Framing the Future From 2021-2100

In order to understand and plan for the future, we need to know how much change will occur and when things will happen. Understanding the present and near future is informed by identifying and understanding what is already undergoing sustainable and rapid change. There also needs to be quantification wherever possible.

Nextbigfuture is working on a systemic framework for analyzing the future from 2021-2100. What are other major parameters?

Classifying the rate of change:
Explosive change is 41% or more change every year, doubling in less than 2 years
fast change is over 20-40% change every year, doubling every 2-3 years
moderate change is 8%-19% change every year, doubling in 4-9 years
slow change is 2-7% change every year, doubling in 10-35 years
virtually no change is -1 to 1% change, almost no change for 40-100 years
decline is -2% or less, halving in 35 years or less.

China had moderate change GDP growth in 39 years out of the last 60 years (1961-2020). There were only four years from 1978 to 2013 that did not have more than 7.5% GDP growth. China was doubling its economy every 7-9 years. China has slowed to 5-6% GDP growth which is doubling every 12-15 years. It is only exceeding US GDP growth by about 2%. It would take about 35 years for China’s economy to double relative to the US economy.

India has had moderate change GDP growth in 10 years out of the last 30 years. India had 3 years of greater than 7.5% GDP growth rate from 2010-2020. India is doubling its economy in 12-20 years. India is also exceeding the GDP growth of the USA by 2-3% each year. It will take 25-35 years for India to double relative to the USA. China is still maintaining a 5-6% GDP growth. India is not closing the gap with China and India is not consistently outperforming ASEAN countries like Vietnam and the Philippines.

It does not appear that there will be any country that will have consistent moderate change GDP growth (7.5% each and greater) from 2020-2030.

Tesla has explosive change with 50% year over year growth.
Amazon has fast change with 20-40% year over year growth.

Broad Classifications of the Timing
near future is likely by 2030
mid future is likely in 2031-2049
far future is 2050-2100
very far future is 2101 and beyond

Impact levels
* Civilization is majorly altered
This would be like the invention of farming. Changing people from hunter-gatherers to builders of cities.

The potential civilization altering possibilities for the 21st century are:
Superintelligence – broad AGI, very useful multiple narrow super-AI, strong molecular nanotechnology, space travel beyond the scale of commercial aviation, regenerative extreme life extension

The major technologies would need to have some level of quantification. There would need to be some log scale or magnitude classification of different super-technologies.

Beyond human-level AGI is too vague. Just being a lot faster is not as profound as better at true innovation. The speed and productivity would need to categorized and defined.

We have some quantification of narrow superintelligence AI. There are some way to quantify the AI that play chess and go.

The best chess AI is currently MuZero. In 2019 DeepMind published MuZero, a unified system that played excellent chess, shogi, and go, as well as games in the Atari Learning Environment, without being pre-programmed with their rules. It surpassed AlphaZero after 1 million training steps. MuZero used 16 third-generation tensor processing units [TPUs] for training, and on 1000 TPUs for self play (for board games, with 800 simulations per step) and 8 TPUs for training and 32 TPUs for selfplay (for Atari games, with 50 simulations per step).

AlphaZero used 64 first-generation TPUs for training, and 5000 second-generation TPUs for selfplay. As TPU design has improved (third-generation chips are 2x as powerful individually as second-generation chips, with further advances in bandwidth and networking across chips in a pod), these are fairly comparable training setups.

Stockfish is a computer program that beats the best human players. Alphazero beats Stockfish. Alphazero won 28 games, drew 72 and lost none. MuZero beats Alphazero.

AI has completely solved the game of checkers (draughts).

There is also quantification around the AI that help people drives cars and for self-driving cars. The metrics are miles driven per human intervention, miles driven per accident and miles driven per fatal accident. Tesla Autopilot currently helps people to be ten times safer on miles per accident metrics.

The altering of civilization can be quantified. Is per capita income being increased ten times? Does humanity expand to colonize earth orbit? the moon? Mars? Asteroids? Beyond?

* Century defining – This would be like the industrial revolution level (steam engine)

* How we live every day has major change.

* Trillion-dollar or more impact.

SOURCES- Macrotrends
Written By Brian Wang,

109 thoughts on “Framing the Future From 2021-2100”

  1. From my 2012 notes:

    Mechanical Automation
    It was probably the invention of the steam engine, more than anything else, which brought on the industrial revolution. Even so, there is not a particular year we can point to as the start, the middle, or the end of the industrial revolution. It can be argued that it continues even unto the present.
    Traditionally, mechanical automation:
    1) Makes a job easier
    2) Increases productivity per worker
    3) Can even eliminate a human position altogether
    The average American household in 1970 was about 180 times better off than the average household in 1870.  
    Cognitive Automation
    Computers increase wealth as they allow more work to be done with less human effort.
    In this context, some of the reasons computers allow less human effort are:
    1) They make the job easier
    2) They increase productivity per worker
    3) They can even eliminate a human position altogether
    In truth, most of what they have done thus far can be seen as extensions of mechanical automation.
    Now we are entering a new phase of automation. We might refer to this one as cognitive automation, where computers do an additional thing which, although a frequent component of science fiction and cautionary tales, is not yet fully appreciated:
    4) They can eliminate the need for a human occupation

    Two more orders of magnitude may be achieved in far less than a century. A concern is in how it will be distributed (or not). (And don't spout off with "socialism.")

  2. The giant microwave gun is not controlled like a military radar, sending a beam in any direction. In fact, that would be too hard to calculate using Criswell's overlapping reflectors. A beacon is set up and the system just follows that path. Easy to find the beacon. A remarkably lame weapon.

    Space junk of course, like station keeping, station construction and light pollution, is not a problem for LSP. And even orbiting Solar Sats have very thin, tissue thin or less, cells, unlike the heavy glass Earth cells. But I do like LSP and then L5 station before GEO, for those reasons.

    What is the /kWe-h cost of 20-200 TWe molten salt reactors?

  3. Permeability is solved with a layer of foil on the inside, or perhaps between two layers of plywood.
    I'm not saying plywood is the best choice, just that you should be able to make it work without too much difficulty.
    I'd be most concerned about the temperature changes personally.

    It's an interesting solution that could turn out to be useful under some circumstances that I can't quite imagine right now. Probably more useful as an interesting trick to pull in a SF story than real life.

    Actually… I think The Man in the High Tower mentioned use of bamboo in making spacecraft. Maybe? It's been decades since I read it (very overrated story IMO).

  4. Alternatively, everyone could learn to be as polite and quiet as traditional Japanese… soundproof paper is probably much easier and more likely.

  5. Hmm – but what if the paper walls break and get sucked toward the puncture – covering it and sealing it, giving you a clear indicator of the puncture location and plenty of time to go fix it? (Anything too big for that, and you've probably got damage affecting much more than a single chamber.)

    You'd then have a whole space station at slightly lower pressure, rather than one small chamber at very low pressure, possibly with people trapped inside…

  6. Thin paper walls – the real innovation would be making them sound proof… Or possibly able to convert sound waves to white noise.

  7. I imagine a lot of common materials can be extracted with simple and relatively low energy processes – heating to get water, reacting oxides with hydrogen to get the oxygen, etc.

    But since you're talking about inefficient but very general processes…

    How bad would it be to use concentrated solar in a vacuum (maybe on the moon) to vaporize any remaining 'ore' to a plasma, accelerate it to a uniform velocity, and use magnetic or electric fields to split it – like mass spectroscopy… Likely repeatedly to refine the separation of elements and isotopes.

  8. It should be obvious the market system is not functioning when it comes to healthcare.
    Why is it that Americans spend $11,072 per capita? And really that is deceptive as most people under 40 don't have anything more than an annual checkup. So mostly this is $22,000+ for everyone over 40.
    Take a look at what it takes for a market to run optimally:
    Rarely is there perfect competition, but most things are not a gazillion miles away from "perfection" like healthcare is.
    You show up, and it is blank check time.
    Even the extravagant countries don't pay anything like we do:

  9. I was thinking circa 1980. But there is no point of quibbling on that, except that women were well represented in the workforce at that point.
    I think what is going on is that the institutions can chose to bill people pretty much anything they want. And that means the same person in the same hospital would be charged different amounts depending on who is paying. The insurance companies want the uninsured to get preposterous bills so there are enough horror stories to terrify people into buying. But when THEY are billed they have everything negotiated down to a third of that. 
    Look at the big picture. Our system is supporting all those people in the insurance companies and all the negotiators for the hospitals and other healthcare providers. And then there are profits, mostly the insurance company profits, but hospitals would not exist if they were not earning money. Then there are the high priced medicines. Your not paying for it, so the doctors prescribe the one that gives them the biggest kickback, or gives them the most free samples. Hospital equipment is high profit too. None of those machines should cost what they do. Materials and manufacturing are in nearly all cases 10% of the cost of the machine. It is barrier to entry stuff. You have to have your devise pass the FDA, which means expensive studies, for something like a bed or a pillow. 
    Hospitals use software to charge people for the most obscure things. If a nurse opens your door then closes it, Cha-ching $100.

  10. Because of demographics China is an export exonomy. If the world economy suffers China will be lucky to feed itself. If you don't have exports you can't pay for imports. It's a good thing they are "making hay" now because it will be gone soon enough. No matter who is in charge in DC.

  11. Of course, there is the "rule of 72" where you divide the interest rate of your investments into 72 and it gives you an idea of how many years it will take for your money to double. Since the market averages around 10% over the long haul, the long haul average answer has been 7.2 years.

    Many older people, although not nearly enough of them, have stored up large sums of savings intended to carry them from the time they can no longer work until they die. A goodly number put away enough so that it will continue to grow, and even grow quickly, despite some drawing on it for income.

    If, instead of their dying, their money just kept doubling every few years, this would very quickly have a huge impact on everything. This is reflected occasionally in science fiction, although seldom with any consideration of the ramifications. In the novel, Altered Carbon, the Meths (short for Methuselahs) certainly come to mind.

  12. I presume you mean the colony needs to have a source of revenue to balance imports with exports to Earth? That's a long way down the economic road, and probably never needs to happen.

    At first governments/billionaire-visionaries will totally fund a base.

    The next phase is about reducing expenses – 3rd parties making products locally at big premiums to avoid the cost of shipping heavy stuff from Earth.

    The colony grows to meet demand for competent (high wage) employees. They will see the colony economy blooming and likely invest excess wages locally – ultimately to pay for high-value/complex stuff from Earth.

    Low-mass/high value products start to flow back to Earth: "Marsberry gems", paintings made with local pigments, book and movie deals, licensing of Mars Colony(tm) action figures and toys (made/sold on Earth), etc. Phobos carbon gets shipped to Earth orbit to make methane with lunar water.

    As space becomes a place to "get rich", more and more people and investments flow into space, more and more money and goods flow around in space, and more and more wealth is accumulated as capital in space.

    The idea of shipping lots of stuff back to Earth to 'balance accounts' fades away. If you want to realize some of your profits to buy a yacht on Earth, you can sell some of your Phobos Carbon Inc. shares to the many willing buyers. But mostly you'll just reinvest your space profits back in space ventures.

  13. Yes, another point that I'm unsure of with Zeihan is his hidden assumption that the world will go to uncontrolled piracy on the high seas automatically as soon as it can.

    It might, but that's still a factor that either needs stating as an assumption OR he needs to present reasons why it will definitely happen. Instead he just assumes it would be true, without ever saying so, and goes from there.

    It kind of reminds me of the forecasts from c. 1950 were it was a general assumption that of course wars will go nuclear as soon as more than one country has such weapons.

  14. When we say "healthcare is more expensive now" or "healthcare is cheaper now" we are of course using different meanings of the words.

    In 1950, you could purchase a certain level of healthcare. A given health problem could be treated with a given level of cure, a given level of pain, a certain death rate. (For some healthcare problems, such as a broken finger, the death rate was very low, but you get the point.)

    If you want that same level of cure/pain/death in 2020, it is VERY cheap. All sorts of over the counter type pills to solve stuff that in 1950 were long term, chronic diseases. (Stomach ulcers. Remember stomach ulcers? Or at least remember seeing references to them in old TV shows?)

    Just about the only thing that is heaps more expensive is nursing. And that's feminism to blame for that. Back in the '50s being a nurse was about the only job a smart young lady could get, so there were heaps of great nurses available at low wages. Nowdays, not so much.

    But nobody these days will put up with mere 1950s level treatment. And even if they would, well the government won't let them. So instead of 20 bed wards you get much more private rooms. Instead of aspirin and advice about your will you get 15 types of cancer treatment. Instead of being a cripple for life you get knee reconstruction. Instead of a bill that a normal wage earner could pay you get the price of a new car.

  15. Beyond a certain point, the quality of life is more impacted and frequently by the tyranny of the individual.
    One of the best things a person can do for themselves and their family, is to move and trade up to a better environment. In the end, the only thing that really matters is enjoying life.

  16. sure, Muskville, NM. Spaceport (express to Mars, obviously). Hyperloop/ single-vehicle Boring tunnel between various tech campuses and industrial laboratories. Fully closed eco-system. Utterly self-contained and resource-positive. Could be the MarsCity prototype. Surely Elon could throw a few $10Bs at it.

  17. technology pursued is most likely the result of perceived future craving to work less, make more, enrich 'face', or realize personal goal – but taken in aggregate. Better on paper doesn't mean more desirable, especially if in far future. Perception of technology as having goods and bads may kill or reduce it, since it is easier to obstruct than promote. Good way to get tech promoted is to sell it to the rich and influential, then allow jealousy and 'need to covet' take over. Not convinced that widespread infrastructure possible (frugally) in areas of possible NIMBYism or political wrangling (everywhere G7, but Japan) — private-public partnerships done incrementally most likely successful. Government is more effective eliminating/ reducing the bad than planning/ executing/ realizing the good (however that's defined). There is value at allowing varying regions to set own agenda and have various people/ companies move to their desired technology hubs. Reduce or isolate areas of government regulation overreach, enable less transparent funding sources to burgeoning tech, allow income/ success potential to grow excessively 'before' attempting to anti-trust slap-down, and allow Bros to tech-collaborate. Point: a somewhat-contained sand-box jungle-type environment (the next silicon valley – but work isolated/ thought-distributed) will be needed, free of society luddite-conflicts – always thought that New Mexico or Arizona, at least 800 miles away from All would be a Great Doer Hub.

  18. I think it would only be real change if it felt significant to regular people acting regularly. What the underlying advances to achieve this profound cultural shift, likely a tightly integrated network of amazing concepts, tech, and widespread roll-out, is almost less important. (say 2060 – 2090) 1) bio (rejuvenation) – family, work, and lifestyle dynamics change as you realize that siblings, parents, grands, etc., no longer get frail or dependent — does family connection become weaker or irrelevant? if no one feels overwhelmed with advanced age and no one really 'needs' to retire, what is work now? Does everyone work always or almost never — taking long sabbaticals and just working at times of need and ambition -or- are people seeking out multiple PhDs, many career paths, waiting on the sidelines until dream job comes? Society? overpopulation? 2) post-scarcity (AI coordinates all things and optimizes everyone's potential and world resources) back to centralized control? Are we all now Eloi (from Time Machine) – little different than the idle and unchallenged rich – indifferent, jaded,and self-absorbed? 3) Real choice of living some or most of your life off Earth – do we aspire now to be as little a body and more of a disembodied mind with sensors- since it is so much easier off gravity well (not Urban Dictionary meaning)? What now of traditional planet-bound social structures and physcial places? 4) Ultimate knowledge access (least likely of all) enslavement or epiphany?

  19. Oh, and senescent cell clearance is great. I think the best approach for that is going on a near fast every couple months where you eat about a quarter of your normal calories but less than 10% of that can be protein, so virtually no meat beans peas etc. During this I also take supplements to clear the crud especially fisetin. Which reminds me. I probably need to do this again before Christmas. I count the calories, and the protein using a spreadsheet, a food scale and info from
    I go anywhere between 4 to 10 days. Dang 20th already! I may start today.
    Of course, you have to clear stuff with your doc.

  20. Life extension can be very hard to prove. It can take more time than you have to verify. But we very well could have viable things today. I am very optimistic about the blood plasma replacement therapy. It takes hours to do the plasmapheresis, but it is a normal medical procedure.

    Metformin probably extends life. Diabetics on metformin lived longer on average than people who did not have diabetes: And it is cheap.

    I look at the diets of people who live a long time. I know genes are probably more important, but I do think there is knowledge to gain. Green tea in the morning is probably beneficial. As is eating more soup and growing and eating vegetables grown in your own yard.

    And I push avoidance of AGEs and fighting them in the body with supplements. But I admit, my evidence is limited:

    Hyperbaric chambers are interesting, but I suspect they are limited to helping white blood cells and maybe other tissues that can naturally extend their telomeres, like some tissues in the digestive system. Still, it might be worth it. Though there is probably an optimal amount and frequency, that clearly we don't know yet.

  21. Cryonics as it exists today is hopeless to preserve you for the future. With investment it might have a chance. As it is, the best you can hope for will be a copy of you rather than actually you. Currently it is illegal to do the procedure on living humans…which may be required.

    For the wealthy, the best option is GMO pig organ replacement. They have made GMO pigs that don't actively make viruses (viruses have inserted themselves in pig DNA. human DNA also has these but the viruses are now broken. the ones in pigs are still alive), and scientists have modified the components that our immune system identify as foreign. That's great, but we need modifications in one more area. Humans live a lot longer than pigs. We need to modify them to have longevity equal or greater than that of humans. You don't
    want to have to replace these organs every 10 years. We can try out all the modifications we have been wanting to try on humans, and we can make these changes at the single cell stage, so all the cells are affected. Germline changes so we can have all the organs we need cheaply. Pigs breed fast, and we can have millions of these very quickly. I think with these changes the organs themselves could have 400 year lifespans. But we will be limited to things easily changed out: liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, pancreas, parts of the digestive system. Things like brain, nerve tissue, eyes, arteries and veins are just very hard to replace. So caring for those tissues is very important.

  22. I think his thesis is this, IF shooting wars start and ocean shipping is involved oil prices will spike and the U.S. will cut off imports and exports of oil to keep our market out of the chaos. With oil prices high, agriculture dependent on oil (fuel, fertilizer, pesticides) will fail and populations will undergo adjustment (famine).

    So, if no wars happen you are correct … it will, instead, just be a slow painful down slope of less and less.

  23. Air and water permeability are different properties (and don't forget diffusion). Strength and weight aren't the only concern. That goes for the inner walls too: if you have a loss of pressure event, paper bulkheads might not be the best idea.

  24. "It would take about 35 years for China’s economy to double relative to the US economy"
    I'm pretty sure, it will be much, much faster

    In PPP it is already 20% larger and is growing 3x faster, in nominal we must take exchange rates into account. Because China is rapidly becoming innovation, hi-tech economy, rmb will get stronger rapidly. I predict that China's nominal GDP will jump from this year (around $16trillion) to around $19trillion next year.

    China GDP in yuan
    2020 – 103 trillion rmb
    2021 – 115 trillion rmb (predicted)
    exchange rates

    6,5rmb – 1 dollar 2020
    6 rmb -1 dollar 2021

    9 million new graduates joined China's worforce this year. 3 million of them trained as scientists and engineers(9-10x more than in US) + China will increase its R&D budget by at least $200 billion next year(in PPP), we will see flood of tech, science news from China next year, much, much more than this year. All these factors mentioned above will increase value of rmb, FDI into China, China's exports, China's trade surpluses.

  25. However, the difference between CNTs and asbestos fibrils is 2-4 orders of magnitude in diameter (length is more variable). That may or may not make them less dangerous. And potentially, they can be functionalized just like buckyballs. E.g. add some biocompatible soft hairs (protein? biopolymers?) to reduce puncturing and inflammation risk.

  26. One positive is that people are starting to get serious about third parties. At least talk. The traditional Republicans want a Party of Lincoln, while the new, anti-expert, tenuous grip on reality, faction wants their own Party. Every self-centered group in the Democratic Party wants control…and wants "people who look like them" in all places of power. Gone is the desire for meritocracy King was after.
    What we really need is a party of Eisenhower. One that believes in government investment but getting value for that investment…physical stuff that adds to productivity and efficiency: nuclear power, more highways and lanes, repaired water ways, quality STEM education, university equipment, investment in creating new technology like ARPA used to do. And rules on trade that have our best interests in mind, like the limits he put on oil imports abolished by Nixon to our detriment. And throw in that meritocracy stuff King was after, as no one else seems to be interested. Forget the massive absurd war machine. Add some viable options other than college. We can try to make the next geration brighter, but we have to deal with what we have and provide them opertunity as well. We need trade schools. People are joining the military to get grants for college. But when the 4 years is up, they flunk out. They have the discipline they learned, just short on school smarts:

  27. Things are at the prices they are because people/society can afford it, or can afford the credit. Things will magically get cheaper if we can't afford them, or the economy will just collapse. Bankers, and fat cats don't want things to collapse, especially in an extreme hyper inflation event.

    Inflation adjusted food prices have been falling for years. You might spend more on food but that is by choice…buying name brand processed junk, fine booze, salmon, pomegranate juice, sushi, and such. People used to eat potatoes, home made bread, berry pies made with berries they grew in the yard. You can still buy a 10 lb bag of Russets for $1. Your chickens laid the eggs, and when they stopped…that was dinner. They got fed crumbs, garbage (or earthworms who ate the garbage), and some cracked corn. Hilarious! Roadkill:

    If and when we get flying cars…automated chauffeured drones that fly strait and go 100+ mph…urban sprawl will become rural sprawl. That means cheaper housing because of cheaper land.

    Prevention might become the new healthcare…and pills that actually cure things. Healthcare is only expensive because there is insurance, and because politicians are being fed dollars to make it expensive.
    Healthcare is far more expencive than it was 40 years ago. And more people had to stay in hospitals and longer. Tobacco, trans fat, lead, asbestos, Aids, more violence/auto injuries, crummy treatments like radiation & chemo.

  28. This may be a cultural thing, in my country high rise buildings are mostly expensive, upper middle class anyway. Anyone who is paying more to live in a suburban house it's because they want to live in a suburban house.
    And most do.

    I moved from a suburban house to a highrise apartment in September. One issue that was completely non-existent was the issue of bad neighbours. The areas of town with bad neighbours are not high rise.

  29. There was no timestamp that I could see, but I think you mean around the 35 minute mark? When he said that if Africa loses access to petroleum based fertiliser/pesticide/machinery for their agriculture, they won't be able to feed themselves?

    He didn't really explain that, because he was talking about oil prices coming down. Which should imply the opposite.

    Remember that Zeihan tends to exaggerate the dramatic predictions, because they sell. He also exaggerates how sure the dramatic outcomes are.

    We've already seen some of his early predictions fail to occur, such as the claim that Russia would be forced to reconquer Eastern Europe as far as Poland, and do it before 2019.

  30. I am all for solar, on the Moon, for the Moon. Microwave beams to the Earth I have problems with. Have you seen in the last few days how easily our Internet security is breached and computers hacked? What might one do if they controlled where this microwave beam was drilling? That's right, a whole planet shooting gallery. And let's say your sleuths are brilliant enough to actually figure out who did it. That will take weeks, maybe months. Are you really going to nuke them or whatever…weeks later? You are not going to convince the International Court that they did it…not likely without letting them in on State secrets. So no one backing you up, no clear assailant to much of the World. We just…lose. 
    Please forget the giant microwave gun.

    Then there is the space debris issue. Odds of a satellite being hit are small…because they are small. A several square mile array is not small and can't get out of the way of anything. That means it is only a matter of time before it is struck, then thousands of shards of silicon solar cells will be hitting lots of other panels and so on. The damage could be quite severe…and total loss. Fast glass + space suits = liability.

    There may be safe ways to do this in the future using a space tether, similar to a space elevator, where the energy is conducted down with superconductors. And after we have debris collecting robots that clean space up. However, there is no point, as we can just use molten salt reactors at far less cost.

  31. The public reaction to this prospect is bizarre. A lot of people seem to flip directly from the concept of "we can double human lifespan" to "therefore you will live for infinite number of billions of years" and then they get confused talking about how the universe isn't infinite and heat death of the universe, and challenges to religion etc.

    There seems to be a blind spot where the idea of living for "3 score and 10" can grow into a life of "3 gross and 10" or even "3 myriad and a century" without starting to come close to posing any challenge at all to "infinity" or even "lifespan of stars".

    It would however, probably give me time to eventually get around to learning to surf. Maybe.

  32. The self replication can be broken into two steps, a meta factory containing many different factories that *together* can make any one of them, eventually making another meta factory, but nowhere a single thing that can make itself. Perhaps a distinction without a difference, but seems appealing. Then, the individual different factories can be upgraded or expanded in number, OR new ones added, to make an *army ant* swarm that can do anything!

  33. Buckyballs, found in soot, have been present in human environments for since before we were humans. I think they can't be too bad for you.
    Graphene is shed monomolecular sheets of graphite. Which is what charcoal turns into if you get the temperature hot enough. Once again, we've got a long, long history of exposure to such materials.
    Carbon nanotubes on the other hand seem to be a brand new material, at least in anything but trace quantities, and physically it looks rather like the structures that make asbestos so dangerous.

  34. It's not obvious to me that plywood would be unsuitable for space stations.

    I figure, if you can make boats out of it, then it's strong enough, shapeable enough, and impermeable enough to make a space station. One atmosphere of air pressure is probably LESS stress on a wall than pounding waves.

    Growing trees in space is probably more work than smelting metals though.

    As far as space station interior walls are concerned, Japanese style paper walls might be ideal. Super light weight, easily reconfigurable, and you can transport them rolled up in 1% of the volume.

  35. Japanese have a method of joinery that AFAIK doesn't require any extra fasteners nor glue, yet is still strong.

    Most woodworking traditions have similar methods. It used to be the standard back in the day when metal fasteners and high strength glues were much more expensive than skilled woodworking labour.
    Now that it's the labour that is the most expensive component, this approach is reserved for special cases when people want to show off their skill.
    BUT, if we were dealing with 3D printing type fabrication of parts, making elaborate shapes to fit together is no longer any more expensive than making simple beams, so we could well see a return to this.

    Note that the Danes still have world wide fame at making such self assembling structural components.

  36. There are things that can make a huge difference that get no traction but could have been done 50 years ago.
    We could more scientifically find out what optimal nutrition is during pregnancy. All this time and we are still clueless. We know a dozen times more about dog and cat nutrition. Take choline, for example. They assumed 450mg was sufficient for pregnancy, but that was simply not true:
    The group they gave 930mg a day had brighter babies. And it is anyone's guess what the optimal level is. It could be 6 grams for all we know. The FDA still recommends 550mg. And that is a reasonable conservative stance…because the science has not been done. A study with 26 people is just insufficient. We need real testing with stepped tests up to at least 4 grams a day. And tests with lecithin as well, not just pure choline as that is not really the way it is found in food.
    And that is just one nutrient. We need to know the optimum of dozens. And not just vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are substances that you would die from their omission from your diet (essential). But that is not what we are after. We want to know what the optimal levels of nutrients for maximizing the health, and mental abilities of our children are. There could be many natural compounds in foods that are not vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids or essential amino acids but are beneficial.

  37. A lot of what makes the future is the choice to use things we already have…or not. Using nuclear to power the grid has been an option since the 1950s, yet pervasive false information has greatly limited its application. In the US the electrification of freight rail never happened, and not because we have had ample oil. We went through decades of oil crunches…but no one in the US electrified any freight rail. In many parts of the World they never built expressways (freeways).
    In these cases and many others it is government that holds these things up. If you don't have an eagerness to be infrastructurally progressive, things will move very slowly.
    Even things which should help us, harm us, if government is lethargic. Nutritional supplements in the US are a minefield. There are probably as many frauds as legitimate companies. This means people reading studies and taking a proactive stance to improve their health in the future by taking supplements are constantly at risk for injury by those very supplements.
    Dentists are routinely crooked, drilling and filling teeth that don't need it. When I was a teen the one and only year my dad signed us up for dental insurance, the dentist at the place that sold the insurance filled a tooth but did not put enough amalgam in it and the teeth did not meet. So…what did she do? She ground down all my other teeth to make it fit. Needless to say they are all filled today and the fillings are constantly a problem.

  38. Yes, I looked at this a decade or so ago, and arrived at that conclusion: Self-replicating factories need to use very general purpose processes, but they do NOT need to be very energy efficient.

    Energy efficiency in manufacture relies on processes which are optimized for a particular product, and self-replicating systems need to make many different products. They can only be energy efficient if they're large enough to have many systems optimized for narrow purposes.

    Accepting inefficiency due to use of non-optimized but versatile systems reduces the overall system size greatly, and so minimizes the initial seed size, and probably how soon it can be deployed.

    Since the systems allow for exponential growth, delaying deployment to gain efficiency isn't a good choice. Your best bet is to start out with the minimal self-replicating system, and then upgrade the design as you go, so subsequent generations can gain efficiency.

  39. "…a computer program that beats the best human players" is also a very dated statement. Since Rybka 4 (May 2010) the leading engine has been invincible vs humans. That is, the best humans will not win 1 game in 100, probably less than 1 in 1,000. Match superiority was achieved since at least the Fruit 2.0 release in 2004.
    And engines are way past that stuff. I would expect the latest development Stockfish to win 95 games out of 100 vs Rybka 4 and the other 5 draws. And 100% is not out of the question. 
    In other words, an engine that will beat any human 99% of the time would not win one game against the best engine today and may not even get one draw. That is a bigger difference than the spread of rated human players which goes all the way down to 5 year olds.

  40. "Alphazero beats Stockfish". This is not accurate. Stockfish today is 370 Elo stronger than the Stockfish 7 that was used in the Alphazero tests. What does that look like? Out of 20,000 games the latest development SF vs SF-7 won 15935 games, drew 3972, and lost only 93 games:
    A more accurate statement would be that Alphazero beat SF-7 using more advanced hardware, and picking its own opening positions exploiting the fact that SF-7 would repeat the same opening mistakes. Learning systems gain about 200 points vs an identical engine with no book learning.
    Stockfish still has no active learning but now has a neural net that is used for eval in most positions and is updated when we make a better one. The search is still hand crafted and tuned. But before the NN it was still stronger than Alphazero. The NN used in Stockfish does not use the power of the GPU, it is just ordinary CPU. Some Japanese Shogi programmers made the breakthrough that allows the CPU NN:
    SF won the de facto world championship (TCEC), the last 2 seasons against the pure NN engine LCZero using beefy GPUs:
    Fischer Random SF won the match without a loss (SF with NN):
    18 wins to 9 in the standard final season 19 (SF with NN):
    Season 18, SF won 23 wins to 16 (SF no NN):

  41. The 10B nuke is very much smaller than the 20 TWe LSP. Look at Criswell's dollar flow toward the end, but do not rely on it. Musk and 3D printing and electronics advances make it all cheaper than that. Is C fee inherently socialistic? I suspect that IF the proceeds are used to *fix* the C problem, it can be fairly libertarian in implementation, but probably won't be. LSP is a very excellent fix to the C problem, clearly. Or, people like Bezos may want to own the electricity supply for the entire World, including the Earth. It takes money to make money. Bezos is in.

  42. How will ~$800Billion be financed without socialism? Nuclear is usually under $10B and it's nearly impossible for them to get financing without socialism.

  43. Interesting point.

    Biology has the advantage that it can just degrade and be catabolized by its neighbors if it breaks, with basically no waste products accumulating. This factory system would have to be able to metabolize the broken husks of other factories at a high materials efficiency rate. Energy efficiency, on the other hand, could be a dump stat. Lots of energy on the moon.

  44. Solar energy beating the rest in price per Kw, but energy storage will be a problem still

    You can remove that one from your wish list. Utility scale solar power is the cheapest form of new electricity in the world. Storage is still a problem. Done and done!



  45. I guess I don’t understand how building for density would push someone else further out. It’s the places that are 50 or 100 kilometers out that would be empty, if we could just build high rises proportional to the desirability of an area. 

    Of course, some people would still want to live further out because they like grass and trees, and there's just only so many houses that can fit on an acre and still have 8000 square feet of lawn. But a lot of the people in the suburbs only like that space because it insulates them. It's not like they actually play in the yard and have BBQs.

    Here in California, people talk about disliking density, but what they really mean is, they think 80% of LA is an uninhabitable ghetto and you'd have to pay them hazard pay to move there. It's mostly not the concrete that offends them.

    It's a safety instinct, and because the people in those areas also feel that same instinct, bidding everything to the max is our way of getting away from the poorest, least desirable person at the middle of the uninhabitable zone. Gated communities are expensive because that's literally their selling point. A "trendy" neighborhood or geographical feature is just the rallying point for the sorting – if you could build a gated community in a way that fits the entire town inside and next to the cool boardwalk, you would still not do so because it defeats the purpose.

  46. I can think of a lot of empty places that I find desirable to live, if only it had all the amenities of the big city and without most of the people. The only reasonably way to achieve such a pink elephant is with an extremely high cost of living. A high pay wall is cheaper to build than a physical one.

  47. There's actually been some interesting research into this. If you dope the water spiders get with graphene, it ends up in the silk.

    These particles seem to be biologically inert, and small enough that they just go where they want without disrupting anything.

    I wonder if we could engineer a mold to attack small particles of this sort of thing in the environment?

    Asbestos, rather, particular sorts of it, had nasty effects for mechanical reasons, not chemical: The particles got wedged in the lungs and could not be cleared like normal dust, then caused cumulative mechanical damage. It was like swallowing pins and needles, only at a microscopic level in your lungs.

  48. I expect that healthspan and lifespan are strongly correlated on average. But healthspan is easier to sell to the FDA (and to public opinion, probably).

  49. Yes indeed! I used to be a printer, and neither I nor the press were worth a hoot alone. The only thing I would add to your description of the advantages of the 'factory "seed"' would be to explicitly state that ISRU is also needed for Space to grow in this exponential way, both because of launch costs but also material shortages on Earth.

    Now, consider current situation where "life in space is likely to require really enormous amounts of technological infrastructure per individual." is the main driver for "self-replicating factories", which are not yet cheap! Criswell plans factories to make factories to make solar hardware, but that is not yet quite good enuf to be fully "self-replicating". But if the human is on Earth, and the factory on the Moon, the telebot mode is still almost real time, and the human can *help* the factory replicate until we get further along. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I predict no shortage of volunteers to run the stuff at first, which is the important part of an exponential growth plan, after all. All of this is happening fast.

  50. Well most people who live 1000 km from the city do so because they want to be near the mine/farm/scenic wilderness/ski resort/railway junction they work at/etc that is itself 1000 km from the city.

    But you do get people living say 50 km from the city, who would prefer to live closer but can't afford to. (I say checking out a map of where people live who I know work at the same place I do.)

    And yes, if every area of the city was as crime, social disturbances, and ethnic issues free as the nice places, then maybe they'd choose to live somewhere only 20 km away, but that would just push someone else further away. I don't know that there are any places that would otherwise be desirable to live in that are currently empty.

  51. Fun! Technological singularity concept. 1) Each one is very hard for anyone to guess what happens next. 2) Each one achieves widespread impact in about half the time of the one before. And, 3) the actual event isn't over in an instant but can take several, even many, years.
    It all seems to add up to something happening in the middle of this century. But that's ridiculous. Or is it?
    For various reasons, demographics are starting to predict a dramatic decrease in human population levels starting in the middle of this century. Further, using the Copernican Principle, as detailed by Gott, we get a "life expectancy" for the human race as it (currently exists, at least) of between 3 and 17 generations, and the longer numbers are pretty much predicated on our numbers falling tremendously so, hopefully, unlikely.
    Tools (2,000,000)
    Fire (960,000)
    Symbolic Communication (480,000)
    Human Language/Anatomically Modern Humans (240,000)
    Trade (120,000)
    Fine Tools/Projectile Weapons (60,000)
    Dogs (30,000)
    Animal Husbandry/Agriculture (13,000)
    City-states (6,000)
    Writing and Mathematics (2,000)
    Monotheism 200
    Magna Carta 1200
    Printing Press 1600
    Industrial Revolution 1820
    Electronics/Computers 1935
    Internet 1993
    Automation 2023
    Strong AI, i.e. AGI 2037
    Biological Singularity, a.k.a. Indefinite Life Expectancy 2045
    Self-replicating Nanotech? 2048
    Man-Machine? 2050
    Accelerating Human Intelligence? 2051
    Singularity 2051

  52. My last duty station was NRC Forest Park IL. Right next to a shopping mall with built in guard turrets, as it had been an Al-Can torpedo factory during WWII. We had in our records a congratulatory telegram from the Secretary of the navy to the workers at the factory as their torpedoes had been given credit for assisting to sink the Yamato. And then the cartoon show.

  53. Yeah, I agree with that. Space stations won't be made out of paper. Some people are trying plywood high rises. I think it's sort of nuts, but better if foglets or equivalent automatic upkeep mechanisms can keep it fresh. Eventually we probably won't want to live in anything without a metabolism and nerves, whether it's made of diamond or hemp.

  54. Japanese have a method of joinery that AFAIK doesn't require any extra fasteners nor glue, yet is still strong. If that is applied to a diamond structure, it can be taken apart when no longer needed. But diamond was just an example. We'll probably design better supermaterials that are more amiable to reuse and recycling.

    Another direction is reconfigurable structures. The extreme of which is utility fog (though it pretty much requires full nanotech). It may be difficult to get the strength high enough, but if the base materials and joints are strong enough, that just might be doable. The cost can go quite low with economies of scale and automation – you'd be making the foglets by the trillion. Then you can adjust the structure to changing needs, and replace older worn-out foglets with new ones. Disassembling is pretty easy too.

    At the end, the application will determine which method is used. E.g. you can't build large structures with weak materials.

  55. Another factor is that we're in a bidding war to get away from bad neighbors, also known as the bad end of town. Density intensifies the negatives from the bad end of town but also intensifies the positives on the good end, so bidding gets ferocious.

    If everyone was a socially desirable neighbor, we'd just zone for density and no one would need to live 1000 km from the city.

  56. Rate seems like a big deal with diamonds. Because the building will have a natural lifespan whether the diamond does or not. Eventually the cladding won't be worth repairing or replacing, or if nothing else, no one will want to use that building any more just because it's so out of style and not designed for contemporary needs. So you're stuck with a diamond skeleton that won't rot – then what?

    I guess in addition to super-materials, we can come up with super-breakdown methods?

    I sort of think we should go the opposite direction – instead of materials that are really strong and durable, develop really cheap and easy construction using biomaterials. Just tear your paper house down every now and then and put in a better one. Give it a way of maintaining if it's still in use – like weatherproof paint, applied by robot. If you stop caring about the building, it just goes away on its own. Plant food.

  57. Recyclability and environmental degradation products are certainly a concern, but keep in mind that graphene and CNTs are just the beginning. Carbon (and more generally, CHON), have so much versatility, it's conceivable we could design supermaterials that degrade nicely.

    As a simple example, if we can scale up simple diamond, that would degrade to diamond dust and nano-diamonds. Which could still be really bad, but at least it's not fibrous, so it's a step in the right direction. IIRC, the size of breakdown products also matters. Smaller isn't always worse.

    Environmentally, I'm pretty sure diamond dust is mostly inert, therefore probably benign. For human-facing structures, one can make sure to not leave exposed diamond surfaces. Use the diamond as structural skeleton, then cover with regular drywall or whichever.

    Next question is the rate of degradation. If it only releases ppm levels of diamond dust, which are ventilated away well before they accumulate, that may be benign for humans as well.

    Same ideas with other supermaterials.

    Another example is some sort of buckyballs polymer. The individual balls are round, and could be functionalized to be bio-safe. Conceivably this could be recycled by chemically disconnecting and reconnecting those buckyballs.

  58. What does an iron bridge 'rot away' to?  Rust. Innocuous, nominally. Perhaps 'ugly', but other than that, good for the soil. Good for plants. Can be recycled pretty easily thru re-smelting.

    What does a cement and rebar bridge rot away to?  In essence just as innocuous stuff, now that asbestos isn't being added to the cement. Rocks, dust and rust. Fairly innocuous, all in all. Crushed up, the rock part recycles nicely into the next stream of concrete. And the rebar melts down easily, too.  

    What does a graphite and super-genius adhesive skyscraper 'rot' to?  Well, I don't exactly know, but it sure seems like 'asbestos on steroids' to me. Can't melt it down, or do much recycling once it is all 'welded' together with obscure adhesives. I kind of wonder what they 'rot' to.  Resorcinol glues are really wicked strong and quite weather-and-water repellent. I wonder how the environment handles their degradation products.  

    And so it goes. 
    I worry not about the materials, but what they rot to. 

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  59. Supermaterials, particularly carbon-based, could be at least century defining once we learn how to scale up their manufacturing. They may be anywhere from industrial revolution level to the level of going stone age to metals.

    I think it was JE Gordon who wrote something like:

    Possibly the most important event in the 19th century was how the cost of iron and steel fell by a factor of 10, and then did so again.

    This is kind of invisible from our perspective, but the Victorians had a materials revolution that completely changed what they could do. The idea that you could make an entire ship or building of iron was ridiculous in 1800AD, like if we wanted to make one from graphene.

  60. USA is better at adopting stuff at an individual level. Because you don't need permission for so many things, even things that could have wide ranging effects.

    China is better at adopting stuff that needs widespread government buy in, because their government is more monolithic. But you need more government buy in because the monolithic government has more need for social control.

    However we are now seeing greater and greater levels of social control in the USA (and many to most other western countries), because our society has multiple power groups, and some of the non-democratic ones (large corporations for example) are making a play for control. When a private company is shutting down the public communication of national politicians then that's a power grab.

    To get even more speculative: A lot of this can be viewed as learning the wrong lessons from 20th century history. The big bad in the 20th century were centralised governments: The Soviets and the Nazis and related junior henchmen were formal governments that did the massacres and oppression that the good guys were fighting against. But in earlier centuries we had terrorist groups and progroms and witchhunters and other private actors and even mostly uncoordinated mobs, and they were the source of oppression.

    The idea that "it isn't oppression if it isn't the government doing it" would be a surprise to someone being burnt for witchcraft by a village mob or raided by bandits.

  61. No, you don't understand. Luca is always right.

    If the USA wins, then that's because they are ruthless and evil.
    If the USA loses, then that's because they are incompetent and evil.
    If the USA has nothing to do with something at all, then that's because they are scared to become involved. And evil.
    If something happens that looks like the USA winning, then it's really them losing. And evil.
    If the USA changes leadership (because democracy). Then that's the USA losing.
    If some enemy of the USA changes leadership, but is not physically removed from the planet, down to the mantle, and the population completely wiped out. Then that is the enemy winning, which means the USA losing.
    If the US economy doubles, but someone else grows faster, then that's the USA losing, because being rich is a game of sports where all that matters is scoring faster than others. Even if the USA starts and finishes being richer. Because evil.

  62. But that's the beauty, see?

    If these were borderline feasible, say like the Emdrive stuff, then they can be studied, tested, disproved.
    But something that comes across as nonsense? What is the point? What are they trying to hide? There must be something this is trying to conceal…

    You guys, put together a task force and waste 25 manyears of valuable technical expert resources looking into this stuff. (Except in Russian, Chinese and French.)

  63. I wouldn't give it much credence until they show off a flying machine on a press conference.

    On the other hand, I'd suddenly get very suspicious if, for example, the latest aircraft carrier designs suddenly switched to something that didn't include great long takeoff catapults. That would only make sense if they knew they could field a bunch of hovering UFO type aircraft.

    Other suspicious signs that I'm making up as I finish my tea….

    • US Airforce fails to renew a bunch of aircraft engine contracts. Probably preceded by sudden, unexplained, share price falls in jet engine manufacturers.
    • US navy announces a new submarine that seems too small to fit in a standard nuke plant, but does not say they will be non-nuke
    • Japan recommisions battleship Yamato, with an Airforce designation.
    • US does same thing with USS Iowa
    • England does the same thing with HMS VIctory
    • Every major power, not just the yanks, pulls out of the middle east and lets it just catch fire.
    • Every senior member of the US Senate and Congress sell all their oil and gas shares.

    Add your own!

  64. How can anyone make money selling stuff to people who can't afford it. Obviously the push is to sell more stuff, which is why healthcare and food are much cheaper now than in decades past.

    Rent is a special problem, because everyone wants to live in the same place, and so people are bidding against eachother. If you want to live 1000 km from the city it's cheap as chips.

  65. I personally think it won't be that hard. Self replication is a problem that bacteria and fungi have managed to solve, after all. It's not an inherently hyper-complex problem.

    I'm a tooling engineer, designing machinery to mass produce parts of machinery is my job. But the sort of tools I design are too specific, too optimized, for this job. Self-replication needs less efficient, but much more flexible, tools, so that you don't need a "seed" the size of a large country's economy. That's a good place to focus. Additive manufacturing in all its versions.

    The real hold-up isn't on the manufacturing end, though, it's on the materials extraction end. We need a more general approach to taking primordial stuff and breaking it down into its constituent elements, that doesn't rely on them already being sorted by natural processes.

    And then we just need a menu of alternate ways to get things done depending on what elements are available. Rather than insisting that every part be optimal.

    The payoff from complete self-replication is absurdly high, whoever solves it first owns the future for a long time forward.

  66. Eventually there will be a program that beats muzero in chess. For the future ahead maybe at the end we get "usefull" quantum computers but that might take another 200 years as well. We're building the first ones now, they can solve a specific problem they where made for. As for the AI, when will we be able to create an azimov rules aware AI, if thats even possible. For engineering manufactoring when takes metalic printing over main production in metal aloys, perhaps in the next 20 years. Creating cures for diabetics next 20 year ? creating cures for the top 10 diseases next 70 years ?.

    When will a basic income happen?, (will it be crypto?) a reset of economics in the robotic age is likely ahead, i hope without a wars like when the steam engine came and caused conflicts between england and france.

  67. Personally, I think achieving full self-replication will be asymptotically hard. The asymptotically hard problems being the nearly infinitely odd and varied problems a grease monkey with a wrench can fix, but for which the computers lack a program to handle.

    We shouldn't underestimate the power of the general problem solver we carry over our shoulders and the tools we have attached to our bodies.

    But we will achieve factories with fewer and fewer people, and at a point, the compounded effect of such factories can give us near-untethered industrial self replication in space.

  68. The primary thing that distinguishes fully self-replicating factories, is that they decouple production from human population.

    Normally the productivity of machines, (Habitually but mistakenly described as the productivity of the people using them.) can be treated as a multiplier for human labor; You put in X hours of labor, you get X times Y amount of production, where the machine is responsible for the value of Y. Stop putting in more labor, you stop getting out more production.

    With self-replicating factories, an initial X hours of labor, (To produce and program the factory.) results in an ever increasing amount of production as time passes. So that the output can increase arbitrarily over the man-years invested in gaining it. In fact, you have to deliberately limit it to avoid catastrophe.

    This is really important for the exploitation of space, because life in space is likely to require really enormous amounts of technological infrastructure per individual. This is hard to achieve at any reasonable ratio of human labor to production, but with self-replicating factories, it would be fairly easy. Drop a factory "seed" on the Moon, say, and a month, or six months, later, you have two factories. Then four, then eight, then sixteen.

    In a fairly short period by human standards, the total productive capacity would be such that you could build O'Neill colonies at comfortably low population densities, launch manned interstellar ships, you name it.

  69. I like additive mfg almost as much as fully self replicating (macro) factories, more if the only thing the factories make is themselves! If *most* of the next step is ISRU produced, full self replication may be good but not good enuf to delay getting started. And I have heard that there is a 3D printer head that can make itself.

  70. It only takes one high ranking person, not necessarily even in the military; could have been Congress or DoD; with control of the money to get them to take an official look at it.

  71. That would require either some major global catasrophe, or a death rate 2.5% higher than the birth rate, sustained fir the next 30 years. With the current global birth rate of just under 2% per year, that means 4.5% global death rate. That's just not going to happen.

    The current death rate, btw, is 0.8%.

  72. "One of the details I want to know, that I couldn't find is how they
    *cheaply* extract CO2 from air to put into the tanks for those microbes
    to use." I've seen old plans for this that run the smokestack emissions directly thru clear plastic pipes in the sunlight.

    BUT that is not what the article is talking about! It is using H energy to directly make specific stuff w/o photosynthesis. The H could come from Space Solar. The C could come from anywhere, my lawn needs raking now.

  73. In terms of civilization altering, life extension is likely to alter things slowly, unless it shows up first in the form of significant rejuvenation of already aged individuals. Short of that, the effects of just halting aging tomorrow would take decades to really become significant, as age demographics shift, and people adjust their time horizons.

    If this recent CNS rejuvenation drug in mice actually shows comparable benefits in people, though, the impact could be sudden, thanks to the dramatic increase in productivity of workers presently nearing or in retirement.

    I think the highest potential fast impact technologies are better than human AI, and/or self-reproducing factories. Nanotech I distinguish from self-reproducing factories, because you could get a lot of benefit out of simply rendering current macro tech self-reproducing.

  74. Impact measurement should happen on a converging (or diverging) scale.
    That way one could draw a simple curve and extrapolate it all the way from 4000 b.c. up to 4000 a.c.
    C. Sagan's "Information Mastery scale", J.Barrow's "Microdimension mastery scale" or Kardashev's "Energy Usage scale" are good candidates.

  75. There are plenty of concentrated CO2 sources, no need to extract it from ambient air. (edit: And the microbes could possibly extract it on their own, so you just need to bubble regular air through their vat.)

    Also related to this link is cultured meat and plant tissue culture (i.e. other forms of lab-grown food). The latter has been used for decades, but has proven difficult to automate, so it's still too expensive. However, AI and robotics are getting better rapidly, so we can expect some breakthroughs in the coming decades.

    But I expect all of this to take a while. Regular agriculture won't disappear that quickly.

  76. Generally speaking, infrastructure and industry come before colonization (or at least should). The current money makers in space are satellites. Those could use servicing, refueling, tugs, which we don't have yet. Those then could use more servicing, mining for fuel. Which then needs more servicing, shipping, processing industry. Then you may consider in-space manufacturing. And so on. As with bureaucracy, the infrastructure grows to support the needs of the growing infrastructure.

    But all of this starts with reducing launch costs.

  77. Genetic engineering and bionics could be civilization-altering this century, especially BCIs and other forms of transhumanist enhancement or alteration. These could possibly change what we consider "human", and significantly change how we operate, both individually and as a society.

    Supermaterials, particularly carbon-based, could be at least century defining once we learn how to scale up their manufacturing. They may be anywhere from industrial revolution level to the level of going stone age to metals.

    Space mining and space industry could also be big, as that would multiply our resources by several orders of magnitude.
    Space solar does a similar scaling to energy, but it would be easier to use in-situ, so it largely depends on the above.
    Together, they could be civilization-altering as well. (They're somewhat implied by large-scale space travel, but don't actually require manned space travel.)

  78. AI has been better at chess and Go, as well as Jeopardy, for some time now. It has made no difference at all to civilization, because being proficient at games doesn't matter to civilization, just to the egos of the humans who care about such things.
    Truly autonomous driving WOULD matter, but I live in NYC and haven't seen it yet here, so I remain skeptical about the Last (drivable) mile delivery.
    Similarly, I am getting skeptical – as well as running out of time – for true Life Extension technology. It's always 5-10 years away.
    But, China's progress is real. So is America's though it has more trouble implementing good ideas, it seems to me. China has a government that is full of engineers and basically works, while ours is fractious and dysfunctional, and barely democratic anymore.
    Hoping for the best…

  79. Looks like an elaborate psyop hoax. The navy aren't that thick to fall for the first crank with a perpetual movement contraption (I hope).

    I wouldn't give it much credence until they show off a flying machine on a press conference.

  80. That would cause a second industrial revolution even a second neolithic one with no energy limit full throttle vertical farmingmeat brewing.

  81. Several possibilities here, assuming this research is real, and not a scam, or a psyop to mess with the Russians and Chinese:

    "While the Navy's exotic energy production patents remain as mysterious as ever, these emails add to the backstory surrounding the inventions of Salvatore Pais and suggest that the patents went through a more rigorous internal evaluation process than was previously known. The emails also seem to indicate that the research program that emanated from the patents did in fact result in an experimental demonstration of some sort."


  82. Per-capita income almost certainly will increase ten times, but what about minimum wage and middle-class income? Will ordinary people be able to afford healthcare, or even rent and food? If trends continue as they are, I doubt it.

  83. "Space settlement: first lunar and Mars settlements. Small ones, but legit. With people and some basic production of goods (air, water, food). If the space commercialization fails, this one still can happen, but much more limited and probably not at all."

    It can happen, but it has to be profitable. There has to be an economic model that supports it. Settling on Mars or the moon is a dead end if the costs outweigh the economic gain. So far I haven't seen anyone come up with a sustainable model. I think lots of folks think that cheaper access to space means colonization will automatically become economically viable. The reality though is that it just means that it's cheaper to get to space. It doesn't solve the problem of what to do when you get there. By that I mean that colonies cost money: there are infrastructure costs, power generation costs, equipment costs, maintenance costs, food, materials and supplies costs, etc, ad infinitum. Somehow all those costs have to be paid for by generating revenue. In the short term, say 5-10 years, costs can be covered by the private ventures (i.e. SpaceX) or governments. Long term sustainability requires revenue generation.

    NASA took us one rung up the ladder to colonization. SpaceX is taking us up another. Likely there are many more rungs to be climbed before Moon Base Alpha becomes a sustainable reality.

  84. "Does humanity expand to colonize earth orbit? the moon? Mars? Asteroids? Beyond?" Altho earth orbit is in Space, cislunar Space would be a much better way of thinking about it. All of the various orbits that follow the Earth – Moon in solar orbit, plenty of room, if you are not looking for another gravity prison.

  85. My wish-list for this decade:

    • Nanotechnology: given they are about to have much better protein folding software (either deep learning heuristics or legit quantum computers ), this can become a big thing. Again, and this time for real. Raw organic (CHON) products made in bulk. Synthetic foodstuff and proteins go mainstream. Custom medicine and treatments. Silver bullet treatments for many diseases.
    • Space commercialization: and I mean, for real. Reusable rockets with potential passenger ships going to space and back and much more launches per year at a lower price. If SpaceX only launches 25-30 times or so per year by 2030, this one failed.
    • Space settlement: first lunar and Mars settlements. Small ones, but legit. With people and some basic production of goods (air, water, food). If the space commercialization fails, this one still can happen, but much more limited and probably not at all.
    • Solar energy beating the rest in price per Kw, but energy storage will be a problem still. This one can result in space solar, if the stars align and space access gets significantly cheaper, but I won't bet on it this decade.
    • Nuclear blooming: several countries will realize the foolishness of removing energy security, probably due to self inflicted disasters.
    • Quantum computers: verified quantum supremacy of several problem solvers, but turning them into general computers will be tricky. See nanotech as potential impact.

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