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The First Decade of the Future is Behind Us
Kyle Munkittrick   Jan 4, 2011   Science Not Fiction  

The inaugural decade of the 21st Century is over. Can we finally admit that we live in the future?

Sure, we won’t be celebrating New Years by flying our jetpacks through the snow or watching the countdown from our colony on Mars, and so what if I can’t teleport to work?

Thanks to a combination of 3G internet, a touch-screen interface, and Wikipedia, the smartphone in my front pocket is pretty much the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I can communicate with anyone anywhere at anytime. I can look up any fact I want, from which puppeteers played A.L.F. to how many flavors of quark are in the Standard Model, and then use the same touch-screen device to take a picture, deposit a check, and navigate the subway system.

The FutureWe live in the future, ladies and gentleman.

But you may still have your doubts. Allow me to put things in perspective.

Imagine it’s 1995: Almost no one but Gordon Gekko and Zack Morris have cellphones, pagers are the norm; dial-up modems screech and scream to connect you an internet without Google, Facebook, or YouTube; Dolly has not yet been cloned; the first Playstation is the cutting edge in gaming technology; the Human Genome Project is creeping along; Mir is still in space; MTV still plays music; Forrest Gump wins an academy award and Pixar releases their first feature film, Toy Story.

Now take that mindset and pretend you’re reading the first page of a new sci-fi novel…


Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
Nicole Sallak Anderson is a Computer Science graduate from Purdue University. She developed encryption and network security software, which inspired the eHuman Trilogy—both eHuman Dawn and eHuman Deception are available at Amazon, the third installment is expected in early 2016. She is a member of the advisory board for the Lifeboat Foundation and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.


“Welcome to the second decade of the 21st century”
- Accelerando

Eh, a lot of this “futuristic” stuff looks like transhumanist feng shui to me. How about something “futuristic’” that matters, like giving everyone a guaranteed income and health care instead of just letting the ruling class enjoy that benefit (Bushes, Kennedys, Dick Cheney, etc.), while they lecture the rest of us about the virtues of hard work, self-reliance and suffering?

Most Americans go by what they are told on TV, they don’t even want social democracy; they think it is all socialism & Communism—and them thar lib’rals o’ course.

You don’t consider instant access to the entire store of human knowledge to be something that matters?  Things like universal health care and GBI have more to do with social progress than technological progress though obviously the two are intertwined.  We’ll need the progression of both if we’re going to get anywhere.


The ruling class already has something like social democracy for itself. Do you think President Bush’s daughters, or Chelsea Clinton-Mezvinsky, will ever have to hold real jobs or worry about paying for health care? Dick Cheney helped himself to socialized health care during his Vice Presidency which would have cost him millions of dollars in the private sector. And John McCain has had nothing but socialized health care his entire life, starting from his birth in a U.S. Navy hospital in the Canal Zone; he even received treatment from Soviet physicians during his imprisonment in Hanoi.

Yet the apologists and shills for the ruling class propagandize us about the evils of dependency on money and patronage we didn’t work for, and how socialized health care will screw us over. Their real behavior shows that they don’t believe their own propaganda.

Hard to say. I know technological progress exists; though at this time social progress might be illusory or superficial (however by, say, midcentury this might no longer be the case). For starters, I don’t even know if there exists a consensus on what social progress is. If no consensus exists, what definition for social progress can be validated? Take for instance religious transhumanists, their definition might be radically different than ours. What is a libertarian transhumanist’s definition of social progress? what might a euro-centric (i.e. white hegemonist) h+ definition of social progress be? and so on.

Is social progress illusory or superficial? Certainly not, although there is most certainly no consensus on what defines social progress beyond the ideals of freedom and egalitarianism, which we all want yes? And yet do not aspire to achieve nor act to hasten? Lazy? Apathetic? Selfish? Are we, the people, too easily distracted by innovative novelties? Are we kept A-mused, thoughtless and divided from defining and demanding real social progress?

Again, this is why the buck stops with the individual, to self-reflect, question and incite social progress using the powers afforded by democracy. Yet progress not only requires an informed democracy and transparency, it requires politicians with integrity and character and leadership skills. Building and demanding social progress from the ground, (individual), up, but also guiding from the executive level?

This is a great article, we can be so blinded by the past and the future, ignoring present focus to reflect on the tools we already have!

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

“In the news, a rogue Australian cyberterrorist is wanted by world’s largest governments and corporations for leaking secret information over the world wide web”

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

Slight correction required for my comment above

Quote – “Hard to say. I know technological progress exists; though at this time social progress might be illusory or superficial..”

On reflection, I think you’ve nailed it here also.. although there has been social progress throughout the last 60 years concerning the legal rights and freedoms of the individual, with respect to race, gender and culture, and it is of great importance, it is debatable as to whether we are only making superficial progress now and not taking a more holistic view of the changes required towards the goal of egalitarianism and of global equality?

We all see and understand social injustices and oppression, we profess for the rights of the individual and encourage democratic processes to be embraced by autocratic nations, but we fail to envisage or promote any real social change – that encourages unity or social cohesion? Multiculturalism under secularism is important and yet only merely enforces acceptance of cultural divisions within nations, there is a bigger social ideal here somewhere, are we exploring it?

Since equality is definitely not in the best interests of the favoured few there is little volition to promote unity, although philanthropy does exist and should be encouraged.

And a final note regarding being blindsided by the subjugation of market forces and focus on Self interest.. “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone..”?

Exactly, I think about it more & more. It appeared easy to make assumptions, say, 40 years ago. Today? don’t know what to think anymore; too many variables. Not only “don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone..”, but also (Bob Dylan): “look out kid, they keep it all hid…” More & more I notice how things are secreted. Manifestations of “evil”—negative—are so buried and sublimated that we have to continually, all day, ferret them out. However it demonstrates that we are tougher than we think we are in dealing with info. The organism can adjust, if not the substrate.

The Selfish Society

“Society is at a turning point.  The recent economic crisis has opened up the possibility of revising our values and moving away from selfishness, individualism and greed, and toward a more cooperative and compassionate society.  But having decided to change, what steps must we take to bring about this dramatic shift?

Psychotherapist and bestselling author Sue Gerhardt visits the RSA to show that selfishness and disregard for others in public life has its roots in poor care in early childhood.”


The selfish generation

“We allow marketeers to dictate our social norms - with dire results”

“We live in a culture where the primacy of the self and its satisfactions is everything. We are bombarded with messages telling us that we should have what we want because we’re worth it. As consumers, we are kings. We know that we have rights, that brands seek our favour; that as long as we can pay, we feel powerful. We like that sensation. It is seductive because it is so at odds with the reality of the rest of our lives. As workers and producers we are under more pressure and feel more insecure than ever before. Our private lives are increasingly unpredictable; our financial futures uncertain. There is no general respect for mundane lives, well lived, in a popular culture that celebrates wealth, beauty, celebrity, notoriety and youth. Most of us cannot feel confident about our worth and about the regard in which we are held.”



And power. Every guy, from the bum lying in the park to the sovereign individual, wants power.

I am excited by the future and technological progress. As for supplying everything to everyone in 2011 you should get over yourself and read a economics book. Capitalism has made progress possible, not socialism. The only thing socialism accomplishes is making everyone equally poor. Please wait 40 years for a 100x increase in GDP then I will tolerate making everyone equally poor. At that point I will wave goodbye as socialist go on a never ending happy cruise of being lotus eaters*.

*lotus eaters - happy, apathetic, wastes of space.

@ Cypher..

Agreed, what a horrible vision of the future! A worthless, idle, apathetic and thoughtless Human society, a matrix construct created through abundance and hi-tech, where all wants and needs are met, (virtual or otherwise) and no needs to want or even do anything? The triumph of laziness > through self-ishness, (the root cause of cravings, grasping and suffering)!

Socialism alone does not equate to social progress, for “real” progress it is the Human mindset that needs to evolve through Self-reflection and re-evaluation of values, else we become too engrossed in merely Self gratification?

Two fundamental Human traits - Fear and Laziness. Both stand in the way of progress, and both with the same root cause - Self-ishness!

“Capitalism has made progress possible…”
The above comment is the simplistic type I am always accused of—so we have something in common, Cypher. In address to ‘Abraham’ (his name/handle was a tip-off, IMO) in another thread I wrote so much for exponential progress, in reference to Newton. Since the commenter’s handle was ‘Abraham’ it didn’t seem worth the effort to go into detail, but what it meant was that Newton was as much of a product of his time as a changer of his time (& the future). To arrive at Newton’s time thousands of years of recorded history demonstrated the dislocation and carnage so no one could miss it. It was a vast bloodstained heritage not even including a discussion of prehistorical bloodletting. However, you, Cypher, are not interested in what I would elaborate on concerning this, so I will mention why it is I am not a futurist anymore—at the risk of being deemed a gay (happy) sissy lotus eating seraphimic pantywaist. Futurists are called “cheerleaders”; but real cheerleaders are decorative: leggy boosters of sports teams. A futurist is more manipulative; he sits at an intellectual Oujia board pretending he is channeling forces outside himself, when he really wants to not merely maneuver, but also actively control to a certain extent (I say “he” because women are not usually that way and thus are ruled by men). It is, it goes without saying, about whose ox gets gored. If your people win, you are bullish; if they are creamed by the dislocation, you are more bearish—and can blame the guvmint, lib’rals, socialists.
And you wouldn’t want to forget social democrats, would you?


I enjoyed reading your comments. You seem like a very well read person. I found myself re-reading your posting to make sure I had a full understanding of your comments. I have to points in reply.

1. I was using happy in a literal since. As in, lotus eaters are truly content within their own frame of reference. I was -not- implying they were in anyway sissy or gay. Economically, just collecting a free check does not inspire creation of wealth (artistic, musical, or economic) Not living up to ones potential, in my opinion, is being a waste of space. So to be clear, no homophobia here. A lotus eater could be of any sexual preference or gender. 

2. I did appreciate whose ox gets gored. If everyone can by a $1000 dollar car from a robot factory that is great except if you worked in a auto factory.

Hopefully we can keep a good economic thing going so no one gets creamed in the long run.

So you don’t think it is personally against you, Cypher, two points; one on govt; the other on futurism: no doubt the state exacerbates existing & future situations; taking education (and not just Public Ed), yes, the state does exacerbate the ‘problems’. Yet the underlying cause is that people care about their own children, not others’ children—otherwise some children wouldn’t go to bad schools, live in slums or eat bad food and so forth. America’s deplorably recidivist, “revolving door” [In]Justice system makes me ashamed to be American—however it is mostly due to America’s enormous size and its legacy, not to the state per se.
As for futurism, take the Web as an example, the internet was predicted decades ago, however not because of any clairvoyant abilities. The Web was predicted by those who were engineers, programmers, investors, and those who were informed by engineers, programmers, investors on what was going on. If I predict “Cypher, someone is going to attempt to sell you a used car”, and then I personally show up at your door with the car registration and ask you for a check, does that make me a futurist? if it does, then might I interest you in some nicely moistened acreage in the Florida Everglades?
It is a matter of trust, I simply don’t know if there are enough trustworthy people. Period. Can libertarians, for instance, be trusted in the transhumanist community if they do not even deep down think that any such thing as community even exists? Plus many other open questions need to be answered or at least discussed.

...Come to think of it, it is being too hard on America to write “due to America’s enormous size”, when it is due also to liberty: giving liberty to many means miscreants are given liberty as well—and reining in the ‘bad’ means the ‘good’ are shepherded too.
What we may only be disagreeing on is “capitalism”. If by capitalism you mean predatory-but-productive state capitalism, we are in agreement. It is difficult to be objective about China without living in China for a very long time. However we know it has been an Asian economic ‘tiger’ for decades, the largest one of all. One can’t discuss liberty in China in Western terms to a great extent, but we know it is more autocratic; if you get in someone’s way in China they don’t even have to arrest you, they can evict you, denying medical care (depending where one lives and the connections one has). In America state capitalism is predatory, yet is far less autocratic than in China; however the libertarian ideal of reducing govt has been ineffectual, it doesn’t appear the public sector can even be shrunk to below 40 percent of the economy.

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