04 June 2008

In the Year 2100 . . .

Lileks has a solid bit of Bleatery on tap today. He takes The Obama to task for this bit (he quotes The Obama, thusly)
“John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy -- cities in Michigan, and Ohio, and right here in Minnesota -- he'd understand the kind of change that people are looking for."

Lileks response goes on for awhile, but here's the start to pique your interest
Right here in Minnesota? Hardest hit by this economy? What is he talking about, exactly? Is this a specific reference to a specific plight faced by specific towns, or a boilerplate remark about the dire lives of people trapped in the Bittervilles that dot the strange outlands?

Minnesota, like many states in the rich heartland, has a large farming economy, and if the farmers are struggling, it’s for reasons to complain. Between the demand for ethanol and the related boost in commodity prices, they’re doing well, thank you very much – and this spills over into the towns that service the farms. My paper is running stories about how the prairie chicken is imperiled, because land previously idled is being brought back into service to raise crops and make money. Which is like reading a story about subterranean bacteria threatened by all the drilling for oil in North Dakota and Montana. There’s good news in there somewhere, you suspect.

In Democratic Party speak, everyone is a victim, every place is a struggling backwater, and now is the darkest times we face, unless we hand over our lives to the good folks of the public sector and let them run things.

What does that have to do with the year 2100, though? Lileks ends today's Bleat with this bit (accompanying a picture of a streamline art deco artwork of a stylized man holding a plane)
Like the ancient civilizations, we had our mythological figures, too - except we actually figured out how to do the things usually reserved for gods.

That got me thinking, by the end of this century, many myths will have become real. Live long enough and you'll see most of the dreams, and some of the nightmares of peoples past manifested as commonplace events.

Here's a few of the myths I expect to be fully realized by 2100.

Unicorns, Centaurs, Chimeras, etc.
Genomes for most creatures will be cracked by then, and once cracked, the ability to put creatures back together in new and exciting ways. There's going to be people who pay to create some freaky stuff, and there might even be some folks who choose to become some pretty freaky stuff themselves, I expect lots of freaky beasts, and beastly people to be walking around by 2100.

Aging is curable. Once it is, there will be people willing to pay to stay young for a long time. There are toddlers running around now, who may still be running around in 3100, let alone 2100. Sounds crazy now, but the limit on this won't be technological, but societal and moral, instead.

The human mind has limits, and doesn't organize itself real well, but we are already becoming untethered from the need to rely on something as limited as a single mind to store, process, and understand all the information we contact on a regular basis. Once that information cloud follows you around, and is accessible, not with the stroke of a key, but the firing of a synapses, you are going to have people walking around able to recall, understand, and process everything, nearly instantly. Folks walking around with these improvements (and able to use this crap capably) will seem godlike.

True artificial intelligence may or may not happen, ever. Despite all their flaws, biological systems are unimaginably complex, and non-biological systems are simply too new to match true awareness and sentience. There might be a shortcut melding biological systems with artificial enhancements (DARPA's already working on the beginnings of this stuff), though. And autonomous mechanical devices that can do a solid job of mimicking intelligence will definitely be running around doing a huge variety of tasks by 2100.

That's enough wild speculation regarding the future, with regards to the newly minted Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama, he still looks enough like a deeply tanned George McGovern to me (and he won't be much more successful in the Electoral College), that I suspect he's going to leave a lot of confused acolytes in the wake of his failed campaign come November.

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