Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Here's a groovin' video that plots technological progress into coming decades. On the surface, it would seem to have everything I like -- intelligent machines, a thoroughly dissolved barrier between living and nonliving systems, and Mars colonization.



But as infectious as it seems, this jaunt through the next hundred years leaves me cold. Not because I find the technologies it depicts dehumanizing or unattainable, but because the timeline is naively optimistic, plotted under the unspoken assumption that our planet will continue to behave itself and accommodate our ambitions.

I can't help but fear the real future will be decidedly less user-friendly. If futurology is to succeed, we must jettison our haughty certainly in the "Singularity" and face the abyss squarely. In all likelihood, we will continue to make strides in nanotechnology and computer processing power. But at the same time it's a fair bet that we'll be at the mercy of an unrelenting greenhouse-charged climate, flooded with displaced populations (and accompanying diseases) and forced to grapple with a world in which nearly everyone has The Bomb.

The future is not a PowerPoint graph. It doesn't abide by Moore's Law. The future is a thicket of variables, many with the capacity to change us in ways we choose not to think about for fear of shattering the edifice that transhumanism has become.

(And yes, I know I'd threatened to go on "sabbatical." To hell with that.)

8 comments:

Danieru said...

I couldn't agree more... The idea that all humans will be vanquished from pain by technology is not a new one: utopian visions never live up to their breadth of scope.

The way things are going either Western economies collapse, bringing down the global system or war will ravage the planet, probably caused by a fight for resources. In out attempts to project our current situation into the future we are forgetting that the majority of humans on this planet still live in poverty, at the whim of disease and corrupt governments.

The abolition of slavery in the West did not see it abolished everywhere else. In fact, some say slavery is more rampant than ever before. Some things only change in our perceptions: reality is a different thing altogether.

We Westerners need to take our tech-heads from up our utopian asses before we end up blocking out another generation of the 'developing world' in our shadow.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you back, Mac.

W.M. Bear said...

There WON'T be "intelligent machines" either so long as our dominant technological culture continues to develop from its current fundamentally materialistic perspective. It is just this perspective that produces what I like to call "the mind-brain misidentification fallacy" which consists precisely in believing that the BRAIN is what is "intelligent" in human beings and that by studying subjects such as neurophysiology we can gain a true understanding of intelligence. NOT. (Pages of intricate, abstruse, eye-rolling metaphyscial speculation and dogma to follow! ;-)

Mac said...

I couldn't agree more... The idea that all humans will be vanquished from pain by technology is not a new one: utopian visions never live up to their breadth of scope.

I call it "Singularitarianism." And its the worst thing to happen to futurology in a long time.

Mac said...

Anna--

Well, I was never really gone (as originally intended), but I'll take your "welcome back" anyway. And thanks for introducing me to your Tarot site. ("Nancy Druid" -- cute!)

razorsmile said...

It is just this perspective that produces what I like to call "the mind-brain misidentification fallacy" which consists precisely in believing that the BRAIN is what is "intelligent" in human beings and that by studying subjects such as neurophysiology we can gain a true understanding of intelligence. NOT.

My God, you're right! I think with my arse ALL THE TIME!

Also, my spleen.

razorsmile said...

*watches the video*

Rampantly hopelessly optimistic is right. You can't have the good shit without fixing the bad shit first.

Chris said...

I'm all for progress, but I notice the one thing missing in this prophecy, and so many countless others like it, is the SLIGHTEST interest in how living breathing human beings will actually feel about these developments. But then, I'm not sure the filmaker really cares that much about people. It's all about technology.