Politically speaking it’s a pretty easy yes. This is a comparison of how the system is intended to function as opposed to how it does, however it becomes more complicated with deeper consideration. The reason that egalitarian influence isn’t afforded is indicative of lack of congruence between the human modeled systems and the impulses and responses of a natural biological system. This should probably also be considered when judging the system as Democratic or Oligarchic.
To suggest that there really is no bottom up influence would be disingenuous in a systems perspective. Of course the fear of the masses is always going to be a driver. The same could be said of fear of the shortages of goods or services or even crippling of a market that could result with over-regulation or Austerity. Taking this into consideration, even the political view of the US as an Oligarchy seems to be temporary at best. Looking at the sociopolitical and socioeconomic systems as complex systems seems to suggest that the political view is inaccurate.
The socioeconomic system has been in flux with a wide variety of sociopolitical systems coming and going for thousands of years. The reason that so many different sociopolitical systems have been employed has been not so much to solve the issues with the socioeconomic system but more to unify the socioeconomic system with the natural impulses and responses of the biological system. It of course has been failing for thousands of years.
It may be more effective to change the discussion in context when trying to assess the dysfunctions in the system. Behavioral Science is coming of age. The fact that political discourse will use it to it’s advantage and deny it otherwise is a clear indicator that the status quo is tied firmly to the flux. This would be expected with thousands of years of precedent.
It’s difficult to have a scientific discussion about social transformation without our current understanding of our level of agency as an axiom. It’s just not complete without the knowledge of how the system manipulates the manipulator. Maybe it’s time for humanity to learn the difference between discernible influence and cause.
Antiquity and Medieval times are referred to as the Old World. The revamp of Democracy and the birth of Capitalism and The Enlightenment are referred to as the New World. This coincided with the colonization of the Americas. The Third World is a reference to countries that haven’t yet shrugged off social paradigms likening to the Old World.
It’s expected that Third World countries will find solutions that are learned from New World mistakes. This isn’t necessarily the case but it would probably result in competitive advantage. Being at what seems to be a disadvantage by the modern standard has more practical implications. This is something that was employed in the Americas in the times that the New World was being formed.
A more practical approach to Economics has advantages over the “dollars and cents” approach that eventually ensues. Being more pragmatic allows one to be more mindful of the fact that resources are the physical objects that the currency symbolizes. It also enables a mind set that can more effectively consider “externality”. This is because societies become habituated in mature socioeconomic paradigms and human nature defaults to unified or oversimplified goals due to Heuristics. The currency has historically been the object of attention in societies that have been at least somewhat stable. This is encouraged by the need to pay taxes and the issues with Barter. The acquisition of currency becomes the goal, and the acquisition of resources and the cooperation with “externality” becomes a sub goal.
Having the benefit of the learned experience of others is what made the New World so competitive. The colonies in the west had what was essentially a fresh start where past mistakes could be considered and worked around. Much of the Third World is in a similar position now. The chance that the Third World would rise in a socioeconomic paradigm similar to the current one seems extremely unlikely as competing with similar models would dole out too much resistance. Considering that the Third Worlds’ position is one of more urgency, influence is more likely with models that are more accepting of competition.
It’s thought that the Third World countries are likely to be the next leaders in World Economics for more reasons than I have given here. It seems pretty important to get this right for just as many reasons.
With additive or subtractive intent, the opposite tends to be required for economic gain. The most natural response for humans to address issues is Negative Utility as issues are the common subjects of our attention. In order to remove the offending property, principle or policy, Positive Utility is often required. This makes it difficult to be a purest as a Positive or Negative Utilitarian. Negative Utility is required for locating the issues through analysis however the solutions themselves are more than likely to be born in the creative processes of Positive Utility. They appear to be binary components of the methods by which humans solve problems.
Negative Utility on its own has pitfalls as removal of a specific aspect may leave a systemic dependency unsatisfied. This is because of the over lapping spheres of influence of specific components. This would be the case with any component that serves two or more functions. This is often the case as components tend to have more than one property. Even where there is an unwanted feature that exists and serves no useful purpose, Negative Utility may still not be enough on its own. This might be the case where vulnerabilities exist. Liken it to removing a thorn from ones side. The removal solves the initial issue however the thorn caused some degree of damage. Positive Utility is utilized to clean and dress the puncture. One might also fashion rigid gear to protect ones side from thorns.
Positive Utility can bring about interesting projects and ideas. Designing novel systems can be immensely useful but not without implementation. This requires filling a needed or desired function in an overarching system. For determining this Negative Utility is what is required. It enables focus on what is either broken or missing. Negative Utility produces a mindset that allows us to leverage our creative energy toward the challenges that we face and our standard of living. Without this ability to apply innovation, efforts could result in a large pile of useless novelties and therefore economic waste.
Balance of Positive and Negative Utility may be somewhat conserved in natural systems.
This is a fun post that I’ve been considering for some time now. The lack of functional crystal balls begs not the usual bag of popcorn that one might prepare for such an entertaining undertaking, but rather a bag of pure sodium chloride. In the interest of not going to the extremes of confirmation biased hubris, I’ll only extrapolate with influential technologies that either exist or are being researched by entities that have the resources to bring them about in decades. I also will not suggest time intervals. I’ll center it on technologies as they tend to be the more influential factors in social transformation.
Technological advancement has been the most influential factor in the transformation of societies for tens of thousands of years. This transformation has been accelerating significantly due to these advancements. One of the more obvious reasons may be that these technologies aid in the process as tool sets resulting in a positive sum. As the process propagates, the quantity of technologies increases the rate at which measurable advancement occurs. Without a defeater of some form or another, one would expect this condition to continue. These would include but probably not be limited to existential crisis and social denouncement. In other words, if we die out or stop seeing the competitive advantage of technological advancement. It may be important to point out that the probability of such things occurring is not zero.
Expected Social and Economic Impacts of Probable Future Technologies
1) Global Communications Networks
Though there is global telecom in place in the form of the internet, it may not be the solution that future societies will utilize. There are many issues that the very person who implemented the internet might see as internet killers. During its conception, he concluded that it would only function as a liberated public space. This however is being undermined by constant judicial legislation, aggregation of the physical resources and diversification of access. This however is not necessarily a defeater to global telecom in general. This type of scenario in the past has proved to be a motive for innovation. The current models that are prepared to address this issue in the context that it requires are based upon crowd sourcing. Mesh networking would essentially crowd source the infrastructure preventing aggregation. As personal devices become more cost effective and powerful, the probability of even home hoasting becomes palatable. This would not be at all unlike past instances of technologies being refined and distributed to the general public. What this would require is financially permissive hardware suited to the task and a distribution of tech savvy individuals that includes the vast majority of inner circles. This is something that could very well occur in decades.
2) Smart Appliances
The “Internet of Things” is a proposal to employ smart appliances to the task of automating technical support, daily household management tasks, preventative medicine and a wide variety of other applications. The competitive advantage of such a connected environment is enormous. Though some of the proposed usages are clearly non-essential curiosities, many would have the potential not only to raise the quality of life but maybe even save lives as well. A toilet that could periodically perform a urinalysis or analyze a stool sample nay have the potential to detect certain cancers in the earliest of stages. This is the kind of advancement that rallies public support. It may not be that internet of things in its intended form will come about however the usefulness of smart appliances makes it a contender for future use. There are already a number of smart appliances in existence and probable defeaters seem few and not as weighty as some of the possible advantages. A toilet that could analyze waste could also have the ability to test for substance use. This could have a unfavorable impact on ones insurance premiums. This would likely be weighed when considering this technology as a part of ones home. Though this may be a likely part of our lives in the near to mid term, I suspect that many of the individual products will have shelf lives. The preventative medicine toilet for instance may become obsolete with the introduction of recycling technologies. The study of natural systems has brought about an understanding that helps us to economize with respect to our footprint. I would expect that our waste would be considered as well. The changes that occur in our immediate environment will likely have similar effects on a large number of the devices that we interact with. Given time one might be able to construct an evolutionary tree of devices that are probable to exist and to become obsolete. This would be based upon their function and their value to their intended users. This would probably also include changing social norms (fads) that would be improbable to predict.
3) Automated Transportation
Forms of this have existed for more than a century. Though trains weren’t completely automated in the past, it seems feasible to automate them in the near future. The trains of the past however didn’t need to be steered like horse and carts and the first automobiles. The tracks were the automating feature. The self driving car is not only on the drawing board, simpler instances of automation are being applied to cars in the present. Steering assist is one good example. There are however some difficult problems to solve. Particular environmental conditions are hard to engineer for. Rain and potholes for instance are factors that complicate the task with irregularity in the environment and sensors. These do seem like solvable problems though. There is currently a proposal to automate maintenance with potholes specifically being a target. Infrastructure might be a solution for rainy conditions if advancement in sensor technologies fails. Confidence in this technology may be premature but it might not be a good idea to bet against it. The competitive advantage of this is powerful. The number of deaths per annum would drop dramatically as they would likely be prevented by such an advancement. Vehicle accidents are one of the most prominent killers in the developed world. This is definitely a contender for public support. Some other probable, favorable outcomes might be decreased insurance premiums, traffic management as they would likely be networked and freeing up driving time for other activities. The cons are mainly sentimental and weigh poorly against the pros. If it is practically possible, I would call it probable. Self driving cars specifically however may not be sustainable. This will be addressed later on.
4) Quantum Computing
Though there is some debate about how useful and prominent this technology will be, it exists. The D-Wave though not a system that functions at the quantum scale, still cleverly manages to produce quantum effects that are used for computation. Its advent brought about the discovery of a large number of quantum algorithms. Work is actually being done with that particular machine. Rather than having numerous transistors in its processor, it has loops or squids that when super cooled achieve an effect similar to superposition where the electrons flow both ways around the loop. This being a proprietary IP, the details are not generally available. One of the main hurdles to quantum computing has been the issue of volatility associated with decoherence. Using electrons to store a state is difficult as higher energy states are unstable. When an electron is in a higher energy state it can drop to ground state by simply giving off a photon. In a case where the energy state is used as information storage this of course results in volatility. The D-Wave however cleverly does calculations in the ground state. This proof of concept is a testament to the possibility of quantum computation playing a role in future technologies however extrapolation of the prevalence of quantum computation in future decades is as difficult as quantum computation is to understand. It would to some degree be a probable presence in a research capacity. The technology itself is interesting enough for studying quantum mechanics that one could be confident that it won’t go out with the bathwater if more general usage doesn’t come to fruition. Therefor as a research tool it seems probable. The future will tell if it can be marketed. This may rely on emergent technologies to solve the problems or even experimental discoveries.
5) Virtual and Augmented Reality
The video gaming industry is pushing VR and AR development. The technology has made some respectable strides in the past decade. Open and closed development are both solving a whole host of issues that made it seem impractical in the past. Miniaturization, speedy components and latency mitigation has made the virtual experience a thing of the present. There is no reason to think that it will not proceed into the coming decades. One concern that might arise is the perceptual limits of humans. Though there really isn’t a large number of instances of vertigo and similar effects though the technology is still in its infancy. As the experience becomes more realistic the issues may become more common. The medical and biology community will likely be the first to detect the issues should they arise. Confidence in its maturity in the coming decades may seem probable however the empirical data from usage may be the best indicator. Barring such issues it seems to be a candidate for future use. This might include a wider variety of applications that one could dream of. It being a perceptual tool could make it useful to just about any person or organization. For instance it may play a part in such important applications as machine mediated micro surgery. The potential value makes it worthy of confidence.
6) 3D Printing and CNC
Technologies have a tendency to become more attainable over time. This also seems to be the case with manufacturing technologies. Now that the Industrial Revolution is winding down and the Technological Revolution is moving into full swing, cost effective technologies for producing goods are being distributed to the individual. 3D printing is now becoming popular with particular communities, and resources and solutions are being crowd sourced via swarm intelligence. This includes solutions for recycling plastics. This has the potential to divert some of the manufacturing to the home. This could result in a significant decrease in centralized manufacturing itself. The cost effect isn’t entirely clear as efficiencies that exist in mass production would be countered by lack of need for transportation and other forms of overhead such as employment, brick an mortar and utilities. Some of the utilities would only translate to the individuals usage though. The more influential impact would be with the manufacture on demand aspect of home manufacturing and the personalization that is possible with such a technology. Assessing its viability into the future is actually pretty complicated because of the swarm intelligence that is proving to bring about unexpected solutions and applications. Confidence in its existence in the future isn’t as complicated as determining its prevalence. For instance electronics are now being printed over allowing more interesting products to be produced. This adds a large number of factors to consider in order to make predictions about the impact that 3D printing will have. It may be safe to say that the impact will be significant however that is a vague statement. It has the potential to be commonplace and generally useful. This would include private organizations, government research and development and even the medical field as substrates for organs are being 3D printed. It’s definitely a contender with a great deal of promise, but the degree at which it will be a part of every day life may have to be seen.
7) Material Science
Some very exciting developments in material science have made headlines and solved a wide variety of problems. From microfiber to hydrophobic and structural coatings to graphene to water transfer etc. etc. you get the picture. There really is no telling where this technology will go. The applications have already been diverse and there is no reason to think that it won’t continue to diversify as properties of specific and combinations of materials are to be leveraged for utility. This isn’t just complicated by the immaturity of the technology itself but also how difficult the discipline that the products emerge from is to understand. It seems to be the next big thing in chemistry but determining its probable persistence is probably improbable. It’s easy to suspect that a wide variety of interesting materials will result from the research and development but what they might be is probably any qualified individuals guess. Exciting developments in material science is probable into the coming decades but the extent is probably intractable.
8) Nano-Assembly (grab your salt bags)
This is a difficult problem to solve however it’s being mentioned because DARPA is researching it with its Atomically Precise Manufacturing project. The difficulties are many with not only practical issues but also theoretical issues. The prospect of developing a machine that can pick and place various elements and compounds entails advanced chemistry and even quantum mechanics. The fact that a government agency has taken the initiative to do the research may mean that some theoretical progress is afoot. Though the project isn’t as transparent as one who would wish to assess its viability might desire, there are advancements in nano-tech that at least afford some confidence. DNA Origami is advancing at an unexpected rate. DNA molecules are being fragmented and restructured to develop nano tools that are impressive. Even as such the most knowledgeable of researchers might be hard pressed to make predictions about it’s prevalence in the future. The advent of other technologies may be instrumental in its development. This might include micro and nano bots, quantum computing and maybe even AI.
Assuming that it is a success it could be the biggest game changer in the history of humankind. The potential is immense. This technology could in principle change almost every facet of human existence. It would in essence be the holy grail of a wide variety of endeavors. It could produce just about anything. It would be the ultimate recycling solution. Given time to become mature and available to the individual, it could render homes effectively self sustaining. It could make markets and therefor the monetary system obsolete. This could happen as a result of elements becoming the primary product. This would create issues that would be controversial and maybe even damning. Selling elements in a competitive marketplace would be made awkward by the fact that magnesium is magnesium is magnesium. No one would be able to produce a better magnesium. This diverts competition to model development. The end game in such a situation would seem to be centered around the initial funding of a particular organization. The one that begins with the most access to resources is likely to be dominant to the point of monopoly. It’s intrinsically an aggregating ecology as the organization with the most funding is likely to be capable of producing the most favorable price point for a product that is utterly indistinguishable from a competitors product. The possible markets that could exist in such a situation might be recipe markets that produce recipes for nano assemblers. This is already becoming less likely as free and open source resources could easily beat any price point as it would be gratis. The open source community and even the scientific community would likely be involved in such research and distribution. The technology might also be leveraged toward waste management including biological waste. It could likely produce any food item as well. It’s the Star Trek replicator and DARPA is working on it. It’s such a difficult project that confidence in it would be naïve but it could effect more change than any other technology I address in this article.
9) Technological Prosthetics
This is such a useful and appealing technology that it begs acceptance as a future staple. Though prosthetics would be a competitor to organs and limbs grown from stem cells, the advantage is the transcendence from human constraints. The notion that prosthetics could out perform human counterparts is being proven over and over again in use cases. There is no reason to think that this trend will not proceed as the evolutionary process is so much slower. The advantages are compelling to the point of confidence in the technology as a major part of human advancement and general transcendence. The most probable defeater may be human psychology. The ability to accept technology into ones identity is imperative in the initial stages. This may be a high hurdle for cyborgism. This is showing promise to some degree with sensory aids and limb replacement however where there is no injury or physical deficit present, it may be a more difficult sell. Intuitively the competitive advantage could have a snow ball effect as few might be willing to accept the enhancements for competitive advantage and others follow to compete. Augmentation is likely to be advantageous to the point that those who augment are essentially super human thus no longer human. This is a bit of a paradox in that the advantage and potential discomfort are somewhat comparable. The solution to this paradox however is humanity. There will be adventurous and even reckless types that will go first. Our ability to advance would greatly increase with the shedding of our physical and intellectual constraints. Confidence in this technology is iffy however consideration of its viability is more than doable. Consideration with a particular thought experiment has resulted in confidence in its social acceptance for me personally. Consider to data points, the first being the amount of time it might take legacy humans to achieve type two status vs the time that it might take augmented humans to reach type two status. Now compare that to the amount of time it might take western societies disgust in cybernetic technologies to subside. I have little doubt that we will achieve the ability to augment human biology. Through the course of doing so small applications are likely to be more acceptable and a viable path to more intrusive applications that would be developed later on. I suspect that the transition between type one and type two will be a cyborgs journey. One of the more compelling reasons is human competition with number 10.
10) Artificial General Intelligence
Though this technology is not in existence at the moment it is being developed with funding from the Chinese government with the China Brain Project. It is said that AGI is the last thing that humans need invent. There really is no debate in the scientific community as to the possibility of self aware computational systems. The problems to solve however are many. Even the skeptics tend to see a future with AGI. Trying to peak into that future presents interesting problems. Computational systems develop as opposed to evolving. Rapid change is not only possible but may be in fact probable. This makes extrapolation more challenging than even the most hard core of futurists will hazard.
The foreseeable future appears to be a place where Socioeconomics is vaguely precedented. It’s been 10,000 years since such socioeconomic change has taken place. Relative self sustenance of family homes would be an exciting achievement. Having the resources to literally work for yourselves is more interesting with inquiry. It would essentially redefine socioeconomics. It distributes the system to the point that the relevance of the prefix would be debatable. The economic system would in essence be local economics.
The society in the future could be comprised of a diverse populous of humans, machines and cyborgs that blur the lines in between. There may still be hunter gatherers, agrarian, industrial and technological human societies. There may also be space faring cyborg, android and stationary computational AGI. There also may be a work force of smart service robots that lack sentience. A smaller probability may be genetically engineered humanoids that are much higher functioning than legacy humans. Probabilities concerning this are difficult as little is known about what it might take to mitigate evolutionary baggage and enhance neurology with genetic engineering. This is probably to be seen.
Interaction with technology is likely to be rich. Varieties of interaction for varieties of lifeforms would be what the doctor would be ordering. Interfaces might be as diverse as the population. There may not be many spaces or surfaces that cant access a menu of some sort.
Telecom infrastructure may be crowd sourced. As a distributed system it bares many advantages such as it cannot be aggregated and it cannot be taken down by the failure of a central hub. This model might be the ideal conditions for the principles that the internet was based upon. It may be a sustainable model for global telecom.
Transportation may not be as relevant as it has been in the past for day to day activity. If the home provides most of ones needs then transport isn’t as essential. This of course doesn’t mean that it becomes extinct. Self driving cars may not have longevity as commuting may not be a thing. For visiting and vacationing, public transportation may be faster and more comfortable. With an economic system that is as foreign as local economics, transportation isn’t so easy to predict.
Explanations for Choices
Sustainable energy sources and fusion reactors were not included because they don’t really fit in with futurism. This is partially because scientific theory includes them with the manner in which scientist classify proposed civilizations. Sustainable sources like wind and solar are very real now and are prominent in developed countries one of them uses them primarily. They are not futuristic they are here. Fusion reactors are a possibility but extrapolation with such technologies could lead to type two technologies which is even a bit too far ahead for futurism.
Gene therapy and life extension technologies were not mentioned because the large entities are data mining rather than funding a wide variety of laboratory research projects. This may change however so consideration is probably a good idea. Bioinformatics is a good research tool however it may prove to be no substitute for good old laboratory experimentation. On the other hand used as a guide for physical experiments it may prove to be powerful. The criteria that I chose initially may actually be excluding this technology without warrant.
Crowd sourcing was not mentioned on its own accord as it exists now and is essentially intractable. It is swarm intelligence and distributed to the point of intractability due to its pliable applicability. The uses for crowd sourcing are vast as it is a model that is based in the principles of natural systems. It’s extremely difficult to support possible uses of it due to this.
Genetic engineering wasn’t mentioned on its own accord either for a couple of reasons. It might compete with cybernetics and might loose. It also might not be acceptable for those who wish to remain biological as reasons associated with belief systems might exclude it as well. Also there isn’t a large amount of funding for it.
Space travel wasn’t mentioned because it exists now and the technology isn’t changing. We are still using rockets and possible propulsion systems are extremely difficult to predict. This is because support is almost non existent. Nuclear propulsion is risky because delivering it to space could be catastrophic with a failure that included an explosion. Ionic propulsion provides little thrust and the theoretical hurdles for alternatives are numerous. Lack of information prevents prediction even though it’s safe to assume that space travel will be a part of the future.