Friday, April 18, 2014

#109 / Futurology

Today's posting? Well, I like the picture. It illustrates an article that appeared in New Statesman on April 10, 2014. Click on this link if you would like to read it. 

I liked the article, too. I recommend it. 

Appleyard objects to "futurology" because many of its predictions seem "daft." That's British for "stupid" or "crazy." Appleyard singles out Ray Kurzweil for a special commendation in the "prognosticators of the daft" category. I am not much of a Kurzweil fan, either, as long time readers will probably have realized, from having reviewed an earlier mention of this gentleman

My own objection to "futurology" is philosophically based. Predictions about the future are almost always presented as though they were based on "facts," and thus the basic message is that current "facts" determine what "will" happen. Extrapolations of current realities define the future, in the arena of futurology.

Actually, the future in our world is ours to make. Nothing is inevitable, and our human freedom radically to restructure our world, at any time, makes extrapolations inherently suspect. 

Predictions based on "scientific analysis" of real truths from the World of Nature are different. The laws of nature do state "inevitabilities." Thus, I am a lot more concerned about the predicted effects of global warming (based on facts about the natural world that can be measured and documented) than I am of the hypothetical "singularity" that Kurzweil talks about, when human beings become superfluous, because the machines we have invented will take over, making our own species largely non-essential.

In the world we most immediately inhabit - our world, the human world - we are definitely essential!

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1 comment:

  1. "The laws of nature” do not state "inevitabilities."

    There are no "laws of nature" (if there are such things) that "state inevitabilities." Nature is not a linear proposition. Nature is probabilistic, chaotic, complex and unpredictable.

    Natural systems exist in a state of dynamic equilibrium, constantly reacting to a vast array of complex, nonlinear influences. The "butterfly effect" is the most popular image of the complexity of the emergent phenomena characteristic of complex adaptive systems.

    While the present conditions of the natural world can be measured and documented, the outcome of interactions among these conditions cannot be predicted with any dependable degree of accuracy for any useful period of time. Observe how poorly we predict weather only days in the future. Attempting to predict something as chaotically variable as global climate is beyond the capacity of our knowledge and technocratic abilities.

    Saying that humans are essential to the human-built world is an amusing tautology that masks the true relationship between humans and the Multiverse. Humans are a single species that dominates life on a single planet, for the moment. We are an immensely insignificant dot on an insignificant dot in the mind-bogglingly vast expanse of space/time. Our tenure is a mere eye-blink even in the history of life on this single planet.

    It's time to suck it up, get over it and join the community of Life on Earth, while we still have a chance.


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