world of the near future
Predictions and ponderings for our near future: We can't change the past but we can and do create the future. But is it the future we want? What wonders (or nightmares) are we inventing? What new technologies will we design to deal with today's challenges? Or does the universe have plans of its own?
SEEING the NEAR FUTURE
Here's an essay where I explore the theme of the near future. "Can We See the Near Future? The Odd Way We Design our Destiny," supplements a transcript of my interview on the Public Television show Closer to Truth. About a hundred years ago, people all over the world began drifting away from priests, kings and national flag-totems, transferring their loyalty instead to fervid ideologies -- models of human nature that allured with hypnotically simplistic promises. Often viciously co-opted by nation states, these rigid, formulaic, pseudo-scientific incantations helped turn the mid-20th Century into a hellish pit.
a 40-year FORECAST
In this video two renowned futurists, David Brin and John Smart, discuss what inventions and adventures await us in the next 40 years.
an "UPLIFT" in our FUTURE?
The novel Earth is known for its many predictions that were realized. Did the Uplift novels like Startide Rising and Existence predict the latest scientific innovation? "... scientists have successfully enhanced the intelligence of rhesus monkeys using a brain implant, albeit temporarily.... And it's clear that this precedent-setting breakthrough is just the tip of the iceberg: Ongoing advancements in pharmacology, genetics, and cybernetics hold huge promise for the further development of 'uplift' technologies."
Scientific American also interviewed me for their Too Hard For Science? series about "Raising Animals to Human Levels of Intelligence." If we cannot find aliens in the stars, we might uplift "alien" intelligences on Earth.
PREDICTING the FUTURE
There are good reasons for concern about what will happen, ranging all the way from terrorism to economic uncertainty in a technology-driven world. For example, what if tomorrow's chemists shrink their labs the same way cyberneticists transformed computers? Will teenagers with a desktop MolecuMac be able to synthesize any substance, at will? And does science fiction help us to explore the future in a useful fashion? Today we routinely use words like "robot" and "genetic engineering" that were limited to the pages of science fiction novels just a decade ago.
I worked to establish Predictions Registries, a method that might help us better "score" the credibility of those who want us to trust their vision of tomorrow. Now see Hubdub.com, a site that tries to generate a lot of fun while encouraging folks to stick their necks out, betting on matters like the VP sweepstakes or the Dow Jones or potential Olympic flag bearers, with credibility scores rising or falling with outcomes.
But even more important than the things we predict accurately are the events that are prevented by good science fiction.
Citizen engagement is essential to our fast-changing civilization. Politics could certainly use more empowerment of common citizens. So could innovative commerce, and even national defense relies on a robust citizenry. But one area with especially bright prospects, is crowd-sourced -- or individual participation in -- inventiveness and science.
questions... and ANSWERS
Here are answers to a compilation of questions that I'm frequently asked about the future, including: Is there hope for the future?
a CLIMATE of CHANGE
Every few years I weigh into a battlefront in culture war: Global Climate Change. Trained as a scientist, and knowing many who research the atmospheres of 8 planets, or who propelled spectacular advances in weather forecasting, I tend toward listening to expert advice on this one - especially since we're only being asked to do things we should be doing anyway. (Ironically, I coined the term "age of amateurs" and pushed citizen power! Still, expert knowledge matters.)
In 2007 I posted an essay dealing with some logical flaws in the denial-movement. Now I go after those who claim: "I'm not denying science - I'm a skeptic, just asking questions!" In fact, I know some real skeptics. I'm one, myself! But in "Distinguishing Climate 'Deniers' From 'Skeptics'" I distinguish these posers from the real thing.
Since I look at the world through the eyes of a scientist, I offer quirky and interesting... if sometimes unusual... perspectives on our world. In the aftermath of two major disasters -- the Asian tsunami and the preventable destruction of New Orleans -- I posted a political essay about how such crises are worsened when professionals and citizens interfere with each other.
Another, more philanthropic, essay discusses proxy activism, a convenient way modern folks can hire others to save the world for them.
Finally, there's a science-oriented notion (cribbed from my novel Earth) about how it might be time to let the Mississippi take its natural path to the sea.
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