11 possible future scenarios

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Most people build for themselves a certain vision of the future, based on an intuitive sense of the development paths of society and technology. Surely many of you, too, somehow imagine life 10-20-30 years later. What will be our country, the situation in the world where you will live and work, what kind of smartphones will be, finally. Do not think about it unless inveterate nihilists and people without imagination. But history has repeatedly proved that we can assume as much as we like, but there is always room for surprise. What future scenarios can we expect?


1. The revival of authoritarianism


Although the term “democracy” is pretty discredited, the idea itself is not bad, but the implementation is usually lame. Nevertheless, many people, thinking about the future, nevertheless represent societies living with sets of values ​​and institutions characteristic of a democratic system. But it may also be that in the second half of the 21st century we can expect the rise of authoritarian systems based on the rich arsenals of modern weapons, primarily mass destruction.


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Technologies that threaten the very existence of humanity seriously affect such critical mechanisms as social control and civil liberties. Remember how after September 11, the United States began to adopt restrictive laws one by one, the powers and capabilities of law enforcement agencies quickly expanded. And imagine what a wonderful opportunity to tighten the nuts will appear in the government of any country in which something worse will happen than the collapse of two skyscrapers.


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Socio-social democratic institutions, so familiar to us and forming the basis of the political structure of many countries, can be subjected to serious pressure provoked by fear, insecurity and despair. History knows many such examples; take the same Germany.


With the development of technology in the world, weapons of mass destruction are becoming more accessible - war viruses, robots and nanotechnology, dirty bombs, etc. The world is increasingly entangled in a global information network, penetrating deeper and wider into our lives. Never before in human history has it been so easy to get all kinds of resources and information. All these factors are exacerbated by the growth and strengthening of non-traditional political forces: once weak states, non-state actors and marginalized groups of the population. Even 50 years ago, in order to cause catastrophic damage to a country, it was necessary to send a full-fledged army. Today, a small group of people with strong motivation is enough for this.


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Add to all this also a deterioration in the economies of different regions. We are probably on the verge of large-scale sociopolitical changes that could lead to the rise of authoritarian systems. It is even possible that such political regimes will become the dominant form in the world.


2. Loss of privacy


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This scenario is partly related to the previous one. We can expect the rise of the most powerful surveillance technologies, due to the need for proactive intelligence. Futurist Timothy Mack noted that the sharp increase in espionage opportunities will be associated not only with the fight against terrorism and the prevention of crime. And not a single new building or infrastructure object can do without surveillance cameras, systems of all kinds of sensors and any other means of monitoring and control.


Not to mention the fact that corporations and government agencies will increasingly monitor the behavior of citizens and their consumer habits.


Most likely, the population will be calm or even sympathetic to such innovations, thanks to some high-profile events and political slogans. So by the end of the century, the emergence of a " transparent society ", predicted by the writer and futurist David Brin, is possible .


3. The future is in the inner space, not in the outer


Many believe that humanity should strive for the stars. Well, or at least expand to the borders of the Kuiper belt . However, the futurist John Smart (a cool name) expressed the idea that accelerating computational complexity testifies, rather, that humanity will concentrate on conquering not external space, but internal - physical and virtual.


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According to Smart, “ from the point of view of physics, there is an increase in spatial, temporal, energy and material (spatial, temporal, energetic, material - STEM) density and efficiency. This phenomenon is called STEM compression . The migration towards the “inner space” is allegedly indicated by the distribution of maximum computational complexity in the range from matter of interstellar space to large-scale structures -> galaxies -> specific star systems -> prokaryotic life on planets in the habitable zone -> eukaryotic life -> humanity, which inhabits very small areas -> and to the "smart" technologies of the future, which are transformed into nanotechnological and quantum kingdoms.


From the point of view of information theory, as these systems develop, they will penetrate into virtual space. The means of visualization, ephemerization, dematerialization, simulation, and artificial intelligence technology will incredibly improve. Thinking will increasingly replace action, because simulation technology will allow you to explore, study and create much faster, better and more efficiently than slow, primitive, boring, expensive and dangerous physical reality. People will increasingly intellectually migrate to the physical and virtual internal space, which can lead us to exist in hyperspace domains. Like a black hole . As human civilization develops, it does not grow into the Universe, but from it, all accelerating, like an awakening child. ".


Smart also believes that the transition to the inner space can be the fastest and ethical way of communicating with alien civilizations and taking knowledge from them. If this is so, then it is clear why we believe that we are alone in the Universe: we receive no signals and have not yet met anyone. Perhaps, for the sake of managing the virtual world and ensuring memetic diversity, some kind of “super-ethical artificial intelligence” will use an analogue of the Primary Directive to limit the migration of intellectuals into the physical and virtual internal space.


You can study Smart's ideas in more detail by his work , and at the same time express in his blog how he is mistaken.


It is obvious that the vast majority of people will never leave their home planet. It is more likely that relatively small teams and robotic systems will work in different parts of the solar system. We will be honest with ourselves: space, in all probability, will be the destiny of the elect. At least in the foreseeable future.


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As the futurist Ramez Naam said: “By 2050, very few people will leave the Earth’s orbit. If at all leaves. "


4. Zabugovannost will turn into a standard feature


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We all imagine Future Technologies to be accurate and fast. But what if everything goes wrong? AI systems will fail, slow down and arbitrarily reboot. Nanotech will be filled with spam viruses and DRM tools. Unmanned vehicles will prefer to destroy passengers in order to avoid the death of even more people (“ trolley problem ”). In general, all the most unpleasant things that annoy us in modern technologies will not go anywhere in the future, they will simply take on new forms.


5. We will never solve the “difficult task” of consciousness


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Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists still do not know what to do with the so-called “difficult task” of consciousness: we have no idea about the nature and mechanism of qualia - our primary sensations.


Suppose we never solve this riddle. But without accurate modeling of cognitive phenomena, we will not be able to develop fully self-aware robots and artificial intelligence. Also, we will not be able to load our consciousness into a computer. More precisely, this can be done, but the result will be disastrous. Sure, we will advance in biotechnology, but with regard to the “subtle matters”, we can get stuck in place.


6. Improving people banned


Many transhumanists and technoprogressists believe that we are waiting for the flowering of human improvement technologies - physically and mentally. In fact, we take for granted the idea that sooner or later biotechnologies can make us smarter, stronger and extend our lives.


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I must say that such ideas smack of eugenics and inspire certain doubts about their feasibility in the future. It seems that almost all states will adopt laws that strictly restrict the use of genetic technologies. It is likely that only therapeutic interventions, such as the treatment of genetic disorders, will be allowed. Although this is in doubt, given the scandal surrounding the technology of " three parents ." Also, one should not forget that in most countries, human cloning and transgenic therapy, the introduction of animal DNA fragments into human DNA, are already prohibited .


There are also concerns that gene technologies will be used by parents to improve their children so that they can achieve more in life. Probably, someone will "sharpen" their children for specific careers, for example, preparing their son for football. In the foreseeable future, it is unlikely that society will accept such initiatives. And indeed, interference with the genome can lead to unpredictable consequences.


7. Advanced AI is ahead of us in everything


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Around the potential hostility of the AI, many copies have already been broken. If we manage to create a sufficiently powerful artificial intelligence, it is unlikely that he will think the same way as a person. It is possible that his interests will begin to diverge from the interests of mankind. Scientists and philosophers today are trying to develop the principles of humanity - a mechanism to ensure the loyalty of artificial intelligence in order to keep an alien mind in obedience. The problem is that a powerful intellect will be able to figure out how to get around all these principles of humanity, which prevent him from achieving his own interests. There is also a risk that a system of principles can create a logical conflict.


It is impossible to exclude the scenario that a super-powerful AI can ... convince people to "free" it. What is it? Probably, developers from the very beginning will simply neglect security measures. For example, someone in a large corporation would come up with a “bright” idea to integrate AI into a worldwide network, with the best of intentions.


One way to protect yourself from such scenarios is to develop philosophical and ethical criteria for determining the level of development of AI, testing the degree of its self-awareness, and also what rights artificial intelligence may have.


8. Third World War


When the First World War ended, it was called the "war for the end of all wars." But only 21 years passed, and the Second World War broke out. Here is a vivid illustration of the impossibility of predicting global conflicts.


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After the end of World War II, two military camps formed, and the world froze for many years in an unstable equilibrium of nuclear deterrence. The collapse of the USSR and the Warsaw bloc led to the formation of a unipolar world in which the USA ruled everything. But with the development of the economies, armies and industrial base of the BRIC countries, the position of the World Police Officer is becoming more vulnerable. And, recalling the experience of the past two world wars, there are many reasons to fear the next redistribution of influence in the world with the help of a global military conflict or a series of major regional wars.


In addition to the political and economic prerequisites, the factor of climate change cannot be discounted. Droughts, rising sea levels, desertification will cause millions to migrate. Global warming will lead to disastrous consequences in many countries of the world and, as a result, to wars for resources and civil wars.


But speaking of a new world war, we must not forget the significantly changed military arsenals. The development of means of destruction and delivery with a high probability will lead to the fact that the Fourth World War, as Einstein predicted, will be conducted by stones and clubs.


9. A categorical rejection of virtual reality technology


This scenario is possible: the more time people spend completely immersed in virtual reality, the more they will become afraid that this reality will be somewhat inferior to the real world.


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Philosopher Michael LaTorra of the University of New Mexico believes: “ The desire to get the full experience from interacting with physical reality will push people to visit nature more often, and spaces will be created in cities to satisfy the craving for aesthetically beautiful. Here, people can plunge into the worlds of aromas, textures, lights and sounds that adapt to the state of visitors, helping them to relax. Such places will not be characterized by "incontinence" inherent in modern art, defying the viewer, opposing him. People will come here for a feeling of peace, concentration, and pacification. And most of all, it will affect people who are trapped in online life with its inconsistent presence of friends and relatives with whom they might never meet. ".


So the more “virtuality” will penetrate our lives, the more we will appreciate the “real feelings”, trying to get a pleasant experience through various senses. In part, this can be compared with how many people today begin to value handmade products more, fed up with conveyor factory products.


10. A 10 billion Earth population by 2100 is good


Neo-Malthusian fears are in fashion today. According to the UN forecast, by the middle of the century, the world's population will reach 9.5 billion people. The vast majority of environmental scientists believe that the resources available are in no way enough to provide a decent standard of living for such a mob. Given that the peak of the population will be reached in about three generations, we still have time to figure out how we can solve the many problems associated with this. In other words, if we build a world in which 10 billion people live in relative prosperity and comfort, then we have managed to solve almost all the problems of preserving the environment and obtaining the resources that face us today. Of course, new difficulties and dilemmas will appear, but the difficulties now existing are likely to be overcome.


11. Utopia may not look at all what it seems to us.


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Many decades of war, genocide, and fanatical totalitarianism will ultimately eradicate from us the slightest tendency to utopia. Today, any hint of the possibility of realizing utopia - in everyday life and in science fiction - is perceived with contempt and accusation of extreme naivety. The problem is that what is utopia for one is hell for the other. And it is incredibly difficult, if at all possible, to outline, at least in general terms, the scheme of an ideal world order for humanity. In addition, most of us have a clear connection between the Utopian dream and radical political ideologies and repressions.


But this does not mean that we should lose faith in continuous progress. According to our ideas, the “ordinary” world of the future may look like utopia, just as our present life could be perceived by people of the past as an ideal world. Cultural theorist Terry Eagleton of the University of Manchester noted that "in the future, justice and freedom may triumph or not, but the world of the future is definitely completely different."


What could be the utopia of the future? For example, we will be able to practically save people and animals from any suffering, as well as satisfy all the basic material needs. But in order to achieve this, we “ will have to avoid soulless schemes in every possible way. Conservatives do not accept the idea of ​​utopia, because they are opponents of social engineering, believing that all processes in society should proceed spontaneously. At the same time, representatives of leftist movements insist on the undoubted progressive nature of social engineering . ”


Perhaps it is difficult for us, who lived in the country of a victorious social experiment, to agree with the opinion of the left. But they may turn out to be right, and we just had no luck with the implementation.