The Future of Self by Mark Manson

The Future of Self by Mark Manson addresses the effect that technology, but also the overall innovation that has occurred up until now, has effected our sense of self, and what these changes will look like in the coming years as new technologies continue to take away our authentic identities.

His articles are lengthy, but worth it. If you don’t believe me, here are some really good nuggets that stood out to me. Give them a scroll and maybe you’ll be intrigued enough to spend 15 minutes of your day reading the whole piece! If not, I’ve gotchu covered –


As humans, it is in our nature to look for external references to identify ourselves… But these external reference points are largely determined by our material circumstances.

With today’s technology, people don’t just choose how to present themselves to others and how to define themselves; they are able to edit, modify, and accentuate those representations on the fly.

With the limitations of the physical world removed [referencing the increase in plastic surgery and drug use to alter our physical selves], the online realm provides a low-risk environment for us to “try on” new personas and see how they fit us. And as we embody our online avatars, it affects our offline lives as well (and vice versa).

Our memories are being stored as digital photos, status updates, comments, and “likes” that can all be accessed in seconds… While many of us still see a pretty clear divide between the digital and “real” world, even these mental boundaries are gradually dissolving.

Cavemen had to rely 100% on social cohesion to survive; therefore, their identities resided with the group. People in the ancient world fell into very specific roles within a feudal or caste system and, therefore, their identities were confined to that. In the modern age, people began to identify themselves based on their individual thoughts and feelings, and later, by their purchasing and lifestyle decisions.

Then you get to the 20th century and industrialization made producing shit so cheap and easy that people just started buying stuff for the fun of it, not because they needed it. As a result, for much of the 20th century, identity was largely defined by how one consumed, by how one spent their money.

 Manson writes about just three major areas of technological development that could completely scramble who we are and who we see ourselves to be:

  1. Genetic engineering and nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology will mean we can start implanting microscopic computers into parts of our body, and in some cases replace our cells with more efficient versions of cells.

  1. Robotics and AI

Doctors, accountants, bankers, even government bureaucracy will likely be automated through some form of algorithm or smart-learning machine one day.

Aside from the socioeconomic and political crises this will cause, it will likely cause a worldwide identity crisis as well. Much of our identity is determined by what we feel most valuable doing. And if technology makes it so nothing we do is considered of particular social value, then we may end up with millions of people wondering what the point of it all is at the same time.

  1. Virtual Reality – to be honest, I’m really excited about this one

 In the future, we will likely reach the point where our physical bodies can be changed and upgraded at will, where our consciousness can be uploaded, modified, downloaded and exchanged from a cloud network, where machines and artificial intelligence will manage most of the important global tasks giving us an almost unlimited amount of time for leisure, and physical location will become almost inconsequential with the power and sheer amount of global connectivity.

And the more technology allows us to manipulate and mold information, the more we will be able to manipulate and mold ourselves until that very conception of self is no more.


If you like his thoughts, here are some more good reads by Manson:

The only real long-term solution is for people to develop enough self-awareness to understand when mass media is prodding at their weaknesses and vulnerabilities and to make conscious decisions in the face of those fears. The success of our free markets has burdened us with the responsibility of exercising our freedom to choose. And that responsibility is far heavier than we often realize.

I especially love the part about finding a problem in the world to fix…that’s kind of my  jam right now

So pick a problem and start saving the world. There are plenty to choose from. Our screwed up education systems, economic development, domestic violence, mental health care, governmental corruption. Hell, I just saw an article this morning on sex trafficking in the US and it got me all riled up and wishing I could do something. It also ruined my breakfast.

Find a problem you care about and start solving it. Obviously, you’re not going to fix the world’s problems by yourself. But you can contribute and make a difference. And that feeling of making a difference is ultimately what’s most important for your own happiness and fulfillment.

Let me know if you end up checking him out and come across more goodness to read. xoxo


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