Thursday, January 05, 2012

Themes for 2012: The Technology (special for the 20 somethings)

David Seaton's News Links
Probably the most useful service that older people can perform for young people is to convey to them the reality of life-modifying change. Anyone in their sixties, or older today, has seen the "unthinkable" occur several times in the course of their lives and as the song goes, they have probably been "up and down and over and out", enough times to have absorbed or at least have some intuition of the Buddhist concept of "annica" or impermanence: the constant flux of life.  Having seen so much of it, having had to recycle themselves, perhaps several times, having seen the young and the beautiful wither and die, many older people hate and fear change.

For an older person to welcome change requires having embraced the spiritual value of annica and presents for them a constant inner struggle. 
Younger people of course, usually welcome the idea of change, perhaps because though sensing its value, they have little idea of its price.
Lets look at the changes the future may bring to those who have a lot of future to look forward to.
First read this about 3-D printing:
(snippet)  Using computerised designs, techniques such as three-dimensional printing will enable businesses based in Birmingham or Belize to make complicated parts for products from forklift trucks to space rockets that could be assembled virtually anywhere. Customer choice over how the artifacts look will increase, with only minimal compromise concerning quality or cost.
Or this:
(...) users create “a real mix of wonderful things and practical things” with his device. Hobbyists have printed small bridges for their model train sets, while engineers prototype products and repairmen print spare parts for out-of-production cameras. “It’s an innovation machine,” says Mr Pettis. “We’re out to democratise engineering.” Financial Times
Or this:
At some point in the future, or so I'm told, households will construct products out of raw materials, and businesses will simply create the formulas that turn atoms into goods. Fareed Zakaria - "The Post American World"
The idea is that you put some powder you order on the Internet into a washtub, add water and out walks a TV set, thus putting millions of Chinese people out of work.
Does this sound a bit  farfetched?
Now, think about what I just did, I got a Kindle for Christmas and then went online and in a few minutes downloaded, for free, more books than I probably could ever read in the rest of my life.
Next step, think how this 3-D printing device or the concept of producing complex computer generated, tangible objects at home will develop over the next 20 years -- it will become more efficient, with more features and cheaper and cheaper and more bandwidth -- you may be too young to remember what computers were like and what they cost only 20 years ago (much too young to remember the Commodore 64 of the 1980s)  then lets take that to its logical conclusion: at some point, I will be able to download the pirated plans for the Kindle itself and my "printer" will construct it for me, right here in my house... the only obstacle, the laws protecting intellectual property. We see that all the thrust of the new technology is attacking our present pre-digital legal system.
Now read the following excerpt from Onkel Karl:
At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or — what is but a legal expression for the same thing — with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution.
Reading that you can see that the old fellow was quite prophetic. Perhaps all this change will be peaceful, but as the property owners try to protect their property, perhaps not.
Maybe you think, "I'll be OK, I'm good at maths and sciences". Those who have, or plan on having, post-graduate degrees in math and engineering, thinking that their future is assured in an information-intelligence economy, should be looking warily over their shoulders at the advances in artificial intelligence (AI). They might ponder on the programs that today allow computers to defeat the world's most skillful chess players.
If we take as a working hypothesis that artificial intelligence is now at about the same stage as personal computers were at the beginning of the 1980s and project the trajectory of AI  to follow a similar path as the PCs into the coming three decades, these graduates could easily picture their futures, armed with their PHD in math, finding employment as security guards, gardeners, nurses or sex slaves of...  the one percenters. 
Bottom line: our system is amazingly artificial and almost impossible to sustain and the devil will take the hindmost if the hindmost don't put up a fight.
So get ready twenty somethings, this is the world your generation is going to live in, be shaped by and try to shape in your turn. DS

1 comment:

cmaukonen said...

The age of Larry Niven's Autodoc is nearly here.