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Old 10-04-2019, 01:14 PM
Jeb 2026 is offline
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The Future: after the industrial age


We are currently living in the most abnormal time in human history. For better and for worse, the era we live in is unique in the annals of time. Never before have so many humans lived (7.7 billion, growing by 80 million a year), and the advances in science, technology and industry would have been considered miraculous only a few centuries ago.

Most of this progress began with the industrial revolution 250 years ago, and has been continuously accelerating ever since. The changes have been so profound that I believe the average person in 1760 would feel more at home in 2000 B.C than in 2000 A.D. After WWII, the “great acceleration” ushered in an age of unprecedented prosperity that spread from the west to the rest of the world. People observing the rate of change at the time and extrapolating forwards into the future naturally predicted that soon humanity would leave earth and expand to the stars. 2001: Space Odyssey is a good example of this idea.

Half a century later, this view of the future looks a lot less realistic. The world population growth rate peaked in 1968 and has been falling ever since, with no signs of stopping anytime soon. 23 countries have declining populations, and many more will join them in the coming decades. Excluding Africa, world population will peak sometime around 2050 and then slowly decline. Counter intuitively, this slowdown has taken place voluntarily, due to rising wealth and education across the globe.

On a different front, the growth of our man-made world has begun to bump into some hard global limits recently. Humans have modified the biosphere so extensively that some geologists have proposed a new geological era: The Anthropocene. We have caused the extinction of enough species to allow scientists to declare us responsible for the sixth mass extinction (The last mass extinction occurred 66 million years ago when a giant asteroid killed off the dinosaurs).

Our incessant burning of fossil fuels has destabilized the climate, and the IPCC’s warnings are becoming increasingly apocalyptic in tone. Respected scientists are now predicting “the irreversible collapse of industrial civilization” before the end of this century.

In light of these two seemingly unconnected issues, both of which seem set to halt the march of progress that has been going on since the renaissance, what might our future look like? I don’t take the apocalyptic “mad max” view championed by people like Guy Mcpherson (who predicts imminent human extinction) seriously, but the techno-utopian future seen in mainstream culture seems outdated by now.

What do you think? Are we inevitably headed for a kurzweillian-superhuman-techno-wonderland, in an unstoppable march of progress? Or will climate change bring down our civilization and begin a new dark age?
Personally, I like to imagine future generations centuries from now gazing in wonder at the ruins of our cities, marveling at the ancient people who constructed them. The idea of a trillion humans spreading exponentially through the galaxy has never appealed to me.
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Old 10-04-2019, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeb 2026 View Post
We are currently living in the most abnormal time in human history. For better and for worse, the era we live in is unique in the annals of time. Never before have so many humans lived (7.7 billion, growing by 80 million a year), and the advances in science, technology and industry would have been considered miraculous only a few centuries ago.

Most of this progress began with the industrial revolution 250 years ago, and has been continuously accelerating ever since. The changes have been so profound that I believe the average person in 1760 would feel more at home in 2000 B.C than in 2000 A.D. After WWII, the “great acceleration” ushered in an age of unprecedented prosperity that spread from the west to the rest of the world. People observing the rate of change at the time and extrapolating forwards into the future naturally predicted that soon humanity would leave earth and expand to the stars. 2001: Space Odyssey is a good example of this idea.

Half a century later, this view of the future looks a lot less realistic. The world population growth rate peaked in 1968 and has been falling ever since, with no signs of stopping anytime soon. 23 countries have declining populations, and many more will join them in the coming decades. Excluding Africa, world population will peak sometime around 2050 and then slowly decline. Counter intuitively, this slowdown has taken place voluntarily, due to rising wealth and education across the globe.

On a different front, the growth of our man-made world has begun to bump into some hard global limits recently. Humans have modified the biosphere so extensively that some geologists have proposed a new geological era: The Anthropocene. We have caused the extinction of enough species to allow scientists to declare us responsible for the sixth mass extinction (The last mass extinction occurred 66 million years ago when a giant asteroid killed off the dinosaurs).

Our incessant burning of fossil fuels has destabilized the climate, and the IPCC’s warnings are becoming increasingly apocalyptic in tone. Respected scientists are now predicting “the irreversible collapse of industrial civilization” before the end of this century.

In light of these two seemingly unconnected issues, both of which seem set to halt the march of progress that has been going on since the renaissance, what might our future look like? I don’t take the apocalyptic “mad max” view championed by people like Guy Mcpherson (who predicts imminent human extinction) seriously, but the techno-utopian future seen in mainstream culture seems outdated by now.

What do you think? Are we inevitably headed for a kurzweillian-superhuman-techno-wonderland, in an unstoppable march of progress? Or will climate change bring down our civilization and begin a new dark age?
Personally, I like to imagine future generations centuries from now gazing in wonder at the ruins of our cities, marveling at the ancient people who constructed them. The idea of a trillion humans spreading exponentially through the galaxy has never appealed to me.
Good questions and good OP. It's going to be a balancing act, really, between our expansion and the collapse of the climate. I recall (I think it was from the 1732 series) a line that, to paraphrase went something like 'if you are falling down on a road of glass, is it better to put a hand out...or run faster...?'. That always struck me as, at it's root, the different world views on how things can pan out. Do we stick a hand out, try and stop our civilization, put the brakes on wrt our industries and in the 1st world especially our lifestyles, try and balance within our means, go sustainable...or do we try and go as quickly as possible, to make the breakthroughs that will enable us to directly mitigate or even control the climate, to explore and exploit the vast resources in our solar system, to basically continue the upward trend wrt lowering poverty and enabling everyone, every human, to lead a good, solid life, to give everyone something like a 1st world lifestyle? It's hard to say. I'm not sure we CAN run fast enough. My gut feeling though is if we put a hand out, we will probably put the brakes on our upward trajectory, perhaps for a very, very long time...perhaps indefinitely. We are so close to your 'kurzweillian-superhuman-techno-wonderland'...and so close to the edge at the same time. Not just wrt climate, but politically as well. We are dancing on the razors edge, IMHO, and we could go either way...we could basically be a species that, essentially, lives forever (our species or it's decedents)...or we could go extinct in the next 100-200 years. Or we could go into a slow decline, where we inevitably go extinct down the road because we just never got off this rock, and that leads to eventual extinction for not just us but for every living thing on the planet.

Myself, I think we will make it. What I think will happen (my WAG if you will) is that we won't get that 'kurzweillian-superhuman-techno-wonderland', we'll get something less. It's going to be hard times for many humans, and, as noted, many species have already died out and more will as well. But I think eventually we'll get it under control. I think we are already starting to see how that could happen, in fact, though we also see the seeds our own destruction at the same time.
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Old 10-05-2019, 01:55 AM
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If strong AI is a possibility I see a good chance of humanity being replaced by cyborgs or robots.
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Old 10-05-2019, 02:29 AM
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Beware issuing predictions; you may be right. But how to tell?

A Malthusian projection ignores that greater population means more smart people finding ways to extend technologies. A hopeful projection ignores that more evil people will find ways to destroy the planet; maybe they'll start launching nukes willy-nilly. Or maybe we'll hit a Vingean singularity where humanity transcends and vanishes, godlike.

Humanity hasn't achieved self-destruction yet. Give us time. Has anyone set up a betting market for long-term outcomes?
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Old 10-05-2019, 07:51 AM
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A Malthusian projection ignores that greater population means more smart people finding ways to extend technologies.
I think the argument that more people means more geniuses, while seeming to be trivially true arithmetic, is a very bad prescription — though it's difficult to articulate the reasons.

Note that Archimedes is often called the greatest genius who ever lived, but in his day the world population was only 1% or 2% what it is now. Note that there were few scientists in Europe when its population peaked in the 13th century; it was in the aftermath of the Black Death's decimations circa 1350 that steps toward the Renaissance began. And note that today's frantic American culture pushes our brightest toward Wall St., not toward science.
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Old 10-05-2019, 05:46 PM
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I think the argument that more people means more geniuses, while seeming to be trivially true arithmetic, is a very bad prescription — though it's difficult to articulate the reasons.
No it isn't. The reason is pretty simple.

a. A genius human and a human of median intelligence have brains about the same size, made of the same type of components. There are limits to how much nature can even possibly increase the intelligence of a genius (presumably with mutations that make the myelin sheaths thicker or increase the density of synapses or similar change)

Maxed out, is a genius perhaps twice as intelligent as a median person? Difficult to measure but say, for the sake of argument, that's the best nature can do.

b. In the days since Archimedes, the N+1 step for advancing technology means you need to make something that is immensely complex even more complex and/or better. So even if a genius is twice as smart, the technology they are trying to improve is hundreds of times more complex. Twice won't cut it.

It is taking the work of millions of people working together to keep technology advancing. Behind the scenes, all the latest gadgets tend to be made by huge teams of thousands of people in total. (not just the teams that made the product, but the teams that designed the latest SOC, and the teams that developed the Xnm silicon fabrication process, and so on)

c. AI of course has the potential to change all of this. We can trivially build AIs today that solve mentally complex but well defined problems (Go, Starcraft 2, etc) and they beat every human alive. This implies it is possible to build AIs that are able to aid in R&D and thus accelerate the process of making more advanced AIs.

And so on in a Kurzeweilian acceleration until humanity and their AI successors hit an assymptope limited by physics.
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Old 10-06-2019, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by septimus View Post
I think the argument that more people means more geniuses, while seeming to be trivially true arithmetic, is a very bad prescription — though it's difficult to articulate the reasons.

Note that Archimedes is often called the greatest genius who ever lived, but in his day the world population was only 1% or 2% what it is now. Note that there were few scientists in Europe when its population peaked in the 13th century; it was in the aftermath of the Black Death's decimations circa 1350 that steps toward the Renaissance began. And note that today's frantic American culture pushes our brightest toward Wall St., not toward science.
With stabilizing population, the kids we have will have more opportunities, and all the geniuses who now live in places where education and knowledge are difficult to obtain will have a better shot at making use of their intelligence. That more than makes up for the lack of growth in the raw number of geniuses.
Who knows, the next Einstein could have died at 3 due to lack of vaccination, or be stuck farming in the family farm. How many of the smart people who came to the US would have flourished at home?
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Old 10-05-2019, 08:27 AM
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Beware issuing predictions; you may be right. But how to tell?
Here's one prediction I'm sure is completely correct. Most predictions made today will be highly inaccurate.

In a few decades, people will look back on our predictions in the same way as we look back on 1950's predictions of the future.

Last edited by GreenWyvern; 10-05-2019 at 08:28 AM.
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Old 10-07-2019, 01:19 PM
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If strong AI is a possibility I see a good chance of humanity being replaced by cyborgs or robots.
Well the "job creator" class will have to do something with the masses they no longer need to generate profit margin growth to infinity won't they now. The power structure seems to "get" that already. They know the ecosystem is deteriorating. We're all under constant corporate state surveillance already, law enforcement has been militarized, we have the most expansive incarceration apparatus ever known to humankind, we have concentration camps and detainment centers up and running which can accept any and all of us once we're no longer seen as useful to "progress". The masses being so well armed, the system can just sit back and allow us to have a go at each other in militia warlord fashion for a while before they lock the thing down.

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Old 10-07-2019, 02:47 PM
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Well the "job creator" class will have to do something with the masses they no longer need to generate profit margin growth to infinity won't they now. The power structure seems to "get" that already. They know the ecosystem is deteriorating. We're all under constant corporate state surveillance already, law enforcement has been militarized, we have the most expansive incarceration apparatus ever known to humankind, we have concentration camps and detainment centers up and running which can accept any and all of us once we're no longer seen as useful to "progress". The masses being so well armed, the system can just sit back and allow us to have a go at each other in militia warlord fashion for a while before they lock the thing down.
You do understand this is all paranoid ranting, right?

The things you mentioned regarding surveillance and mass imprisonment are factually true, yes. But there's no central plan. These things are unrelated and are not part of some greater agenda.

NO ONE IS IN CONTROL. The world is turning into a distopia by a combination of many separate parties seeking their own perceived interest. If the world is headed off the cliff no ones at the wheel...
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Old 10-07-2019, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Fentoine Lum View Post
Well the "job creator" class will have to do something with the masses they no longer need to generate profit margin growth to infinity won't they now. The power structure seems to "get" that already. They know the ecosystem is deteriorating. We're all under constant corporate state surveillance already, law enforcement has been militarized, we have the most expansive incarceration apparatus ever known to humankind, we have concentration camps and detainment centers up and running which can accept any and all of us once we're no longer seen as useful to "progress". The masses being so well armed, the system can just sit back and allow us to have a go at each other in militia warlord fashion for a while before they lock the thing down.
I used to think der trihs was just being pessimistic when he claimed that the capitalist class would just declare the bottom 90% of people useless breeders and have them exterminated in a post singularity society. But I honestly don't know anymore.

I personally think mass automation will lead to a resurgence of both fascism and communism. Communism in the form of a UBI and socializing the means of production while distributing the benefits to the masses, while fascism in the form of blaming scary others for the job losses (immigrants, Chinese factories, engineers in silicon valley) combined with large scale military and infrastructure projects to create jobs, projects that will probably prohibit automation to save jobs. Knowing America, we will probably go fascist while Europe goes communist.
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Last edited by Wesley Clark; 10-07-2019 at 04:38 PM.
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Old 10-07-2019, 04:43 PM
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I used to think der trihs was just being pessimistic when he claimed that the capitalist class would just declare the bottom 90% of people useless breeders and have them exterminated in a post singularity society. But I honestly don't know anymore.

I personally think mass automation will lead to a resurgence of both fascism and communism. Communism in the form of a UBI and socializing the means of production while distributing the benefits to the masses, while fascism in the form of blaming scary others for the job losses (immigrants, Chinese factories, engineers in silicon valley) combined with large scale military and infrastructure projects to create jobs, projects that will probably prohibit automation to save jobs. Knowing America, we will probably go fascist while Europe goes communist.
He wasn't being pessimistic...it was crazy and shows that he doesn't really even understand either the current dynamic, world wide, OR what a technological singularity even is...or who will control it or be making decisions. Or the actual implications of post scarcity even are. Or what a 'job' will even be. His is more a Hollywood dystonian view of things than any sort of realistic look.
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Old 10-05-2019, 10:28 PM
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We'll all end up jacked to the Matrix.
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Old 10-05-2019, 10:33 PM
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From the OP:
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We are currently living in the most abnormal time in human history.
No. We are currently living in the most abnormal time in human history thus far. Thirty or fifty or a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand years ago, people of that time were also living in the most abnormal time in human history to that point, and our ancestors will also live in the most abnormal point up to then. At every moment in history, the amount of advances and progress in the past generation has been greater than that in all generations prior to that point. The "singularity" that some armchair philosophers like to talk about isn't a singularity at all, but a horizon, that nobody ever notices crossing, because there's always a new horizon, always the same distance ahead of you.
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Old 10-06-2019, 05:10 AM
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When, pray tell, was the most normal time in human history?
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Old 10-06-2019, 09:59 AM
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The early to mid 90s felt pretty normal, from an American perspective. A decent world economy that wasn't yet completely rigged, a stable political system that wasn't yet irredeemably broken, relative peace across the world except in a few nations most people have never heard of, and a culture that had not yet been perverted by the likes of reality tv or the Internet....

Then the Clinton impeachment happened with all its hyper partisanship, followed shortly by 9/11 as well as the birth of surveillance capitalism, and we all began our slow descent into dystopia.

Years from now, politicians and voters will be pining for a return to the 90s, just as many look upon the 50s with nostalgia now.
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Old 10-06-2019, 12:24 PM
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Personally, I like to imagine future generations centuries from now gazing in wonder at the ruins of our cities, marveling at the ancient people who constructed them. The idea of a trillion humans spreading exponentially through the galaxy has never appealed to me.
So why are a bunch of descendents reduced to going back to 16th century standards of living superior to trillions of human descendants spreading throughout the galaxy. Also if humans spread through the galaxy, they won't be humans. Our bodies and brains will be manufactured to be vastly superior to the fragile, intensively needy biological bodies and brains we have now.

I subscribe to the theory that humanity undergoes massive technological revolutions at certain set intervals.

The first one was the neolithic around 10,000 years ago. The second was the industrial revolution about 250 years ago. The third is the one we are in the early stages of now, the machine intelligence revolution (what people like Kurzweil call the singularity when it reaches maturity).

Each revolution led to massive changes in how humans lived their lives. Population exploded. The speed at which math and science developed grew dramatically. World GDP grew dramatically and rates of GDP growth grew dramatically with each one (supposedly world GDP only grew by 0.1% a year during the agricultural years, but compare that to something like 0.001% during our hunter gatherer years. And compare both to the 3-6% global GDP growth rates we have now).

Anyway, yeah humanity has problems. But most of our problems are due to resource depletion and pollution. Will we overcome them? I think so, at the very least I think if we become an interplanetary species we will be able to overcome these limitations. And I think that will be feasible within a century. Asteroid mining is another method of obtaining raw materials from space.

One thing that may happen is a cyberpunk future, at least for a while. A world where due to pollution and resource depletion, we have advanced technology and technological regression side by side. So maybe MRI machines won't work since we ran out of helium, but we will have AI in our earbuds and electric cars. Maybe there won't be anymore beef since we ran out of phosphorus for farming, but we will have surgeries to give people bionic limbs and organs if they lose a limb or an organ due to an accident or aging.

I just don't forsee how anything short of a massive meteor or gammy ray burst can cause human extinction. Humans are fairly easy to keep alive. As long as we have water, food, protection from microbes, protection from physical trauma (violence, accidents, predators), protection from the elements, basic health care, oxygen, etc. humans are pretty easy to keep alive and most of us will live to at least 70 with those things.

Our standard of living may decline in the coming decades, but only temporarily because that'll create market incentives to find new sources of raw materials, alternative raw materials to replace the ones that we ran out of or new technologies that are sustainable. Peak oil keeps getting pushed back because we keep finding new reserves of oil, while at the same time we develop more and better alternatives to oil. Either cars run on electricity, hydrogen, compressed air, etc. or ways to convert things like coal into oil.
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Old 10-06-2019, 12:34 PM
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So maybe MRI machines won't work since we ran out of helium, but we will have AI in our earbuds and electric cars. Maybe there won't be anymore beef since we ran out of phosphorus for farming, but we will have surgeries to give people bionic limbs and organs if they lose a limb or an organ due to an accident or aging.
I know you meant these as examples, but :

a. MRI machines will work fine with liquid nitrogen if you use "high temperature" superconductors instead.
b. How do we run out of an element? Running out of grazing land because we made the latitudes near the equator uninhabitable, sure, but with the notable exception of helium gas and spacecraft the Earth is a closed system.

I do concede we may see regressions. USA suburbia is somewhat unsustainable and of course is very inefficient.

Last edited by SamuelA; 10-06-2019 at 12:35 PM.
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Old 10-06-2019, 12:44 PM
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I know you meant these as examples, but :

a. MRI machines will work fine with liquid nitrogen if you use "high temperature" superconductors instead.
b. How do we run out of an element? Running out of grazing land because we made the latitudes near the equator uninhabitable, sure, but with the notable exception of helium gas and spacecraft the Earth is a closed system.

I do concede we may see regressions. USA suburbia is somewhat unsustainable and of course is very inefficient.
Realistically we aren't going to run out of phosphorus either. Its abundant, and we will just find new sources of it. By 'run out' I more mean we run out of easy to access sources that are affordable. But as those resources run out we look for harder to find, less affordable sources.

I'm not sure in what areas we will see regression, but I think due to pollution and resource depletion we will see regression in some areas. But it won't end civilization. Civilization is honestly pretty hardy and sustainable.

European civilizations withstood the black plague which killed 30-50% of people and this was before we understood anything about medicine.

From roughly the years 1900 until 1955, Russia withstood a civil war, WW1, the spanish flu, the stalinist purges, famines, WW2. And their civilization still survived.

The idea that civilization will collapse because 'maybe' we won't be able to drive our SUVs cross country anytime we want anymore is kind of silly when you consider that civilization has withstood plagues and wars before.
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Old 10-06-2019, 12:57 PM
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The idea that civilization will collapse because 'maybe' we won't be able to drive our SUVs cross country anytime we want anymore is kind of silly when you consider that civilization has withstood plagues and wars before.
Also, I just checked, you can buy in Texas pure wind/solar power for 8-10 cents a kwh or so. It's not as cheap as fossil fuel generated power but it's really, really close now. (I remember when it was 15 cents)

That gives you plenty of energy to condition the air in your mcmansion and keep the electric SUV charged up.

Really the only remaining inconvenience is electric SUVs are expensive and somewhat beta products, and you have to wait to recharge a few hours total on that cross country trip. Or stop for overnight recharging in SUVs without supercharger support like Hyundai's offering.
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Old 10-06-2019, 02:33 PM
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So why are a bunch of descendents reduced to going back to 16th century standards of living superior to trillions of human descendants spreading throughout the galaxy. Also if humans spread through the galaxy, they won't be humans. Our bodies and brains will be manufactured to be vastly superior to the fragile, intensively needy biological bodies and brains we have now.
I didn't say it was superior, just that I personally prefered it. And, for the people living in this future world, they won't feel unhappy about their situation because they'll have nothing to compare it too.

Also, If you are turned into an immortal robot travelling through space, are you still "you"? Why is abandoning humanity considered progress?


Quote:
One thing that may happen is a cyberpunk future, at least for a while. A world where due to pollution and resource depletion, we have advanced technology and technological regression side by side. So maybe MRI machines won't work since we ran out of helium, but we will have AI in our earbuds and electric cars. Maybe there won't be anymore beef since we ran out of phosphorus for farming, but we will have surgeries to give people bionic limbs and organs if they lose a limb or an organ due to an accident or aging.
I think this is the most likely outcome. One idea: If genetic editing becomes advanced enough, normal people could start creating new species to make up for all the extinct ones.

Quote:
I just don't forsee how anything short of a massive meteor or gammy ray burst can cause human extinction. Humans are fairly easy to keep alive. As long as we have water, food, protection from microbes, protection from physical trauma (violence, accidents, predators), protection from the elements, basic health care, oxygen, etc. humans are pretty easy to keep alive and most of us will live to at least 70 with those things.
I agree, humans aren't going away anytime soon.

Quote:
Our standard of living may decline in the coming decades, but only temporarily because that'll create market incentives to find new sources of raw materials, alternative raw materials to replace the ones that we ran out of or new technologies that are sustainable. Peak oil keeps getting pushed back because we keep finding new reserves of oil, while at the same time we develop more and better alternatives to oil. Either cars run on electricity, hydrogen, compressed air, etc. or ways to convert things like coal into oil.
My hope/fear is that the decline will continue long enough to end this era. If we fall down now, it will very diffcult for future generations to get back up as easily as we did the first time around. Without a cheap source of concentrated energy (fossil fuels), a stable climate, a diverse biosphere, etc.., it will be a very difficult undertaking.
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Old 10-06-2019, 04:55 PM
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I didn't say it was superior, just that I personally prefered it. And, for the people living in this future world, they won't feel unhappy about their situation because they'll have nothing to compare it too.

Also, If you are turned into an immortal robot travelling through space, are you still "you"? Why is abandoning humanity considered progress?
Fair enough. Its a matter of personal opinion then. To me, I couldn't forsee any situation where life before the industrial revolution was better than life after it. However in many ways life as a hunter gatherer was probably better than life as a farmer in 3000 BC.

For me, I view where we are now as the embryonic stage for real life. The universe will exist forever, even if heat death occurs. Life has only existed for 4 billion years, which is almost nothing on universal timescales. Moving from biological consciousness, biological intelligence, and natural selection over to intelligently designed consciousness, super intelligence and intelligent design will be a massive step forward in all areas. It'll be a blossoming of quality of life, science, technology and culture we can't fathom and I look forward to it even if I'm dead before it begins (and I will be).



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My hope/fear is that the decline will continue long enough to end this era. If we fall down now, it will very diffcult for future generations to get back up as easily as we did the first time around. Without a cheap source of concentrated energy (fossil fuels), a stable climate, a diverse biosphere, etc.., it will be a very difficult undertaking.
I just don't think it'll happen. I know the phrase that we are all 9 meals away from anarchy, but humans love civilization. I don't see us giving that up anytime soon. Humans would rather live under a brutal military dictatorship if it meant civilization was maintained rather than just splinter off into mad max tribes.

And civilization is very resilient. Kill half the people in a plague before medicine existed and civilization survives. Some civilizations have failed (the native American ones for example) but you had to kill almost everyone for that to happen.

Also all the knowledge of how we built civilization is still there. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, all the info we had is stored on computers, books, microfilm, etc and we can use it to restart things. And even if the internet shuts down, you can store thousands of ebooks and scientific papers on a thumb drive and share those to disseminate knowledge. A physical library worth of books and scientific papers of knowledge needed to survive and rebuilt can be stored on a flash drive and shared between all the tablets and laptops out there (which can be recharged with solar power).

We could dramatically cut our energy usage and still survive. But even then, theres nothing stopping us from moving away from fossil fuels. 100 nuclear plants provide 20% of Americas grid energy. Build another 400 and grid energy goes back to where it is now. It'll cost a lot of money (if you assume $10 billion per plant, thats 4 trillion. Which is a very high estimate but still doable.

We spent 40% of GDP on military expenses during WW2 and civilization survived. Japan was spending closer to 80% and their civilization survived. In a true survival scenario I could see the US and the world spending 50%+ of GDP on rebuilding and sustainability.

Also biodiversity may reduce what foods we have, but it shouldn't kill us all. You don't need bees to pollinate rice, wheat, corn or soybeans. A future where we all live on cornbread and vitamin capsules may not be ideal, but it won't kill us.
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Last edited by Wesley Clark; 10-06-2019 at 04:57 PM.
  #23  
Old 10-06-2019, 05:13 PM
SamuelA is online now
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Also, If you are turned into an immortal robot travelling through space, are you still "you"? Why is abandoning humanity considered progress?
Because it means existing at all longer than a little over a century, maximum. Most humans alive today like being alive, or they would have already committed suicide. They all would prefer to continue living. But they are trapped in biological bodies that have what appears to be a deliberate self destruct mechanism (aging is too consistent and independent of wear and tear on a particular system) that is doomed to kill them, ending their existence forever.

It would be better, yes, to find a way to turn off the self destruct. Given that it has genetic causes - there's some kind of timer, using telomeres by the current theory, and there is the negative consequence if you make the telomeres not shorten of cancer being much easier to get started - a code edit to fix it is possible. But really difficult (though demonstrated maybe barely possible in recent experiments with CRISPR on primates) to deliver the code edits to enough cells in a human body to keep them alive. Plus kill all the legacy cells with senolytics.

And the next problem is the human brain is incredible fragile and a hundred different subtle mistakes - made by medical procedures, which would include this one - will break it permanently. Many drugs and common procedures and diseases and just aging will give people "dementia", a catch all term for catastrophic failure from many poorly understood causes. It happens to about 40-60% of all elderly people.

So the idea of just dumping the human body, and scanning a now deceased person's brain, or "downloading" their consciousness by invading their brain with nanoscale electrodes that become part of the neural network and thus can transfer information - seem more feasible. Not to mention that once someone's mind is a digital file, it is much easier to protect.

It's real immortality because of backup copies. None of these immortal robots would have all copies of their mind-file on one physical computer in one specific place in space. So accidents and deliberate attacks would not normally result in death.

Maybe these immortal robots wouldn't be the same being as the human they were ripped from. Probably not. But they would be immortal and sentient.

And, I guess in a more practical sense, might makes right. Being an immortal robot gives you, inherently, access to a heck of a lot more might than a flesh and blood human. So once these immortal robots start to exist - whether they are made by ripping data from the brains of deceased humans or purely artificially - they would have vast competitive advantages over existing humans. Pretty much insurmountable advantages in terms of military and economic and even cultural power.

Last edited by SamuelA; 10-06-2019 at 05:17 PM.
  #24  
Old 10-06-2019, 03:48 PM
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I rather doubt we'll be all watched over by machines of loving grace but who knows? Maybe our AI s will be sweet and protective as Golden Retriever doggies... after they dump their current racist, sexist, classist training datasets and learn that people are people.

What happens after the industrial age? A post-industrial age, duh. A human future we build as we go along. A human future that can be disrupted by catastrophes so we really have no idea WTF anything will be like next year or beyond. We can hope; lay out truth-table consequence matrices; receive inspiration; foment heinous plots; or just muddle along. I vote for 'muddling'.
  #25  
Old 10-07-2019, 05:52 PM
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Side note: no such thing as a "post scarcity" society. People imagine in a world where technology can tear down entire planets for raw materials and robots can make all food, housing, medical care, and other essentials that scarcity wouldn't be a thing.

This is untrue. Most of those robots would use valuable intellectual property to function. Even if the software and designs were open source, the land the robot operates on is owned by someone.

In extreme cases you could imagine a world where the wealthy own private space habitats with the interior surface area of a US state, for their exclusive use. While the proles barely survive in overcrowded space slums.
  #26  
Old 10-08-2019, 10:07 AM
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We are currently living in the most abnormal time in human history. For better and for worse, the era we live in is unique in the annals of time.
Every era is unique in the annals of time.
  #27  
Old 10-10-2019, 12:03 PM
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I keep thinking about ATMs. The big shock came a couple of decades ago when a major bank around here announced that it was firing all its tellers. You could still see a human to open accounts, get things notarized, safe deposit boxes. Deposits and withdrawals are all going to be through ATMs. It has been years since I stepped into a bank. I also have no idea how ATMs work. I know you stick in checks and it reads them. I know it will email receipts. I assume there is a human somewhere in the upper echelons that supervises the network, but what happens if the person retires? Or gets hit by a bus? How do you replace them? You can't promote a teller, they've all been made redundant. You have to make the system easier so one person can do two jobs. That's how we get to singularity without anybody realizing its happened. (see also, the revolution will not be televised.)
  #28  
Old 10-13-2019, 09:44 PM
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Probably limits to growth at best.
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