I think politicians in particular, the public in general and even scientists who should know better miss the implications of the accelerating rate of scientific progress. Who cares if nuclear waste starts leaking from canisters in Yucca Mountain when in 50 year’s time we’ll be able to send in an army of autonomous robots to take care of it. Not only is science accelerating, but the rate of acceleration is accelerating. Ray Kurzweil, in his book “Fantastic Voyage,” states that science is progressing exponentially, and he predicts that the 21st century will experience 20,000 times the progress of the 20th century. (The thrust of his book is (for baby boomers like us) is how to live long enough to live forever, primarily through nutritional supplements, according to him, until medicine learns to reverse the aging process. The only politician who seems to get it is Newt Gingrich who claimed in a 2008 speech, if memory serves, that looking back to the year 2008 in 25 years time would be like looking back to the 1880’s from today–that’s Newt Gingrich not me. What form will this future shock take? Let’s take a look. At some point, humanity will experience the rate of progress of the entire 20th century in less than a year’s time, then in less than a month, then less than a week, a day, an hour, a second . . . , but even the perfect future, you can’t build a Hoover Dam in a microsecond or travel to a star. I foresee some point in the not so distant future, when there’ll be no point in beginning long-term projects like the Hoover Dam or the Panama Canal because the science and engineering would be repeatedly leapfrogged before the project even got well underway. For instance, say we undertook today an Apollo project to travel to Alpha Centauri. Evan at today’s modest rate of progress, the propulsion technology would be leapfrogged to where a second spaceship would overtake the first spaceship before the first ship got beyond the Oort Cloud, then a third ship would overtake the second one before it even got beyond Neptune, etc. This is the stultifying paradox of progress: who will shell out for this year’s automobile if next year’s model makes this year’s look like a model T. But the progress paradox wouldn’t extend cyberspace. While you can’t build a physical Hoover Dam in a microsecond, you can build the equivalent in a microsecond in a quantum computer. Who’ll get in a physical conveyance to visit grandma when your avatars can interact every bit as vividly in cyberspace, so I foresee that the progress paradox will force humanity into cyberspace sometime in this century, leaving our physical bodies and physical world completely behind.
Once we’ve made the leap to entangling bosons in quantum computers we’ll detect the entangled bosons of The Borg in the form of dark energy, for you see, we won’t have been the first civilization to make the quantum leap.