Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How you'll be living

A CNN story recently focused on a consortium known as The Institute For The Future.  Here's their stated mission:

"Think of "A Multiverse of Exploration: The Future of Science 2021" as a star chart of possibility, pointing the way toward opportunities for wonder, knowledge, and insight. Use it to raise questions about how your life and work may change in light of the startling transformations that science may bring about in the next ten years. Indeed, every forecast could be rephrased as a "what if" question. What if you could record your dreams? What if you could design a life form? What if you could launch a company in orbit? Your answers to those questions can help inform decisions in the present. Inside this map, you'll find plenty of space to think."

That's quite a bit to digest, but what are the best brains projecting our lives to be like in the future year, 2021?  Here's a few of their points to expect on the IFTF's "star chart" (available on their website linked above):
-The study of human-data interaction will be a highly valued discipline.  Not tough to see this coming as people with that skill are already in high demand.

-Metamaterials will make the invisibility cloak a reality.

-New lifeforms will be constructed from scratch.  I'm thinking this likely means on the microscopic level.

-You can own your own satellite for a mere $1000.

-Orbital manufacturing will become practical.

-Fusion reactors will finally come about, powered by seawater.

-Teleportation will succeed on the molecular scale.
-Genetic enhancement.  'Nuff said.

-Scans of your brain can record "mind movies."

While I love the idea of many of these things and I am excited about the potential that they bring, I cannot shake the fact that this may be an entirely rosy picture.  That's because I'm not sure if or to what degree the IFTF has taken the current economic downturn into consideration.  Much of this depends on people investing money.  Ultimately, you will need end users to purchase these nifty new goods and services.  
A continually shrinking middle class will affect that.  If people are fighting to pay for food and healthcare, these new innovations might only be privileges of the wealthy and not aspects of the future that are widespread.  

Then again, if we follow Ray Kurzweil's lead and augment human intelligence, we might be able to make ourselves smart enough to see past our failings of greed and find a solution to many of our challenges.

Or not.

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