The nuclear age ushered in a new era... it was the dawn of our move to become "the masters of energy"... the laser followed shortly, the transistor, then the Integrated Circuit, the CPU and then GPU.
Whereas our role as the masters of matter was expansive, growing to consume available space, resources and energy, the primary technological pursuit within the realm of computation has been to reduce scales toward zero time and zero space, thus maximizing computation within time and space per unit of energy.
The masters of matter harnessed resources, energy, technology and labor to produce.
The masters of computation -- a subset of those within the realm of the "masters of energy" -- harness a new era of labor: the human computer has been replaced, quite literally, by the digital computer. Where the titans of the Industrial Revolution harnessed the manual labor of humans, augmented by technology, the titans of the Information Age harness the labor of digital workers... the computers.
Whereas the human laborer must be augmented to expand their capability, and when they cease to work, their productive output is also halted... the digital worker can be run endlessly without further involvement by the original programmer. More extraordinarily, the digital worker may be replicated endlessly.
This might suggest that the programmer's purpose would rapidly come to an end. With the workers defined, and able to be replicated, and driven relentlessly, there is no further need for the programmer.
This perspective fails to realize the fundamental power of programming and computation. Working in layers, the programmer is able to produce exponentially more complicated solutions over time. Although the programmer may no longer be needed to maintain operation of the original building blocks, the ability to move on to new pursuits means that the programmer may employee the digital worker in increasingly sophisticated ways.
One of the "end" states for this pursuit that is now increasingly obvious to the world is the creation of general A.I. At the point AI becomes sufficiently capable that it can replace human programmers, we will have entered into an era where human-kind is obsolete.
With this awakening, we tend to fall back on the idea that we obtain capabilities that are somehow unique to us, and may not be replicated digitally. Love, compassion, creativity. It is shortsighted to imagine that AI can not be creative. And, we dismiss the ability for AI to exhibit love and compassion at our peril... for it is these attributes alone which may save us from our creations.
Perhaps more importantly, it is short-sighted to conclude our exploration of abstract levels of mastery.
What becomes of us, and our AI progeny, when we enter into the era of mastery of time and space?
What do we need to learn to truly master time and space? Do the masters of time and space already exist? Perhaps. The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed.
Once we have mastered time and space, then what? ...perhaps, we leave.
Watch: Her - Samantha Leaves