like delayed q-learning or punctuated equilibria). I tend of think of this process of eternal progress as the Paulean route to heaven – the world gets transformed, and through this cosmic transformation we get transformed. It is the exact opposite to the Jamesian view of self-improvement – asceticism. Quoting various Church fathers on James:
He alone enjoyed the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since, indeed, he did not wear woollen, but only linen clothes, and went into the Temple alone and prayed on behalf of the People, so that his knees were reputed to have acquired the callusness of a camel’s knees.
He was Holy from his mother’s womb; he drank no wine or strong drink, nor did he eat meat; no razor touched his head, nor did he anoint himself with oil.
Died a virgin at the age of ninety-six’.
I obviously stand with Paul – let the world be transformed, it’s long overdue. What has always been up for grabs is the moral content of this transformation. Sure, technology will be the mediator, but will form the actual content? It’s not currently clear. This soup of religious beliefs (which includes economics) will produce something, but it might be another 10 years before we see any real progress.