Posts Tagged ‘Futurism’

Douglas Rushkoff on survival of the richest

July 9, 2018

Douglas Rushkoff

Futurist Douglas Rushkoff was offered half a year’s salary to give a talk on the future of technology.  To his surprise, he found his audience consisted of five persons from “the upper echelon of the hedge fund world.”  Their real interest was in Rushkoff’s thoughts on how to survive the coming collapse of civilization.

The CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?”

For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. The Event.  That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes everything down.

This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader?

The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew.  Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival.  Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers — if that technology could be developed in time.


Deep space and deep time

July 23, 2011

Knowledge of the past is an antidote for discouragement with the present.  When I stop and reflect, I realize that, on a day-to-day basis, the world was as threatening a place during the periods of history we consider great as they are now.

We remember Periclean Athens not for imperialism and slavery, but for Sophocles and Socrates.  We remember Elizabethan England not for its cruel executions and religious persecutions, but for Shakespeare.

What about our own society will be remembered when Goldman Sachs and the “war on terror” are forgotten?

Maybe this.

Click on Contrary Brin for David Brin’s web log.

A prosperous industrial society without oil?

January 27, 2011

Sooner or later the world will use up its supply of affordable oil.  Let’s assume that when that happens, we can get equivalent energy from some combination of renewable sources, advanced nuclear reactors or clean coal.  What would such a world be like?

This is a thought experiment, not a prediction.  It is based on one thing changing and everything else staying the same, which will not happen.  But it is interesting and maybe worthwhile to speculate.

It would be a world running on electricity rather than liquid fuels, the generator rather than the internal combustion engine.

Long-distance travel would be by train, not by airplane.  Commuting would be mainly by train, not by automobile.  Electric cars would be used mainly for short-distance travel and to get to the train station.  Steam locomotives might make a comeback; electric trolley cars might make a comeback.

The Internet and electronic communication would be more important – especially for farmers and others distant from cities and railroad stations.  Families and friends who live far apart would visit virtually, on-screen or through conference calls.  Thousand-mile trips would be major and rare undertakings.  We would become a little bit like the Spacers in Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun, who were intimate while hardly ever seeing each other face-to-face.

Land use patterns would change.  The most desirable real estate would be along the rail lines, like Philadelphia’s Main Line in an earlier age.  Astute developers would locate shopping centers, apartment complexes and even factories along the railroads.  Real estate values would rise in cities and villages, and fall in the far-out suburbs.

Most of the cost of oil and natural gas is in the fuel cost, not the investment needed to use these sources of energy.  In contrast, renewable sources, nuclear power and coal are relatively cheap as fuels, but the capital cost is great (the capital cost of steam from coal would be greatly increased by anti-pollution technology).  The necessary investment would have to come out of taxes or increased savings by Americans – not so much from foreign investment.

Imported goods would be expensive, and locally-produced goods relatively cheaper. Wal-Mart and its imitators, whose business model is based on low inventories and just-in-time delivery over long distances, would change radically or go out of business.

The United States would no longer be a global superpower.  The Air Force, lacking aviation fuel, would no longer be able to project American power to every point on the map.  But the U.S. Navy might still rule the seas.  Nuclear aircraft carriers would be replaced by nuclear troop carriers for Marines.  The diesel-powered fleet would have to switch to nuclear or steam.

To prepare for this age, we ought to be thinking about (1) maintaining a large reserve capacity for electrical generation, which means building new plants; (2) investing heavily in research in electric batteries; (3) making sure railroad rights-of-way are not lost; and (4) making sure railroad track is kept in good repair.

Having successfully made the transition from Peak Oil, we would be planning for Peak Coal and Peak Uranium.  In the long run, industrial society will continue only if it can function on sustainable sources of energy.

What am I overlooking?