Futurology I

Dear Readers:

“To Next Week And Beyond!”

Today I have a real treat for you! My colleague Lyttenburgh has composed a rather interesting essay on the topic of “Futurology”.  Futorology was something that people used to talk about a lot in the past.  But nowdays most people are so pessimistic that few even think that we (as the human species) have a future left.  Having screwed everything up as much as we did, sadly.  But I, for one, continue to hope that things will turn out okay in the end, that humanity will find a way through all these trials and tribulations, and to a better life.  Hence, I am eager to read what Lyttenburgh has to say on the topic, and I hope that he found some amazing predictions for us when he peered into his crystal ball!

[that last bit is sarcasm, you’ll see later…]

Some housekeeping notes:  Not unlike Caesar partitioning Gaul, Lyttenburgh has split his essay into four parts.  Not counting the Intro and the Epilogue.  At the bottom of each installment,  I will type the usual “to be continued”; however, this is misleading, because after each day’s session of Futurology, I will intersperse a day with a “Breaking News” story, or some other type of Quickie.  And that should get us through the week, and beyond.  But enough of my bullshit, without further ado, here is Lyttenburgh speaking now:

On the painfully naïve modern iteration of Futurology:

Intro.

Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature.
– David Hume

“David Hume could out-consume. Schopenhauer and Hegel…”

The future is upon us. In fact, our future as imagined by us, humans, has arrived!  And we since moved on, “meh-ing” and shrugging away at all predictions that failed to come true. That’s okay!  After all, what is the chance of having a flying car run on ecologically pure fuel, a grav-board or ubiquitous holography used for advertisement purposes, compared to simply having an opportunity to live and draw breath, while so many before predicted that we, humans, were again giddily striding towards extinction as a species? I, for one, am happy for all those bifurcation points in the past, which allowed us to exist in our present state as opposed to, say, in the state of nuclear dust.

Yet, the nature of Humanity dictates us to be wistful nonetheless. While we can do nothing about the past and all things that failed to pass, we can still be “hopeful” and make new and new predictions. Some even do this (semi-)professionally. These people are known as the “Futurologists”, and fill the same niche nowadays as the oracles and sayers of sooths of yore – a bunch of veritably useless parasites, cloaked in a mystical shroud and masterful in the art of persuasion, so that the general public would not drive them out, instead allowing them to exist (rather comfortably) in their midst.

Indomitable Gauls introduced to Futurology (I c. BCE)

Apparently, we can’t escape it. According to one song (and a song can’t be worse than all those self-important “seers” through the ages) “people are made this way” – we wish to know what will happen in the future. Ravings of various “psychics”, “hereditary witches”, “ESPers” and “adepts of Dark and Light Magick” prove ever so popular (and profitable) among the people, judging by ads, commercials and sensationalist investigative journalism reports. From time to time such people get “pruned” – not by the Witch Hunters or the Inquisition, but, more likely, by the IRS and other services devoted to investigating scams, i.e. from time to time they do get punished for failing to deliver what they advertise – a peek into a future.

“Science-based” futurology is hardly any different, but it is now sporting the protective cloak of mysticism of old, and its Adepts are no less proficient when it comes to persuading people to part with their riches. “Futurologists” are all the rage (again). People are told, routinely, about the future right behind the corner (again!). And we, humans, are appearing none the wiser. Again.

Soon to be closed not just for lunch, but for good.

And so, after reading yet another gushing piece about our real-life incarnation of Ostap Bender (and his highly successful start-up firm “Horns and Hooves”), after, joyously, seeing naïve autistic hopes taking a direct hit, and after an encounter online (oh, where else?) with the perversely self-sure Sola Scripturist Christian Transhumanist, I decided – enough of this. I for one, want and can do something about that to the limit of my, well, limited, abilities. Thus the following essay was born, where I made a valiant (if not desperate) attempt to answer the following questions:

Why so many predictions about future developments (understood broadly) of Humanity did NOT come true?

What is the essence of this so-called “Progress”, towards which said prophecies appeal?

For what should we NOT hope?

Along the way of trying to answer these Big Questions, I searched, and, hopefully, found answers to many lesser ones, all in connection with them. And from all of them, like from pieces of a mosaic, I tried to assemble one widely encompassing picture. The results of these findings are before you.

[to be continued]

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3 Responses to Futurology I

  1. yalensis says:

    Okay, I just gotta lay on the first comment!
    First off, good start, Lyt! You got me hooked, and I can hardly wait to read the next installment.

    Secondly, as a software developer myself and somebody with a higher degree in Computer Science, it’s hysterical to read Unz types (and laypersons in general) opining about AI and Moore’s law, and their supposed connection. Topics about which they apparently know nothing except the kind of bromides you would hear on mass media, where promising scientific research is both dumbed down and simultaneously hyped up for the hoi polloi.

    Actually, one of the commenters to the Unz piece, Abelard Lindsey, does seem to know what he is talking about, he pointed out that Moore’s Law is just a prosaic thing that refers to the scaling of semi-conductors — in other words, semi-conductors have gotten smaller and smaller over time as people became more proficient in miniaturizing transistors or their equivalent chemistries – yup!; and that AI successes mainly involve robotics.
    Those who try to make these digital technologies something more than they are, or equivalate them to the human brain, are simply deluding themselves, or looking for pie in the sky. They need to hit the books and read more Alan Turing.

    Like

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      Thank you, yalensis, for the kind words and for an opportunity to present me with a platform for, once again, run my rather controversial piece. You belonging to the “precise” field of science is an undisputable bonus for me, bloody humanitariy :). At least you know what’s what and what the heck – “precise” sciences speaking,

      ” Moore’s Law is just a prosaic thing that refers to the scaling of semi-conductors — in other words, semi-conductors have gotten smaller and smaller over time as people became more proficient in miniaturizing transistors or their equivalent chemistries – yup!; and that AI successes mainly involve robotics.

      Those who try to make these digital technologies something more than they are, or equivalate them to the human brain, are simply deluding themselves, or looking for pie in the sky. They need to hit the books and read more Alan Turing.”

      Not to spoiler anything, but my next chapters deal exactly with this… “methodology”… either speaking about it directly, or using a transparent Aesop tongue.

      Like

      • yalensis says:

        Yep, I peeked ahead! But I couldn’t contain myself when I read that Unz link.

        So, we have some rather clever inventions like robots, and semi-conductors and the like; and instead of exclaiming, “What clever people invented that!” laypersons ascribe mystical properties to them.

        And speaking of Turing, people also misuse the infamous “Turing test” of intelligence. They think that Turing was some kind of sci-fi visionary who was predicting “the rise of the machines” or AI, or something like that.
        It was exactly the opposite. Turing proved mathematically that human languages cannot be parsed in the same way as “digital languages”, i.e., programming languages. Even back in the 1940’s he proved the limitations of digital “intelligence”. And nothing has really changed since then in the foundations of computer science: Every modern computer, however powerful, is still a Turing machine at heart.
        It would take a completely different type of computer to approximate human intelligence. Like, maybe some kind of “biological-quantum” computer, or something like that.
        I don’t say it’s impossible, but we’re definitely not there yet!
        And modern AI, I reckon, is about 98% hype slash bullshit; and the remaining 2% useful research.

        Like

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