Terse Systems

Life in Fifty Years

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Another presentation at Five Minutes of Fame. Christina took video of the talk, so I might be able to put that up as well.

This one took me a while to go through. I picked up a number of books on the subject when Borders shut down, and the talk gave me the impetus to crank through them. The most relevant books were Plan B 4.0, The Ecotechnic Future, and Hot: Living Through The Next Fifty Years. I also recommend The Windup Girl or World Made By Hand for a much better sense of what the future may feel like.

Part of the reason I went through the books was to see how likely the Singularity is. As far as I can make out, it's very dependent on how much free energy is available in fifty years. With a strong global economy, all the parts and dependencies sorted and the sheer power requirements it would take to jam a human-equivalent neural network down through silicon pathways, it's technically possible to have AI. But then you've still got the supply chain management to work through before you can develop more advanced AI, and the overall "cost friction" means that, in practice, AI is only going to be as intelligent as is economically reasonable. Fundamentally, silicon AI is a luxury for the rich. As such, it doesn't show up much in the slides, but I didn't have time to do it justice. (This doesn't go into the biological AI depicted in Starfish, but that's another talk for another time.)

The reaction from Noisebridge wasn't quite what I'd hoped with this: most people found it really depressing. I was a bit surprised, because I had made a concerted effort to scale down some of the more apocalyptic predictions and pointed out that the US makes out way better than most other countries (pretty simple reason: the countries that get hit the worst are the poorest).

Still, it was worth it to do the research, and I got a couple of compliments and a fun conversation afterwards. The future is a large and complicated subject, so I'm going to be going back to the presentation and filling out bits as I find out more.

EDIT: The videos of Hot: The Next 50 Years and A Really Inconvenient Truth are worth watching as well.