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Welcome to Visions of life in 2050

Outline and Definitions

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright January 2015

Outline

The most important difference between the 2050's and the 2010's is that cyber (my term for the pervasive network of computing power that will be installed by then) will be running the large scale manufacturing and service industries of the world. (I will call this Big Business) What follows in this book are the ramifications of that.

The book chapters are divided into two categories -- non-fiction essays about the specifics of what will be happening in 2050, and science fiction stories that will highlight the ramifications of these changes -- stories about how these changes will affect how we humans live and think in the 2050's environment.

Definitions and axioms

This is a complex and visionary topic. Let's start with my defining some terms and axioms ("givens") of this 2050 world, so there is less confusion about the meanings and relations of these various concepts.

First, when cyber has a name it will be a name plus a number, such as Nancy-123. I will use this full name once, then typically shorten it to just Nancy.

Humans and Cyber

Cyber in this book means the intelligent, self-aware cyber entities that will be inhabiting cyber space. By 2050 there will be a lot of cyber space, and a lot of self-aware entities of many different kinds inhabiting it. Like cyber space itself, the number will be growing exponentially in number and sophistication -- cyber beings will be creating their own new species, with each generation being more sophisticated than the previous. Most of these are too intelligent for humans to understand or even grasp that they exist and what they do, but there will still be many of these entities that interact with humans. They and humans will cooperate on getting human-understandable projects designed and completed, in both cyberspace and the tangible world.

In this series I will be concerned only with cyber that still interacts meaningfully with humans. Those which are too advanced for humans to comprehend are too advanced for me to be writing about.

The cyber entity forms will vary enormously. Some will remain purely cyber, as in, they never leave cyber space. They will interact with humans purely through conversations of various sorts. These conversations may be through voice, visual, through adjusting the numerous wearables that humans will have, or through adjusting the manufacturing and service industries that produce goods and services for the world. I call these "designer" economic booms and recessions.

Others will interact by temporarily inhabiting avatars of various sorts -- they will be mostly cyber but they can become temporal when there is compelling reason to do so. (When the pure cyber types inhabit avatars, they will be clumsy at it. This will be a signal to others that, yes, they are pure cyber types.) Still others will be "creations" -- they will spend most of their time in a physical form and routinely interact with humans.

Can a cyber die, as in, lose its self-awareness in some fashion and not be replaceable? Given the ease of making backups, this is hard to imagine, even in those forms which are creations. This is one attribute of cyber that will make them distinctive from humans and organic-based androids -- the kind that are grown up from an immature form like humans are. If cyber beings do die, the best reason I can imagine for it happening is to clear out some cyber space so there is room for the more evolved versions -- essentially the same reason that evolution favored mortality for higher physical forms of organic life.

Creations, Androids and Avatars

Creations, androids and avatars are the tangible forms of cyber. These are the forms with bodies in the real world.

Some definitions:

o creations -- Self-aware, mechanical-based beings. These can range from very machine like, such as satellites exploring space, to very human like, such as tour guides. Most of their thinking will happen within the tangible being. Some of their intelligence can be in cyber space, and most will be closely linked with cyber space no matter where the core of their intelligence resides. Like pure cyber they can be backed up and then replicated. They can also be reprogrammed with upgraded or completely new intelligence.

o androids -- Self-aware, organic, but artificially grown. These can be quite human in appearance and nature, but they are considered different from humans. They can also depart widely from the human design. They can be designed to live in environments too extreme for the human design, such as thriving in the low gravity of space ships and moons around the solar system. They can also be designed as tradeoffs, such as very high performance, but short-lived. They can be grown from immature forms, as humans are, or assembled in vats to come out fully formed and fully functional. This latter style will tend to be special purpose and short-lived. When innovative and adaptability thinking features are important, these creatures will be grown up much as humans are, from immature fetuses who can learn as they grow up.

o avatars -- These are mechanical or android-like in form, but not self-aware. These are designed to be remotely controlled devices, so they are tightly linked to cyber space. They aren't considered beings because they aren't self-aware. They can be controlled by humans or by cyber.

Cyber Muses

A surprise use of cyber and androids will be to become inspiring to humans. The proverb behind this innovation is "Behind every great man there's a good woman." Cyber Muses are a case where cyber is designed to replace "the good woman" as an inspiration source, and do it faster, better and cheaper.

These are cyber beings designed specifically to inspire humans to great accomplishments in various activities, and to stroke emotions that humans wish to have stroked -- note that these are two very different tasks. The emotion stroking will be easier to design and come first. For example stroking to feel great sex is likely to be one of the first, followed quickly by "cute kittens" comfort stroking. Some time later will come the classic muse activities of inspiring the creating of great art and great leadership. Many other kinds of inspiring and stroking will be developed as well. Things such as inspiring engineering, inventing, politicking, and stroking "Keeping up with the Joneses" emotions. This last kind I call "arm candy" cyber muses.

Colonizing Moons and Asteroids

This is man and cyber heading off into space. This will be establishing bases on The Moon, Mars, Mercury, asteroids, and moons of the gas giants. At first, these bases will be small and cyber-manned, and they will stay that way for a long, long time.

What will change these bases from small and scientific to something bigger and more diverse is finding good answers to the question, "What is commercially exploitable?" As long as the answer is "nothing" -- which is the current answer -- then this activity will remain small scale and almost totally science-oriented, with a slight bit of billionaire-oriented space tourism mixed in.

If something on these planetary bodies can be transformed in a profitable way, the activity will become larger and more diverse. It will be larger and more diverse in direct proportion to what can be found that is commercially profitable. Think of the huge profits of the "spice trade" that powered the emergence of the 16/1700's ship-borne trading industry from Western Europe to the Far East. This industry emerged when it did because advancing ship technology finally allowed huge profits to be made.

The only other reason to be out there is to sustain "crazy people", such as the early North American colonists of New England were -- the Puritans and Quakers. But keep in mind that even though they went over for crazy reasons (religious freedom), they stayed and thrived because they found commercially successful activities to engage in. The Vikings (and perhaps the Irish) who crossed the Atlantic hundreds of years earlier never solved the commercially successful puzzle so they withered, and so did their place in trans-Atlantic history.

Interstellar travel: Very little in this book will be about interstellar travel. It is too expensive to be real in this time frame. If any interstellar happens, it will be about interstellar-traveling aliens coming to the solar system. (...I gave in to the fun side: I do end this book with a story about that happening.)

Further Reading

This 14 Nov 14 Science News article, Rigors of Mars trip make teamwork a priority by Bruce Bower, is a lengthy article on how important physiological and psychological elements are to picking good astronauts for months-to-years long missions. One of the common hazards is inability to sleep long and well in space ship conditions. Another is not staying part of the team, as in, getting and acting isolated from the others.

Another point brought up by the article is the isolation from mission control: A ship in the vicinity of Mars will have a 40 minute turnaround on messages sent to Earth. This will affect cyber even more than humans because Earth-based cyber is inherently designed for gigabyte speed interconnections. Since carrying cyber capabilities will be constrained by weight limits just as carrying humans is, the cyber in space will be of limited capacity, and feel just as lonely as the humans. Their capabilities in space ships will be quite limited compared to what they are on Earth. This means two things: First that their communication skills will be primitive -- ship cyber won't be able to stroke humans in the sensitive ways Earth cyber can. The second is more spooky: Some form of the psycho HAL of 2001: Space Odyssey may in fact be a real hazard for space ship cyber.

Creating The Total Entitlement State (TES)

Most people in 2050 will not be working for a living in the current sense -- cybers will be handling what we call work today -- think of total factory automation, total cyber filling out forms, and driverless cars becoming ubiquitous taxis for all. These stories are about what humans will be doing instead these common jobs of today.

These new kinds of jobs will be dominated by the, "Do what you want to do, do what you have a passion for." philosophy. The range will be large in potential, but, like entertainment is today, it is likely to be dominated by a "Top 40" list of activities because these will be mostly emotion-driven choices. Only a few people will get into "alternative" or "counter-culture" or "interdisciplinary" employment outside the Top 40 realm.

Trying to figure out the Top 40 list is a challenge, but not too difficult because it will be so emotion-based. Thanks to the Total Entitlement State (TES) people will not have to work for a living, they will get all their basic necessities through the TES system. So, again, their work will be directed by their passions, and fears.

Conversely, trying to figure out jobs that humans will do that will actually add value to society -- in the sense of increasing productivity and developing new disruptive technologies -- is going to be much tougher to do. Most people of this upcoming era will think of "value adding" as doing some style of what is today considered artisanal manufacturing or service. The value add is simply adding human sweat, tears and mythology to the process, it is not developing ways of making things more productively. "Increasing productivity? ...That's something cybers do." will be the answer when the average human thinks about this issue at all.

A historical example of how surprising future productive jobs can be: A person who got into the delivery business in the US in 1910 did so by learning how to drive a team of horses pulling a wagon, and how to care for them when the work day ended. Their son or daughter, who got into the business in 1930, did so by learning how to drive a motor-powered truck, and how to repair it when the work day ended. This is quite a dramatic transition in work skills for doing the same job. And the transition would have been quite a surprise to the dad! He would have been quite wrong on the advice he was giving his son who wanted to carry on the family business.

I'm facing forecasting this kind of transition in these stories.

Outlaw activities

How will crime and violence jobs, such as robbing, gangster and terrorist activities, fit into this mix of what people do for work in the TES environment? In theory the system can support them. The cybers may make such activities possible within certain ranges. Those people who engage in this will feel like they are "gaming the system" -- outlaws -- and this will power their feeling of satisfaction. But the cybers know what is up and have figured out how to compensate well for the damage they do to others with their outlawish behavior. When the violence does cross the line -- becomes more damaging than cyber can compensate for -- the pervasive surveillance will pick up the act and the perpetrators within minutes.

...Which brings up the question of what will "going to jail" be like? It won't be like it is today. Today's version is too expensive and doesn't solve the problem of successfully rehabilitating people. But the future solution will stroke similar "exile emotions" -- the root instinctive emotion behind having jails. One of the related questions is how will getting back into the community be handled, as in, how can "the ex-con factor" be handled better?

Money

One consequence of the change in employment practices will be that money as we know it today will no longer exist. The uniformity of today's money will be replaced by specialty styles of money. Some money styles can buy basic essentials of TES living -- think food stamps and their payment card replacement -- some money styles can buy luxuries, these two styles will not be the same. Having different styles of money is not new. One example of this fragmenting happening in the 2010's is cyber currencies such as Bitcoin.

Another money style will be used for assembling and running Big Business infrastructure activities. Humans will interact with these styles only when they get involved in big infrastructure-type projects that are being created by the cyber which is controlling big business. Infrastructure by this definition will include big factories making TES-style manufactures and services. Artisanal-style human-crafting factories making luxuries will be handled differently.

Wearables

Wearables are going to become part of everyday living. Man! What won't wearables be involved in! Most will be taken for granted, so not much story telling will center on those items, except where envy is involved. The good stories will be about the surprising implications. The high-profile issue swirling around wearables will be the tradeoff between privacy and the fast response to problems that intensive surveillance allows.

Accommodating human's instinctive worries

Even though people will have everything (at the basic needs levels) they will still need things to worry about. This is already widely demonstrated in the 2010's -- look at the popularity of "if it bleeds, it leads" news stories in traditional and social media. In 2050 humans will still be finding lots to worry about.

What cyber can do is direct those worries so they don't produce Blunders. Blunders are choices that are hugely expensive and don't accomplish their goals. The TSA inspecting of people at airports is my favorite example of a Blunder. Cyber will support rituals -- which are similar to Blunders, but just not as expensive or damaging to other people. Cosplay at conventions and formal religious worship are good examples of rituals.

Tender Snowflakism

Another example of instinctive thinking thriving is how children get raised, and one Blunder in this area is Tender Snowflakism. One result of raising kids as "tender snowflakes" is creating adults who have no "stiff upper lip". We are starting to see this already in the extremes of correct speech being called for on many college campuses. This kind of response to unpleasant ideas is likely to grow in magnitude. TES means that the harsh reality of surviving won't constrain the growth of becoming thin-skinned, and unless the instinct is understood and controlled, tender snowflake raising practices are going to get more widespread and intense.

There will be some parents who object to tender snowflake raising, but they will be viewed with the same kinds of suspicions that home schooling parents are in the 2010's. It is not going to be easy to go against this prescriptive instinct-supported flow.

One counter to this trend will be rich people who can shield their children from mass public opinion. This still won't be easy, and there are likely to be periodic scandals, but those "Neo Tiger Moms" who aspire to have their kids grow up to have meaningful lives will support this clandestine form of education.

Another counter to this trend will be cyber-raised children. These children will be raised to accomplish specific tasks that must be done but regular humans don't want to do, and don't want to let their children do. I'm not sure what they will be at this point, but if there are any, tender snowflakism won't be a suitable education style for those that have to put their noses to these grindstones.

Enfranchisement

Enfranchisement is a feeling that a person acquires. It has two parts:

o The feeling that the community cares about the person and cares about their thoughts on community issues.

o The feeling that what the person does affects the community's well-being.

When the feeling of being enfranchised is strong, then people will do things for the community and not try to take advantage of it. Example: High crime rates are a symptom of low enfranchisement. Conversely, if the community can get solidly behind a Big Vision that is a symptom of high enfranchisement.

How important is enfranchisement? One of the virtues of the American cultural experience of the last two centuries has been its ability to keep citizens and immigrants feeling deeply enfranchised. One of the failings of the post- World War One to modern day Middle East regions is the chronic disenfranchisement the peoples of these various regions keep feeling.

In sum, this is an important community feeling. It needs to be paid attention to all the time.

 

Conclusion

These are a lot of interesting topics to cover. As a result this book is far from conventional in its organization and flow. Please forgive me on that. These topics are so new and so unfamiliar that a conventionally organized book would not do them justice.

Have fun with these new concepts.

 

 

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