Positive vs. Negative Futures

March 26 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 7

When considering the future, is it more important to focus on the extinction risk posed by advancing technology or the massive potential for social advancement enabled by the same?

Futurist blogger and core Lifeboat Foundation member Michael Anissimov argues that calculating and combating existential risk is the moral imperative of our time.

Anissimov writes, “In less than a decade, humanity will likely develop weapons even more deadly than nukes – synthetic life, and eventually, nanorobots and self-improving AI. Even if we consider the likelihood of human extinction in the next century to be small, say 1%, it still merits attention due to the incredibly high stakes involved.”

Jamais Cascio, founder of worldchanging.com and a popular futurist blogger in his own right, concurs that existential risk is a most valid concern.

In a recent Nanotechnology Now column he explains, “[S]ome technologies may enable individuals or small groups to carry out attacks, on infrastructure or people, at a scale that would have required the resources of an army in decades past. This is not an outlandish concern by any means; many proponents of the “super-empowered angry individual” (SEAI) concept cite the September 11 attacks as a crude example of how vulnerable modern society can be to these kinds of threats. It’s not hard to imagine what a similar band of terrorists, or groups like Aum Shinrikyo, might try to do with access to molecular manufacturing or advanced bioengineering tools.”

But then Cascio turns things around a bit and points out that “angry people aren’t the only ones who could be empowered by these technologies.”

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The Empty Playgrounds of Tomorrow: Europe's Negative Growth

July 03 2008 / by jcchan / In association with Future Blogger.net
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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2013: The Year of Ongoing Social Unrest or Strong Tech-Centric Recovery?

October 15 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Economics   Year: 2013   Rating: 3

Half Empty, Half Full contrasts extreme positive and negative future scenarios. To create and submit your own Half Empty, Half Full simply follow this link, download the template by clicking on the thumbnail, open it in an image editor such as GIMP (free), then go to town creating totally original Yin & Yang futures.

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