||2050 Global Normative Scenarios
Experts were asked to describe normative (preferred) scenarios for technology, human development, and politics/economics in the year 2050. Their ideas were compiled into three scenarios by two leading futurists for the Millennium Project of the American Council for the United Nations University. "The authors provide some insightful scenarios," says Ray Kurzweil. "However, I feel that their time frames do not adequately reflect the accelerating pace of progress inherent in what I call the law of accelerating returns. The types of changes they describe for 2050 will arrive much earlier in my view."
Originally published in 1999
by the American Council for the United Nations University in cooperation
with The Foundation
for the Future.
Feedback on these scenarios is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
and in comments on the MindX forum.
The Millennium Project updates and improves the annual "State of
the Future" on an ongoing basis (deadline for the 2002 publication:
May 15, 2002).
Excerpt from 1999
State of the Future: Challenges We Face at the Millennium.
The 2050 Global Normative
A Normative World in 2050
Human Development Theme
Political Economic Policy Theme
Although the following may look like three
alternative normative scenarios, they are intended to be one scenario
with three interdependent themes. Each theme represents a different
perspective on how change occurs. Some believe technology is the
key force that has made change occur. Others argue that changing
consciousness and the human capacity is more fundamental to long-term
systemic change. Still others say that political and economic policies
create the conditions for changes in both technology and human capacity.
The following global normative scenario assumes that all three themes
are important to the realization of the normative future of 2050.
The process that created this scenario was initiated two years
ago. A more detailed explanation can be found in last year's State
of the Future or at http://www.millennium-project.org/millennium/scenarios.html.
Very simply, Millennium Project participants identified and rated
norms that formed the core of the normative scenario. In order of
preference, the participants selected the following top four norms
around which to form the scenario: environmental sustainability,
plenty, global ethics (the identified and accepted), and peace.
The others in order of preference were health, freedom, universal
education access, equity, preservation of the human species, enlightenment,
exciting and meaningful life, self-actualization, longevity, everyone
has everything they want, and security.
The body of the normative scenario is composed of the actions to
address the Global Challenges in Chapter 2. These actions connected
the present world to the normative future of 2050 and gave another
medium to share the thinking of the Global Lookout Panel. A scenario
review panel was formed of long-term normative-oriented participants
of the Project to reviewed and improve the draft of the scenario.
As this is an ongoing process, your suggestions for improvements
are welcome and may help shape next year's edition. Even though
the following normative scenario takes into account many of the
world's pressing problems, it is intended to illustrate very optimistic
possibilities for our common future over the next two generations.
A Normative World in 2050
By 2050 the world had finally achieved a global economy that appears
to be environmentally sustainable while providing nearly all people
with the basic necessities of life and the majority with a comfortable
living. The resulting social stability has created a world in relative
peace, exploring possible futures for the second half of the 21st
Different explanations have been given for the series of astounding
successes achieved by 2050. Some believe that breakthroughs in science
and technology were the keys, others that development of the human
potential was more fundamental, and still others that political
and economic polices made the difference. All three themes were
important and mutually reinforcing.
Internet has become a right of citizenship. Businesses give free
accounts to all customers; employers give them as an employee benefit.
The connection of virtually all people to the global information
and communications systems accelerated the pace of scientific research
and the introduction and diffusion of new technology. Biotechnology,
nanotechnology, and closed-environment agriculture fed the world.
New and improved sources of energy made cleaner economic growth.
Brain-like intelligent systems used neural networks to augment human
intelligence and improve decision making. Molecular manufacturing
(nanotechnology) lowered manufacturing unit cost, requiring less
volume of materials and energy usage, and hence, lowered the environmental
impact of a population that had almost reached 10 billion. Vaccinology
and genetic engineering eliminated most acquired and inherited diseases
further reducing the need for more frequent pregnancies to have
a similar sized family. This was a factor in further lowering fertility
rates, even though generational mini-booms have continued from the
great population explosion in the mid-20th century. Cyberspace had
become a major medium of civilization creating a constantly growing,
non zero-sum economy and had changed day-to-day life as significantly
as the industrial revolution had changed life 200 years earlier.
The success of the International Space Station had led to other
orbital habitats, the lunar base, and the pioneer communities on
Mars. Nearly 250,000 people now work in space communities in orbit,
on the moon, and on Mars, giving a new frontier for human imagination
and advances in civilization.
Breakthroughs in the unified theory of matter and energy have led
to a deeper understanding of mass, inertia, gravity and quantum
behavior. Experiments have begun in the field of anti-gravity and
faster-than-light communications through the use of quantum phenomena.
There are perhaps a hundred scientists who are studying possibilities
of extracting intrinsic, resting energy from space and using it
in various forms of propulsion. Cosmologists are adding more rigor
to their theories of the origin of the universe and have duplicated
the earliest time in computer simulations that seem almost exact,
but the search still continues. Some signals of apparently extraterrestrial
origin have been detected but debates continue over whether they
are truly extraterrestrial or human artifacts, and if extraterrestrial,
over their precise meaning.
The debates about the potential of extraterrestrial contact have
forced us to think beyond our geographic and ethnic boundaries.
Additionally, scientific breakthroughs, the ease of international
and near-space travel, and the constant global communications among
people of different views on earth and near-space have also helped
broaden our perspectives. As a result, people began replacing their
more parochial views and consider global ethics more seriously.
Not all people value love, truth, fairness, family, freedom, and
belonging, but far more than in the 20th century and enough to keep
a relatively peaceful world. The field of conflict resolution, which
has made great progress since its earliest applications a hundred
years ago, recognizes these simple points and its councilors builds
on them in resolving disputes. Interestingly, the Great Cyber Games
played by one out of every three people alive today were instrumental
in the identification and acceptance of these global ethical norms
which provide much of the common ground for today's global cooperation.
Although ethnic prejudice still exists, it has been held in check
more effectively than in the previous century.
Progress in information technology has been astounding. Microprocessors
have continued to increase in capacity; they are speeder, smaller,
and less expensive. Today computers are built into and integral
with almost everything we make from machines and appliance to buildings
and artificial eyes with zoom lenses. Computer elements are molecular
in size, and their operations utilize quantum behavior.
Much of the computing capacity today makes machines simpler to
use. Rather than requiring everyone to learn to use them, the machines
have been taught to listen and act to needs and wishes of their
users. The digital world's vast amount of data has been translated
into computers and related technologies with access so easy an natural
people use them without even knowing it making them seem truly transparent.
Health is a widely accepted human right; equity in coverage and
accessibility to quality health services and health information
exist regardless of capacity to pay, culture, race, geographic location
or social ascription. Tele-health and tele-medicine is widely available
and easily accessible. Health care providers adopt new paradigms
to forecast and prevent potential health problems through personal
and public health approaches; early detection through biomonitoring
and management of problems that do occur.
Some people used to believe that computers would regiment us by
forcing us to conform to their specifications in order to use them.
Today computers and the machines that use them have supported diversity
through mass customization. Manufacturers make very short production
runs of products that are tailored to the specific needs of very
small segments of consumers, differing in detail, but matching their
criteria. The software technology that uses one's body as passwords
has eliminated toll-booths, credit cards, and passport since people
can be recognized by machines. Shopping is now augmented by personal
data bases of every thing from your buying history to clothing measurements
allowing the on-line or in-person to say, "This jacket will
match the slacks you bought last month," or "Don't you
want get some matching cloths for you nice's doll for her birthday
All of these improvements in information technology have resulted
in an intricate system of communications that some have called a
"global brain" and planetary "nervous system"
which has improved the prospects for humanity. As access expanded,
diminishing costs of educational software (edutaiment), any motivated
person could obtain a college education and continue to learn about
everything they wanted. Individuals cross political and corporate
boundaries in pico-seconds, forming new alliances unknown to traditional
power structures. Rich and poor have nearly equal access to cyberspace
almost anywhere and anytime. The old distinctions between First
and Third Worlds are meaningless in cyberspace.
The old one-way media tended to be conflict-oriented, audiences
were held by the drama of disagreement. Interactive media tended
to be cooperation-oriented, users were held together by the satisfaction
of collaboration. Cyberspace distributed the new wealth of information
more democratically than previous systems. As a result, anyone can
get the training, market research, planning, credit, and other resources
to start their own unique businesses and sell to the global cyberspace
market. Over the past fifty years, this development has made be
a major factor in reducing unemployment worldwide.
The invention of secure electronic money revolutionized retail
transactions, international trade, and provided extraordinary growth
of employment. Individuals felt confident to create businesses and
sell worldwide. While retail use of the Internet got most of the
early publicity and attention, business-to-business transactions
have grown phenomenally. Today, businesses of any size identify
suppliers and partners worldwide, barter, order, and track order
status simply and instantaneously around the world. Rules preventing
wild currency fluctuations limited financial crises and allowed
small business growth with security around the world. A fee-based
system for central banks made currency transactions transparent
with online prices, information on counterparties, and purposes
of trades reduced speculation.
The synergy of telematics and micro-genetics provided a jump in
human evolution, eliminating many diseases and increasing human
capabilities. Robots, both giant and nano, do the dangerous, repetitive,
and precision work in surgery, security, health care, space industrialization,
house cleaning, sewer pipe clearing, bridge inspections, mining,
laboratories, and even the preparation of fast food. These robots
are, for the most part adaptive to their environments, single purpose,
and employ biosensors that are derived from both living cells and
Telecitizens, born in poorer areas but working in richer ones,
helped their original countries as tele-volunteers, accelerating
the development process. The development of artificial intelligence
and its use in communications provided individuals with needed and
timely medical, financial, and other information. Software for multi-language
translators increased communications among different language groups.
The image of people walking by vending machines, reaching in their
pockets, but finding no coins and walking on, drove distributors
in the early 21st Century to create voice activated machines that
billed at the end of the month on people's cyber game accounts.
The televenders had a simple voice recognition and synthesis program
that let people speak to the machine, use their body patterns as
their pass word, order their sandwich, soft drink, communications,
and play in the Great Cyber Games while they drank or ate alone
or with friends.
The Great Cyber Games contained links to databases that described
global problems, opportunities, challenges, strategies, and tactics.
Players received points as they identified answers that matched
or improved on those in the database or identified new problems
judged to be critical enough to add to the database. When a person
scored enough points, they won "reality." They got a prerecorded
message from a policy maker working on the issue in which the player
had received the highest score. The message challenged the player
to play in the "real world game." The current real world
situation was given to the player by the policy-maker, researcher,
or potential employer. When the player came up with something that
was considered valuable, the player got connected live to discuss
their insight. Winners got to play in the real global game with
real actors and many got new jobs and careers.
The Great Cyber Games were attractive to policy or other kind of
decision-makers because it filtered out all the noise of computer
conferences, journal articles, and got right to the person with
the ideas. The players liked it because they had the potential to
see their ideas realized and earn a living at meaningful work. Basic
research labs used it to identify the young scientists with the
greatest potential to participate in their research. An unintended
byproduct of the game was a global personnel selection system that
today is credited for contributing to the phenomenal growth in new
theoretical principles that have led to many improvements. Another
surprise was that it performed the role of a global employment agency.
The Great Cyber Games also became an informal way to prevent some
of information warfare's destruction by promoting more precise,
honest, and compassionate thought around the globe where it was
needed, when it was needed, and in the form that was needed, so
that constructive action has had a chance to kept ahead of destructive
action. Granted, it continues to be a software race to keep ahead
of the bad guys.
When it was scientifically demonstrated that certainty of discovery
was the most effective deterrent to dishonesty and crime, means
for improving certainty of discovery and positive identification,
based on voice analysis and cross-referencing, global data bases
were created and the crime rates fell. International protocols were
established for sharing police data banks and the use of non-lethal
weapons such as sticky foams and aerosols that induce sleep.
Nanotechnology transceivers with voice stress software were incorporated
into clothing and jewelry; these systems alerted the user when people
were lying or becoming aggressive. Although counter software will
always be a problem, requiring constant upgrades, people have become
more honest, or at least behave more honestly than in the last century.
It is difficult to imagine a return of dictatorships and to the
organized crime networks of the past with today's global connectivity
and honestware universally available.
The field of miniaturization has been extremely important to the
success of our world. Nanotechnology helps produce low cost and
custom designed food. As Nature breaks down dirt, air, and water
and re-assembles the molecules into potatoes, nanotechnology "universal
assemblers" break materials into molecules or atoms, then follows
the instructions from custom designed food molecules to manufactures
food. With nanotechnology, whatever we can design, we can build.
The same technology that had been used to produce integrated circuit
chips was used to produce tiny machines. For example, a mass spectrograph,
complete with all valves and analysis apparatus was made on a silicon
chip. Motors are now constructed with diameters of less than millimeter;
accelerometers used in automobile air bags are too small to be seen
with the naked eye. It is commonplace to use biological materials
in such chips now to sense the reaction to various contaminants
or initiate actions based on their presence. Technologists have
learned about forces that occur uniquely at this scale (e.g. lubricants
can have molecules that are too large to work properly in such machines)
and have developed special molecular forms (fullerines) that have
desired properties. Some applications today are sensors for transition
from laminar to turbulent flow on the surface of wings, and the
distortion of the airfoils to delay transition, measurement of the
purity of water supplies with micro "fish", telemetry
transmitters that can be swallowed to measure reactions in the body,
and measurement of the stress induced in buildings by earthquakes
using sensors that were cast into the structural concrete.
All of this activity has had a great affect on materials science.
After a plateau that lasted for several decades, superconductivity
is being experienced at higher and higher temperature; now thin
film superconductors exist at -100 degrees Celsius. The developments
in this field included bio-molecules, low pressure diamond coatings,
ultra light solids that float in air, and composite materials strong
and light enough to form the skin of a large scale rocket designed
to enter orbit with a single stage.
New forms and mechanisms of the distributed global economy began
to emerge in the early 21st century. A whole new lexicon was developed
to describe the digital life forms that built cyber culture and
the collaborative economies of today. Software agents assisted our
transition. They sought new opportunities for collaboration, alerted
us to synchronicity to discover the value of new and counter intuitive
ideas, and coached us in new forms of self-organization. They even
produced images of fields of people, places, and opportunities of
cooperative intent. Such "fields of cooperative intent"
are one of the new units of social organization and entrepreneurial
effort. Knowledge and wisdom have become added measures of wealth
Global idea management systems were integrated into the Great Cyber
Games, further accelerating the progress of more environmentally
friendly economic and technological development. Common data protocols
for unconventional science and an international registry of new
and unconventional ideas with national copyright protections was
connected to clearinghouses that reported success, failure, and
inconclusive research. Use of software that prompted the user to
see potential synergies of their work with research in other fields,
that they might not have otherwise considered, has now become a
useful protocol in all fields.
Biotechnology has created high yield plant species that are disease
and pest-resistant, use less fertilizer and are more tolerant of
drought and brackish water. More recent applications of biotechnology
are completely changing the 10,000 year traditional use of seeds,
water and land to grow crops. Today large scale production of food
in factories using genetic techniques produce much of the world's
food. Food factories use genetically altered micro-organisms to
organize raw materials into nutritious food. The inputs are primarily
sunlight or other energy forms, carbon dioxide, water, and nitrogenous
materials. The output is amino acids and directly consumable food.
In another approach, cells from natural foods such as carrots or
meat are cloned and the outputs of the food factories are edible
replications of the parent cells. Such techniques make agricultural
production possible without land. It is also beginning to reduce
the need for farmland for meat by producing novel protein, substituting
meat from cows and chickens. Such meat substitutes for fish has
promoted the recovery of ocean fisheries and the establishment of
ocean plantations. Perhaps equally important, inventions in this
field have also produced the current counters to biological weapons
and removal of pathogenic microbiological agents from food.
The mapping of bacterial, human, and plant genomes, provided knowledge
of genetic processes and to some extent, information about how to
control them. The tiny interior robots of nanomedicine repair cells,
tissues, and organs. Some of the diseases that have been eliminated
or controlled are cancer, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, rheumatoid
arthritis, AIDS, hypercholesterolemia, and some forms of mental
illness. Monoclonal antibodies, sometimes mounted in bio-chips,
are being used in sensitive diagnostic tests and in drug delivery
systems that pinpoint specific sites in the body. Techniques in
this field have led to genetic medicine in which the genetic properties
of humans are modified in vivo to cure or ameliorate diseases caused
by genetic anomalies. Disease diagnosis based on the analysis of
one's genetic material is routine; these diagnoses not only relate
to existing diseases, but also the propensity to future disease
and in some cases, the propensity to abhorrent behavior.
The traditional view of human reproduction is still undergoing
changes simultaneously with the increasing progress toward self-determination,
equal rights, economic autonomy of women, and the evolution of male
and female roles. Some of the more controversial advances have centered
on long-term male and female contraceptives, the ability to select
the sex of a child before conception, and the ability to influence
genetics and biochemical processes. The world became quite alarmed
in the early 21st Century when low cost and portable methods for
determining the sex of a baby before conception became commonly
available. Many feared that parents in some cultures would only
select males, distorting the future demographics of human race.
After several years of intense debate, threats of international
sanctions, interventions of leading personalities, and a short but
rapid increase in male births in some countries, the number of female
and male births returned to balance. This left many uneasy about
unforeseen consequences of new technology. As a result, technological
forecasting and assessment has become a normal part of the work
in advanced institutes today.
The World Energy Organization, created in the early 21st century,
coordinated research and helped improve policy leading to today's
safer mix of sources that have reversed the greenhouse effect. These
include hydrogen, third generation fission plants, solar power satellites,
renewable energy source Hydrogen has become a major source of energy
for automobiles and medium for transporting energy from origin to
use. In its gaseous form it was stored at high density in metal
hydrides and later released by a modest amount of heat. In addition
to extracting it from natural gas, it is also produced from water
by electrolysis (the focus here was on a new form of catalysis)
and by high temperature disassociation of water, processes that
use a great deal of electricity or very high temperature. The former
method of extraction from water has provided the basis for an argument
to build second and third generation nuclear plants and solar satellites,
while the later for large-scale solar thermal plants. An additional
benefit of the production of hydrogen from seawater has been desalination
to produce fresh water and hence preventing water conflicts in the
Middle East and other potential crisis regions.
Thousands of 100-mile long robotically managed closed-environment
agricultural tubes, interspersed with photovoltaic strips across
the Sahel, produced sufficient food for Africa and exports to Asia.
Surplus energy from the strips is currently exported by microwave
to earth orbit and relayed worldwide via the satellite energy grid.
The synergies of advanced research in biology and physics necessary
for human space flight has generated an extraordinary number and
range of inventions, stimulated thought about the meaning of life,
history, and our common future, and created many opportunities for
peaceful international cooperation. International R & D cooperation
led by INSPACECO (the international public-private consortium) lowered
launch costs to under US$500 a pound making it possible for an individual
to move to a space community with a basic support package for a
quarter million dollars. This, plus the growing space tourism and
space lottery business (winners a get free visit to an orbital space
vacation center), has opened a political debate on space migration.
Some argue that migration from earth is inevitable; it is in the
myths of many cultures. People advocate accelerating the construction
of alternative habitats in space as insurance for the human species
should an earthly catastrophe threaten life on earth. Others argue
that life always moves to new niches and our curiosity will drive
use one day beyond the solar system.
Space-related inventions have created new industries, tax sources
for social programs, improved living standards, expanded access
to tools by miniaturization and production processes that have lowered
the costs of many technologies from satellite communications to
medical diagnostic techniques. Income from satellite communications,
solar power satellites, orbital energy relay satellites (orbital
electricity grid), lunar and asteroid mining, weightless manufacturing,
and space tourism has led to an enormous growth of private sector
ventures in space. This acceleration of the privatization of space
applications has avoided the public cycles of interest and disinterest
in space support, so common in the last century.
Hierarchical institutions of the 20th century have given way to
network organizations and a plethora of short-term, task-oriented,
individually-initiated teams made possible by intelligent software
agents in cyberspace. Cyber-UN and other international organizations
can only be understood in cyberspace, because "employees"
are not concentrated into one building or geographic center from
which they operate. Instead people are connected around the world
under the cyber umbrella of the international organization, but
they may also be working for other institutions such as NGOs, corporations,
universities, other UN systems, and traditional systems like nation-states
and regional organizations. These cyber organizations are better
thought of as executive information systems, with knowledge visualization,
that are available in cyberspace for improved decision making by
a user or group of users. This is the medium through which harmonization
of global standards was achieved and through which accountability,
transparency, and participation in the range of human enterprise
today is reinforced.
Despite the technological progress and scientific insight in which
today's society is based, most scientists and engineers believe
that there is still more to come, that the future holds further
excitement, progress and discovery.
Human Development Theme
The acknowledgment that education was the solution to many problems
and that the knowledge economy was spreading rapidly, stimulated
governments and corporations worldwide to increase their investments
in education, training, and applications of cognitive science. The
race to educate the world began after the World Summit on Cognitive
Development in 2010. Most institutions that had even a peripheral
association with education began debating the most equitable and
cost/effective ways to make everyone knowledgeable, virtuous, and
intelligent. Internet access became a right of citizenship. Educational
software was imbedded into nearly everything that could hold a computer
chip. The World Cyber Games permeating daily life blending entertainment
The transition from a mostly illiterate global population to a
mostly educated world was achieved by the mid-2040s. The interconnection
of many separate programs into a global system of education created
a cyberspace in which all could get the best education at their
own pace, learning style, and in their own language. Ethical and
effective decision-making was a new focus of education. The availability
of data of all sorts, married with an integrated global scholarly
and scientific knowledge base, increased the speed of problem solving
in all fields, by providing a logically structured framework into
which existing and newly acquired knowledge could be placed and
assimilated in a non-redundant way for examination, discussion,
and extension by scientists and scholars worldwide and for a full
range educational applications. Academic and business interests
collaborated to create a sophisticated body of principles and techniques
for knowledge visualization and the use of artificial intelligence
to make it possible to rapidly navigate the knowledge of the world.
This allowed for content and context to be connected, reducing confusion
and culture shock in cyber space.
The Global Cyber Games was integrated with the knowledge systems
so that one could move easily between play and education. An unanticipated
consequence of the games was the large number of people it helped
to identify and acknowledge global ethics, and the growth of responsible
behavior and compassion.
In addition to the vast improvements in educational technology,
the content of conventional public education also changed during
the early 21st century. Education successfully linked human ecology
to decision-making in an increasingly global society, including
the moral basis for decisions, the nature and management of risk,
and dealing with uncertainty. It emphasized compassionate behavior
and socially acceptable values such as tolerance and diversity.
Instruction in "how to learn" and the scientific method
was given greater prominence in both educational systems and professional
training programs. Multi- and transdisciplinary techniques and non-linear
thinking approaches became common in most curricula. It is generally
accepted that the creative process included failure, chaos, uncertainty,
and holding of contradictory positions. The speed of feedback from
inquiry to intelligent response is so fast today that curiosity
has become a normal mental state for adults.
Advances in cybernetics and human cognitive development increased
the use of machine intelligence to augment human intelligence, while
emphasizing social and emotional development for improved decision
making. In short, it became fashionable to be intelligent and virtuous.
It was not enough to learn and understand the history and current
status of an item; in the world of 2050 an educated person also
knew a range of possible futures for that item. Many reasons have
been given for the addition of future-oriented curricula in education.
Some argued that we were simply forced into it by the increasing
complexity of issues, growing numbers of people involved in decisions,
accelerating rate of change, and lead-times involved with environmental
solutions. Others pointed to new opportunities in globalization
and other unprecedented conditions, such as the international millennium
celebrations and events that stimulated increased corporate, political,
academic and personal thinking about future possibilities. Futurists
had used the year 2000 as an opportunity to introduce futures methods
and perspectives through global television and Internet events.
Future-oriented university courses in and around cyber space became
popular. As a result, nearly all institutions began providing routine
updates on near- and long-term future dynamics. Long-term perspectives
and improved futures methodology were increasingly applied to address
the full range of global issues and opportunities. This contributed
to the improved conditions enjoyed in the mid-21st Century and expected
for future generations as well.
In addition to the popularization of executive training seminars
in long-term perspectives, the many National Futures Academies popularized
and improved the quality of instruction of futures studies through
networks of universities. They helped integrate futures, creative,
non-linear thinking into educational curricula that addressed decision-making.
The moral basis for decisions, the nature of risk, and dealing with
uncertainty were also integrated into these courses. Futures research
methods were converted into teaching methods to help future-orient
The millennium provided the focus to foster collaboration among
the various inter-religious dialogues on human values and morals
that continued over several decades and through all forms of media.
This accelerated the inter-religious studies that found common moral
values and attitudes acceptable to all cultures. Religious leaders
publicly acknowledged the existence and value of a variety of approaches
to spiritual enlightenment and becoming a virtuous person. These
public acknowledgments and dialogues helped to reduce the hatred
created by the many ethnic conflicts of the late 20th century. The
personal intervention of some religious leaders who condemned those
who called for violence in the name of religion, reduced the use
of religion as a justification for ethnic conflict.
Although cultural and religious conflicts will still need more
time to fully disappear, these new initiatives have help to keep
them in sufficient check to prevent the kinds of wars so prevalent
in the last century.
Philosophers and artists created terminology and imagery that communicated
the strength of diversity is its underlying unity and our ethical
responsibilities to future generations. Global ethics have become
generally understood and scientifically documented for social stability.
This did not mean that all people adhered to global ethics, but
that it became a force for social stability. Advertising and social
marketing taught tolerance and respect for diversity and equal rights.
All managers today have received training courses in ethical behavior
in a multiethnic context. As a result thinking globally includes
responsibility about global impacts.
Psychonauts exploring the mind and cybernauts exploring cyberspace
helped create new forms of notation and symbols that enabled the
general public to understand the sophisticated world of 2050. These
new forms made the global education systems more intelligible to
a broad range of people. These notations and symbols helped transcultural
collaboration in creating the cultures of peace we enjoy today.
Many of the new kinds of perceptions of reality and ways of knowing
that helped this transition could only have emerged through human
interaction using these new forms of notation.
Diversity and shared ethical values were encouraged by the countless
celebrations of humanity-as-a-whole at the millennium. People and
institutions learned the painful lessons generated by the many ethnic
conflicts that followed the fall of the USSR. Polycultural views
were created from shared beliefs and interests that enhanced peaceful
coexistence. Polyculturalism also helped smooth the transition of
nation-centric states to regional and global institutions. Global
economic success diminished the importance of excessive materialistic
desires and people looked for more meaning in their lives. Experience
-- more than information -- became the key economic value. By 2050
enough people understood that ethnic diversity is a comparative
advantage in a global economy and society, and has made our world
far more peaceful today than in the past. Diverse views from many
cultures provided the insights to manage an increasingly complex
world and shared ethical values promoted cooperation and stability.
Changes in global frames of reference and philosophies due in part
to understanding of the interaction of population and economic growth
with environmental degradation gave rise to the more enlightened
age of today. The merger of the environmental movements and human
rights groups in collaboration with many leading multinational corporations
made possible the global educational campaign that made clean air,
water, and land to be accepted as a human right. As a result, many
changes in environmental policies and behaviors have been made.
It became unthinkable to establish an environmentally dangerous
In the late 20th century, it was scientifically documented that
the behavior and values of most astronauts changed as a result of
the "breakaway phenomena", the psychological reaction
to leaving earth. Seeing the earth from space caused psychological
and even neurological changes that created new neural connections
associated with the concept of humanity; and, hence the value forming
process. Human consciousness became more compassionate with the
daily flood of images of earth from orbital communities, the lunar
base, and the Mars pioneers. Many of children born in space have
developed careers related to conflict prevention and re-enforcing
the value of ethnic diversity. Their increasing interaction with
the earth-based groups has provided a calming influence on potential
Others believed that the increasingly aging population in the global
labor force helped to provide wisdom for increasing ethical considerations
in business and daily life. Still others point to the NGO global
dialogs and studies on ethics that scrutinized and encouraged improvement
of ethical standards in business as the reason for the more humane
use of free markets.
Whatever the reasons, the 20th century self-centered greed and
welfare attitudes were replaced by a more moral entrepreneurial
spirit, environmental consciousness, and compassion. Growing numbers
of experienced, energetic and active older men and women are respected
and occupy important positions shared with younger groups. The traditional
"linear life paradigm" where people pass from education,
work, leisure and retirement is replaced by "cyclical life
paradigms". A safety network exists to protect the elderly
in need. Thanks to a variety of public and private options, social
security is robust.
Nearly all formerly less advantaged groups (the poor, the elderly,
women, ethnic and racial minorities) participate in the cyber cash
economy; universal literacy and Internet access allows people to
learn and work at home. Poor women were especially helped by these
changes which contributed to decreases in infant mortality rates,
generated government support for childcare, contraceptives, and
family planning, as well as the powerful role models for women provided
by various media. Inter-religious dialogs about the changing role
of women, birth control, and religion were also credited with these
changes. Equal pay for equal work is now a universal norm. Disabled
persons are able to live functional lives and participate indiscriminately
The interest in assessment of the past and visioning of the future
became so popular at the time of the millennium that inquiry into
new and sometimes counter intuitive ideas became much more acceptable.
As a result, much more was learned about how to increase natural
abilities by self-control of inherent human healing power, cognitive
enhancing strategies, and conscious involvement with computer generated
By the end of the 20th century, many norms underpinning peace were
widely accepted, such as territorial integrity, non-use of nuclear,
chemical, and biological weapons, the immunity of civilian aircraft
and ships, international obligation to help refugees, the inadmissibility
of colonial rule, the unacceptableness of officially sanctioned
and racial discrimination, the undeniable equality of woman, and
human rights. But not until the world education system became more
efficient, did these norms become almost universally perceived as
The transitions from authoritarian regimes to democracies was smoothed
by advanced training programs and seminars for senior political
officials to discuss with their international peers successful transition
strategies in the areas of the rule of law, respect for human rights,
free media, tolerance of political opposition, free elections, and
an independent civil society.
Because of the speed and ubiquity of communications systems, decision-makers
and the general public became increasingly aware of the consequences
of their decisions -- almost as they occurred. Feedback on the results
of actions is so rapid, which in turn allows for new, self-correcting
decisions. This has reduced the time from early warnings to timely
and effective responses and contributed to the solution of many
of the seemly intractable problems of the 20th century.
Just as body building became fashionable among many in the late
20th century, so too mind building has became fashionable in early
21st century. Parents learned that giving their babies diversity
of environment with consistency of love enhanced cognitive development.
Nutritional supplements known as "brain food" became common.
Rumors persist that we have crossed the threshold of using gene
therapy to increase intelligence.
Cognitive science and behavioral sciences increasingly intermingled
helping policy makers to understand how to improve mental as well
as social well being. One of the most successful software applications
of cognitive science was "Think Smart", a self-customizable
virtual reality program with tele-presence options that directly
stimulated neural development. Eye tracking, voice commands, and
neural output in a virtual reality eye piece allowed one to visualize
their capacities as virtual icons and use their mental strengths
to improve their weaker areas. The more adventurous used this software
interactivity when connected to tele-presence global education systems
and the Great Cyber Games. Tele-robots give the tele-presence sense
by letting users people, hear and often feel what a remote robot
is seeing, hearing and feeling at the time. Such tele-presence makes
people actually feel that they are swimming in the deep ocean, on
the surface of Jupiter, or in an ant colony, when they are sitting
a home. Unfortunately some people prefer these simulations to real
life. But despite the problems it has generated, simulation is a
new educational tool of great power.
Synergies from research in cognitive science and sociology gave
NGOs better methods to promote peace, engage in conflict resolution,
and build consensus. New knowledge of brain reasoning and decision
processes was applied to enhance the brain's ability for complex
reasoning. The philosophy of science and cognitive science helped
society reach a better understanding of objective vs. subjective
With global consciousness (awareness that everyone is aware of
the world as-a-whole) institutional forms continuously reinvented
themselves. Few hierarchical or network institutions existed in
a continuous sense as in the 20th century. Instead they became fields
for collaborative actions of varying time duration. Every four years
the Olympic movement re-enforced this consciousness through its
games in both cyber and three-dimensional space. In 2040, when the
Mars Pioneers won the first Olympic competition in solar sailing
between earth and lunar orbit, humanity seemed to pass some threshold
of consciousness. We became aware that we were no longer an earth-only
species but will become a space faring one.
Our human capacity is just now beginning to be understood. The
current debate about a possible signal from extraterrestrial intelligence
is revolutionizing our values, philosophy, and views of the human
potential as we enter the second half of the 21st century.
Political Economic Policy Theme
The number of wars decreased as democracies and respect for cultural
diversity increased in the early 21st century. Although old cultural
conflict wounds of the past still flare occasionally, we can successfully
avert and prevent them for growing into larger conflicts. The resulting
social stability nurtured economic growth and created 2 billion
people in the global middle class by 2010. This increased conditions
for further stability and sustainable growth that moved over 5 billion
people in the middle class by 2050.
The UN Secretariat's early warning and monitoring system coupled
with a new rapid response capability were instrumental in preventing
international and internal wars. Its indicators of peace and security
are transparent for cross-referencing by media, governments, NGOs,
and the public. This transparency - especially with the media -
connected early warning with appropriate and timely action. Instead
of a standing UN Army, nations agreed to identify troops which would
be immediately available for rapid response peacekeeping and peace
building missions which have been trained together with other such
national troops and which use compatible equipment and communications.
NGOs cooperated with this system by establishing networks to monitor
indicators of conflict and discuss and link strategies for rapid
deployment of non-military resources. States were able to reduce
their military budgets by paying a "security insurance fee"
to the UN Security Insurance Agency to work in tandem with UN Peacekeeping
as a rapid development and peace making contingents. The UNSIA was
able to avoid the veto by being governed by a public-private-civic
governing council that worked in partnership the UN Security Council.
As a complexity of global issues and the number of people involved
in the decision-making process increased, institutions found new
approaches to management and decision making. Most hierarchical
institutions have evolved into network organizations and have increased
their public accountability, transparency, and participation in
management. Many network organizations have evolved into fields
of common interests as individuals cross political boundaries electronically,
making new alliances unbeknownst to traditional power.
The UN Secretariat and Security Council has been streamlined and
is now supported by advanced executive information management systems,
software agents, and knowledge visualization systems. Nearly all
the work of UN now occurs in "Cyber UN," leaving the Secretariat
building in New York more for ceremonial duties. Some of UN's specialized
agencies have been merged while others have increased in importance
like the WTO, WHO, WSO (World Sustainable-development Organization),
and INSPACO. These global institutions have harmonized international
standards, protocols, and coordination among international organizations,
governments, corporations, and NGOs. Both multi-national corporations
and NGOs have become transnational in their policy influence. Regional
institutions have also grown in importance.
The transition from dictatorships to democracies is now complete.
Authoritarian regimes cooperated in the transition realizing that
democratic processes were increasingly necessary for social stability
and the generation of wealth en par with global norms. Improved
information technology helped make UN Electoral Units instrumental
in this transition by providing effective election design, management,
and monitoring. Threats to make development assistance and loans
from international organizations dependent on progress toward democracy
sometimes proved counterproductive. The incentive of participation
in the Global Partnership for Development (GPD) proved effective
as a partnership between high income countries and those with less
industrial and entrepreneurial cultures to improve economic development.
GDP membership required respect for human rights and policies to
address environmental security. If they were abridged or thwarted
sufficiently, intervention by UN peacekeeping forces could be authorized
by the Security Council. A little noticed article in the GPD called
for acceptance of periodic NGO assessments of progress on democratization
and the reduction of corruption. The corruption reports have become
an annually anticipated event and have proven to be an effective
instrument through which countries have reduced corruption.
As the world progressed toward peace, the reduction in arms R&D,
production, stockpiling, trade, and military personnel was accelerated
along with the efforts to convert military technology to civilian
uses. This contributed to government debt reduction. The synergies
of advanced research in biology, physics, and engineering necessary
for human space habitation have created new industries and tax resources
for universal education programs. This helped to justify government
investment into research that lowered launch costs. While government
funds for the initial solar power satellites, orbital habitats for
space manufacturing, lunar base, and the Martian station were necessary,
the majority of space applications are financed and owned by global
corporations, INSPACECO, or a combination of both.
The International Criminal Court was established with enforcement
powers to punish those convicted of atrocious collective and communal
violence. In close cooperation with the court, the UN Secretariat
created a parallel early warning system focusing on potential and
emerging crime threats.
Internet access became a right of citizenship as governments realized
that it was a logical extension of the public library. Telecommunication
monopolies were replaced by local, regional, and global enterprises
as new technological capacities were introduced. Content and use
of international networks are regulated as little as possible, although
there are many specialty groups that make blocking software that
prevents the reception of offensive materials to those groups. Imbedded
software code strengthened the enforcement of intellectual property
Participatory processes informed by futures research continue to
develop and improve national and corporate visions of the future.
Socio-cultural indicators were developed to improve analysis. The
interaction of these indicators with global scientific, economic,
political and environmental factors is now standard. This led to
the creation of the common protocols used at regional intergovernmental
meetings and countries to share their futures perspectives and communicate
the implications of decisions to the public.
NGOs contributed to confidence building, conflict resolution and
preventive diplomacy. NGOs are now regularly included in decision
making of international organizations.
The growth and integration of regional trade groups has nearly
completed the transition to the WTO objective of free trade with
common standards of behavior. The globalization of markets, media,
information technology, education, urbanization, and the harmonization
of international standards seem to be sufficient to prevent regression
to dictatorships and national wars. The IMF issued new SDRs (Special
Drawing Rights) that made it easier for developing countries to
pay off their debt. Standard central bank rules were finally observed
by all countries on the issuance of currency, which now helps controls
inflation. The Global Securities and Exchange Commission was established
to tame currency markets and central banks made currency transactions
sufficiently transparent to reduce speculation. Small business was
promoted through access to land, credit, technology, and training.
Special attention was given to women.
Increasing numbers of people now accept that access not possession
is the measure of wealth. This new cultural norm helped to change
consumption patterns. Global dialogs about ethics and common values
have helped the New Wealth Indicators (NWI) which replaced GDP as
the primary focus for national accounting. This has stimulated more
ethical and free markets. The increasing participation of those
65-85 in the labor force provided additional wisdom for increasing
ethical considerations in business.
Entrepreneurial spirit and stewardship replaced the welfare attitude.
Employee ownership is now common in the many forms of Employee Stock
Ownership Plan (ESOP) which made corporate shares available to employees.
Employee access their own company's Intranet to see elements of
their planning system, work flow, production indicators, etc. this
allowed them to more intelligently participate in the business.
NGOs identified, monitored, and publicized sources of the constraints
to free markets and unethical business practices around the world.
Participatory processes between labor, management, and consumers
helped better match training and future work to keep employment
high. Public voting on political elections and potential corporate
decisions of global importance via global networks has become a
common practice. A side benefit was the continual identification
and acknowledgment of the many hidden and delayed costs assumed
by government, which in turn lead to the acceptance of full cost
Internet gave equal access to rich and poor as prices for computers,
software, and telecommunications fell, capacity grew, and ease of
use improved. It accelerate economic development by providing greater
and faster access to the world's knowledge, and became the medium
for participating in the world's economy. It distributed the wealth
of information more democratically than previous systems. Electronic
money made international commerce more secure, which allowed instant
global delivery of many services. Tele-citizens from poorer countries
working in richer ones can helped their original countries as tele-volunteers
to the development process.
The Great Cyber Games helped to distribute the workload from those
who were overloaded to the underemployed. The cyber game's Work
Unit allowed people to bid on work from the overloaded.
Although the 1999 World Conference on Science was not initially
hailed as a great success, it did initiate the discussions that
laid the foundations for the political agreements to create and
accept the UNESCO-ICSU definitions of terms, standards, and measurements
that proved necessary for effective political and economic polices
that eventually achieved sustainable development by the mid-21st
century. The use of environmental tax incentives, product labels,
and international sanctions on violators of a series of UN treaties
related to sustainable development required these scientifically
determined definitions and measures. With these changes in policy
and an increasingly informed global market, businesses competed
to show their environment correctness. The more successful companies
got a jump on the competition by creating their own labeling programs
prior to government policies.
Although "sustainable development" had become the most
internationally accepted goal for humanity, it was not realized
until several powerful personalities provided the spark to move
the world from "lip service" to more serious action. Companies
created their own green labels as competitive advantage with those
who didn't use environmentally sound production practices. Consumer
groups helped the knowledge and service companies find the industrial
supplies and products for their businesses that were created in
more ecologically sound ways. "Green" producers and consumers
united in political movements that changed waste-subsidizing economic
policies. (For example, providers began charging for the real costs
of water, nuclear energy costs, etc.). The global inter-religious
discourses helped to make reasonably clean air, water, and healthy
soil a human right rather than a factor in economic cost/benefit
The World Sustainable-development Organization (WSO) was created
to provide a global focus for business, government, and individual
efforts to invest into sustainable development. The International
Court of Environmental Arbitration and Conciliation has become the
key instrument for advising the UN Security Council on environmental
security actions. UN Peacekeeping forces were deployed when the
ICEAC ruled against a state that was unwilling to stop the leakage
of nuclear waste that endangered several countries. Since then the
threat of UN military intervention has been sufficient to cause
remedial actions. Intergenerational equity has become a major global
value and legal principle.
The WSO provided a global collection point for contributions and
investments into alternative sources of energy, energy storage,
and efficiencies to extend non-renewable energy sources. In response
to global warming, it worked with oil companies to help them expand
into renewable energy sources. It also provided political leadership
for INSPACO to place earth rectennas for solar power satellites
in China and India during the first round of receiving countries
to reduce by WSO helped local authorities in cooperation with farmers,
agribusinesses, and environmental NGOs provide natural habitat corridors
and integration of habitat in agriculture to protect biodiversity.
WSO's collaboration with local authorities helped them set goals
or limits for percent of land-use for natural pristine reserves,
low intensity agriculture, and high intensity agriculture.
Ecological and energy taxes were initiated to create disincentives
for inappropriate energy use and tax incentives for less polluting
alternative energy sources. All stages of the production process
were included (extraction, production, distribution and consumption).
Corporate-NGO partnerships developed model sustainable communities
in different settings around the world that were designed around
reduced consumerism, sustainability, community values, traffic-free,
sylvan spaces, with less than 2,000 people. Buying clubs and consumer
unions encouraged consumers to purchase from service industries
that draw from more environmentally friendly industrial processes.
Better government policies were stimulated by the establishment
of national accounts that included the economic, social, and health
impacts of the depletion of natural resources. National laws were
developed to compensate victims of pollution and other environmental
damage. Tradeable pollution permits were used to insure international
compliance to fix global emission limits for countries and industrial
sectors. With broad public support, governments entered into voluntary
agreements with industry to commit itself to go "beyond regulation"
in exchange for a relaxation of administrative and compliance costs
of regulations (data collecting, reporting, verification).
Similarly, there are now government incentives for smaller and
healthier families, effective long-term contraceptives, low infant
mortality rates. Since family planning or spacing has become acceptable
in nearly all cultures, it is unlikely that birth rates will increase
in the near future. Birth rates have fallen sufficiently that now
more people worry about sufficient population growth to the support
the world's increasingly aging population.
The synergies among the successes in political economic policies,
human development, and technology have resulted in a better world
in 2050 that few at the turn of the century believed was possible.
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Mind·X Discussion About This Article:
Re: 2050 Global Normative Scenarios
James, you are totally mistaken, the only way to achieve to a new feudalism is socialism and other authoritarian political governments. And they don't need technology to be powerful. People could be oppressed or killed with or without technology.
Technology is our hope for the future. It will make us healthier, wealthier and the most important it will make us freer and independent.
If we compare our history background is easy to see the impact of technology in our society. Not long ago, life was rough and people died at young ages. In most families, children death was very common, intensifying specially in those who had low income.
It's easy to see how much had grown population since the industrial revolution, and that's not because people was manufactured with machinery!!, that's because the technology sustained the life of millions, much more than before. If we took out all technology and pretend to live in the way our grand parents lived, most of the people would die soon of starvation. They are living thanks to technology.
Technology makes our lives wealthier. It's easy to see the difference between the reach and the poor. The only thing the poor need to develop themselves its technology. It's really a pity that there are political and ideological frontiers when the solution it out there, much more closer than they expect.
I don't really understand why there are people arguing against technology while they are living in a city and using it's new PENTIUM IV for navigating in internet and posting a e-message in a forum. There are thousands of places on earth were technology had not reached yet, where they could go to live. They are free to do whatever they like. Living with or without technology, is just their option.
There is no point in saying that the technology developed in the future will have a negative impact, when the overall result (good and bad uses) is that technology made of our environment a much better place to live.
Re: 2050 Global Normative Scenarios
>>Too many of the things that it once took human labor to do become mechanized, too many people are put out of work by the ever-rising tide of mechanization, not many can afford to buy the items produced by computerized factories, businesses begin to collapse, etc.<<
This spectre has been haunting us since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Heretofore, productivity increases have freed capital to fund more innovation, which has been responsible for creating new work for people to do. Railroads put cart drivers out of work. Automobiles put most blacksmiths out of work. And so forth and so on.
Of course, just because this has been the way it's worked for the last 200 years is no guarantee that it will continue to work that way, but, on the other hand, there is no realistic alternative. Genies are difficult to put back into bottles; And in any event, the earth could not support the current population of the earth without modern technology.
>>I remember thinking twenty years ago that computerization would save so much labor that people would work thirty, twenty, or even less hours a week around the year 2000. In fact we are working longer hours for less money. I am beginning to wonder if we have seen the costs of industrialization outweigh the benefits. So have we reached the "point of diminshing returns?"<<
What the technology did was make workplaces more productive. Humans choose how to deal with those productivity increases. In fact, if an American wanted to live the lifestyle of a 1950s-era middle class family, he/she could do so on about half the average per capita income of today, and, conceivably, on a 20 hour work week. But "wants" accumulate, and soon they becme needs. (The size of the average American's dwelling has nearly doubled in size since the 1960s. Middle class Americans demand the ability to buy strawberries out of season. Etc ad nauseum).
Re: 2050 Global Normative Scenarios
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has been keeping records of what the average "market basket" of goods costs since the '40s. They are the base data for my comparison. Even adjusted for inflation, the mean numbers tell this story. I didn't say they applied to all cases.
One major reason why Americans, in particular, feel squeezed, is that the way average folks consume. In the 1950s, very few US households had any significant debt, beyond a mortgage, and (perhaps) a car payment. Installment credit card debt was extremely rare. Housing costs were lower for the average American--but the average American took up about half the square footage he/she does today. Food costs were about the same in real terms, proportionally, but the marketbasket contained different items...less convenience food. If one shopped like the average household in 1957, your food costs would probably fall by nearly half. Etc Etc Etc.
Re: Jobs singularity - New theory
If what you have written was correct and techno-economics worked as you described, how high would it be unemployment rate nowadays? 70?, 95%???
mmmmm, unemployment rate is well below, there is something mistaken in your logic.
Imagine we would go in the opposite way, replacing new technology with the old one, and doing things in the way was previously done. What would you say?
It would probably be similar to this:
What a disaster!! They are replacing cars with horses! How is going to work the people who depended of cars and trucks? And what about the ones who worked in buses and gas stations?
Look! how many jobs are being destroyed!
What will do people who lived from aeronautics and electronic equipment?
Oh no!!! There are thousands of people who depends of communications, computers, tourism, television, radios and trains. What are they going to do now!!!!
This world is going to helllllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!
What happens to you it that you are seeing only one side of the whole. It's easier to notice how many jobs were replaced with new technology, but it's a bit harder to notice how many the new technology created.
That's because when an old factory or activity closes, all people that worked there are fired at the same time in the same place (and some of them appear on TV). But in the meanwhile new techno companies are employing people at a unnoticeable continuous rate dispersed all around the world. That easily surpasses the fired people that you read yesterday in the newspaper.
And there is another thing you didn't notice, the fact is that the number of different economics activities had multiplied over time, thanks to new technologies (and surely they are doing in an exponential rate). So, it doesn't matter if the number employed people in one activity had decreased over time. It's simply, there are much more things to do.
(new) - (old) >> 0
And if the growth of new tasks is increasing in an exponential way, as kurzweil theories, there will be a time not in a distant future where it will not only be a technological singularity, but also a tasks singularity, in which there would be so many different types of works, that all people of the world would be insufficient to occupy all the existing jobs. (Hey Kurzweil here is a new theory!!).
Making some calculations, if one day our world economy had 1 million different tasks, if each one employed ONLY 6000 people all round the Earth, then, there would be no more people left for new jobs.
6 billion / #(types of tasks) = #(people in each one)
Try if you can get better results.
What had happened until now was that the growth speed of population was higher than the new tasks creation, and that's why in this moment there is still unemployed people. But, try to see if you can in a world of 6 billion people give work to everybody with rudimentary tech. It would be almost impossible.
But, it doesn't ends there, new tasks creation has a more accelerated growth and someday it would not only reach the velocity of population growth, but it will also surpass it. The demand of people will surpass the supply, and for businessmen unemployment will be only a wish.
Re: Jobs singularity - New theory
>Do you have any specific examples of how we can "make a buck" in the era of thinking machines? I sure cant think of any.
Now that manufacturing is being taken over by machines and outsourcing to countries like China, the U.S. is specializing in services as the greatest source of employment. I.e., instead of making things, we now spend our time selling things to each other. Now the Internet is putting big stores out of business, but putting people to work transporting goods from central locations to people's homes and offices.
For a long time, movies were the only employment for actors. Now television comes up with 500 channels and the number of jobs producing product to feed that need has multiplied exponentially.
Fishermen are being driven out of business by the depletion of fish from the ocean. Now the business of selling fish has turned to fish farming.
At one time in my lifetime, if you didn't work for somebody, you starved to death. Now the government supports anyone who doesn't have a job, at least for a while. When machines and computers manufacture everything, what people make will take on greater value.
You have to ask yourself, "What is money?" It's just a medium of exchange by which people can trade what they have for what they want. It can be anything, and often is. A man builds a company and needs money to expand it. He turns to other humans and says "I will give you a piece of my company if you will give me the funds with which to expand it." So he prints up a million or so pieces of paper and says, "Each piece of paper is worth one millionth of my company." People trade their money for his paper and "stock" is born. Stock is now exchanged just like money. Time Warner was bought by AOL for stock as a medium of exchange. But all anybody got was the IDEA of value and a piece of paper saying they owned something. What the paper is worth depends on how much somebody else wants it.
No matter how much the machines take over, people will always have something somebody else wants. The mind of man will invent ways to make that exchange happen. If machines are feeding you, clothing you, housing you and making all of the things you need, your neighbor will have something you don't have and you will come up with something to exchange for it.
Knowledge is a commodity we now exchange over the Internet. Money is being replaced by electronic transfers. Value is being exchanged by the mere thought of wanting something. At some point, you will no longer need a buck in the sense of something you can hold in your hand.
Look at what is happening now in gas stations and fast food establishments. You fill up the gas tank in your car and buy some food at the little market that collects the money. But what do they collect? You wave a card or a key chain over the cash register and voila, money has been taken from your account and deposited in the account of the owner of the gas station and the market. Soon everything will be done that way. Money will someday be a museum piece like the first computer I owned 30 years ago.
So how we make a buck will boil down to the many ways we can find to create something somebody else wants. The options are endless. Our time, our ideas, our posessions are all for sale to the highest bidder. The government is the employer of last resort. If you can't invent or sell anything, the government will still provide you with the necessities of life -- the idea of money in the form of electronic impulses from their computer to your bank's.
That's how I get paid right now. It's called Social Security. In exchange for my lifetime of feeding the government in the form of taxes and government service, the government is now feeding me in the form of electronic messages to my bank which increase the money in my account. The number of bucks the government can manufacture in this way is infinite. The human mind merely has to find ways to turn them into something we can use or exchange.
Last night I used them to get a man to crawl under my house and fix a leaky water pipe. This morning we're both happy. He has money and I have water.
Re: Jobs singularity - New theory
Grant>You have to ask yourself, "What is money?"
Jeremy>Im fully aware that money does not have to be green pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on it.
But anyhow, you seem to be suggesting that people will still be employed through three options:
1- We will provide services to others, trade our time and skills for their money, or whatever they have that we want. I think this is totally unrealistic. Why pay an expensive human to do what a machine could do for much cheaper. Not to mention faster, and with far fewer mistakes.
2-People will live via a giant welfare state, or as Thomas calls it, "a giveaway economy". But if everything is given away, why would anyone own a company? The government would have to oversee all means of production. The "everyone gets a fancy car" idea sounds logical on the surface, but if everyone has such a car, it wont be fancy.
The housing markets effect on the enviornment would be distatrous. We cant all have seaside mansions. Somehow we would have to decide who gets to live where, and in what. I assume AI would make that decision, along with many many others.
Since AI will be solely responsible for running the economy, our lives will depend on it. And since it will advance in intelligence to a point far beyond our own very quickly, we wont understand how we are being supported. Humanity will resemble AIs pets.
3-Only slightly less bleak, you seem to say that we could live off buying stocks in the computerized companies. But I also dont think this is an option. A few years ago I invested a few thousand dollars, and hoped to double my money in a few years. Even if the best had happened, and I had doubled it, it still would not be near enough to live on. But the best hasnt happened, and I have lost about a third. In such an economy a setback like what we have seen in the last few years would result in a downward spiral nearly impossible to come out of.
But I would like to say thanks for some intelligent conversation Grant, even though I disagree with you on everything. This mind exchange forum seems to have lots of loonies and jerks who only want to harrass people, so its good to talk to someone who is actually concerned with a relevant issue.
Re: Jobs singularity - New theory
Grant>You have to ask yourself, "What is money?"
Jeremy>Im fully aware that money does not have to be green pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on it.
>But anyhow, you seem to be suggesting that people will still be employed through three options:
>1- We will provide services to others, trade our time and skills for their money, or whatever they have that we want. I think this is totally unrealistic. Why pay an expensive human to do what a machine could do for much cheaper. Not to mention faster, and with far fewer mistakes.
There are several areas here where you seem to misunderstand my meaning. I'm talking about human nature -- a nature in which people want what they don't have, now matter how ludicrous it may seem. When machines are making perfect things, people will want the less perfect items made by other humans. The Japanese, for example, have a yen for pottery and such that are strangely shaped. They have artificial cracks in the glaze and no two pieces look exactly alike. They refer to this as having "character." What machine would think of body piercing as a way of making oneself attractive? Humans will find ways to create things that other humans want but machines can't imagine.
That's because we are unique in our culture and our culture changes as a rate that defies capture. We have a sense of time that gives our lives meaning based on what we do with the time we spend on earth. We will always find and value ways of using time -- something only we can do.
Look at football. People start learning the art of sports, especially football, in early childhood. They go through primary, high school and college perfecting their ability to play in competition with other humans. When they make it to the pros, they get paid more money than the president of the U.S. In other words, that skill and that ability is valued highly. Millions or billions of people pay to see other people do it. How many people will watch the Superbowl this Sunday? How many people will be employed by it and get paid for allowing the rest of the world to see it? What machine will be able to duplicate it, no matter how intelligent? We pay to watch people compete with other people and we glory in the ability of those who do it best.
Sure, machines can knock down humans and advance a football 100 yards faster and more irresistably than any human. But so what? Who would pay to see them do it? What we're paying for is a chance to participate in something uniquely human. As machines take over more and more of what we produce, people will devise new ways of investing their time and energy that most will find satisfying. Football is now a product, manufactured and sold around the world. So is basketball, golf, tennis, soccer, and even the racing of cars. This is just one example of things people find to do with their time and energy that they weren't able to do before we created machines to do our manufacturing for us. The more machines take over, the more things people will find to do that they never imagined doing before.
>2-People will live via a giant welfare state, or as Thomas calls it, "a giveaway economy". But if everything is given away, why would anyone own a company? The government would have to oversee all means of production. The "everyone gets a fancy car" idea sounds logical on the surface, but if everyone has such a car, it wont be fancy.
I don't think people will run companies anymore. AI will do it. The government will provide transportation because it will be beyond the ability of people to cope with the complexity of it. And machines will be what government relies upon to get the job done. But look for mass transit to take over in ways we don't expect. Instead of everyone owning a car, we may have cars available to us on a scheduled basis because there won't be room on the roads for everyone to drive around in his/her own car. Sort of like a universal motor pool. Or a taxi service with intelligent cars that take us wherever we need to go. We'll pay for them with the money we save by not buying cars every year or two.
>The housing markets effect on the enviornment would be distatrous. We cant all have seaside mansions. Somehow we would have to decide who gets to live where, and in what. I assume AI would make that decision, along with many many others.
>Since AI will be solely responsible for running the economy, our lives will depend on it. And since it will advance in intelligence to a point far beyond our own very quickly, we wont understand how we are being supported. Humanity will resemble AIs pets.
You're right -- we can't all have seaside manions. But we will have affordable housing because people do need a place to live. And the cost will be reasonable because machines will build them for us. As always, some people will live better than others because they will find ways to make more money than others. The people with the most money will get the best housing. If this were a communist government, the people with the best connections within the government would get the best housing. There will always be a way of basing privelege on contribution. It will depend on what people value and are willing to pay for in one way or another. Some people will always work harder than others; be smarter than others; have better connections than others; and so on. But politics will always be human because machines don't care about who gets what. They don't compete. They just perform.
>3-Only slightly less bleak, you seem to say that we could live off buying stocks in the computerized companies. But I also dont think this is an option. A few years ago I invested a few thousand dollars, and hoped to double my money in a few years. Even if the best had happened, and I had doubled it, it still would not be near enough to live on. But the best hasnt happened, and I have lost about a third. In such an economy a setback like what we have seen in the last few years would result in a downward spiral nearly impossible to come out of.
You are seeing the world in terms of the past rather than the future here. We won't be AI's pets. We will be partners in the job of taking care of the earth and running it in a way that will support all of us. As individuals, we will be less than AI in intelligence. But as a culture we will be as big and as bright as the machines. In fact, we will be part of the governing intelligence because we will be plugged into it and contributing our own knowledge and abilities to the mass intelligence that runs the planet. What the internet evolves into will be what runs the world and we will all be part of that. Just as a single ant is stupid in comparison to the ant colony, a human is relatively stupid compared to the culture we have spawned and that intelligence is growing at the same speed as that of machines. In fact, we are growing in tandem with each other. Some day you will find it hard to distinguish human and machine intelligence because they will be so integrated with each other.
Kurzweil got it right when he said we will take a layer of nanotechnology on top of our human brains just as we did the crebral cortex on top of the simpler brains that lie beneath the surface on top of our spines. The human brain is built of layers that go back to worms that crawled in the sea and then lizzards that walked on land and finally mammals that live on both land and sea. You can cut through a brain and see the same kinds of evolutionary levels you find in the Grand Canyon or any other part of earth's crust. We don't cast aside the elements we grew out of. We incorprate them into the next thing we evolve into.
So when you posit that we will still be the same people we were -- with the same hangups of industrial age thinking -- you are not taking into consideration the way evolution works. We are not the apes our ancestors were nor will our progeny be the half-apes we are now. The man/machine will become the organism that runs earth and keeps it livable, just as the human body is the organism that one-celled animals evolved into so that a several trillion of them could live as a single unit. The cells are still there. They are just organized into something greater than themselves. So it will be with whatever it is man and machine organize themselves into.
>But I would like to say thanks for some intelligent conversation Grant, even though I disagree with you on everything. This mind exchange forum seems to have lots of loonies and jerks who only want to harrass people, so its good to talk to someone who is actually concerned with a relevant issue.
I enjoyed the give and take myself. It helped me organize my thoughts and answer some questions I hadn't come to grips with before.
Re: 2050 Global Normative Scenarios
Can't help feeling that it predicts a streamlined kind of flow for all events to come. Like a well wrote, confortable to hear, kind of story.
It is my understanding that can't be a one global future, as there isn't one global present. We have areas (Countries, if you like), were people is scanned by magnetic devices and transported by helicopters to health center. And, at this very moment, we also have people unable to get electricity in their houses or worst.
Technology, education, health and wealth are goods, that will be (as they are now), controlled and manipulated by the Empire-like entities of the future (pick your fav: Countries, Corporations, Space-Invaders...).
Another point that sounds funny is that it made me feel like if we're right now struggling with problems and difficulties to solve, and then, by 2050, we'll have (finally), it all figured out and solved, and then (and only then), we'll start to live. We're right now living the 2050 of 1950 (or, perhaps 1900, taking into account Mr. Kurzweil's law of accelerating returns). We ARE right now in a future, filled with difficulties to deal with. I believe 2050 will be no different from this, no matter what shape it takes.
Human beings are notorious, never-resting trouble makers. We do enjoy action and the challenges posed to us by nature (ours, Universe's, other's). We can't live in a state of "I finally got it and it's all solved now".
I believe we'll just find new ways (more complicated, more defiant, perhaps even more dangerous) to put us to test, and keep on dreaming (and only dreaming), about the future peace to come.
p.s.: it was not my intention to use any sort of hard or provocative words or expressions, even though some thoughts couldn't be writen without geting close to it.
If anyone feels other way, please feel free to delete my comments. No offenses taken.
Re: 2050 Global Normative Scenarios
The main problem I have is the sheer number of leaps of faith regarding the descitions of the people in power leaning towards any descition that benifits humanity as a whole ("world summit on education"?). Human nature simply won't allow for all of them to come to pass, there's no basis of these leaps in fact, data, psycology of human behavior, or even made up history that would allow the logical conclusion to be that event. Hell, no background as to WHY such an event would come to pass (what sparked a world summit on education?)
The basic human behavior won't change between now and 2050. As a friend put it, "There are a lot of sci-fi authors who think that all this stuff [technology] will lead to a 'better humanity,' and they don't realize that human nature doesnt change."
solid analysis, draco.
when one acknowledges this, the essential continuity of human beings (as well as the plethora of institutions created by these real human beings) can be used to craft a more realistic future
its funny, positing 'better, more improved humanity' is a great approach for selling books, but the real future has little to do with this shade of delusional thinking
things get shaky quickly, and all of a sudden you have moronic, alien humans unrecognizable to any human now extant, or that was ever extant
this is the real secret of my predictions - that in some ways, the most impt ways, they actually are quite conservative
when u look 50-100 yrs into the future, w the understanding of these future selves gained by simply reaching within oneself, and of course the nature of the world today as it is, and really how little that has changed in most ways in the last 50-100 yrs, progress can be made
tech advances are dazzling, but an overfocus on that alone does not lead to a convincing future
from "Processing the Future":
The components that go into the process of predicting the future can be summarized as follows:
First and foremost, bring an open mind. Leave preconceptions of the future at the door, they contaminate the productive execution of the process. With an open mind you can go to the future with a clean slate, and see things that may surprise you.
Technological ' based on past and present trends, the likely rate of advance of the technologies needed for the applications and products discussed. I will sometimes give estimated times of arrival for these techs, but often the range is quite wide, because many depend on the continued advancement and convergence of many different technologies, each with their own rates of advance and market dynamics.
Consumer demand ' this is the pull for the techs discussed. This is both the likely adoption and/or lack thereof based on past and present trends. One of the key consumer demand trends that I use as an organizing principle is the 'imagination actualization' trend I will describe shortly.
Market dynamics ' the assumption that these products will be manufactured in the most cost-effective way to meet consumer demand, while being subject to the same forces as today, i.e. liability considerations, etc.
Legal, Ethical, and Moral ' this is often overlooked, but the law will still be around in the future, and will be a hugely motivating force to the presumably large corporate entities making most of these products. Then as now, these firms will have substantial liability considerations that will maximize their attention to making products that are safe and controllable, while meeting the richness of consumer demand. Many of the ethical dilemmas encountered here are almost as strange as the technology itself, as we'll get into in another post.
Most of the predictions that I've seen seem to take just one or two of these components and consider them in relative isolation. This can provide an interesting perspective on the future, but tends to drape them in vagueness, and though I'm often excited afterwards, always have a bunch of gnawing questions. However, when considered holistically, as a set of interacting, loosely coupled drivers, using one to decide which path to choose at a fork in the road reached with another, predictions can become dramatically more specific and detailed, while remaining quite reasonable.
Re: 2050 Global Normative Scenarios
altho much different in character, rk was certainly an inspiration to my thoughts
but not the singularity, not transhumanism, not the computronium universe
rks thoughts on the continuing impact of multiplying computational power, moores law basically, where will that really take us
i read spiritual machines, and pondered that point for 5 years, turning the coin over and over and over
(on top of a previous 25 yrs of thinking abt the future - a lot.)
looking at how the entire history of technology has progressed, while very carefully making allowances that yes, ai is a special tech, can lead to some groundbreaking insights:
and then very soberly look around at the state of that AI software, challenges can be seen:
this is why i think 'human level ai in 10 or 20 yrs' is unrealistic. i hope its in 10 or 20 yrs, i hope theres a breakthru there, but really, 50 or 100 yrs would be a better bet, if u were laying money on the table
a big, giant challenge that im not sure is entirely appreciated is that we wont be able (i dont believe) to create a microprocessor with the hardware complexity of the human brain, and have that chip start thinking and acting like a human
there will be need to be software as well, that essentially makes explicit in software what is implicit in our biological brain, ie, how to think
Re: 2050 Global Normative Scenarios
an excerpt from that blog thread:
The persepective of this blog is that any any hyperintelligence 'explosion', should that scenario be proven to be realistic, will take a finite amount of time to complete (not vanishingly small), for the following reasons:
1. Unless the hyperintelligence is infinitely great, the time to solve any problem will be finite, not instantaneous.
2. Even if the design, theoretical, and scientific problems can be resolved in an instant by one of these advanced droids, the engineering actualization will still be of finite duration. In other words, unless these droids are capable of the instantaneous transmutation of matter, factory lines will still need to be retooled, etc, to create the more improved design.
3. These will take the form of consumer and/or business products, and people and businesses have very definitely finite abilities to absorb new offerings (even in the future)
4. Humans will still be in charge. For the purposes of this unbounded improvement cycle, even assuming maximum autonomy by the advanced AI tech, humans will still at the very least select the feature sets that are improved in this way.
5. The form of the droid intelligence will be such that self-motivated autonomy will be as alien to them as it is to PCs today ' regardless of the level of that intelligence, it's nature is fundamentally alien to these type of id-driven characteristics.
6. The nature of the improvements to the identified feature sets won't be a computationally bound problem, but one requiring intense interaction between humans and droids. In particular, the deepening sophistication of hyperobservancy and/or super-subtlety skills.
Re: 2050 Global Normative Scenarios
In either case, I will be including your article in the writing of the essay I have compairing this article to one of Bill Joy's: "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" at http://www.primitivism.com/future.htm
im reading this article, fascinating
here is a brilliant computer scientist, who is getting almost everything wrong abt the nature of future ai
this is such an interesting problem. when almost everyone contemplates future ai, the first thing they do, rk, bill joy, almost everyone, the first thing they do is jump inside their own head, see whats going on there, and assume ai will be exactly like that.
just as flawed, just as emotionally controlled, but far 'smarter' in ways not entirely clear
Re: 2050 Global Normative Scenarios
Never said he was right, of course. I just said we had to compare the two articles.
Given his postulate, everything he writes follows pretty well, provided that A then B. Over here we see "assume humanity does X, Y, and Z, then because of that we get Q, M, and V" ignoring the fact that X, Y, and Z are completely in violation of the mob-action human behavior (that whole thing Isaac Azimov wrote on and created Psychohistory from).
this is such an interesting problem. when almost everyone contemplates future ai, the first thing they do, rk, bill joy, almost everyone, the first thing they do is jump inside their own head, see whats going on there, and assume ai will be exactly like that.
Reminds me when I pondered the idea of having children. I'd never want a child like myself, nor like my sister. My sister is an oppositional defiant drama queen, pretty much as far down the "bad apple" road as you can go without adding drugs or vandalism. I wasn't exactly a "good apple" either, but damn, my parents thought I was, I had so many passive ways of getting around them that it appeared like I did what they asked. I'd never want a kid like me because I'd be afraid of what they were doing.
Re: 2050 Global Normative Scenarios
I'd never want a kid like me because I'd be afraid of what they were doing.
but when u have a kid, everything changes, your biology helps allay your fears
if we didnt have that, we wouldnt be here, we would have been eliminated by evolution long ago
its interesting how our reproductive drives are affected by a crowded planet
people say its technology, but i think overpopulation is just as much responsible
i have done extensive geneaologies on my own family, some going back 1000 yrs.
i have one ggggma, i call her 'super granny'
lived in the hills of the ozarks, 150 yrs ago
had 8 kids w one man, had an affair, got married again, 10 more kids
u know anyone like that today?
i do know one engineer, a devout christian, that has 10 kids, but that is exceedingly rare