Technology some people are excited about

(Epistemic status: Possible)

Nat Friedman asked twitter for technology (or achievements enabled by future tech, or broadly “cool stuff”) people are excited about, and quite a few replied. Here’s a compiled list by theme with some comments. Some of these may not make sense as stated, if so have a look at the thread.

In bold are things that I thought of not included in the original list.

The ones that I see as most interesting are the ones related to medicine. One, because a better understanding of medicine will mot likely reduce costs, and healthcare expenditures are quite big in most countries. Second, because when aging is cured, some people will chose to continue working forever, which may decrease pension expenditures somewhat. And third, because illness and unchosen mortality are bad.

Medicine

  • Ending genetic disease
    • And in general, genetic editing. This imbues the the question of “how should people be” with extra importance.
  • Cheap AI biometrics / passive diagnosis
  • Instant diagnosis of any medical condition
  • Better prosthetics
  • Lab grown organs
  • Ending aging
  • Artificial wombs
  • Genetic prediction of illness
    • This will greatly decrease the need for some amount of medical insurance, as risks will be known. Parents will be able to know beforehand the likely medical expenses their child will require.
    • But if we are good at this, we will also be good at sequencing these genes out of us.
  • AI assisted drug discovery
    • Will help fight Eroom’s law a bit.

Enjoying life

  • Holidays in Mars
  • Space travel
    • This will be achieved for intra-solar system travel, perhaps with the help of nuclear rockets. But the dream of an intergalactic civilization seems forbidden by the laws of physics. Sad!
  • AI-powered film making
  • Perfect mood all the time
    • Except for the ocasional tiredness, this is me, AMA 🙂
    • A way to tackle this is to study the genetics of mood in the same way that the genetics of supercentenaries are being studied now. The problem is the inherent difficulties in measuring mood.
  • Cheap, comfy travel
    • New airplane designs may help with this
    • Other than that, nice trains.
    • Double decker airplanes with all-bed seats, if people can get over the claustrophobia
  • Electric airplanes
    • Cleaner, and more efficient
  • Lab-grown meat
  • Supersonic travel
  • VR/AR MMORPG
    • Yes, SAO!

Manufacturing

  • General purpose 3D printing

Personal productivity

  • AR assistants
  • Robotic housekeepers
  • Better WolframAlpha
  • Feedback loops for writing
  • Real time voice translation
  • More widespread remote work
  • Brain-computer interfaces

Urban / Transport

  • Modular housing
  • Walkable cities
  • Congestion pricing
  • Charter cities
  • Flying cars
  • Hyperloop
  • Less roads, more tunnels
    • Nicer environent, faster travel
    • Cities scale in population with the cube of their diameter, but transport scales with the square (2D). Tunnels bring 3D back, allowing for denser cities with less roads.
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Smart cities
    • Having data on people and goods flows through the city makes planning easier. Citymapper, for example, uses their own data to design and run private mass transit routes in London that are not covered by the public transit alternatives.

Environment

  • Regreening
  • Carbon pricing
    • Same reason as congestion pricing
    • Though less relevant as solar and fusion will get there first
  • Pleistocene rewilding
    • Megafauna is cool

Energy and resources

  • Nuclear powered desalination
  • Cheap solar energy
  • Nuclear fusion
    • Be excited but not too excited about this. Fusion brings environmentally friendly, safe, and abundant energy, at prices not radically lower than coal at the moment. So cheap, but not radically cheap. At least initially, according to the projections from the bunch of projects working on this. (Legit projects, not ITER and NIF 🙂
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Nanotechnology
  • Seawater resource extraction

All the above would lead to a world that would look similar to the world today. People would live forever, economies would be more efficient, we would have more of what we have now, there would be no worries about the environment. Travel would be more common. At some point sufficiently advanced robotics will make work unnecessary. After that, I expect that the next revolutionary thing will be truly inmersive VR, especially via brain-computer interfaces.  Physics constrains what is possible in the real world, but not in a virtual world, so you can have FTL, teleportation, and everything you read about in scifi. And that would be it. Without new physics, and no more groundbreaking discoveries, no new radical technologies will be discovered (As radical as electricity was). At some point all that can be known about nature will be known, and science will come to and end. Mankind will colonise some parts of the solar system, and perhaps some mavericks will embark in centuries or millenia-long trips to other stats. What will be left after that is games, nice food, art, and enjoying life in general.

Where is artificial superintelligence? There, running some of the machines. But I don’t expect its impact to be great. Why? Because even though in theory it would be able to do a lot, in practice it won’t. What do you want it to do? Most of the applications you can probably think of will have already been automated with narrow highly efficient AI by the time we get to superintelligent AI. CMV!

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One Response to Technology some people are excited about

  1. I very much hope that the world painted in this post is but a temporary stage in the development of the far future; it squanders a massive amount of potential. All of these technologies are of the form “regular humans in 2018, but with this one neat perk”, which means the maximum global utility you get is one solar system’s worth of however much good experience it’s possible to fit inside a human brain. Vastly better than our current world, sure, but probably around 20 orders of magnitude less than what could be achieved (and that at a conservative Fermi estimate). Three major improvements that could be made to this vision of the future with competent well-directed AGI:

    Turn everyone into brain uploads, find some efficient medium of storage, start turning all the available matter into computronium to host them and put people in whatever VR environments are best suited for human flourishing. Filling just the surfaces of a few planets with pink blobs of flesh is super inefficient, and it’s not like our bones or skin have moral relevance.

    Massive space colonization: unless there’s data on this I’m unaware of, it’s not very hard to get efficient space travel to at least the Local Group in a few tens of millions of years (Andromeda is only about 20 times as far away from us as it is from one end of the Milky Way to another), and Von Neumann probes can make short work of whatever’s encountered along the way. Once you’re in the Age of Em, almost all the practical problems of human transport get solved (in fact you don’t even need to bring an emulation along, so long as you’ve got communications technology that can let a receiver on Andromeda know what to build).

    Better minds: Humans are pretty great, but we’re the dumbest kind of mind it is possible to have while still being capable of erecting technological civilizations (since that failed to happen at any previous point in our evolutionary development, and went pretty quickly – on an evolutionary timescale – as soon as we figured out agriculture). You mention perfect mood and ending aging, but that’s just dipping a toe in the vast oceans of mindspace: infallible memory, raising cognition a few hundred IQ points by our standards, ability to self-modify emotions and desires to better conform to one’s higher-level principles, synthesizing new flavors of subjective experience (armed with some AGI-aided understanding of what leads to conscious experiences), playing with the spectrum from telepathy to full-on group mind structures, instantiating vast mental architectures the cognitive size of a trillion humans and all the new sorts of experiences such minds might be capable of. (I’m not sure how much of this sort of thing you were getting at with brain-computer interfaces, but I think there’s tremendous potential in this sort of exploration way beyond what non-AGI computers can do to primate neurons.)

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