Future Tense: Unintended Consequences

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d3v

Why do you have to include American propaganda justifying the Nuclear holocaust in Japan? I mean if you can't be objective then don't write about politics at all. You should have kept the politics out of this article.

As we've seen in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya the world is not a safer place. It's just a grossly unjust one where rich countries can attack poor ones at the drop of a hat and there is nothing that poor countries can do about it.

Finally people were a lot more superstitious in the past. Today it's all about the money. So really you're wrong again.

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khaz19

1/10...trying too hard, makes no sense.

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linkmaster6

TL:DR

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TerribleToaster

How do you know it is too long if you didn't read it?

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CanoeHead

Thank you sir, for your thoughts.

My spine puckers into a cold sweat every time that I visit the SF section of a bookstore and find it dwarfed by the sword & sorcery works.

I love them all, but would seem to indicate a world where a diminishing few are looking down the road ahead and the remainder, rather than looking in the rear view mirror, are staring at the clouds wondering what it would be like to own an owl, a wand and a broomstick.

Who stands as the guardians of our foresight?  Who will peer around the corners?

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MeanSquare

I think, at least at first, there will be a fair bit of resistance to body-modding because of the continued stigma of eugenics.  In the end, the same people who resort to plastic surgery after plastic surgery will seize on the newer technologies.  (Imagine, for instance, a nanite "elixer" that removes excess body fat.)

At the same time, another technology will be working cross-purposes:  CGI will eventually allow a director to choose actors by voice alone and the create the "physical" actor however he/she choses.  In time, every actor could be a voice actor and who cares how they look "in real life."

We already have interactive first-person games.  How soon before we have first-person "movies," where the (can't just call them) watcher(s) determine the plot-flow.

On the political front(s), the Internet has allowed all kinds of like-minded individuals to connect.  The end result may well be the multiplication of political parties.  (I'm not fond of our defacto two-party system anyway.)  It has also resulted in an odd sort of balkanization/insulation among people who think like you do.  The characatures that are used to inaccurately represent "those other folks" commonly litter political sites, often without challenge.  We may turn into a society where truth is completely dependent of where you start looking.

Data filtering and farming will become the biggest need for the foreseeable future.  With the wealth of information out there, we'll need vastly improved ways of locating what we want quickly.  Eventually filtering may spell the death of SPAM as the filters get to the point where only those looking for cheap viagra will see any adverts for it.  Pulling data in from diverse sources, colating and crosschecking, maybe even some vetting will become increasing important.  Right now, "two guys and a web page" can perpetrate an Internet hoax that fools major news sources.  We need something better right away.

Finally, we're making the first steps toward true data portability, where your data is wherever you want it to be, often without tedious sending or synching.  Data networks, especially the cellular ones need to be even faster and completely ubiquitous.  You can't have your data held hostage by a dropped cell-connection.  Cloud-based data will also have to be far better protected before most people make the jump.  I can see a time when where your data actually is will be completely irrelevant.

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TerribleToaster

 

How come no one ever mentions that nuclear bomb was the first step on the road of nuclear power and that wer are now looking at essentially solving the world's energy crisis winthin the next 50 or so years using fusion power plants that produce no toxic or radioactive waste?

 

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Keno5net

 

After reading your essay it occurs to me that if not for the example of those two cities the first use of nuclear weapons could have been much more devastating.

  What would have happened if the danger and horror was not revealed in Japan at the end of World War II. The first use could have been deferred to a time when all sides had nuclear weapons and better ways of delivering them.  Instead of two cities devastated it could have been a whole country or the world.

Just a thought. 

Thanks for inspiring it.

 

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Ridnarhtim

Actually, it's pronounced new-clear. But anything is better than nookoolar.

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TerribleToaster

Isn't it Nuke-you-later?

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TheZomb

I think this is just blatantly untrue. Its easy to look at historical problems we didn't predict and go, "We should have looked forward more and we would have seen this." Somethings you just can't predict and somethings you can and still you can't do anything about them. Using the nuclear bomb as an example do you really think that telling Truman or the scientists developing the bomb the consequences of their actions would stop nuclear weapons from being developed or used at least once, if not by them then by another nation. Both the Russians and the Germans had nuclear programs.

Even ignoring this there is plenty of fear of developing hostile AIs and super biological weapons. There is a large portion of people who build zombie apocalypse shelters underground. There is even an national organization focused on developing AI ethics guidelines.

Competition and the view that if "If we don't do this, someone else might and they might not be as ethical us." Will always drive innovation past the line of "It would be better if this was never invented at all".

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Brdn666

I don't think he was saying that we should try to predict what is going to happen. He was mostly saying that we really have no idea where instant access to information/people is going to take us. Could be terrible, could be fantastic.

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lordmidnight

That's what Lowtax was on about when he said "The Internet Makes You Stupid." Sure, it's a great tool for communication, and has been the instrument of radical change. However, it has also given a voice to everyone. Some of those voices were better left in the dark.

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mjanzen

I appreciate reading your thoughts on this matter. Have you read "The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion" by Tim Challies, or "You are not a Gadget" by Jaron Lanier? Some of your argument is very similar to their line of thinking, including the nuclear aspect as a major change in society.

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macumber

We are still evolving. We still haven't shaken 10,000 generations of programmed survival and fear instincts. We might select some of these instincts out in future generations if we don't snuff ourselves out first. We are only ten generations away from being majority illiterate as a species! The pace of advance was accelerating long before PC's and electronic conveniences were born. There are 7 billion people on Earth. We've gained a billion since 99. Talk about the law of unintended consequences ... war and other predatory threats to human life were also a crude method of population control. In their absence (relatively), we might wish to address population planning . All the while we are covering and consuming our planet like some Borg. We may need to "thin the herd", not grow it. It seems that the strong urge to have families and have children is also being selected out of our instincts to some extent. To some extent it is being made tougher due to economics and overpopulation. Look at birth rates in Western Europe. Loved Bill Joy's little paper a few years ago about GNR and the laws of unintended consequences. If it isn't a plague or climate change or nuclear war or food supply ... I get the feeling our species better enjoy what is left of our little day in the sun. If the planet is 4.5 billion years old and we had our last ice age about 10,000 years ago ... I am not too worried about us having enough time to figure all this out. Humans will be long extinct before then.

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warptek2010

With advanced science and accellerated technology we also have to balance out ethics and morals now more than ever before. You speak of the population bomb and "thinning out the herd". To me, these are terms that raise an alarm bell on the ethical and moral front. I once heard some leader of some scientific think tank talking on a radio program in effect stating that we need to reduce the worlds population by about a billion people. More than 5 or 6 billion is unsustainable according to him. Okay pal, who lives and who dies and who gets to decide? The last thing I'd want to see is some realistic version of Kodos the Executioner. I don't know about you but the last I checked prosperous countries like the United States have some natural built in system of population control. We tend to have a lower number of children by choice of freedom where as the lower you go on the econmic scale the more children people tend to have. Sound like a paradox? You bet it does but it is statistically true. When you get into the numbers of 3rd world nations the numbers are even more bizarre. The less money you make, the more kids you have. Coincidence? Political/Economic incentives?

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Engelsstaub

Best thing I've read this week, Mr. Gerrold.

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Dartht33bagger

I've thought this for a few years now.  While I absolutely love computers and video games, it feels like it almost makes my life more difficult in some instances.  Sometimes I wish I could go back to times before cell phones, before social networks and before I had internet.  Back when I only played single player games and when I had to call my friends on their home phones.

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bobla90042

You raise several important points. You are corrent that to understand any event, we need to look at the circumstances, the paradigm, by which the decision makers understood the decision to be made. It's true that they didn't really know how momentus was the decision they were making, nor the ultimate consequences. It was, to many of them (not all) just a bigger bomb.

However it's also important to understand that the Japanese had only2 weeks of food left on the island. They had no merchant marine--no ships by which to supply their people. Their military was stranded in mainland China and Korea; they had no way to tranfer those troops to the Japanese homeland. The nation was essentially defenseless. Reports from the military recommended preparations for an invasion, but they also recognized that by the time the allies were ready to invade, the country would be freezing and starving. The emperor would likely be dethroned. Chaos would consume the island.

The allies were also keenly aware of the menace emerging from the Soviet Union. The Soviet's had agreed to enter the Pacific once Hitler had been defeated. With Hitler's defeat, Russia was preparing to move into Manchuria and other areas in the east. By then, however, the Allies recognized that allowing the Russians to enter the war would also create major unintended consequences; it was essential that the Allies end the war before the Russians took territory and resources from the defeated Japanese. That required quick and decisive action. There was no need to hurry an invasion; it would take months for preparations to be completed, and by then the Japanese would have been desparate for food and fuel. Indeed, as soon and the peace treaty was signed, the Allies had to start airlifting food and fuel into Japan at an unprecedented rate. But responding to a Soviet threat required very quick action.

No one signle factor can be seen as the deciding factor that pushed the decision to use the bombs on two cities. But avoiding an invasion may not have been at the top of the list of factors.

However, your broader point remains well taken. We will be the participants in all manner of unintended consequences, and quickly. Your article was written at 3:04 pm. By days end it will have been read and digested by who knows how many people--hundreds, thousands? A few people will leave comments. Who can imagine what the consequences of your article--your ideas--will be? In the past an article would be written weeks before publication in a magazine. Snail mail would require days for all copies to be delivered. It would only be available for a month, a week, before the next issue came along and your article disappeared into oblivian. It would take weeks, perhaps months, for the consequences of your article to be felt, maybe years. Today, consequences could be seen in hours, days; your article will live indefinitely on the internet to be dredged up by searches and hyperlinks to countless other "webpages" (magazines).

What if the next Bill Gates sees from your comments a new way to understand and predict unintended consequences? Now that could spark a revolution!

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Zharin

Thank you Mr. Gerrold, for another well written and thought provoking piece that was a pleasure to read. I can't wait for the next column.

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Zharin

Thank you Mr. Gerrold, for another well written and thought provoking piece that was a pleasure to read. I can't wait for the next column.

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