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07/23/2012

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John D

I guess I can't figure out why people can believe that technology will solve all our problems, when all of our major problems have been caused by technology.

Wanooski

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2175374/Russian-research-project-offers-immortality-billionaires--transplanting-brains-robot-bodies.html

Here's some tech that will magically save billionaires from dying. That way they go on, staying alive, perpetuating the plutocracy forever and ever and ever. Boy, how's that for a dream come true.

T E Cho

Dave,

An important and neglected topic.

Again, the average auto speed limit plateau has not changed in 75+ years, same with jet airplanes. Remember the popular science articles in the 60's claiming 120 mph auto lanes were coming? And so many flying car models, etc.

What law says 'progress' must follow a consistent mathematical curve? What if oil were 15 or 50 miles below the surface instead of a few miles? Sudden progress often is based on chance coincident discoveries and understandings. Such random chance major discoveries are ... Random, with an innate random nature and unpredictable.

Brian M

Seems intuitively obvious. What's the old saying, if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail? Well, if the only tool our species really has (or thinks it knows how to use) is that of adding technology, then every problem will look like it needs more technology.

If you buy the idea that additional technology/complexity eventually exhibits diminishing (and eventually negative) returns, and you believe that humans are, either by habit or genetics, predisposed to solve all problems with more technology/complexity, then you kind of have to come to the conclusion that, well, we are good and truly screwed.

The idea of habit vs. genetics may (or may not) be important in the long term. Over the short term, it matters not at all. In either case, the behavior would be the same, given that the habit is based on conditions of growth beyond living memory. However, after the addition of more technology/complexity has sufficiently greased the skids (as in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rMcRJVY1-0) and introduced the living memory of the species to a new set of realities, the difference might matter. If the trait is genetic, humans will continue to try to apply technology/complexity in ways that inevitably, in our new circumstances, both fail and make things worse. On the other hand, if the trait is actually a learned habitual behavior, then enough time in changed circumstance (e.g., decline) might actually lead to changes in behavior that might actually be positive many generations hence.

Of course, this is a purely theoretical question because, as I said, over any short to mid-term time frame, we are probably screwed regardless.

Joy

I was living in Silicon Valley in 1998 when Colin Campbell's SciAm article, "The End of Cheap Oil" was published. In that time, in that place, there was a huge cognitive gulf between the techno optimists (most of the people then in the dotcom bubble land) and realists. Now, I am not so sure. Yes, there are professional cheerleaders and propagandists of a shining future who write in elite publications and speak at TED lectures, and some fraction of the 1% will lap it up. Beyond that, in the real world, optimists are an endangered species.

It has been a long time since I encountered anyone in the real world who expects technology to solve anything or the future to be better than the past. Even John and Jane Average here are beginning to do the things the Transition movement would advocate, not out of altruism or ideology, but out of necessity. When a bell pepper costs a dollar, you plant a garden or go without. Even a quarter acre section in town will hold a chicken coop (sans roosters), and I am seeing more of those too. Of course, neo-peasant home agriculture is a sort of technofix itself, but not of the onward and upward variety

John Theodorou

Oh goody! Dave serves up yet another helping of cornucopians, with more to come. Yum, they're so tasty!

Raintonite

After several long years of reading, prognosticating and trying to draw conclusions about our predicament, this one sentence says it all:

". . . they (we) will invariably try to find such (technological) solutions to those problems instead of changing their behavior to make a problem disappear or mitigate it."

We want and expect the world to change to suit us. We never think we have to change. Tools are mistaken for solutions. The only possible solution is using tools wisely. That means we have to change. We won't.

Common perception is that we only have a short life span and we best use that time to serve selfish interests. Big, shiny techno tools won't hide our superficial aspirations forever. They may indeed beckon our demise totally.


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