How different can things get by 2100? Prediction site Metaculus attempts to ponder what a fundamental change to the human condition would be like.
Nick Bostrom, philosopher and Founding Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, argues that only two events since the dawn of humanity have fundamentally changed the human condition: the Agricultural Revolution that took place approximately 10,000 years ago, and the Industrial Revolution which took place from roughly 1760-1840.
So what kind of thing would count as a fundamental change in the human condition?
You could argue that if we look back over history, there has really only been two events that have fundamentally changed the human condition, the first being the Agricultural Revolution some 10,000 or 12,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, where we transitioned from being hunter-gatherers, small bands roaming around, to settling into cities, growing, domesticating crops and animals. With that you get social stratification, if there is a lot of grain, you could have a king or pharaoh who extracts the surplus, you can have standing armies, you can have war, you can have higher population densities, specialization of labor, and from that point on, innovation grows much faster and population grows faster as well as a result.
There are many impacts but the basics change for the Agriculture revolution was being able to grow and raise our own food instead of hunting or gathering our food. The changes that followed were profound but the enabling capability was being able to stay in one spot while still being able to feed ourselves. This also changed how we spent time in the day. Feeding ourselves with hunter-gathering used time and effort that left no time for improving our lives and enabled us to create civilization.
The importance and predictable things is going beyond very important limits in a profound way that everyone will use or be impacted by everyday.
We eat every day. We move every day. Most work every day. We live every day. We use what we build or create every day.
Bostrom says the second fundamental change in the human condition, the Industrial Revolution, where for the first time, you have the rate of economic and technological growth outstripping population growth, and so only when this happens can you have an increase in average income. Before that, there was technological growth and economic growth, but the economy grew 10%, the population grew 10%, everybody’s still in a Malthusian condition.
There are many impacts but the basics change for the Industrial revolution was being able to fully overcome human physical limits with machines. The steam and then the combustion engines replacing human and animal muscle power.
I think there are more than the two Bostrom classes as fundamental to significantly changing our daily lives and transforming civilization. I think the third is the computer revolution. The computer revolution would thus be boiled down to machines being used to go beyond the limitations of human cognitive capacity.
Bostrom is recognizing a fundamental and powerful lasting transformation by going beyond past limits and substantially and meaningfully change how we spend our time and what we can do with our time.
The Satellite and phone revolutions let us communicate and see how people live around the world. The accumulated impacts of the computer revolutions and satellite revolutions have not yet grown to the level of agriculture because impacts to time to incorporate.
Satellites have lowered in cost to less than $1 million per satellite and the launch cost per satellite is dropping below $1 million each. This is crossing over the cost of cellular ground stations. Having millions of satellites that replace all ground stations and enable everywhere high bandwidth communication, ultra-precise location information and power delivery will enable us to go anywhere with no sacrifice in bandwidth, computation and internet access. We will be able to do what is done in built-up factories everywhere.
This will impact all aspects of our lives in a profound way and enable more economic growth and new services.
Other Transformations of the 21st Century
Having life expectancy reaching 140+ years would be a technological triumph and would change peoples perception of their lives. People reached 100 years of age in the past but it was extremely rare. The change is people now expect to live to 70 and have a good chance to their 80s. Pushing 20 years past the known max would be profound and if it happens by 2050, then world population could grow by 40-80 million each year from 2050 onwards. Having nearly 100% non-fossil fuel energy and transportation and precision farming, cell-based food production and advanced greenhouses could enable the planet to easily hold 100 billion people.
Reusable Rocket travel on earth for people. One hour anywhere for intercontinental travel. This would help connect the world and alter travel but this would be less transformational than 150-200 mph self-driving cars and trucks. Full autonomy self-driving cars could provide safe travel at 150-200 mph. Cities could become mainly megaregions 50M-500M people connected with 1-hour travel. We drive or travel on the ground nearly every day. Going 5 times further and faster as part of our day would be as profound as going from riding a horse to our current cars.
Milestones for what might happen in the 21st century.
100 million people in orbit or beyond would clearly show a spacefaring transformation was happening.
Super factories that are 100X more productive and more flexible with 3D printed electronics and more robotics and 3D printed parts.
Rapid construction of buildings, tunnels and infrastructure.
Molecular nanotechnology transformation (diamondoid). Reaching 10% of the value of goods in the economy produced using molecular nanotechnology would be something where everyone would notice the difference every day. Controlling atoms at a macro scale can enable a clearly different world.
Intelligence augmentation (brain computer interface – super version of neuralink) or genetic modification or IQ screened embryo selection – IVF enhanced over 50+ IQ points or gene modification of adults.
Full regeneration or embedded healing systems could remove the concern and risks around accidents.
SOURCES- Metaculus, Brian Wang Analysis
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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