The Empty Playgrounds of Tomorrow: Europe's Negative Growth

July 03 2008 / by jcchan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By JC Chan

In the next eight seconds 34 babies will be born to the world. Of these five will be from India and four will be from China. In ten years China will be the dominant English speaking country in the world. With world population exploding and shifting so dramatically, it’s easy to envision a future with billions more humans inhabiting Earth than do today. But that may not be the case.

Consider the scenario presented in the sci-fi film Children of Men (2006), a bleak vision of Earth in 2027 where humans have mysteriously lost fertility and the ability to procreate. In one scene, a scruffy-faced man named Theo, played by Clive Owen, and a woman named Miriam walk across the dreary rust of an abandoned school playground. Sitting on the squeaky swing set is the African woman they are protecting, miraculously nursing in her hands the first newborn the Earth has seen in over a decade. Miriam recalls her days as a nurse delivering births. She notes that over time fewer births were recorded until the day they ceased altogether.

“As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices,” she grimly states.

The backdrop for the film is a future England that has adopted a survivalist policy as it attempts to police millions of incoming immigrants into concentration camps to preserve the little remaining natural resources they have left. When I first watched Children of Men, the idea of humanity wiped out by widespread infertility seemed a little far-fetched. Certainly there are many other, more viable ways for us to go: nuclear weapons, terrorism, a nanotechnology nightmare, a super-resistant bacteria strain, asteroids, global warming.

Growing up in the 90’s, schools and media have always drilled into my head the post-war baby boom, exponential growth, limited allocation of resources, and recycling, oh lots of talk about recycling. (Note: I am an avid recycler.) Still, though we can and should do something about issues like global warming and runaway population growth, scenarios like the reality of the 2027 in Children of Men remind us that there may well be other formidable challenges on the horizon that may not be so much in our control.

Case in point, a recent NYTimes Sunday Magazine article by Russell Shorto entitled “No Babies?” addresses the very real possibility of population decline. Shorto examines the sleepy Italian town of Laviano in Southern Italy, a spectacular sight with magnificent steep slopes and wild poppies adorning medieval fortress ruins of a fortress, in which a population of 3,000 has fallen to just 1,600 and still dropping.

This has caused such alarm that the Laviano’s mayor has created a new fund to give any woman that would rear a child in the village, a sum of 10,000 euros ($15,000). Though the plan has resulted in a slight uptick in residents, Laviano is still steadily losing population. (cont.)

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Virtual Unreality

June 22 2008 / by StuartDobson / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Metaverse   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

Virtual worlds are created by us – so why limit ourselves to reality? We could create entirely new realities. By realising that we are free of the rules of real life, the doors are open to incredible new possibilities. In many ways, virtual worlds already provide us with glimpses of alternate realities. Its time we took notice of these instrumental differences. In the future, we may decide that a virtual existence, a life inside a fully immersive computer game where our every desire is fulfilled, is a more appealing option than the real world we currently inhabit. Many people have presented the idea that we are already in such a virtual reality, but I don’t believe this is possible. This is because virtual worlds provide us with many possibilities that the real world does not, so why have they not been “programmed” into the real world we know?

Since the early 21st century, the residents of the virtual world Second Life have been working hard to recreate real life as accurately as possible. Despite the virtual platform giving occupants the ability to fly and teleport, they still prefer to meticulously create staircases to walk their avatar up and down. At discos, people require the coolest dance animations and best looking clothes. In meetings, virtual characters sit down to rest their virtual legs. It seems the confines of reality provide a comfortable and familiar environment.

But virtual worlds are created by us – so why limit ourselves to reality? We could create entirely new realities. By realising that we are free of the rules of real life, the doors are open to incredible new possibilities. In many ways, virtual worlds already provide us with glimpses of alternate realities. Its time we took notice of these instrumental differences. (cont.)

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How Smart Will Humans Be in 2020?

June 17 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: 2020   Rating: 5 Hot

How smart will humans become as change accelerates through 2020?

Futurists and sci-fi authors often present scenarios in which humans interact with discrete artificial intelligence (like a robot or software program that talks to us), but far less frequently offer visions of runaway human intelligence enhancement (people made smarter by advances in communication, science & technology) and the resulting cultural and behavioral changes. The most interesting of these I’ve encountered include the rapid-time expanding-shrinking problem-solving networks in Vinge’s Rainbows End, Stephenson’s Metaverse idea, Hesse’s Glass Bead Game concept, Cascio’s participatory Panopticon, the increasingly smart mobs envisioned by Howard Rheingold, some of examples listed in the ASF’s Metaverse Roadmap, and what Richard Florida calls The Rise of the Creative Class . But though each of these are important visions in their own right, I remain a bit surprised at the overall lack of speculation re: what it might be like for humans to gradually bootstrap their intelligence over the coming years.

Given the deluge of brain-enhancing, capability-extending new technologies and ideas soon to be made widely available and affordable, it’d be great to see more thinkers, writers, and bloggers venture into the territory of plausible near-term culture and Intelligence Amplification (IA). Supported by a large body of consistent, powerful growth trends and near-term predictions (check them out on the Future Scanner), a wide range of social scenarios could be generated, many of which would be interesting, entertaining and ultimately valuable to people working to navigate the future (aka, everyone). In particular, I’d love to see/read simulations in which the most plausible near-term intelligence enhancing technologies and software are combined into believable slice-of-life vignettes.

What follows is a list of some powerful trends and technologies (some broad, some specific, many related to information and communication) that forward-thinkers might consider when developing scenarios for how human culture and social cognition will change as we approach 2020:

Drivers of Near-Term Intelligence Growth

WIDENING BANDWIDTH: Faster internet connections, pervasive WiFi – perhaps syndicated through people’s mobile devices.

GROWING GLOBAL INFORMATION: The amount of preserved digital data is growing exponentially as we capture more information about everything around us.

EVOLVING SOCIAL MEDIA: New media structures on a wider and more fluid web are evolving to better organize and process data. Portals like Wikipedia, Digg, Facebook, Medium, Twitter, FriendFeed, and Predictify are just the first in a long wave of innovation that promises to convert massive information into knowledge more efficiently.

VIDEO-to-VIDEO CHAT: Expect most cell phones to enable video-to-video chat by 2012 or so. (cont.)

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Time to Improve on Accidental Science

June 17 2008 / by StuartDobson / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 12 Hot

In the past, many scientific discoveries and technological solutions have come from a non related source of information. From Archimedes’ realisation in the bath, to the accidental discovery of penicillin, history is full of occasions where going outside the subject in question has provided answers to scientific problems. When you really think about it, in many ways humankind, technology, and scientific understanding have been propelled forward, significantly, by luck alone.

Many great individuals have been personally responsible for some of the most important discoveries of all time. Often, their discoveries were the result of sharing information with a friend or colleague from another field, who was able to introduce a new angle to the problem, opening up the eyes of both parties to new possibilities. Or, someone will change their field, bringing knowledge and experience from a previous career into the new subject and then approaching problems from a unique perspective. Today’s prime example of this is Aubrey DeGrey’s computing background giving a new perspective to the concept of aging.

Many major breakthroughs have been created this way, by going outside the realms of the problem itself, drawing upon the knowledge of something else to find a solution. It’s often something that is not done purposefully, so, more often than not, it doesn’t happen. Chemists might plug away at a problem for years, not realising that the answer lies in zoology. The solutions to nanotechnology might lie in quantum physics, or perhaps just mathematics. There are so many possible avenues that perhaps there are problems that we will never solve, due to us never taking the correct path to their discovery.

This is obviously not acceptable. Relying on chance meetings of elites from different fields coming up with solutions will likely keep human progress to the speed of the 1800s, whilst working on problems for which solutions already exist is a ridiculous waste of time, especially if you want to stay ahead of Actuarial Escape Velocity. Thankfully, the internet brings a lot of information together and keeps the relevant people informed on progress. With the advent of huge, web based amateur communities and special interest groups, much news and information is shared amongst those with common goals, helping the spread of information. (cont.)

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How to Destroy Humanity

June 16 2008 / by StuartDobson / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Government   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

Cross-Posted from Super Concepts.

Nuclear weapons are sooo 20th century. If you want to bring annihilation to the planet for not conforming to whatever depraved idealism you aspire to, there will soon be many much more interesting ways to do it. Unlike nukes, these technologies won’t be reserved for elite governments.

Nanotechnology presents the most possibilities. How about using self replicating nanoscopic robots to turn everything on the planet into grey goo? This kind of destruction would be so effective that nothing would remain of the present world. Perhaps this kind of disaster has already happened in our history? As there would be no evidence, we would never know!

However, for many supervillians or religious fanatics, disassembling us to our core molecules just wouldn’t be fulfilling enough. Fear not, the destructive power of nanotechnology is limited only by our imaginations.

What about swarms of predatory nanobots, programmed to hunt down and kill “non-believers” and kill them in any manner of ways – asphyxiation, crushing, burning, or simply tearing them apart? Having a non-solid physical presence they would be virtually impossible to catch and destroy.

Nano-assemblers, machines capable of manufacturing anything with atomic precision out of basic molecules such as carbon, look set to change the entire world as we know it. They would put an end to world hunger, propel the entire world into luxury, and have untold effects on the economy. Or, they could be used to undermine security measures, creating weapons in volatile scenarios, thus reversing power balances in an instant.

Imagine terrorists gaining access to the Whitehouse unarmed, only to fabricate guns once inside. Or an entire country arming every citizen within hours before going on a worldwide rampage? With nano-assemblers, the rules of supply, laws of transportation, and manufacturing limitations are turned on their head. As such, any controls put in place to limit armourment are undermined in an instant. (cont.)

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10 Massive Reality TV Shows for the Near-Future

June 10 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Social Media   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

Alvis Brigis is a former reality television producer and story editor whose credits include Motormouth (VH1), The Simple Life 2 (FOX), Making the Band 3 (MTV), and House of Boateng (Sundance). This is Part 2 of a series envisioning the future of the genre.

As I discussed in my last post on future tv programming that incorporates virtual worlds, reality TV is one of the many art forms due to experience incredible change as we enter the acceleration era. The genre is particularly well-suited to respond to new technology because it that was recently enabled by dropping technology costs and responds quickly to market forces.

That being the case, I’d like to explore just how BIG reality programming can get considering the proliferation of high-quality digital recording devices like the iPhone (the new better 3G version will start at just $199), the rise of social media media structures (YouTube, Digg, MemeBox), the advent of online participatory editing, the near-term potential of 3G and WiMax communication webs, new camera POV possibilities such as aerial micro-drones, and the steady progress we are making in digital storage and battery life/weight.

Ultimately, these are the same technologies that will enable widespread life-logging, surveillance and an emerging participatory panopticon. But along the way they will make for some kick-ass, ground-breaking reality television.

Here’s my Top 10 list of future MASSIVE reality TV shows that I’d love to kill some precious time watching:

1. THE PROTEST: The world’s largest and most dramatic political protests are examined inside-out as real-time footage captured on handhelds and by aerial drones is crowd-sourced and quickly edited online. As viewers watch the most popular cuts they can click on a frame to directly access the live feeds of their favorite broadcasters.

2. MANHUNT: 10 professional soldiers, law enforcement agents, and reformed criminals stage a fictional prison break then attempt to elude a public manhunt on 10,000 acres in rural Montana. Watch from afar or come test your tracking skills for a shot at $1,000,000.

3. THE REAL WAR: A reality show that actually makes a difference in the lives of the persecuted masses, The Real War brings transprency and accountability conflict situations in unstable regions. Sponsored by the UN and private donors, the program is edited by a panel of international observers. (cont.)

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Apple's Looking Glass

May 23 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

In a paper released yesterday, AJ.P. Gownder and James L. McQuivey at Forrester predict that by 2013 Apple will become the hub of the digital home. They support this contention by imagining eight future Apple products including “wall-mountable digital picture frames with small high-definition screens and speakers that wirelessly play media”, “an Apple ‘clock radio’ that pipes in music and other media across a home network”, and “an ‘AppleSound’ universal remote control, also with a touch-sensitive screen, that lets users browse their music collections and change the songs playing through their stereo as they stroll around the house.”

I tend to concur with the rest of the blogosphere in that this is quite the tame list and that we’ll probably see significantly more advanced products from the likes of Apple circa 2013. With dropping component costs (hi-rez screens, processors, graphics cards, etc.), rising data transfer speeds (Internet2, a possible re-allocation of analog TV spectrum) new competition from proliferating design & interface companies, and the fact that most of these concepts already in prototype, I believe such products are more likely to hit mass-markets inside of 3 years rather than 5 long years away.

In particular I find the “wall-mountable digital picture frames” prediction a bit weak. If former Xerox PARC Director John Seely Brown is accurate in his estimation that Apple CEO Steve Jobs “is positioning himself to take over completely the living room,” then by 2013 I see the company developing radically cooler products such as a slick telepresence interface that future blogger Dick Pelletier expects by 2015 or before .

Being that such devices, albeit clunky and expensive versions, are already being sold by the likes of Cisco and VisBox, and that holographic and projection technologies could eliminate the expensive screen altogether, it’s unlikely that Steve Jobs and his crack team of agile researchers and designers haven’t yet realized the trumping value of rich multi-purpose, telepresence-enabling interfaces. (cont.)

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The Future of Tennis

May 22 2008 / by Accel Rose / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Entertainment   Year: Beyond   Rating: 4 Hot

Here’s a cool vision created by tennis equipment manufacturer Lacoste of the sport as it may look 75 years from now:


My hunch is that if tennis does evolve in such a direction that robotic exoskeletons and augmented reality will make this vision possible sometime before 2030.

Will tennis still be a around in 2030?

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Vision of a Future Suburbia

May 20 2008 / by memebox / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: The Home   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

MemeBox illustrator Ian Kirby has composed this vision of a suburban future chock full of lawn-mowing robots, roofs covered in solar panels and hover cars. By when do you believe most of the elements contained in his illustration will become feasible for the average person?

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The Race to Connect Africa: Apple vs. Microsoft

May 19 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Economics   Year: 2009   Rating: 9 Hot

With the rapid rise of the iPhone and Microsoft’s announcement that it will back the One Laptop per Child initiative, a massive battle for the African computer market may be shaping up sooner than expected.

The AP reports a new deal between Apple and cell provider Orange that will bring the iPhone to “Austria, Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Jordan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland and African markets later this year.”

At the same time, Microsoft has finally agreed to provide Windows to the now promising OLPC initiative after years of ridiculing the then far-fetched project.

Though the iPhone presently costs more than a OLPC PC, $399 vs. $100, that price is due to sharply drop (perhaps to the $100 -$200 range) with the imminent release of the new 3G iPhone, which itself may be priced at just $199 if rumors about a hefty AT&T subsidy prove correct.

While lack of comm infrastructure and politics will certainly remain the primary barriers to diffusion, it looks as though these low-cost yet high-value products, driven by large companies getting accustomed to rapidly exploding markets in which first-mover advantage is critical, may catalyze a perfect storm for connectivity in under-developed nations, most notably African countries. (cont.)

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Stewart Brand on Cities and Time

April 18 2008 / by cyrusbryan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: Beyond   Rating: 9 Hot

As a response to Accel Rose’s post on the future of cities by Stewart Brand, I thought I would pass this along as a supplement. It’s a one-hour presentation on the “City-Planet”, a long-term trend barely noticed by anyone.

According to Brand, “The massive urbanization of the world now going on is changing everything, affecting economics, the environment, and global population—- most of it, in surprising ways, for the better. The more I delve into the subject, the more I find it packed with news which is not being widely reported or thought about.”

This is one of a monthly series of Seminars About Long-term Thinking, given every second Friday in San Francisco, CA, organized by The Long Now Foundation .

Here’s the google video of the Long Now talk:

Amores circuitos

March 14 2008 / by GuestBlogger / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 11

By Melanie Swan

This piece was originally posted here on Melanie’s blog Broader Perspective.



The potential replacement of humans by robots for love and sex is not shocking, it is preferable. It could be more satisfying for everyone, sexually and emotionally. Just as the simultaneous relationships of polyamory require a more mature level of self-knowledge and interpersonal communication, so too could synthetic partners take human skill sets to a whole new level. What would it be like to have a relationship with an AI that knows you better than you know yourself?

Sex with robots is far more efficient, it avoids the whole search problem and many other problems. Randomness, variability, and exploration are lauded, applauded and possible, not shunned and shamed. Not to mention far more acceptable than being gay or non-mainstream sexually in any way in current society.

Adios taboos. How could sex with robots be avoidable in a society demanding ever higher levels of self-expression and fulfillment?

There are too many other dynamics in interhuman relationships for ongoing sexual fulfillment, a quick glance at craigslist will easily confirm this. Sex could become like going to the bathroom, something most people prefer to do alone without other humans around. It is very personal.

Would YOU have sex with a robot?

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