It’s the business of a writer to think about the future. While I’m not a writer, I do know a few, such as the lovely and talented Eden, who just got published in M-Brane, and Pam, who just sold her first story to Asimov’s (forthcoming), which is kind of like hitting a grand slam in the world series at your first major league at bat.
Anyway, it must have rubbed off on me, cause I think about the future a lot. Remember those idiotic movies from the fifties and sixties about what it would be like in 2000? Predictions are hard. They’re hard because humans are shitty at understanding nonlinearities. We’re used to eating a little more, and getting a little fatter, or working out more, and getting a little stronger. Not eating a little more, and gaining one thousand pounds. (Not you, Andy.)
But certain things are replete with nonlinearities, and technology is one of them, and these days technology touches everything, which is why if you went back in time and told you from fifteen years ago about the world of today, the you of fifteen years ago would think you were a raving lunatic, the time-travel thing notwithstanding. With this in mind, fifteen years from now is going to be way weirder, relatively speaking, than now is compared to fifteen years ago. And so on.
Which is a long way of saying that when I think about the future I try not to make the same stupid mistakes that those dudes did in the fifties and sixties. I aspire to different mistakes, ones that are not so cripplingly stupid. Who knows how close my vision will be, or rather, whether it will be relatively more- or less-awful than an unfettered imagination might produce. But I really dug this post by Robin Hanson:
When our distant descendants think about our era, however, differences will loom larger. Yes they will see that we were more like them in knowing more things, and in having less contact with a wild nature. But our brief period of very rapid growth and discovery and our globally integrated economy and culture will be quite foreign to them. Yet even these differences will pale relative to one huge difference: our lives are far more dominated by consequential delusions: wildly false beliefs and non-adaptive values that matter. While our descendants may explore delusion-dominated virtual realities, they will well understand that such things cannot be real, and don’t much influence history. In contrast, we live in the brief but important “dreamtime” when delusions drove history. Our descendants will remember our era as the one where the human capacity to sincerely believe crazy non-adaptive things, and act on those beliefs, was dialed to the max.
Elan and I used to argue about whether the world was getting worse or better. I said better, because we don’t fully grasp how horseshit stuff was then, for damn near everybody; and how the things that are really bad these days (smallish genocides, for instance) were common enough as to be unremarkable > 500 years ago (or even > 20). But maybe he was right. I’ll need to think more about it. In the meantime, dig Robin’s post. And if you have any of your own ideas about the future, let’s hear em.