Living Longer - A World of Wisdom?

August 14 2008 / by StuartDobson / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

Crossposted on Super Concepts

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.

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Just Another Death?

June 29 2008 / by StuartDobson / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

The concept of radical Life Extension simply must be introduced into the public conciousness.

Crossposted from Super Concepts.

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.

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"Magical Future" promises radical changes to how we view life

March 04 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 7

By Dick Pelletier

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 village.”

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.)

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The Empty Playgrounds of Tomorrow: Europe's Negative Growth

July 03 2008 / by jcchan / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By JC Chan

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 case.

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 altogether.

“As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices,” she grimly states.

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 control.

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.)

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More Predictions for the Near Future and Beyond

June 26 2008 / by Jason / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By Jason M. Vaughn

(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 bad word.

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 faint. (cont.)

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The New Face of Death

June 24 2008 / by Jeff Hilford / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: 2008   Rating: 7 Hot

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 Respectance 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.)

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How Smart Will Humans Be in 2020?

June 17 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: 2020   Rating: 5 Hot

How smart will humans become as change accelerates through 2020?

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 and Intelligence Amplification (IA). Supported by a large body of consistent, powerful growth trends and near-term predictions (check them out on the Future 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:

Drivers of Near-Term Intelligence Growth

WIDENING BANDWIDTH: Faster internet connections, pervasive WiFi – perhaps syndicated through people’s mobile devices.

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.)

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10 Future Reality TV Shows Set in Virtual Worlds

June 04 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

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 physical/digital behavior.

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 developed:

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 U-Boat fleet.

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.)

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Musical Furniture Heralds New Era of Recreational I/O Products

June 04 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 2

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 givers.)

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.

Interactive everything. Here it comes.

The Future of Geography - De-borderization

May 30 2008 / by Jeff Hilford / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 10 Hot

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. (cont.)

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18 is Enough

May 29 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: Beyond   Rating: 14 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

An opinion piece.

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 life-time tenure.

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.)

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Avatars and AI

May 29 2008 / by randalc / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: 2010   Rating: 10 Hot

Recently Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute created an artificial intelligence program to run within the platform of Second Life. The researchers are studying the interactions that occur with real people through their avatars. The RPI students created the program to maneuver the avatar and understand some fairly straight forward questions, asked in English.

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 proclivities.

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