The Future Is Not Here Yet, But It Is Coming

Thanks. Maybe one thing I am saying is that we ALL have some blessings on ourselves. Ones we have in increasingly larger quantity. Lives in Vietnam, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Italy, England, places all over the world, are so much more lives of ease than when I first traveled overseas 42 years ago. Nations in every corner of the world are more prosperous and are catching up and passing the U.S.

And time is the area of prosperity that is the biggest blessing. It is the most fundamental thing, I think, that we are living longer. Second is that we are having far less babies. Third would be that infant mortality is down – and that is to a large part responsible for longer life expectancy.

DO go see Hans Rosling’s TED Talks videos on YouTube. They are terrific.

I read long, long ago that back in the 1700s people DID live to three score and ten – IF they could manage to get past age ten. Infant and child mortality drag down the average a LOT.

For us and on into the future, Hans Rosling – and many others in the know – talk about how the world population is going to reach about 9-10 billion in about another 50 years – and then to begin tapering off. SOME project that the world population will go DOWN to perhaps 2 billion by about 2150. I don’t recall the exact numbers, but they are in that direction and at about those times.

I try to imagine a world with less people than when I arrived, but with much improved technology. Will poverty be gone? It would certainly seem possible. With thorium LFTRs, energy will (soon) be all but free. Imagine a world with free energy, and with 25-30% of the people of today.

Who does the work? Industrial robots? They do now, increasingly.

What jobs will people have?

Will there be enough people to have markets? Reduce the USA down to about 85 million and sales of everything is completely different. Consuming now drives economies. With 70-75% fewer people, will there be sufficient people to sustain an economy?

How about other countries? How much international trade will there be?

Certainly that many fewer people will tax the ecology of the planet much less. One can imagine that fish and wildlife populations will increase. Land use will be able (as it already is in small measure) to revert to forests and jungles and plains.

Transportation… Will it be a good thing that air travel is reduced by three-quarters? One might be tempted to think so.

Cars? Roads? Thorium LFTRs should certainly allow us to convert to electric cars – perhaps with the power being in the roadways instead of gas tanks and batteries. Not carrying the fuel or super-heavy batteries with us would be in itself a sizable efficiency gain. Accelerating only occupants, interiors, and crash-proof vehicle frames should make vehicles much lighter. And with power in roadways so will be crash prevention. Crash deaths may drop to near zero.

Materials… I can easily see mining as a robotic endeavor. Perhaps even exploring for minerals will be robotic, with sensors and analyzers built into rovers. Much of that mining might be in the trash dumps of the past crowded planet – a dream for a long time and perhaps increasingly the source of raw materials and recyclables beyond anything we do now. One would expect it to end at the borders of the cemeteries – no Solyent Green!

If life spans increase, it won’t be too long before they reach up to and beyond 100. Japan at 83 and about 20 other countries already are above 80. Another 20 years added may become a reality. And with those longer lives, one can reasonably expect that the added years are the non-invalid years – as they have been in the past. After all, our retirement age of 65 or so is 16 years older than the average American even LIVED in 1900. So what could the future hold for longevity? Is the sky the limit? If 100, why not 110? Or 125?

And what would we all DO with an extra 20 or 30 or 45 years?

Even more marriages in a lifetime? More art and more culture? Certainly older people (with far fewer adolescent males) wouldn’t be going for more wars. Who would fight them? Hopefully not robots! Hopefully in that science fiction movies are wrong. One would hope that with longevity comes some additional wisdom, and not just in terms of war and antipathies.

One area I can do no prognostication at all on is entertainment and where it might go in the future. No matter what we might have projected in the past, on the whole we’ve projected far too low. It’s only been 22 years since I saw my first 3D computerized human form – and it was stationary; it couldn’t do a thing except sit there and look like a human (kind of). Within five years through screen capture and such, we had video games with NBA players doing full motion 360° slam dunks and end zone celebrations, and, soon after that, facial expressions. The whizzes of technology will always surprise me, though I can’t say I like all aspects of it. I am STILL looking for another game that interests me as much as the original Zelda and Ultima.  It may not be long before those kinds of games are as big as our world or bigger.  3D movies are here, even if we don’t all like them the way they are.  Right now all of this is 2 senses – sight and hearing.  Which will be the next one added?

Music technology has come so long and so far, one wonders if there are any frontiers to cross – and yet they always seem to.  It is an industry that adds much to our lives100 years ago we had Edison’s wax cylinders to record music on.  Within 20 years we had radio, but also disc records, thick ones.  By 1930 we had 78s.  Around the early 1950s 45s had come along.  In about 1968 4-track tape cassettes came along, and then within a year it was 8-tracks.  In the early 1970s tape cassettes were here.  In about 1981 along came CDs.  Not recordable, but also they had crisper sound, so I cold understand some words to songs that had stumped me forever.  MP3 files came along when? About 2001?  Now instead of storing our music in cases or bookshelves we have them on every sort of device known to man – some of them with thousands of songs.  Where does it go from here?  Chips in our heads directly wired to our ears?

Are we going to be a small population that mostly plays video games and has video sex and participatory movies? I am certain that that is not going to be the case, though entertainment will if anything be a larger and larger part of our lives. With longer lives we will have more hours and days to fill.  Will we begin to be filled with ennui?  With terminal boredom?  Some thought that decades ago about the modern conveniences coming on line then, and can we say that has or has not happened?  It seems to me that people are no more or less bored than they always have been.

Something else people used to say is that, “The world is going to hell in a handbasket!”

It’s funny, but I hear that a lot now, too.  But after some thought, I’ve concluded that no, the world isn’t going to hell in a hand basket – that some people are just pissed off because the world isn’t exactly the way they want it. And most of those, IMHO, are people who would grouse about anything if you let them. They never point out the new things they accept – but they will give you an earful about the ones they don’t particularly like or understand.  Each one is like a petulant little wannabe god – one who isn’t getting his way and can’t stop telling everyone they meet about his little frustrated god complex.

Me? I am in the audience and wondering what will come next.


4 responses to “The Future Is Not Here Yet, But It Is Coming

  1. hmmmmm… interesting. Something to think about. And. Hans Rosling — he actually makes data fascinating.
    Thanks for posting.

  2. Mary – Yes, that Hans Rosling talk was the first one I saw, and it was both fascinating and entertaining, but also was probably the start of my tangible optimism about the future. I’d always been optimistic for myself, as an individual, plus reasonably hopeful for the human race.

    Back in the early ’90s I saw that one thing that had to happen was some form of what is now called globalization. Maybe I read something – I am not sue anymore. But the U.S. could simply not always be so central to the world economy. At some point the other countries had to – en masse – begin to take a larger part, to spread the wealth. I saw that there would be a transition period and that – because it would be losing it’s power and influence – there would be a negative effect on the U.S. How could it not? That was before the euro, and then when the euro came along I thought that was terrific – a step toward more general equality. I didn’t specifically see anything in particular, just a need to de-centralize the economy of the world.

    I am a person who thinks that a one-world government will be an improvement over what we’ve had. However, I am certain that the people I’d prefer at the top are not the ones who will ever be selected. For example, the only person I’d want as World President is the Dalai Lama…LOL Besides being a cool dude, he also is ego-less enough.

    But government(s) is not why I am optimistic. I simply have trust enough in people that I can see us finding solutions to problems as they arise. There is a LOT of brain power in the world, and those brains are hard at work on the problems all the time, even if we ordinary Joe Main Streets are not aware of most of it. At some point, probably after the population begins going down, I can see that solutions will increase faster than problems do. I think that will be the tipping point, to where human society can begin to reach its best stretch.

    Too optimistic? I am just on Hans Rosling’s and Matt Ripley’s side

  3. I believe that things in general will get better but they will get much worse before then. I ‘m thinking that mankind will have one more major global ego meltdown then the remainder of the human race will say: That didn’t work out they way we planned. Let’s get together and get it right this time around. The human race is the most resilient incarnation that nature has invented. We seem capable of living anywhere in any conditions and surviving quite nicely, Thank you. As you know Steve, my personal one word mantra is: WHY? And that leaves a big opening to look through.

  4. “WHY” is as good of a mantra as any, and one of the better ones. Long ago I heard that one could tell a kid might be a genius because he or she would always ask why. “Why are the clouds in the sky, Daddy? “Why is the sky blue, Daddy?” “Why doe water flow downhill, Mommy?” So maybe you’ve got a bit of that in ya.

    Mine was always, “What if you looked at it like THIS? (with one’s head cocked to one side)” My big thing has always to be able to say, “What if that piece of evidence is being misinterpreted? What if one of the OTHER ways of looking at that evidence might be the correct way?” So I look at interpretations by others and challenge them. I almost literally read every sentence in a paper with the idea that the guy could have concluded wrong, that he put the wrong bits of evidence together and he got it wrong because he chose the wrong bits to look at. (Every attempt to understand something means that SOME evidence is included and some is NOT.) His choices are an editorial decision by the author, and we do NOT have to accept his editing things in and out the way he did.

    Look at the LDG thing. If it was only about evidence, then WHY are there now SEVEN different explanations for the LDG? Only ONE of those can be right. So how is it that seven different groups of scientists can have the same pieces of evidence and come to seven different conclusions? The answer to that is selectivity of evidence – “cherry-picking the evidence” it is called in some circles. And pretty much all cherry picking stems from people having already concluded their answer and only then pick out evidence that supports it – and conveniently pretend that the OTHER evidence doesn’t exist.

    To a higher extent than anyone will admit it, THAT is science in the 21st century.

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