The Technium

A Desirable-Future Haiku

The coming hundred years, in one hundred words

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Recently I sent a twitter request out into the wider internets. I got 23 responses, which I am running (with permission) below. I’ll tell you who I selected as the winner in a moment, but first I’d like to tell you what I learned.

It’s a hard assignment. Compressing anything as messy as the future into 100 words is a near-impossible challenge. Almost like writing poetry. And 100 years is so immensely distant from us that we need to fictionalize it. But the most difficult part is imagining a scenario that is desirable.

This exercise began with my dissatisfaction with the visions of our future today available in movies and science fiction. For the most part they are dystopian. Name a Hollywood future you’d like to live in? I couldn’t. OK, maybe I could be talked into boarding the Starship Enterprise, but what about a future on this home planet, where we will all live for the next century? Minority Report? Elysium? Battlestar Galactica? These are repulsive futures you hope never materialize. They may contain one or two cool innovations we’d like, but the total culture of these future worlds is broken, scary, one-sided, and wholly unappealing. Even if we are the lucky 1%.

I am not asking for utopia. In fact, a world where everything worked perfectly, with no side effects, is its own kind of hell. I am a protopian. I believe in progress, an incremental betterment with corresponding downsides each year, inching toward a world that is desirable despite its many flaws. A protopian future would generate plenty of unexpected ills and unjust distributions, but overall the greater net benefits would draw us to it.

It might be that such a pragmatic protopia is so boring and square that it can’t inspire us beforehand. Just as we no longer marvel at the miraculous abilities we have today (cross a continent in 5 hours while watching movies, ask a stone in our pocket a question and have it answer) because each of these magics have arrived in small increments. We are no longer enthralled by simple betterment.

It also may be that there is a vacuum of desirable futures next century because none are possible. We can’t imagine a working technological future, because none work. We are just screwed. Hollywood is correct. The future means we go backwards, or blow each other up, or escape to our hideouts.

Yes, an inescapable dystopian future is entirely possible, but not inevitable. However, a trajectory towards dystopia will be hastened and aided by our lack of an imagined alternative to doom. Without a vision of a desirable future, it is unlikely we can head toward it.

On the chance that desirable futures ARE possible, we need to imagine them.

Thus, my quest for a desirable future scenario. The number of scientists and technologists who have been motivated by science fiction in the past are legion. Poke anyone today working on a disruptive technology and they’ll tell you of a forecast by a science fiction story or movie that inspired them. After hours, many speculation-averse scientists will admit they got started in their field by trying to make some sci-fi dream come true, such as the Star Trek tricorder, or an anti-gravity beam. In fact, the full influence of science fiction scenarios upon science proper is woefully unacknowledged in the official accounts, and under appreciated by the culture at large. The stories we tell about the future greatly affect our future.

At the moment we have no shared positive vision of tomorrow. We are unable to imagine it. I will be quick to add: that includes me. I too have difficulty in describing an exciting future for all of society in 100 years that seems plausible given what is happening today. I can imagine singular threads of the future rolling out positive — massive, continuous, cheap, real time connection between all humans, or total genetic control over crop plants, or synthetic solar fusion energy — but it is hard to see how all these threads weave into the other threads of climate change, population decrease, habitat loss, human attention overload, robot replacement, and accelerating AI.

I wanted some help. Maybe my future blindness was a lack of my own imagination. So I posted my request to the wisdom of the cloud, and quickly got back some revealing alternatives. I know none of the contributors, so I consider this a random sample of my tribe.

Upon inspection, the 23 submitted scenarios share some common dreams. The most recurring hope/expectation is of a new energy source. Instead of fossil fuels, they expect in 100 years we’ll rely on solar and fusion, which will be cheap and clean. Second is the deepening merger of the digital and physical into a holistic internet of everything. The third most common vision is the rise of artificial intelligence and artificially intelligent robots, who transform our economy into one of plenitude and creative work/play. A minor fourth thread is the spread of education in new modes, with universal reach around the globe, and lifelong.

That’s a good start. I certainly desire these. Abstractly the four trends are consistent and cohesive. Yet the specifics matter, as do the corresponding ill effects. But, hey, I only gave them 100 words! That tiny cell can only hold a few headlines, so I have to applaud each of the contributors for their attempt at this haiku. My choice for the most plausible vision of a future I desire goes to John Hanacek’s scenario. I think I’d like to live there, and I think it is plausible in 100 years. My $100 goes to him.

The purpose of this future fantasy challenge was to assist me in visualizing a cohesive, sensible future that I wanted to work towards. The submissions helped. After the 23 scenarios, I append a 100-word future haiku that I wrote, inspired by pattern of their common hopes.

A New Energy Source

Blockchain-based technologies and structures accomplish what most major institutions did. Solar power runs everything, as it is 100X cheaper than alternatives. As energy is inexpensive food is grown in symbiotic aquaponic multi-story indoor “farms”, conserving water, the most precious resource. CO2 sequestration also becomes fuel source, albeit subsidized. We buy self-driving car service subscriptions. Nicotine and sugar are Schedule I and II narcotics. Much as empathy has served humans’ ability to collaborate and socialize, so will it be in the silicon species as they out into deep space to connect with their own kind. — Leonard Kish

Clean streets, cheap healthy eats, remembered wisdom on what humanity is, fused into city planning, food production and manufacturing. Polar shield arrays soak excess UV, beating weirding, concealing polar bear lairs to save something our soul needs. Hybrid solar-hydrogen motors make us free and clean. Solid circuit relay probes take the web to deep space, making nerves for this place. All countries with common purpose born from ultimate recognition that prisoner dilemma decisions on planet earth is a disease we can’t afford — our planet is in rehab at last. When the sun rises each day, we know we’re okay. — Chris McCann

A century hence I imagine civilization not to have added metal upon metal; heaping plastic and gnarled brambles of wrought steel wrapping the earth to form a solid mass of techno-pathocracy, instead to have evolved, prodded along by its new stewards, give birth, grown and green and basking in eternal sunlight. A techno-primitivism where mankind lives in harmony with its surroundings, a new eden, a cornucopia, a garden earth. Our ancient foes flora and fauna kept now as a momento of our past. Not to conquer nature with asphalt but the barefooted first steps of post-scarcity. A feast for the touch. A miraculous biology. — Sean Moriva

2030: The last of the unsustainable energy and fiscal policy edifices crumbles just as embedded intelligence emerges. We’ve got the wind in our sails. Billions of people rapidly move from wage slaves to participating in a decentralized, sustainable, opt-in economy which affords them the time to innovate and crowdsource a tsunami of solutions. 2060: Biodiversity blossoms. Consciousness comes under direct control. You can physically live on Mars, Antarctica, New Atlantis or in the asteroid belt. Many chose life in distributed mind servers and live centuries in a week. 2090: Boredom unthinkable. Conscious population: 10^20. Biome restored. 2114: Begin Second Earth. — Luke Cockerham

The future will be blessed by abundant free/cheap water and free/cheap energy. Water through the work of Dr Gerald Pollack (UW) and energy due to Dr Dan Nocera (Harvard). Dr Pollack’s re-discovery of the 4th phase of water (he calls it the Exclusion Zone, EZ, for lack of a better term) will permit the commercialization of a filterless water filter based on this effect. The EZ is powered by infrared energy. Why don’t we see this on sale today? Its settled science, now its a matter of getting it to scale. Dr Nocera has been working to perfect an artificial leaf. His leaf, when immersed in water and illuminated, breaks the water down to hydrogen and oxygen. Today this leaf is 7 time more efficient than a natural one. Why don’t we see it on sale today? Again its a matter of getting it to scale. — Chuck Petras

Solar and fusion have eliminated energy from most practical considerations. Due to automation, only 20% of the population is employed, mainly in creative jobs. World GDP has grown exponentially, making it practical for governments to provide a comfortable life without the need for work. Large projects are restoring ecological damage. Africa and the Middle East are rapidly developing to the standard of the rest of the world. Education has been reformed to help people to achieve life satisfaction and enjoy learning. Breakthroughs in the nature of motivation have enabled AI with an abundant life for all as a primary goal. — Douglas Summers-Stay

Rise of Artificial Intelligence and Artificially Intelligent Robots.
Creative Work/Play

Physical and virtual realities are meshed together with no distinction. Ideas are given sovereignty with their creators rewarded fairly and directly. The world itself does the drudgery of assembling itself across all sectors that information science has been applied, which is limited only by the quantum information underpinnings of the universe. Humans have taken up their primary purpose of creativity and now work with other intelligences of any kind to ask questions and achieve answers, with an eye toward more questions. “Human” has taken on flourishing new meanings. Imagination has been unleashed upon the world in a literal sense. — John Hanacek

I worried I’d never be as well-off as my parents. I never expected this. We call it “the Euphoric Age”. It’s over-the-top, but it’s a good description of what happens when you trade human judgment for algorithmic optimization. Took a while to for systems to tune themselves. I panicked when my doctor got replaced by an app. Money quickly got tight. There was always enough to eat, though. The air got cleaner; the Internet and (Amazon) PackageNet got even faster. We’ve stopped looking for things to do. And started looking for ways to live our lives. Together. — Andy Hickl

You will sleep in a sort of bathtub for taking care of your skin. The bathtub will be enclosed in an atmosphere enriched with substances to take care of your organs. You will never have to take a bath again. Your clothes will be made from a special polymer and you choose from more than 1.000 looks, and the fabrics will be molded to the look you choose. You will eat all food you like. You will have special lanes for whose prefer to drive, but 80% choose self-driven cars. People will work 4 hours/week. No Police and no Politics. — Augusto Camargo

Immortality had shifted the focus on short term thinking, to long term goals. A new era of responsibility had dawned. Body modifications and rejuvenation were only a virus away (new exotic options were available on the free market), and many people changed appearance weekly, to keep up with the latest trends. This invalidated the past trends of judging by gender and race meant we distinguished entities by expertise and experience only. Since robots harvested the food we needed and built our houses in self-chosen tribal groups with independently chosen government structures, humans were free to imagine and create utopian worlds with more art and research than ever before. — Jean Rintoul

The basic needs of all people will be met, because having everything we need (especially without working for it) is the fastest way to realize that we need to work, serve, and create in order to feel fulfilled. All drugs will be legal, reducing crime, and taxes that fund recovery groups will be built into their retail prices. Technology will make life decisions more reversible, allowing people to take more risks. Your early 20s won’t be considered your last opportunity to go to college. Algorithms will analyze statements made by public figures, pointing out fallacies as an impartial third party. — Michael Elias @harmonylion1

2114 AD. Post-scarcity is reality; all wants, all needs are met with zero marginal cost. Aging is optional and trivially repaired. A superhumanly complex network of AIs, robots, and automated systems manage all stellar resources, transportation, food & energy supply, and explore the interstellar frontier. Nations have passed and splintered into a network of megacities. Repair of the environment and human depredations to a pre-industrial state is nearing completion. Humans have splintered into a spectrum of beings measured by merger with technology, from none to total. The individual is free to explore physical and virtual realities, experiences, and relationships across many lives. — Mark Bruce

Food is the same, but not genetically engineered. Air travel becomes extremely expensive. Companies make money from information asymmetry and selling secrets. Consumers pay for preserving their experience and sharing life data securely and privately, and pay for gadgets that enable more sensory processing power (i.e., to be a super human). A startup incubator becomes the top #1 university in the world. Drivers need to enable self-piloting on highway. A smart gadget company owns 50% data traffic of the world. Without face-to-face or voice, it is hard to tell if someone interacts with you is a person or a robot. — Jackie Lee

A guaranteed income brings prosperity to jobless China in the aftermath of the robotic manufacturing revolution. Hundreds of millions pour out of cities where they no longer need to work, and return to smaller villages which are quickly recovering from the brutal pollution of the early 2000s. Previously quixotic living arrangements like houseboats, remote intentional communities and nomadic vehicles explode in popularity as virtual reality matures and the number of people doing physical labor drops precipitously. Art flourishes and IP restrictions mostly disappear in the face of ubiquitous micromanufacturing. Extinction is off the table. Mars and the Jovian moons beckon. — Eric Meltzer

A Holistic Internet of Everything

The technological advancements in data-rich information networks has reached such a height that self-replicating and -arranging nano-bits have become infused into all matter. What was once inert atoms that made up glass, steel, wood, concrete and plastics, are now richly infused with information technology. Everything human has been understood at such a deep level that these information-rich materials can respond in real time to all human thoughts, emotions, and actions. It starts with a single room morphing into a space with the most ideal lighting, materials, and form as it responds to its inhabitants. Over time entire cities have the ability to transform their entire urban fabric as a democratic response to its population. — Sean Fright

When we have the “internet of things” and ubiquitous sensors, here’s one small use that would warm my heart: anti-vandalism. Consider graffiti: First of all, spray paint cans won’t operate on a surface if you don’t have the owner’s permission. If some young punk somehow manages to start to tag some graffiti, his identity is captured, and he hears, by name, that he is being fined. On second offense, not only is the fine multiplied, but a swarm of paint drones tag swatches of his hair, his body, his clothes, his bag, and his ride. Etc. — Rodney Hoffman

I want to live in a future in which governments cannot hide the actions of corrupt officials as easily, because the very technologies they use to eavesdrop upon us, can be used against them as well. A future in which computers allow us to make informed legal decisions without being at the mercy of an expensive attorney. A future in which injustice and corruption is broadcasted to the public, and those who wish to commit injustice and corruption are more afraid of us, than we are of them. A future in which schools cannot fudge their numbers, in order to mask that they are committing a horrible disservice to the future of our world. A future in which transparency of government spending allows us to quantify the actual costs of medical care can be quantified, so that those who are exploiting the system can be eradicated. A future in which there is a clear understanding of personal vs. public information, with multiple technologies acting as independent safeguard against infringement. — Dallas John Slieker

I usually sleep with my implant on. It lets my dreams mingle with those of my friends, diffusing anxiety, heightening creativity. I wake up naturally, full of energy, excited to start my day. My implant automatically quiets for my morning toilet. I cook breakfast the old fashioned way. Boil an egg, squeeze fresh juice. The bread I made yesterday still has a wonderfully crunchy crust. I open up my implant, listening for what my friends are creating, what they need help with, and adding a few aspirations of my own. Then I pick up my tools and we all get to work. — Steve Hoefer

If the human civilization ended right now, our entry in the ‘Galactic Encyclopedia’ would read: “Terrestrial bipedal omnivores. Created vast cities and virtual worlds rich with information. Although impressive, their existence was mired by an overwhelming failure to understand themselves.” If we can successfully aim the scientific process at how humans work, and why we do what we do, than the next 100 years will be totally unlike the last 100. With the answers to these questions, we will build technologies that push levels of fulfillment beyond anything we can currently imagine. For the first time, our technological innovations would be a reflection of our fundamental wants and needs rather than some hopeful striving in what we think is the right direction. — Oliver Carefull @smollie1

Imagine a future of distributed networks with preset standards. Where important parts of infrastructure are locally maintained. Power, water, sewer, data, transport. Everything available to a community by a combination of worldwide resource markets and local manufacturing. Every town’s things are little bit different, because the look and feel were organized locally, and yet the same because everyone used the same base resources. Distributed manufacturing, local power making transportable power, local food, swift delivery of goods. Clever people online to offer aid. Open engineering. Open communities. Mesh networks. Only the most basic units are standardised. A “lego” economy. — Laston Kirkland

Education in New Modes

The survivors of climate change, heartbroken by the massive die-off, are the gene pool for the next iteration of homo. In adapting to a hostile environment, the latent inclination to compassion and generosity become heritable traits. Systems, culture, commerce, and government have the explicit purpose of providing well-being for all. Knowledge sharing is revered as the most celebrated human propensity. This results in a self-aware global cerebral cortex; humanity functioning as neurons, networks as nervous system. Scientists learn to encode human knowledge on quantum fluctuations that can survive the heat death of the universe, although for whom remains a puzzle. — Alan Chamberlain

For what is desirable to me, may not be to desirable you. This “difference”, in all its forms is a theme for my proposed desirable, technological future. McLuhan suggests, our connected, technological tomorrow won’t be one of tranquility and uniformity. Extending this idea, the tomorrow I foresee is one of a greater awareness of difference, through education, provided via technology. This deeper, more fundamental understanding of “things” won’t prevent wars, or stop all conflicts. I’ll close on the following quote by Aaron Griffin: “Relying on complex tools to manage and build your system is going to hurt the end users. […] If you try to hide the complexity of the system, you’ll end up with a more complex system” — Andrew Stace

Technologically enabled worldwide mass education could lead to rationality replacing superstition, rejection of sectarianism and nationalism, thus shrinking population through volition, not war, famine, pestilence. Fossil fuel use would be reduced by lowered demand and replaced by renewable resources, mandated by a world treaty to freeze military budgets and redirect them to renewable energy development, removing the immediate threat of climate catastrophe. Local sourcing of organically produced foods could further reduce transport burdens and increase basic human health, reducing health care costs. These steps plus redistribution of wealth would provide full employment, less pollution and would save the environment. — Allan Rubin

My Scenario

2121: Population 4 billion; 85% urban. Cities boom, empty suburbs struggle. Agriculture acreage reduced with GMOs. Nature monitored quantitatively; green lands expand with genetic engineering. Solar, fusion, mini nukes generate cheap power. Climate change adapted. Creative middle class the new majority, globally mobile. Computer pilots make travel common internationally. Eco and heritage tourism primary income for poorest. Robots takeover remaining blue-color jobs in Asia and Africa. Internet of everything physical continued. Universal library, and universal lifelong education for free. All humans always on the net anywhere. Brain interface, wearables. Co-veillent tracking ubiquitous. Quantified self for personalized medicine. Techno-literacy (managing) skills mandatory. — Kevin Kelly

  • Javier Lopez

    I absolutely love this list! About time we started imagining positive futures for us to inhabit.

    I’m not sure some of these visions conjure up a protopian view of the future though. A lot of the detailed descriptions of possible scenarios are verging on the dystopian if you ask me.

    And relatively few mentions of health preservation and life extension technology. I was surprised by that.

    I’m also inclined to think that Thorium reactors will play an important role even at the local level. Space-based solar would also be nice.

    I’m not totally convinced by GMO at the moment. Long term safety hasn’t really been tested and yet it’s out there. If all the fear-mongering surrounding GMO turns out to be a red herring then I’m all for it.

    Transportation: if we haven’t developed safe, affordable personalised flying vehicles within 100 years, then I would personally be very disappointed. Especially with all the work going into organising networks and the Internet of Things, powerful onboard computing, intercommunication between all things, drone technology etc.

    Add to that, space planes in development leading to affordable-for-some space tourism in orbital ‘hotels’. And why not, the beginnings of a Moon base and a Mars colony.

    If I have to choose one, I liked Mark Bruce’s entry the most. It’s the vision that I would most like to see unfold over the next 100 years or so.

    In second place, I’d go for Sean Fright’s entry which to me represents the kind of magical possibilities that we should be aiming for.

    But yeah… that guy Kevin Kelly’s entry is probably the most realistic.

    Now all we need to do is… make it happen.

    • bigmaq1980

      “I’m not sure some of these visions conjure up a protopian view of the future though. A lot of the detailed descriptions of possible scenarios are verging on the dystopian if you ask me.”

      Largely agree.

      On transportation, within 100 years the “need” for daily transportation will be drastically reduced, as other technologies prove to be good substitutes for “presence”. For instance, “rush hour” is implicitly driven by the need to be present at a workplace. Will that be necessary in the future? Even shopping (if still necessary, e.g. for groceries) could be reduced to a virtual experience, with drone delivery. The combo of technologies will disrupt the retail industry, and the real estate marketplace.

      Personalized? Only if car ownership remains an important status symbol – perhaps for early adopters. This may disintegrate with the advent of Uber style service from fleets of self driving cars. The economics, along with reduced physical need to travel, will drive personal ownership into a niche – perhaps for those with greater security needs.

      Flying vehicles? Yes. Being more direct, they will be more efficient time wise. This, and the reduced need for “presence” will also make extended suburbs and semirural nearburbs more attractive. People will still desire “space and quiet”. Also, these flying vehicles will disrupt the rail, sea, and air transportation industries. Both domestic and international travel will be significantly more accessible.

      The future will evolve in a series of increments, so, yes, a more balanced view, as KK is seeking, is warranted.

      • Javier Lopez

        It would be nice to have a crystal ball. Many of the predictions of the past simply didn’t work out as prophesied. All we can do is paint scenarios extrapolating from what is currently trending. Either that or actively create the kind of life we want to live.

        I would like to think that more people are working from home i.e. telecommuting. But I wonder how far that trend has actually gone. Either way, of course it will influence how people travel and how often. The numbers depend on whether global population increases or even reverses as affluence spreads.

        I have a phrase I like to use – status insanity – when I see how many people feel the need to spend whatever wealth they have on outward appearance and one-upmanship. Based on the current state of affairs, I envisage these needs continuing well into the future. It’s something that’s genetically engrained into humanity’s collective psyche. Bling is here to stay… for now, although I expect the type of bling to continue morphing into previously unimaginable forms (homes, cars, clothing, smartphones, biochip implants?)

        On the other hand, it would be nice if we could all agree on some kind of Star Trek society of abundance. I always saw this as more of a military dictatorship, but of course I was only witnessing life aboard the starship Enterprise. Back on Earth things are probably not so regimented or do civilians also wear uniforms and live under a strict hierarchy? When I think of how things may turn out, these kinds of less desirable arrangements may come about out of necessity and could even save our butts in times of chaos. Or do you think that everything will smell of roses because, well, it’s the future?

        I personally see existing cities becoming smart city control hubs where most individual rights will be traded for greater convenience and at great cost to liberty. As you say, there will be little need to own personal means of transportation. There may be restrictions on travel as it will be frowned upon for humans to leave the safety and comfort of the concentrated smart city complexes. With many people displaced from work due to increasing dependency on automation technology, they won’t exactly have the means to act independently anyway. Many will be entirely reliant on whatever system is conjured up to keep them alive with minimum but satisfactory requirements. Unless, of course, the not so lucky are rounded up and, well, I’ll let you fill in the rest…

        Only yesterday, I had a rail vs air conversation based on the latest happenings surrounding the AVE high speed train development in Spain. I’ve always maintained that it was a huge waste of money for the territory and the purchasing needs of most Spaniards. Internal flights are far more practical and require substantially less infrastructure by comparison. I just don’t get it. It’ll be obsolete before it’s finished. As will many other ungainly infrastructure projects at the current rate of change. Never mind. Abundance has been promised and so it shall be done. I just think there will a hidden price to pay – electronic tattoos?

        With enough effort and socio-political will, we’ll be ok. The gatekeepers are losing their vice-like grip even as we type. But with greater transparency comes the ability for everyone to police each other and the reputation model of a meritocracy looms larger on the horizon. Will it be what it’s all cracked up to be? I hope so.

        • bigmaq1980

          Thanks for your comments. Interesting. However, too much to effectively respond to, so will only make a couple of points.

          Agree with you. If anyone had a reliable crystal ball they’d probably be amongst the wealthiest in the world. If I understand this and other posts by KK, he is looking for that middle path between merely extrapolating the current / forseeable and the “ideal” future – but which is grounded in an honest realism.

          “Status insanity” – good phrase… There is a “hyper” aspect to it that rings true. We’ve come well beyond the low end of Maslow’s hierachy. From my grandparent’s dirt floor hut, occasionally verging on starvation, to today, we’ve seen a great strata of status develop.

          However, RE: Cars … Status doesn’t disappear, but arguing that it changes format, maybe more akin to how status is separated on an airplane flight. Ownership itself is less important in manifesting that status. Maybe the status is conferred from using certain airtaxi services that operate at a higher price-point, with cars that provide a “higher level” of amenities – as one guess.

          On another point, while existing infrastructure crumbles, it is always more politically potent to push for grand mega projects. They are the types of things that serve politicians and their friends well, invariably at the expense of the average citizen.

          Not sure what political/economic system we evolve into, but, as you allude to, we may be learning that government is no more a “friendly” force than market forces, where merit and reputation have greater currency.

          On Star Trek, there seems to be a utopic back story that one never really gets to see other than a militaristic structure we see on the ship. On top of that, many of the constructs in Star Trek seemed counter intuitive, if not nonsensical. For instance, long had a problem with the notion that the Captain of a starship would personally take on any/all of the risky life and death assignments on whatever planet they were circling.

          • Javier Lopez

            Ha yes, the ridiculous, incongruous, story telling of popular sci-fi. Why would there even be a ship’s captain or 20th century humans for that matter commandeering what amounts to a space probe of sorts?

            I imagine AIs, cyborgs and other exotic adaptations outnumbering good old humans by 1000 to 1 by that time if we do a good job. How can stagnation be considered a desirable or even probable destination given current developments?

            If it’s currently possible to ascertain whether biological life exists in neighbouring star systems by looking for gas signatures and so on then all of this traipsing around the galaxy to boldly go where no man has gone before with fleshy humans in tin cans just seems silly.

            Come to think of it, the whole status thing and many of the problems we currently face on planet Earth have a lot to do with our animalistic baggage. Remnants of our biological heritage. Traits that I wouldn’t miss in the slightest had we the chance to shuffle them off.

            All the territorial disputes are reptilian and mammalian in nature. Posturing, colourful displays of force and status. Insects are guilty too so maybe we have a common ancestor? Heads of state act more like lizards, baboons and peacocks than what I would refer to as human beings. In general, most other people attempt to suppress these urges but the charade collapses in an instant if the veil is lifted for even a second. Scratch the surface of what we now call civilisation and underneath lies raw, unadulterated animalism.

            This is why I think our technology is so important. It will enable life to finally transcend the beast within us. To rise up out of the mud once and for all. To work together towards our goals whatever they may be, all factions pulling in the same direction for maximum mutual benefit.

            Your comment on the evolution of status symbolism is interesting and makes perfect sense. It’s very probable that things are already moving in that direction. Occasionally I come across a sense of pride in owning practically nothing and renting everything only when needed. This way of life is fantastic, of course, while the systems that support it remain intact. If things fall apart, even only partially, people living this way would look to the shrewd owners of property with a certain kind of longing.

            Ultimately, secular optimists will paint as rosy a picture of purpose-filled ascension as any theologian true believer. The nihilists may have it right though. There is no real purpose to any of this. Just as millions of life forms have become extinct on this planet maybe they have also done so throughout the galaxy and beyond and we’re simply waiting our turn. Maybe it’s a universal law and inescapable?

            So, to expand and colonise as much as possible before it all comes to an end? Or simply live each day filled with a sense of wonder as to why we’re here at all? Imagine alien life forms that eat planets so advanced that we don’t even register on their “anything worth considering” radar. We’re just symbiotic bacteria on the surface of a tasty space peanut that the giant alien is about to swallow.

            Even if we do achieve transcendence and become one with the universe, a vast super- organism notching up the next available space to colonise, what then? Is that it? We sit back, crack open a galactic-sized cold one, and mutter to ourselves ,”Job well done. Game over.” to which the man behind the Universal curtain responds, “You have unlocked hyper insane difficulty. Would you like another game?”

  • David Latapie

    “This exercise began with my dissatisfaction with the visions of our future today available in movies and science fiction”

    Two words: Transhuman Space. Now THIS is a world I would like to live in. (Steve Jackson Games, 2002, latest supplement Cities on the Edge 2011, co-written by Anders Sandberg)

    “After hours, many speculation-averse scientists will admit they got started in their field by trying to make some sci-fi dream come true, such as the Star Trek tricorder, or an anti-gravity beam. In fact, the full influence of science fiction scenarios upon science proper is woefully unacknowledged in the official accounts, and under appreciated by the culture at large. The stories we tell about the future greatly affect our future.”
    Reasons I became an engineer:

    • bigmaq1980

      “Two words: Transhuman Space.”

      Cannot believe I missed this. Thanks!

  • bigmaq1980

    “This exercise began with my dissatisfaction with the visions of our
    future today available in movies and science fiction. For the most part
    they are dystopian.” – KK above

    Plausible future world, but consistency is not required.

    “Ideas are given sovereignty with their creators rewarded fairly and
    directly. … Humans have taken up their primary purpose of creativity and now work with other intelligences of any kind to ask questions and achieve answers, with an eye toward more questions.” – Jon Hanacek – winning submission.

    “I don’t really fear the robots acting on their own (yet) I fear people acting without accountability. … Future warfare is shaping up to be the perfect distillation of capitalism. With autonomous robotics, you buy your soldiers directly and upfront. Warfare becomes whoever has the most money, in a more direct way than it ever has before.” – Jon Hanacek, “Future Warfare: Most Costly Videogame Ever Played”

    “Libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and rugged individualists have
    always based their visions of a capitalist paradise on the idea that the
    state is the main threat to the power and freedom of the individual.
    And in the Age of the Gun, that was true. But in the Age of the Drone,
    that is no longer the case. When the rich hold unlimited military power
    in their own two hands, who’s going to stop them from just taking the
    property of everyone else? … Because when the Age of the Gun ends, the age of freedom and dignity and equality that much of humanity now enjoys may turn out to have been a bizarre, temporary aberration.” – Noah Smith – “Drones Will Cause an Upheaval of Society” ( ) referred to by Jon Hanacek – (in “Future Warfare” – link above)

    “I largely agree with his assessment, and share his fears. … This will be a challenging future to say the least…” – Jon Hanacek – (in “Future Warfare” – link above)

    Perhaps both are “plausible” futures. Which one does Jon really believe to be most likely?

    Fair enough, submissions were judged stand alone, and many (all?) were projections of what their authors wish or hope for than predictions of a non-dystopian future.

    Of course there are always dangers present, but why do we emphasize them without counter argument as to how they might be prevented using the same or other technology?

    For instance, Noah Smith argues that “The Age of the Gun is the age of People Power. The fact that guns don’t take that long to master means that most people can learn to be decent gunmen in their spare time. That’s probably why the gun is regarded as the ultimate guarantor of personal liberty in America…”

    Then, why cannot Drones deliver the same? Many Drones are cheaper than guns, after all:

    Perhaps, these prognostications reveal more about the author’s political philosophy than provide any guidance to the future. They still don’t trust freedom under a (largely) capitalist, democratic system, even after several generations of global improvement of the human condition. The fall of the Berlin Wall and reversal of (much of) Maoist doctrine are just anomalies on the path to a future dystopia.


    Technology Submission – State of the Art – Novel InFlow Tech – Featured Project Development; / ·1; Rotary-Turbo-InFlow Tech / – GEARTURBINE PROJECT Have the similar basic system of the Aeolipilie Heron Steam Turbine device from Alexandria 10-70 AD * With Retrodynamic = DextroRPM VS LevoInFlow + Ying Yang Way Power Type – Non Waste Looses *8X/Y Thermodynamic CYCLE Way Steps. Higher efficient percent. No blade erosion by sand & very low heat target signature Pat:197187IMPI MX Dic1991 Atypical Motor Engine Type /·2; Imploturbocompressor; One Moving Part System Excellence Design – The InFlow Interaction comes from Macro-Flow and goes to Micro-Flow by Implossion – Only One Compression Step; Inflow, Compression and outflow at one simple circular dynamic motion / New Concept. To see a Imploturbocompressor animation, is possible on a simple way, just to check an Hurricane Satellite view, and is the same implo inflow way nature.