Friday, January 9, 2009
Future & Freedom for a Friday
I wanted to expound on the "21st-century Americans ... " paragraph from yesterday's post, but Dennis Kowalski did it much more eloquently on the Cryonics Institute's mailing list. His post, published with his permission:
I don't know if people who think about the future take into account the exponential nature of technological advancement and how it changes things for the better. When I talk to people about the future many are either negative or a little afraid. It is [fashionable] to talk about the problems of the world but ignore the progress.
The future is uncertain but if we can gather anything from the past ... here's a thought experiment: Lets go back in time, 500 years ago.
99.9% of humans were engaged in basic survival occupations. They either were farmers or in hunting gathering tribes ... starvation was the number-one killer. Even the top 0.1% (as in kings, pharaohs, emperors, or chiefs) were lucky to live to 30 yrs of age. They had head lice, horrible diseases treated by witch doctors and wizards who used blood letting and the alignment of the stars as primary health care treatments. No phone or internet communications, just foot runners. They had no planes ,trains, or autos just horses...no refrigeration, poor nutrition, little entertainment. Romans watched people getting mauled by lions ...for fun? I could go on and on ... overall, a brutal existence even for those on the top of the heap.
Fast forward to today. In the world we have cell phones with 911 access, television with cable, the internet and computers are everywhere ... many people own cars and even if they rent ... one way or another...even if they are poor...they have better living conditions, at least technologically, then most humans did in the past.
I think for lack of a better word, we are spoiled. We keep moving the bar on what it means to be wealthy financially, from millionaire to billionaire. Our life expectancies have tripled. We are angry when people get killed in wars or civilian targets get hit, but this was the norm for most of history. We have so much unbelievable wealth and good fortune around us that we fail to see it in front of our eyes.
So I think if you plucked someone from 500 years ago and brought them here they would be in utter awe of what we have now. Yet they would be puzzled at how much we worry, complain, and fret over the world. For instance, They'd probably welcome high cholesterol and heart disease caused by obesity because in their time most people were starving. No one even got cancer because they either didn't live long enough to get it and no one knew what cancer was. Even "Third World" nations are doing better today then in the past. In the past people just died and went unnoticed altogether.
What does this mean for the next 100 years? I think we will be at a distinct advantage to the people living in the future because their problems will be relative to their existence. We will think of those new-age kids as spoiled, and we can wax nostalgic about how hard we had it. I could see an argument between two people in the future about why they are only worth billions of dollars and only have 100 robot servants while some other rich guy has trillions of dollars and 10,000 robot servants. We could add that they don't know how easy they have it with their fancy teleporters since we had to actually drive from point to point. It's all relative. Advanced nanotech, robotics, and genetics are powerful technologies that will vastly empower humans of tomorrow to a degree that humans of today can only dream of.
Thank you, Dennis.
That, than any other, is the biggest selling point for cryonics: Today is vastly, hugely, almost incomprehensibly better than yesterday. And it stands to reason that tomorrow has a good chance of being even better still.