What is the best case prediction for the future?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Seattle, Nov 1, 2019.

  1. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    Mar-a-Largo replaced by mangroves and a salt water swamp does seem to be a positive outcome!
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  3. pluto2 Banned Valued Senior Member

    I think the future looks dystopian and dark.

    Some people think that technology will keep advancing forever and ever but I think it will not. In fact I think that in another 50 years from now we will have reached the limits of technological progress. And from then on, things will only get worse and worse for people.

    And also because of overpopulation our resources will probably run out at some point in the future and then people will fight over the few resources that are left. There might even be another world war where a lot of people will die.

    Also I think there should be another extinction event at some point and maybe even humanity will become extinct at some point in the future. Humans will definitely not last forever in their current form. Homo sapiens sapiens will definitely become extinct one day.

    I think the future doesn't look so good at all, in fact I think things will only get worse at some point.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
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  5. billvon Valued Senior Member

    "We are probably nearing the limit of what we can know about astronomy." - Simon Newcomb, astronomer, 1888
    "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." -- Lord Kelvin, British physicist, 1895.
    "Everything that can be invented has been invented." - Charles Duell, US Patent Office commissioner, 1899.
    "The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.." - Albert Abraham Michelson, physicist, 1903.

    Those were from over 100 years ago.
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  7. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    If it did continue on this course then this:

    Truck Captain Stumpy likes this.
  8. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    That's your best case scenario?
  9. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    A gentle warming of that kind is not a realistic possibility. The best case for the future must account for AGW, which is far too rapid for net positive consequences.

    The question of best future incorporating the existing human population boom and the existing AGW, neither of which is going to disappear any time soon (barring extreme disaster), resembles the question of the best future given a supervolcano eruption or large meteor strike or general plague. It's worth asking for the insight into mitigation it may provide, but there's nothing actually good (better than now) on the realistic horizon.
    It's overwhelmed regions of India as of now, and Montana isn't far behind. Overpopulation being relative to environment and technology, places like Montana or northern Africa or the Tibetan plateau overpopulate at quite low densities.
  10. Truck Captain Stumpy The Right Honourable Reverend Truck Captain Valued Senior Member

    IMHO - the most positive outcome, which entirely depends on our current situation and technological advancement before we kill ourselves off, would be evolution and a spread to space.

    If we spread to space, regardless of how long it takes to travel between points, we will evolve into separate species, especially if some continue to live in gravity. We could even evolve into multiple species depending on how we travel, what types of transport is available and the technology involved. This will be especially true if we spread via some type of large self-sufficient ark.

    I see a potential integration with technology as well. We already require (and desire) technology for so much of what we do that it's no small leap to assume that we'll eventually need some kind of interface that will allow us to work faster, more efficiently and without the problematic interface issues we currently have (which will, of course, bring issues of its own). The technological integration could also lead to a more efficient and faster spread into space as well, limiting or eradicating problems brought on by our meat-bag bodies that we can't seem to fix.

    however, given the above, the big issue is going to be: can we get past some of the cultural, ideological and other beliefs that plague our species?

    Just the fact that there will be a population group that fights against technological integration simply because of the alteration to identity means we will have to overcome a considerable number of huge problems we currently have. Is there really a way to bring objective science into the discourse to make some kind of definitive statement about it? Is the human more than the sum of its parts? Are cybernetic organisms the same as humans? Should they be controlled by the state or some master AI due to the dangerous potential versus regular humans? What about genetic modifications and their rights? If we learn to transport humans like in star trek, which is the real "you", the original or the reassembled copy? what about making copies of the transported copy? What about making fundamental changes to that copy before reassembly, like removing cancer or fixing brain damage?

    So many potential problems that can lead to a catastrophic end to humanity... in all honesty, for every positive you can use the same example as a negative, much like that old adage stating that one person's utopia is another person's hell.
  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    From 1995 - written 25 years ago:

    That "summary" is mistaken in it's thread-irrelevant details, btw - as are the other summaries of the written story I could find on the net ( haven't seen the TV version).

    The prevalence of inaccurate summaries of written work one finds on the net (they are far more common than accurate ones) is kind of strange. It's as if the internet actively damages reading comprehension.

    At any rate, a best case that requires escaping from the planet and changing one's species is pretty much an admission of complete failure. (Of course, I am of the school that views space travel as an odd variety of business travel at the motel level - one in which the actual traveling is not experienced, and instead one moves the motel room in which one "lives".)
  12. Truck Captain Stumpy The Right Honourable Reverend Truck Captain Valued Senior Member

    I disagree.
    I don't see it as a failure so much as it's evolution. Those who wish will stay in the gravity well(s) and adapt, and the others will leave and also adapt to space travel, and the isolation from each other because of distance and time will eventually create separate species.
    I'm not usually into sci-fi, but I may look for that story. thanks
    have you seen this? https://www.iflscience.com/physics/are-star-trek-transporters-actually-suicide-booth/

    interesting finding on that topic
    [sic] (Bold emphasis mine) quoted from Reading behavior in the digital environment, Changes in reading behavior over the past ten years by Ziming Liu
  13. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

  14. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I think that future human evolution is inevitable.

    And yes, 99.9999...% of the universe is out there, in the sky. Humanity can either stay here and eventually grow old, devolving into something that we probably wouldn't like very much if we could see it, or we can spread out into the universe, learning, growing and exploring.

    I expect the vast majority of the human race to remain on Earth. We initially evolved here and it's just so... comfortable.

    But a handful will (hopefully) venture out. And as you say, they will adapt to new lives in dramatically new conditions. I can imagine that some of it might be intentional and by design.

    There are countless exoplanets out there, but ones capable of sustaining human life (as it stands) are probably exceedingly rare. And it would take so long to cross the interstellar vastness that starships can't just visit one after another, looking for a suitable colonization site. So science-fiction's generation-starships aren't likely to work.

    So starships might end up steered by AIs that will just execute their programs, whose "minds" won't wander, and that won't mind doing their jobs for thousands of years. Instead of supporting a resident population of humans, generation after generation, for all that time, the AIs might just synthesize new humans on arrival by cloning them or something. And since whatever halfway-suitable planet is discovered probably won't duplicate Earth conditions very closely, the new clones will be intentionally engineered by the AIs to be biologically suitable for the extraterrestrial conditions. So they wouldn't be exactly human right out of the gate.

    An interesting science-fiction novel that explores this vision is Greg Bear's rather haunting Hull Zero-Three.

    So I can easily imagine humans splintering into an array of daughter-species out among the stars, all descended from us but none of them exactly us any more.

    We had a thread about that question a while back. It isn't really a scientific question at all and revolves around what the answers are to presently controversial philosophical questions about the nature of personal identity.

    Yes, yes, yes!

    I think that we are currently witnessing dramatic changes in reading behavior, and hence in the kind of learning that reading facilitates.

    Think back 20 years ago. In my experience it was common to see people reading books on the commuter train or in parks or in cafes. I live in a college town, so they were often textbooks, but paperback novels were most common most places.

    I rarely see that any more. Everyone is always just staring at a tiny cellphone.

    Does anyone actually read books any more?? Bookstores are going out of business everywhere. Certainly it's possible to read a book on a cell phone, but it's difficult and uncomfortable. I doubt very much that more than a tiny fraction of people staring at cell phones are reading long pieces of text on them.

    It's part of a continuing historical trend, I think. Back in medieval times, books were hand-written and each one was a treasure. A library might only possess a few dozen books. So scholars would read one particular book over and over, to the point where they memorized most of it. They would argue with it in their heads and eventually write commentaries on it.

    Then the printing press was invented and bookshops appeared. Suddenly libraries had thousands of books and scholars were exposed to a whole literature on their subjects. So they started skimming books or just reading parts of them, reading them far more superficially than the medievals once read their books. Attention spans started to diminish.

    And now we have electronic media that facilitate instant sorting and searching, but only deliver up text in paragraph long snippits. We seem to be approaching the reductio-ad-absurdem of short attention spans with twitter posts. They are instant, that's for sure, great for following breaking events. But there's no context any longer. Cell phones and google seem to me to turn once coherent bodies of knowledge into collections of unconnected factoids.

    It worries me.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Probably about the same proportion that has, on average, since books for reading - novels and the like - were invented. Most people in most places did not read books, ever - even after most people became literate, a very recent change.

    Bookstores went out of business because they were destroyed by corporate capitalist innovation, not lack of readers - exemplified by Amazon. Amazon's first victims were bookstores, largely because its founder, Jeff Bezos, saw easy pickings in destroying them. They weren't being run efficiently, from a businessman's pov, and their collective customer base was large and had money, so there was money in turning that inefficiency into failure. The destruction of the publishing houses followed from that - books, it turns out, aren't commodities in the same sense as the widgets top execs learned about in business school.

    But book readers exist in the millions. They don't spend as much time on line as other people, maybe - and of course a lot of them are women, who naturally don't count as much as men when people are pondering serious issues of metaphysical import.

    This essay on the topic is famous: https://harpers.org/archive/2008/02/staying-awake/
    Capitalists also count tax writeoffs -

    Interestingly enough, not mentioned by Leguin in that essay: as soon as corporate chains got big enough to lobby they were aided by changes in IRS policies damaging to traditional book publishers - for starters, unsold books kept in inventory could no longer be depreciated as they had been for decades. That made keeping backlists, though a profit center as well as a long term customer benefit, suddenly more expensive in the short term than it had been. It raised the stakes, short term. And short term is the only way a large American corporation thinks, usually.

    Takehome: it's not a shortage of readers.
    parmalee likes this.
  16. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I think there are probably less readers as there are more alternatives now. Less people get physical copies of newspapers, news is available for free 24/7.

    I still prefer a printed book but I know people who love reading books on Kindle and using other electric forms.

    That there are fewer bookstores doesn't imply a lot though. There are fewer of every kind of local stores. In Seattle we still have Barnes and Noble, University Bookstore, and Elliot Bay Bookstore. These are the big ones that have "always' been around.

    I'm sure there are fewer of the small, local, mom and pop stores for the same reason there are fewer of any small specialty stores...internet shopping is less expensive and has a greater selection. I used to go to Barnes and Noble a lot but the selection is just better online now.
  17. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Side comment: the demolition of the book publishing business in the US is an example of something larger that needs to be taken into account in a best case scenario - the rapid and dramatic restoration of extreme economic inequality in the US economy. It's one thing to have people wealthy enough to play in large boats and keep pet racehorses with their spare cash - it's quite another to have an economic aristocracy that can purchase large businesses they know little about with their pocket change, without serious risk to themselves or their fortunes, on a whim. This wild card, unless taken out of the deck, will be played into all attempts to deal with AGW in the US - Jeff Bezos, recent purchaser of the Washington Post for about 1/500th of his net worth (equivalent to a median American household purchasing a three-pack of boot socks) has voiced the opinion that solar power cannot sustain a modern industrial economy because the panels would take up too much land area, for example. If the Washington Post throws its reputation and influence behind the careless opinions of an owner who has little at stake, amelioration of AGW will be significantly hampered in the US.
  18. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Name something that the Washington Post has changed the outcome of. This is a diverse nation. There is always another, equally powerful entity on the other side of any issue.

    If all we relied on was solar power it probably would take up too much land area but I see no evidence that some off the cuff opinion of a billionaire is going to change the course of events.

    You're grasping at straws. Not every issue is directly tied to your one and only issue.
  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    There is as yet no real "alternative" to a book, for a book reader - it's advantages in efficiency, speed, ease of use, and reliability are currently too great, even in the generally inferior (but sometimes superior) format of the e-book reading device. The simple fact of physical location within the format, for example, speeds up internal references and remindings and comparisons by almost orders of magnitude (this was first pointed out to me by professional copyeditors, at least one of whom had done a private study with a stopwatch on student reviewers of technical manuals. I have since verified the effect in comparisons of newspaper delivery drivers who use GPS directions vs those who use book format maps - the GPS slows down the driver's navigation efforts by a factor of two or three, personal observation without stopwatch or continuity of observation).

    As far as newspapers and news, the people I know who get their news on line only seem poorly informed; as one would expect from the fact that the online sources are themselves largely parasitic still, and dependent on dead tree formats and their support (journalists, fact checkers, editors, etc) to keep them supplied with "content", which they bowdlerize and sensationalize and chop into small disconnected pieces. There are some signs that this could be changing, but the nascent attempts have proved fragile and inadequate so far - and if it doesn't happen soon, the demand will evaporate with the memory of what used to be.

    So I doubt that many people who can handle reading and enjoy it will give it up for the alternatives that exist now. So all that needs to happen to keep the book business stocked with millions of readers is the adoption of book reading as preferred entertainment by a few percentage points - two or three would do - of every high school generation. That seems likely.

    It's the other end - the supply side - that seems to harbor the threat. The book publishing business, the writer fostering business, the supply chain and tax policy and physical accommodation business, the online sales business, the library stocking and review publishing and editorial and proofreading and quality control business, is increasingly owned and run by people who do not read for enjoyment or at length, who cannot write or recognize good writing, who in many cases actively dislike books, who often find well-versed readers in possession of reason and information both to be obstacles and impositions anyway. That - not a shortage of readers - seems to be the problem here.
  20. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Newspapers themselves are available online so there is no distinction to be made here.

    Too bad the publishing companies are owned by people who don't read, write and dislike books.
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    You contradict yourself in the space of two sentences.

    There hasn't been an "equally powerful" entity on the left side of any issue in the US since Joseph McCarthy. There hasn't been a leftwing TV news analysis program with mainstream exposure in the US since TV was invented. There are almost no two-sided issues in US politics - maybe a couple, but certainly not big ones like the Iraq War. Meanwhile, Fox News has arguably changed the outcome of half the elections in the country since 199o - certainly a good share of them.

    Bothsides is bullshit, and specifically rightwing Republican bullshit - a Republican propaganda meme, and nothing but. Every time one of their fuckups blows up, they prattle about both sides and one of the Clintons, or maybe Obama - that doesn't mean anyone has to take them seriously, or repeat their foolishness verbatim.
    And you don't see your eyesight as impaired, despite clear and multiply repeated presentations of evidence.
    This billionaire owns a major newspaper. He is more powerful, economically, than Rupert Murdoch. Do you doubt Murdoch has changed the course of events in the US?
    How about Trump - granted he probably isn't a billionaire, even now with rich foreigners lining up to line his pockets, but people think he is.
    The entire current energy needs of the US could be met - in theory, with current technology - by devoting to thermal solar with storage a square of land less than 100 miles on a side in the high desert around the Four Corners region or a bit south.
  22. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    There is no left-wing media of the type that you envision because very few people are that left-wing in the U.S.
  23. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    How did this discussion suddenly become politicized?

    My belief is that while people may or may not be reading less today than they did 20 years ago, they do seem (to me anyway) to be reading in much smaller and shorter chunks of text. Instead of reading entire books on subjects of interest, people today do google searches and read a few paragraphs on whatever it is. The advantage is that they can do it very quickly and do it wherever they are. The disadvantage is that it's vastly more superficial.

    I own an e-ink e-reader that I like very much. And I read e-books on my laptop regularly. But I have to say that I rarely see anyone else using an e-reader. People do use laptops, but if I glance at their screens it's never a book that they are reading. So I still think that actual book readership is dropping off a cliff.

    Around here, very few bookstores are still open. There's Barnes and Noble (which has closed its big San Francisco store). The Stanford University bookstore, that I used to love, has closed its downtown Palo Alto store and the campus store has reconfigured its main floor to selling the always-popular-with-Chinese-tour-groups Stanford coffee mugs and sweat shirts. Twenty years ago the Stanford bookstore hosted a wonderful collection of scholarly books and devoted its main floor to them. Today the basement is devoted to textbooks while books have been relegated to a smaller upper floor. The selection has declined precipitously as well, leaning towards popular titles today, as opposed to the scholarly titles of yesteryear.

    The Berkeley campus bookstore used to rival Stanford's, but today it's pretty much eliminated books entirely, apart from textbooks. It's all about selling Berkeley sweatshirts and coffee mugs.

    I don't believe that book sales volume online comes close to the volume that we once saw. Book publishers echo that. They often say that they are pruning back their catalogs and publishing fewer titles because sales no longer justify it.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2019

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