The Future, Connan?

Predictions about 2525... or sooner

When my grandparents were born the automobile was the hot new tech of the day. They went from a world devoid of refrigeration, television, and computing to one with atomic bombs and men on the moon. When you think of the amazing change that this generation saw by middle-agedom, it might get you to wondering what wonders our future will hold. I have some thoughts on the matter, and I'd like to paint a picture for you.

My sister is fond of saying that she won't allow a TV in her home. I tease her about that, because when you consider the costs TV's over time, in the future, video will be nearly as ubiquitous as print today. Imagine a world coated in video, from billboards to building fronts, chalkboards to happy meals. Interacting with these objects might be as easy as touching an ipod, or more likely you'll want to talk to them. At the back end they could be connected to any other intelligent or unintelligent being on the planet through a ubiquitous and nearly inescapable data network.

And that brings us to the Internet and computer as concepts. Computing today is similar to telephony 100 years ago, when a novel black box put you on the horn with everyone in town. Computing and Internet access is quickly ceasing to be thought of as technology and moving towards being thought of as a utility. In the same way that you can get water from fountains, electricity from outlets and radio from the air the Internet and computing will simply be, not be because. Plugging in will be as easy as finding some tap water today, and every month you'll get your 'computing' bill in the mail... or the email, I suppose.

The gestalt feel of ubiquitous computing will be something akin to telepathy. Minds hundreds of miles apart will have intimate access to one another all of the time and unless you go deep in mountain country you will unable to escape this. This will fundamentally change the way we relate to our world. Immigrants at gas stations and taxi cabs now spend great portions of their time talking to family and friends at home on their cell phones. Imagine this ability to be in two places, one physical and one digital, extended so that it runs constantly in high fidelity. These things are happening and they are happening quick.

But these predictions are relatively easy to make. Like most future casting, they are largely just the natural extension and inflation of phenomenon that are already present.

What is more interesting to me is the potential for biology to fundamentally change who we are in ways that haven't even come close to being realized. When you get down to it the human body is a rather inappropriate home for the human mind. Human bodies aren't really built to last past 100 years or so. But our minds have been fighting to persist beyond our bodies' limitations, in the form of language and culture, for the past million years or so.

Now, biology has a number of changes to bring us before it allows us to start building new and better homes for our minds. Fundamentally, our growing understanding and communication with biology will give us access to the nanoscopic world of which cells are the undisputed masters. This means huge reforms in materials sciences and chemistry. If humanity could put the type of care into nano-meter size engineering and architecture that we do into our meter sized architectures we would have an intricacy and design control of unimaginable consequence.

Even more interesting to me from a philosophical perspective is the consequence that increased biological collaboration has on our methods of food production and ultimately nourishment. It is not hard to imagine using chemistry to produce a sugar from electricity and if we can get sugar we can grow food from it 'generic bio nourishment'. If we can make food from electricity then we would be in essence eating coal (or some better energy - hopefully?). This is fundamentally the only happy solution to the growing world populations' demand for food. Humans are destined (provided we don't kill ourselves first) to allow large-scale macrorganisms the capacity to eat coal and other deep-earth resources that were previously dominated by slow, but intrepid bacterium. This will be a revolution of Darwinian proportion.

The end point of our work in biology will be the movement of the mind from our current body form. There is little reason that a well kept mind couldn't be bigger, ever expanding and live for hundreds of years. The problem is, that the heart collapses and cancer subsumes us before our mind is gone. To seek the kind of immortality I am proposing it will be necessary to free the mind of its breaking heart. To overcome issues of cancer will require keeping stored stocks of low-split count cells that have yet to differentiate from the virgin purity of the cells which we are all born with. A steady supply of L2 stored cells will allow this to happen and I can recommend to everyone that we should start saving them soon, lest we miss the boat.

I'm sure the medicine I am cooking here is a bit hard to swallow. I leave it to you to decide what you want to believe. But you can't get past the root of my point, this world is changing, its changing fast and in 50 years it will be as unrecognizable to us today as men on the moon were to our grandparents 100 years ago . We have to deal with that, and accept it, or resolve ourselves to a life of nostalgic grumpiness.



Johnny said...

Currently, I think the advances in technology and such are so rapid that the economic and political infrastructures throughout world can't really "catch up". So, governments are probably hiding all those extraordinary discoveries from us.


I've finally decided to stay committed to making a next blog... gimme a few days. Big apology.

Benjamin Mcgee Haley said...

Hmmmmmm... I'm not so sure about that, great discoveries seem to bubble up from the bottom without oversight. Einstein published relativity as a patent clerk. Page Rank was a graduate thesis.

If someone is masterminding these information releases then they are way smarter than the rest of humanity. I find it difficult to believe that a group of 5000 could out-think 5 billion.