Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Future in Focus


At a most critical time, as we near completion of the first decade of the 21st century, futurism is in trouble - it is adrift on the shoals of concepts that have outlived their predictive utility.

There are two principal flavors of futurism - the social conscience type, which emphasizes addressing big problems like overpopulation and global warming; the second type is the forecasting of technological advancements, and their impact on humanity.

The social conscience type is in good shape, I think - that futurism branch is by its very nature strongly bounded by the clear evidence of the current problems that will become only bigger until they are addressed. It is not as rewarding to forecast wildly creative takes on these problems, that just makes them terrifying, and they are scary enough.

The second type, the technological projection type, is to me the fun branch, where I spend a great deal of time exploring. Especially consumer technologies, the tech manifestations that will enrich and transform our leisure time.

Unfortunately, there is an endemic, structurally suboptimal approach that is utilized almost universally by every other futurist who specializes in this branch. There is a near-universal tendency to have reasonable predictions 5 or 10 years out. But after a certain interval of time, it varies but a quarter century seems typical, the futurists compete with each other in a prediction arms race of spectacularly discontinuous technological transformations of society.

These are gimmicks to mask the fact that futurists, like everyone else, get lost in the possibilities of the future, and go for the hail mary - they are legion enough to be considered an epidemic impairment of judgment in approaching the far future.

Science fiction in some ways helps, but in some ways hurts far more than is commonly acknowledged in understanding likely futures. This is a complex subject, to which I may have occasion to return.

For this blog's predictions, the far future is about 100 years, give or take. Now, before you say that's not really the far future, I don't disagree. However, in the sense that there are no other predictions that go out that far that maintain their rigor and credibility, it is far enough for now. This blog's predictions will be unique in that they get the flavor and a very significant percentage of the details for the next 100 years right.

But we are not going to go straight to the end of the century - there will be checkpoints, intermediate expressions of these technologies, all along the way.

This is an attempt to discern the outlines of the real future, and it is built upon the solid foundations of empirically faithful and conservative steps, one leading to the other, at all times consistent and reasonable. No dramatic touches are introduced unless everything has logically led up that. These foundations are firmer by orders of magnitude than any other far future you have seen.

This blog addresses a focused set of future technologies, primarily consumer products for our future selves - advanced AI, virtual reality, and droid technologies. As it turns out, these techs more than any other do in fact define the future, make it distinctive. Without these, the future wouldn't feel much different from today. So it's a limited scope that is in fact vast.

Every other field that has submitted its ideas and techniques to the rigors of objective scientific practice has been enriched immeasurably. In fact, the only reason we have a cool future to imagine is entirely because of the scientific method. It is ludicrous that this field not be subject to the methods that yield the fodder for interesting predictions in the first place.

I will introduce these with exhaustive and objective evidence applied in a sober, logical way. For example, this blog will not arbitrarily introduce massive discontinuities in terms of institutional governance, if there is no reason to believe that will occur. Spectacularly creative forecasts do not let you off the hook in terms of explaining in detail how and why that would happen, with abundant evidence woven into the structure of those projections.

Next are the details for this process for analyzing the future.

1 comment:

Belita said...

Keep up the good work.