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zompist bboard • View topic - A History of the Future

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 Post subject: A History of the Future
PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:07 pm 
Sanno
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For a while now, I've been working on some 'predictions' (halfway between predictions and a science fiction scenario) for the future. [I.e. ages ago I started it, and now I've given up waiting for me to finish it].

Here's the beginning:



Feel free to criticise either as SF or as serious prediction (obviously, further into the future the prediction element drops out and it becomes purely SF, but I want the base to seem at least plausible)

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:45 pm 
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Will we do historical preenactments?

(I read everything, it was interesting, now do Europe >:O)


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:58 pm 
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Well, first, I enjoyed it immensely, hope to see more, and second the request for Europe, though I am also a bit curious about Canada. With its already-different political system, I would expect society to change on a very divergent path from the United States, and perhaps take the rest of the Commonwealth along with it, but I'm sure you've already got something in mind.

Although there were a few awkward spots, your prose is generally quite clear and comprehensible, not to mention engaging.

The one thought I would call into question was the lack of viability of renewable resources when compared with oil — I would expect some to be developed somewhere, but, as a work of fiction, that does not break the suspension of disbelief (for me, anyway).

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 5:49 pm 
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I call into question the "collapse" of certain resources...

With more and more innovation, I think we can start to balance the usage versus waste of oil.

I'm intrigued though, made for good reading.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 6:00 pm 
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:29 pm 
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Shit, now I've got to actually read all that stuff to find out how to answer your questions...

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 1:37 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:28 am 
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I'll be looking it over in greater detail but a total lack of a space elevator was most striking. Or talk of a tunnel under the Bering Strait (allowing travel from Paris to New York by rail inside of a week to compete with rising airfares). But I guess the later contradicts the weakening of globalization.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:28 am 
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:45 am 
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:56 pm 
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Two counterresponses, both sorta technological.

I urge you to reconsider robots as being affordable for the common man, *especially* if there is a credit megacrunch [pulverisation?]. Once people grow out of the habit of depending on lines of credit, then older mutual-help forms will reassert themselves, surely? A thriving second-hand market, for example, since eventually people's ailing relatives will all be dead. I also think it likely that people will create robot clubs -- a bunch of people, like maybe five or ten or so who are all working club together to get a care robot, their old relatives go to a sort of daycare centre and the communal robot does all the menial stuff during the day. This seems exactly the sort of technological improvement that the Third Sector would excel at -- it requires nothing particularly magical, just more of the same.

That makes a pretty good summary of your 21st century as a whole, really. So do you have any reasons other than authorial fiat for seeing the entire century as one of scientific and philosophical stagnation to an extent that has not been experienced since, uh, maybe the 15th century?


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:36 pm 
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Good point on hispanics... I didn't know they were so ahead in fertility, but if that's right then yeah, makes sense

My question regarding de-globalization stands, however: what about non-oil energy? I know renewables are pretty useless right now, photovoltaic being an apparent dead end and large scale wind having huge negative impact over the area, killing birds and making an awful lot of obnoxious noise, but by the end of the century, shouldn't we have working fusion? isn't fission a viable alternative ? [a bunch of countries already have extensive non-oil energy production]. hell, even solar reflectors work, and people want their energy. A crisis of transportation because of high oil prices is inevitable, but internal combustion engines can be modified to use hydrogen at relatively low cost, so the problem isn't portable energy [a field in which there has been huge advances lately, and will likely be in the future, like h2 cells or something] but energy production, which can happen already with fission and should happen with fusion in the next... what... 40 years ?

I guess I'm saying what Pthag is saying; what's up with progress, man?

tho' I don't think anthropomorphic robots will ever be practical, though, beyond house service... and not even that. Way I see it, the human form is pretty random, and for whatever function you want to think about, there's a better, cheaper, and more practical design for a robot... plus, humanoid robots have the whole uncanny valley thing going on... I mean a walking manequin like those things the japanese are making... asking me how much I want to tip it would be... creepy. I'd much rather be waited on by a tetrapod with tridactyl hands and four radially-mounted webcams, all encased in sleek-looking plastic.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:52 pm 
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Psychohistory, yo.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 4:25 pm 
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Beware of the "ahead in fertility" arguments. I've heard that what serious studies actually show is that the fertility rate of immigrants tend to become the same as the welcoming country after some time.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 4:51 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 5:00 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:51 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:58 pm 
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Obviously, renewable energy and/or fission can meet all our energy needs. The question is whether they are able to do so at the current price. I think that's an open question.

So essentially there's a double pinch. First, power generation becomes a lot more expensive, and then transport costs become doubly expensive, because the energy can't be stored efficiently.

Hydrogen is not (or at least is not clearly) a solution to this. Hydrogen production generally requires a lot of energy, and a lot of fossil fuels; the alternative methods require even more energy, and a variety of (increasingly) expensive catalytic elements. The hydrogen then has to be used as a fuel, in an extremely inefficient process. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is currently LESS efficient than the normal battery technology in cars, which is itself highly inefficient. Well-to-wheel, electric cars are at least three times as efficient as hydrogen cars... Not to mention that through the production process, hydrogen cars use more fossil fuels than petrol cars!

What's more, the entire idea of widespread hydrogen fuel cell us is founded purely on hope: with all known methods to date, it will be impossible to produce enough of the rare materials required at prices low enough to enable mass adoption of the technology. [Platinum is catalyst of choice...].
Oh, and the fuel cells themselves are made of complicated polymers, which are created from fossil fuels via an energy-intensive process.

------

Of course, I'm not saying we WON'T develop sufficiently efficient energy-storage technologies. Just that it is far from clear that we will.

As for fusion... that's planned for early in the next century, which I think is quite reasonable. It MIGHT be available earlier - but then it might not even be possible, so I don't think giving it another century is too wild.

-----

As a general point, people underestimate how much we rely on rare elements for our modern technology. For instance, Torco suggests solar power. Well, even the plain old inefficient solar cells use silicon. The flashy modern cells use cadmium, tellurium, gallium, arsenic, indium, selenium, and ruthenium! Oh, and they all need silver. A lot of silver. To produce 5% of global energy requirements, we would have to use 30% of global silver production purely for solar cells. And that's a silver production level that is already unsustainable.

Even computers and the internet are not immune. Modern computers (and mobile phones) and so on require rare earth elements. 97% of rare earth supply is from China, and China's reserves are projected to have been used up within twenty years. And even plain old silicon - in the last boom, the cost doubled in only five years - it then dipped in the credit crunch due to lack of demand, and has now doubled again in the last two years. That's just the rarity issue (yes, silicon is commonplace, but usably pure silicon isn't). In the future, the energy costs of silicon will have to be borne in mind. Making a ton of metalic silicon requires at present 1.4 tons of coal and 2.4 tons of wood: and that's not including the fossil fuels we use to supply the electricity for the process. And as that electricity has to heat the coal and silicon to 2200 degrees, that's quite a lot of energy. And then you've got to turn the metalic silicon into usable silicon, and then you have to process that into the finished article... it's a hugely expensive process, and will become even more expensive as energy costs increase.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:59 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 7:11 pm 
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, by the way.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:01 pm 
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Last edited by Torco on Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:01 pm 
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:40 am 
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Now with more

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:52 pm 
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This is really shaping up to be the most boring century in world history ever, especially in terms of wasted potential -- really it seems to be more of a long and unfunny parody of the last quarter of the 20th (1979 - 21whenevermagichappens as the Quite Long 21st Century?) where the only wars are internecine, low-intensity fourth-generation affairs, where everything slowly becomes more and more shit as the rich get richer.

The only thing spoiling the Fukuyamist parody [which hold up, unsurprisingly, best in America] is the return of socialism that you keep invoking -- governments starting to reassert themselves with the European Funds and a quite... nice sounding Chinese system, but even this is just a continuation of much the same sort of thing. The world is not transformed by steam, steel, rail, telegraph, Empire and the Old Physics, nor by electricity, silicon, petroleum, internet, atomic war or the New Physics, it's just broadly *dull* with all the interesting and novel things in minor details.

For something that is supposed to be "halfway between predictions and a science fiction scenario", I wonder which horse in the biga is responsible for this.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:09 pm 
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