Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Chris Predicts the Future

The Present

We are living in an incredible time - the accelerating rate technological development is creating a rate of change that is unprecedented in our history.

Just in my short lifetime computers have gone from the playthings of nerds to entering almost every facet of our lives. Everybody carries around what would have been the equivalent of a supercomputer only 15 years previously. People can be contacted from anywhere in the world instantly. Social media has created an entirely new method of communication and even redefined friendship.

Money has gone from being a physical thing to almost entirely electronic. Transactions can be made easily without the need to meet face-to-face. Stock markets have been opened to the masses with anybody who has the will and a bit of spare cash to create their own stock portfolio - buying and selling shares is as easy as clicking a button.

There has also been an explosion in additive manufacturing with 3-D printers being available for anybody who is interested. The maker movement means that a wide array of electronic devices can now be created easily in the home.

We now have robot drones that patrol our skies governments can kill anybody at will with the press of a button. Some governments are also using the enormous power of supercomputers to troll through the data we create.

In this post I will try to predict the future. In these fast changing times this could be difficult. The rate of change will continue to accelerate - this is certain barring a civilisation ending calamity.

I will do my best to predict the future over a series of three blog posts. I will explore evil possibilities first, possibilities that could go either way second and finally good possibilities.

Evil possibilities.

Governments could monopolise the use of robots in combat. The American military industrial complex already has a massive head start in this kind of military technology. This could allow them to enter war with very little risk to human life. This technology can also be used on their own citizens, with drones monitoring the streets for any illicit activity.

With soldiers being replaced by machines governments will no longer need the consent of the people to create large powerful armies. This could be followed by governments no longer believing they need the consent of the people at all. There are a few developments in recent years that I believe signals a possibility of this occurring. The US government refusing to confirm or deny that American citizens on US soil could be the target of assassination by aerial drones. Those who don’t live in the US, of course, could be targeted with impunity. Also the massive collection of personal data, the equivalent of an illegal search in my opinion, is also a worry and at least a breach of the spirit of the American constitution.

The accumulation of robotic weapons by numerous governments makes war more likely. If a government knows they are not going to lose the lives of their own citizens it is politically far easier to go to war. There is also a flipside to this argument. Sometimes it is necessary to go to war to protect people’s lives. If it is easier to go to war evil dictators have a lot more to fear.

There is a slim possibility that we could lose control of the Internet. The Internet is the one thing that could unite the human race and create a far better world - but only if it remains free. In China the Internet is already strictly controlled. They even go so far as to create their own separate versions of massively multiplayer computer games such as Eve Online. Such computer games allow people from across the globe to meet in a completely different environment, to fight and to cooperate. I have met people from vastly different backgrounds and different countries such as Iran. I have met very few from mainland China. If you play a game like this you quickly realise, people are the same no matter what their background.

The Internet is a truly global village a cultural melting pot that may unite the world into one people. In such a world war may be a thing of the past. There are many governments and corporations that are threatened by the Internet, and some of them should be scared. The people that would seek to control the Internet could very well destroy a peaceful future for humanity.

The accumulation of personal data is also something we should be worried about. In a democracy that follows the rule of law it is probably a relatively benign thing. But as those who lived in Nazi Germany or in Egypt this year would tell you - some democracies don’t always remain democratic. A democracy that made the transition to a dictatorship could use all the data they have accumulated to put almost anybody behind bars. Many of us conduct criminal activity, casually smoking marijuana, or downloading Game of Thrones. Some of us have had our picture taken holding large guns. Or maybe even platonically kissing or hugging a member of the same sex. All of these could be used by a dictatorship to lock you up.

Stay tuned for my next installment: Possibilities That Could Go Either Way.

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