Article 1: Goals in writing about the future
1. To convey my passion for the future
a. I have always been focused on science, technology, and the future. It is of particular interest to me to communicate to others the most interesting aspects of what I find out in my own research. Not everyone has the time or interest level to spend hours every day reading about the developments that are going on in the scientific world. My goal is to do that myself, process it, and then share what I think is most interesting. I believe that everyone has some level of enthusiasm about the possibilities of the future, and it is exciting to be able to communicate ideas that amaze people and change the way they see things.
2. There is a heavy need for it – people do not trust the future
a. Until I was about 27, I had very little trust for the future. I remember recently telling a fellow futurist friend about how I believed that the human race was careening down the path of becoming Star Trek’s Borg, an aggressive collective of cybernetic humanoids who have become enslaved by their own technology. Countless other examples of technology-gone-wrong exist in the sci-fi canon. A few noteworthy examples include Skynet from the Terminator, the robots taking over in the film I, Robot, and the oppressive use of technology in Minority Report.
b. These days, I have gotten over my fear of the power of the technology of the future. Perhaps what got me over the initial hump was the realization that change—indeed drastic change—was inevitable, and that my choice was to either attempt to keep up, or to gradually fade out into my own little world of bitterness and paranoia.
c. The good news is, I no longer think any of what the future brings will be harmful to the human race. Rather, I think it will bring us into an age of unprecedented abundance and wellbeing. Now that I’ve made the switch, however, I still find that almost everyone I talk to about the future feels the same way I felt. They are disturbed by ideas such as self-driving cars, lab grown meat, and bloodstream-nanobots.
d. This is perhaps the most important reason why we need future communicators in 2013—as it becomes impossible not to notice the waves of change that occur every few years, people are beginning to get uneasy about what lies ahead. There is a certain paranoia that can arise when the current way of life is threatened, and people will begin to act destructively towards themselves or others. The coming changes should be embraced, and brought about as quickly as possible – lives are at stake.
3. There is a surprising unawareness about the future
a. When I enrolled in a biochemistry course in 2013, I was excited to talk to the professor about the future. I figured that a science professor must be an expert in the coming advances that technology would bring. As luck would have it, before the first class began, I overheard the professor talking to a couple of students about today’s technology and how far we had come since the days of the telephone with a cord going to the wall. Sensing my opportunity, I jumped in and asked the professor if he had heard about the singularity. In fact, he hadn’t.
b. When I informed him of what it was, he made a humorous remark about the machines taking over, to which I replied, “na, that’s just in the movies.” Another student who had overheard said that perhaps one day our machines will run our lives, and all I could say was “they already do.”
c. What was so surprising to me about this interaction was that my biochemistry professor is obviously an incredibly smart person, but he only had a common understanding of technology and where it was headed. Indeed, very few people realize just how much things are going to change in the coming decades. In many conversations I have tried to emphasize just how drastic and sweeping the coming change will be, but I can tell that whoever I am talking to still almost always has thought very little about the possibilities that are out there, and they invariably underestimate the future. They tend to think the future will be like today, but with a couple of new ideas that are usually controversial, like “designer babies.” What will life be like in the 2030s when designer babies are a possibility? It is hard to explain to people in casual conversation that designer babies will be the very least of what is going on in the 2030s.
4. To increase rational thought
a. With a better idea of what the future will look like, people can better plan and anticipate their lives. Up until recently, it wasn’t particularly difficult to do this, as it could be assumed that the future would be mostly like the present. The generation reaching old age today has absolutely seen major improvements since it was young, but not the kind of changes that might have dramatically changed the way they treated the present.
b. Another science professor of mine, in his 50s by the looks of it, estimated recently that he would live to be 80 years old. No one in the classroom questioned this guess, but I was almost offended by his forecast. “You will most certainly not live only to 80,” I thought to myself. Of course, to have said something like this aloud would have been seen as somewhat fanatical and nutty. That is, indeed, the deeply entrenched mainstream view of anyone who would dare claim that the near future holds technologies beyond our wildest imaginations.
c. Of course, this has always been the case—underestimation. Would anyone born in 1900 have anticipated a manned trip to the moon in 60 years, and instant global communication capabilities in 100? Definitely not. People simply assume that the future will be mostly like the present. Anyone who lived through the better part of the 1900s, though, saw changes that must have absolutely blown their minds. In the 2000s, the only difference is that these changes will be bigger and they will be coming faster.
d. Lastly, although it doesn’t have to do with technology, much of humanity is still very much wrapped up in religious superstition. As a formerly religious person who saw it have a very negative effect on his life, I am driven to eradicate the superstitious beliefs many still hold. In short, I find the notion that God oversees this world to be irresponsible and mentally lazy, although tempting. For someone to believe God is in control of the world makes up the perfect excuse not to act – whatever happens is his will, even if it brings immense suffering. I adamantly refuse to believe this. It is up to US to make life on this planet better by eliminating sources of suffering such as disease, poverty, and war. This can be accomplished through science and innovation. I have never found prayer or religious fervor to cure these hardships. If anything they actually divide us and exacerbate those problems.
5. Misconceptions about the future
a. The mainstream media’s portrayal of the future can be extremely misleading. Even the most highly regarded science fiction often depicts a future that anyone seeing it in the actual future would laugh at. In Star Trek: the Next Generation, for example, we see a blind person given a chunky metal visor that enables him to see, and we also see a special room called a holodeck that is able to create any environment its inhabitant desires, with pretty much total reality (you could walk into and interact with a totally lifelike simulation of early 1900s era San Francisco, for instance). These two technologies are extremely different from one another in terms of how advanced they are – in 2013 we are almost able to do the visor trick already. Creating fully lifelike virtual matter simulations that you can interact with, though, is way down the road. But maybe not as far as most would think.
b. Then again, it is likely that neither of these imagined technologies will ever blossom into a reality. Who needs a special visor when it is possible to grow or print an entirely new set of real human eyes? Who needs a special matter-creating room when fully realistic online virtual reality will be made possible by nanobots that interact with the central nervous system from the blood stream?
Thinking about the future is a complex task, but one that is all too easy to make hasty generalizations about that are far from what is truly to come. It is increasingly necessary for us to talk about and shed light on what the coming years will be like, as they will be far more different than we would ever before have needed to expect. What’s going on in the world of science and technology is now much more relevant news than the event-based stories of the past, which now seem more like an inconsequential background hum next to the looming changes we are about to see in medicine, infrastructure, and communication.