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The development of new and futuristic technologies is a complicated task, science must first advance to a new height, then it must be under favorable conditions that we as ordinary people can reap the benefits of this science. Consider that the Wright brothers successfully invented the plane in 1903, but that the world was not able to take advantage of this scientific advancement - commercial flight - until over 50 years later. Now, we cannot imagine a life without the inter-connectivity provided by air-travel.
That 50 year period seems like a long time. Generations were born and retired before the first planes were commercialized, and yet less than 20 years after that, a human was shot to the moon and came back to Earth safely.
This doesn’t initially sound like an observation that could be handled through philosophy, of course technology will advance in such a way. However, philosophy can tell us something about our nature, our understanding of knowledge. In this article, our main objective will be to show that we cannot even comprehend the new and amazing things that are going to come from Futurology.
What will happen in the future? With our technology it’s hard to say for sure, but our understanding of the past can paint a picture that hasn’t been seen in our dialogue before. But first, let us understand what Futurology is. Futurology is modern social-scientific line of thought that speculates on the future, possibility, and myths of what is to come.
For futurologists, what the future holds can be predicted by what we see now. Generations upon generations have speculated the next advancements that will be past their times, such as the myth of the flying car. Other speculations have been uncanny, and very accurate, such as the development of mass media, which has been predicted by a number of works throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Recently, by modern history standards, cloning has become a reality albeit not commercially viable in the slightest. The thoughts of unimaginable science fiction only 30-40 years ago are becoming reality even today. Television shows like Netflix’s Black Mirror tackle issues like this all the time, often as a central focus.
A more pessimistic view suggests that perhaps the opposite is true. Technology may in fact actually be coming up on it’s peak. Microchips have advanced to the absolute physical limits of their processing powers. Made up of the most efficient materials, and as small as a single atom. A pessimistic futurologist might suggest we cannot possibly innovate even more.
This article however, will take a different approach to understanding the development of technology than the traditional futurologist. By looking at our past, and the knowledge of our nature, we may be able to consider what future technology will advance next.
Intelligent life has existed, as far as we can tell, for a very long time. Cave drawings have been estimated as far back as 52,000 years ago, while evidence suggests that the invention of writing occurred only 5,400 years ago. Consider the philosophical futurologist’s perspective: It is becoming self-evident that the rate of change for our technology has outpaced anything we could predict in the future.
What do we mean here? Well, there is a gap of over 45,000 years between the first evidence of intelligent life, and the emergence of a single great intelligent invention. The Greeks similarly understood the very basics of chemistry, believing objects to be made up of single parts and to have different properties - yet it took 5,000 years after that to develop the basic models of chemistry we understand today.
This is contrasted with our modern advancements, where in the span of only 70 years from the invention of man-made flight, man also sent humans to the moon and back. For those futurology skeptics who are worried we are meeting the peak of our technological capacity, we would argue they are not taking into account the technological time frame accurately.
Where does this idea of “meeting the peak of advancement” come from?
It may very well be, and is likely the case, that these futurology skeptics who believe advancement is coming to an end are simply not considering there are advancements we won’t even be able to comprehend.
Take the examples of ancient innovators like DaVinci or Galileo, while they contributed massively to technological advancement in their times they could not even comprehend the future we have built for ourselves today. Similarly, many top minds make predictions about the future only to be found wrong when that time finally comes.
Before the age of the internet nobody thought it might be possible to have interconnected technology on such massive scale, let alone have it be wireless through the advent of satellites.
When we ask what the future of technology will hold, it may be that we simply can’t make accurate predictions. This however, does not mean new innovations will not come about eventually. Computing power could radically be improved through the invention of a quantum computer, fuel sources of our vehicles could be massively improved to do unimaginable things, and power generation could still face improvement through nuclear engineering.
With new eras of technological innovation, there will also come with them new challenges we haven’t had to face before. When the industrial revolution encompassed the world, it sparked new and philosophical theory from people like Karl Marx, who - in his flawed ways - attempted to seek meaning in a new industrial-labor world.
These philosophical revolutions may become more common as technology advances into the unimaginable. Robotics and artificial intelligence may pose issues of existential crisis, it may require us to accurately consider what makes us human. Similarly, concerns from modern thinkers argue that massive industrialization will leave people without work, and more time to consider what it is humans ought to do with themselves.
The technology of the future will be something that constantly features in our everyday lives. The ultimate challenge of this coexistence will be to ask what it is that makes us human so that we may be prepared to live in a world that isn’t so natural to our being.
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For futurologists, the modern social-scientific line of thought that speculates on the future, what the future holds can be predicted by what we see now.
We do not know what will happen in the future, but the past can paint a picture. In 1903, the Wright brothers invented the plane, but it took over 50 years before the first planes were commercialised.
A pessimistic futurologist might suggest that perhaps technology may be coming up on its peak and cannot improve further.
Generations have speculated the next advancements that will be past their times, such as the myth of the flying car. Other very accurate speculations are related to the development of mass media. Recently, cloning has become a reality.
The philosophical futurologist's perspective is that the rate of change for our technology has outpaced anything we could predict in the future.
In the past, the Greeks understood the very basics of chemistry, yet it took 5,000 years after that to develop the basic models of chemistry we now understand. In contrast, with our modern advancements, it took only 70 years from the invention of man-made flight to send humans to the moon and back.
Futurology skeptics who believe advancement is coming to an end do not consider the progress we are not yet able to understand.
DaVinci and Galileo may have contributed hugely to technological advancement in their times, but even they could not comprehend the future of today. Computing power could radically be improved through the invention of a quantum computer, and power generation could still face improvement.
The industrial revolution sparked new and philosophical theories from people like Karl Marx, who tried to seek meaning in a new industrial-labor world. These philosophical revolutions may become more common as technology advances into the unimaginable.
With robotics and artificial intelligence, we may be required to accurately consider what makes us human. Massive industrialization will leave people without work, which leaves humans to consider what they ought to do with themselves.
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