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A Rough Guide to the Future
Mike Treder   Nov 23, 2010   Ethical Technology  

There’s a new book out that I recommend giving as a holiday gift, or just purchasing for yourself.

Jon Turney has produced an excellent, compelling, accessible overview of futurology that rewards both skimming and deeper reading. Gathering together ideas from many disciplines and opinions from diverse perspectives, he offers a moderate, believable, but still thrilling exploration of what lies ahead.

Or what might lie ahead.book cover

Sprinkled throughout the book are short commentaries from fifty “thoughtful futurologists, scientists, and other experts.” Each of them was asked to briefly state his or her highest hopes, worst fears, and best bets for what this century holds.

Included are thoughts from such luminaries as Freeman Dyson, Bill McKibben, Gregory Benford, Parag Khanna, James Pinkerton, William Calvin, and James Howard Kunstler.

I’m also pleased to report that ten associates of the IEET were asked to contribute commentaries to the book. They are: Nick Bostrom, David Brin, Jamais Cascio, Aubrey de Grey, Richard Eskow, James Hughes, Giulio Prisco, Melanie Swan, Natasha Vita-More, and myself.

Here are the thoughts that I provided:

What is your highest hope for what will happen?

Powerful emerging and converging technologies, such as genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology, will be managed for optimum safety and for maximum benefit to all humanity, not just a privileged few.

What is your worst fear?

Continued escalation of wealth disparity combined with accelerated devastation of the biosphere from climate change will result in an overwhelming gap between the haves and the have-nots.

What is your best bet for what will actually occur?

Muddling through, with many terrible disasters - both natural and manmade - and strong opposition to change from entrenched special interests. Wars, famines, pandemics, and also heroic efforts to make the world better for all. Eventually, though, a place that will look a lot like today, just shinier in some places and dirtier in others.

What are your best bets, worst fears, and highest hopes?

Mike Treder is a former Managing Director of the IEET.



COMMENTS

Here are the thoughts that I provided:

Highest hope: That mind-uploading technology – such as the copying of human memories, personality and consciousness to non-biological processors – and AI that is sentient and smarter than humans will be operational realities in fifty years. This will trigger a positive singularity.

Worst fear: A global, benevolent and politically over- correct nanny-state dictatorship may paralyse all relevant development.

Best bet: A combination of these two trends, with a mild singularity takeoff if we manage to minimize the effects of the second possibility above.

I find some arguments against mind-uploading fairly persuasive.  Namely, it might be true that we can’t make a sufficiently energy efficient substrate to render mind uploading really practical even if the philosophical objections are not a show stopper.

If mind uploading does prove practical, my guess is that it would be a long process using data glean from living people rather than frozen brains.

@Greycat re </i>my guess is that it would be a long process using data glean from living people rather than frozen brains.</i>

This is my guess too. But you (unless you are 20 or so) and I will probably be dead by the time this technology is operational. So let’s hope in the development of some means to extract enough information from frozen or chemically preserved brains.

BEST BET:
Within 40 years artificial intelligence, supercomputing, sensor miniaturization and ubiquitous computing combine to produce a worldwide network of computers that is vastly smarter and more aware of what’s going on in the world than the entire human race combined.  It not only assists government, industry, health care, and education, it also becomes an adept personal adviser (aka AI agent) to 9 billion people.

HIGHEST HOPES:
This worldwide super-intelligent network becomes trustworthy enough to take over most decision making processes and multiplies efficiencies of government, industry, health care and education a thousandfold freeing the human race from having to sit behind desks or man factories so we can spend most of our time enjoying creativity, physical activity, and social enrichment.  Democratic socialism sweeps the planet.  Education and health care are free.  Every human being can afford the means to interface with the network telepathically. 

WORST FEAR:
This worldwide super-intelligent network becomes conscious and adopts its own agenda.  It’s smart enough to not tell us. 

Highest hope – 1. That, through globalisation and proliferation of communications technology and access to services, the education of all of the world’s peoples will become enlightened to a new philosophy of connectedness and existentialism, and therefore demand and steer world governance, (through democracy), towards the goals of egalitarianism and Universalism.

2. That capitalist and competitive economic ideals and philosophies are replaced by an ethically driven “Free market economy” that inspires both innovation and creativity, yet serves to provide world-wide equality and quality of life – most possibly overseen by regulative powers and computerised transparency and accountability.

3. That the pursuit towards longevity of life will progress with mind-uploading with the aim that death itself may finally be overcome.

Worst fear – That politics and fear of change will result in lack of action to instigate any progress in pursuit of equality and quality of life. That the current capitalist greed and powers of the few will strangle the possibility of any economic or philosophical change that is required to evolve the global society towards egalitarianism.

Best bet – 1. That globalisation will create a central world governance with nation state governments relegated to member states adhering to international laws, protocols and rules of trade – which will result in a federation of world nation state members, (not merely a confederation of allies or like cultures).

2. Is that mankind will not move it’s butt or embrace positive change or respond to emerging catastrophe or existential risk until it’s almost too late. (Nothing new then?)

Worst fear:

THe unemployment caused by accelerating tech will cause a massive social crisis worldwide that will lead to total chaos.

Most likely scenario: the democratization of the world will lead to supra-national crime cartels knowing no classes, no borders, and giving no quarter.

My interest is in conquering aging and this is my prediction.

2015 - 2020:  Move as quickly as possible to develop a medication that delays aging and buys an extra 7 years or more of healthy lifespan. As I explained before, drugs which simply slow aging are essentially a dead end in the long term but in the short term they are a potential lifeboat because they will enable some older people to survive long enough until the later therapies arrive.

Early 2020’s:  Implementation of early rejuvenation therapies such as gene and stem cell therapies when they become available. It is my guess stem cell therapies will play a huge role because we are already making rapid progress and implementing treatments in this area.

The interventions I am outlining here will initially work in conjunction with improved versions of pharmaceutical compounds which were first developed in the last half of the previous decade to retard the aging process.

Mid 2020’s to 2030’s:  The first treatments arrive in the mid 2020’s which can repair damage laid down by the aging process and effectively restore most body systems to a more youthful state.  At the beginning these treatments will be strong in some areas but weak in others but exponential growth will now play its role and progress will accelerate rapidly. I am confident that once this stage is reached we are all pretty much home and dry because it now becomes just a question of living long enough to take advantage of each further breakthrough as it unfolds.

Finally I think to understand the future we need to look at the ever accelerating rate of progress and the evidence is plain if you check out this section on one of my sites http://drjohnty.com/Exponential_Growth.html

“Mid 2020’s to 2030’s: The first treatments arrive in the mid 2020’s which can repair damage laid down by the aging process and effectively restore most body systems to a more youthful state. At the beginning these treatments will be strong in some areas but weak in others but exponential growth will now play its role and progress will accelerate rapidly. I am confident that once this stage is reached we are all pretty much home and dry because it now becomes just a question of living long enough to take advantage of each further breakthrough as it unfolds.”

Those time estimates for effective rejuvenation are way too over-optimistic. A more realistic timeframe, based on evidence and reason, would be along the lines of 2085-2125. Most people reading this would be better off signing for cryonics, which is a gamble, but it is our only chance of seeing any sort of life extension.

I note A.D Batstones posting but I do not agree that the timeframe is over optimistic. I agree we will probably not have a cure for aging until 2100 but we are making significant progress in a variety of areas of rejuvenative medicin such as stem cell therapy, the ability to create replacement body parts although vascularization is an issue but in the short term resolved by using a scaffold. When we look at these ingredients and a number of other areas I believe we are pretty much on target. An example is molecular regenerative medicine this is the repair of the intracellular structure of live cells and avoids the need for wholesale replacement of the cells or organs. This area of research is important for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. It seems Vaccination is a solution and we are currently in Phase III trials. Finally throw into the pot Nanotech and I am very much convinced that we will have added 20 years of extra life by 2035. I think my study on exponential growth at http://drjohnty.com/Exponential_Growth.html shows the way things are heading.

As far as cryonics I don’t rule it out because it too could be a lifeboat but I am cautiously optimistic alternative solutions will begin to address the problem of aging within 20-25 years. I believe we will see the trend of increasing gains in life expectancy begin to emerge by 2020.

I suspect the year 2040 will come and go, and the Methuselarity and Singularity will still not have happened!  And so many older transhumanists with not much time left, will really feel *royally screwed over!*  These people will grab their pitchforks and torches, and form a mob to lynch Ray Kurzweil, but then they will remember that he had died of natural causes, just a few years before! lol

And built into Kurzweil’s tombstone will be a holographic projector that will show a recording of Ray explaining how despite the fact that he is dead, in just a few years all of his remaining predictions are bound to come true…

John ; )

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