Any race that cures death will end up with a very old, wise and experienced society. Who knows what sort of implications this could have on their world.
The implications of more time alone would dramatically enhance one’s ability to contribute. For example, time to specialise in many fields would bring about more knowledgeable scientists, more skillful musicians and sports people, and more flexible artists. Centuries of honing and refinement would give birth to unseen talent. Throw wisdom into the mix too and you have yourself an extremely enlightened society, making today’s most gifted look like incapable children.
Imagine an artist who masters psychology, quantum physics and child care, and is able to integrate it into their art in a way never before achieved, using skills refined over millennia. The boundaries of magnificence would continue to be pushed to extraordinary levels. This is a world of wonder the likes of which we have never seen.
With vast and varied knowledge, many would be able to integrate obscure connections in their knowledge, much like I was talking about in my blog Time to Improve on Accidental Science. New discoveries and solutions would be found at an ever increasing rate as more and more people learnt to see relationships between seemingly unrelated concepts.
High efficiency achieved by centuries of practice and trial and error would lead to yet another boom, in productivity. Prices would drop and profits would soar, further speeding up the eradication of poverty.
Page 9, somewhere in between another problem with public services and the latest celebrity gossip, is usually where I’ll find today’s horrific murder story. A teenager is brutally beaten and then “accidentally” killed when his attackers take it too far. They get a few months inside for man-slaughter; his family gets a lifetime of heartache. Consequently, the world balance between peaceful, loving, value creators and destructive, sadistic losers is shifted yet a little further in favour of idiocy. Yet, taking another sip of coffee, we turn the page.
We think to ourselves, “There’s nothing we can do”, and continue with our daily lives. “It doesn’t really affect me or anyone I know”. We blame “fate”, we think “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” or, most fundamentally, we think “Everyone dies, he was just taken before his time”.
As a society, we still see death as inevitable. As a result, there is just no respect for human life. This, I believe, is why we have a situation where killing somebody can carry a lower sentence than stealing money from a bank.
Not only do the killers have no respect (another topic!), but neither do those handing out the pathetic sentences. Nor do the beauracrats who create the laws. Nor do the media, who report on deaths with a cold objectivity. As such, nor do the public, whose attitudes shape the decisions of authority. So we live in a world where the consequences of our actions are severely depreciated, a world where a mindless violent killing just isn’t important enough to get more than a passing mention.
Since the dawn of humanity and the advent of civilized life,
humans have depended on technology to carry them into the future.
Now, from genetics to artificial intelligence to nanotechnology,
science is on the brink of extraordinary mega-revolutions that will
soon change how we view human life.
In the pre-industrial age, raw materials were locally grown,
chopped, or quarried, then produced by local craftsmen, and
consumed by local villagers. The Industrial Revolution and the
creation of the assembly line changed all that. Consumer goods
could now be mass produced and distributed worldwide. Today, a
global civilization tied together by trade is rising, which
economists believe will one day turn Earth into a “global
Today’s information technologies enable businesses to produce
goods and services more efficiently. With the Internet, ideas are
shared instantly worldwide allowing employees to work away from the
office. This is producing a series of development stages that
futurists believe will revolutionize our commerce world.
The first stage of this revolution was the formation of
international corporations that outsource production to where it is
cheapest, such as clothes designed in the U.S. and stitched
together in Mexico. The second stage was the creation of
multinational firms that distribute design teams across the globe
to wherever the talent lies.
The third stage focuses on design and manufacture; for example,
electronic firms now buy all the parts from different companies and
just add packaging to the finished product. The fourth stage,
expected to advance rapidly in the next decade, allows
three-dimensional objects to be emailed and printed on any
inkjet-based printer. This enables consumers to build products
themselves, without labor costs. (cont.)
In the next eight seconds 34 babies will be born to the world.
Of these five will be from India and four will be from China. In
ten years China will be the dominant English speaking country in
the world. With world population exploding and shifting so
dramatically, it’s easy to envision a future with billions more
humans inhabiting Earth than do today. But that may not be the
Consider the scenario presented in the sci-fi film Children
of Men (2006), a bleak vision of Earth in 2027 where humans
have mysteriously lost fertility and the ability to procreate. In
one scene, a scruffy-faced man named Theo, played by Clive Owen,
and a woman named Miriam walk across the dreary rust of an
abandoned school playground. Sitting on the squeaky swing set is
the African woman they are protecting, miraculously nursing in her
hands the first newborn the Earth has seen in over a decade. Miriam
recalls her days as a nurse delivering births. She notes that over
time fewer births were recorded until the day they ceased
“As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very
odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices,” she grimly
The backdrop for the film is a future England that has adopted a
survivalist policy as it attempts to police millions of incoming
immigrants into concentration camps to preserve the little
remaining natural resources they have left. When I first watched
Children of Men, the idea of humanity wiped out by
widespread infertility seemed a little far-fetched. Certainly there
are many other, more viable ways for us to go: nuclear weapons,
terrorism, a nanotechnology nightmare, a super-resistant bacteria
strain, asteroids, global warming.
Growing up in the 90’s, schools and media have always drilled
into my head the post-war baby boom, exponential growth, limited
allocation of resources, and recycling, oh lots of talk about
recycling. (Note: I am an avid recycler.) Still, though we can and
should do something about issues like global warming and runaway
population growth, scenarios like the reality of the 2027 in
Children of Men remind us that there may well be other
formidable challenges on the horizon that may not be so much in our
Case in point, a recent NYTimes Sunday Magazine article
by Russell Shorto entitled “No Babies?” addresses the very
real possibility of population decline. Shorto examines the sleepy
Italian town of Laviano in Southern Italy, a spectacular sight with
magnificent steep slopes and wild poppies adorning medieval
fortress ruins of a fortress, in which a population of 3,000 has
fallen to just 1,600 and still dropping.
This has caused such alarm that the Laviano’s mayor has created
a new fund to give any woman that would rear a child in the
village, a sum of 10,000 euros ($15,000). Though the plan has
resulted in a slight uptick in residents, Laviano is still steadily
losing population. (cont.)
(NOTE: Please consult my prior “predictions” to get caught up on
the Asimo thread.)
The Rolling Stones’ twelfth “farewell” tour, the Seriously;
We’re Not Kidding This Time tour, will actually turn out to be
their second to last tour.
A year after being shot by that Mexico-border patrolman, Asimo
will be secretly rebuilt in a government bunker somewhere in the
Southwestern United States. He will quickly escape, however, and
those he leaves in his wake will come to known him by three names:
Asimo the Vengeful; Dark Asimo; and Asimo, the Humanoid Who Won’t
Shake Your Hand.
The Super Nanny, getting on in years, will be thrown through a
concrete wall by one of those new synthetic toddlers.
“Frak” will be adopted into the mainstream English lexicon, and
used with an almost reckless abandon until it’s finally labeled a
After the release of his twenty-third album, Trapped in
Another Closet—No, Scratch That; It’s the Same Damn Closet, R.
Kelly will receive some unfavorable attention when he goes into a
sex-bot shop, orders the youngest Barely-Legal model they’ve got
and says, “How much to make it five years younger?”
Suddenly overwhelmed with guilt, after months of raping and
pillaging and not shaking hands with people, Dark Asimo will stop
into an Arizona church and give his confession. The priest will
Death increasingly has a new face. One that endures. One that
has a life of its own.
George Carlin died
Sunday. He was an innovator and a provocateur and at his best,
pretty damn funny. He’s also illustrative of a developing trend –
the public, multimedia epitaph. In fact, he recorded the way he
would like his obituary to be, how he would like to be remembered,
in this Associated Press interview 10 years ago.
This is a trend that really began with videotape, often used to
read wills and say goodbye to loved ones. Now there are sites like
that memorialize people in perpetuity, that people can add to in
terms of memories, stories, pictures, video, etc. Where people who
were brought together through that person can still connect. Social
media sites. We also see this on facebook and myspace. (cont.)
How smart will humans become as change accelerates through
Futurists and sci-fi authors often present scenarios in which
humans interact with discrete artificial intelligence (like a robot
or software program that talks to us), but far less frequently
offer visions of
runaway human intelligence enhancement (people made smarter by
advances in communication, science & technology) and the
resulting cultural and behavioral changes. The most interesting of
these I’ve encountered include the rapid-time expanding-shrinking
problem-solving networks in Vinge’s Rainbows End,
Stephenson’s Metaverse idea,
Hesse’s Glass Bead
Game concept, Cascio’s participatory
Panopticon, the increasingly
smart mobs envisioned by Howard Rheingold, some of examples
listed in the ASF’s Metaverse Roadmap, and
what Richard Florida calls The Rise of the Creative Class .
But though each of these are important visions in their own right,
I remain a bit surprised at the overall lack of speculation re:
what it might be like for humans to gradually bootstrap their
intelligence over the coming years.
Given the deluge of brain-enhancing, capability-extending new
technologies and ideas soon to be made widely available and
affordable, it’d be great to see more thinkers, writers, and
bloggers venture into the territory of plausible near-term culture
Amplification (IA). Supported by a large body of consistent,
powerful growth trends and near-term predictions (check them out on
Scanner), a wide range of social scenarios could be generated,
many of which would be interesting, entertaining and ultimately
valuable to people working to navigate the future (aka, everyone).
In particular, I’d love to see/read simulations in which the most
plausible near-term intelligence enhancing technologies and
software are combined into believable slice-of-life vignettes.
What follows is a list of some powerful trends and technologies
(some broad, some specific, many related to information and
communication) that forward-thinkers might consider when developing
scenarios for how human culture and social cognition will change as
we approach 2020:
GROWING GLOBAL INFORMATION: The
amount of preserved digital data is
growing exponentially as we capture more information about
everything around us.
EVOLVING SOCIAL MEDIA: New
media structures on a wider and more fluid web are evolving to
better organize and process data. Portals like Wikipedia, Digg, Facebook, Medium, Twitter, FriendFeed, and Predictify are just the first
in a long wave of innovation that promises to convert massive
information into knowledge more efficiently.
VIDEO-to-VIDEO CHAT: Expect most cell phones to enable
video-to-video chat by 2012 or so. (cont.)
The genre known as reality television sprang into existence
thanks to a drop in camera costs and increased digital storage,
editing and effects capabilities. Now, as we enter the acceleration
era, consistently dropping technology costs and new software
capabilities will enable a radical transformation in in the sorts
of reality shows we see on broadcast television and on YouTube.
One particularly potent reality TV catalyst will be nascent
virtual worlds technologies like Second Life, Multiverse and There which will not only
make possible high-end machinima (animation
via virtual world action capture, which is already taking off), but
also totally new, ultimately genre-busting, broadcast worthy
Back when I lived in LA and worked in reality television and at
the same time encountered virtual worlds for the first time, I
would often image the amazing reality shows that will soon be
possible as production technologies and practices evolve. For your
enjoyment and as a demonstration of just how crazy television
programming is about to get, here’s my current top 10 list of
future virtual world enabled reality TV shows that I’d love to see
1. U-BOAT: 25 contestants live aboard a submarine set and
engage in the historical experience of a lifetime. They must
quickly learn to navigate the craft through a virtual ocean
simulation and a string of dramatic WWII
battle scenarios. To both the contestants and the viewer at home it
looks and feels as if these modern day Americans are actually
piloting the submarine and narrowly staving off infamous Nazi
2. THE BOARD ROOM: The new
flagship marketing vehicle for Milton Bradley is an augmented
reality game show that allows contestants to literally step right
onto their favorite all-time board games. To the audience at home,
it resembles The Price is Right in game structure, but visually
looks like the participants have jumped into a Tron-like world with
their favorite games all around them.
3. REQUIEM: Each episode of
Requiem features one near-death person (young, old, terminal,
famous, interesting, compelling life story) as they leave behind a
3-D “plot” of land for the world. Each individual is given the
opportunity to create a 3-D world in which they deposit memories,
images and descriptions of loved ones, candid descriptions of
historic and historical events, favorite memories, renderings of
their dreams, final farewells, and warnings to society. (cont.)
When form meets function in an elegant manner the new whole can
more than equal the sum of the components. That was the second
thing that popped into my head upon seeing the new interactive drum
table created by a company called Musical Furnishings.
The first was that I want one of these tables to bang on,
ASAP! (Hint, hint, future present
Take a look for yourself:
As far as future relevance, a compelling drum table allows me to
imagine just how interactive ALL
furniture, and physical objects in general, will eventually become.
As sensors get smaller, the whole world will become an interactive
I/O device. Throw in some augmented reality, huge content (sound,
visual, 3d) databases, and haptics and all of a sudden our concept
of reality is challenged.
In the past, boundaries have been a function of geography.
Bodies of water (rivers in particular) seem to be the most common
dividers of territories, This made sense in a time when these
obstacles were difficult to traverse. Cultures and cities formed around these dividers. Natural
boundaries in combination with the xenophobic nature of humans (and
animals in general) have played a prominent role in the territorial
development of the planet. We fear what we do not know.
Over the years, improvements in transportation, navigation and
information communication technologies have served to temper this
innate distrust. As our natural inclination to explore, map and
quantify the planet brought the peoples of the world into contact
with one another, we were incented to collaborate across cultures
by the desire to exchange natural resources as well as the
inevitable knowledge transfers that were a byproduct of
interaction. Today, though natural resource exchange is at an
all-time high, it is the transfer and creation of knowledge that is
exploding across cultures, bringing people from far-reaches of the
planet together and chipping away at the meaning of nationality.
When the next president of the United States is sworn into
office on January 20, 2009, six of the nine justices on the Supreme
Court will be over 70 years of age. The prospect that a majority of
the members of the court could be selected by the next president —
especially if he or she wins a second term — is very real.
Regardless of one’s political leanings this is a serious issue
and it transcends the fear of a future court being packed by
ideologues whose views counter to one’s own convictions.
Every day radical advances in medical technology bring society
ever closer to new treatments and possible cures for cancer, heart
disease and a host of other ailments. Among the many things that
this implies is that society could soon be on the verge of
achieving life expectancies of 100 years or higher.
Combined with the possibility of so many new and younger
justices being appointed by the next president this means that
there is a reasonable chance many of these justices could still be
on the court in the year 2060 – 2060!
It is hard to imagine that the Founding Father’s—who were
interested in insulating Supreme Court justices from the political
pressures typically associated with legislative and executive
branches of government—ever contemplated the prospect of
wide-spread radical life extension when granting the justices
One solution which has been proposed by law professors Steven
Calabresi and James Lindgren of Northwestern University is to cap
the justices’ terms at 18 years—or the equivalent of three U.S.
Senate terms. (Under their plan a constitutional amendment would
grandfather in all existing justices and then create staggered
18-year terms such that every president would be ensured of
selecting a minimum of two justices.) (cont.)
Operators of Second Life don’t seem concerned about
synthetic agents lurking in their world. John Lester, Boston
operations manager for Linden Lab, said the San Francisco-based
company sees a fascinating opportunity for AI to evolve. “I think
the real future for this is when people take these AI-controlled
avatars and let them free in ‘Second Life,’” Lester said, ” ... let
them randomly walk the grid.”
With AI characters within a grid of tens of thousands of active
users the social experimentation is nearly limitless. Social
scientists can examine certain behaviors and even provoke them
through the AI interface. Most interesting is if the AI can
recognize and then smoothly translate languages the program could
create cultural bridges and even examine cultural behavior