What will change everything? (This year's World Question Center question)
Hey, happy new year!
Edge.com has posted its new question of the year, "What will change everything?" with responses by some of the best minds in the world... Always worth reading or skimming. Nicholas "Black Swan" Taleb's essay on Iatrogenic Science and the role of religion in the prevention of epistemological hubris was particularly fresh, IMHO. But there's lots of stuff on space, time, medicine, human nature, future technology, artificial intelligence, environmentalism, and all the rest of that kind of good stuff.
We will make advances in medicine and science, as well as make many more discoveries in space.
Many new prescription medications will be created, and only a handful will be necessary. Computers will either, not advance much, or have drastic progress in the way we design hardware.
None of these things will change everything.
It would take the development of a new virus, or more mutations in a patient's DNA that has been taking some new drug still in testing phases. Something that would create fear, something big.
Or perhaps, the integration of human and machine even further, chips added to every single person with a SSN and the beginning of a project to collect information on these people, and on regular doctors visits, a patient's chip is updated with new valid information.
These chips would also be disguised as something functional, something convenient; like a credit card. You could just walk up to an atm hold out your wrist and be scanned, having instant access to your bank account.
I see amendments, better (and worse) general health, continued poverty in underdeveloped countries.
Cities with a large enough budget would be able to provide their law enforcement officers with scanners that would read the chip inside someone.
Infringing upon your rights maybe? The government will fix that with a few laws creating loop holes making the reading of your chip perfectly legal and constitutional.
Prisons would be the first to receive these chips, placing one in every single person with a criminal record.
Get ready, it is only a matter of time.
It is in a few bibles, and more than one religion warns about this.
Also, the brain- our most precious and least-understood organ will be unraveled. Creativity and will be minutes away, savant-like abilities will be available for segments of time (say 15 minutes as a savant via electro-magnetic therapy) with no side effects (immediately noticeable anyway)...
The advancement of lasers further to where the majority of non-evasive surgeries will be done without a knife. A "new" form of music which turns out to be just a remake of the past, movies will be redone over and over, and creativity will be as rare as it is today.
More artificial organs will be designed, factories will have become fully-automated, unemployment will be inversely proportional to the inflation rate.
The thing about the future, it is unknown. It changes, constantly.
The actions of today will be tales of the past, and reshape our future.
Last edited by Androxity; January 2nd, 2009 at 02:10 AM.
I only got through a bit, but it's a good read. I'll get through more of it later.
I'm skeptical of Howard Gardener's response to the question, specifically because of this part: "As wrongheaded as the teacher's response is the viewpoint put forward by some psychological researchers, and most recently popularized in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success. This is notion that there is nothing mysterious about talent, no need to crack open the lockbox: anyone who works hard enough over a long period of time can end up at the top of her field. Anyone who has the opportunity to observe or read about a prodigy — be it Mozart or Yo-Yo Ma in music, Tiger Woods in golf, John von Neumann in mathematics — knows that achievement is not just hard work: the differences between performance at time 1 and successive performances at times 2, 3, and 4 are vast, not simply the result of additional sweat."
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell does explain research backing the 10,000 hour rule (that professional status in any field can be attained with 10,000 hours of practice by almost any person), but the central focus of book is about how it requires a big degree of luck for any person to become hugely successful at anything. He also gives a pretty compelling argument for why Mozart wasn't a prodigy. I somehow doubt that Dr. Gardener read the whole thing, if any. A petty complaint, but I just had to point it out since I just finished the book this morning.
As strange as it some of it sounds, I probably agree most with Kevin Kelly. A breakthrough in AI would likely change the world sooner than any of the other proposed ideas. Lots of progress is being made in understanding the deeper workings of the human brain, and now we finally have the memristor, the fourth fundamental circuit component, to help us along in replicating its parts. I agree that the first proper AI could very possibly be created by accident though. Countless packets of data fly across the internet while bots sift through, organizing and changing things all over as their programmers see fit. It's basically a digital primordial soup. Something big is bound to form eventually. That's how emergence works: lots of simple things interacting always produce complex patterns (For an awesome example you should see Conway's Game of Life, or any other cellular automaton for that matter).