Predicting the future, one small step at a time – for happiness, relevance, work and investments

Summary: I’m not writing about, or predicting, the future, I’m asking you to do it, mostly as a brain exercise, forcing you to actually think

Length: very short

So, you doubt the Singularity* will happen?

[* the technological Singularity, when one generation of tech improves the next generation in such a rapid pace that normal humans can’t keep up]

Then, why not make your own prediction.

Start with one technology or piece of hardware or software you’re familiar with. A cellphone, e.g., or glasses, TV, internet, cars… Extrapolate what that tech will look like in the future. Never mind how far into the future. Take it one step at a time and imagine what the next iteration will look like, and the next, and the next. Again, disregard the time aspect, and focus on the generations. Don’t forget to take into account that whatever that piece of tech turns into with enough iterations, it can be used as a tool for improving and accelerating other tech areas.

Where do cell phones get you in a hundred significant iterations? Computers? How big, how fast, how competent? Where do they go, how are they powered?

Keep doing that for cars, planes, space ships, contact lenses, software, computer games and movies, 3D glasses, brain implants, artificial agents and so on.

You might not be an expert in any of these fields, but consider what an AI can do in the future if it’s already mastered Chess, Jeopardy, Go and Poker. Where does Crispr-Cas9 gene editing take us in a hundred iterations? Robots are currently stumbling around in Alphabet’s labs, but what will they be doing in a thousand years?

When, if ever, e.g., will a team of robots beat the best team of soccer or american football players? In 2050? Sooner? Later? Never?

Do your best at imagining the future piece by piece, and please tell me if you see a hard stop anywhere. If not, the Singularity will happen. Sir Martin Rees, a distinguished astronomer, has suggested that genetically and cybernetically enhanced humans/cyborgs on Mars could be the first artificial intelligences.

We can already build simple nanomachines, edit genes and create artificial life. There are brain implants controlling neurodegenerative diseases, there are eye implants making blind see (low res for now, but with Moore’s law it won’t be too long before they can see better than ordinary humans, and a wider spectrum of light).

I see a very bright future, a future where we can widen our intelligence, and live to the fullest. Others see a dystopian scenario of obese and non-thinking human remnants merely being tolerated by the only intelligent life on earth, AIs. Yet others see nothing at all, since we’ll soon destroy the Earth before being able to leave.

Where do you see yourself in a world of AI and AR?

While you’re at it, where do you see yourself in that future? Not just the end game, but the transitional period in getting there. How will you and your children create a rich and meaningful existence in the coming 25-50 years?

  • How will you educate yourself?
  • What will you work with?
  • How do you plan your investments?
    • Stocks?
    • Bonds?
    • Gold?
    • Real estate?
    • Crypto currencies such as Bitcoin?
  • What will governments look like?
  • How will laws evolve?

Where’s your worth when power shifts from governments to tech giants, when cryptocurrencies make current tax regimes impossible to enforce? How do you plan to stay relevant in the future, a future where technology might be able to do everything you can do… for free?

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5 Replies to “Predicting the future, one small step at a time – for happiness, relevance, work and investments”

  1. Excellent your questions, Sprezza. Specifically speaking about technologies, you have an incredible background. This level of depth on trends is subject to hours and hours of conversation.

    Five days ago I wrote a post on my blog about this transition, but in the context of middle class jobs. Many professions with status can be harvested in the not too distant future. I do not know your opinion about it, but feel free to comment:

    Since we are practicing a futurism exercise, what is your opinion about the future of the financial industry, more specifically hedge funds and active funds in general?

  2. It is very hard (or impossible) for amateurs in a field to predict incremental changes. Let’s take cars as an example. Is a car of today really better than a car from 30 years ago? The windows/doors roll up and down automatically. There are touch screens instead of knobs, etc… But were any of these things really hard to do, or are the changes just added to raise the price?

    Amateurs would have guessed computers should be thinking for us by now. But they haven’t changed much in 20 years. While they get faster, the software gets more bloated and slower. You need a fast computer just to browse an average web site, otherwise the mountain of ads bogs it down.

    Will there ever be a singularity? I don’t know. We understand that a duck cannot talk because it is limited. Aren’t humans also limited? I’m not sure how an imperfect human can ever create a perfect machine.

    1. Maybe, maybe not. Up until now, cars were mechanical. Now they are becoming information-based.

      Sure, one could have guessed they would be doing 1000 mph by now, or be flying, or that traffic would limit the speed to 1 mph or some other extrapolation.

      I’m talking about shift stick to automatic, gas pedal to cruise control, parking assistance sounds to on screen guidance, to automatic parking and so on. From those developments you could guess more and more features would become automatic, all the way to a fully driverless transportation experience. After that, it’s not a big leap to toy around with scenarios about how traffic rules could become more organic and based on machine learning. Well, after manual driving is outlawed of course. Nota bene, that I didn’t really include time as a factor, only “iterations”. Driverless cars are already “almost” here. What about in 100 or 1000 years?

      But sure, we are all lousy futurologists. I’m just saying it’s an interesting brain exercise to at least try, instead of just assuming next year will be about the same.

      Everybody today assumes TVs/cameras and other video equipment will have better resolution every year. From there it’s no biggie to think about hearing aids, vision implants, brain control implants.

      Then there is robotics: they get faster every year (the cheetah robot), stronger (big dog), better balance (google balance alorithms, ball bot etc)
      Prosthetics: they already make people walk or aid in lifting things. You could do worse than assume they will be more flexible, stronger, less bulky, more capable etc with every iteration
      Software and AI: it does not get slower (sure your MS office pack does, but that’s a poor yardstick). Need I remind you of the development from chess to jeopardy, Go and poker? Have you seen modern computer games? There actually are scientific methods to prove today’s algorithms improve faster than Moore’s law, and that’s on top of the improving hardware.

      As for humans, my view is that we aren’t that conscious, can’t be creative etc, whereas I think a large enough computer will be. I agree humans won’t ever ccreate a perfect machine, but I think we can create a machine that equals us, and then double that in size, and then let that one help improve itself. I think we will be able to reverse engineer the brain, one cell, one connection at a time, reverse engineer its algorithms, improve upon them, implement them in an artificial substrate that is significantly larger and at least as complex as the brain, and that THAT entity will be able to find correlations, laws, algorithms etc that will be better than what humans can.

      I’m not asking you to agree on this, I’m just saying that this is one possibility, and that the exercise of incrementalism can help each of us to find out what we actually think will happen and adapt to that. But mostly, I’m saying it’s an interesting exercise for the brain, a way of forcing yourself to think.

      1. I realize you weren’t including a time coordinate. What will things be like in 10k years? 100k. Will humans evolve or devolve? Will energy and natural resources run out and humans will be subsistence farming again?

        I like to joke that in 200 years to build a jumbo jet you will need to send 1000 homeless people to the dump in search of aluminum cans.

        It is fun to imagine. I do this all the time. My background is science. The reason I tend to be skeptical is physics. According to Heisenberg there are real limits to how detailed small things can be examined. Or how small circuits can be made. Moore’s law has been declared dead (once again). Perhaps some new idea will bring back rapid improvements.

        My friends bet that in 30 years we would be doing “beam me up, Scotty” Star Trek traveling. If Heisenberg is right that can never happen because you cannot map the locations of your atoms. I also believe that is why we MAY (???) never map the brain and reproduce it on a lab bench. It took 7 billion years of random evolution to produce a living creature. I suppose we could speed that up with vast arrays of experimental mixing, but that would not be reproducible.

        Let’s have a beer when driverless cars are real. We’ve seen enough investment hype to know what ever companies are predicting, multiply the time factor by 3. It will happen. Just not in 3-5 years.

        1. Agree on all.

          Think we’re on the same page, just expressing it differently

          Your friends probably would have predicted horseless cars a thousand years early :D

          Beaming people up is a little different from making a brain twice the size (already proof of concept, just expanding it a little)

          If one Einstein or Newton could happen, would one more be that inconceivable? Or one or two even a little smarter? Is the human brain the pinnacle of everything of all time before and after today? Seems unlikely to me, but, again, that was not the point.

          I just want people to think for themselves: Is everything already discovered and invented or is there more to come. If the latter, define how much more and how to prepare.

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