Afternoon InquisitionRandom Asides

AI: Future So Bright?

Welcome to the world of tomorrow!!!

Okay, so Future Timeline presents a speculative timeline of what is likely to happen in both the near-future and beyond. It takes current technologies and trends and uses them as a foundation for the speculation. It is quite a substantial bit of material, but take a look when you get a chance.

What do do you think? Standard futurism? Any promising possibilities? What do they get right? What do they get wrong? Anything they missed? Does anyone have a stamp I can borrow? What of the technological singularity? What else?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Hmm. We will finally be on a verge of semi-real space travel, flying cars, rocket packs and holodecks, when the Supreme Court get another nut appointed to it, and they declare that a) if you don’t have enough money, you don’t have any IP rights, and b) its fine to suppress certain ideas, if it conflicts with their master’s wishes. Soon after corporations will be dumbfounded when spare super pack money, from previous elections, gets used by a new group of Luddite Evangelicals to buy out all their stock, and they institute a policy of erasing anything “un-Biblical”, by reverting the country to the use of horse and buggy, ending all forms of air travel, and making any form of entertainment that involves witchcraft (i.e. shit like broadcast TV or computer games) illegal.

    Oh, wait, was I supposed to go the other way with this, or just say, “Same old, same old. I.e., slow progress, in spite of the total idiots out there.”? lol

  2. Nice science oops speculative fiction. Reminds me of when I was in grade school and they were telling us that by the year 2000 we would be spending $10 for a loaf of bread and that the world would have over 20 billion people. Valid extrapolation of then-current trends (double digit inflation and a much sharper growth curve) but both very wrong. You can’t anticipate some things and others you’ve relied on never come to be, it’s crap shoot really.

    Population growth patterns are such that, right now, underpopulation is a much bigger concern for most of us than overpopulation and the subsidies that have been given freely to food poduction worldwide have kept costs way down (as we fat Americans will tell you).

    Plus, transhumans will be the flying cars of our times; just ain’t gonna happen.

  3. Interstellar travel in 150-300 years is *totally off*.

    The energy, resource, engineering requirements, and costs to go any kind of FTL (or even subliminal) are extreme.

    Also given that it’s now 40-ish years since we went to the moon and we now don’t even have a vehicle that can get people to Earth Orbit other than the soyuz.. what makes the authors of this think that we’re going to be traveling to other stars in 200 years?

    I think we’ll be lucky to even have a colony on mars by 2300. However, by I do think we’ll have commercial operations between the earth and moon and in low earth orbit by then.

    In general it just aggrivates me that futurists think space travel and habitation is like smartphone technology or something. They’re wrong, it’s 100x more difficult and costly with far less commercial return.

  4. Actually, the real cost of “interstellar travel” is either time+resources, or a drastic change in our understanding of physics. Right now, the energy requirements are not so much prohibitive, and impossible, for anything like FTL, and any other method involves generation ships.

    Travel into space is a “tad” less unlikely, though getting to nearby objects, other than the moon, is a tad more problematic. Their are ways, most of them are going to require someone seeing a way to make a big enough profit to do it, and spending stupid amounts of money on it. It would take a project like the one someone proposed a while back to link some part of Russia with Alaska, to provide non-flight means to connect to Europe. Possible, but the logistics, and the cost…

    With space, its the same problem, any method we can think of that might work, like using a rail launch, to provide initial acceleration, to save fuel, comes with other costs, both in building and running it, which, without the government using tax money to fund it, no corporation is *ever* going to finance.

    1. //no corporation is *ever* going to finance.//

      Yeah pretty much, there’s no profit in going to space and no corporation or government really wants to pay the hundreds of billions it will take to found a mars colony (which they will no doubt NOT see a return on).

      The key lies in gradually building up space launch, travel, and habitation architecture through slow commercialization by companies like scaled composites and SpaceX. Even those companies are facing extreme technical difficulty and losing billions with highly unsure returns. So we will probably end up traveling space in the future, but it is going to be a very slow slow process getting there, thousands of years to be sure.

  5. Sam Ogden,

    I usually find predictions of the future to be interesting, even if they usually turn out to be wrong. Most likely much of what is predicted in this timeline will not come to pass. In some cases that maybe a good thing, in others it maybe a bad thing, but I still think I’ll enjoy it.

  6. It is interesting, but future development is really dependent on what we focus on. If humanity abandons science, their won’t be any progress. Timelines like this can’t always take human choice into account.

  7. When I was in jr. high school I read a similar piece in Omni Magazine. They predicted the U.S. would surrender to the Soviet Union around the year 2000. They did not predict the failure of Omni Magazine.

  8. Hmm. Got back from work, so decided to nose through some of the stuff. This guy does understand that “self checkout” has major problems, including theft, and that attempts to fix it, such as RFID has created paranoia in some, doesn’t always work, and isn’t necessarily practical, so that this is being rethought, and its likely that the growth of such systems is going to either a) slow, b) halt, or c) see the numbers reduced?

    Yeah, its great for somethings. But while I can see more cases of, “pay with your cell phone”, until you can have the “self checkout” watch for the idiot stuffing a bottle of booze down their pants, and you can fix when it goes wrong (which is fairly often, especially if tags are wrong, or prices didn’t get into the system, or, like where I work, no one has bought one for X weeks, to it was spit out of the system, even though it still sat on a shelf…), this isn’t going to grow at anything like the pace suggested. It might even disappear completely, in places like grocery stores.

  9. Predicting the future is (in my view) a worthwhile endeavour even when wrong.

    Planning for the future is not done nearly as much as it should be.

    In trying to determine what we think the future will hold we ask questions that wouldn’t otherwise get asked.
    And look at things from a different perspective.

    Now having taken a cursory look at some of the predictions this site is making I have found some that I don’t think stand up.
    But the reasons why and the discussion of it is both interesting and worthwhile.

    On the space issue…
    Some other posters here are dismissing/ignoring/’not thinking of’ many potential options that might render space travel both profitable and viable for mass migration.
    Technology like space elevators and asteroid mining (both potentially profitable and viable in this century) radically and completely change the landscape of space colonisation.

    Space elevators enable large non-aerodynamic objects to be easily put into orbit safely.
    This means building nuclear powered space ships a simple engineering challenge, throw a few billion at it and it’s solved.
    The technology to do it was invented in the 60’s.
    The reason we don’t build such craft is you can’t launch them from the earth’s surface (at least not if you don’t want dozens of people to die per launch from radiation sickness)
    If you build such craft already in orbit, you no longer have that problem.

    Other problems of space travel such as radiation worries and zero gravity are also trivially solvable if you can make the space craft big enough…

    Again trivial if you have a space elevator.

    And as for profit, single small asteroids contain minerals valued at trillions of USD.

    Now building a space elevator is not a given, we know materials strong enough just not how to make them in large enough quantity or quality.
    But there is nothing we know about physics atm that says that we wont be able to solve those problems.
    And in this century.

    Given that I don’t think their timeline is over optimistic. It might even be conservative (unlikely but possible).

    For those extrapolating from the “we went to the moon in the 60’s but now can barely make it into orbit” I would remind you that extrapolating from any trend without understanding of the underlying causes for it risks extrapolating into territory where different rules apply.

    There are a host of potentially game changing technologies (3d printing for example) that could easily radically alter our economics such that it would be unrecognisable to us now.

    Trying to determine what is or is not possible, or desirable for our future, how we might achieve it,
    and most importantly explaining and discussing the
    reasons for why some things may or may not be possible
    or desirable is a worthwhile thing to do.

    There are a number of comments on this thread dissing the
    entire idea or trashing specific predictions without reasoning as though the respective posters have clarion insight into the future that those on the website you linked don’t.

    I suggest that such posts are not only unhelpful to good debate.
    But also that they sound remarkably like the arrogant and dismissive tripe spouted out by purveyors of conspiracy theories and Woo who like to sound like they know more than any one else but can’t or don’t present any reasons for their positions.

    1. That said, the site does contain predictions like having anti-gravity cars by 2079… which barring some monumental change in physics in the intervening time is not just unlikely… it’s impossible.

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