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Why the future is bad for our culture...

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posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 03:18 PM
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Before I start I would like to state that this is my first thread. I've been browsing around ATS for years and decided to join a few months ago.

That said, (don't) go easy on me and I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on what I have to say.

So without further Ado: Why the future is bad for our culture.


In the year 2000 we had flying cars, robots as maids, machines that were so simple the push of a button would run the day, and houses that stood with the clouds.

A year later we put a man in orbit around Jupiter and subsequently watched the formation of a second sun in our solar system.

Those of course are feats of film and fiction. The most futuristic thing we've done as a species happened over 30 years ago, and we don't appear to be in a rush to out-do ourselves.

To many, the future is a bleak and disturbing time filled with an ever-present government, global wars, famine, or a fight for survival from thinking machines; and, culturally speaking, these fears might have some weight to them. So why exactly is the future bad for our culture? What threat could it possible hold?

(1) Abundance and Things That Last
In our economic system scarcity seems to be the name of the game, the rarer an item the more it costs, you can look at gas prices for an example; it's been said countless times that you can't make money on things that last. With that mindset, how does GE expect to make money on a light-bulb that lasts 17 years? And how much can we expect people to pay for energy when it's available in near unlimited supply? The future offers many things in abundance thanks to upcoming innovations in growing meat, vertical farming, and the many new energy sources ranging from magnetic engines, harnessing the power of the waves, wind, human, sun, and geothermal energy, etc. etc.

If we could easily grow food to feed an entire city and do the same in meat production without feeding a single cow, how will you price things when our current model is based on scarcity. Will they regulate how much is made so they can keep a steady price in the market, in sort of the same way they currently pay farmers not to farm their land? And what will happen to prices when all the food formerly used to feed cows and livestock is now available for human consumption? Could prices fall to historic lows?

So how does our future, full of abundant amounts of food, longer battery life, longer lasting light bulbs, electric cars with fewer moving parts, etc. bode well for us?

It doesn't.

Longevity and abundance are the villains of our current culture. This was proven, in a way, over 50 years go. A man by the name of Nikola Tesla who designed and actually started construction on a device that would pull unlimited energy straight from the Earths atmosphere, of course once the real reason he was working on the project was discovered his funding was cut and the design confiscated.

Let us hope times have changed. Abundance is the way of the future.

(2) The Thinking Machine:
Since the beginning man and machine have been best of friends, tools aiding us in Our building of pyramids, in Our construction of stone cities, and in Our craftsmanship of sea worthy vessels, but somewhere along the line (roughly the industrial revolution) machines got a little big in the head and decided that it would no longer "aid" and they would construct. Slowly mans role was diminished or altogether erased, not only that but they did it better than we ever could. We started being replaced by our own creations.

It started in small areas like phone operators, in elevators, then making cups, dispensing soda, making computers, etc etc. It's become a way of life; do you remember the first time you checked yourself out at the grocery store? It just keeps growing; companies save money, run more efficiently and can give things to you cheaper. Great right? Well what about the thinking machine, how will we cope with that?

(Continued Below)




posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 03:19 PM
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reply to post by Unseenmonument
 


Imagine the day when our companies don't need to hire designers or engineers, pilots and bus drivers, mathematicians or historians. What will people do when companies can afford a thinking machine that can work better for cheaper, and not have to worry about it ever filing a law suit or being overworked?

Have you seen the Photoshop CS5 demo of the "content aware fill option?" Creating brand new imagery from existing data, what's to stop a thinking machine from going one step further? Creating a brand new imagine from data stored in its memory? Where will these jobs go, will our current culture adapt?

"Our politicians will save us!" Is that what you think? Considering congress recently passed legislation that allows any corporation to fund any candidate by giving them as much money as they wish, what makes you think they would fight for your rights when corporate goals write their paychecks? Where does this leave humanity when all the cheap labor and hard labor can be done by a thinking machine?

How does our culture survive?

And to me, it seems everyone expects the thinking machine to resemble a man, a walking talking human shaped computer that will slowly replace us in our everyday lives, this isn't the case at all. These thinking machines will be the buses, trains, and planes of our transportation services, the large ocean-liners that haul people to their vacation spots and cargo across the seas and well as the cranes that unload the ships and the trucks that take them to their destination. The thinking machine will be your family car that you can send to pick up James from football practice, or the chauffeur you hire on prom night.

Countless jobs begging to be replaced.

Imagine a day when nobody has to be hired as a stock clerk, miner, cashier, truck driver, fisherman, farmer, garbageman, etc. A day when we do what we do only what interests us.

So why exactly is the future bad for our culture? Because we're moving into an age where computerized machines will be capable of doing more work while at the same time there will be more than 6,500,000,000 people needing jobs. That is a clash of interests if I've ever seen one. Fewer jobs and more workers, get it?

And if you think our answer should be to stop the progress of such technology, I ask you, why? Why should a man have to do work capable of being down by a machine? Our fear of machines replacing us in the workplace is due to us fighting the reality that our current systems is slowly becoming, if nor already, outdated.

But these are just my thoughts, and I'm no expert. What do you think?



Unseen


Vertical Farming:
www.time.com...

Paying farmers not to grow:
www.npr.org...
www2.tbo.com...

How we sold our Government:
www.nytimes.com...
rawstory.com...

IBM and US Government Seek to Build Computer Brain as Smart as a Cat:
www.dailytech.com...

Photoshop CS5 Content Aware fill:
www.youtube.com...

Light bulb to lasts 17 years:
news.cnet.com...

Picture is from xkcd.com:



posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 03:41 PM
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WOW! This topic was actually going to be my first thread start! I have been thinking about this very topic all weekend, inspired by another thread espousing free energy and the 20 hr workweek.

See this about potential clean nearly unlimited energy in about a generation's time:

Harnessing a star's power for clean energy

I do not view the current cusp of the technological revolution as a bad thing. I'm so excited by it I can hardly stand it! Too bad I was born just a couple of decades too soon because I will most certainly miss the really exciting stuff.

As for the future being bad for our culture: Heck, the automobile completely changed the cultural construct of pre-1920. Was that a "bad thing"? Sure, some will say it was, but I would NEVER. Nor to I wax nostalgic for that dead and dusty cultural construct.

BRING ON THE FUTURE!!



posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 03:52 PM
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reply to post by Geeky_Bubbe
 


Thanks for the reply and the link, sorry I stole your post idea; this actually comes from a facebook note I wrote about a month ago.

As far as the future, I agree, bring it on! I in no way think the future is bad for our species, just our culture, which I define as: the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a particular nation or people.

Those, I believe, must change.


Unseen

[edit on 6-6-2010 by Unseenmonument]



posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 04:20 PM
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I don't believe you "stole" my idea
it was more of a GMTA moment... Wondrous Serendipity.. tapping into the Collective Consciousness... kinda thing.

I was also wondering about the robotics revolution coupled to Moore's Law coupled to the possibility of true artificial intelligence. My profile bears witness to my "liking" the Singularity.


Yes, we have a LOT of people on this earth. But the most effective way of curbing population growth is education. The higher a woman's education the fewer children, on average, she will have. Freeing people of at least some of their work hours will enable us to dedicate far more time to learning and education. No longer will developing and third world nations have to make the cruel choice of educating their children or setting them to earn a wage. Or worse, selling their children into the sex industry.

It all hinges on reducing the cost of energy. The developed world can afford expensive energy but the developing and third world cannot. It is my belief that before we, as a world, can benefit from all the other technological goodies coming our way, we have to solve the *cheap* energy bit.



posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 04:52 PM
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reply to post by Unseenmonument
 


Well somebody would need to build and create the machines and robots, so there would still be jobs.

On the other hand: Imagine a world were Robots and machines build and create everything. No more money, no more need to work for 50 years because you're told to. Instead you would live a great life and you would have enough time to do all the things you like and love. It would certainly be a dream come true.
And it is sadly as unreal as machines taking over the world, that will never happen, despite all the sci-fi movies depicting such a fantasy.



posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 04:56 PM
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all i can say is..

Very true.. 50 years ago a plant in the steel industry in England was producing 20,000 tons per year with 800 workers.. they are now producing 100,000 tons with just 300 workers.



posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 08:58 PM
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Leisure time might well produce more creative endeavors; art, music, films, architecture, inventions.

But what about an honest days work? (We can't all service robots) I think working is good for us.
I can't imagine 24-7 of leisure time. Not sure I want to. I'm afraid my body and my brain would turn to mush.

But this is really a great thread, and I enjoyed the OP immensely. Some of the points you made, however, will eventually need to come to pass, as our resources become limited. (Such as the 17 year light bulb).



posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 10:21 PM
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Actually, I disagree with the premise that these things will be bad. I do indeed see a future where much of human labor will be replaced by machine labor. Its happening already. The problem is that we still have a labor-based economic system, where you have to work for money to survive. Of course, this is gradually being transformed into a socialistic-based economic system, where people are becoming increasingly dependent upon largess from the state to survive. But such systems have been failures in the past, and the current endeavor to create a global socialistic system will likewise prove to be a failure.

The basic problem that we have to overcome is our outdated "value system", where a person's worth is evaluated economically in terms of his productive capacity or his monetary assets. This value system has gradually developed over the course of thousands of years, since the first city states began to take shape, where people began to depend upon commodities, often procured or produced by others, to survive. As a result, the "work ethic" became a virtue.

This value system lies at the heart of our current woes--and at the heart of all local and international conflicts during the course of recorded history. But you might ask--what other value system can there be?

The answer is provided by ancient texts from cultures all around the world, which invariably look back with nostalgia at a previous "golden age", characterized as an age of peace and harmony--and spiritual wisdom. It is important to note they were looking back with nostalgia at a previous golden age, even at the dawn of the earliest civilizations on earth.

The Vedic texts of India are very specific about this previous golden age, which in Sanskrit was called Satya Yuga (the Age of Truth). It was described as a time before the emergence of villages and cities, when mankind roamed the forests, mountains, and plains without any social institutions whatsoever. The texts specifically state that during this period there were no caste (class) systems, no governments, no religions, and even the institution of marriage did not exist. In other words, they were talking about the neolithic period, prior to the emergence of "civilization", when people lived in small nomadic family tribes in the wilderness, with virtually no material possessions at all.

What you might ask was so "golden" or "wonderful" about that period? In the context of our modern value-system, such a primitive form of existence, with no material possessions, would seem a life of perpetual poverty and misery. But the earliest founders of civilization didnt see it that way. They actually looked back with nostalgia on that earlier "pre-civilized" era. Why?

Because even at the dawn of human civilization the wise men could see that the value system of mankind was shifting toward what it has become today--where a person's worth is evaluated according to his or her economic value, tied to productive capactity or economic assets.

They felt that this would eventually corrupt the soul of mankind irrevocably, and bring about a dark age, known to the Vedic sages as Kali Yuga--the age of spiritual darkness. So they lamented the passing of the previous golden age, and bemoaned the fact that mankind was headed toward a dark age, where material wealth would be held in higher esteem than spiritual wisdom.

According to the Vedic texts, the reason the previous golden age was called the Age of Truth, was because in the absence of having to "work" for a living (i.e., the people were content to live off the fruits of the wilderness), and in the absence of having to take care of and fight for material possessions, the people had plenty of time to develop their consciousness, through meditation, contemplation etc. As a result, their powers of intuition became very powerful, such that the wise were able to penetrate the superficial appearance of physical reality and fathom the otherwise unseen spiritual reality of the universe--wherein the "truth" resides. During the previous golden age such individuals were variously called sages or seers--and not religious priests--because dogmatic forms of organized religion simply did not exist then.

So what is my point? My point is that we have come full spectrum, and are on the verge of a new golden age--as predicted by the ancients many thousands of years ago. The difference is that instead of living in the wilderness off the fruits of the land in small nomadic tribes, we will live in a highly technological society, where machines do most of our labor.

But the end result will be the same--lots of free time to develop our consciousness so that we can become mature citizens of the universe, which at some point we will undoubtedly begin to explore.

The cycle of ages follows a roughly 13,000 year cycle, corresponding to one half a precessional cycle of the earth on its axis. The previous golden age began in the 11th millenium BC, and the new golden age is about to begin. However, the ancients predicted that at the end of the dark age (Kali Yuga) the world would experience unprecedented catastrophes, such that the world as we know it, and the value system that supports it, will be reduced (figuratively speaking) to ashes, like the old body of the phoenix. But out of those ashes a new world and a new value system will emerge, like the risen phoenix.

This will be a value system similar to that of the previous golden age, which gives greater merit to ethical values, honor, integrity, and spiritual wisdom than to economic worth or productive capacity. So I do not see the technological developments outlined in the OP as something bad--but as something very good, which will finally enable us to have a "civilization" based upon a proper value system, which will foster peace and harmony, rather than jealous strife in the family of man.

However, according to the ancient texts, the full development of this new world system will take place over the course of 400 years (called the twilight) as marked from the onset of the new golden age (now)--and moreover, to get there we first have to go through a general dissolution and destruction of the current world system, which is about to happen.

So, in the short term, over the course of the next few years or decades, we have a world of hurt to go through, which can be compared to the birth pangs of the coming golden age.



posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 10:35 PM
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reply to post by Angiras
 


I *love* history! And, even though I am not religious, I am deeply appreciative of the amount of our history that is inseparable from religion. I would put no more historical relevancy into the Vedic texts as I do the Bible. They are part of humanity's *history* but I get a bit of "an attack of itchy skin" when someone suggests that my present or future should be modeled upon them.

I do have a question, and it has something to do with my statement above:

You stated:


So I do not see the technological developments outlined in the OP as something bad--but as something very good, which will finally enable us to have a "civilization" based upon a proper value system, which will foster peace and harmony, rather than jealous strife in the family of man.


A civilization based upon "the proper value system" as YOU define "proper" seems to be what your main point is. Am I incorrect? What would happen to someone such as myself who would give you a rather strident struggle over such a concept in your envisioned "civilization?"



posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 11:08 PM
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reply to post by Geeky_Bubbe
 


I used the Vedic texts an exemplary because I am quite familiar with them, since I can read Sanskrit. But similar views were shared by the Egyptians, the Greeks, and even the Jews--the book of Revelation comes to mind in terms of the Christian religion.

In my mind "proper" values means "natural" values, i.e., the values that mankind possessed when it was esconced in the lap of nature, prior to the emergence of civilization, with its growing emphasis upon material and economic values. Since we were not alive at that time, the only credible source concerning those values lies with the testimony of the ancients themselves, who were much closer to that epoch than we are today.

I dare say that a value system which elevates honor, integrity, and genuine spiritual wisdom or intuitive power (not religious dogma) above mere productive capacity and economic worth, would be capable at least in principle of supporting a society capable of living in peace and harmony. As soon as a person's worth becomes evaluated in terms of productive capacity or material wealth, then people become little more than commodities to be exploited--as we have seen throughout the course of recorded history.

If we dont change our ways (our value system) then we will be doomed to continue to suffer the same conflicts that made such a mess of the 20th century (for example). Of course, changing the value system of a society is not something that can be accomplished by edict. Generally, value systems are changed by life experience. So I suspect that the coming global transformation, which will involve a lot of suffering on all sides, may provide the required life experience to set us back on course. But in the final analysis, such changes have to come from within, as a response to life experience. They cant be forced from the outside by establishing some type of dogmatic rule.



posted on Jun, 6 2010 @ 11:20 PM
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reply to post by Angiras
 


Thank you for clarifying your thoughts. Sometimes I'm a bit thick headed... no more so than when I start "gettin' that itchy-skin feeling." It's a shortcoming.
I've learned to back up and *ask* before I get to "scratchin" though, so I suppose I've made at least a wee bit of progress. Much to go to be sure though....

THANKS again!



posted on Jun, 7 2010 @ 12:34 AM
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reply to post by ShadowAngel85
 


The idea of machines doing all the work is ludicrous, humans would undoubtedly want to work in a few key areas of society. People enjoying building things, so not all manufacturing work would be abolished; people also enjoy creating and exploring, and as fun as it is to send a robot into space, it's more fun to go yourself.

People still like to cook, and play sports, and plant gardens, and build houses, and dig holes... it's just that in the future it wont be necessary for you to do it so you may earn a living. So no, robots wont be needed for everything. And eventually robots will be able to build other robots, but this doesn't mean that all humans will do is sit back on the porches and watch the sun rise. Humans create and build on their own, we've never needed a pay check to make it happen, it just so happens that in today's society we've made it that way.

But I am glad that you have enjoyed my topic, and I look forward to more peoples input on it!


Unseen



posted on Jun, 8 2010 @ 11:44 PM
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Matt Ridley's new book The Rational Optimist contains an interesting point that took me by surprise.

As someone who is interested in mega-cities, or more specifically, mega-slums, I have always tended to view "cities on steroids" as a *bad* thing. Ridley puts forth the exact opposite: Urban sprawl is a *good* thing.

He states that as of 2008 1/2 the world's population lives in an urban environment [statistic is sourced to the UN] yet that 50% of the population only occupies 3% of the world's landmass. Furthermore, he states that urban dwellers not only take up less space, they use less energy and have a less deleterious effect on the environment than rural dwellers.

That last sentence struck me as counter-intuitive at first, yet made perfect sense once I thought about it.

If trends continue, we will have ever more people migrate to cities and mega-cities and yet their statistical impact on the earth will be less than if they didn't move to the city.

The more people come together, the rapidity of idea exchange and enhancement increases. Imagine a generation of quadruple the numbers of educated and technically savvy as currently "coming on line" because they were able to be educated as opposed to earning a wage to support the family on that subsistence farm.

Progress is already stunningly rapid, despite the OP and the stated

The most futuristic thing we've done as a species happened over 30 years ago, and we don't appear to be in a rush to out-do ourselves.


I had a moment of awe thinking about the rate of progress that may be just around the corner. Setting minds to work instead of little fingers... geeze... it's mind-boggling in its potential for humanity at large.



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