August 30, 2002
Welcome To FuturePundit

The purpose of FuturePundit is to try to give folks an appreciation of just how fast technology is advancing. It is my opinion that technology is advancing more rapidly than commonly appreciated and that the rate of advance is accelerating. I agree with Ray Kurzweil that within 30 years we are likely to witness the first artificial intelligences and other enormous strides in technological advance. See Kurzweil's interview here for a sense of just how radically he expects technology to change human society.

There will be four main themes to this blog:

  • what sorts of new capabilities will technological advances make possible?

  • when will these advances happen?

  • how will these new capabilities be used?

  • what problems and threats will the new capabilities create?

It is my intent to explore the likely future timelines for various categories of technological advance, and to search out and post information about the rates of advance of measureable technological capabilities in each category. The most frequently cited example of a major technology which advances at a reguar rate is Moore's Law for processor speed doubling times. However, this is not the only technical capability that is regularly advancing by multiples at a fairly consistent rate. I will search for other technologies that appear to have consistent rates of advance and will post about them as I find them.

I welcome e-mail that provides sources for additional information about technological advancement rates. I'm especially keen to find better information about rates of advance for biotech capabilities. If you have any information on rates of advance for DNA and peptide sequencing machines, SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism - ie single point mutational variations in DNA) assay methods, micro- and nano-sensors for watching the activities of bloodstreams, nerve signals, and intracellular activity then please send it along. I'd like to be able to sketch out in greater detail the power of the tools and techniques for taking apart, watching, and modifying biological systems today as compared to what was the state of the art two decades ago and what is likely to be possible one or two decades hence.

The advances that are on the horizon promise to more substantially change human life than all the advances that have occured up to this date. The rate of advance of biotech is likely to accelerate to such an extent that many people who are alive right now will live to see aging become at first partially reversible. While we enjoy the benefits of partial reversibility we will then live to see aging become fully reversible. So some of us will eventually become youthful once again and youth will no longer be wasted only on the young.

Many of us will also live to see biotech advances that make possible intelligence enhancement. Permanent personality changes will become possible as well. By permanent I mean in the sense that one will not have to take a drug every day (as is the case now with Zoloft, Paxil, or Prozac) in order to maintain a more preferred mental state. Don't want to be shy any more? Don't like how easily you become anxious? Biotech advances will eventually make it possible to fine tune your personality.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2002 August 30 01:54 PM  General


Comments
Scott Gletty-Syoen said at September 5, 2002 2:11 PM:

Randall,

Great blog; fascinating stuff. I'll probably e-mail you later about other entries, but I wanted to comment on the Kurzweil interview.

I don't disagree with Kurzweil (or you) that all of these technologies are or will be possible; I just think that he's wildly underestimating the time they'll take to come to fruition. 30 or even 60 years seems to me way too short a time. Simply put, never underestimate the power of bureaucracy; just the testing of nanobot-carried neural implants, even setting aside the development time, will take decades. Pile onto that the resistance these things will face from neo-luddites and/or the moral police, legislative holdups, etc., and I think we're talking about much more time than Kurzweil estimates.

I'm as excited as anyone, believe me. But people have been saying "30 years" about AI for well over 30 years, and so I'm not holding my breath. But I think it's coming eventually, and I look forward to it.

-Scott Gletty-Syoen

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