Future


Exxon wants to put more oily pipelines across our country.
What could go wrong?

Uhhh….
I mean besides leaking oil all over the place.

This past year, Exxon’s pipeline in Wyoming spilled 42,000 gallons of oil
into the Yellowstone River.
That’s 1,000 barrels worth of oil.

Exxon just loves spilling oil.
And profits.

While you are cutting into your family’s monthly budget for gas money,
Exxon’s revenue for 2010 was 383 Billion.

Exxon is Latin for “Spill”
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/15/us-oil-spill-montana-idUSTRE76E6WN20110715

Exxon: “Money Talks, Environment Walks”
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/01/business/01oil.html

As reported by the US Energy Dept, the US consumed 18.8 million barrels of oil a day in 2009.

That’s just a number so it may be hard to know if that’s a lot.

Well, it means that every day in 2009 the US used more oil than
China
Japan
India
Russia….
combined.

When we think about ‘which country is best prepared for the transition to non-carbon transportation and economy?’
the US does not fare well right now.
There is no better time to discuss with your politicians the issues of transitioning out of a culture of oil.

Here’s a lovely duo of videos depicting some visions of possible future technologies:

What I love in the above video from Corning that I missed the first time viewing it was the photovoltaic glass.
This alone can be a ‘game changer’ for cities’ energy consumption. Gathering the natural energy of the sun is of course a no-brainer but developmental technologies will need to show sustained gathering power over time without degradation, cost effeciency, and environmentally sound means of production. The photovoltaic feature is only further benefitted by the capacity of the glass to transition to various degrees of shading. This ‘shading’ feature could conceivably be computer controlled throughout large buildings to control temperature maintenence costs. Love it.

We have to wonder: will photovoltaic glass be able to be installed on electric cars?

I also like the depiction of up-to-the-minute commute information on the highway signs and the interactive onboard computer in the woman’s car. So, the fact that the woman is 1) travelling alone in a car rather than ride sharing, 2) driving a car that appears to be private-owned rather than car-shared, is not so energy friendly but maybe we can at least assume the car is fully non-fossil fueled.

I feel that transportation will become more and more a key talking point in issues of effeciency, energy, and quality of living.
Think of how painful it is to wait for a slow computer to load a website or play a video. The anxiety and frustration that it causes for a 20 second wait is understandable in the transportation of information, but we can somehow accept hours upon hours each week of transporting ourselves? As driving attention is taken over by autonomous smart cars and public transit becomes more popular, these issues of wasted time and energy will (thankfully) fade away.

I love the instant language translation and the use of telepresence in the classroom setting here.
I can imagine all kinds of uses with that type of technology especially as voice recognition technology advances.

I feel that there are a couple of applications not shown here that may be expected: more augmented reality, more use of robotics, the capacity for our tools to anticipate and predict our wants, and data rich clothing.

In the Microsoft video, we see ‘floating tags’ in the airport. I believe that these type of tags will become popularized with many people using augmented reality to see Twitter feeds appearing above people. Of course, these tags may announce their name, mood, ‘status’, as well as any social gaming with which they may be participating.  

As an addendum of trends to watch for:
Nanoassemblers, the next generation of the already revolutionary 3D printers. High density, extremely effecient urban hubs. Rented microhousing and a ‘rent/share/gift economy.’

Aside from Grossman’s title, this article leaves little with which to disagree (but believe me, I found something!).

That owes to Grossman’s milquetoast article (in true Time fashion) giving only the most cursory account of the issues Kurzweil addresses.

While Grossman does a passable job ‘introducing’ the subject, I did find a few notes I would like to add (though I’m not sure how long mainstream media outlets will have to keep introducing an idea that is in fact been around literally for decades and Kurzweil who has been popularized through many venues…).

Beginning with his or his editors’ choice of title. Firstly, ‘Man’ as a designator for humanity has got to go. College freshman writing courses will tell you that so drop it. Topics of science and technology often privilege male gender enough so let’s try not to slather our cover pages with basic no-no’s okay?

Secondly, just as humanity now does not have indoor plumbing, so will “humanity in 2045” not become immortal. Technology and the access to it does not appear equally distributed across the world and it does no one any good to disguise that fact with poor use of language. More appropriately, the article could say: “some people who are quite wealthy and are located near urban centers and have access to the most up-to-date medical care will be able to potentially slow or reverse the effects of aging.” Important to note is that just as now there are many without access to even rudimentary medical care–so will the future not necessarily bring instant health care justice.

The unequal distribution and access to medicine is and will (most likely) be a major issue for justice minded folk.

So to the article:

1. Grossman focuses on AI, which is understandable given the traction that IBM’s ‘Watson’ has made lately in the news. Understandable. But I believe that what Kurzweil does well is illuminate the convergence of cognitive sciences, nanotechnologies, biomedical advances, AI, robotics, and computing power. It isn’t necessarily just advances in AI, but the way AI will be integrated into robotics. Or the way nanotechnology will be implemented in medicine. All of these separate areas of technoscience are amazing indeed but it is the way they inform and bootstrap each other that will be truly surprising.

2. Who or what is a “Singulartarian”? Grossman uses this term as well as “Kurzweilian” and I though I understand that Grossman may just be using a shorthand for “people that believe that the event called ‘singularity’ will occur” and “people that largely agree with Kurzweil’s appraisal of the timing and effects of the singularity,” I feel that his language acts to depict a diverse and unorganized group of folks as an organized secular sect.
You can use any inappropriate handle for any assorted ‘group’ to make them sound wacky (like I feel Singulartarian does). 

“You know those people who believe in transforming animals? You know–Evolutarians? Yeah. Some of them are Darwinites.”

Uh. Does anyone who believes in evolution call themself a Evolutarian? I don’t know. Probably as many as those who identify as Singularitarian.

3. There’s another way to make an idea sound wacky. Compare it to something ‘wacky’ even though it may have nothing in common. Grossman uses this trick when he writes: “Of course, a lot of people think the Singularity is nonsense–a fantasy, wishful thinking, a Silicon Valley version of the Evangelical story of the Rapture…” 
Waitaminute. 
“A lot” of people think this? Who?
There are a number of great thinkers out there who have posed interesting critiques of the main ideas surrounding the Singularity but why not name them?
In my reading, very few people question the events commonly associated with the Singularity. Even those experts in technoscience who don’t look forward to its occurrance and believe that it will bring dire consequences to much of humanity, still concede to Kurzweil’s main points and even his projected timing of events.

And none of those astute folks that I’ve read (among them Bill Joy and Jaron Lanier) have said that the Singularity is like a secular ‘rapture.’ 

Any close reading of Kurzweil does not allow for that interpretation. He speaks of the opposite of what Rapture is. He speaks of radical closeness, integration, loving connection, and having to steer the present (and thus future) with our highest values of compassion and intimacy. That’s not flight from the world, that’s responsible embracing. 

But, to some people ‘ethics, justice, compassion, and intimacy’ might sound ‘spiritual’ and if some people hear it that way, so be it. 

In the end, whatever “the future brings” will be the fruit of our moral behavior today. 

See The Original Article:  
Grossman, Lev. “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal” Time February 21, 2011
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2048138,00.html

This is a short response to Newitz’ article on io9.com titled “Why the Singularity Isn’t Going To Happen”.

Firstly, Newitz seems to make contradictory statements about the Singularity and seems to not be familiar with what thinking people say about ‘the Singluarity’. Her title contradicts her essay. She seems to state the basic features of the life changing tech associated with singularity theories will happen.
So what won’t happen, says Newitz, is a perfect world. A “La la Land” where dumb people sit around and eat potato chips. The problem is, no thinking person who thinks or talks about Singularity event(s) paints a Utopian picture. She has set up a strange straw man argument here.
She says she spoke to a person who was hyped up about some divinely beautiful potato chip experience. Did that person then go on to say there would be no problems in the world? Or did Newitz just imagine this must follow logically from a good potato chip? I see the connection: yummy potato chip=perfect world. Maybe if she would have followed up with some questions for this person she would find that they believed there could yet be racism, inequalities, child soldiers, exploitative corporations…and yes, yummy potato chips at the same time.

Secondly, no one I know of who is thoughtful believes everything will be made perfect by genetics, robotics, information tech, and nanotechnologies (GRIN). Kurzweil and many others note well the threats made by each of these types of developments. Kurzweil notes at length the threats to new types of violence and war.

Thirdly, sadly, Newitz misses a chance to talk about current situations that must be addressed in the present should we hope to effect a brighter future of nonviolence and justice. We all need to talk about racism, bigotry, heteronormativity, failing knowledge economies, personal liberties, digital divides, and all types of injustice if we are to have a future we would want for our next generations.

Thoughtful people know that tech is a double-edged sword and Jaron Lanier and many others speak quite well about the tangled paths and multiple futures that lay as possibilities before us. We know that tech does not absolve us from moral action. A great book to check out if one likes Newitz’ article might be Edward Tenner’s “Why Things Bite Back”, written in 1997. Many of us have also talked about Singularities–just as there were really many Reformations in the Great Reformation, we can reasonably expect life of Earth to make many sharp turns. There are better conversations out there than Newitz lets on.

On one thing we all can agree: we are morally responsible for how we spend our time, how we act towards ending current injustices, and stripped of all our newest technologies what matters is informed, allied, and sustained justice work.

Newitz’ essay:
http://io9.com/5661534/why-the-singularity-isnt-going-to-happen

Many of us who live in U.S. urban and suburban environments are now witnessing the twilight of the U.S. Car Culture.
This current car culture I characterize by:
a) privately owned vehicles
b) which get less than 100 miles per gallon of gas
c) are the primary transportation for a individual or family
d) are not ‘smart linked’ to an organizing network enabling hands free driving
e) weigh an average of more than 1,800 pounds

In the interests of the health of our world, our local communities, our families, and ourselves it is a very good thing that all five of these current features of
our U.S. car culture will be going extinct for many areas.

This post will gather information of why we all have cause to celebrate the end of the old way of U.S. car culture and encourage you to quicken the pace of the change through your own political voice and action. Web sources will be available below as well as book citation.

THE OLD WAY OF DOING CARS IS HORRIBLY EXPENSIVE AND ISN’T WORTH IT
In 2004 the average household spent 17% of their income on car ownership and operating costs per year.
In 1996, car loans represented one third of all consumer debt (Alvord 102).
Because of depreciation, a new car costs you almost 15 dollars a day whether it is used or not (Alvord 102).
In 2000, repairs and maintenence averaged around 750 dollars a year per car (Alvord 102).

BUT THERE’S MORE HIDDEN COSTS!
Parking lots and garages, tolls, parking tickets, speeding tickets, ‘upgrades/bells and whistles’.
Taxes subsidize road and driver infrastructure.

“Researcher Douglass Lee calculates that U.S. taxpayers contribute over $41 billion a year to cover the road costs that drivers don’t (Alvord 105).”

“Friends of the Earth estimates that oil production, health and property damage, and related clean-up costs the U.S. about $10 billion yearly (Alvord 107).”

“Congestion costs may total as much as $168 billion a year in the U.S. (Alvord 107).”

“American motorists pay $52 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs, and $230 billion a year for medical costs, lost productivity, travel delay, workplace costs, insurance costs, and legal costs stemming from motor vehicle accidents.”
http://cpr.ca.gov/CPR_Report/Issues_and_Recommendations/Chapter_4_Infrastructure/INF20.html

Commuting a total of 1.25 hours a day will cost you about 28,ooo dollars a year in opportunity cost (time missed from actually working).
http://steve-olson.com/the-high-cost-of-commuting-to-work/

OUR CURRENT CAR CULTURE COSTS TOO MUCH IN HUMAN SUFFERING AND DEATH

Killed in car accidents 42,116*
Killed by the common flu 20,000*
Killed by murders 15,517*
Killed in airline crashes
(of 477m passenger trips)
120 (1)
Killed by lightning strikes 90*
(1) Annual average over 19 year period.
*Average annual totals in United States.

http://www.unitedjustice.com/death-statistics.html

Researchers found that artery wall thickening among people living within 100 meters (328 feet) of a Los Angeles highway progressed twice as quickly as those who lived farther away.
http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/006946.html

“…minute sooty particles, emitted largely from the burning of diesel and other fuels and inhaled deeply into the lungs, shortens lives by seven to eight months. In pollution hotspots like areas of central London and other cities, the particles could be cutting vulnerable people’s lives short by as much as nine years.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/22/air-pollution-deaths

How will you speed the transition to better transportation and standard of living?

Alvord, Katie. “Divorce Your Car: Ending The Love Affair With The Automobile” (Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers. 2000)

CHICAGO–In an interview with Oprah, JK Rowling made a threat to the world’s literate: “I could write another Harry Potter book.”

Readers the world over were shocked and worried at the reclusive pulp novelist’s threat. Teenagers and the weak minded masses who slogged through her first several attempts at writing a Harry Potter book were reeling with the news.

“I couldn’t sleep last night. I just tossed and turned thinking about having to work through six hundred pages of wooden and rambling non-events.” Said Maria Esquivel, a thirteen year old from Peru.

In spite of a world of literate fearful, Rowling’s American publisher Scholastic Press expressed great excitement. Scholastic Press released a statement yesterday which stated: “While it is true Harry Potter excitement has dwindled to a groaning ‘meh’, the feelings of obligation around Harry Potter are still quite high. We excitedly await Ms. Rowling’s newest tome of drudgery and restatement!”

Millions who would otherwise be filling their bus riding time reading “People” magazine or doing “E-Z Crossword Adventure! Farm Edition” now face the chance that they will have to relive the droll horrors of the Harry Potter universe.

Asked about Rowlings threat, Ravi Gopal Venkata a 19 year old from India, said “I hate the characters, and the stupid world they live in, but I would have to read it. I hate every stupid thing about the tedium of Harry Potter but I would have to read it and have to write fan fiction about it.”

JK Rowling stated to Oprah that she plans on taking “a writing class at a community college” to brush up on her writing chops.

“When I write dialogue I want it to sound like the best infomercial you’ve ever heard.” She said.

SPOILER ALERT!!!
Here are some of the highlights that Rowling is said to have in store for the next book–leaked from a Rowling insider!

1. Dobby groveling
2. Explore more of the Gryffendor’s common room (the furniture is spooky!)
3. Three hundred pages of Quidditch
4. Moping
5. Fourteen scenes that will be exactly the same. Word for word.

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