The debate on whether we've eaten all the low-hanging fruit of technological innovation shows no sign of ending any time soon. While I've got opinions on this subject it occurs to me that if you want to look at the future and ponder what's important then rising labor productivity isn't the most important thing to think about.
What I want out of the future that I think will be possible some time in the 21 century:
Radically better health. This is by far the biggest. Suppose I offer you a choice between two futures and you could get one or the other. The first one is one where productivity and living standards go up about 3% per year, the environment gets cleaner, world peace breaks out, and there is no mass unemployment. Sound great? One catch: We still grow old and die. Maybe we make it to 90 rather than 80. But we grow old and die.
Okay, here's your other choice: Our houses don't get any bigger, Moore's Law for faster computers hits the wall of small device types, we don't find a way to get productivity to keep rising indefinitely. Byut we have mass unemployment of manual laborers because manual laborers get their jobs automated. The rest of us keep working. Plus, world peace does not break out. There's still the threat of war. But here's the biggie in your second choice: We get full body and brain rejuvenation. I'm taking that choice in a heart beat.
Suppose in 20 years time full body rejuv becomes possible. But your job is kinda lousy and your wages stagnate for the next 20 years while you wait for biotech to advance. The reward is great. Rejuvenation is better than flying cars. Rejuvenation is better than L5 colonies or Mars colonies. Rejuvenation lets you live long enough to see the more conventional science fiction future happen.
Higher functioning humans: Another great thing is in store for the future: genetic re-engineering of humans that will make the average human of 100 years from now higher functioning than someone 3 standard deviations above average intelligence of today. Humans will all be beautiful (which is so not the case today - all feel-good nonsense to the contrary). Genetic tinkering will make future humans be born with great intelligence, beauty, high energy, great immune systems, and very robust in the face of stress and challenges.
Enhancing humans will be way more rewarding than bigger houses or bigger cars or longer distance vacation trips.
Granted, none of this stuff is happening now. I can understand why someone can focus on all sorts of short term trends and find all sorts of problems. I sometimes do this myself. But if I'm still alive 30 years from now I'm expecting I'll be getting rejuvenation therapies as well as cognitive enhancement therapies. That's the future I want to live in.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2016 January 31 02:50 PM|