Monday, August 04, 2008

What the Future will bring

Any time a futurist makes a prediction about what will happen, you know he (she) is just asking for trouble. Otherwise, we should have had flying cars a while ago, but curiously, no internet. We would have had the cure for all disease, and not a obesity epidemic.

So, how can we predict correctly? I am going to do so, but working with a number of simple axioms.

First: Civilization's level is defined by the logarithm of data available. There is a significant difference between literate and illiterate tribes. Furthermore, once you can print books instead of longhand copy, and once you have books worth copying, you have a higher more potent civilization. Computers, and particularly the Internet will result in changes we do not yet even see. They are too young; infant technologies.

  • Information availability/transfer speeds will increase exponentally.
  • Moore's Law will continue to hold. Quantum computing likely.
  • Copyright and patent, as well as other forms of "intellectual property" as we know them, will die/transform to accomodate this increase in speed. It may well die completely.
Second: We are reaching a tipping point where we have more knowledge that good sense. We have the power to really destroy ourselves, but do have have the wisdom to save ourselves? The next step in human evolution will be the kind of people we are.

I don't for a moment mean how many arms we have, or wings, or claws. I mean something more internal. It is a question of what do we act like, given greater freedom, or when we think no one is looking.

  • Don't expect for a moment that this kind of change will be popular. It will require greater moral strength, intellectual depth and breadth, and freedom.
  • Civilization will divide into two segments that may be distinguished by the levels of freedom and personal responsibility. One segment will deal with increasing problems in society by increasing govt power. The other segment (and don't expect it to be the majority) will deal with problems by becoming better people.
  • There will be a lot of opposition including new addictions, new recreational drugs, new mind-altering substances. "Escapes" will be popular as people struggle to deal the increasing pace of change and personal demands.
Third: This division will result in a phase change to a completely new level of civilization.

A phase change may be represented by an Ising model. (if I were more evolved I would include the java applet myself, but there you are!) Ising models are used in statistical mechanics to describe the way a phase change acts - like ice changing to water, or water to steam.

  • From this we gather that there will be fluctuations in society, that will increase in frequency and intensity as time goes on. The rate of change will increase non-linearly towards infinity.
  • Fads, fashions, social movements, attitudes, culture, etc. will be in constant upheaval.
  • The Singularity is one aspect of this, but without a change in the spiritual condition of mankind, it will be more trouble, rather than less.

What a future we have in store! How will we be ready for it?

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