Alex Heard wrote:
> Greetings, Extropians, this is Alex Heard ... I'm an editor at Wired
> magazine. We're planning an issue on futurism for later this year. The
> basic idea is to look at various future-y things we all want but don't have
> yet -- life extension, citizens-in-space, better computers, personal flying
> machines, teleporting, head transplants* -- and unapologetically ask: Why
> don't we have them and when the heck are we getting them?
Hi Alex, I'm a more libertarian prone extropian from New Hampshire. I've included my opinions and recommendations on the subjects below, but I want to say that what is more important is how these technologies shape our lives and our society. We can already see the threat to our liberties that many technologies pose, as well as the potential for technologies to help us regain liberties we have lost in the past century due to the encroachment of government and business into our lives.
life extension: this is a rather broad subject, involving everything from telomere research, cloning and organ in vitro growth, cryonics and other metabolic suspension technologies, even safety and security. Even a biologically immortal human being is going to have an average life expectancy of around 4600 years, given current accident mortality rates. Ask people like Jim Halperin and Damien Broderick about this. The fact is that our grandparent's generation is the last mortal generation.
citizens-in-space: the current high cost of space launch technology is a direct
consequence of the Kennedy administration's decision to scrap the Dyna-Soar
space plane concept in favor of custom built, single use ballistic missiles in
order to beat the Russians to the moon, as well as the long standing excessive
bureaucratic barriers to entry for private launching companies. The other
hang-ups are technological: materials and propulsion. The materials technology
is now there, but we are still using the same old chemical fuel/oxidizer rockets
we used in the 60's, which are notoriously inefficient. I have hopes for
projects like Hudson's Rotary Rocket and Klapp's Pioneer Rocketplane as a first
step for innovative work-arounds.
The next step will involve Ram-Rockets being launched by a ground based electromagnetic slingshot, or by laser batteries ( http://www.dtic.mil/soldiers/mar1998/news/news06.html , http://abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DyeHard/dye990421.html ). Look up the "Lorrey Loop" on HotBot for a concept of a fully developed space launch system using such technologies in a mass transit project.
better computers: they are here, and getting better all the time. What is lacking is the sort of AI that most people expect to see due to science fiction movies and tv shows. Once desktop computers have the processing capability of the human brain (you'll see this around 2020-2025, maybe earlier) people can expect conversational, intelligent computer buddies/employees. In the mean-time, so called 'weak AI' chatterbots and intelligent agents are getting more powerful, which will continue to the point where strong AI moves seamlessly in to replace weak AI. There will be a point where nobody will notice when they stopped regarding their AI companions as computers and started regarding them as real people.
Personal flying machines: the technology is here. The problem is legal. Civil aviation liability insurance, both for manufacturers and vehicle owners, is extremely high due to the lack of tort reform, which inflates the cost to buy and operate aircraft, and limits manufacturers abilities to invest in innovative new designs.
Teleporting: I think its relatively safe to conclude that this will be practically impossible until humanity has passed through a rather steep technological event horizon. Don't expect before 2060, if ever. A suitable substitute that might suffice would be the following: Once mind uploading becomes possible, there will come to exist body rental agencies, so that uploaded minds can transmit themselves around the world (or across space) to a location and be downloaded into a rental body. The only real hitch, beyond the technological, is holding the proper entities responsible for acts commited (especially illegal acts) by a rented body. This segues into the 'head transplant' concept, which is backward. The mind is what is important. The proper term is 'body transplants'.
Beyond this, I think that Eliezer Yudkowski has pretty well summed up my thinking, although I don't share his introverted attitude against physical technologies. I plan on being in space when his nanotopian experiments occur on earth. I'll be mining the asteroids, or ferrying comets for the Mars Terraforming Project, or on a mission to an earth-like world that the NASA Interferometry Telescope has located around a nearby star, using an Alcubierre drive, possibly....
-- TANSTAAFL!!! Michael S. Lorrey Owner, Lorrey Systems http://www.lorrey.com ArtLocate.Com http://www.artlocate.com Director, Grafton County Fish & Game Assoc. http://www.lorrey.com/gcfga/ Member, Extropy Institute http://www.extropy.org Member, National Rifle Association http://www.nra.org "Live Free or Die, Death is not the Worst of Evils." - General John Stark