Tim Longhurst's Blog

Is there a future in it? Wired Magazine introduces ‘lunch pail’ futurists

October 27th, 2005 · No Comments

futures.jpgForget the futurist superstars, according to this article in Wired magazine, an industry of ‘garden variety’ futurists is starting to emerge.

It’s an interesting article, but I take issue with the critique of Y2K predictions being wrong. There were scenarios of catastrophe offered well before the date and I would argue such scenarios led to wide-spread investment ensuring that, for example, planes didn’t fall out of the sky.

When people say, ‘look out you’re gonna step on a piece of dog poo!’ you don’t take their advice, avoid the crap, and then tell them their prediction was wrong. You just say, ‘Thanks man, gee, I came really close to stepping on that!’.

Futuring is not so much about predicting what will happen, but rather what could happen, and using that information to make informed choices.

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Category: From the frontlines of the future

The Future of Autonomous Systems

April 30th, 2005 · No Comments

Will Robots have souls?

“So if robots are being developed as pets, what about the idea of humans becoming pets to robots?

Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Seti Institute, put it this way:  “It strikes me as likely that, sometime this century, we will build a thinking computer.  That machine will run the planet.  Competitive pressures will ensure this (if we don’t have a machine running our society, we’ll fall behind those that do).   We will no longer be the smartest things on Earth.  Our mantle of superiority will be donned by our own creations.
“Then what?  Will the machines get rid of us?  A machine that dwarfs our intelligence might regard us as we regard budgies or goldfish.   Our role may be to serve as pets for the sentients in charge.
“All of this would be dismaying enough if it were merely a science fiction story.  But I suspect the first steps will be taken by mid-century.  We could well be the last generation of humans to dominate Earth.”

Charles Brass once remarked to me that in this century we will more than likely become the second smartest species on Earth. He then asked me: “What do you consider the second smartest species on Earth, and how is it treated by humans?” Interesting…

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Category: From the frontlines of the future