Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Few Optimistic Futures


I’m working on a couple scenarios on the future of education to share during Museums Advocacy Day training next Monday. This exercise reminded me yet again how easy it is to “go dark” when imagining potential futures. Maybe I’m just a pessimist or maybe writing dystopias is just more fun.

In any case, when I took a scanning break, it was refreshing to find an article on “7 Best-Case Scenarios for the Future of Humanity” on SentientDevelopments. George Dvorsky—the futurist/science writer/ethicist who pens this blog—provides a round-up of some of the brightest futures envisioned by a variety of scientists, transhumanists, philosophers and other creative thinkers. Here is a summary of the scenarios he explores:

  1. The Status Quo, which Dvorsky argues is better than many alternatives. Could humans in fact be at the pinnacle of our development as a species?
  2. A Bright Green Earth—in which engineering and ecology combine to create a Rousseauian paradise
  3. A future in which we are Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. Instead of being bent on the destruction of their human overlords, robots devote themselves to creating utopia for their creators. (Bonus—this scenario includes a poem.)
  4. No list of bright futures would be complete without imagining that the Star Trek universe becomes real. “To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before” does just that, postulating that our species could survive and thrive not only on earth, but throughout the galaxy.
  5. Alternatively, the next frontier could turn out the be Inner Space, Not Outer Space, as we upload ourselves into massive supercomputers. (I’m not sure this is, in fact, a best-case scenario, but maybe that’s just me.)
  6. We could obey the Hedonistic Imperative and devote ourselves to creating a state of Eternal Bliss.
  7. and ending on a woo-woo note, we have Cosmological Transcension (which I don’t even understand, but apparently is something like the Gaia hypothesis on a cosmological scale—we can control the universe with our thoughts if only we evolve far enough.)  

I recommend you read the whole post especially if you are feeling and end-of-world gloom in the wake of the recent meteor strike and nuclear weapon tests by rogue states. Bookmark it, too, because, as you have time, exploring the hyperlinks will lead you to some very interesting essays and background material. (And you can wow people at your next dinner party by making small talk about Matrioshka Brains and quantum computing.)

Also, I've added Sentient Developments to my Google Reader feed, because Dvorsky presents provocative and entertaining futurist content on a regular basis, including thoughtful commentary on the ethical dilemmas raised by new technology

(BTW--if you want to hear my scenarios about the future of education next Monday, you can register for the free virtual Museums Advocacy Day conference here.)

1 comment:

Dan Spock said...

The singularity is nigh?