14 February 2008

Tomorrow came yesterday

Vladimir Emelianenko, "Profile" No. 5-2008

Humanity has come to a turning point in its history. It will either find a way to survive in a world that will be changed by global warming and the robotoom, or it will plunge into the era of obscurantism, says English futurist James Martin.

Information technology guru, who predicted the Internet era in the early 80s, James Martin came to Moscow for the Russia forum with his new book, The Meaning of the 21st Century ("The Meaning of the 21st Century"). Since his previous prediction about the accession of the World Wide Web came true by 100%, it makes sense to listen to how the futurist represents the new century. This time the scientist is pessimistic: according to Martin, the outlines of the future are already discernible, they cannot be changed, one can only adapt to them in order to survive, but at a qualitatively different level of development – thought, technology and climate. To reach this new level, it is necessary either to preserve or change (depending on the level of understanding and human development) the four basic factors of the future: climate, acceleration of development, globalism and new technologies.

A storm will break

According to Martin, regardless of what the vector of further climate change will be – global warming or, conversely, gradual cooling (according to the calculations of some scientists, the Earth reached the peak of warming in 2008 and is already "cooling down"), the new climate will radically change human life.

"It's too late to hope for the best, but it makes sense and there is time to prepare for the worst," James Martin told Profile. – Due to the ongoing temperature changes (either warming or cooling), the future will be determined by the elements: hurricanes, floods and droughts. And their consequence – refugees, famine, reduction of land suitable for agriculture. In this sense, my calculations coincide with the calculations of the American scientific centers Nature and Science (what are these "scientific centers", ask the author of the article – VM). They also predict that residents of Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean and the Pacific coast of the United States will suffer the most."

According to Martin, it is also worth listening to the forecasts of Danish, Chilean and Russian scientists who predict the split of the Pacific Ocean into two parts with the appearance of a piece of land in the middle of the ocean. One of the reasons for the future "reshaping" of the Earth is a sharp increase in the number of 4-5–point hurricanes over the past 30 years. There are 75% more of them. According to scientists, the "average score" of storms by 2030 will grow to 5-7, and the frequency – up to 2-3 per year. This is a verdict: life in the territories that remain the most populated today – the northern and southwestern Pacific coast, the western Indian and Atlantic, all the shores of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico - will become similar to life at the foot of Vesuvius. Martin shares the opinion of a number of scientists that part of the western coasts of the USA and Europe, part of Southeast Asia and Japan may go under water. Due to the flooding of the ice, the territories of the Scandinavian countries will lose, and in the north and northwest - Russia.

As a result, agriculture in many regions will stop feeding people as before. Thus, rice production in China will decrease by 10-15%, corn and maize production in Africa – by 30-35%, and because of the swampiness of part of the lands of America and Southeast Asia, it will be difficult to cultivate agriculture there. One of the possible solutions, according to Martin, is new approaches to the development of agriculture: without artesian water, without soil and even, perhaps, without the sun.

Monkey with a grenadeThe futurologist believes that the reality of modern development is the continuous complication of the world.

"Already today, the processor power of computers and their memory capacity are doubling every 18 months," says Martin. "Computers will soon be able to evolve independently. Changes will go so fast that there will be a qualitative leap – rapid changes will turn into the norm. On the one hand, they will qualitatively change life. Technologies will become widespread, people will open the door to their apartment by simply putting their finger on a sensor that will read the individual characteristics of the human genome. On the other hand, the human psyche will not always keep up with the speed of change."

The complexity of the world, according to Martin, requires expert knowledge, which means that there is a demand for narrow specialists at the junction of IT technologies and medicine, biochemistry and biophysics. For example, specialists in the cultivation of bio-raw materials and bio-food (wheat, rice, etc., growing 5-7 times faster in a nano-environment and on areas 100 times smaller than on ordinary soil) should have the basics of bioengineering, biochemistry and IT skills. Also, the complication of the development of the world will require a constant change of software, which will quickly become obsolete (according to Martin – every 18-25 months). Its replacement, that is, another complication, is a costly thing. As a result, capital will drift to where it is cheaper to survive – where labor is cheaper, but it is less educated and prepared. There a new danger lies in wait for humanity – it is possible not only not to keep up with the update, but also to put IT technologies into the hands of people who are not ready to use them, as has already happened with atomic energy.

The New Globalism

According to Martin, the global technological collapse can be caused by various reasons. But the main one is the interconnectedness of computer systems. It will not only grow, but will also turn into a kind of new globalism.

The problem is that in a society where everything is totally interconnected, powerful destruction is possible. For example, a nuclear strike on one city can be a real disaster for everyone.

Nevertheless, the futurologist is convinced that it is too late to abandon the achievements of science and technology, since they indicate the main path of development. First, science will suggest a new habitat to replace the lost lands. Secondly, if you do not switch to bio-food, humanity simply will not feed itself. However, there is a significant drawback in the merits of science. In the future, not only the problem of the safety of the use of atomic energy, bio-food, but also the problem of the relationship between machines and man will rise to its full height. Although Martin is an optimist. He believes that the emergence of artificial intelligence will not threaten the human.

"We will have machines that are billions of times smarter than us, but only in very narrow areas," Martin writes in his book. – So far, scientists have not come close to creating artificial intelligence because they are trying to replicate a human. And as practice shows, you should use the features characteristic of computers."

Then, Martin believes, the technological world will serve man, and not vice versa. And the essence of life will radically change. Diseases will not be treated, but prevented, prolonging human life up to 150-200 years. Crime will not have to be fought: processing a huge amount of information about the actions of each person, artificial intelligence will identify potential criminals in childhood. But most importantly, the essence of the global economy will change. The wealth of countries and peoples will be determined not by natural resources, but by intellectual ones.

Homo futuries

However, before the good old Homo sapiens becomes Homo futuries, the man of the future, he will have to go through a clouding of the mind.

Today, Martin argues, people can be divided into two types. The first one is "people of the book". They get information from reading, so their main distinguishing feature is a good amount of attention and a penchant for analysis. The second type – "screen people" – is radically different from the first. These people are distinguished by "quick response" and "craving for a new click." A sure sign of the "screen man" is that when communicating, he, without listening to the rest, constantly wants to change the topic of conversation and move on. One of the signs of the coming clouding of the mind is that children deal with cars from an early age and do not read books at the same time. That is, there is a growing generation of people who are used to the fact that several things are happening on the screen at the same time, and who want the environment to respond immediately to their requests.

According to research by scientists in the USA and Russia, today adolescents aged 9-12 have a narrower range of attention than those over 18 years old. These are the costs of human habituation to the changing conditions of evolution. And while, according to Martin, costs will increase, the psyche of not all people will keep up with the speed of change, and human biophysical data may not adapt to the changing climate of the planet. According to Martin, there are two ways out. Humanity will either have to improve its genes with the help of genetic engineering, which is fraught with a dangerous mutation, or combine computers and the human brain.

– Rather, we will have to go the second way, – James Martin is convinced, – if we want biological organisms to surpass electronic ones.

However, while people are far from such an opportunity. It was only in Japan and England that scientists learned how to implant electronic chips into the human nervous system. A similar successful operation was carried out in 2007 in Oxford. A three-millimeter chip was sewn into the left wrist of Professor Kevin Warwick, and 100 electrodes were implanted into the median nerve. Connecting wires were held under the skin in the forearm. Partial "robotization" of a person made it possible to transmit nerve impulses to a computer that performed simple commands of the professor – "bring tea", "open the door", "turn on the light". Science has not advanced further yet.

Portal "Eternal youth"  www.vechnayamolodost.ru14.02.2008

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