The Human Future

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The Human Future

Postby Haggis@wk » Wed Dec 27, 2006 11:05 am

DAVID BRIN: "SINGULARITIES AND NIGHTMARES: EXTREMES OF OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM ABOUT THE HUMAN FUTURE:"

It’s interesting to speculate on humankind’s future and I tend to be overly optimistic than many others. I encourage you to read the whole article and then tell us which category you believe we are heading.

”The options before us appear to fall into four broad categories:

1. Self-destruction. Immolation or desolation or mass-death. Or ecological suicide. Or social collapse. Name your favorite poison. Followed by a long era when our few successors (if any) look back upon us with envy. For a wonderfully depressing and informative look at this option, see Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. (Note that Diamond restricts himself to ecological disasters that resonate with civilization-failures of the past; thus he only touches on the range of possible catastrophe modes.)

We are used to imagining self-destruction happening as a result of mistakes by ruling elites. But in this article we have explored how it also could happen if society enters an age of universal democratization of the means of destruction — or, as Thomas Friedman puts it, "the super-empowerment of the angry young man" — without accompanying advances in social maturity and general wisdom.

2. Achieve some form of "Positive Singularity" — or at least a phase shift to a higher and more knowledgeable society (one that may have problems of its own that we can't imagine.) Positive singularities would, in general, offer normal human beings every opportunity to participate in spectacular advances, experiencing voluntary, dramatic self-improvement, without anything being compulsory… or too much of a betrayal to the core values of decency we share.

3. Then there is the "Negative Singularity" — a version of self-destruction in which a skyrocket of technological progress does occur, but in ways that members of our generation would find unpalatable. Specific scenarios that fall into this category might include being abused by new, super-intelligent successors (as in Terminator or The Matrix), or simply being "left behind" by super entities that pat us on the head and move on to great things that we can never understand.

Even the softest and most benign version of such a "Negative Singularity" is perceived as loathsome by some perceptive renunciators, like Bill Joy, who take a dour view of the prospect that humans may become a less-than-pinnacle form of life on Planet Earth. 10

4. Finally, there is the ultimate outcome that is implicit in every renunciation scenario: Retreat into some more traditional form of human society, like those that maintained static sameness under pyramidal hierarchies of control for at least four millennia. One that quashes the technologies that might lead to results 1 or 2 or 3. With four thousand years of experience at this process, hyper-conservative hierarchies could probably manage this agreeable task, if we give them the power. That is, they could do it for a while.”
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Alexis De Tocqueville 1835
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Postby barfle » Wed Dec 27, 2006 2:23 pm

I'm about halfway through Diamond's Collapse, and the characterization of it only touching on ecological diasters, while accurate, is about as useful as the balloonist story, which has been told on other threads on this board.

The ecological disasters covered so far have generally been man-made. It may have been due to ignorance, denial, or arrogance, but in many cases he covered, populations expanded to a level only supportable by excellent conditions. When those conditions deteriorated, whether due to erosion from overfarmed areas, climate returning to normal conditions, or simply a drought that was unexpected (due to the multiple-generation long cycles of such phenomena), the civilization deteriorated into chaos, and in some cases, extinction.

I foresee bad times and good times. We're going to have a problem with petroleum supplies in under a century. That will cause bad times, but I have confidence that we will figure out a way to thrive with minimal use of that resource. Of course, if I knew HOW we would thrive, I could retire from the most incredibly tedious job I've ever had.

Oh, well, back to work.
--I know what I like--
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Postby shostakovich » Wed Dec 27, 2006 10:28 pm

I hadn't heard of David Brin before. I started reading the article, but the verbosity is a real turn-off. My family name is Brin, so that explains my curiosity. I'm sure we're not related. My credo is "write first, and prune prune, prune". In my younger days I tended to allow for long articles, but now I try to protect the hours left to me, however many or few.

I'm a bit more proud of cousin Sergey (of Google fame), also, unfortunately, not related.
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Postby GreatCarouser » Mon Jan 08, 2007 7:51 pm

God's final message? Yes it's safe for work. :rofl:
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Postby GreatCarouser » Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:29 pm

bttp
Sacred cows make the best hamburger.
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Postby bignaf » Wed Jan 10, 2007 9:55 pm

I believe a mild form of 1.
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Postby bignaf » Wed Jan 10, 2007 9:59 pm

GreatCarouser wrote:God's final message? Yes it's safe for work. :rofl:

:rofl:
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Postby Trumpetmaster » Thu Jan 11, 2007 6:36 am

GC,

That is fabulous!!!!!

TM :D
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Re: The Human Future

Postby analog » Thu Jan 11, 2007 2:47 pm

Haggis@wk wrote:DAVID BRIN: ....................
It’s interesting to speculate on humankind’s future and I tend to be overly optimistic than many others. I encourage you to read the whole article and then tell us which category you believe we are heading.

.....


Fascinating, Haggis!! Made me face my innate pessimism.

I fear greatly for the near term future; the early 21st century I expect to be bloody because of both AYM in radical Islam and global competition among 'enlightened powers' for the last scraps of petroleum.

After say 2060 I expect entry into #2, the positive singularity scenario. World population will be heading down to the point there's natural resources enough to go round, and the information explosion from communication technology will be producing that generally educated and enlightened populace Brin describes.

Looking back over my life I am sometimes awed by how much this country progressed in last half of 20th century. In my early childhood Miami was segregated - I well remember separate bathrooms and drinking fountains, "colored passengers seat from the rear" signs in the buses, and property deeds with covenants against selling to Jewish people..... all stuff that's unthinkable now. Attitudes have changed. Accountability has become a pop psychology buzzword and environmental respect a core value. At least in the west.

The rest of the world will follow, assuming we and Europe survive the next few decades.

I think Jacques Brel caught the spirit with his last two songs from "...Alive and Well ..in Paris".

a. :)
Cogito ergo doleo.
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Re: The Human Future

Postby piqaboo » Thu Jan 11, 2007 5:40 pm

Haggis@wk wrote:It’s interesting to speculate on humankind’s future and I tend to be overly optimistic than many others. I encourage you to read the whole article and then tell us which category you believe we are heading.


emphasis mine. :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
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Postby piqaboo » Thu Jan 11, 2007 5:43 pm

David Brin is a physicist PhD and award winning science fiction author. Some of his stuff, especially the early novels, are very worth reading. A few are trite and formulaic. Sci-Fi is a good playground for testing one's world view.

I think we shall go on, and modify. And my great grand kids, should I be so lucky*, will wonder what I had to be pessimistic about, even if they are living a life I would abhor for them to live.

*time to start imprinting the Altoid.
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Postby Shapley » Thu Jan 11, 2007 6:04 pm

I'm always optimistic about our future. I'm also satisfied that no one knows for sure what that future will be. The inventions that we suppose will 'shape our future' won't, while the inventions that enter quietly into the mainstream will. Every problem will invite a new and inventive solution, and every solution will create a new and inventive problem. Through it all, mankind will chug along, 'experts' fretting over our eventual doom while the everyman, the ones that actually will shape our future, will ignore them and plug along.

Dark times will befall us, as they have at times throughout our time on Earth. But some of us will find peace and pleasure amid the troubling times.

I read Tanja's postings over in the coffee shop, and I think about how, if most of us found ourselves living in such an environment, we would think the world had crumbled around us. Yet it is a life she chooses, and even takes pleasure in sharing with us. Overcrowded, poor, little if any health care, mud roads and slow internet connections. Surely that would be the end of civilization as we know it. Yet they manage to strap a cart to a motorcycle and put-put down the abandoned railways of Cambodia, enjoying the beauty of a land pock-marked with land mines. Is this our future? I hope not, but if it were we, like she, would make the best of it and simply grin and bear it. Would we not?

V/R
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Postby bignaf » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:53 pm

that is exactly how I believe the future seems like it will be. though I'm calling it pessimism. yeah, we'll manage, but I think we're headed towards dealing with a difficult situation.

Mahler will survive though!
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Postby Shapley » Fri Jan 12, 2007 7:23 am

If you've got Mahler, how bad can it be?
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Postby jamiebk » Fri Jan 12, 2007 11:08 am

Shapley wrote:Overcrowded, poor, little if any health care, mud roads and slow internet connections. Surely that would be the end of civilization as we know it. Yet they manage to strap a cart to a motorcycle and put-put down the abandoned railways of Cambodia, enjoying the beauty of a land pock-marked with land mines. Is this our future? I hope not, but if it were we, like she, would make the best of it and simply grin and bear it. Would we not?

V/R
Shapley


Kind of reminds me of the "Mad Max" films....
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Postby Shapley » Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:24 pm

Kind of reminds me of the "Mad Max" films....


I think 'overcrowded' doesn't fit the post-apocalyptic scenarios of the 'Mad Max' films.

I once wrote about how, after viewing several months of "USA's Up All Night" movie marathons, I was now looking forward to the post-apocalyptic world. Nearly all of those movies, with classic titles such as Nymphoid Barbarians in a Dinosaur Hell, and Rollerblade Queens featured scores of scantily clad women in a world sorely lacking in straight men. Apparently there is something about nuclear devastation that promises to destroy nearly all women's clothing, leaving them with nothing but animal-hide bikinis and roller blades to wear. Straight men, however, can always find plenty of NASA coveralls to wear. The gay men, who will apparently make up the villainy of this post-apocalyptic paradise, will always adorn themselves in bikerish leather outfits, which makes them easy to recognize as villains. In any case, those straight men who survive to see this futurama (and I fully intend to be one of them) will find that the women, even though they form into warrior-like bands, will swoon over even the worst of b-movie actors. It's the post-nuclear paradise that Dr. Strangelove promised us all those years ago!

V/R
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