September 29, 2003



And Now the Extremely Good News

Now that we know what Possibility Space is shaped like, whatís out there? Obviously, there are plenty of possibilities, good and bad. There is one cluster of possibilities that Iím particularly interested in. They combine to create a fascinating scenario for our future. I was going to save it, but what the hell ó the news is just too good.

Everything listed below lies within the possibility space of humanity. In fact, most if not all of these items are possible within our lifetimes. They can be achieved either through technologies we have now or through technologies that are logically implied by the ones we have now.

No magic or miracles are required.

Preserving and Nurturing the Biosphere

1. Methods of production that generate zero pollutants

2. Energy sources that produce zero pollutants

3. Reversing of previous environmental damage

4. Human population levels with zero negative environmental impact

5. Preservation of natural habitat for all living species

6. The long-term survival of all living species

7. The retrieval of lost species

8. The creation of new species and new biospheres

Standards of Living

1. Eradication of hunger worldwide

2. Adequate clean water, housing, clothing, for all

3. Medical care for all

4. Access to technology and knowledge for all who want it

5. Total economic independence for individuals and groups who desire it

Indefinite Human Lifespan

1. Eradication of aging and infectious disease

2. Quick, effective treatment for any kind of cancer

3. Effective prevention/cures for heart disease, diabetes, other chronic diseases

4. Suspension of life not sustainable by current means

5. The transfer of human consciousness to new media

Work

1. Work necessary for economic viability, not for economic survival

2. Continued blurring of line between work and play

3. Full immersion VR to eliminate distance

4. Artificial Intelligences to assist us in work

Recreation

1. Artificial Intelligences to entertain and befriend us

2. Full immersion VR to simulate any experience

3. Consumer model of entertainment rivaled by producer/participant model

I welcome additional items that anyone would like to add to the list.

There are different ways to make each of these happen, some of which are competitive with each other. For example, if we work just on eliminating disease and fixing human lifespan, without incorporating the preservation of life and the repair of the biosphere, we would only increase environmental damage.

So the win-win-win-win scenario for the human race is the one that incorporates all of these items working together.

Ponder that scenario. And ask yourself this question: how can we make sure that itís that future ó not some horrible one, or even just some also-ran ó that we end up with?

Weíll start working on that one next time.

[Although the entry above talks about Possibility Space and Practical Time Travel, it should stand on its own. Of course, if you're interested in finding out more about those topics, here's a list of previous entries in the series:

What's a Speculist?
Practical Time Travel
Divvying up the Future
Types of Future
Reality's Flashlight
i Space

Anyhow, many thanks to Glenn for the link, and to you all for dropping by.]


Posted by Phil at September 29, 2003 05:08 PM | TrackBack
Comments

I'll take your word for it that these things are technically possible within our lifetimes -- but are they socially possible? What happens to the population when nobody dies? Will highly conservative societies actually want people to have access to limitless knowledge and energy, things that could destroy their way of life? Who would be able to afford an AI, and would having one create advantages that others would envy and resent? How about fundamentalist groups -- would they consider AI to be an attempt to emulate God?

Still -- I can't wait to see these things (but most of all I want to live to see the discovery of an earthlike planet orbiting another star).

Posted by: Jonathan Elliott at September 29, 2003 06:15 PM

Will highly conservative societies actually want people to have access to limitless knowledge and energy, things that could destroy their way of life?

Perhaps that is their way of life?

Posted by: Robert Crawford at September 29, 2003 06:37 PM

Jonathan,

...but are they socially possible?
Some of the strongest barriers to this scenario are social/political. No question about it.

What happens to the population when nobody dies?
It get's bigger! :-) Anyhow, "nobody dies" isn't exactly on the list.

Will highly conservative societies actually want people to have access to limitless knowledge and energy, things that could destroy their way of life?
They won't. They already don't want them to have access even to modest amounts of knowledge and energy.

Make no mistake about it, all of the items on the list have huge political ramifications. For example, we don't really need any technological advances to end hunger. We could do that now. When famines occur these days, it usually means that people are being prevented from eating. Someone is using his power over the food supply for political gain.

However, I think that people will win out in the end. In places like Iran and China, the government wants very much to limit access to the Internet. But people are finding ways around that. Future technologies will provide additional means for individuals to secure their own destinies.

On the other hand, if you're talking about conservative societies where the people themselves choose a traditional lifestyle (e.g., the Amish), these developments will allow them to carry on as they always have. But only those who really want to.

Who would be able to afford an AI, and would having one create advantages that others would envy and resent?
Eventually AI will be as prevalent as pocket calculators.

How about fundamentalist groups -- would they consider AI to be an attempt to emulate God?
Probably. However, as I noted earlier, other religious groups will be more open.

Phil

Posted by: Phil at September 29, 2003 06:48 PM

Interesting entry. Thanks. But you commit the holodeck fallacy, which says that any society that advances to the point of creating a holodeck will cease to invent anything else.

2. Full immersion VR to simulate any experience

That's the end of civilization as we know it. What do you with the VR addicts?


Posted by: IB Bill at September 29, 2003 06:57 PM

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