| 9 Jun 2004 @ 03:11, by ming|
From Ming the Mechanic: Also posted at FutureHi.
A group of creative futurist thinkers tried to imagine the year 3000 within the framework of a conversation. It is somewhat interesting, I think, but mostly because the results are rather pathetic. Despite trying not to, they mostly end up imagining a little more of the same. As they mention, the people in the year 1000 would have made completely ridiculous predictions of the year 2000. They probably didn't even have a concept of "progress". Now, at least, we expect that lots of things will change in the future. But we have a hard time getting over just imagining a gradual evolution of the things we know. How would government be changed, and economy, and education, and shopping? Who says we'll have any? Anyway, one of the better statements from that conversation is this one from Bart Kosko:
"What is Heaven? Heaven's a place where you can create worlds at will, and the ideal Heaven is where you run the whole thing yourself. The current means of getting to Heaven involve various supernatural systems for which, at this point, there's no scientific evidence. So I think we can reduce Heaven to an engineering project, which we're doing. The demand for Heaven is great--witness the desire of every human heart, from the people who built the ancient pyramids to modern society, to live beyond one's biologically allotted time. Our plan is ultimately to transfer human consciousness from the brain to bits of information in a computer chip, or some other kind of computational medium, so that just by thinking--that act of volition--we'll be able to create our own personal world. And I think the first stage of Heaven will be the sensory world, and beyond that I think we'd hit a higher, spiritual plane.Despite that I think that the project of transferring human consciousness into a computer chip is silly and misguided, I think he's got a good angle on it.
What will make all the difference is the disruptive events and technologies. I think there will be a whole number of those way before the year 3000, each of which will change everything. Like:
Open extraterrestrial contact. Thinking that extraterretrials are only folks we might meet once we've painstakingly developed intrastellar travel after hundreds of years is a little naive. They might well show themselves much earlier in the game. And nothing will be the same once we're dealing openly with races that are millions of years ahead of us in development. I'd guess we'd have joined the galactic federation long time before the year 3000.
Self-replicating nano-tech. If we can construct anything material simply by laying out the blueprint of how to make it, that changes everything. All stuff will be free, for one thing, and economy as we know it is no longer meaningful. Neither will a lot of the struggles we now have with the environment.
Multiple Parallel Universes. Once we realize conclusively and demonstrably that there are multiple versions of our universe, a close to infinite amount, and we can actually interact with them - everything changes. Quantum Physics is no longer just a bizarre, but interesting set of equations that theoretical physicists can play with.
Conscious Collective Intelligence. What if and when we realize conclusively that there are higher orders of intelligence than ours. My bet is not on artificial intelligence, but on the manifestation of collective natural intelligence. E.g. we discover that humanity has an intelligence that is way beyond our individual intelligences, but which includes all of our minds. And that intelligence starts acting more noticably and decisively. We can't quite think of ourselves the same after that. The Internet might possibly supply the initial wiring that helps this happen.
Virtual Reality more real than Material Reality. One way or another we'll develop immersive virtual reality that we can step into and which addresses all of our senses. The Holodeck. It might involve direct connections with our neurology and our brains, or it might be done with projections and sensory feedback on the outside. Either way, it will change our society dramatically if it suddenly is possible and practical for lots of people to live most of our life within virtual realities of our choice.
Information Singularity. At some point it becomes quite trivial to record everything that ever happens to everybody, and all meta-data that anybody can imagine applying to anything, and to make it thoroughly indexed and instantly available to anybody who needs it. It might no longer be meaningful to "search" for anything, or to keep secrets, or to pretend that things are any different from what they are, because anybody can check in an instant.
All of these are pretty much already on the program, and I'd expect them within the next 100 years, not the next 1000. And there are of course lots of things I might not even imagine, which will change everything even more. It is by its very nature very hard to predict surprisingly disruptive events. Even more so, a sequence of disruptive events, building upon one another.
There's a political and economical battle which will play out as to who should control all of this. We currently live in a political and economical system that will encourage and assist and reward certain people in power positions for keeping all of these things under their own exclusive control, and for keeping the rest of us in a more old-fashioned world that is manufactured by these very same technologies. Along the lines of "The Matrix". I.e. they might be the ones who make business deals with the extraterrestrials, and who will zip around in private hyperspace crafts, and who will keep the rest of us living in an immersive virtual reality where everything is pretty much the same, just a little fancier, where we still go to work and make money and watch TV and vote in elections, while they keep our every move monitored and catalogued and profiled.
The more important thing that needs to happen way before the year 3000 is something that is neither a technological change nor an external event. We as a species and as individuals need to realize where the real power is. We need to experience a grassroots revolution of consciousness where we discover without a shadow of a doubt that all the power in society comes from us, and that we're free to create something better, rather than just going along with what is presented to us. We need to go through a kartharsis, a transformation, after which it will be impossible for any small elite to control the rest of us by owning the information or the secret knowledge or the technology or the media. There's plenty of movement towards that in the mindsphere of the Internet at this point, but it is not nearly enough. It is hard to say exactly how it will look or how it will work. If we play our cards well and we wake up at the right time, and we figure out how to work together, a paradise of our own making will be ours, where wonders beyond belief are the routine of life. If we don't get it, or we're too late, we'll notice some day that we somehow only ended up with more of the same, and somebody else holds all the cards, and the cards are so powerful that we no longer have any opportunity for changing the system.
There's a window of opportunity that probably isn't all that large. It is an opportunity to evolve, individually and collectively, to be able to deal with a totally different world, as conscious and free and connected beings. The change will probably be within us, a psychological or spiritual change, but its emergent manifestation will be in the way we will be able to network and self-organize and collaborate on a wide scale. It is a matter of considerable urgency.