Beyond the Cusp

January 11, 2016

The Dream of Another More Distant Future

 

My view today is of the future and came mixed with yesterday’s visions and it will be taking place say in twenty-five to thirty years, possibly a little longer as I think some of the futurists such as Raymond “Ray” Kurzweil may be overestimating the advance in electronics, hardware and software and particularly when it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the ability of machines to design new machines and improve their own designs and being able to design the next generation which will replace their models which will design its own replacement and so on. But first let us direct our attention to the near events of the immediate future and into the coming decade which must be survived before we get to the Ray Kurzweil really different and somewhat scary future situations. Of course Ray is paid to picture opportunities for Google in the future so, needless to say but say we must or there would be no article, Ray Kurzweil’s views are almost all so perfectly upbeat and there could never be any real challenge as long as we stay zoned in on the future and keep abreast of how humanity can evolve with the technology. I have seen how my grandparents reacted and responded to the advancing technology of the twentieth century for the first three quarters and they were left in the dust from the 1960’s on but that was not really placing them at any real disadvantage. My parents are a totally different story. Televisions and cable remotes or even most of a VCR except for the always elusive how to program the clock after a power loss was well beyond their capabilities. If I had a dollar for every time I have had to reprogram the clock on their series of VCR’s where either they had not kept the manual and lost the remote which leaves one with a single option to rid them of that ever annoying flashing ‘12:00’ in the display; get two strips of electrical tape and cover it so they no longer can see it. Once my Dad complained that this solution did not work as he would know the clock was still flashing. I carefully, politely and deferentially advised him to just rest that thought next to the remote for the VCR and that complaint was not raised the next time we came to the same difficulty. Basically my Parents cannot even get mail from the computer if they lose the desktop icon. We will not even talk about cell phones and even making a call other than punching in the number from their phone-book or if the person has not called recently. They use the recent called list as their contact list so Heaven help anyone who does not call them regularly. Perhaps that is why I call them three times a week.

 

 

VCR Clock Frozen 1200 Failure After Power Loss

VCR Clock Frozen or Flashing
1200 Failure After Power Loss

 

 

But enough background and suffice it to say that ocular implants, neural sensory network reading our thoughts and releasing certain chemicals into our systems either intravenous, intramuscular, along neural paths or into the sheathing of the spinal cord to facilitate faster muscle reactions for both speed and reaction times for sports or fight-or-flight situations would be enough to freak one out but that is not the end of it. It would also pump extra O2 and adrenaline, norepinephrine, cortisol and increases deeper breathing as well as increased heart rate and shuts down any digestive processes temporarily diverting everything to your muscles and neural pathways increasing all physical abilities to the point where, if necessary, you could pick up a car and drop it on whatever frightened you. And then there is this which I am sure Ray Kurzweil will use in the future from new a study from Johns Hopkins University which shows that the brain cells surrounding a mouse’s neurons do much more than fill space. According to the researchers, the cells, called astrocytes because of their star-shaped appearance, can monitor and respond to nearby neural activity, but only after being activated by the fight-or-flight chemical norepinephrine because astrocytes can alter the activity of neurons. The findings suggest that astrocytes may help control the brain’s ability to focus. But wait, there’s more.

 

Ray Kurzweil predicts that people will augment their mental, physical, reactions, strength, speed, memory, reflexes, sight, hearing, smell, and, best of all, taste. We could have programmable nanites inside our bodies and a central sensing unit wired into the augmented neurological system which will register the first signs of any illness, cancer, virus, venomous bite or any threat to the body and it would use that same neurological augmented network to program the programmable nanites which would then combine and form whatever was required to fight or otherwise neutralize any threat. Other nanites would be utilized to repair and replace vital cells such as brain cells and neurons including those required for the enhanced neurological network and repair injuries such that should one fall and break their hip it would be completely repaired within a few hours without any need for X rays or a visit to the doctor. Your medical repair system would call your pharmacy and they would send the matrix required for the repair to be produced on your programmable, multi-use 3D printer which would produce the required items for the repair of your hip. Everyone will have such systems placed within their bodies and have access if they do not own a universal 3D printer, they will have access at data centers which will replace pharmacies, medical clinics, hardware stores and many other retail outlets as everything can be produced given the computer code. This melding of man and machine plus augmentations will grant the average person all the strength, endurance, health and intelligence which is beyond what we can even imagine today. This will very likely be the future where we each will have at least a basic issuance of many of these systems and the wealthier will still have the advantage in their being capable of purchasing improved, faster, more versatile, better features and every other advantage technology can provide them with even if it simply has a designer label. The good thing is that, just like the people who rush and camp out just to turn in their now obsolete and basically so dated and lacking in all the bells and whistles available on the latest cellphone, there will be plenty of people will make similar trade-ins with this technology as well. That makes these horrifically ancient five month old cellphones available for those who were unable or too smart to rush where those other fools had rushed just twelve hours ago so they could be amongst the very first, as witnessed by their four digit serial number against those purchasing one a week later with those yucky eight digit serial numbers. Then there are the more laid back but still nervous temperament who will pay premium price for those recently almost new cellphones were traded and they trade last year’s {Gasp} cellphones. And the models will drift down until everybody has a functioning cellphone though the majority does not have the latest cellphone which can be transformed into a racing quadcopter with direct cerebral guidance link built in! The same type of social pressures against financial restrictions will allow for all to have a workable unit with sufficient capabilities to provide general health and increasing augmentations as time progresses for all levels of the world. This would be a summation of the Ray Kurzweil world.

 

 

Robots on Parade

 

 

The problem here is the same as the problem with Ray Kurzweil’s design of what will happen with AI and the fact of his prediction that machines, read computers, will reach a level where their cognitive abilities will have equaled or exceed that of a human brain. He bases this on Moore’s law which predicts that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. Ray Kurzweil translates that into their doubling their capabilities every two years exactly as the density of the transistors being fit on circuit board. There are a number of problems with that assumption. First is there is a limitation on how much further the density on integrated circuits can be produced and still dissipate the heat efficiently without such causing failures. There is also a minimal size of connecting runs and the guaranteed endpoint of restrictions of the size of the molecules themselves required to produce the components themselves. Further, the complexity required will also require more advanced circuitry in order to hold the memory and registers as well as the processing unit itself will reach limits and in order to reach higher levels they will require the time-synchronizing multiple processing circuity in order to produce very-high computing power the only way conceivable, more data and addressing lines which makes routing problems rise exponentially. These things all work in conjunction with the limiting of the ability for computing power to continue its thus far meteoric rise. Moore’s law will someday soon be proven too optimistic just as the prediction alleged by Microsoft’s Bill Gates’s who predicted that 64k memory is all one will ever need.

 

Still, there are some predictions made by futurists which we are in complete accord with even if our assessment is it might take a good amount more time, but there are some monster changes coming in the not too distant future. We have already witnessed the initial onslaught of the robotic workers in manufacturing. There exist complete production lines which have become completely automated where robotic units and control software where all that is required is two or three people where twenty years ago the same factory likely required fifty or possibly more workers when one includes the supply room worker and test engineers and technicians who all have been replaced by robotic workers leaving minimal need for humans to run the show. There is one medical manufacturer who back in the last century decided to release the majority of their technicians who had repaired units which failed testing as the company decided that production costs were so low that it cost them more to repair units which failed testing than they were worth so instead they decided to simply discard any failed units and make more. The first areas we will see robotic workers will be initially in the fast-food industry which is being threatened severely by the drive which is picking up steam for a fifteen-dollar-an-hour minimum wage law which has already been enacted in some location inside the United States.

 

 

 

 

The new fast-food systems will be entirely different than the original automats of the mid twentieth century. We will initially see automated cooking stations where one or two or even three employees will replace multiple times what many currently employed. We could see some automated wait staff at the registers in these same fast-food locations. Initial robotic wait/cashiers will not be human looking but more or less like a robotic human as such but more like robot and might even be made to look almost comical and use such in an advertisement campaign to promote the new robotic helpers. They will avoid initially referring to the automated robotic units which will interact with the public as robots unless they can soften the possible downside which might turn people away. Eventually, and potentially sooner than many might like, there will be robotic workers interacting with the public which will be so human-like that one would have difficulty telling them from a human except that in many instances they will know beforehand. The robots are coming and coming as soon as possible in many industries as unions and minimum wage lobbyists push up the cost of human labor. One has to wonder who is behind the fifteen-dollar-an-hour minimum wage drive and one can only wonder if the robotic industry is attempting to hedge their bets and push things to a critical point. The other side is how long before more people than not have been replaced with robots, automated systems or nonbiologic units that there will be no sustainable way of governments supporting the numbers who will be incapable of finding any work at their skill levels. The minimal level requiring human employees will become more specialized and limited and requiring special or higher education, eventually post graduate degrees and eventually human employees will be a part of history like the work horse.

 

 

Robotic Personal Assistant and Augmentation Suit

 

The governments will be forced to find new manners of raising revenue or an entirely different form of societal structure. Any new system would today be considered as being socialist but that would be a misnomer once the vast majority of jobs have been taken over by AI robotic workers, potentially even the politicians will also have been replaced by a master computerized controller which will double as the master comptroller. The one thing we know for sure is the world and our societies are going to be drastically different all depending on what decisions and potentially the ability for Turkey to return to the rules of their constitution, a somewhat dubious prospect, and the efforts of Egyptian President Sisi who definitely could use an ally from Turkey or other major Muslim nation. The first step to the future might depend on the survival of Western civilization and it’s technological to survive long enough to reach these promising future discoveries. The next decade to decade and a half will make all the difference and that starts with what may be the most frantically desperate attempt by the world to imitate a demolition derby in human history. So, if you have been ignoring or never cared about politics and history, this is the time to take whirlwind crash course and once you have a grasp on the weight of things to come, work to retain some semblance of sanity in the world which treasures scientific reason and the belief in a higher essence which treasures morality, virtues, and ethics with a firm grasp on truth, reality and the essence of being a part of humanity with free will, free thought, freedom, respect, and a thirst for knowledge of liberty and the responsibilities that engenders if one expects to protect such absolutes. Accepting reduced or limited forms of any will eventually result in diminishing forms of all resulting eventually in slavery or worse, especially as human society will be under some form of control within the century which will be absolute and no individual or group will be permitted to threaten the entities who have the claim to the seats of power.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

February 21, 2013

Where in the World is Everything Going?

Talk with ten different supposed authorities or futurists about where the world is headed and you will get at a minimum thirty or more scenarios. One of the reasons behind this odd little phenomenon is that many of them will answer claiming the world will be either ‘A’ or possibly ‘B’ while others will simply claim it will be ‘A’ unless such and such otherwise it will be ‘not A’ just to assure that their answers are complete and guaranteed to be more accurate. Unfortunately we will likely not be much different because there are a small number of factors which will decide both the eventual near future and the pace at which an inevitable future will arrive. First off let us discuss the eventual path mankind will take with the sole proviso being that man does not self-destruct in the mean time. One of the principle observations which stand as a driving force behind the predictions from numerous futurists is Moore’s Law which noted that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every two years. There is an obvious limiting factor which will eventually cause reality to conflict with this postulate, namely that molecules and atoms of silicon and germanium, the two elements currently utilized to manufacture the wafers for ICs, have a set size and nothing will ever be made smaller than this size. Thus we know that there eventually will be an end point beyond which progress will depend on some new dimension. This point is still well into the future, so we will continue to have the capability to produce more complex, faster, more energy efficient integrated circuits which will further expand the scope and capabilities of the hardware engineers and programmers will have at their disposal and also the price and size of memory modules and devices will also continue to shrink in size while increasing in capabilities. This allows the limit of the capabilities of our systems, be they robotic, calculative, measuring, artificial intelligence or any other performance oriented components or units to similarly increase in capability limited solely by the development of software to drive them. When one also includes the possible advances in Physics, Chemistry, and to an extent also discoveries in biology, especially bioengineering, then there may even be other hard to imagine, let alone measurable, advances made. One such example would be the introduction of a truly functioning and easily programmable quantum computer. All of this simply provides a backdrop with which to measure the full extent to which progress can expand and develop in order for there to be related advances in our societies and affect our way of life.

 

One way of measuring the advancement of mankind over the ages is to formulate a chart which maps the speed it would take for somebody to go from New York to Paris and then on to Rome. In 1700 one would be talking about close to a whole year to make such a voyage. In 1800 the same voyage would take a matter of many months. By 1900 we would shorten that voyage to around six to ten weeks depending on variables. Go to 1950 and the same trip, trip now and not voyage as even the terminology would have changed, would take merely days and not even a whole week. It would be possible with some planning to complete this trip in less than two full days. Now go on this trip in 2000 and the whole thing would take a matter of hours. And today that trip is not that much quicker than it was twelve years ago but the jet aircraft we would be taking carry more people further and slightly faster on less fuel and the number of choices one has to choose from would make covering this exact trip something that could be done in hours even if one had not made plans and found such a trip required on no notice. And if we were actually measuring the fastest possible available way of covering this trip, if all one must do is cover these distances then the astronauts in the ISS (International Space Station) have been making this trip in a very short, likely under an hour, multiple times every single day for the last few years. The real point of this demonstration is that the same or a similar equation also represents the number of people who can be fed per acre of farmland. Without the advances in crops and animal raising for food such as bioengineered crops and cattle and modern fertilizers, irrigation, and just managing all the individual needs of the farm tailoring everything on an as needed basis as revealed via scans made by UAVs (Unmanned Arial Vehicles) with cameras and other high-tech sensors has increased yields even further as well as allowed herd management and tracking and finding any stray cattle which also helps to minimize losses. Without many of these advances we would have actually had much of the world starving exactly as was predicted to occur in the early seventies where it was supposed to strike us by the late seventies. Obviously, if you have been to a modern supermarket, we have sufficient food to feed the world with the only real problem being distribution and poverty. Hopefully these are problems which will soon be unpleasant memories and not problems still faced anywhere in our future world.

 

The future becoming a place of abundance and free from want is an eventuality which will come to be. Those who are pushing for it to come immediately may have their hearts in the right place, but the immediate problem is more due to politics, people, hatreds, fears, and other items from mankind’s darker side. These are the types of hurdles which will most affect whether or not our societies develop into something more altruistic and benevolent or whether malevolence, hatred and violence will continue to plague much of mankind. One of my barometers as to how the world is coping and advancing beyond its darker and more limiting inclinations is to look to Europe and gauge the level of trust, interdependency, mutual reliance, interscene violence, and general moods. Before World War I the levels of cooperation, unity, interdependence, and peace were virtually nonexistent. The common state was one of aggression, violence, distrust, and lacking in most areas of cooperation. After World War I Europe entered a brief period of relative calm with one troublesome situation which was of their own designs. The imposition of overly harsh punishments placed on Germany was the eventual cause of the nationalistic militarism which came with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. This led directly to World War II and all the great conflagrations from Europe all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Granted, all of the violence did not directly result from Germany and a large portion was caused by Japan, but the Eurocentric violence was caused fairly directly by Germany. Since World War II and especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union and their satellite governments, Europe has attempted and succeeded until recently in generating large amounts of cooperation between most of the European nations. Due to some nations’ internal political structures and cultures having a more expansive societal security net which allowed for what was a heavily dependent citizenry by comparison with the countries with a stronger work ethic and laws with less generous benefits offered governmental economic stabilities radically differed under pressure. This has led to recent problems as these differences were magnified by the recent worldwide economic problems. This now stands ready to tear at most of the cooperative financial agreements which are the skeletal structure that supports the body of the European Union. If the world economy does not pick up steam and become more vigorous, then it is more likely that these problems between the separate nations of the European Union will only grow worse and eventually destroy the EU. Once that eventuality takes place we can expect Europe to return to the natural tendencies which have plagued Europe for centuries. The then almost unavoidable and inevitable conflagration will begin with strong nationalist themes forming amongst the unemployed and least wealthy who will be unable to afford a decent standard of living and likely find their families hungry and under threats caused by fiscal problems resulting from high inflation making the currencies worthless. This will be the result of these countries being expelled from the EU and no longer allowed to use the Euro as their currency and their former currency will lose value against the Euro until it reaches a stable level of worth. This will isolate each of these countries as their currency will be so devalued against the Euro that they will be unable to afford anything imported and will be completely reliant on domestic goods. The other side of the problem is the domestic goods will garner a higher price if exported rather than sold domestically and the outside world will be able to buy virtually anything and everything produced within the newly EU outcast nations. Eventually such trade will bring these countries’ economies back to health provided that none of them decide that war would be a faster route to recover their lost economic stability. European history has shown that during economic upheavals the populations tend to turn xenophobic and nationalistic while also favoring militarism. This had kept Europe in a near constant state of wars for centuries and the world may see this return. If that occurs, then who knows what will result.

 

The other threat to a promising future of technical genius and great developments will be the less developed nations who are now at the cusp of nuclear abilities.  Almost any nation which wishes to invest in the development of nuclear weaponry will have the technical ability to do so and would only be limited by lack of natural resources. Obviously, lack of natural resources is simply a matter of purchasing power and the wherewithal to open clandestine trading to acquire the uranium or other fissile materials. If North Korea can find the available resources necessary to manufacture a nuclear weapon under the sanctions and embargoes placed on them, then any nation has the capability of gathering the tools, expertise, and other materials to do the same. The development of a sufficient ability in rocket development to design a relatively efficient and able rocket delivery system would also not pose an insurmountable problem. Such a spread of nuclear weapons giving a number of countries possession of deliverable nuclear weapons stores and their not having the relative inhibitions, which almost if not all the current nuclear powers possess against using such weapons, then without such cautions they might be tempted more easily into their use. Such a situation could very easily escalate and eventually cause widespread devastation on a scale never before witnessed. This is another scenario which would at best delay a technical age of plenty and permanent lack of want which could lead to an end of mankind’s violence against his fellow men. That is the race we face, which comes first, all of mankind attaining a level of technical advances and improvements which remove any areas of serious want and mankind entering a new era or mankind falling prey to our evil and darker side and causing an end to any society, not just our advanced society. This race is one where the first nations who cross the line which divides human society from their warlike past into a pacifistic future cannot simply continue on as if everything is just fine waiting for the rest of the world to reach a similar point of development. Upon attaining such advancement they would be best served to do whatever was necessary in order to speed the rest of mankind enabling them to also reach such a point. Unfortunately, changing their societal norms will take far more than simple technological advancement, it will take sociological advancement, something almost as intangible as a wisp of smoke and just as easily brushed aside by the slightest waves of violence. So, which will win? Sorry, you are going to have to tell me as I have my fears and hopes but no knowledge which will triumph in the end.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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