From the editor's desk: About the May-June 2013 issue of THE FUTURIST
As artificial intelligence technology advances, the event horizon known as the Technological Singularity draws near. Does that mean we must begin preparing for the inevitable domination of our robotic overlords?
Not exactly. While such science-fiction scenarios inspire us to imagine a variety of outcomes of our endeavors, there is much that the artificial—or, more accurately, nonbiological—intelligence needs to know. And so do we. As visionary inventor Ray Kurzweil argues in this issue, we need to build synthetic minds that enhance our own capabilities, and he explains just how we can do that. (See “How to Make a Mind.”)
Science fiction indeed has entertained us with both visions and cautionary tales of such technological advances. In “Asimov’s Embarrassing Robot: A Futurist Fable,” scholar Irving H. Buchen outlines the odyssey of “Andrew,” the android hero in Isaac Asimov’s seminal tale, “The Bicentennial Man.” As his ability to learn and to create made him more like his human creators, Andrew’s “fatal” flaw was his immortality. What Asimov failed to foresee in this story was the symbiosis of man and machine that Kurzweil envisions.
Another aspect of technological innovation considered in this issue is its role in tackling some of the critical problems of our time, including resource depletion and climate change. Computer scientist Ramez Naam argues that our innovations and new ideas can help us expand our existing resources, reduce waste, and build wealth. (See “How Innovation Could Save the Planet.”)
And how do we advance our own innovativeness? One place to start would be to do away with mediocre education, which may happen on its own, suggests economic futurist Rob Bencini. He argues that the soaring cost of higher education, which puts people into debt rather than jobs, is just one of the trends working against colleges that are not delivering the futures they once promised. (See “Educating the Future: The End of Mediocrity.”)
As the sluggish recovery from the most-recent global recession has illustrated, governments, too, are failing to deliver futures they once promised. However, several economic success stories in unexpected places, like Uruguay and Israel, offer hope for the rest of us. Associate editor Rick Docksai explains how, in “Five Economies That Work: Global Success Stories.”
Cynthia G. Wagner is Editor of THE FUTURIST. We encourage you to comment on the articles here at wfs.org or send an e-mail (cwagner 'at' wfs.org) with your feedback.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
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Without the ocean Earth would be a pretty inhospitable place even though we lie within our Sun's Goldilocks Zone. Those of you who live by the ocean can probably figure out why that is the case. You see the ocean is a temperature moderator and a heat transport mechanism that evens out the climate across the planet.
The horror of 298 lives snuffed out by a missile is reverberating around the planet this week after last Thursday's downing of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777. How could missile technology meant to shoot down warplanes get used to destroy a civilian aircraft?
I remain skeptical about the economics of industrial technologies for carbon capture. Almost every project started has been heavily subsidized by government. But for the operators without government subsidy there seems to be no return on investment. First of all, all existing industrial carbon capture technologies are expensive to implement.
On a recent driving trip, my wife and I became immersed in the audio version of one of Tom Clancy’s last novels, titled “Threat Vector.” Without giving away too much of the plot, a Chinese super-geek villain has hatched a plan to hack into our most secure networks and blackmail people with their darkest secrets to subversively cause chaos and disruption for the American government.
If you work for the post office these days then you already have an inkling of what the 21st century will do to many jobs. Texting, email, and mobile connectivity have forever altered the way we communicate. How many of us still write letters on paper and mail them?
Some of you who know me personally know that in my formative years I started studying geophysics in university before a physical accident laid me up for more than a year and I in an epiphany changed my major to Islamic Studies and Medieval History. So I was both a science and history nerd all at the same time. Well nothing has changed.
The government in South Korea is organizing its manufacturing sector along with academics and ministries to tackle and develop 3D printing as an economic opportunity. Rather than rely on the hits and misses of free enterprise, the South Korean leadership is directing all interested players within the country to come up with a roadmap that will lead to innovation in manufacturing and the creation of new jobs.
Edward Cornish has served as the World Future Society’s lead visionary, founder, first President (1966-2004), and Editor of THE FUTURIST magazine (1967-2010). Since stepping away from daily editorial management, he has remained on the WFS Board and has been our Futurist in Residence, contributing book reviews and essays on “Futurists and Their Ideas.” And he’s come to the office faithfully every day.