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    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2008 edited
    I just came across these timelines on Ross Dawson's blog (

    Innovation timeline

    Extinction timeline

    This got me to thinking about what I've seen come in go in the 32 years I've been around and where we're heading.

    I remember when Pong and cash register scanners were high tech and the future was flying cars and food pills. Now we have nanotech and iPhones (not that I'm complaining, mind you) and I can't wait to see what's coming next.

    What do you think? Is there anything you see coming or going?
    • CommentAuthorzacharius
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2008
    I think the two big trends, for the next little while, are systemic chaos and decentralisation, in every sense, which means a huge technological power shift out to the margins. But at the same time, you've got peak oil, market collapse, drought and famine, and ecological instability, which makes it important for people to take that up willfully for survival purposes.

    So it's one of those things where large institutions start to devolve even worse then they are now, but individual empowerment proceededs in leaps and bounds, if you can come to grips with it, which raises the main issue of psychological fitness to cope with change, which usually gets overlooked.

    as you might have guessed, I think and write about this a fair bit...
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2008
    One of the big problems I'm noticing on the rise is this genetic altering of foods... Monsanto Corporation have now patented a number of pesticide resistant strands of wheat and canola that the farmers can't seem to maintain, and there was actually a lawsuit in Canada against a farmer who buy no means of his own had this stuff blown (literally, by the wind) into his fields and since these new strands are completely man-made, they are patented, and the corporations can essentially claim ownership on life, or some kind of it. Details here: Percy Schmeiser Vs. Monsanto. There was a documentary made about the effects of such technologies on the farming industry called The Future of Food which I thought was brilliant.

    Stephen Hawking has said he thinks the two most likely causes for human extinction are global warming and nuclear war. We're just at a point where we as a species have so much power to control the things around us, that I have to really question the motives behind a lot of these new technologies. Are we really gaining anything when we start creating things just because we can? Do we need the reacher technology to grab things off of shelves without having to move? Do I really need a video games control that responds to my brain activity, or are we taking unnecessary risks" And why are we doing it? Is it purely laziness? Purely fear?
  1.  (1236.4)
    I was watching "The Civil War" the other night, on a bit of a Ken Burns kick of late, and what struck me were the numbers. 25,000 dead at this battle, 50,000 dead at that one. Hell, just a couple days before Appomatox, the end of the war, 20,000 men died in a skirmish. The war was over and yet more soldiers died in a couple days than have been killed in 7 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reason? Infection and disease. If you got even a cold you were likely to die from the stagnant water and poor ventilation. Cholera, typhoid, influenza killed more men than bullets and cannonade. Today, you down some dayquil and tough it out at work, maybe take a sick day if you have a really high fever. Simple advances in sanitation and medical care have allowed billions of people to survive who would have otherwise been goners.

    Looking to the future I think that trend is the most heartening and yet frightening. You can replace the body parts as they wear out, keep the body young and strong, keep the brain active and alert, but what about the crowded earth and the resources necessary to support these eternally young old people? The reason 65 was set the retirement age for Social Security was simple, most people died before then. Now you have the quandry of a smaller generation (Gen X, Y an millenial) supporting a much larger Boomer generation that's likely to live longer and at greater expense than any generation in history. Politicians are paralyzed, because old people vote.

    Generational conflict due to the marvels of medicine. There's a weird future trend to watch.
    • CommentTimeMar 4th 2008
      CommentAuthorWillow Bl00
    • CommentTimeMar 6th 2008 edited
    Looking to the future I think that trend is the most heartening and yet frightening. You can replace the body parts as they wear out, keep the body young and strong, keep the brain active and alert, but what about the crowded earth and the resources necessary to support these eternally young old people?

    Great leaps in population have always occurred during the delay between technological/medical advancements which allow people to live longer/have lower the infant death rate and people realizing that they can quit pumping out so many safeguards for their genes. Population growth charts look really neat (makes me wish my medical sociology books weren't in storage right now or I'd scan some in) because of the visible delay in adjusting output of babies to ability to support them. It's kind of like this, actually (sorry about image size):
    birth/death rate
    so your population boom occurs between the times that the birth and death rates diverge before they match again. I feel like I need to gestiuclate to know I'm getting my point across to people. Goggles and pointers also help.

    Ok, so. Point is, although we will have more people, the population growth rate won't continue at the current rate. You already see places encouraging (or mandating) only one child per married couple - which will eventually decrease the population.
    I think groups of people that still maintain older ideals of farming, blood family, and physical labor will continue to pump out lots of kids. Those people who idealize education and technology will only have one child, or prolong their own lives instead (or both). You already see this happening. It's a matter of how many children you can support and what sort of time/energy you want to invest/derive from them.

    I feel that our advancements are about adapting to our environment. There is the distinct possibility that we will bring something upon ourselves that would potentially kill us, but what we're good at is building tools to deal with situations. We used to adapt to the 'natural' environment, but lately more and more of the tech that comes out helps us utilize our previous tech more efficiantly.
  2.  (1236.7)
    I agree Willow, and even without gesticulations you make a fine point.

    Smarter people breeding less, "earthier" people pumping out kids...I think I've seen this somewhere

    • CommentTimeMar 6th 2008 edited
    I think the problem's even worse than that. People aren't born as morons just because they had stupid parents, but even the smart people who manage to reproduce have no safe facet to shield their children from being nurtured into retardation. In about 70 years, today will be one of "The Good Ol' Days", and my twenty year old companions will be the oldest people in the world. This is troublesome. Kids need to stop watching TV, and start being taught critical thinking. People need to be inspired to want to better themselves and thereby better the rest of the world.

    I saw a statistic somewhere (probably on this forum actually, though maybe it was BBC or CBC) that said the average American spends 4.5 hours a day in front of a TV. 8 mins of ads every half hour adds up to 18.25 days of ads every year. But the demographics on that statistic: The younger the subject of testing, the more TV/ ads they watch. Children between the ages 5-10 spend over 8 hours a day watching TV. In 30-40 years, they'll be our media and our politicians; Our world leaders. In 80 years, they'll be the oldest people on Earth.

    Anyway, what I mean to say is we need to nurture intelligence if we're to last as a species, though I'm not saying we necessarily will or should.
    • CommentAuthorSolario
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2008 edited

    Then again. What did the majority of people do 80 years ago from now? Farming, industrial menial work and the sorts. Not exactly what you would describe as exercising your brain (though something could be said about exercise enhancing your ability to learn and general physical wellness being good for the brain as well as the body.)

    And look at the average radio shows and films from 80 years ago and compare it to, the relatively by-the-numbers, shows of today like say, CSI or Days of Our Lives. Multiple plot threads to be aware of, flashbacks/flashforwards, character growth and interaction. Pop Culture is smarter now than it was 80 or 50 or 20 years ago. To be specific: Look at Dragnet and then look at CSI. Which show demands the most attention from your brain?

    I'm not disagree with the idea that there will be dumb people in the future. But exponentially, I don't think it will be all that different.