Ten Top Futurist Predictions For 2013 And Beyond

The World Future Society has revealed its top ten expectations, which could alternately be seen as utopian or dystopian, for the world in which we will soon be living. Including, robots will care for our elderly, a profit-driven space race will unfold, “the cloud” will run our lives, and neurotechnology will know what we are about to do before we do it:

The “cloud” will become more intelligent, not just a place to store data. Cloud intelligence will evolve into becoming an active resource in our daily lives, providing analysis and contextual advice. Virtual agents could, for example, design your family’s weekly menu based on everyone’s health profiles, fitness goals, and taste preferences, predict futurist consultants Chris Carbone and Kristin Nauth.

Robots will become gentler caregivers in the next 10 years. Lifting and transferring frail patients may be easier for robots than for human caregivers, but their strong arms typically lack sensitivity. Japanese researchers are improving the functionality of the RIBA II (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance), lining its arms and chest with sensors so it can lift its patients more gently.

Neuroscientists may soon be able to predict what you’ll do before you do it. The intention to do something, such as grasp a cup, produces blood flow to specific areas of the brain, so studying blood-flow patterns through neuroimaging could give researchers a better idea of what people have in mind. One potential application is improved prosthetic devices that respond to signals from the brain more like actual limbs do.

Continue on to  World Future Society.

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  • poop squad

    i do not want to live on this planet anymore

  • madduckmc

    What’s the other six?

    • Matt Staggs

      Enclicken yon link, good reader.

  • alizardx

    I look to futurists for heads-up on what’s interesting in scientific advances and lab/early development stage technology.

    I ignore what they tell us THE FUTURE is going to look like.

    They forget en masse that for access to these advances to trickle down to the masses, somebody has to PAY to turn this into Real Things you can buy. Given who pays the bills for the futurist PR machine (Silicon Valley high-tech money), this blind spot isn’t exactly accidental. So the geeks and nerds that this is targeted against are supposed to be hypnotized with a vision of what’s possible, as opposed to what’s real that will actually get the financial backing behind it to make it real.

    If you want to know what the actual future is going to look like as far as that’s possible, find out what high-tech money people are willing to actually put their own money into. ( http://alwayson.goingon.com/ ) Not only in terms of finding out what the VC herd is crowdfunding by funding multiple competing start-ups in any given technology it is collectively serious about at the moment (we aren’t talking long-term perspective here), but what they are putting their political money into in terms of campaign donations and political lobbying (and futurism is one of those places) ( http://www.opensecrets.org/ )

    Silicon Valley high-tech lobbying money generally goes into new tax loopholes and importing cheap professional labor and getting government contracts and subsidies. What is the vision of the future implicit in this? Where are is the science of the future going to come from if the government is defunded to the point where we can’t pay for academic scientific research? Corporate funding for academia and the cash to turn what’s in the lab into Real Things and Real Services you can buy is basically limited to short and medium-term profit, there’s not a lot of that going into basic research from which future tech comes.

    Keep an eye on environmental science and resource and non-classical economic projections which are likely to blindside the people on top of the economic pyramid, these people think they can buy their way out of environmental disaster and the kind of economic disaster that’s likely to make developing future technology even unaffordable for them should they survive it. Just as previous elites believed the same thing, read the case studies on how that worked out for them in Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse”. But don’t look to the descendants of those elites for family history-based insights into the past and future. There aren’t any.

    IMO, modern futurism is designed to create the myths by which geeks sleep, supporting a centrist status quo of the present. Particularly the part that includes Silicon Valley tech money who will deliver all these wonders. At least the ones they think they can make immediate profit from.

    It’s full of nice, bright, well intentioned people who know lots about technology and science, but little about the political and economic realities that determine what does happen as opposed to what’s coming out of academic and R&D labs that determine what can happen. Their politics rarely go beyond “vote Democratic” and “Occupy” and “Net Freedom” and for the daring contrarians, the form of GOP-lite “we don’t like to pay taxes for things that don’t benefit us personally but we aren’t bigots” called Libertarianism. They take themselves and their visions of THE FUTURE very seriously. Do they take any realistic projection of the futures the elites are willing to fund seriously? (that future appears to be in the “grim meathook future” to “dieoff” range)

    How did the SMI2LE dreams of intelligence increase and life extension and space migration of Timothy Leary popularized and extended by Robert Anton Wilson go from dangerous ideas that got Leary sent to prison and eventually wound up in RAW dying in poverty and obscurity to the ideas that made the cutting edge of the futurist movement fundable by Silicon Valley high-tech funding whose agenda is driven by short-term profit considerations?

    The Robert Anton Wilson who popularized this vision to a small group of people serious about the future was also known as a “conspiracy theorist”, he tried to inform his futurism with what was going on behind the scenes in the present that the elite-owned mass media somehow never got around to reporting. That ingredient seems to have completely fallen out of the futurism that actually gets funded,

    The human future, if we have one, is determined primarily by what the top 0.001% is willing to pay for, not what’s possible.

    Life extension for the masses which would cause us to compete with the real money for “their” dwindling resources is unlikely to be in the cards, while I expect it to happen, those of us who are lucky enough to have even good health insurance won’t find these treatments covered, and as for Obamacare junk health insurance for the masses, that s REALLY not happening. Though implantable versions of Google Glasses might be for corporate health care aimed at professionals, they will increase employee efficiency and productivity.

  • BuzzCoastin

    if the energy predictions (2&9) don’t come true by around 2020
    all bets are off for everything else
    and a tilapia garbage disposal isn’t even in the cards
    but it’s a cute idea

  • KeroseneDreams

    A intelligent data cloud that will give us contextual advice for our daily lives? What happens when an individual or group decides that this “intelligence” is also an “employee,” as they have invested money and interest into promoting and developing this intelligence, and feels that they rightly deserve a say in what sorts of advice is doled out?

    It would be a further shift away from self reliance and self born intellect toward increased authoritarian autonomy. By giving such a super intelligence emphasis in running our daily lives, we make it superior to us simply by abdicating our own reasoning and critical thinking skills, not because it intrinsically would have a deeper insight into reality than we would.

    Intelligence and knowledge are separate, one measuring ability and will to figure out a problem and the other measuring accumulation of data. They do not necessarily coincide. By making the claim that an artifice can be superior in intelligence to a human, you’d have to measure its personal insights, ability to operate free from or in conjunction with outside influences, and willingness to protect itself from perceived dangers. These are the major factors in utilizing intelligence. A collected pool of data is simply a giant library able to point the way to a solution, but it would lack personal, experiential context to color this data to really be called “intelligent.” Relying on such a over-hyped tool would be like trying to use a talking wikipedia to help you raise your kids. Or, if you would, having a classic German rationalist as a wing-man on a date. The thinker and the encyclopedia does not deal with the intangible aspects of life and is actually at a huge disadvantage if all of its actions are ruled by, well… rules!

    “Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including, but not limited to, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving.”

    What’s missing from this definition is that all of those aspects that define intelligence necessitate a goal. A brain in a box would NEED a goal in order to utilize intelligence. Who defines the goal? The electronic brain itself or the corporation/organization that built it? Any rational man would tell you that no other man knows better how to achieve their goal but themselves. A brain in a box only knows the box that it finds itself in and the data being collected in its memory. The data may as well be dreams and fantasies without an anchor in reality as, it’s sensory faculties are fully at the mercy of it’s physical confines. If that manifests itself as a network of drone aircraft, cameras, and a computer network, then it can only perceive humans as a security guard perceives the grainy pictures on his monitors or as a gamer perceives the Sims on his home computer. Curious, detached and not necessarily interested in anyone’s well-being.

    The sliding scale from advisor, didact, authority, and ultimately, dictator should be something in the forefront of every persons mind before accepting this added layer of technocracy into their lives. The most dangerous problem this situation poses is not with the initial manifestation of the singularity, but the eventual and inevitable apotheosis that will develop in the minds of the future generations that will grow up in a world where the singularity already exists and is taken for granted as the all-knowing, all seeing nanny for their day to day needs. We’re not in any danger of an Ai ruled big brother reality, our grandchildren are, and they are likely to accept it with open arms and optimism, all the while wondering in their subconscious, much like our generation and generations past that have looked towards monarchs and states for answers, “why are we still not happy?”

    As an aside, I would also say that we ought to be careful not to confuse a singularity to mean “super intelligence” that implies possession of will with a megalithic, centralized data source that may be capable of calculating faster than a human being, but wouldn’t necessarily have a will of it’s own. Will might not even possible without the decay of data and memory necessary to provide random enough factors into our thought processes enough to produce loose associations between thoughts and actions that would provide the basis for creative thought and irrational logic which, in fact, are necessary for an intelligence to cope with the mathematical inevitability of death, loss and obsolescence. Intelligence and willingness to action is very likely a result of a relatively short life span. An immortal intelligence would be prone to aspergers-like thought loops, inability to decide on action that wouldn’t be mathematically predictable (since relying solely on probability to determine your actions makes you extremely predictable and therefore useless in a conflict – more inevitable obsolescence – irrationality is a major factor in winning many contests) and could very likely, become suicidal from the outset, or at best simply decide that not functioning would be the best and only mathematically “correct” action to take.

    You could witness the singularity only to find it still-born. What a hoot that would be! Of course, if the singularity is simply a shrewd marketing ploy to install a wizard of Oz style all seeing, all knowing computer intelligence that is ultimately a fraud… Then you’d damn well better sharpen your logic skills and look for the fallacies before accepting it at face value.

    As for designing the weekly menu for my family? No thanks, sometimes the best things for the soul aren’t the best things for your body. Nah-mean?

  • http://twitter.com/stopthecyborgs stop the cyborgs

    So in short – complete loss of human agency as we abdicate responsibility and hand over control to machines.

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