01 January 2009

What Will Change Everything?

At Edge.org the question is asked of several dozen scientists, thinkers, and authors -- "What Will Change Everything?"

Kevin Kelly thinks "A New Kind of Mind" will change everything. Ed Regis thinks it will be "Molecular Manufacturing." Juan Enriquez sees humanity evolving into a new species of hominid. Stuart Kauffman foresees "An Open Universe," with a Buckminster Fuller-esque "doing more with less" world of dizzyingly evolving complexity. Philosopher Marcelo Gleiser believes humans will master death. Nick Bostrom anticipates the coming of "Superintelligence." Chris Anderson of the TED Conference expects to see a revolution in education from enhanced web technologies. Gregory Paul sees the coming of the CYBORG. Freeman Dyson thinks we will be able to communicate thoughts and feelings directly from brain to brain...... And several dozen more, many of them more startling than any of the above. Check them out.

It would not take much to change everything. But for the change to be desirable, western civilisation needs to survive a few decades longer. The west is the driver of advanced science and technology, as well as the matrix for most sophisticated thought and futuristic ideas. Something better should emerge, if given time to incubate.


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Blogger Bruce Hall said...

After scanning the variety of scientific, political, cultural and biological/evolutionary arguments about what will change everything, I think the closest to answering the question is "Accidental Nuclear War."

It's not that many of the other notions wouldn't have an impact on the way we live, but beyond agriculture, antibiotics, and genetic manipulation, the rest of the "breakthroughs" only deal with externalities that make life more interesting and comfortable, but do not necessarily alter all of mankind's niche in the world.

Conversely, a major natural or manmade disaster may well be the key to either a new social/evolutionary path or the end of mankind.

Agriculture and antibiotics are the lynchpins for human population growth and an explosion of genetic diversity. While much of the diversity is subtle, there may be some changes that will be necessary and advantageous when the next asteroid strikes earth or the next Yellowstone Cauldron eruption occurs... necessary for survival and advantageous for movement down a new evolutionary path for the survivors.

A less dramatic method is genetic manipulation, but so much political, ethical, religious, and cultural resistance must be overcome that it is unlikely that dramatic changes will occur unless done surreptitiously by some "mad" scientist/organization.

Disasters have been the norm for triggering major change. Why will it be different in the future? Certainly not because of mankind's rationality as witnessed on a small scale between Israelis and Palestinians.

So, yes, there may be many "important improvements" in mankind's experience, but very few things will change everything.

Friday, 02 January, 2009  
Blogger al fin said...

Too true, Bruce. A nuclear war or a large asteroid impact could disrupt civilisation in the negative direction.

Eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano might destroy much of the US agricultural breadbasket, which would change quite a lot.

I am keeping several of my own ideas to myself, in hopes that no one else thinks of them for a long time.

Saturday, 03 January, 2009  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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