I just finished another good book. Tony Orb takes us to the precipice in a new book that explores existential risk. He looks at natural risks like asteroids, comets, supervolcanic eruptions, stellar explosions, brightening of our sun, and orbital dynamics. He then explores those risks stemming from human activity (anthropogenic). These include nuclear weapons, climate change, environmental damage, pandemics, unaligned artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and back contamination (from space microbes). The remainder of the book focuses on quantifying risks and safeguarding humanity. I highly recommend the book for those looking well into the future and focused on humanity. I have added the book to my library. Here is the Amazon abstract.Continue reading
Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials, and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.
“When considering potential risks from future technology, one should not be content with merely analyzing what’s likely to happen—instead, one should look at what’s possible, even if unlikely.” – Jaan Tallinn, founding member of Skype, and co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
Very well said. I’m a big believer in that quote – the reason I spend so much time painting pictures of possible futures. Mr. Tallinn expects the backbone of technology in the 2020s to be defined by gradual improvements in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and Artificial Intelligence. What else can we expect in the next decade? A recent Article by George Dvosrsky – a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo – explores the futuristic developments in the next ten years.
Although I believe prediction in this era is a fools errand, we can look at the trajectory of our Science and Technology Curve to make some informed guesses. That’s precisely what the above article attempts to do. Here are the author’s informed guesses.
One of the paradigm shifts on the future scenarios curve is healthy life extension. When I mention to an audience that the first person to live to 200 has already been born – it gets quite the reaction. Extending our healthy lives has many implications to very long held beliefs. These challenges to our belief systems are the reason I believe humanity is heading towards another Tipping Point – that moment in time where intuitions and beliefs built over long periods experience a considerable shift. It is the reason I titled my presentation “A Journey through the Looking Glass”.
Through the looking glass is a metaphorical expression. It means: on the strange side, in the twilight zone, in a strange parallel world. It comes from the idea of Lewis Carol’s novel: “Through the Looking–Glass“, and the strange and mysterious world Alice finds when she steps through a mirror. I firmly believe we are stepping through the looking glass.
Healthy life extension is a great example of a scenario on the curve upending long standing institutions. As visualized below, multiple building blocks converge to deliver this scenario.
I saw a glimpse into a possible future in a book titled Homo Deus, written by Yuval Noah Harari in 2016. Before his journey forward, the author explores the past. His conclusions challenged my core belief system in a very uncomfortable way. His arguments were logical and thoughtful (whether I agree with them or not), and based on a foundation of life science, algorithms, and biotechnology. This look forward once again raises the question of Ethics. The author himself makes this point when he says:
“The rise of AI and biotechnology will certainly transform the world, but it does not mandate a single deterministic outcome. All the scenarios outlined in this book should be understood as possibilities rather than prophecies. If you don’t like some of these possibilities you are welcome to think and behave in new ways that will prevent these particular possibilities from materializing.”
I’ve given the main themes of this possible future a label and provide a quick look using excerpts directly from the book. You decide for yourself if this future represents an enhanced or diminished humanity.
In his eleventh post in the series, Marshall Kirkpatrick focuses on the intersection between artificial intelligence and nanotechnology. By way of reminder, Marshall launched a 30 day series that explores the intersection between AI and the various innovation components on my emerging futures visual.
The content of this post was updated on February 16, 2017 in a new post titled Intersections Promise to Drive Multiple Paradigm Shifts
When I first started using the term “Combinatorial”, people thought I was making words up. Although I’d like to take credit for the word, I first came across it when reading The Second Machine Age, a fascinating book by Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson. I remember thinking that it was a perfect word to capture the amplification of both innovation and its disruptive power. By now, readers of this Blog have seen the foundational Visual that describes the digital foundation, innovation accelerators, and disruptive scenarios. What the visual does not convey without the associated narrative is the power of combinatorial.
If we build on top of the visual, we begin to see the complexity at the intersections, the amplification of disruptive power, and the broad implications for the future.
The best way to describe this phenomenon is through examples, so let’s look at six combinatorial scenarios as an overlay. The visual is a bit overwhelming, so a better way to follow the various paths is via this PDF. Here is a description of each scenario. The numbers in the visual above map to the scenarios below, and the colors show the combinations:
Part two of Anticipating 2025 will summarize the second section of the book. This section focused on three broad topics:
- Will advancing technology make doctors unemployed?
- The future of medicine and the convergence of nanotechnology and biology
- Rejuvenation Biotechnology program
It is fascinating to view this section through a disruptive and transformative lens. The acceleration of scientific advancement intensifies the degree and speed of change, thus positioning the type of paradigm shift that we have not seen since the steam engine. As this recent Forbes article points out, even The Acceleration is Accelerating.
The first topics author is Maneesh Juneja, Digital Health Futurist, and Founder of the Health 2.0 London Chapter. In the opening discussion, the author focuses on technology advancement and the future role of doctors. He describes a backward healthcare system that focuses on treatment versus prevention, and the difficulties of solving this problem when there is no profit in prevention. In researching systems from the past, the author looked at ancient China, where it is said that doctors only received payment while their patients stayed healthy. The author then explores the technologies projected to change the practice of medicine: