Dec 3 2011

The Next 50 Years: Why I’m Optimistic Because Everything Will Be Terrible

Multiple simultaneous crises will create shortages, which will further concentrate wealth in the hands of the few, schisming the world, separating most of the world from the breakthroughs of “singularity” level tech and biotech — this could result in a powerful and eccentric technocrat class with its own elitist rationale for dominance of the technologically under privileged through control of media and mechanism.

When tropical diseases and pests move northward, when monsoons take place in regions unprepared for them, when radical changes in climate impacts agriculture, causing dust bowls in some areas and catastrophic flooding in others, we’ll see a gigantic surge of refugees, hundreds of millions of people, totaling billions globally, moving away from these areas, desperately migrating toward more protected areas.

And don’t forget the black winds, toxic fronts of synergized pollutants capable of killing large numbers of people, quite possibly being formed in the upper atmosphere, like an aerial complement to that corresponding giant whirlpool of plastic in the Pacific ocean. 

Some of this semisuperhuman cyborgian elite will obsess about managing an unmanageable world — and they will come up with some solutions. But other privileged technocrats may well sink into the repellently self indulgent decadence of virtual reality retreats, where they’ll be sequestered physically and mentally both

The real singularity will be simply an unprecedented cybernetic intelligence explosion to many orders of magnitude, combined with astronomically improved interactivity—but the Kurzweilian singularity that allows us to interface with machines until, in his words, “there will be no distinction between human and machine” , will not come about sustainablybecause the psychological and social consequences would be so dire.

People who are quadroplegic have noted that they feel less emotion than they did, when they could still feel their entire bodies. The projection of the self into electronics reduces our relationship to the body, the seat of our emotions, and for several reasons that might lead to an increase in psychopathology.

"I am 100 per cent positive that we can get evolution to work outside organic biology," claims this researcher. If he’s right we could breed the next form of technology. And it’s a little worrisome when you consider that researchers in Seoul, Korea and in Bristol, England using the Venus flytrap as a model have developed plans for something they’re calling an “ecobot” — it’s a robot that eats. It will be able to ingest flesh and turn it into fuel. 

But yes — there will be catastrophe between here… and there.

We’ll have astounding technological advancement against a backdrop of grievous social inequity and quite possibly increasing barbarity, for a period, until we are forced by waves of crises to come to terms with the consequences of developing a civilization blindly. Wars, plagues, radical separation of privileges, famines due to climate change and other environmental consequences, will force humanity to reassess, simply to survive, and accept Buckminster Fuller’s “spaceship Earth” concept as very real.

I’m optimistic for the long term… because everything will be terrible in the short term. 


  1. zhaep posted this