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Report from the futur[e|ists]

02:39 PM ET (US) - And you thought you were going outside today -
04:53 AM ET (US)
That was unexpectedly funny.

Anyone remember "The Long Boom"? That sucker seemed to evaporate from store shelves after the boom stopped in 2000. I wonder whether the same will happen in a few years when The Singularity fails to materialize?
Growing up, a millenialist cult in my area decided the end was upon us in 1979. About 300 people gathered at Muddy Run state park after selling their homes and possessions,and giving away all the proceeds. They had a nice weekend, right up until Sunday when the rapture was preempted.

In some ways, I still envy the certainty of their beliefs, even though their beliefs demonstrated the problem of living with a closed mind.
Alex SteffenPerson was signed in when posted
03:17 AM ET (US)
"Extraordinarily like James Watt's attitude, when you get right down to it!"

Hear the man, hear the man. Exactly, Mark...
Stefan JonesPerson was signed in when posted
02:50 AM ET (US)
A common extropian trope: "The whole Earth is inevitably going to be disassembled into nanotech processor units a few weeks after we hit the Singularity, so why bother planning about anything else? Anyway, we'll be able to simulate, in virtual reality, any natural environment, so why worry?"

Extraordinarily like James Watt's attitude, when you get right down to it!
11:09 PM ET (US)
My hot button on many of these "futurian" things is the narrowed context of only human endeavors. As a former biology dude turned computer geek and now natrualist-making-a-living-as-geek, I find that the premise that the next great technology will solve all our problems is getting rather hokey.

I'm simply trying to restore a landscape to a semblance of pre-contact (here it was the 1850's) plant communities. Given that I'm starting with something fairly close to what it was, it ought to be easy, yet simple relationships that build exponentially into complex systems have weak points. Cut down some pines and firs and several thousand microrhizae die, and a fungus gnat that breeds on a couple of those fungi dies, meaning certain species of trilliums no longer get pollinated, meaning that a certain moth no longer has nectar at the right time, meaning that a food source for a certain bird a migratory time is missing a food source, and so it goes.

What's missing in these future views is an understanding of the environment we're embedded in, and how that system unravels based on our actions, and what that unravelling can mean.

The baseline assumption is "we'll have godlike powers and be able to fix anything." I don't see how a nanotech-biotech future is going to combat foreign species incursions that drastically altered entire ecosystems in a matter of decades (which in turn had microclimate effects which in turn had regional effects). I agree with Stefan that taking care of what we have is of huge importance, as well as the millenialist perspective people seem to take. That's why I stopped reading "the future is coming" books and magazines.
Edited 04-29-2002 11:15 PM
Stefan JonesPerson was signed in when posted
07:40 PM ET (US)
The tough thing is we DO have to think about this stuff . . . but few besides the true believers are thinking about it.

I'm glad to see that Sterling was in attendence. A smart guy who knows enough history to know the smell of fanatacism.
Alex SteffenPerson was signed in when posted
07:13 PM ET (US)
Stefan -- yes, yes, yes! I couldn't agree more.

Oddly, the whole Extropian/Transhuman vibe is very millennialist, and like all such thinking (cf. Born-Again Christians, Heavy Users of Marxist Theory) is actually a profound denial of the future. For, after all, if the singularity (or Christ, or the Dictatorship of the Proletariat) is right around the corner, then planning sensibly, taking care of what we have, taking small wise steps and respecting the needs of future generations (or the present generation's human rights) is sort of besides the point, isn't it?
01:42 PM ET (US)
There's always been a funky similarity between Engineers/california utopianism/puritanism. Really interesting.

I just posted without logging in, btw.
Edited 04-29-2002 01:43 PM
07:18 PM ET (US)
UJ.. It's not like there's this huge population of women researchers in this field that are being deliberately excluded. Or are you claiming so?
Stefan JonesPerson was signed in when posted
05:23 PM ET (US)
I went to an afternoon of Big Heads Knocking Into Each Other About AI and Nanotech at Stanford a few years back. Hofstaeder put it together to get folks talking about Bill Joy's fears.

Attendees were greeted at the door by a guy handing out business cards for the Singularitarians. It had a line I love that went something like: "Learn how to profit from the coming inevitable transition!"

I was struck by the similarity of Mental Vibe between the
gonzo Extropians and the more out-there variety of Born Again Christians. I wouldn't want the former planning the future any more than I'd want the latter planning a high-school science curriculum.
U.J. Foobar
02:53 PM ET (US)
As usual at these 'big-thunk' fests:
a dearth of women.

is it 2002 or 1892?


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