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The impact of technology on the development of society in the extra-terrestrial context

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posted on Apr, 27 2011 @ 09:56 AM
This is another post of expeditionary nature, rather than a declarative nature. To be clear - I'm not going to discuss "disclosure," "the alien agenda," or any other such senseless and pointless topics.

While I often caution people against assuming a species with an advanced ability in one sense (such as practical space travel) also has advanced abilities (or understanding) across other areas - I have begun to think about what the future of our society will look like. Yes, I do believe our species has a future beside that of a global hippie commune or smoldering radioactive crater (despite our species' fixation with its own destruction and ideals of non-violence). I began wondering what would happen to society as we begin advancing toward the perfection of current and on-the-horizon medical, technological, and industrial capabilities. While it is likely we will advance in other ways (such as how electronics has advanced considerably - and unexpectedly, since the development of semiconductor junctions) - those are difficult, and even impossible to predict from our current perch in the present.

To begin projecting the changes in society induced by advances in our capabilities, we must look at some of the relevant capabilities we currently have and new ones under development. Bear in mind that many of these will begin to overlap and compound on each other (for example, nanobots have both industrial and medical applications).

Let's start with medical. Currently, we are looking at the ability to prolong the natural human life indefinitely and keeping the body at the peak of physical condition. While research into diseases and disorders will be a never-ending challenge and approached on a case-by-case basis; we may truly be looking at an end to mandatory aging. - linking telomere dysfunction with stem-cell aging and tissue disorders. - similar, but in the format of an article or blog.

This is rather unprecedented in human history. Being ATS - I'm sure some of you have the opinion that this is only going to be available to select people - but when you've got a product/service everyone wants (like cellular phones - once the domain of people with money to spend on phones as convenient to pack around as a brick) - a way will be devised to make it affordable for the masses.

The positive side of things is that problems like supporting the aging generations go out the window - in theory the baby boomers could go back to work while spending less time in the hospital due to aging - thereby resolving medicare and social security spending issues.

The weird side of things is that your great grandpa would be indistinguishable from your average college student, or a grandchild choosing to allow him/herself to age would appear older than you (choosing the 'immortal' route). However, I'm sure the "weird" would eventually fade after a few new generations appear and those of us who remember a 'time of aging' become a smaller portion of the population - and we'd grow used to it, too.


While "Rapid Prototype Machines" have been around for a little while, some recent advances in the field have lead to machines capable of 'printing' or 'assembling' materials from stocks of basic materials. As this technology advances, it would begin to be similar to "replicators" in the famed Star-Trek series. I further expect this will be combined with micro and nano technology to develop miniature robots that network together to build objects atom-by-atom.

While I do not expect edible substances to be a popular build with these types of devices - the impact this has on industry is enormous, as entire industrial enterprises can be replaced with small swarms of nanobots and raw materials.

From what exists:

To what is in the works:

- The idea that you could 'download' your next computer, your next -car-, TV, or what-have-you is simply mind-numbing. Compound this with the ability to 'download' the next revision of the machine, and all of the industrial capabilities of man pretty much sit on your desk.


This is mostly aimed at computer and information technology. Computers are getting more powerful, we know that. Quantum computation and information storage offers computer performance that, really, is beyond our ability to comprehend.

The real break-through is going to be in human interface. Even now - computers hold vast amounts of power that we cannot fully exploit due to the unwieldy nature of keyboard controls and quirks of programming. Yes, this means cybernetics and concepts of 'augmented reality.'

I expect nanobots will eventually be used to build digital interfaces and networks intertwined with our own neurology. While some impressive computer power can be placed within our bodies - the main point of these will be to serve as an interface for much more powerful units worn as accessories or even embedded into clothing.

From the 'ancient' achievements:

To reviews of evolutions of human interfaces:

Put it all together:

Now, this is a very brief set of related capabilities that I have selected. The prospects only get even more crazy when you include things like Genetic Engineering, Meta Materials, etc. However - any one of these alone will fundamentally and eternally change our society and how it functions, making the ability to give yourself neon-blue, bio-luminescent hair with a negative refractive index trivial.

First, you're likely packing around nanobots with you - likely in some kind of container that can produce them out of a handfull of dirt and solar power (or stray body heat). This makes you a one-[wo]man industrial enterprise. To top things off, you have a supercomputer in your watch networked to your brain and responding in concert to it (the computer would become an extension of your mind - almost like hand gestures). Complex models can be created and simulated with the accuracy of digital systems as quickly as your 'wet' mind can interact and process what is happening. This same network ties you in with your cloud of nanobots - capable of building almost anything.

And as if that's not enough to give you a god complex; you have an indefinite lifespan on top of that.

It is safe to presume that such a society would be post-scarcity. But what would such a society be like? Society as it is, now, exists to serve the needs of people. The tasks necessary to support life are distributed amongst its members in some way, shape, and form, so as to reduce the individual burden. However, in a society with the above capabilities, each individual is almost entirely self-sufficient while still retaining the ability to undertake many modern tasks of industrial, medical, and scientific nature.

There are four things that would be unable to be provided for by one individual alone, however:

Ironically - the first would be food supply. While I'm certain one could whip up food from the ambient environment using a cloud of nanites - from research into growing edible organics in the laboratory (such as one project where fish was 'grown' and eaten by astronauts) - the result was not very savory. While one could create a team of robots, using their nanites, to tend a garden and livestock - I expect that individuals will take up this task as well, and be a critical social link.

The second would be pure and rare base materials. Carbon, nitrogen, oxygen - those are so abundant that we'd spend most of our time trying to get away from them. However, pure materials for our nanites to use in construction would still be valued. Again - robots could be used, but I expect people will take it up as a sort of hobby out of personal enjoyment more than anything else, and be another critical social link, and likely the only real economy outside of food and information.

The third would be information - research, design concepts, etc. Rather than building existing designs - focus would shift toward developing new devices and materials, as well as finding new phenomena to exploit. The exchange of this information would be highly valued - and probably the most substantial social link in such an individually advanced society.

The fourth is more primal - companionship. While it could be expected that future generations could eventually evolve to favor a life of solitude - we are, at least at present, rather social beings with a strong desire to have others to interact with. This, however, would be undertaken by choice and desire rather than out of absolute necessity.

So, where is the talk of aliens?

Quite simply - I'm presenting a case for what our own society will be capable of, potentially in less than a hundred years from now. We would fall in line with a hyper-advanced species by our current concepts. Presuming another species were able to achieve similar levels of advancement - it would impact, greatly, their society, culture, and how they interact with the world around them and other species.

I would expect such a species to be more individualized as each individual's goals and ambitions within such a society are not at all dependent upon the contribution of others within the society. Even issues of materials and organics can be resolved with automated systems that can be built by the individual from ambient and trace materials. Even today - an increasing number of people socialize on the internet without being face-to-face (IE - this board).

One who desires to explore space could build a small space-ship in their back yard (presuming they knew of more compact and practical thrust/drive systems) and then construct a star-cruiser on a nearby moon or asteroid. He/she may or may not bring friends along, or even make contact with his/her host species again.

This challenges the very notion of society as we know it - which is based around material needs and mutual support. We have, whether we realized it or not, projected these same principles of society onto our ideas and concepts of extra-terrestrial beings envisioned to have advanced capabilities.

But we can see from our own development that space-faring species may not socialize at all, or when they do, not do so out of need or in terms we are familiar with.

posted on Apr, 27 2011 @ 10:17 AM
Hi, Very interesting read. I tend to agree with most of your tenants. I would reccomend you read Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge.. it really takes an indepth look at what society will look like under the auspices of the technologies you outlined in your post. In fact, your post reads almost as a preview for the book.

Secondly, just out of curiousity, are you familiar with the works of Ray Kurzweil and the idea of a technilogical singularity? You seem to touch on several of those ideas without ever addresing the concept directly. Thanks for the post.

posted on Apr, 27 2011 @ 12:22 PM
Definitely an interesting post, and like the poster above said, along the lines of Kurzweil and Vinge. Another one I would throw in there is Peter Hamilton, who has several different long sf series about just such societies.

However I think we are a long, long way from such a place, because of some of the problems you mention. Let's just take one technology - life extension. Where are you going to put all the people? Where are they going to go - Mars? How long is it going to take terraform Mars? Without interstellar space travel and colonization, life extension cannot and will not be made available to the masses of humanity. Or earth will be an overcrowded Malthusian nightmare in 100-200 years.

You also have the problem of resource depletion. If fusion power or some other miraculous energy solution is not discovered, there is no way any of these things are going to exist on a wide scale. And if there is no miracle energy, who is going to build all the nanotechnology and life extension drugs for the geometrically increasing number of people?

Another thing - if people live forever, does that mean they have to work forever? They never get to retire? They are stuck in terrible, insecure dead-end jobs for centuries? I think you'd have mass suicides and revolutions if that were the case.

So, there are many, many problems with your rosy view of the future, even if all those technologies do appear.
edit on 4/27/2011 by Nicorette because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 28 2011 @ 02:19 AM
reply to post by Nicorette

However I think we are a long, long way from such a place, because of some of the problems you mention. Let's just take one technology - life extension. Where are you going to put all the people?

The planet is capable of supporting populations an order of magnitude greater than they are today. Neither food or area are a problem. Right now the greatest problem sits with energy demands. Nuclear power would easily resolve this.

Where are they going to go - Mars?

That's a very restricted line of thinking. Planets are actually the worst place to live when you have such advanced industrial capability at your disposal. Artificial habitats can be positioned within habitable zones of any star, be expanded to house almost any population, and be engineered for optimal organization related to the goals of that habitat.

Even building an artificial habitat thousands of cubic kilometers in volume is far simpler a task than planetary engineering - a process that would take thousands of years (possibly even millions) and require meta-analysis of thousands of individual projects to develop models that allow reliable and predictable terraforming results (IE - we try engineering thousands of planets and cross-reference all of the data to find trends, causes, etc).

It is only logical that further advancement of industrial processes would make it far simpler to actually de-construct an entire planet (or system of planets) and construct a more ideal world from scratch.

Without interstellar space travel and colonization, life extension cannot and will not be made available to the masses of humanity. Or earth will be an overcrowded Malthusian nightmare in 100-200 years.

This also presumes a similar reproductive rate to today. With aging reduced to an option based around principle beliefs... why couldn't I have kids at the age of 300? Why would I need - or want - to have kids in my 30s, when I'm only really beginning to hammer out a more solid career for myself?

While I'm sure you would have a number of demographics that breed like rabbits do today... but just as many such demographics rely on government aid programs... who is going to provide these demographics with the 'cure to age'?

I never said the picture of the future would be pretty. In first world countries - a family that goes hungry is a sign of dysfunction more than it is a sign of anything else. Similarly, in the future - the symbol of dysfunction will be the inability to counteract age. And the population problem becomes less of a nightmare.

You may or may not -like- that result. But it is merely the natural order of things. Those with both the will and ability to make something happen do... and those who lack either one do not. It is also a matter of function and practicality over a function of emotions and ideals.

You also have the problem of resource depletion. If fusion power or some other miraculous energy solution is not discovered, there is no way any of these things are going to exist on a wide scale. And if there is no miracle energy, who is going to build all the nanotechnology and life extension drugs for the geometrically increasing number of people?

This really depends upon the nanotechnology. The 'holy grail' in this respect would be self-powered nanobots that run off of ambient energy of some kind (solar energy would be sufficient - building things on the atomic scale can be far more efficient than from our scale). However - even a variety that requires an external power source would not be a large deal.

As I said - nuclear power is far more than capable of addressing any foreseeable energy needs. With or without practical fusion (which is only a matter of time). The advantage of these "personal foundries" would be their portability and adaptability - entire power generation complexes can be 'grown' out of a waterfall. The ground, itself, could be converted into silicon-based photovoltaic cells (or even just 'grown' onto a building). Chemical fuels could be broken down on a molecular level (our body technically 'burns' fuel - just with far more efficient results than any combustion engine).

The concept of power becomes different. Welding is a thing of the past - a horribly inefficient process by comparison to the alternative of molecular assembly techniques. The power industry needs for a given task plummets. A gallon of gasoline suddenly becomes much more efficient and the fumes alone serve to fuel an ongoing nannite construction project.

And anyone with the ability to design something practical now has the ability to build it. A cloud of nanobots can build more nanobots - so that a single person could have a whole gale of activity building a 1:1 scale model of an Imperial Star Destroyer - or some other hideously large project.

Another thing - if people live forever, does that mean they have to work forever? They never get to retire?

Considering you could 'summon' objects into existence - the entire concept of work changes.

While I anticipate there will still be corporate enterprise - the function would be largely different. They would specialize in developing new materials, processes, and nannites to construct things that are far more difficult/impractical for the average person.

There will still be service jobs, most likely - people will still want to eat at restaurants and socialize in various entertaining locations. People will still service and maintain infrastructure (though it will be greatly assisted by these nannites and automation) - but you can 'grow' the house of your dreams. You can simply 'download' the latest kitchen appliances (and while there will be a market for such things - I think it will be similar to the music industry, today - people who design things - even if they are engineers - will publish their work much like artists and some will be popularized and given 'albums' and a display in stores while others remain in the 'indie' category; while a lot of people also download 'pirated' copies of the data outside of official channels). You can add on to your house simply by designing what you want it to look like and assigning some nannites to the task while you go take a nap.

It changes the entire concept of what is valuable and what isn't. A machined part is highly valuable because of the labor that went into creating it and the machines used to do it. With this sort of technology - a complex assembly such as a car becomes less valuable than a vine-ripe tomato.

They are stuck in terrible, insecure dead-end jobs for centuries?

I don't think we'd see nearly as many organized career systems, or linear economic classes. These nanobot clouds would become about as common as a pen or pencil. They are self-replicating, and would likely be silicon-based (which means you can literally make them from dirt). It would be easier to give someone a nanite-controller and cybernetic implants than it would be to give them a sandwich, really. The one thing people would probably not be too keen on making using these things is food - which is why it would become a rather valuable commodity (but, at the same time - more people are available to garden and farm because there is less need for menial labor jobs).

It's really hard to predict what kind of economy would arise out of this system - but income would have little to do with one's life.

I think you'd have mass suicides and revolutions if that were the case.

Wars are certainly a possibility. Crime also takes on a whole new aspect. Being able to deconstruct any physical obstacle at the molecular level makes things like safes a mere nuisance - while fences and walls are nearly rendered obsolete by one's ability to 'grow' a ladder or hole in the barrier (although the speed at which this is possible may make it rather impractical for many criminal and military applications).

Which is why I predict a rapid diffusion of species with this technology. Fighting against someone I have no desire -or NEED- to be around is a huge investment of time and resources. Groups of similar ideals would rapidly form and combine efforts to simply leave and isolate themselves from the influence of people they do not wish to live under/with/around. I doubt it would be complete isolation - but it could be viewed as a collection of different nations.

Since we're human and naturally competitive animals - I do expect there would be such a thing as war... but in a completely post-scarcity society, war loses meaning fairly quickly. When you can build almost everything you need out of a metallic asteroid and a comet - fighting over resources seems like something you would do out of principle or boredom over any actual need.

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