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2117 revisited

Where are we going to be, a century from now?

Let's go back and chew on this old bone again--from a different angle.

Let me first eliminate from discussion a bunch of possible outcomes I'm not interested in examining. Total human extinction could happen in a variety of ways, ranging from wars over access to scarce resources (idiotic, but it's something humans have prior form for), to plagues, to the collapse of agricultural viability on a global scale due to climate change, sudden catastrophic collapse of unrecognized critical infrastrcture (e.g. the single factory in Bangladesh that makes the cheap quantum computer chips everyone uses to get around the central planning problem is taken out by a Cat-6 Typhoon: this causes a cascading loss of efficiency in global supply chains, leading to ...) to an asteroid mining operation gone horribly wrong. But scenarios in which everyone is dead are not currently interesting to me, as a fiction writer.

Let's also ignore transport technology, Mars colonization, climate change, the shift to non-carbon energy sources and distribution, how the hell the west will survive the shift to robotic labour (I'm assuming that by 2117 we'll have robots that can make a good stab at changing the bed linen, which is just about the acme of low-paid but algorithmically intractable jobs right now). I mean, if we're currently hearing billionaires discussing the merits of a universal basic income system, I think that tells us where the SS Titans of Capitalism is trying to steer to avoid the iceberg ...

What new fun things can I project that are both plausible, likely, and didn't feature in my earlier prognostication set a century out?

Everyone's currently focussed on anthropogenic climate change and the in-progress mass extinction. Despite the odd attempt at resurrecting extinct charismatic megafauna, the folks focussing on de-extinction of mammoths aren't talking about raising the ghosts of mammoth lice and mammoth tapeworms; only bits of the gone-away biosphere are up for revival, like preserving the frontage of a 19th century building embedded in a modern glass-and-steel office cube. Similarly, there's another extinction event going on quietly in the background: languages are vanishing, and to the extent that we can only reason about things we have words for, this may be a subtle but far-reaching loss. In fact, language is just one aspect of human culture, and what's going on in the background is a mass extinction event of variant human cultures,and their replacement by a handful of global mega-cultures. From here in the west it's easy to point the finger at Arab/Sunni islam as a rival (perceived as hostile) culture; but there's a state-supported marketing push behind it, and it's not the only one: fish don't notice the water they swim in, and our own culture is also aggressively expansionist. (Note: justifying the western free market/capitalist hegemonic system on the grounds that it brings prosperity is all very well, but it only brings prosperity to the survivors: and since 2007 it has increasing brought prosperity to an ever-smaller elite at the very apex while conditions stagnate or decline for everyone else.)

So here's a projection: by 2117, there's going to be a marked decline in the diversity of ideological and social systems in which we live, brought about by faster communications and the forced spread of the most aggressive societies. The apex societies will be mixed at ground level--there will be plenty of places where followers of religion A rub shoulders with members of economic system B--but they're still hegemonic ideologies, and there will be friction where they rub up against each other. There's also going to be a decline in the number of languages spoken: the main world languages will be down to English, Mandarin, Spanish, and some dialect of Arabic (Arabic is highly fragmented), plus surviving secondary languages with large bodies of adherents (over a hundred million each: for example German, Russian, Japanese).

We're also going to see the widespread deployment of deep learning driven machine translation and, most importantly, near-real-time interpretation. There'll be less reason for a native speaker of an apex language to learn other tongues simply because such a language gives direct access to over a billion other people and translation between apex languages will be at least as accurate as translation between English and Donald Trump speeches at this time.

And the apex languages will have changed considerably.

This goes beyond picking up new vocabulary (imagine a time traveller from 1917 trying to follow a discussion about viewing youtube videos of cruise missile strikes on ISIS positions in Syria on iPhones: the grammatical structure is accessible but a lot of the noun parts cannot be clarified without a dizzying deep dive into unimagined-in-1917 new technologies). Let's consider English--which I expect will still be around as a trade language, at least, simply because it's already so widespread. We're already seeing a shift towards simplified spelling (as practied in the US dialect) and towards abandonment of some punctuation forms; the semi-colon may be on the way out, as is the plural apostrophe, just as a number of characters used in old English (the thorn or "y"-like character, for example) vanished. More controversially English: is going to acquire a new writing system. Not all languages use a single alphabet; consider Japanese, with its eclectic mixture of syllabaries (hiragana and katakana), logographic ideograms (kanji), and romanji (roman alphabet, mostly used for loan words), not to mention arabic numerals. English currently has about three main writing systems (if we exclude shorthand notations, now a dying form, and Braile): we have roman block lettering in upper and lower case, we have arabic numerals, and we have cursive handwritten forms (also now slowly dying out). But a fourth English form is rapidly emerging in the shape of emoji, which I think are best viewed as a secondary ideographic written form optimised for visually dense text on display devices. Emoji are pared down and lack a bunch of the characteristics we associate with English grammar such as tenses and punctuation and verb conjugation ... but that's not what they're for. I suspect that over the next century (assuming we don't lose our technological infrastructure) current mechanisms for writing will be supplanted by newer ones--e.g. the replacement of discrete mechanical keys on keyboards with multitouch keyboards and then with gestural/swipe interfaces, where each dictionary word is replaced by a directional ideogram swiped across a QWERTY keymap, until eventually the ideogram replaces the alphabetic word or is auto-replaced by a corresponding emoji.

So: gradual obsolescence of some grammatical forms, appearance of entire new writing systems, unforseen changes due to the vagaries of machine translation, assimilation of loan words from other cultures, and the 2117 equivalent of "don't drone me, bro" (new shorthand to describe stuff that has become the new normal).

What am I overlooking?


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If you're positing Mandarin as one of the major languages, you should probably also posit Hindi/Urdu?


Early breaking of "Lent" to ask if you know the plot behind the TV show, "Fortitude." I know you probably have not watched it, but it gets a lot of discussion in some SF circles; so you might know the premise.


What if we accidentally de-extincted a parasite, but not the mammoth.


Emojis as a (limited) universal language? I long pre-date the emoji generation, but as I understand it they're not just a phenomenon in English. Perhaps we'll have people with no common spoken language communicate by sending emojis to each others AR devices.

Now that I think about it, I believe Greg Bear had this in "Eon", with characters 'picting' at each other.


Speaking in emoji has already been proposed by Greg Bear in Eon, where the society wears a device which holographically projects pictograms. And the Swype keyboard already proposes substituting an emoji of words that match the descriptions. You're stuck in near-future.

But no warp drives, and I'm guessing you're through with uploading brains, so... what about med-tech? If we don't upload ourselves (perhaps religion finds it deplorable), will we build cyborg bodies around brains propped up with chemicals to slow their decay? Will mostly-meat people be lower class citizens?


Total surveillance of everyone?

Also will any interfaces between people and machines be purely under the user control?


I can see two things. One is a bit complicated, so I need to compose a response.

The other I mentioned in "We get mail (contd.)" #627. The social changes caused by the above will be immense, and the only precedent from history that I can see is an extremely nasty slave state, with a miniscule 'aristocracy'. And one of the characteristics of that sort of state is that progress (ANY progress) more or less comes to a halt. That carries on either until the rot of time leads to a bloody revolution that creates a (temporarily) even worse society, or it is hit by an outside context problem in which case it simply crashes and burns.

While I can see alternatives, they all lie in directions almost directly away from the one we are heading in.


You answered the question I had: Would fast and accurate automated translation make learning another language unecessary? Now picturing students and teachers with earpieces doing translation for them. Yeah, yeah, business people too.

Then had a thought about insular groups, like Hassidim, who use another language among themselves. But not a fully formed thought, or queston at the moment.

And it's Romaji (and Braille, though that's an excusable typo). /pedantry. Apologies.


No way. Yes, they could form a language - reversing thousands of years of progress in one fell swoop - but no way are they cross-cultural. Look at the utter bafflement faced by people from even the same culture faced with the hieroglyphs that are used to operate domestic and other machinery (electronic or not) if they have not seen them before. Look at how long it took to decode Egyption hieroglyphs, Linear B and others, even with suitable alternative text.


I think we could see the opposite of what it sounds like you're predicting. With computer-mediated communication we could see an increasing balkanization of language into multiple dialects. Seamless computer translation of written and spoken word could mean that you don't need to speak the proper version of your own language -- for example, you could be listening to a person with a thick African American dialect speaking and have it translated into your local Mumbai English dialect without giving it a second thought. You could also the the collapse of functional literacy -- maybe you only read ideograph, but luckily your "computer" automatically translates everything into emoji for you.

Along with this we could have a fragmentation of culture. It is becoming increasingly easy to filter out content you don't like and avoid people who are different than you online. The next step would be to have automatic modification and censorship of communications and content you are exposed to. You could make it so that you and your children are literally unable to be exposed to racist comments, or things that contradict your religion, etc. Rather than being government driven like some dystopian settings predict, this would be entirely self-imposed and market driven.


Well, the transference of Chinese script to Japan shows that you kinda/sorta could have a written language that was intelligible to people who did not necessarily speak the same spoken languages. In practice that did not stay the case, the transferred characters rapidly mutate to accommodate the needs of the second language. But in theory all languages could be written in one (massively simplified) script.


Feels like there's almost a second category of language that emoji would fall into. A parallel language that is technology-driven and hyper-evolutionary. Emoji's will include animated emojis soon, as well as .gifs and then 3D objects you can manipulate or VR environments, or shared neural patterns that have gained consensus as having 'meaning' with certain subgroups... etc.

I just can't see emoji or anything like it get enough traction to be formalized before it mutates into something vastly different.


IF (and it's a big if) we follow Charlie's thoughts on development of global languages I would expect English to push out Urdu and probably Hindi. 40% of Indians speak Hindi as a first language; if you are a non Hindi-speaker is Hindi or English a better choice for a second language in a global world? Meanwhile although most Pakistanis speak Urdu, only about 10% have it as a first language.

India is big enough that it could sustain itself as a Hindi speaking nation even under the pressures that Charlie notes above, but English is already widely used there and it seems unlikely it would become less popular. So I would expect there to still be wide Hindi-speaking areas in India but that it would be losing ground outside it's current heartlands.


Getting to there from here is going to be dodgy.
Is that in the permitted discussion-list?

I agree with Elderly Cynic in that a "slave" society is entirely possible, but I don't think it will happen without enormous repression & bloodshed.
Look at the internal reactions even Putin is now getting as he continues to overstep.
Goat-fucker Erdogan may ( I hope) lose his vote, f'rinstance.
A half-baked WW III, initiated by Trumphelm ( see previous thread ) would royally screw things.
Agree that society & all societies will be very different.
Just look at 1917 or 1817 for evidence.
I think that's the question Charlie is asking ( Is it? )
But you cannot also rule out vast societal changes wrought by technology - again see 1817 / 1917 / 2017.


> If you're positing Mandarin as one of the major languages, you should probably also posit Hindi/Urdu?

A very large number of people who speak Hindi/Urdu also speak English, albeit a slightly weird version thereof, where you 'do the needful and revert'.

It would be fairly easy to see English replacing Hindi as a culturally neutral Common Language.


Regarding the mass extinction of languages, I think the real question determining if they are going to survive is how many speakers and what kind of opportunities (for work and education) are available for native speakers. This implies that survivability is closely tied with how rich the native speakers are. The strength of their national identity also plays a significant role.

If the majority of native speakers are able to get an education and work in their native tongue, I doubt the language will die out anytime soon, because most natives can live out their lives without really needing another language.

In European terms, I think a language like Icelandic (~300.000 speakers) is very likely to still be around in a century and be the dominant language spoken in Iceland.


Where did you get the idea that I wasn't expecting enormous repression and bloodshed from? 'They' have already started making the legal changes to enable those.


It could go the other way: learning languages is now a lot easier than it used to be, and if we actually have more leisure time, language could become a hobby. My fluency in German is much better than it was ten years ago, and the reason is that I have access to better tools for practicing, and to as much German-language media as I can consume.

I suspect more people are learning Danish than were ten years ago, and that's a fairly obscure language: the reason to learn it is to enjoy TV shows acted in Danish, and to enjoy the ability to understand what the actors are saying in that delightfully strange-sounding language. So it could well be that languages that don't have much media available will be the ones that fade.

Of course, this assumes that we don't wind up in some sort of slave dystopia, but honestly, I wish we'd spend more effort imaging ways to get to non-dystopian futures. There have been times in human history when things have gotten massively better, rather than massively worse. Why can't 2117 be one of those times?


Not to be obvious, but fields with names beginning with bio- are advancing rapidly, show no signs of slowing, and clearly have a long way to go. In 2117 CRISPR-Cas9 will have had more than a century to do its stuff, and other powerful techniques will very likely have appeared. (I suspect that the new deep-learning AI is going to impact genetic analysis sooner rather than later.)

And since words beginning with med- are closely linked with the bio- ones, there will be that.


each dictionary word is replaced by a directional ideogram swiped across a QWERTY keymap, until eventually the ideogram replaces the alphabetic word or is auto-replaced by a corresponding emoji

While I think that your thoughts go into the generally right direction, I think you are vastly overestimating the rate of change. 2117 is only hundred years from now. QWERTY dates back to 1868 and is still the dominant input method.


I'm guessing you're through with uploading brains

I'm not convinced uploading brains is impossible, but I'm pretty sure it's not easy, either ... and doing so while retaining personality/memories may be very difficult unless we grow the brains from scratch around some sort of interface hardware (from the embryonic neural tube onwards). Oh, and think about the implications of antibiotic resistance for implanted brain interfaces!


If we see the development of automated video editing software sufficient to alter lip movements then combined with voice translation we may see a flood of media from non-anglophone countries worldwide.

Currently TV, film and new media like twitch/YouTube are very regional outside of English language (with notable Japanese exceptions). If it becomes quick and easy to adapt media on the fly for other languages in a way that doesn't compromise on quality then many smaller cultures could have an influence on the increasingly global megaculture.


Total surveillance of everyone isn't 2117; it's 2027, or maybe even 2017 depending on how much surveillance you want.


Think about metadata -- each emoji has an underlying concept. You could have culture specific emoji that mean the same thing just displayed differently. Displays would just show the ones appropriate to the viewer.

Though there's nothing really preventing pan-cultural emoji. Chinese characters can be used by multiple languages, for example.


I think it may well be possible to "record" brains long before we can do anything with them. Emulation will probably come next, with a lot of debate over whether or not they are real conscious minds, and how accurate the emulation is. Downloading them into new living brains and starting them up again seems like a much more distant problem. (Though I suppose if you could completely record the physical state of a brain and had bioprinters capable of that level of detail you could print a copy....)


It's possible we could see the abandonment of both visual and aural interfaces in favor of gnostic ones. Direct links to whatever sort of computing devices then have 100 years, with your thoughts translated into action, and knowledge appearing fully formed in your brain rather than being communicated to you indirectly.

For example, rather than reading or hearing about life in 2017 you would just know whatever you needed to know about living 2017. Or a step further, wake up with simulated memories of someone who lived in 2017. Or a bit more simple -- you need to know how to get to the airport while on vacation, instead of looking it up and following directions you just suddenly know how to get there.


What might prove difficult about personality uploads is how we present different aspects of ourselves depending on relationships and circumstance, all variations on a theme, but each one a problem to solve. Early adopters are liable to be boring.


If the EU is still in business in 2117 wil they still be translating everything into their core languages? French is still pretty widely spoken in some of its former colonies and you can assume that the Acadamie will still be banging on about words from foreign languages being used.


If two cultures have equivalent concepts, they are the same culture.


You need to make a gesture towards how climate change got solved to make this scenario work.

I'm not specifying HOW that gets solved, but since it involves a profound shift in infrastructure, the consequences are going to ripple out.

For example, electric cars don't appear to have the range or volume of gas cars (barring some miraculous battery that's as energy dense as gas), and this in turn means that most US and other cities built since 1900 are going to have to be radically restructured to accommodate either electric cars or their substitutes (bikes, trains, whatever). As a result, there will be a lot of young infrastructure around, particularly in the US, Australia, China, and India.

No one's going to solve the one meter of sea level rise, because that's pretty much already locked in, even if we get fusion power tomorrow. At a minimum, there are going to be Bangladeshis, southern Chinese, (and Floridians) everywhere, or rather their second and third generation descendants.

So that's a lot of people moved around. Various languages (Benghali, Cantonese) are going to be spoken by dwindling pools of expats, car culture will be tweaked to dead (note the changes from the loss of 19th Century horse culture), so that's a not of new words and phrases to evolve. What will replace "you're driving me nuts?."

Politically, I suspect that the wave of ultra-wealth concentration will break and reverse. Yes, this is utopian, but the fundamental problem we've got right now is that we're spending too much time and effort listening to Gates, the Koch Boys, Musk, and so on. These days, you've got to please a rich person to get anything done, and at least some wealthy people think, without hard data to back them up, that they can individually solve problems better than can, say, ten thousand college graduates tackling the same problems from different angles (crowdsourcing, marketplace of ideas, ad nauseum). I think that we get collectively stupider when wealth is collected, because the prejudices and half-baked ideas of the wealthy get far too much weight, and drown out the ideas of other people who actually know what's going on. What Gates did with teaching is a great example of this.

So, if we're wand-waving away climate change, because, say, solar, wind, and fusion made the fossil fuel industries dry up and blow away by 2030, I'd add also that the only way this could have happened is if the megacorps and billionaires got broken up in some sort of global jubilee, freeing up people to roll out the solutions that these brontosaurs had been squelching by their sheer presence.

Would that work?


"Total surveillance of everyone?"

I'm going to say that is a given, but I would phrase it differently: "Spaceship-like living conditions"

For there to be a relevant 2117 in the first place, a number of human behaviours and technologies will have to be controlled or at least monitored very tightly by relevant agencies.

My prediction is that by 2117 it will be an established fact and fundamental attitude amongst the survivors, that we are all together in the only space-worthy vehicle we will ever have.

The process is already well started and ironically the IT-libertarians on HackerNews with their "encrypt everything" dogma seem to be the last subculture to get the point.

For instance, in all the privacy-brouhaha about governments collecting travellers data and monitoring peoples geographical position via mobile phones, nobody seem to pay much attention to WHO's need to be able to find out who might have exported the latest virus from outbreak A to metropolis B (A non-killer case for surveillance if there ever was one.)

And that would be the easy case: CRISPR and undoubtedly similar future advances are where the real fun starts.

Just like you are not allowed to practice fireworks or big game hunting on a spaceship and just like you are currently not allowed to practice nuclear fission on this spaceship, CRISPR and its ilk will have to be reined in.

But trying to limit the damage potential of CRISPR by force would make the current nuclear non-proliferation regime look like a Barbie Plastic Picket Fence.

We can argue how feasible that is, but the only alternative would be to make it a global taboo, to the point where your mother will actually, literally kill you, and be thanked rather than punished for it, if she finds petri dishes in your sock-drawer.

We have not even managed that with canibalism, much less getting your sister or daughter pregnant.


This is my other point. First, a diversion, though it's relevant. We shall NOT be seeing a 'singularity' - that's mathematical nonsense, because no mere super-exponential increase will lead to one. None of the following describes a point in time at which everything changes.

Let's skip the defects in the P/NP/etc. model, and note practical AI programs are WAY beyond our ability to analyse, and almost certain to remain so for the next millennium, let alone century. Indeed, Goedel's work and some other branches of mathematics give us grounds to believe that they will be for all time. While I could defend this, and point out some defects in the claims to the contrary, I won't.

The result is that AI programs will have emergent behaviours that are beyond our ability to analyse. This is seriously compounded by the modern approach of replacing programming from the ground up, and the full understanding of programs, but composing existing, 'tested-by-use' programs. Already, it is common for the world experts on some important components to be unable to explain some of the emergent effects, or even give directions about how to chase them down. And you ain't seen nothin' yet, folks!

The days of actually fixing (or even locating) non-trivial bugs are long gone, and have been largely replaced by making changes or adding layers so that the bug does not appear in the cases that 'matter'. Also note the increasing use of fixing problems by changing specifications and even contracts - yes, some do (effectively) say "thou shalt not cause our software to misbehave". Several decades ago, I said that computing was ceasing to be a mathematical/engineering discipline and rapidly becoming something closer to animal or plant breeding. A rather eminent computer scientist regretfully agreed that I had a point!

At present, when the existing automation starts misbehaving too badly, there are humans higher up the decision tree who can (in theory) order other humans to get in and do something. Let's ignore the fact that an increasing amount of such work is outsourced to the lowest bidder, who employ the cheapest programmers that they can find. But even that's changing. One of the major interests in AI is for metaprograms that take a requirement and build a program to solve it, out of existing, 'tested-by-use' programs. And there is increasing interest in automating the debugging, (commercial) decision and planning processes, too ....

Sooner or later, if we head down this path, we are going end up having a critical AI system start misbehaving in a serious or incomprehensible way, be unable either to replace or 'fix' it, and have to rely on another AI system to decide what is the 'best' way out of that hole. At that point, may the Eschaton help us.


Will a given language be shaped by its ability to translate?

The translation process will certainly be completely automated, at least for the 'printed' word. I would assume that our contacts or glasses will throw up a HUD with sub-titles, if we don't have a more direct-to-brain interface.

If you know your day-to-day words are going to be translated across the big 6 languages, presumably you structure your text to avoid ambiguous nuances. Over time, does this cause a decline in the use of subtle phrases? Perhaps for everyday speech, we end up with a fairly simple public-language punctuated with emojis to convey limited nuance. Twitter may be a great predictor of this, if they attempt to implement a language translator.

Another side of this is industry specific lingo, which will never die. Public-speak may rule social conversation, but there will be industry specific translator packs for technical chatter forums.


Ok, we're postulating survival.

Capitalism is gone. People will kill you for saying you want to make a profit, and if the recording -- of course there is a recording -- is clear that, yeah, you said that, it will be legal. (Profit as a success metric is still around, but it's not called that; it might be called social efficiency or something. What it's called is probably the single biggest short hint about specific outcomes available.)

Biotech is inescapable; it's replaced pesticides at a minimum. But it's also cheap and lightweight and the plagues were really, really bad. Population is way down; two billion or so. Cities are "a concentration of robot activity"; humans can't form cities. Travel is rare and horribly expensive because there's a four-month quarantine process. Wet sex with other humans is rare; xenogamy of the form of passionately romantic interactions over the comms systems followed by exchange of digitized genomes is doing good things for human diversity. So is biotech; there are an awful lot of hair and eye colours there didn't used to be.

Robots are mining the cities away prior to their inundation. There's a lot of areas re-wilding because you can't go there; various clever people used insects and soil organisms as "animal reservoirs" for their (self-modifying) plagues. Biologists are having a field day but using drones.

Central control is weak; the robots don't actually care what humans want in many cases. Small human settlements can keep themselves fed, and trade, and communicate -- there's a lot of really good art out there; the ability for an individual to produce art has never been greater -- as long as one bunch of robots will talk to them. Most have several; robots specialize. There's a big fussy social issue about how much robot ecosystem the planet can take. Humans haven't got anything the robots want; human-robot economic interaction is because the robots are in a much better position to move stuff around.

"Computer viruses", broadly constructed, are maybe a problem among robots. Humans don't do that, in part because they can't, effectively, and in part because it makes the robots angry.


Another interesting question is the question of autonomous robotic soldiers.

The option of having a 100% loyal soldier that always follows orders, always acts within the scope of whatever law it is programmed to follow, never acts in anger, never has any remorse and can be turned off when the fighting is done is quite alluring to autocrat and democrat alike.

For the autocrat, using soldiers against a civil uprising is quite dangerous as soldiers may refuse to fight or even join the uprising. With modern communication technology it is also harder than before to control the flow of information to the soldiers. And there is always the danger of a group of officers conspiring to make a coup. However, it also means that whoever controls the robots will also be in power. This is potentially a single point of failure that a human army not would have. On top of the internal dissent (e.g. from an disgruntled sys-admin) there is also the problem of outsiders hacking the control servers.

The democrat can use the robot soldiers to argue that the bombs are indeed humanitarian as the robots could be programmed to never break the Geneva convention and always take care not to damage civilians. Lowering the need to deploy human soldiers and, hence, fewer bodybags and eye witnesses, this could be leveraged to reduce the discomfort of the public to war. The arms industry may also like this notion: If humanitarian safeguards could be put in place, it could make it easier to sell arms to repressive regimes (who could then remove the safeguards).

I would not be surprised if this turns into very real discussions among the higher echelons of our societies well before 2117. My bet would be that most sane leaders would probably keep human soldiers in charge of semi-autonomous robots, but some could end up trying the fully autonomous robots. And would probably fail spectacularly.

Further considerations on this question could be e.g. the emergent behaviours mentioned by Elderly Cynic, programming errors, how strong the humanitarian safeguards are and how easily they can be bypassed (see Asimov's Laws of Robotics), how good the robots actually are at various types of warfare (e.g. bombing from above vs city warfare), disruption of communication with their command server (also applies to semi-autonomous robots).


I think your vision is incomplete in some ways, Charlie. I believe most surfaces will be white, although the sole attire will be colored unisex jumpsuits. People will no longer have names; instead they will be identified by short serial numbers. English will be universally spoken, except that no one will understand the word "love". Occasionally, the population will speak in unison, offering fealty to "Father", who will turn out to be a giant pulsing brain in a jar. Children will be well-behaved and polite, to an unsettling extent.

At least that's what my research suggests.

Seamless computer translation of written and spoken word could mean that you don't need to speak the proper version of your own language -- for example, you could be listening to a person with a thick African American dialect speaking and have it translated into your local Mumbai English dialect without giving it a second thought.
Machine translation depends on published corpuses to "learn" the languages, so minority languages and "non-official" accents will suffer from pre-existing neglect and lack of network effect. The well-known joke about having to impersonate an American accent at any voice recognition device applies...

For example, electric cars don't appear to have the range or volume of gas cars (barring some miraculous battery that's as energy dense as gas

Not actually true in the time frame we're talking about. Tesla are upgrading their original Roadsters (only 500 were made) to a 350 mile battery pack, which for a two-seater sports car is probably about what you'd get from gas. Meanwhile, the higher end Model S is good for 250 miles. And this is using current generation LiION cells; the new lithium-based non-explodey battery that's due to hit the market in the next couple of years (invented by the team led by the guy who got a Nobel prize for inventing our current lithium-ion battery technology, so I'm calling this one a plausible story) is supposed to have up to double the capacity (and charges much faster).

If we're looking at 400-500 miles range and a 1-hour recharge time (after a 6-8 hour drive) then electric cars are pretty reasonably on the same level as gas-burners.

I suspect that the wave of ultra-wealth concentration will break and reverse.

Very likely, IMO — and on a time frame of single-digit years to low-single-digit decades at that. We're at the far end of a reaction against the Great Depression and then reconstruction from WW2 and welfare states; assuming it's a century-long cycle things should begin to re-equillibrate in the next couple of decades. (Too late to help us old farts, but in time to help the next generation before they hit retirement age.)

The one turd in the punchbowl that would block this would be early availability of life prolongation meds; as long as we've got Rupert Murdoch, the Koch Twins, etcetera, we're going to see pushback.

(I'm going to put Musk in a separate bracket from the above. He seems to be playing a very long game, oriented around an SF author's near future concerns — clean energy, climate change, space ...)


Total surveillance is not 2017, it's 1617 with added confession to the local Stasi enforcer every week or else. Even that "right to privacy" in the wishlist of the First Great Treasonous Slaveholder's Revolt of 1776 only applied to their peers, fellow slaveholders and property owners and not to slaves, women and the Irish. The DELUSION of non-surveillance has taken a knock more recently, I must admit.

Think about metadata -- each emoji has an underlying concept. You could have culture specific emoji that mean the same thing just displayed differently.
We already the beginnings of that.

The option of having a 100% loyal soldier that always follows orders, always acts within the scope of whatever law it is programmed to follow, [snip]

I think the at least human-level AI you would need for a robot to act always within the scope of any law would mean quite a lot of other changes, too.

I'm trying to say that laws are very difficult to follow completely, especially in situations which need rapid decisions and which are not clear cut, for example war.

Autonomous robots fighting? Yes. Autonomous robots making decisions which follow the law in combat? Not likely, until that human-level AI.


And I accidentally drop a word in a conversation about the future of language. Excellent. :-/


One big question for 2117: will the internet still exist?

I think we could make a case that it does not. While it's great to do, well, this--communicating freely with people from all over the world, the down-sides are pretty vicious. For one thing, I can be *hacked* by people from all over the world, and for another, internet companies often seem to focus on maximizing the addictiveness of their technology, not its utility. A lot of countries are cracking down, too, and it's getting ever easier to implement authoritarianism by controlling some local backbone network.

So whether it's China's great rainbow firewall (be happy, not angry! Angry is bad!) or the US launching a War On The Internet that mirrors the War on Drugs, I could see the whole thing falling apart into at best a taxonomy of splinternets in another couple of decades, with the Internet of Things being the first casualty.

However, this does *not* mean that computer technology won't keep Moore's and Koomey's laws (and other scaling issues) from building ever better technology for another few decades. The end result might be something that would be more recognizable to a 1980s SF writer than to a 2010s one.

Actually, that's another background question: aside from the internet, what's the handwave for when computer technology hits to Moore's Wall, Koomey Wall, and so forth. If it doesn't, by 2117, we'll probably have post singulatarian brains in the picture, and reactionaries will be vandalizing Kurzweil's grave.


With gene editing, brain mapping, brain computer interfaces, etc I'm hoping for my talking dog ala Clifford Simak. But I'd settle for a talking duck ala Sheldon. Along the same lines, does practical telepathy become a technological reality instead of a psionic ability?


the new lithium-based non-explodey battery that's due to hit the market in the next couple of years (invented by the team led by the guy who got a Nobel prize for inventing our current lithium-ion battery technology, so I'm calling this one a plausible story) is supposed to have up to double the capacity (and charges much faster).

Oh dear, another press-release "biggest breakthrough since breakfast" battery story and you fell for it? Charlie, Charlie, Charlie...

The team who put out the vague-details-no-commercial-version press release about this very early supposedly-promising lab demo is led by a 90-year-old figurehead, a distinguished and celebrated scientist who is still 90 years old and still a figurehead. Clarke's Law about elderly and distinguished scientists stands, I believe. As for the press release itself I could dig through the Slashdot archives and pull out multiple similar "biggest breakthrough since breakfast" battery stories issued over a span of a decade and more. The result, after all the breathless hype and anticipation? The Screamliner, the Galaxy Note 7 debacle etc., online shops selling fireproof bags for enthusiasts to transport LiIon battery packs while the battery capacity hasn't improved that much in terms of weight and volume -- the Watt Hours per Kilogram (Wh/kg) figure that rules and limits mobile applications of batteries.

There have been new battery techs that have actually made it to market but their upsides come with downsides -- SCiB from Toshiba has an eye-watering (and connector-melting) recharge rate of 10C i.e. a 2Ah cell can charge to full capacity in 6 minutes at 20A and it can do more than once but it's heavy, not a match in the Wh/kg competition with regular Li-ion and LiPoly technologies. It's also genuinely in the "if you ask the price you can't afford it" section of the catalogue. It's a real thing though, not just a series of PowerPoint slides like nearly all of the other BBSB stories.

45: culture will be tweaked to dead (note the changes from the loss of 19th Century horse culture), so that's a not of new words and phrases to evolve. What will replace "you're driving me nuts?."

I could drive a coach and four through that argument. I won't look a gift horse in the mouth since I've got the whip hand.

Incidently "Driving me nuts" is the punchline to the joke "Why is there steering wheel on your trousers?"


The option of having a 100% loyal soldier that always follows orders... a frequent trope in US fiction, and is (to put it politely), something only desired by those who don't understand the problem. I think I may have mentioned this in a recent thread...

Militaries deal with wicked problems. There is no "correct" answer to many of the issues; and they frequently demand creativity and inventiveness (much of the leadership training is about problem solving, the use of intuition vs. analysis, etc). Most of the issues are people problems, requiring social skills. Most of the time, militaries aren't fighting - and when they do deploy, they increasingly face the "three-block war" (peace support, a few hundred meters from peace enforcement, a few hundred meters from full-on kill-people-and-break-things). I can honestly say that I have never heard an Army Officer declare that he/she'd rather have robots than real soldiers. The closest I've heard is a veiled insult that "they train to man the equipment; we train to equip the man".


I think we will see the E-parasite (small corporate appendages that look like whatever replaces smartphones) rise to a high art as tech iteration becomes cheap.

Tech addiction problems will abound for a while, but will become less overtly damaging as devices evolve. Most of the population will be high functioning tech addicts with faculties significantly altered from the baseline human standard not necessarily by direct machine interface, but by continual refinement of the manual interface.

Some will not fare so well as we let our digital buddies help to correlate the mind's contents; they will (as HPL said) "seek the peace and safety of a new dark age"... Pretty sure we began seeing people helping this along in the last couple years.


I do find it amazing that on the one hand, we have the "watch out for the surveillance state" meme; and on the other hand, the "we'll have universal translators for all!" meme...

...and no-one has put the two together and pointed out that if you've made sure that everything you say goes through a machine or a server farm that (by definition) can be subverted, then "they" won't just know where you are, but everything you ever say...

I can see an increasing use of a subset of English (the Economist had an interesting article a while back about the emergence of "Globish") as a common trade tongue, especially among the security-minded. With the advantage of keeping the translation hardware between your ears.


what's the handwave for when computer technology hits to Moore's Wall, Koomey Wall, and so forth

We're already on the off-ramp from Moore's Law as of a couple of years ago; the doubling of capacity per dollar every two years is now ancient history. (Koomey's Law still has some way to run but is also slowing.)


Of these, looking a gift horse in the mouth is the only thing I think the Youngs would srsly consider using. Like OMG. Still, things like "pedal to the metal," "give it some gas" or "shade tree mechanic" might make little sense a century from now.

As for other slang, probably the biggest wave of new slang terms will likely come from Bengali (cf: the Bangladeshi diaspora). I could be wrong, but I can't think of another country that has so many people that are so vulnerable to climate change, and has so little land to relocate them onto.

Since the Bangladeshis are mostly not Salafist---oh yeah, that's the other thing: Islam's going to change quite a lot over the next 100 years. The biggest reason the Salafists have the megaphone at the moment is that the House of Saud has butt loads of petrodollars. If they dry up and go away, they'll be just another sunshine exporter, hustling to inject solar watts into some grid or other. There are many other Sunnis (including the Bangladeshis) who may stage their own Sunni revival when OPEC goes away. That should be interesting.


As a physicist, your claim that we can only reason about things we have words for strikes me as weird. I'm used to reasoning about nameless concepts all the time. If after doing some work I'm convinced that the concept is in fact interesting, I invent a word for it and publish it in a scientific paper =)


"If we're looking at 400-500 miles range and a 1-hour recharge time (after a 6-8 hour drive) then electric cars are pretty reasonably on the same level as gas-burners."

And a fifth of the price. Prices drop rapidly only when they are high because the only problem is the lack of mass production, and I don't think that is the case here. A Nissan Leaf is more similar to what ordinary people would buy, costs nearly double what my car costs, is much smaller (both for people and luggage) and has a quarter of the range.


Right. The doubling of speed every 2 years stopped about 2003, and was replaced by the doubling of the number of cores - but, unfortunately, that's not where the limits are for most uses.


Haven't read the comments yet, so please excuse if already mentioned ...

Some small yet remarkably successful Western countries have been transitioning from prime capitalism to mixed capitalism-socialism. The US meanwhile is still mostly capitalism but seems to be transitioning to a more mixed religio-capitalism (you will succeed/make more $ if you follow these exact words of ‘God’.) This is exactly the same thing that’s been happening in the MidEast/Saudi influenced nations only the flavor is different. Wahhabism is a fundamentalist sect – same as the most popular gung-ho Christian-flavor sects in the US. So at a very (…erm..) fundamental level, this is a war between brothers. The rationalists and socialists – probably because they are rational and pro-social - are the common targets/victims of both. That’s probably most folk reading your books/blog. (Okay Saudi Arabia has seriously ratcheted up its spending on tertiary education and scientific research in the past 15 years, i.e., ads for profs/post-docs in almost every Nature issue. But seriously – from the ads I recall seeing, their research is tech-focused and engineering oriented and not basic – therefore safe-from/not-a-threat-to-religious or current social structures. )

Re: ‘Decline in religions and languages …’
No and yes. Religions are notorious for spinning off sects … and there’s no minimum size requirement. Just look at the number of registered religions in the US – thousands! – and the majority are plain ol’ X-fundy strains. Think there’s a relationship between number of sects and population, e.g. more versions of Catholicism in India than in any other country. Languages – I’d credit formal schooling with at least as much influence here as near-universal access to tech communications. Consider: education is deemed by pretty well every org as a public good because it’s a very visible measurable public good. More importantly, public education usually correlates with likely future success/prosperity. So, I’d look more closely at how various countries’ public education programs are designed: availability of subjects/courses, textbooks and in-class videos/demos, exams, special-ed and ‘X’-as-a-second-language course availability, etc. Lastly, the language that you most need to learn is the language you work in. So, this means software languages too … and I’ve no idea how this might change ‘cuz that’s not my area.

Emoji’s – IMO, emoji’s are necessary because text has replaced both face-to-face (expressions) and voice (tone, pauses, etc.) communications. Most importantly emoji’s add relevance because a lot of/most interpersonal communication depends on context, that is, emotion conveys which particular meaning is intended. Emoji are this era’s ‘short-hand’ … what we need to convey most quickly and accurately are our feelings ... which says a lot of what we value. (Don’t recall which video but Daniel Dennett has covered emotional context and statement meaning at some point.)

A question for the linguists … just how many ideas are completely unique to the different languages? One way of keeping at least part of a language alive is to include some of its unique vocabulary … something that English is especially good at.


You didn't mention the addition of machine oriented languages spoken by humans and by machines. English is so difficult to use without ambiguity it might be easier to use a different language when it's paramount there is precision of representation the first time and without feedback.

Further, if you posit general AI (as I would), you'll have the cultures of machines and how they interact with humans.

I know you're focusing mostly on the changes to human culture, but these will reverberate back and forth between machines and humans, changing both in the process.


I'm going to go (slightly) more optimistic and suggest that a combination of biotech, renewable energy and ecological engineering has led to the universal basic calorie being provided as a human right. Biotech will give the human body the ability to synthesise those awkward proteins, vitamins etc that we currently have to eat. A widespread drive towards technology to extract CO2 (and other undesirables like NOx) from the air will initially produce enormous plants sited near cheap energy sources, but ultimately will be miniaturised to something that can be installed in buildings like small wind turbines are today. Food synthesis / cultivation will advance to allow the feedstocks extracted from the air (plus additional supplements for rare minerals) to be made into human-metabolisable food using energy produced from solar / wind sources.

On the negative side, easy access to biotech tinkering equipment has lead to bioengineered plagues deployed by useful idiots aligned to a number of different causes, from radical religion through to anti-globalisation activists trying to shut down transcontinental megacorps. In response, people rarely travel from their state-provided sealed communities, interacting with other communities and working via full immersion A/VR (via direct-brain interface).

The elite (now a small group, almost a separate species with little-to-no social mobility) roam more freely around the globe, protected by state of the art biotech immune systems from local microbes. Emphasis on decision making in person and the courage of the top management in allowing themselves to be exposed to the world helps to keep the lid on a popular revolt, combined with a level of total surveillance worse than could have been imagined before the brain interface was the universal method of working and communicating. A person's conscious and unconscious biases can be measured, then targeted reality programs subtly change the way information is presented to sculpt more complacent personalities.

Well, that was less optimistic than planned...


(barring some miraculous battery that's as energy dense as gas)

The problem is that gas, in this context, doesn't actually have an energy density of its own. It needs help, and lots of it:

Energy is obtained from the combustion of gasoline by the conversion of a hydrocarbon to carbon dioxide and water. The combustion of octane follows this reaction:

2 C8H18 + 25 O2 → 16 CO2 + 18 H2O

If you add up the octane and oxygen weights, it's 228 of octane plus 800 of externally obtained oxygen, or 1 part gas to 3.5 parts oxygen. That's a pretty big advantage for combustion engines.

Of course, there are metal-air battery concepts around, and maybe one of them will work out and close the gap a bit.


Capitalism is gone. People will kill you for saying you want to make a profit, and if the recording -- of course there is a recording -- is clear that, yeah, you said that, it will be legal.

Disagree. I think it's more likely that some aspects of capitalism will be highly illegal; in particular, making a profit without regard to physical or energy externalities will be close to crimes-against-humanity territory. But it's possible to have a profit-driven capitalist economy that doesn't generate physical externalities if the market in question is virtual: for example, in-game MMO economies are inherently inflationary but don't interact with our "real" economy in terms of corn futures or water. (Electrons, maybe ...) Your point about arts and crafts is a good one and it's possible to support a growth-driven arts sector more or less indefinitely (unless we're talking about physical pyramid-building as opposed to imaginary pyramid-building in cyberspace). Some virtual economies will be illegal, though: Bitcoin, for example, is deflationary and sucks up more and more electricity as you try to mine new coins—this is a pretty obvious environmental no-no.

Biotech is inescapable; it's replaced pesticides at a minimum. But it's also cheap and lightweight and the plagues were really, really bad. Population is way down; two billion or so. Cities are "a concentration of robot activity"; humans can't form cities.

Unsure, tending to disagree. If biotech is inescapable then we may be looking at ubiquitous real-time genome sequencing of the ambient biosphere—a sequencer in every square meter of sidewalk, looking for anomalous fingerprints and running them against a simulated human extended proteome to see if for example it looks likely to trigger a cytokine storm or stealthily infiltrate T helper cells. (This simulation won't happen in the paving stone, but in server farms on the same scale as the ones Facebook currently uses for ambient face recognition in photographs, i.e. tens of millions of cores running highly parallelized algorithms on big data.)

We may also see "cities" as we know them — sprawling, with suburbs — replaced by much denser roofed-over arcologies and groundscrapers for weather/environment protection and, coincidentally, realtime tracking of inhabitants along with aforementioned biosphere threat monitoring. New diseases won't have time to get a toe-hold and spread; they'll either be instantly fatal (thus making sure they're not terribly contagious) or contagious but with lethality deferred long enough under such highly surveilled conditions that tracking down the carriers and forcibly treating them is practical.

Now, inter-city travel might well be slow and punctuated by quarantine sessions at the city gates ... but non-existent? Not so much.

Long haul travel: I suspect sleeper trains may make a big come-back. Subsonic airliners are still practical, as long as the kerosene they're burning is synthetic, but probably not in as wide use as they are today.

Apropos rewilding: I note that the enthusiasm for vertical farming and hydroponics and so on of a couple of years ago has died down a little. It all depends where your energy comes from. We now have high-efficiency daylight spectrum LEDs that can be used for farming indoors. Currently it's mostly of use to folks who want to grow C. sativa, but I can see nuclear/tidal/wind power used to top up solar and power windowless indoor high density farms to supply those cities. Folks who live near the sea are probably going to get used to a variety of products derived in some way from jellyfish, though. (Not as a direct-to-human input, but as feedstock for other food products.)

Robots mining cities: yes. An entire robot ecosystem: yes. Arguably, an entire prosthetic biosphere, powered by nukes, organized to keep a few surviving endangered "wild" pre-anthropocene ecosystems from final collapse. Human access to such wilderness reserves would be a rare privilege and require use of isolation suits and sterile procedures to prevent cross-infection.


Also note Kevin Drum's prediction that terrorism will decline by 50% in the middle east by 2040 ... for a simple reason: most of the middle east only banned lead as an additive in gasoline in the early 21st century (and terrorism thrives on a ready supply of angry, cognitively-damaged young men who grew up inhaling lead in the car exhaust fumes where they live). Same reason as the decline in violent crime in the USA, UK, and other developed nations.

So there's that to hope for.


I tried to tackle the future of religion in Hot Earth Dreams.

The takeaways that are relevant here:

--"Religion" as a meme is basically a Christian idea and apparently about 1,000 years old in its current form. The Chinese language(s) reportedly didn't have a word for that meme until the late 19th Century, and then they borrowed it from Japanese. This is worth seriously considering, because the Chinese have been dealing with Christian missionaries for most of 2000 years, and there was even a Chinese Archbishop leading the Church of the East (out of Baghdad) back somewhere around 600 AD. It's not like they hadn't seen Christianity or Islam, it's just that they didn't bother with the category we now see as so important. The bottom line here is that there are multiple ways of dealing with various forms of organized spirituality. Right now the "religion" meme is paramount, and it probably will be in 2117, but radical shifts are possible.

--What constitutes a "sect" or a "religion" or even "spirituality" is highly subjective. One of the biggest arguments in Religious Studies is what they're studying, and whether something (martial arts, or Jedi, or yoga) is something they should study.

--The easily available data for how many Christian religions/sects/branches/forms there are in the world is probably bogus (one data set claims over 200 forms of Roman Catholicism...) and similar studies of Islam and Buddhism weren't readily available a couple of years ago and may not exist now (see point about religion as a meme: there's no reason to think these split the same way Christianity does, so lumping them into the same subcategories may be beyond stupid).

--The bottom line, though is clear: no matter how you lump or split them, religions tend to follow something like a long-tailed distribution curve. There are a few big, heterogeneous blocks, either in all religions or within each religion (Christianity is a big block of all religions, Roman Catholicism is a big block of Christianity, but it's highly heterogeneous, etc.). There also is a very long tail of smaller religions/sects/cults/whatever, tailing out to a crowd of holy people who attract few if any followers and whose teachings don't survive their lifetimes.

--Religions spring up effectively at random. There's that huge long tail of holy people who don't amount to anything, but occasionally one of them is blessed by the black swan and recruits a lot of followers. A few of these are blessed by further black swans and found "Great Religions" that last centuries to thousands of years.

--There is no regular lifespan for big religious movements. Some flame out quickly, some last longer, and none (going back to the Babylonian religions, which disappeared around 1000-1200 AD in the Iraqi marshes) has verifiably lasted more than 3000 years or so (Australian aboriginal myths don't count, as there's no documentary evidence showing continuity of belief for >1,000 years, let alone >3,000 years). There's no steady trend or path for any movement, either: it's safer to say that each one is a special snowflake whose future is unpredictable. Christianity is the classic example, mentioned because tis the season: if Paul hadn't come along, Jesus would have been just another executed Jewish messiah (of many in that time), and his semi-effective teachings about non-violent political revolution would probably have died with his disciples or perhaps their disciples.


English-for-non-native-speakers is already the dominant language in the EU's institutions, so when you're talking Globish, that does already exist. A different English-for-non-natives is a big deal in India. Both are pretty easy for a native-speaker to understand, though fairly hard to speak (native-speakers have too much vocabulary and too many idioms). What I don't know is whether they are mutually comprehensible, or if they are effectively disjoint subsets of English. If they're disjoint, then English will hold the line much better than if they are mutually comprehensible. If you can get to semi-fluency in Globish and be fine in any non-English-speaking country, then English itself could fragment entirely.

India is about the same percentage natively Hindi as China is natively Mandarin, but non-Hindi-speaking Indians tend to learn English, whereas non-Mandarin-speaking Chinese tend to learn Mandarin. I think the lack of second-language Hindi-speakers will prevent Hindi expanding, where there are lots of second-language Mandarin speakers from the rest of China - so the infrastructure for teaching Mandarin already exists, and Mandarin speakers are familiar with conversing with semi-fluent learners.

I expect that automated translation will continue to be much better at translating between a small number of major languages than at coping with a large number of minor ones. I wonder if the other killer (translating between languages that have few mutual speakers, therefore getting few corrections to learn from) will continue to screw up translation between Indo-European languages and East Asian languages.


Not really relevant to the content, but there's a typo in the link to the Saturn's Children Wikipedia page, resulting in a broken link and a hanging parenthesis.


If your theory about cultures aggressively expanding due to language extinction is correct, then I expect we'll see the beginnings of a new age of city states. Not necessarily full independence and primacy for cities and the nation-states all gone. I mean more like a gradual weakening of central authority, in favor of cities having more and more leeway to act independently on the world stage.

How could this happen?

Cities are the drivers of economic development these days. The features that allow this to be true (network effects; resource efficiency; culture and talent incubation, etc) will not likely disappear during the time frame you specify. The best and the brightest will be sucked into the cities, and the long-running brain drain of rural areas will only accelerate, driving further wedges between urban and rural citizens.

At the same time, aggressively spread cultures running on just a handful of languages with better-than-modern telecommunications technology will begin to have the effect of allowing urban dwellers to know and begin to identify with other urban dwellers as a trans-national caste. (Not quite a class, since the whole spectrum of wealth will be found in cities, and not quite an ethnic group either--but there will be a sense of shared identification.) They will become concerned about each other's domestic developments, and commiserate about their respective "red state" problems.

Brexit was a good example of this already happening.

Push this process further, and cities will begin to wonder why they should go to war on behalf of their countrysides and vice versa. I don't expect a clean break from centralized nation state governance to city-state rule overnight, but we could be see some local bids for independence by the end of the century. #NewYorkxit

Alternatively, serious devolution of powers to city governments may become commonplace.

You might see send his newly-established City Commissioner of State to a major gathering of international leaders and have it be seen as a long time coming.

Already we are seeing American cities openly defy the Federal Government on issues of immigration. The 10th Amendment means the Feds cannot directly order local governments to do anything; usually they just bribe for compliance but that doesn't work on issues of identity. Cities in the US will increasingly have an identity that is distinct from the US as a whole.

I think this will be true elsewhere, since urban/rural friction is as old as cities themselves, thus the generalizations.

Sorry for the meandering ramble; tired after work.


Who said anything about terrorism? Heck, there are anti-Muslim Buddhist extremists in Myanmar, and suicide bombs were used quite successfully by Marxists in Sri Lanka. If there are smart, angry young men, there will be terrorists. What might stop them is if the data get out that non-violence tends to be about twice as effective, but even then, I doubt it.

No, the Salafist "no pictures, no singing, no dancing, wear the veil" has been flooding Islam for the last century, just as (petro-dollar driven?) corporate evangelical Churchianity seems to be flooding the US. As these recede, other traditions will flower again: if the House of Saud can no longer push its agenda, then we'll likely see a flowering of Muslim arts that are nothing like what we consider them today: pictures of the Prophet and so forth. These used to be normal in many parts of the Muslim world before oil came along.


Re: Emoji's

Early stages of research but does show how/why 'emojis' (not specifically referenced) may prime how text is interpreted.

Neurophysiological correlates of comprehending emotional meaning in context

Not in the article, but a personal opinion ... and something to keep in mind: Most humans mimic each other during conversation/interaction. Such mimicking provides the mimicker a way of internalizing (feeling) and interpreting the other's internal state, therefore, more correctly discerning the intended meaning of whatever else in whatever modality is also being communicated.


Absolutely is the problem.

Fossil carbon investment is in the trillions. Battery investment is in the low billions. Nobody has put the money into true mass production yet and the learn-by-doing hasn't happened.

There are a bunch of promising battery chemistries; there's flow batteries (which are important for solar storage if not a mobile tech themselves for anything smaller than trains); there's the possibility of doing something weird with meta-materials and getting more of an electron tank than a battery as such. None of this has been appropriately funded. (Rather like you can get funding for hydrogen cars but not for anything that might work.)

That's starting to crack; the PRC seems to be (appropriately!) deadly, deadly serious about their smog problem. At least one of nickel-cobalt, lithium-sulfur, and the solid-electrolyte lithium or sodium chemistries seems likely to be a good successor technology to lithium-ion. And the good thing about electric cars is that you can swap the battery pack, whether the one in the car you have or at the design-and-manufacturing stage, without having to do anything much to the rest of the system.

I would also question the current cost; upfront cost is higher, lifetime operating cost is lower. And ultimately, cost scales with parts count, which is an inherent advantage for electric.


your theory about cultures aggressively expanding due to language extinction

Nope, I'm not attributing a causal link running in that direction. If anything it's the opposite way round; aggressively expansionist cultures kill off minority languages.

The city hypothesis you then go into seems to be echoing Richard Florida's work ...


Goodenough may be emeritus but he sure doesn't sound emeritus, is taking last-author, and the lead author is a young Portuguese woman engineering professor named Maria Helena Braga. They're also being very open about not being certain they have the cathode yet. This does not strike me as obviously risible stuff; the IEEE article in particular has the team talking about material specifics.

I wouldn't casually dismiss this one any more than I'd casually dismiss the Harvard team that's working on organic electrolyte flow batteries.


I'd also like to note that over the past few years Nojay was convinced that (a) SpaceX would go bust before making orbit, (b) yeah, but the Falcon 9 was an untried design and they'd go bust trying to get sales, (c) okay, but they for-sure wouldn't be able to successfully recover a first stage, (d) well maybe but it was a stunt and they'll never risk a commercial cargo on a second-hand booster, and probably now (e) they'll never retrieve an upper stage (per Musk, they're going to try and nail it by the end of next year).

IOW, Nojay is an engineering pessimist. He's often right, but sometimes he's very wrong.


Emoji don't seem to be developing in the direction of ideograms; rather, they're turning into a sort of substitute for gesture and expression, essential elements of spoken communication missing from written language. (Gretchen McCulloch has a nice discussion of this: .) If this continues, they may become obligatory as a sort of vastly expanded punctuation system, and we'll finally be able to stop worrying about the intended tone of our emails being completely misinterpreted.

As for the ongoing extinction of cultures and languages, one word: urbanization. Young people can't find a decent job around home, so they move to big cities where the neighbours don't understand their language, and think speaking it makes you a hick. That works to the advantage of both "Western culture" and "Arab/Sunni Islam", but the homogeneizing effect of the massive spike in urbanization that we're living through would be much the same if neither existed.


Re: "Religion" as a meme is basically a Christian idea ...'

Nope ... there are records of ancient civilizations that had religious wars. These were wars between states as well as civil wars when the head honcho decided to change religions.

Do agree with that in China, Korea, and Japan 'the way one lived one's life' had a more philosophical than religious tone. Then again, personal opinion is that both concepts were interchangeable back then and depended largely on how much the population (or head honchos) needed something relatable such as a mythic personality (religion) or were comfortable with an abstraction (philosophy).


Isn't the term for 2017 surveillance "sparrow-fart"? Or wouldn't it be that good yet?

Quantum Computers seem to be starting to appear, but so far they require liquid Helium temperatures. It seems quite possible, though, that liquid Nitrogen could eventually be made to work ... probably before 2117. This makes many kinds of surveillance much more do-able.

It's worth noting that *currently* many AI object recognition programs don't work the same way human object recognition does, even if they have better accuracy in a normal scene. This is shown by the construction of patterns that humans see as noise and the AI confidently recognizes as the target object. This might not be addressed, as it doesn't affect normal operation. But one may wonder what the AI might notice that people are just blind to. This could have effects in 2117.

Additionally an AI could be designed to have a higher limit than "the magic number 7 plus or minus 2". The effects of this are hard to project, but it might well think thoughts that are intrinsically unintelligible to people. (I usually synopsize this as "having a deeper stack" even though that isn't quite right.)
Note: This isn't quite the same as being more intelligent, it's more like having a wider mind. I think. It's definitely not the same as thinking faster (which it might also do).

And, of course, the real problem with any AI is its motivations. They won't be human. Presumably they will be designed with "standard engineering safeguards", but in a new area those often don't work in the expected way. So I consider the recognition of noise by an AI object recognizer as an analog of what should be expected.

Social problems appear intractable. We've already got a huge amount of "bread and circuses", and that will need to increase dramatically. Virtual reality shows promise here. That can allow the aggressive feeling to be bled off safely, but is it sufficient? (And how will haptic feedback develop? Will odor feedback become important, or will people generally ignore smells? Etc.)

Since a really good virtual reality requires allowing free motion, there's going to be the need for rooms where people are suspended in the air in visualization suits that allow them to run, walk, etc. This will be expensive, so I expect the reappearance of "video arcades". How will they be regulated? Will they replace gyms? Movie theaters? Business conferences?

How much traffic can the E-M spectrum support? Will local transmissions need to be over light (including infra-red and UV)? Will spread spectrum replace radio frequency transmission? (Probably not, but...CSMACD)

I am, of course, presuming that there won't be a direct brain link. If there is it will have a lot greater effect in many different directions, but which are impossible to quantify as its not certain to what extent direct communication would be even intelligible. Similar patterns are used for sensory representations in different brains, but they are far from being identical. The same may be true of muscle twitch representations, which even includes speech.


[capitalism gone?]

Some of the systemic mechanisms of capitalism will still likely be with us, but it's currently effectively the state religion of the global hegemon. Getting rid of it as a mechanism of control (you can only gang up on problems -- express your basic humanity, in other words -- in narrowly capitalist ways) is going to take a really drastic cultural shift, on the order of "baptism and a clean shirt or death". So while the mechanisms may be there, I don't think the language will be. (Rather like the Christianization of Easter!)

General real-time sampling, etc. isn't plausible on information density grounds; can't build enough server farms and the potential search space is functionally infinite. You can't just check for "codes for protein", you have to check for "codes for protein parts A through Q, seven protein folders, and a four-step assembly process"; then what about a five step assembly process? three? Effective pre-detection isn't going to work in general. Which leaves both infection control (you only change gloves hourly? I won't have anyone so rash dating my child!) and quarantine barriers. (Expect sad stories of good damaged by the cargo container autoclave having an overpressure event on the live steam.)

The technology is going to be there to move people around, but I don't think the safety factor will be. Or the willingness; another pneumonic rabies outbreak has nigh-infinite cost. I expect there's a subset of robots who take a cut out of human trade by moving stuff around for disparate groups of humans. How the robots get paid out of this -- what humans have robots want they can't get more cheaply elsewhere -- is unclear; "cat pictures" is, alas, highly unlikely. I'd put that as the single biggest risk to people in a scenario like this; we don't necessarily have anything the robots want. "majestic herds of bison" here we come.

Don't think we've got any pre-anthropocene ecosystems. I expect humans have big fights (between locals and interested distant persons) about ecosystem maintenance, and how the great Pennsylvanian tiger introduction of 2023 was or was not a mistake.


And how will haptic feedback develop? Will odor feedback become important, or will people generally ignore smells? Etc.

Supernormal stimulus virtual sex. If we've got ongoing VR gaming we're going to get this, and I think it's going to solve far more problems than it causes.


The running costs are nothing like enough lower to offset the capital costs, unfortunately. A Nissan Leaf costs about 12p/mile in fuel if driven hard, and a Skoda Fabia about 17p/mile; I can't estimate the other running costs. That's 5 grand over 100,000 miles difference, but the capital cost difference is 10 grand. And the latter car is bigger (and much bigger in cargo capacity).

Yes, in theory, electric is simpler and so should be cheaper (including for maintenance), but that is still a long way off. If the problems haven't been solved by 2117, we will have worse ones to worry about, but I am not expecting electric cars to replace petrol before about 2030.


Quantum computers? When I last looked, they passed the duck test for being pure snake oil.


If even meaningless jobs disappear as they seem to be doing then perhaps the global population will have crashed by then, maybe not with a roar but with a whimper. Boredom is a powerful force and if Those In Charge see no reason for the existence of a mass of non-worker bees then violence isn't strictly necessary. Comfortable boredom and birth control will do the job humanely, if they so choose, and why not? What the hell else is there for most people to do?


Different issue, I think. If we're in the Middle Eastern City State age, Akhenaten was less a visionary monotheist and more a Kim Il Sung-like authoritarian who was trying to take power away from other temples.

There are two dirty little secrets here: one is that religious tithes were often the precursor to taxes, as in the Roman Empire (tithes to the Imperial Genius that kept the Empire together counted as taxes, and Christians got in trouble for not paying said "tax" because it implied they were enemies of state unity), China (look at the sacrifices the Emperor had to make to maintain the link between Heaven and the Middle Kingdom, and tell me he was secular), and in Egypt, where the pharoahs ("Of the Great House") were spiritual as well as secular authorities. Battles between who got to control which warehouse the crops flowed into (and by extension, who got to divvy them out and for what) were framed in competitions among the gods who owned those warehouses.

The other is that, when one city-state conquered another, it was taken as evidence that the losers' gods were worthless, and they were generally pitched out as their people were sold into slavery. Judaism was unique, at least in the Middle East, in managing to keep Yahweh going after they were conquered and absorbed. That actually marked the shift from religion being a magical part of the state panoply to religion being something else that marked worshipers as a people, not as a state.

But actually, the biggest problem is that we work in a Judeo-Christian framework, so we back-project modern concepts of religion onto the past, and then assume that we understand what was going on the same way the people of the past did. I'm not so sure that's entirely or even relatively true. Two counterexamples of that are the Roman ritual of evocatio, a ceremony by which Roman priests transferred to Rome the head deity of a city they were beseiging. This makes perfect sense under the genius loci theory, but as religion, not so much. Imperial Chinese ritual is another example, wherein the emperor, much as the Roman emperor, was expected to perform rituals to keep the empire together, and a lot of this was framed as the Son of Heaven sacrificing to his ancestors (eg Heaven). It didn't particulary matter whether an emperor also practiced Buddhism or Taoism, any more than it mattered that his subjects did, because the ancestor sacrifices were what was important.


7 Samurai or Stalker (Tarkovski) is a great movie, but really slow compared to todays mainstream cinema and so hard to watch if you are used to modern cinema. So I think many old classics are simply not watched that much anymore. How many people actually have seen and enjoyed Kurosawas Hidden Fortress, vs. how many have heard that it was somewhat inspirational to Star Wars?*

I think video games and novels also change over time and the older stuff is hard to digest unless you work at it (because you are a nerd, or teach cultural studies).

I think there will be always change in the tastes popular media are made for, and these tastes will change, and quite possible that change will rather accelerate - like 'fast fashion', but for books (textually represented entertainment).**

This would mean that you in 2117 will have a (maybe) really sophisticated taste, but that you will have a hard time to emjoy novels or games from as short back as 2107.

* This thought is inspired by two things: A friend who looked at me in disbeleiv when I talked about how awesome the Hidden fortress is ("You watch Movies from '65?"), and another friend who bragged about how much he liked Tarkovskis Stalker because of the very slow pace.

** When writing this, I wondered wether there will be some final style movie/book/? that each media will asymptotically move towards. But no: Fashion with it's constant variation and repetition is a far likelier candidate for such multi-dimensional, chaotic things without fixed attractors as visual style in movie or textual narration.


If fossil fuels are unusuable, then long-haul freight will revert from ships to rail. China has been spending a lot of money on their "Iron Silk Road" project, and that's a very long-term plan for maintaining a connection to Europe when ships stop being able to use diesel engines.

If someone builds the infrastructure for rail between the two Americas and a decent freight net in South America, then I expect goods not to cross the Atlantic and Pacific except where necessary.

Islands will become expensive to live on, because goods have to go by sea, and there's no easy (ie cheap) way to power a ship. Sure, you could use sail, but that's slow and unreliable. And either lots of manpower, or powered sails - and where do you get the electricity from? Presumably, you can use a wind-turbine since you don't need to adjust your sails when it's calm. I could see those in the calmer seas - supplying the Mediterranean islands and the Caribbean ones, but they'll still be expensive compared to rail.

Now, some islands will be fine: there's a Channel Tunnel. Someone will build an Irish Sea Tunnel. There will be a bridge over the Straits of Messina. Japan and Sumatra-Java will get fixed links. So will Sri Lanka.

But shifting volumes of goods over water is going to get a lot more expensive. Some islands will just get subsidised (Scottish ones, Nantucket, Hawaii, Corsica, Sardinia etc). Others will just not be there (Maldives), but the costs are going to really hurt somewhere like Malta or Cyprus or Iceland, never mind the much poorer islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.


"I'm trying to say that laws are very difficult to follow completely, especially in situations which need rapid decisions and which are not clear cut, for example war."

Not just very difficult, but probably impossible, unless the whole lot is rewritten from the ground up in a manner that incorporates at least formal proof of consistency and maximal parsimony.

For humans, scrupulously following every detail of every rule and regulation is a useful form of industrial action: the management can hardly criticise people for following the rules, but the result of scrupulously following the rules is to bring the whole operation to a grinding halt. Some of this is due to lack of parsimony - too many rules have application to any given situation and complying with them all takes up the majority of the effort. And some of it is due to inconsistency - one rule mandates one course of action, another rule mandates a mutually exclusive course. Sometimes, even, in a blatantly stupid way that can be totally internal to one small-ish rule set, as with railway enabling acts that simultaneously prescribe and proscribe the use of locomotives. And of course the larger the corpus of rules and precedents becomes, the more such contradictions will accumulate in it.

I strongly suspect the success of the legal system positively depends on being so bloated and baroque that it is simply impossible for humans to comply with it. But a computer would not suffer from the human limitations of not being able to remember or correlate more than a tiny bit of it. So either it would spend the whole time deadlocked, or it would have to be programmed to break the law, which is one of those trolley-problem things that could run and run.


I'd be looking at a Chevy Bolt or the E-Smart long before I looked at the Leaf. The Leaf is pretty much worst-in-class as I understand the matter.


Capitalism will probably be around in 2117. What it actually involves may or may not have anything to do with current capitalist theory (the same has happened with Communism, Christianity, Buddhism...) but something called capitalism will probably be around.

If you believe Graeber's Debt, capitalism was basically founded on things like expansive conquest followed by redistribution of wealth to the conquerors, trades in people, arms, drugs (including alcohol), and money. All of these are still around, but human trafficking and some aspects of the drugs, arms, and money trades are currently illegal. Making them illegal didn't make them go away, it just changed the market structure (as with drug cartels, migrant farm workers, prostitution, and the like).

Now, if you don't believe Graeber's Debt, you'll point out that trade in all these things long pre-dates anything called capitalism, and we can argue endlessly which practices are uniquely capitalist and whether they'll be around in a coherent bundle in a century or so. My personal bet is, unless the term Capitalism gets such a bad rap that it's banned like the swastika, it'll be around in a century, although 22nd Century captialism may look little like what we practice today. I also predict all the old, scary trades in people, drugs, and weapons will continue, whether they're illegal or not.


Re: '... and note practical AI programs are WAY beyond our ability to analyse, and almost certain to remain so for the next millennium, let alone century.'

On a Dennett kick recently ... in some video he mentioned that until/unless there's a consequence for your AI/robot, there's damn well little stopping it from evolving in whatever direction it wants, i.e., all are paths of least resistance. There's an idea that having to think one's way around consequences can be a prod for developing consciousness or at least 'will'. If this is so, then hardwiring/hard-programming an AI/program so that it must make decisions and then having a panel of humans review those decisions (esp. the why's/objectives and consequences) and altering the programming accordingly seems reasonable in developing trustworthy AI.

Has anyone bothered to program in a must-stop-here as part of a robot's/program's function?


Ships are easy; air+water ammonia synthesis with solar or wind (sailing ships designed to do this with ocean wind would be my bet), then cargo ships driven by alkaline fuel cells using the ammonia. Pretty much all of it is demonstrated tech; ammonia handling is known tech. Big electric motors for ship propellers is an increasingly standard tech.

Container cargo volumes per ship might drop as the weather gets worse and "route around the storm" gets less practical, so that will run prices up, but I'm very unsure there's going to be a loss of ocean traffic.

(oh, and fixed links require "same crustal plate"; this is why there isn't a rail bridge to Vancouver Island, where the good deep water harbour is.)


1. Machine learning algorithms are likely capable to decode dolphin, whale, crow, fox, etc languages. If this is successful, then citizens would no longer be human-only in all countries. Of course, this would vary.

2. Total Fertility Rate can't be predicted yet. Industrialization lowered TFR. Perhaps UBI would raise it again?

3. Portuguese may or may not become an apex language? I am not familiar with the status of Portuguese in the former Portuguese Africa, but Brazil right now is about a third of Latin America's population, and within Latin-American trade will probably increase.

4. Genetic engineering seems to be the black box in this. I don't know enough about the field to extrapolate.


"Has anyone bothered to program in a must-stop-here as part of a robot's/program's function?"

Probably, but it's subject to the same failure modes as you described.


You can't be sure that Moore's law is dead yet. Or, in fact, that it will hit the wall short of computronium. It may, but more likely it's just a current slow-down that will pick up again as soon as there's sufficient reason.

I think the current problem is that programmers have been slow to adapt to multiple concurrent processors, so the demand is slack. But "smart phones" don't seem to have had that same problem, nor have the really high-end machines.

Also, Moore's law was never stated in terms of price, but rather in terms of transistors/area. And it's always been followed in a rather jagged manner, as technologies changed.

All that said, I do think we're approaching a limit until there's a major technology change. I just wouldn't write it off without a three or four more years of evidence.


"... perhaps the global population will have crashed by then ..."

Or exploded :-(


Re: 'But actually, the biggest problem is that we work in a Judeo-Christian framework, so we back-project modern concepts of religion onto the past, and then assume that we understand what was going on the same way the people of the past did.'

See your point and agree esp. with the above. So, guess we need folks from other religious-cultural backgrounds to add their perspectives on this?


Oh, and I'd be looking at costs other than fuel, too; maintenance where you don't need oil changes, air filters, transmission fluid, or experience anything like as much brake wear, is a lower cost. (E-Smarts get advertised here as cheaper to run than the gas Smart as a commuter car. Since Canada has some moderately effective truth in advertising laws, the scenario chosen has to hold up and be at least vaguely plausible.)


When it comes to electrification and flight, I'd like to remind everyone a few things

1. A Boeing 747 is not a regional jet (talk of electrifying flight is often derailed by the impossibility of making an all-electric 747).

2. Propellers are a substitute to jet engines


That's my prediction, that we'll have sustainable energy by 2100: either we'll be running on wind, solar, and fusion, or the few survivors will be burning wood in fires midst the ruins. But either way it will be sustainable, and right now, we're fighting about who suffers and how much.

However, there are some interesting additions to that.

Assuming human populations don't drop by 95-99% over the next century (which will put you into Hot Earth Dreams territory, and I assume OGH doesn't need to go there again), they're predicted to peak around 2050.

That's when things get interesting.

The problem is that so many US cities (and for all I know, cities, governments, and corporations around the world) are basically built like pyramid schemes, predicating their continued existence on continued growth. At some point, growth in population will stop, so that will no longer grow markets. Obviously we can play games with increasing the economy by spending unreal money on unreal things, but the bigger problem is all those bonds that cities and corporations took out, that are predicated on continued growth to make it possible to repay them. When we stop growing, a lot of big financial entities are going to go into default, whether it's due to defaulted road bonds, pension payments, or whatever.* That will make things very interesting indeed, and this might do as much to disrupt capitalism as changes in ideology do.

If 2117 is a world with the same or fewer people and resources, it's going to take a very different kind of economics to make it work, and it won't be possible to sweep the fact that there are losers under the rug (as progressives are wont to do). Indeed, cannibalizing the glories of the past will be one obvious way to make payments in a shrinking economy, as will abandoning stuff a la Detroit.

Hmmm. Oddly, this puts me in mind of the Barsoom of A Princess of Mars, which was written about 110 years ago, before they great war. Talk about all that is old being new again...

*Currently, I'm a citizen member of a county committee that's trying to figure out growth and conservation issues out to 2050. They really don't want to hear that things may be really different by then. Actually, they can't hear it, because the structure of their planning won't allow them to consider such notions seriously.


Given the diversity in Spanish within Latin America and between Latin America and Iberia, and the similarity between Spanish and Portuguese, I'm not entirely convinced that the Spanish/Portuguese distinction will be the most relevant one in 2117.

Portuguese is at least as close to Spanish as, say, Catalan. And there doesn't seem to be a single trans-Atlantic language community in either Spanish or Portuguese to anything like the same degree as there is in English.

Wouldn't surprise me to find that the dominant form ends up being the Spanish spoken by Hispanics in the US - it tends to be a consensus Spanish, understandable to Mexicans and Cubans and Spaniards (etc), and it has Univision and Telemundo behind it.


Going back to the original question:

What are you overlooking? Food.

Remember "A chicken in every pot?" That sounded wonderful, because chicken was expensive. Now it's dirt cheap, and beef is increasingly expensive.

Continue this on a century, and you find, well, Bengali food. Now I don't know anything about this cuisine, but it looks like mostly vegetables, with some shrimp, fish (fish heads are popular) and some mutton (they're muslim, and yes, this is playing off the idea of a massive Bangladeshi diaspora again).

What proteinaceous foods will be cheap in a non-crashed 22st century? Probably fungi, bugs, cephalopods, chickens, maybe goats. Cattle probably will be much more minor than they are now (don't talk to me about Savory's regenerative grazing, I have more respect for genuine snake oil than I have for that), and most fish stocks will be crashed by 2050, and I still haven't heard of a good way to eat jellyfish as a main course. As for other ungulates...hard to say. We may be eating more camel and less horse. Pigs may or may not be plentiful, depending on whether they get incorporated into recycling waste food or not.

But anyway, cricket malaikari for 2117, anyone? Might be tasty.

What other food trends do people predict?


I'm sure there will be electric puddle-jumpers for crossing water, and in regions where there isn't the population density to build fast land-transport infrastructure, or where the geography makes that impractical.

And there will be electric bizjets for the very rich assuming there are such things as the very rich.

But I'd bet on fast electric railways being the main means of transporting people longer distances. With 1990s technology, you could do LA-NY in 18 hours that way, rather than six in the air. The Japanese are building a faster Shinkansen right now; that could do LA-NY in 12. This is a field where billions of dollars are being invested in R&D for the next generation technologies. By 2117, land transport might actually be faster than flying on the principal routes. Whether we can do better over water, well that's another question, isn't it?


Surely a key issue will be the demographics. World population projections for then vary between 8 & 16 billion people (Wikipedia). That will make a huge difference to the kind of planet we live on. Unfortunately there are many strands of religion that discourage female education and the use of contraception, so the population growth will be even more uneven, setting up huge migratory pressures.

Locally in the UK we have the problem of an aging population, with more people requiring increasing amounts of care as they age. How is this going to be handled? Will we continue to raise taxes to pay for more and more health interventions & care so they live (and vote) even longer? Or will old age care become the privilege of the wealthy? Could we count on a technical quick-fix, e.g. robo-carers?

However these questions are resolved, it will decide the background to any other projections on what life will be like in 2117.


Re: 'Biotech will give the human body the ability to synthesise those awkward proteins, vitamins etc that we currently have to eat.'

Recentish headline about one country's healthcare costs identified specialty meds/treatments as the biggest and fastest growing line item. Which means that this sector might fizzle out and die because current producers are just too greedy to be sustained by the health insurers, gov'ts and patients*. IP/patent laws would probably have to be changed/rolled back for this to happen though.

* Current per-annum pricing for many MABs is in the $250,000-$500,000 USD range. These are not 'cures', they're treatments that must be taken for the rest of one's life.


As I understand the matter, just exactly how leatherback sea turtles subsist on jellyfish is an open question. Making the energetics work out is not obvious.

I figure by 2117 people will be eating carniculture; no idea what will be popular, but I suspect it won't taste quite like the original.

I also suspect we won't have any dairy; the point to dairy is four times the protein per animal lifetime compared to just eating the animal. If carniculture gets cheap enough, and the weather gets bad enough, and the lactase-retention genes get diffuse enough/lose enough political influence, dairy won't survive even as a luxury. (Wool also gets interesting. I would really like the Merino Mafia to stop it with the impossibility of getting winter socks with no wool in them, but global catastrophe seems excessive.)

Chicken is currently cheap due to a dependence on a short-cycle terminal hybrid (can't survive to adulthood!) and grain feed. I don't think that will persist. (Someone taking the already quite good understanding of chicken genetics and generalizing a bit to produce fifty kilo chickens less vulnerable to coyotes seems totally plausible.)


50-kilo chickens sounds like K W Jeter territory, IIRC. I forget which book it was.


Re: 'What other food trends do people predict?'

What you said but sped up on steroids ...

The time from seed to ripe/mature can probably be manipulated/CRISPR'd. If this happens, then you need a smaller food growing area which could translate into grow-chambers the size of today's two-door-all-bells-and-whistles-included fridge in every home*. And, if you can pull off a grow-as-you-need-when you-need-food supply, you won't need a big fridge. The energy from wasteful refrigeration would be more efficiently used to quik-gro your next meal. Plus, if most of your diet was plant, then a largely fresh raw food diet means even less energy expended on cooking it. And the largest energy savings (10-15%) would be not having to move, store and then throw out tons of food. The companion appliance to the quik-gro would be the quik-com(-poster).

And, no - this notion is not any more daft than the idea of bringing in a well (running water), moving-rocks/paddles-plus-stream (washing machine) or outhouse (toilet) into one's home.

* Garages would be ideal for conversion to this as motor vehicles disappear for various reasons.


As for the Wunder battery thing, remember that batteries store energy. Doubling the capacity of the battery within the same mass and volume envelope means doubling the amount of energy stored. Lithium-chemistry batteries have a very low internal resistance which means all of that energy can be released quite quickly, in a matter of a few seconds in a dead short situation within a cell or if they are damaged by overcharging (the usual reason for Li-tech batteries to light off). The Toshiba SCiB batteries I mentioned earlier get round this by using tantalum-lithium electrochemistry at a severe cost, typically having half the capacity of regular Li-cells of the same mass and volume. They're not suitable for cars (A Tesla with SCiB batteries would have a range of about 150km between charges and cost about $300,000) but there are people experimenting with them in buses and other forms of transport where the very short charge times are a deciding factor.


Pretty much all airliners are propellor-driven today -- high-bypass turbofan engines provide well over half of their thrust from the big fan at the front of the engine, driven by the turbine stage via shafts and gearboxes. A new Pratt and Whitney engine, the PW1000G has a 12.5-to-1 bypass ratio resulting in claims of a much-decreased fuel burn.


A brief correction to your idea. I think that NY to LA would still require aircraft.

I doubt the US will have one high speed network. Most likely, the high speed rail networks will align with our electric grid, except that the middle is going to be empty

If you look at US population densities, you divide it into 3 large regions: East-of-the-Mississippi River (EOMR), West Coast, and Texas. Perhaps the EOMR and Texas grids will be combined into one? I don't think the geography is practical to join the West Coast Grid to either. Denver is situated on a mile-high plateau in the Rocky Mountains.


Really fast rail, whether steel-wheel or maglev requires virtually straight-line track layouts with no climbs and dips -- at 500km/hr plus any sort of a deviation from a straight line will result in significant G-forces on the passengers and running gear. That means it's not possible to divert the line around problem geography or litigious landowners and it's why the proposed Japanese Tokyo-Nagoya maglev line runs in tunnels for most of its length. The alternative is to run at lower speeds in places which obviates the advantages of getting up to speed and staying there over long distances, and sometimes that can go wrong if the driver isn't alert (see the recent fatal Spanish high-speed rail accident on an 80km/hr curve). Aircraft don't have to deal with geography getting in the way of straight-line flight unless something bad happens.


Transcontinental railroad anybody? The US already has a bunch of them.

Basically, you can make any train electric if you load in battery cars behind the engines...


I've seen those tiny plants, and yes, I'd love a pea-sized tomato myself (they've grown them for NASA for decades). Actually I wouldn't because they're a nuisance to grow.

Problems? Quite a few actually. Getting rid of the waste heat is a perennial problem with large grow chambers. One plant physiologist I knew (they're the profs with all the grow chambers) joked about installing a commercial sauna on the downstream side of his eight chambers, because he was dumping so much waste hot water that there had to be a way to make money off it.

More seriously, growth chambers (and greenhouses) get into outbreak problems like you wouldn't believe. It's just the perfect environment to grow stuff, and that's got both good and bad aspects.

While I think that industrial production will improve, and it won't just be basil grown in warehouses in left-leaning cities, I'll point out that the reason peasants do dirt agriculture is that it's cheap. Running it artificially tends to be expensive, which is why they grow basil that way and not wheat.

Ditto vat meat. You can feed a cow on straw. You can feed a culture of cow cells on growth media (and don't forget that a lot of this comes from seaweed), plus whatever you're using as scaffolding to give the meat texture, so that it's not just stem cell slurry. That's a $500 burger, not a $0.50 burger. Oh, and cell cultures have all the contamination problems of plants in growth chambers and then some.

So no, if we're talking micromeat, instead of cell cultures we've got to go with small animals, including crickets and other bugs, cuy (guinea pigs), rabbits, rats, tilapia, goldfish and carp (every kids' favorite pets, in other words). Sir PTerry may have been ahead of his time (as usual), with the menu from Gimlet's Delicatessen in Men at Arms:"Soss, egg, beans and rat 12p Soss, rat and fried slice l0p Cream-cheese rat 9p Rat and beans 8p Rat and ketchup 7p Rat 4p." And yes, the ketchup may well cost more than the rat.


Going back to the original question, if we have a stable or shrinking human population, we may we see the disappearance of schools, especially age-graded schools, and combination elder/child facilities springing up. Older people seem to do better when there are kids around, and kids can help their nanas and uncles as needed. Additionally, if education gets gamified (the horror!) age-graded schooling may disappear in favor of mixed age schooling (which is supposedly better anyway) along with tutoring from qualified adults, some of whom may in fact be the elders at a center.


I agree this is technically possible to build a transcontinental high speed train. However, I'm skeptical of the economics.

Currently, freight trains don't need to increase their speeds while passenger ones are financial losers for Amtrak. I do think that the economics of train travel will be better in the future. However, I think the following journey makes more economic sense than a transcontinental high speed line from NY to SF

1. High speed train down to Dallas -> Electric aircraft to LA or Las Vegas -> high speed train to SF

2. High speed train to St. Louis -> Electric flight to Denver -> Wait 1 hour in Denver to swap batteries -> Fly to SF

3. High speed train to Minneapolis -> Electric flight to Cheyenne, Wyoming -> Wait 1 hour in Cheyenne to swap batteries -> Fly to SF.

It wouldn't be as cheap as today's travel, but it would probably take fewer than 12 hours for a 1-way trip which Richard had suggested.


I take it you haven't recently looked at the terrain in California? The San Andreas and various other geologic structures have kicked up a lot of inconvenient mountains (specifically the transverse range north of LA), but the bottom line is that there's no easy way to do high speed rail into and out of places like LA, just as it's not easy to do high speed through the Rockies (how does Switzerland handle that issue?). As recently as WWII, though, passenger rail was the norm, and somehow it did just fine without having to be a high speed race.

This is all predicated on the notion that, in a century, we'll need high speed transportation for all. That's the part that needs to be justified, actually. If the population's older and economies are generally shrinking, why the rush?


The lack of any attempt to hide the spoiler or put space between it and the warning was appreciated. Thanks. If I ever get the opportunity I will be sure to return the favour.

On the topic of emoji/dead semicolons I vaguely remember an aside in some old SF novel about a best selling book of poetry that consisted entirely of punctuation. ;/


Fair enough on the California geography. I also am not clear on how the Appalachian mountains would function as a barrier?

FYI, Switzerland doesn't have high speed rail save for the Gotthard Base Tunnel


Waste heat gets converted into other (usable) power. No prob!

The point is to do closed-system circular(?) energy flows instead of the single-use, single-energy type, single-purpose stuff we've been sold on. Nature is a Rube Goldberg machine.

The disease bit depends on many factors. Probably a lot more human traffic (sporting different groups of germs, spores, etc.), variety of plantings and just plain shifting about of foodstuffs in a uni research lab than in my fridge. Some time back I mentioned an urban movement about growing food in apartments because it's not that difficult or expensive. Add 100 years of bio-engineering and it should be possible to grow more types of plant foodstuffs. And, if the flora quick-gro home units catch on, then a 'meat protein' grasshopper farm unit would probably be as easy to develop and market.

Something else to consider ... the Baby Boomer generation is the largest/tallest in human history. Why exactly do humans have to be so large/tall? It's my belief (i.e., haven't seen any stats) that there are as many short/skinny as tall/overweight geniuses. And since the jobs of the future are unlikely to require human brute strength, why waste food on developing large muscles. Okay, you may say that large well developed muscle is beautiful and a sign of good health. Really - so if I do yoga, I'm less healthy and less 'beautiful' than my neighbor the sumo wrestler? Anyway, beauty is cultural and if there is a global food shortage, being large/tall will likely become culturally taboo. Not sure about the exact caloric requirement/trade off per pound of muscle (and bone), but chances are that smaller humans would not need 2,000 - 2,500 calories per day.


A hopelessly utopian take on range anxiety:

If everyones job has been automated away and society is structured in a way that allows unemployed people to afford travel then it doesn't really matter if the cars range is a bit crap because you don't have to be there and back by the end of the weekend anyway.

Maybe people will be allowed to enjoy travelling again.


Yes and no. It's instructive to go up highway 49 in the California Foothills (Calaveras County/Gold Rush/Jumping Frog Saloon place). There are a lot of tiny little dilapidated towns in there, and many of them have shuttered, antique gas stations.

I drove through there last year, and I amused myself by how many of those little dying and dead gas stations could reinvent themselves to become battery recharging stations if electric cars became the norm and ranges dropped. When a car can travel 300-400 miles on a tank, gas stations conglomerate from when they serviced Model Ts (range 100 miles). So yes, a lot of geography will change as we go electric. Electricity will enable people to spread out a bit. This might be good for little main streets and bad for regional superstores.

A bigger problem for the US are some of the national parks, notably Death Valley (100 miles just to get to the center of the park) and Yellowstone (even bigger). These parks flourished in the automobile age, but they're going to have to either put in huge power lines or even bigger power plants (especially if solar) to power the cars of visitors. Or they're going to have to put huge infrastructure in the small towns around them.

And it goes on from there. For example, I can't reach my mom's house in an electric car with a range shorter than a Tesla or a Bolt. So if I'm going to drive an E-Car to visit her, I'll have to plan on staying the night and probably repaying her for all the electricity I loaded off her meter. Yes, this is cheaper than paying a multinational to gas my car, but it changes how I can visit. I'd deduce from this that going all electric will tend to cluster families a bit more. Certainly kids can go live in different cities, but "being close enough to take care of an aging parent" will probably mean living in the same city, not the same state. Yes, we could go for multi-generational housing, but that's just starting to be built where I live in San Diego, so we're also talking necessarily about the need to raze and rebuild a lot of housing stock in order to make it more sustainable. It's not just switching houses over to solar and ditching the gas pipes, it's accommodating people moving around to deal with the changed parameters of their lives.


I think it's important to understand what

[...] since 2007 it has increasing brought prosperity to an ever-smaller elite at the very apex while conditions stagnate or decline for everyone else [...]

actually means. In particular it is informative to plot the GDP per head of China since 2000 (even more informative to plot it since 1980). There might be a slight decrease in the upward trend around 2007, but it's not really noticeable (certainly it's not noticable compared with plotting the same figures for the UK where there's just a huge hole in the graph). And GDP per head in China went up by about a factor of 8 between 2000 and 2014 (in rather naive uncorrected dollar terms, but whatever the correction which needs to be applied it's still a spectacular increase).

Now, of course, it is possible that a very tiny number of people in China are getting very (very!) rich while everyone else is not doing so, but I don't think that's actually the case: I think people in China are a lot better off than they were. A lot better off. And more than one human in seven is Chinese.

Well, these figures would be more convincing if they were produced by a proper statistician rather than someone with a copy of Mathematica and The Truth, but let's assume they're reasonaby close to correct.

So what the above claim really means is that a rather small number of people in the richest countries in the world have and are continuing to have a relatively hard time, while a very minute number of people in these same countries are getting stupidly rich.

In the meantime over a billion people in China have experienced a GDP per head increase from less than $200 in 1980 (less than $1,000 in 2000) to more than $7,500 in 2014. These are people who were living in real poverty (when was the last famine in China? when was the last famine in the UK?) and no longer are.

At the same time there has been a huge decrease in inequality between China and the UK, say: in 1980 Chinese GDP/head was about 1/50th of that in the UK, in 2000 it was about 1/28th, in 2014 it was about 1/6th.

Again, this would be more convincing if it came from someone who had spent the time to do the statistics properly.

But the small number of people ('everyone else') in very rich countries who are not doing too well are really, really cross about it, and they don't care at all about the Chinese or any other formerly-really-poor people, so they're gleefully fucking everything up for everyone, but mostly for themselves.

Sorry, this is kind of tangential to your point about language, which is obviously correct.


The people in the very rich countries who aren't doing relatively well have a couple of robust complaints.

One is that there not doing very well was policy, not inevitability; the folks in the rich countries who were very very rich and wanted to get richer sacrificed the general prosperity to make themselves obscenely rich.

Two is that they're in a very precarious economic position in a more meta/general sort of sense because those very, very rich people have been blithering incompetent in "copies into the generational future" sense.

(China's last famine was in the 60s sometime, and Mao-inflicted. See "Four Pests Campaign".)

I entirely agree that what you're seeing isn't a competent response; it's mostly a white supremacist response, which precludes competence. (So does ignorance.) The substance of the complaint, though, there's something to that. (Rather like people in the UK have grounds to complain about the UKIP, Brexit, and the sheer howling incompetence of it all.)


I can't believe no one has made this joke yet:
"Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra."
"Shaka, when the walls fell."


End of a lonnnng day. Apologies in advance for any infelicities.

A note about Hindi: Most of my Indian friends (particularly those in southern India) pointed out that English is the lingua franca [sic] in India because everyone who isn't a native Hindi speaker hates the language and the other 21 "official" languages that are not their native tongue much more than they hate English. The enemy of my enemy's language is my friend, apparently.

I think you missed the very real possibility of a post-scarcity world developing not because of breakthrough maker technology, but rather because of a massive collapse of the global agricultural ecosystem. Developed countries will likely survive with greatly reduced populations because we have money to burn and greenhouse technology. For the rest of the world, the phrase "simple gigadeath proportions" comes to mind. It'll be a spectacularly ugly next century. But come out on the other side, and... post-scarcity because the population will be radically adjusted to conform with the carrying capacity.

In terms of the loss of languages and subtleties of thought, be careful about relying too heavily on strong Sapir-Whorf. It's certainly true that all humans seem capable of grasping the concepts of noun, verb etc.; in that sense, Sapir-Whorf is unequivocally valid. But there are many nominally untranslatable words such as "frisson" that lack a single-word English equivalent yet can be easily explained with the use of many words. In short, most people can learn concepts described in any other language, though some education may be required (e.g., you need to learn mathematics to really grasp physics). Nuance won't always be lost if the language is lost; if one human mind could grasp the concept, so could any other human mind, though it might take a lot of hard work. Think of this in computing terms: there are many things that would be exceedingly difficult or cumbersome to implement in BASIC that would be easy to implement in a modern object-oriented language. The two languages are hugely different, and because they see the world from very different perspectives, they strongly shape how their "speakers" think, yet you can still create the same semantic structure in both languages.


The semicolon will not disappear, it will be needed to terminate statements in the "C" language. C is the programming equivalent of Latin, and it may become archaic, but it will not be dead.


Well, if you want a non-joke, try translating into Korean. Properly. The problem is that traditional Korean verbs are inflected by politeness, which is a relative (and Confucian)term: you are more polite to elders than you are to your children, and the most polite versions are used for executives, customers, and (at one time) the king.

English gets around this by having dual vocabulary: fuck, screw, and have intercourse, are all appropriate for some situations and wildly inappropriate for others.

The problem for the would-be Korean algorithmic translator is figuring out what the relative statuses of the people communicating are so that it can put the proper verb suffix on. Failure to do so would be a major faux pas. Similarly, translating out of Korean, the computer could use high-class English, but if the subject doesn't understand it (perhaps he works for the current US administration or something), it doesn't work well as a translation.


The decline in US crime is also caused by legal abortion. Fewer unwanted children means fewer psychopathically neglected children.


I suspect we will see a fragmentation of the ultra-rich caused by the rich geeks who seem to favour composition over inheritance. Viz, rather than Murdoch Jr inheriting the media empire, we see Gates Jr being just one of a bunch of people who look to be inheriting the Gates fortune. I suspect that will look more like zaibatsu or the long-lived European companies than the royal family model. But the combination of technophilia and long-term thinking might throw up some new oddities.

Perhaps more "company states" like Qatar and Oman but focussed directly on money rather than oil. Rather than negotiate labyrinthine sociopolitical obstacles to new ideas (like the hyperloop) buy in at a high level and get permanent influence if not outright control. There's lots of poor island nations with semi-feudal governments. Look at Tuvalu and the .tv domain, for example. I suspect Gates could become one of the "hereditary" chiefs of Samoa quite cheaply if he wanted to... probably not much more than Theil paid to become a New Zealand citizen.

Given a century with decent telecommunications we could easily see guilds return - rather than join a union that'[s subject to the vagaries of local politics, skilled workers buy into an international guild that offers mobility and the type of supports that used to be offered by employers (healthcare in the US, for example). Telemedicine and individualised gene editing of microflora would allow much healthcare to be delivered anywhere, anytime by any reasonable-sized financial entity. As a worker, much better that than the increasingly literal interpretation of "burn and churn" by employers.


when was the last famine in China?

1958-1962, depending on where you lived. Combination of natural disasters and ideology-based centralized decision-making.


I think "work" of some sort will persist, either in the current slave state model of a mass of peasants fighting for low paid, low value work but more so (as in US, India, Russia); or via basic income and "hobbies" done for reward (etsy style). The spaceship model seems likely to me, and I can see a community service obligation being made explicit and likely detached from the basic income as a philosophical move to discourage people thinking of those who can't work as parasites (the opposite of current political modes).

I wonder whether we will see a crossover between automated transport and gym membership. Rather than the bicycle, people will get the private part of their workday while exercising and travelling, then meet in person for the other part of the day. Pedalling a "roborickshaw" would likely be safer than a bicycle as well as freeing up people's attention to do more important things, whether that be social media or work. I personally don't like that, but it seems to be the way most people prefer to travel now.

As we get more automation and lighter vehicles I think the whole "electric vehicles can't work" will become a trope of the "silly things people believed in 2000" type. Even if only the easiest 80% of journeys switch to electric power that's a huge win, and once even 50% of the traffic in congested cities is small electric cars the on-road environment will be so different that the current rules will be no more relevant than "steam gives way to sail" (which may become more relevant on the water than it is now).


To answer the second part.

I don't really think that the slow speed was really appreciated back then. It was something that people put up with.

A brief aside: I wonder how many people today would take advantage of supersonic air travel? Is the lack of passenger supersonic travel due to a genuine lack of demand, or the fact that the leadership of Boeing, Airbus, Embraer, Bombardier, etc. are too paranoid of a repeat of the Concord?

The biggest question w.r.t. an electric regional jet is: what will be the price per ticket relative to the median wage? I am assuming that it would be equivalent to what air travel was in the 1960s, but I don't have any evidence to back up that claim. In other words, I'm pulling this number out of thin air.

A big question for USians and Canadians who know what they're talking about: around when did air travel overtake the transcontinental railroad in terms of popularity? And how expensive was an airline ticket relative to the median wage of the time?


50 kg chickens? If you can find a way to block embryonic pygostyle formation and reverse engineer them some teeth, this sounds like a way to bring back non-avian dinosaurs, which is an inherently good idea I am wholly in favour of.

Farming them might be a bit difficult, though. A 50 kg chicken wouldn't just be invulnerable to coyotes or wild dogs, it would be above them in the food chain.

Extend Improvements in VR to their logical conclusion. By 2117 most people, liberated of the burden of labour or any participation in society, have turned entirely solipsistic and retreated into comfortable virtual worlds. Rates of interpersonal violence, depression, and reproduction plummet.


I can answer that air travel overtook train travel at some time after WWII. During the war, air travel was reserved for officers. Unless there was a special exception, enlisted rode the rails.

Still, I think you missed part of the issue: speed is great when everyone is (or can) do it. It's the shared suffering model. If everyone is stuck on passenger rail, then that's what everyone's stuck on, and it's not a problem. It's when some passengers fly and some go slow rail that there's a serious problem, especially if the difference is by region (just as prosperity can be defined as earning more than your brother/sister-in-law). Putting high speed rail is too expensive for much of the US, but depending on how the future works out (for instance, electric airplanes are impractical, but blowing more carbon into the air is lethal), sending people by slow rail may be seen as the best of a bad lot, and culture will reorganize around that. After the requisite whining, people will probably, simply, get on with their lives, all the while complaining that if only there were a zeppelin, that could be electric AND go faster...


I'm glad to see you writing about the global mass extinction of languages, as that's something that concerns me. I've seen the (probably conservative) estimate that by the end of the century, 80% of the world's languages will have died out. On one hand I can't see it as legitimate to tell someone who only speaks a New Guinean tribal tongue with a total of 150 other speakers that they can't learn Tok Pisin, or encourage their kids to speak it; that seems like denying them the choice to interact with a larger economy and cultural pool—and at a certain point that looks like putting them in a zoo to make people from other cultures feel good. But on the other hand, there are all kinds of linguistic features that exist only in a handful of languages—things like click consonants (Khoi-San languages and one mother-in-law language in Australia) or word orders other than SOV and SVO (one of the other four apparently exists only in a few indigenous languages in South America). And it's really hard to revive a language; it was managed with Hebrew, but the success of efforts with Gaelic seems mixed. There are more people who speak Esperanto, or Klingon, or probably Sindarin than some of those fading languages. . . . And, well, as someone fascinated by language as such I find it sad.


We're already seeing the rise of renewable energy sources and fossil fuels losing dominance. If anything, they are going to get cheaper and more efficient. I expect the storage problem to be solved. Look back at 1917. The internal combustion engine was on the rise, the road network was being built out, electricity was taking over in homes and, more importantly, in industry. In 2017, I expect large diesel engines to be used in shipping and power generation. They are exceedingly efficient. Fossil fuels will be used in all sorts of niche applications.

Meanwhile, major coastal cities with have their dikes to deal with rising sea levels. High speed rail will bring about a revival of non-coastal cities. The recently completely NYC water tunnel suggest that tunneling even on a continental scale is practical if one can keep the project funded for a decade or two. I think the post-WWII suburban experiment has played out. It was an attempt to preserve and revive small towns life as remembered from the late 19th century, but it was at best a stopgap, at worst a failure. I think we've learned a lot about making cities more livable, and this can be applied to both coastal and interior cities.

We're only talking about 100 years, but we'll see a lot of changes in the "natural" world with altered climate and genetically engineered organisms. I expect new breeds of mosquito that are less likely to carry disease. Population is predicted to stabilize in 50 years and fall after that. Combine that with higher density agriculture and we might even see more nature reserves and less populated areas usable for recreation and preservation. Just don't expect to see a lot of barrier reef life for a while.

As for languages, I expect more of the less spoken ones to vanish, but why would I expect Icelandic or Dutch to go away? I'm guessing there will be more bilingualism as even more people find understanding the local hegemonic language useful. You might speak Laotian at home and work, but go to school in China or India or England.

Maybe I'm a cockeyed optimist. I think we'll need a lot of political reform and a lot of will and resource, but humans can do pretty amazing things. I remember the 1950s and 1960s with dire predictions of famine. Then came the green revolution, a piece at a time. It required plant breeding, agricultural reform, education, fertilizer use and so on. We have localized food shortages, but not widespread famines.

Now the plant breeders have to do another green revolution again to deal with further population increase and global warming. I read the articles about them in Science and sometimes tear up a bit, "fucking heroes". There was some lunatic trying to come up with a storage stable avocado seed for Africa, along with the usual round of C4 rice visionaries. That and all the more mainstream sorts. There are also the nano-material people wrapping cathode particles in carbon buckyball bags for higher density battery storage. We are living in the golden age of materials science. In 2017, there wil be a bunch of big breakthroughs in material science and they'll be calling it the silver age.

This is a science fiction writer's blog, so a lot of us here have some idea of what the human mind can create and how we can change our world given a need and resources. Let's do it.

P.S. You may have noticed I don't mention computers or quantum anything. Those are means to an end. We don't talk about the calculus enabled moon landing or atomic theory enabled fertilizers.


I actually have been wondering whether, in another 50 years, Indian English will be the standard form of English globally. Between Bollywood and the recruitment of people in Indian to provide phone support, not to mention the sheer number of people in India who might be using English a few decades from now. . . .


There isn't any supersonic air travel because "The research data the XB-70 gathered helped kill the American version of the Concorde by showing how destructive and expensive sustained supersonic flight was."

Having a big -- and thus passenger-km-economic -- supersonic airliner is not very different from deciding to make air travel very expensive. If it's very expensive fewer people do it, and if fewer people do it, you can't build as many planes and oh, look, economic death spiral.

Ek = ½MV² and the fuel costs go way up, too. That squared term on velocity runs you from ~0.8 (for ~.9 Mach) to 9 (for Mach 3) and so you're looking at worse than an order of magnitude more fuel.


Both of those have been demonstrated in embryo. ( There isn't any real barrier to doing it except the ethics committee and the vestiges of good sense.

Chickens (and turkeys, and galliform birds generally) are farmed intensively because they are efficient at converting feed into bird. A fifty kilo chicken would be fairly efficient at converting rats into food, and if you were more worried about rats in the granary you might well prefer to eat chicken, even large chicken, than cats. (Not that you would need a fifty kilo dino-chicken to keep the rats down; ten kilos would likely as not be plenty.)


A fifty kilo chicken would be fairly efficient at converting rats into food, and if you were more worried about rats in the granary you might well prefer

Or possibly larger pests than rats? Might make farming tricky, but people farm Cape Buffalo and crocodiles, as well as less fearsome things like emu and bison. The idea of having self-defending meat animals might appeal to a certain sort of farmer.


I've seen a ten-pound chicken kill a rat (it got in her coop. She got pissed off. End of rat). A fifty kilo chicken, especially a fifty kilo rooster, might be just a bit dangerous, and rather big for going after just rats. After all, cassowaries aren't much bigger than that, and they're rather dangerous. Imagine this confrontation with a much larger bird involved.


I can't say that I fully understand what you an Ioan are debating. There seems to be a little confusion, though, so let me chime in.

(1) Portuguese is much closer to Spanish than Catalan. Or anything, really. Portuguese speakers can understand spoken Spanish (spoken directly to them) and a Spanish speaker can puzzle out written Portuguese with the occasional glance at a dictionary. I learned the language in six weeks and 1993 and then promptly forgot all of it.

(2) There is a trans-Atlantic Spanish community at least as much as there's an English-speaking one, but maybe I'm missing the meaning of "community"? Sort of lost at that.

(3) There isn't a standard Spanish in the USA. Accents on U.S. networks are all over the map. (Literally!) But they're all mutually intelligible. There is a middle-class "neutral " Spanish in the Americas, more-or-less upper-class Andean but without some markers from those countries. But everywhere is more-or-less intelligible, although a thick Chilean accent loses me and there's something about Argentine Spanish (written as much as spoken) that I sometimes have trouble parsing.

And Mexicans curse a lot. If you hear profanity in Mexico, don't assume that it's okay in similar situations elsewhere!

Anyway, this is more than you need to know. The upshot is that Portuguese and Spanish are unlikely to switch their relative positions unless there emerges some huge differential in economic or demographic growth between Brazil and Spanish America over the next century. Think Norwegian and Swedish; it's too easy to understand both. And as far as machine translation goes, it'd be almost trivial to automate between the two; where you'd have trouble is with the sorts of subtle differences in connotation or meaning that right now bedevil Canadians talking to Britons in a putative common tongue.


I normally joke that "chickens are too stupid to understand that they are not big scary dinosaurs any more". They act as though they are, but normally it's funny because they're small. If they weren't it could easily be terrifying. They hunt and kill mice, for example, and often peck things that they're curious about. Again, only amusing if they're much smaller than you are.

I've also been within touching distance of baby cassowaries(only about 1.5m tall), with their dad a few metres away. It was a little nerve-wracking because we went from "oh look over there, little cassowaries" then they saw us and ran over to have a look. We really didn't want dad to get defensive, but keeping three curious chicks from running behind us was hard work - we got out of there quite quickly. I was also concerned that they might venture an exploratory peck... which might remove a finger or a chunk of flesh. Somewhere I have photos :)


There's a YouTube video somewhere of a backyard chicken muscling in on and stealing a live mouse from a cat. The chicken moves so fast the cat's left stunned. And the mouse ... Well, at least it was quick. Chickens are a little bit frightening. As are cassowaries, exhibit A in the case against people who think that feathered dinosaurs aren't scary enough to be cool. Looking at you, Jurassic World makers. :(


2117 diets will have a bias towards crops and foods that can be grown densely in sheltered greenhouses with efficient use of water, although that won't be the entire composition of their diet by any means (and it's possible food might be able to be made essentially out of basic components - a protein, a carbohydrate, flavoring ingredients - to whatever you like). Lots of vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. A very good world if you enjoy french fries/chips and ketchup!


Hmmm. I can even see a campaign to stop certain ethnic groups from eating scorpions, because we need them to control all the domesticated crickets that are getting out of people's raising boxes and eating the household garden... After all, scorpions are predators, and ideally we should only eat herbivores.


Water's not going to be a problem in most places around the world after global warming has had its wicked way with ocean surface temperatures. Lack of fresh water/rainfall in overpopulated deserts like California is a "today" problem, not a "tomorrow" problem. Mudslides and flooding after the annual west coast monsoon drops two metres of rain on the mountains in two months, that's a "tomorrow" problem.


Mudslides and flooding after the annual west coast monsoon drops two metres of rain on the mountains in two months, that's a "tomorrow" problem.

Maybe in the USA, but in Australia it's happening now. We're in an intermediate stage for both the pacific oscillation (El Nino/La Nina) and the Indian Ocean Dipole, so you'd expect moderate weather and a reasonable amount of rain. Instead we've had some weather events and quite a lot of rain:

Not looking forward to next time the two oceans give us wet weather at the same time, "record setting" seems likely to be a very gentle way to describe it. It we get a storm or two in those years I wouldn't be surprised to see a cyclone make it over the hump from the Pacific into the Coral Sea. Then a few weeks or months later flooding right through the Murray-Darling basin, because despite the distance a lot of Queensland drains to South Australia.


[Short-circuiting intervening comments]
Climate change reversal, outside Truphelm's USSA is already underway & even in some prats of the states - very recent news report on (effectively) "free" electricity in California, thanks to solar power.

I note that the naysayers are now shouting that: "sea-level rise hasn't happened, these islands are still there" - whilst carefully ignoring what's happening in the sothern tip of Florida.


Profit has been around since before money was invented.
Not going to go away, unless you re-create Stalin, or let Kim Jong-Un take the planet over.
It might - probably will be highly regulated, so profit is legal, ripping-off is not, but that's a n other story


The Ballad of lost C'Mell


If any one body or group can stop Brexit in it's tracks ( As opposed to say a "Referendum on the terms" before the time-limit is up ) then it's The Corporation.
I could easily see a repeat of a Labour mayor & the conservative City ganging up on the little Englanders.
"Repeat" ? Yes, the Corp hated the dissolution of the old GLC, whom they could work with very well.

[ Charles I, Richard Cromwell & James II & VII were all thrown out, because they were bad for business .. ]


Thank you.

Anyone else going to predict a switch-over to the "Ammonia Cycle" for powering, well, almost anything that moves?


Unfortunately there are many strands of religion that discourage female education and the use of contraception,...
Well, there's a simple answer to that problem.
Denis Diderot: "Hang all the priests!"


Exactly WHY does anyone need to travel between New York and Los Angeles frequently and in under a day? It's taken as a given, but there isn't actually any critical requirement for it.


As I understand it, Catalan is essentially the old southern French language, that was superseded in most of France by the northern one, much like southern English superseded northern.


Are we talking about the same (VW Golf/Ford Focus sized) Nissan Leaf and the same (VW Polo derived) Skoda Fabia?

The same Nissan Leaf which comfortably carries a couple of 6' tall adults in the rear seat and which can take a 100 Watt guitar amplifier and speaker cabinet, a large pedalboard, a guitar, my share of the lighting rig, and all required appurtenances in the boot without folding the rear seat?

The same Nissan Leaf which can happily cover 180 miles each way from my home in Essex to my Mum's place in West Yorkshire with a single extra 20 minute charging stop on top of the one we've always made doing the same trip in an IC powered car?

The same Nissan Leaf which costs less to lease and operate month-to-month than a fully paid-up, wholly owned SAAB 93 TiD did?

Of course, I could be wrong about all of the above but what the heck would I know, I've just been driving the damned thing for 18 months and 22,000 miles...


I'm looking at possible power-unit replacement for my magic old Land_Rover ( Diesel, made in 1996 & I live inside the putative ULEZ for 2020/21 ....
NOT going to change car - too useful, but a power-change might be do-able.

[ They are talking about a "Diesel scrappage scheme" but I wonder about an engine scrappage, instead ??? ]


I have no idea, but I can assure you that a Skoda Fabia is a lot larger than a VW Polo (I have owned both), about the size of the old Golf (which I also owned), and the Nissan Leaf I inspected was a LOT smaller. There may be more than one of the latter, of course - it as in New Zealand. I agree that there's no problem in densely populated areas - now consider touring north-west Scotland. Off-season. On a Sunday.


A Fabia costs ~GB£150 per 10_000 miles in engine servicing (Skoda dealer, fixed price tariffs). But over 100k miles that still leaves you £3500 better off than the Leaf driver.

Context - My neighbour had a Leaf, and apologised to me for leaving its back end overhanging my house every other day as being the only way she could charge it. Also, it would need a recharge to get from Oban to Glasgow (about 100 miles, 2 to 2.5 hours depending on driver) where some Fabias (engine dependent) would manage Oban to London (about 500 miles) without re-fueling the car.



You do know that Concorde super-cruised at Mach 2 on dry power? Which means similar fuel burn to the Avro Vulcan (No surprise there since Concorde used an afterburning version of the Vulcan's Olympus engine). Without saying more than I understand, they derived something like 90% of thrust from the intake ducts at that speed.


The same Nissan Leaf which can happily cover 180 miles each way from my home in Essex to my Mum's place in West Yorkshire with a single extra 20 minute charging stop on top of the one we've always made doing the same trip in an IC powered car?

I'm reading this as "making 2 recharging stops rather than one comfort stop".


There does seem to be this "X works for Y, therefore X is better everywhere - no, X is worse in Z, so it's no use anywhere" going on.

For rural uses, the Leaf is probably currently inappropriate. But for my wife, it would be great: her daily mileage is less than a charge, and she normally has no need to go further. For many other people the occasional longer trip can be done using a hire vehicle.

(Oban to London non-stop? Eep! Not me, not these days. though I did do Frankfurt to Cambridge in one stint, on one tank, back when. That's ~525 miles)


Yes. And mine costs 115 quid a year road fund tax, but I don't know how expensive Nissan Leaf servicing is, nor the statistics of battery lifetime. I forgot to mention that I always buy the 'estate' versions of any car when available, and am comparing the largest capacity version of each.


Absolutely. If the unholy conspiracy between the government and insurers didn't make 1-5 week hiring so difficult and expensive, I would be happy with an estate version of a runabout. I am expecting electric cars to dominate in the UK's major cities fairly soon - just as soon as the prices drop a bit and more charging stations come online - but not in the country as a whole.


My understanding is that Concorde's main fuel burn was getting to supersonic speed, not at cruise speed. Make a Concorde drop to subsonic speeds and suddenly its range shrank. This is totally counter-intuitive for anyone aware of how air resistance works in the subsonic region.

I am however dubious as to whether you could get the same engine efficiency as the current generation of high bypass engines manage. There's been a lot of development in civil engine tech in the subsonic region since the 60s, and a new supersonic airliner might need decades of catch up. And you can't just throw more fuel at the problem - in flight refuelling, as one solution, just ain't going to fly.


"One big question for 2117: will the internet still exist?"

Looking at the current state of gun control in the US and the utility of the internet for almost everyone, I very much doubt that the internet as such will not be there in 2117. It is likely going to be different from the one we know today. Everything is pointing to lawmakers wanting to reign in the open wild-west nature of the internet. On the other hand, it was designed to be a very easy infrastructure to hook into, and it would be very difficult and expensive to change it fundamentally - ip6 is still struggling to be adopted.

The current trend seems to be to connect everything to the internet so it can be controlled locally by your voice-activated device or remotely by your handheld computing device. Whether the problems with the security of these devices (not to mention the privacy implications) are going to reverse the trend or just be ignored is too early to say, though my money would be on "functionality before security".


I didn't mean that I'd contemplate 500 miles non-stop, just that with the HC engine you're not a slave to the vehicle range.


"Has anyone bothered to program in a must-stop-here as part of a robot's/program's function?"
Many programs and devices for medical use has a number of safeguards to protect the patient. I'm not sure if anything like that has been incorporated in any AI code, though, even though self-driving cars would be a likely candidate.

I suspect it is not an easy problem to solve. The developers for the video game Oblivion experimented with an AI for their NPCs and had a lot of problems keeping them from killing important NPCs. They ended up making all important NPCs immortal.


No arguments; All I was saying was that for 1960s tech (which is comparable between the XB-70 and Concorde) Concorde's fuel burn at M2 did not scale as a square function like the OP argues. Concorde's actual main burn was taxiing and accelerating in the trans-sonic region.


Is this the explanation for the source of Edgar's scalp injuries?


How much traffic can the E-M spectrum support?

The figure I saw was: on the order of 2tbps, through air (with wavelength dimension multiplexing and compression) at short range (on the order of 10 metres). Longer range reduces bandwidth drastically. However, the logical answer is to use cabling (fiber optic) which has roughly the same bandwidth per cable. In other words, a trunked network with densely-spaced wireless access points. This lets you have 2tbps locally to any individual, and provide the same level of service across a wide area (subject to the cost of installing infrastructure).

I will note that the sensory bandwidth of a human brain is a lot less than 2tbps. In fact, I've got no idea what you'd do with 2tbps of bandwidth into every 100m^2 area of a city; we're talking about the same sort of provision that you might find inside a supercomputer today.


Some of the systemic mechanisms of capitalism will still likely be with us, but it's currently effectively the state religion of the global hegemon.

Agreed, and it's going to go down hard. What I'm worried about is the vacuum it's going to leave behind; what's going to fill it? (I note that the adherents of radical salafi islam see it not merely as a religion in the Christian-understood sense but as a legal code and a way of life; repugnant to us, but nevertheless there's a reason minority ethnic kids with disturbed backgrounds in western countries gravitate to it—it offers an alternate structure and a way of life that isn't alienating to them.) It's possible — even likely — that something even worse than Da'esh's version of Islam will show up. (Think singularitarianism in religious rapture-of-the-nerds mode with mandatory mind uploading for all who are present as physical "useless mouths" or "resisters to the truth" — "don't worry, we'll resurrect them later once we've built heaven for them" — and, ahem, lossy scanning and storage.)

Effective pre-detection isn't going to work in general.

I'm thinking more along the lines of recognizing anything in a library of known toxins, and also being able to identify anything that isn't in a "whitelist" of known and permitted genomes and track its progress and contacts, so that if it later turns out to be a pathogen everyone who has been exposed can be isolated immediately (no more protracted searches for patient zero). It's a big ask, but if we posit the sort of plagues we've been discussing, then I think biodefense on a scale equivalent to peak cold war nuclear arsenal spending (as in: trillions of dollars-equivalent) is not out of the question.


Damn, that was a rabbit-hole and a half! Where's the last hour gone!

Thanks for the link, absolutely fascinating.


The technology is going to be there to move people around, but I don't think the safety factor will be.

Short-haul travel: I'm finding it hard to imagine human societies in which going about on foot, or bicycle, or segway or pogo-stick—over distances of up to an hour's travel, i.e. 5-25km—is impossible. Even if it's only over closed routes, like Toronto's underground PATH tunnels in winter. But if the routes are constrained, then compartmentalizing and monitoring them for biohazards should be practical.

Long-distance mass public transport as we know it today — open train carriages, long-haul coaches, airliners where everybody breathes the same airstream and mingle in huge terminals — is obviously a no-no, I agree. But I think long-distance travel is still going to happen. It'll be different, though.

I'm thinking in terms of sleeper trains with individual cabins, or long-distance self-driving cars — compartments that can, with very little modification, be made into comfortable negative pressure bio-isolation cells so that they serve as quarantine on wheels. If much of what people do is virtual then you can continue to work (and eat and sleep) in your comfy moving cell while fulfilling whatever quarantine or test requirements your destination wants. (If you don't test out as clean, you simply aren't allowed out of your car.) Airliners ... you could run them on the same basis: first class intercontinental flyers are pretty much isolated and travel in a bubble as it is. But it won't be mass flying as we know it today, and it'll be expensive and a bit weird. (Think in terms of 100 people on something the size of an A380 super-jumbo, in separate rooms: the only time they'd meet each other would be in event of an emergency evacuation down the slides, which implies an already-existing threat of death or injury to trump routine bioisolation.)


Apropos language extinction - I think it depends heavily on the political context.

I grew up in Friesland, in the Netherlands, where the local language (Frisian) had long been ignored by the national government. In the 1950s, this changed, and Frisian became a legally recognized minority language; since then, its use has increased, and when I was at primary school, we were taught in both Dutch and Frisian. In practice, most people are bilingual, speaking Frisian in informal situations, and Dutch in more formalized settings. Today, I see many people who are tri-lingual - Frisian with their friends, and Dutch or English at work.

I see the same thing at work in Europe - many people use English for their international work settings, and their native languages at home, or with local colleagues.

I think that is likely to be a pretty ubiquitous situation in Europe in 2117, assuming the political situation doesn't change dramatically. Rather than languages disappearing, I think the developed West will continue to see multi-lingualism, especially in the economically active population.


That's 5 grand over 100,000 miles difference, but the capital cost difference is 10 grand.

So as a matter of public policy we should tax the fuck out of the dinosaur-burners until they go extinct. (Anyway, the cost of EV batteries is falling rapidly as demand increases and in turn causes production capacity to ramp up.) Seriously, this "free market" shit is choking us to death. See also Graydon's other point about capitalism. Putting a financial "value" on everything blinds us to stuff that we don't assign value to, like the future habitability of our planet or not dying of emphysema at 70 due to inhalation of PM10 particulates.


if Those In Charge see no reason for the existence of a mass of non-worker bees then violence isn't strictly necessary. Comfortable boredom and birth control will do the job humanely, if they so choose, and why not?

Your "why not" is that those in charge are ordinary stupid people like the rest of us (except they lucked into a potload of leverage or money), and they generally don't see why they should spend money subsidizing "useless mouths". So they try starvation tactics instead of welfare every fucking time, with results that are Not Pretty (because when you systematically try to starve 90% of the population to death, you eventually get riots and civil war).


Can we all stop for a moment, and please remember we are still (modulo CRISPR, selective breeding programs, mass ennui-sparked die-offs and similar other such unlikelihoods) dealing largely with the standard Mk 1.0 Plains Ape anatomy, physiology and psychology we were looking at back in 1817, 1717, and even 2017BCE here? Unless there's an absolutely startling breakthrough or twelve in biotechnology which allows things like, for example:

* Blood or serum tests to determine the most appropriate psychiatric medication and dose thereof for a particular person (along the same lines as those used to determine things like appropriate doses of insulin or thyroid hormones for persons with deficiencies);
* Personalised genetic screening at birth to highlight personal modalities regarding things like learning style; potential for various physical or psychological disorders; potential problems with vision, hearing, and so on;
* Easy, instant and accurate diagnosis of mental illness, as well as easy, simple and largely successful treatment of same;

- well, unless we can fix a lot of the problems with the Mark 1.0 plains ape, we're still going to be looking at a lot of the same damn problems we have now, because the majority of our problems are caused by people being people at people. Plus, of course, there's all the other things we don't know about right now, but will find out about at some point over the next century or so (consider the interesting history of ADD/ADHD as a condition - when I entered primary school, it didn't exist; by the time I was leaving high school, it was being over-diagnosed in the USA).

I do think we're looking at an interesting period for psychology and psychiatry (both of which are currently in the "hit it with this and see what that does" stage of experimentation with regards to formulating treatments), as they start to accumulate more and more data both from the practitioners and from the patients about what does and doesn't work, and for how long it does so, or why it does or doesn't work.

Prior to the Age of the Internet, the majority of psychological information came from the practitioners, because the patients "weren't qualified" to give an opinion. Never mind questions about who was doing what to whose brains here, if you were a psych patient, you couldn't possibly be an expert on anything, much less the contents of your own head. These days, however, there's an instant availability of support groups for just about every psych diagnosis known to humanity, all offering "well, this worked for me" or "don't try that, it's horrible", or even just "yeah, what you're experiencing is extremely typical for your diagnosis. Here are some other landmarks on the journey to be looking out for". It's worth noting one of the larger and more accessible databases about psych medication out there ("Crazy Meds") was started and is kept up by someone who essentially began it with a group of friends by writing down their own experiences with the medications in question.


If any one body or group can stop Brexit in it's tracks ( As opposed to say a "Referendum on the terms" before the time-limit is up ) then it's The Corporation.


We bankers worked extremely hard to get the leadership, and the leading figures, of the Conservative Party to listen and to moderate the extremist 'Hard Brexit': nobody home.

Not just a refusal, or an expression of reluctance with excuses and an explanation about what can and cannot be attempted with the media and the electorate we've got: no engagement, brush-offs and evasion, no real interest in responding to serious men with lots and lots of money.

Let that last remark sink in.

Nobody home.

In one sense, there is much to celebrate in this: it turns out that bankers do not own the government. But somehow, I don't think that you'll be reassured by this at all.


Fine by me :-) If it wasn't for the obstacles placed in the way of getting a recumbent trike and 25 Kg of luggage up to (say) Fort William by the modern railway system, I would go by train. I might, anyway, assuming I do that :-) I would quite happily give up driving entirely, given viable alternatives.

And, yes, I fully agree with you about the "free market". One of my objections to old Labour is that it was monetarist even before the Conservatives became so - i.e. money and its management were both the problem and its solution. Thomas More was right, but it is also true that money is good when it is a medium of exchange but not when it becomes the primary measure of value. I.e. I believe that it is long past time that we abandoned money as the key to our economy. My economist friends believe that I am a trifle radical ....


Eventually, yes, unless there is an outside context problem, but societies of the form I described in #6 are loathesomely stable. I am predicting that TPTB are NOT going to drop the "starvation" approach, but are going to increasingly use the military, arm the police, and create a militia, to keep the lower classes under control. Thatcher took several steps in that respect, Blair took others, and May isn't going to be reluctant.


I think Mr. Wells wrote a story about that one. "Food of the Gods"

--What constitutes a "sect" or a "religion" or even "spirituality" is highly subjective. One of the biggest arguments in Religious Studies is what they're studying, and whether something (martial arts, or Jedi, or yoga) is something they should study.

I've seen many people online (mostly Americans) attempt to redefine religion so that it only includes traditions that include worshipping gods, thereby excluding two of the world's main recognised religions (Buddhism and Confucianism) just for starters and redefining them as "life philosophies". On the other hand the theologian Paul Tillich invented the term quasi-religion which is applied to movements like Marxism and Nazism which are religions with the most superstitious parts removed.


I am predicting that TPTB are NOT going to drop the "starvation" approach, but are going to increasingly use the military, arm the police, and create a militia, to keep the lower classes under control.

If that were true, then, we should expect to see an expanding Army, and increased Reserve / militia, a Police whose numbers are increasing / moving away from Peelian principles.

Except that none of these things are happening. The Regular Army is smaller than it has ever been in the modern era, and shrinking; the Reserves are tiny, and their regrowth has been hamstrung by incompetence (on the part of the Regular Army); the Police aren't exactly in a growth phase; and I haven't seen any moves toward a militia (I would argue that trying to replace expensive Constables with cheap PCSOs isn't evidence of this).

So I'm curious as to what evidence you're offering to support your hypothesis?


This would mean that you in 2117 will have a (maybe) really sophisticated taste, but that you will have a hard time to emjoy novels or games from as short back as 2107.

I think that's a category error, based on linear extrapolation of trends.

The real underlying problem that nobody talks about much is that the innovation window in any new art form is about 70 years. To use a generational metaphor, first you get the pioneers who discover the new frontier; then you get the settlers who claim territory to expand into and tame: then you get the children of the original farmers producing more of the same. After three generations most fields are tapped-out and the pace of innovation drops to a snail's crawl while the restless and imaginative look elsewhere. You may get entire new art forms forking off from old and moribund ones, or hybridizing (consider the relationship between rock-and-roll and country and jazz forms), especially as new technology comes along: but the original form is kind of static.

Added problem: sometimes we mistake a medium for an art form. I submit that there are multiple art forms embedded within "written long-form fiction", and they don't necessarily conform to the bookstore genre boundaries. Ditto "classical music" (do you mean baroque? Or Beethoven? Or Shostakovich?)

But a linear extrapolation of a trend running from 1970-2017 through into 2117 just isn't plausible, in my view.

There also is a very long tail of smaller religions/sects/cults/whatever, tailing out to a crowd of holy people who attract few if any followers and whose teachings don't survive their lifetimes.

--Religions spring up effectively at random. There's that huge long tail of holy people who don't amount to anything, but occasionally one of them is blessed by the black swan and recruits a lot of followers.

I think there are around ten thousand active religions in the world with a few hundred dying off or starting each year. A religion typically becomes inactive when the last group of believers dies out or converts to another religion (genocide, colonialism). Some inactive religions have been reinterpreted and revived but the neo-Druids and modern Norse pagans don't have the same beliefs as the originals. New religions that have achieved some degree of success or infamy recently include falung gong and Raëlianism which were founded in 1992 and 1974. Falun gong membership quickly exceeded that of the Mormons (founded 1820s, 15 million members) with several tens of millions of followers. The Raëlians are still under a hundred thousand.


> mechanisms for writing will be supplanted by newer ones--e.g. the replacement of discrete mechanical keys on keyboards with multitouch keyboards and then with gestural/swipe interfaces, where each dictionary word is replaced by a directional ideogram swiped across a QWERTY keymap, until eventually the ideogram replaces the alphabetic word or is auto-replaced by a corresponding emoji

While I agree every language will be simplified, I think you are forgetting that modern mechanism of writing by 'touching buttons on keyboards or symbols on screens' may go away itself.
As it is often said: 'Sloth is the engine of progress'. All the modern day technology is vectored to become more oriented towards more laziness and less attention-span.
And typing things be it text or emoji not only requires spending energy to wiggle your fingers but requires remembering what you want to say and how to say it. Not saying about grammar/spelling - even today everyone has spellcheck and autocorrect.
So it is very likely that in 2117 typing for most people will be a redundant skill - like knowing how to operate in Windows/macOS by command line in 2017.
Typing things by entering letters will go away in favor of speech-to-text and/or some type of predictive input that will detect what you want to say based on context.
Just imagine a world where the contextual algorithm predicts your messages/expressions/inputs based on your where you are, what you do and how do you feel in that moment. Will the words you utter still be yours?


If fossil fuels are unusuable, then long-haul freight will revert from ships to rail. China has been spending a lot of money on their "Iron Silk Road" project, and that's a very long-term plan for maintaining a connection to Europe when ships stop being able to use diesel engines.

My expectation is that we'll see most containers go on much, much bigger ships (tonnage up to 1Mt from the current 0.25-0.33Mt range) powered by nautical nuclear reactors. Probably big-ass civilianized PWRs that don't run on weapons-grade fuel (like contemporary military subs and CVNs) because if you're a million-ton freight ship you can afford to carry a spare ten thousand tons of shielding around the reactor. Alternatively, if Lockheed's alleged skunk-works fusion reactor works, that'd be about the right size to save freight shipping.

Nuclear is expensive but if you amortize it over the equivalent of 3-5 of today's biggest container ships and design the reactor to be modular/suitable for transfer to a new hull, a design life of 50-75 years isn't out of the question ...

(Look for sails in there, too.)


Provided the alternative of engine / Power-Unit change is available.
There is quite literally NO AVAILABLE ALTERNATIVE to a "proper" old-fashioned L-R.
Since they stopped production last year, secondhand prices have been rising.
But - a new-or-alternative cleaner power unit changes the game entirely.
I've been making enquiries, needless to say, but so far de Nada


Then I suggest that you look a bit deeper, and read the title of this thread. The government is not going to employ enforcers until it has to, and 2117 is still some way off. The law now allows the government to give private militia (think: G4S, etc.) many police powers, and there have been quite a lot of other changes to enable the government to do what I say without needing the consent of Parliament. The fact that the numbers are not increasing is because they have not needed to be. Yet. I am not expecting much visible change until our economy goes down the tubes, followed by the near-elimination of the welfare state.


I do not disagree with your analysis one little bit.
But, the Corp can, if they are really determined change things, without reference to the politicians ... but they have to be really desperate before they would make any open move.
I expect an awful lot of arm-twisting being done behind the arras in the circs ...


Very true, but the number of people who need one is quite small. The number of people who need a Chelsea tractor is even smaller, of course.


A Boeing 747 is not a regional jet

It can be, on the right route ;) Back in 2005, I flew from Sydney to Melbourne on a 747 that was being used as a regional jet (i.e. this was start and end of journey, not "first leg of an ongoing flight").

Anyway, we've talked about hybrid cars - and no-one has mentioned NASA's new Hybrid Aircraft, the XV-24A ;)


Thinking of some non-infectious disease public health trends:

Rates of obesity and its sequelae will continue to increase, worldwide. 60% of adult humans (closer to 80% on the Indian subcontinent) will be diabetic. Where municipal water supplies still exist, statins and metformin will be added like fluoride is today.

At the same time, heart disease will become so survivable (through advances in early thrombolysis via intravascular robotics) that 95% of people with cardiovascular disease will die in their 100s of dementia in mostly roboticised nursing homes. (There will be great advances in using VR to delay the progression of dementia. Great-great-grandpa thinks he's in the 2050s again? Well with immersion VR now he can be!)

Nobody smokes. Lung cancer is mainly a disease of overenthusiastic 3D printer users.


Cynic that I am, I think Exterminism is the future.

Fun fact, that section cites the Old High One here

Anyway, the issue isn't going to be so much resource scarcity, as it will be the loss of power that comes with everyone having enough. Thats the thing that will kill any UBI plan, the politics of it not the economics. With a UBI you will have some folks doing something that others don't like/respect/approve of and they will move to take it away as a result, because they are still hung up on the idea that they should be able to control what others do by refusing to provide resources if the person does what they don't like.

The rich don't want to give up their wealth, but even more they don't want to give up their power.

And they will absolutely kill us all before they budge one iota.


Total Fertility Rate can't be predicted yet. Industrialization lowered TFR. Perhaps UBI would raise it again?

Disagree strongly. First, industrialization didn't lower TFR — TFR in UK remained very high until the 20th century. What lowered TFR was (a) decoupling the need to have adult children from poverty in old age, (b) vaccination against most childhood diseases (meant more children survived to adulthood, so smaller families were viable), and (c) education — particularly female education. (TFR drops in general one generation after women become literate as family planning information spreads. Also, education keeps kids out of the work force so they become an investment rather than a labour source for their parents to exploit.)

Evidence from Japan, China, and other countries where TFR has dropped suggests that women converge on a family size "normal" among their peers. If everyone has 6 babies, having a seventh isn't particularly extraordinary. But if one child families are the norm, even a second child looks profligate, and a third is outrageous.) Also, about 20-25% of women are pretty much uninterested in having children (to the point of being actively hostile). That's okay, another 20-25% love babies to bits and exceed the societal norm; but the point is, once TFR falls, it's very hard to raise it significantly—it'd be a multigenerational project or require special support for "super-breeders".


powered by nautical nuclear reactors. Probably big-ass civilianized PWRs that don't run on weapons-grade fuel (like contemporary military subs and CVNs)

Contemporary French and Chinese submarine reactors already use LEU, and I gather that LEU has been considered for the US' next-generation SSBN. Interestingly, that SSBN is being designed to use a life-of-boat (50 years, IIRC) reactor that will never need refueling.


Remember the old line "the future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed"?

Well my guess is that it will stay like that. That at least is one lesson I drew from Thomas Hylland Eriksen's excellent book from last year, "Overheating", which I have reviewed here:

TL:DR - the global processes we're talking about here take place across different scales, and they can also experience reversals and deceleration as well as ever-accelerating forward progress.

This makes extrapolating from present trends into future social and cultural results much more difficult than you might think at first glance.

(NB, Charlie, I hope it's not against the rules of the house to post links to one's own work here)


Whoops, I forgot Portuguese! (It's a tiny minority in Europe and I've never visited South America so it's just off my radar.) Yeah, it'll probably be one of the survivors.

My entirely subjective yardstick for assessing a language's viability is "can a practitioner of some art form in this language survive on their earnings without translation into other tongues?" For example, can an SF writer earn a living in language X without translated editions? In the case of English (or Japanese, or Chinese) the answer is obviously "yes". In the case of German it's a whole lot more marginal — there are about 2-5 full-time SF authors in the German-speaking world, and maybe 2-4 times that many fantasy authors: for everyone else it's a side-hustle because the money simply isn't there in a language with only about 100M native speakers (many of whom are fluent in English). So I tend to think of "100M potential customers for an SF author" as my viability marker. In other art forms the threshold may be much lower (think in terms of Israeli film directors or TV stars, for example), and in societies where the cost of living is lower it may be possible to get by. But we're still probably talking on the order of 10^7 native speakers/reader and up to pass this test. (You will note that Bjork sings almost entirely in English, despite being Icelandic ...)


Going back to the original question:

Intergenerational issues. Is it a fair assumption that current generational patterns will still be extant and that if so they might impact language use? As per the Greg Bear Eon references way upstream, people will walk around surrounded by clouds of picts. However, even if the oldsters use implants and AR to parse and (and even speak) the 2117 equivalents of the kids’ emojis, kids will continue to hack whatever they can to create parent-free cliques, accessible only to those with sufficient intellectual / physical dexterity. Possible analogy: the development by young deaf people of forms of signing that are more sophisticated and grammatically nuanced than those taught to them by oldsters. All of these things suggest to me that communications will remain fragmented, even if the base spoken languages converge.

Also, truthiness, assessment of. Consider source-code editors that colour tokens according to whether they are identifiers, reserved words, delimiters, comments, etc. What sort of real-time annotations will be possible for visual and written languages? ‘Citation needed’? ‘True (according to the stated conventions of my stated filter-bubble allegiance)’? ‘Brought to you by the Tessier-Kardashians’?


You can't be sure that Moore's law is dead yet. Or, in fact, that it will hit the wall short of computronium. It may, but more likely it's just a current slow-down that will pick up again as soon as there's sufficient reason.

How do you engineer ever-smaller transistors where the average width of a conductive circuit is now down to only 2-3 atoms?

With 7nm processes on the horizon (and atoms on the order of 1-3nm across) we're pretty close to a hard stop for Moore's Law. The obvious solution is to go 3D and stack circuits vertically, but then you get into heat dissipation issues; stacking is already happening, but that, too, is limited.


What proteinaceous foods will be cheap in a non-crashed 22st century?

My money is on vat-grown meat. (Or, as Rudy Rucker put it in one of his novels, "the motel kitchen had four tanks to keep the tourists fed; they had a choice of Beef, Chicken, Lamb, or Wendy.") If you can culture animal tissues efficiently in bulk you can lose the roughly 90% of the inputs that get wasted on inedible bits (bones, brains, hair and claws) and on moving the sheep around the hillside. You also step away from animal welfare concerns, and have higher grade quality control and reduce the land area required for production drastically.

If you can use dried, powdered jellyfish as an input and get 3D printed ersatz rump steak (made with real bovine tissue culture) out of the other end, then there's no need to give up steak.

The evidence suggests that vat-grown meat is plausible, but commercializing it is going to take a lot of effort.


Aha! You have just awakened one of my hobby-horses. Actually, stacking is much less limited than it is made out to be - the human brain is 3-D, after all. What is needed is to abandon the serial Von Neumann designs of today, both in hardware and software (e.g. programming languages), and introduce massive parallelism. I don't mean a few thousand processors - I mean millions, of really simple ones - and asynchronous and implicitly parallel languages. They would have to be clocked right down to keep the power under control, and some of the layers would have to be mostly heat pipes, but it's doable.

The usual objection is that we don't know how to make use of such things. And my response is: so what? Make some experimental devices available for 1,000 quid/dollars/euros on standard cards (not making any profit), though they would be only a few thousand processors, and let the mad hackers loose on them. Yes, I remember the ICL DAP, and I am talking about a vastly bigger and more modern version of something like that. In 3-D.


>> and let the mad hackers loose on them

Okay, it only involves 1000s of cores rather than millions, but this is essentially what has happened with NVidia GPUs being re-purposed as deep-learning engines, and now explicitly sold as such


I see the next generation of performance increases coming, not necessarily all from parallelism (which is hard) but from using task-specific rather than general-purpose computing (somewhat easier). The easy gains came from "do the same stuff, the same way, on a faster CPU". Then, Intel and AMD dragged all the techniques that I learned on my mid-80s supercomputing modules, into "plain old CISC" CPUs, such that they became mainstream. Now, C++ has native language support for parallelism (not that many people are using it).

We're already seeing C-to-gates RTL compilers that achieve better results than hand-coded Verilog/VHDL, to the extent that IP developers have started to use C to describe their circuitry, by choice. We're now seeing FPGAs being built into cloud computing resources (Amazon Web Services).

So where there are compute-intensive tasks that are badly-conditioned for solving in a linear or repetitive fashion on a general-purpose computer (signal processing, image processing) you can expect to see the increase in effective power come from the use of programmable logic, not just programs running on Von Neumann machines. How do you think they're doing the machine vision stuff on high-end cars?

I can see some fascinating mix-and-match of hardware and software down the line; who knows, maybe the much-promised asynchronous digital designs will get to play...


2 of the largest and most obvious being:-
1) The "Scotrail Express"; This is a DMU, and not suitable for a 3 to 4 hour journey like Glasgow to Am Gearasden! It can, just about, accommodate 2 conventional single seat bicycles.
2) Modern "intercity" stock no longer includes a guard/luggage/brake car in a rake of coaches.


Without wanting to get into a definition debate around the point at which culture shades into sub-culture, two groups can have a shared understanding of concepts yet very different ethnographicly defining ways of living, ideology, kinship structures, taboos etc.

Mutual incomprehension isn't a necessary or defining feature of cross-cultural communication.

Eg., A secular New Yorker of Jewish descent and a Southern Baptist theocrat both understand the concepts of "Church" and "State". But they disagree about how those concepts should relate to one another, in culturally defining ways.


Northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation sure looks like it's switching to north-south rather than east-west. One of the possible consequences is an explanation for the Oligocene "centre of NorAm is a desert" outcome; warm air from the Gulf up to the arctic, and it's dry most of the trip. AKA, desertification in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois....

That's a non-trivial problem.

You will note that Bjork sings almost entirely in English, despite being Icelandic ...
*cough* Sigur Rós *cough*. :-) Your point stands, of course.

Ed got run over by a ... what is the word for the brief awkward stage between "pullet" and "chicken"? .. of the Creek breed, which means it weighed about 30 kg. (Creek chickens are built like Malay chickens, which means at ~35 kg, the roosters get to 40 kg, they're darn near six feet tall.) It quite literally stepped on Ed's head. (Well, attempted to use Ed's head as a traction enhancement. It's round, it's grippable...)

I can assure you that even regular old barnyard chickens can result in bleeding scalp wounds when they step on your head in a state of haste; not bad enough to require stitches, but the scutes have some sharpish traction enhancements and the claws dig.

So, anyway, no; Creek chickens have beaks, not delicate toothy jaws. What they call a chicken-hawk, on the other hand, is basically Dakotaraptor.


I doubt the US will have one high speed network. Most likely, the high speed rail networks will align with our electric grid, except that the middle is going to be empty

Hyperloop, anyone?

Yes, it's much-hyped and embryonic. But if it works it'll be as fast as an SST while having energy draw closer to a regular high speed train. Construction cost ... not low, but if there's enough business in coast-to-coast transit it could take a giant bite out of the airline industry's revenue model.

If we see the development of automated video editing software sufficient to alter lip movements [...]

Already here.


That's horribly inefficient. For example, here's a partial list of all the stuff industry gets from a typical cow carcass. You wanna give up surgical sutures? Leather? Gelatin?

There's a second, bigger problem: cells in a vat of growth medium taste (at best) like broth, because they don't form the structure of a bone or organ. If you want to eat a muscle, you have to grow a muscle, which means, like growing a heart for transplant, you have to grow those muscle cells on a scaffolding. That's a bit more complicated (and expensive) than just growing cells in a simple growth medium and slicing off a bit of it periodically.

There are two VERY NECESSARY byproduct of assuming that cheap, vat grown meat will be a thing: one is that cheap, vat grown human organs will be a thing, for all that means for human medicine (assuming antibiotics still work...). The other is that you're going to have to find substitutes for the hundred-odd industrial products, from fertilizer to leather to medicines, that a typical slaughtered cow produces, that won't be produced in your vat.

So yes, vat meat would be a tremendously disruptive technology, and probably a very inefficient one to boot. Well, to Welly, since where's the leather for the boot?

[...] I expect we'll see the beginnings of a new age of city states. Not necessarily full independence and primacy for cities and the nation-states all gone. I mean more like a gradual weakening of central authority, in favor of cities having more and more leeway to act independently on the world stage.

This is a process which is currently ongoing. As you suggest, one particular area of interest is climate change - one of the most contentious divisions between "urbanites" and "ruralites", IMO.


We already have vat-grown meat; your point about muscle structure means that it's served as the world's most expensive hamburger. Cheap vat-grown *cuts* of meats imply your first byproduct, but we eat a lot of processed meat anyway. Your second byproduct? Many-if-not-most of those have replacements already - vegans and Hindus exist.


If you can vat-grow muscle, you can vat-grow skin. ("your skin is your largest organ!" The medical types want to grow skin pretty intensely.)

If I was trying to bootstrap this, and I was in the early-Tesla position of knowing it was possible but it was hard to pay for, I'd be starting with, oh, I don't know, clouded leopards. I'd put money into conservation as PR, I'd have the actual genetic donors -- the live clouded leopards -- all over the marketing, and I'd be selling Very Expensive king-sized clouded leopard bed throws/rugs. Hygienic, seamless, and guaranteed unique in pattern!

Once that works, well, rhino boot leather is very fine, if you can get it. If you can grow it by the many hundreds of square metres, well. Futz with some ostrich genes and some crocodile and make Tyrannosaur Brand biker boots. Making mink cheap. Do the whole thing while being a conservationist cause, protecting habit, and making the point over and over the protecting biodiversity is key to the commercially necessary (and coincidentally lucrative) genetic diversity underlying your business. (By extension, everyone else's business. Feathers were very fashionable once; if you can make the vat-grown ones visibly and obviously not removed from wild birds, they could be again.)


The one cow product I have heard serious angsting about replacing? Fetal calf serum, without which much biotech grinds to a halt, and replacement of which seems ...non-straightforward.


IMO, civilian nuclear reactors are a fiction. The regulations, decommissioning, and incident insurance puts nuclear power out of reach of any non-state operation short of the kind of megacorp you get in cyberpunk fiction (and those are large enough to be viewed as non-geographic states anyway). Existing "civilian" reactors are subsidised to an absurd amount by governments, mostly in the form of guaranteed electricity prices and implicit incident insurance, and are only "private" as a shady way to keep them off the government's books, like PFI/PPP schemes.

I don't mean to imply I don't like nuclear power - I love it! - I just don't think it's practical at anything short of nation-scale. Nuclear transport shipping is certainly technically possible but would require governments to be operating the vessels IMO, which is a few levels of state intervention beyond the current norm. I guess it fits with the authoritarian state, though!


Does this mean anthropodermic bibliopegy could make a comeback? Why, autodermic biblopegy could even be a thing.


Putting high speed rail is too expensive for much of the US, but depending on how the future works out (for instance, electric airplanes are impractical, but blowing more carbon into the air is lethal)

Category error, like assuming "if horse transport continues to grow at present rates, by 1970 London will be 30 feet deep in manure".

Jet engines burning kerosene will continue to be practical for the foreseeable future. The source of the kerosene, however, will have to change. IIRC Virgin America already demonstrated an unmodified wide-body flying a significant distance on algae-sourced biodiesel: why switch to a less energy-dense new propulsion mechanism that requires all-new infrastructure, when it's probably cheaper to simply swap in a new input source? (Air travel consumes less than 3% of global petrochemical fuels at present.)

As long as the source of the carbon they're burning is the carbon currently in the atmosphere, jet travel can be carbon-neutral. That's all you really need.

(Also, I submit that if we see a human population crash the support for re-tooling our entire civil aviation industry and building new aircraft won't be there. It'll be much easier to simply patch one dependency and keep flying already-existing planes.)


Sort of, but not at all in the technology. I left out some of the details, though. NVIDIA GPUs are strongly SIMD, as was the DAP, and that is too restrictive, as well have having some scaling problems - if I were doing it, the cores would be asynchronous. More importantly, those GPUs are power hogs, and about the limit of what can be put in a standard slot - to scale up at all seriously, that simply HAS to be resolved.


Rhino hide? Um, they made shields out of that, not boots.

I was thinking about that culturing skin, but as SFReader pointed out, the real problem is that fetal calf serum is the stuff that's most widely used to grow eukaryotic (not animal, eukaryotic) cells in culture. Until you can grow fetal bovine serum in a culture that doesn't start with fetal bovine serum, basically all of this vat grown stuff if a non-starter. The phrase "[t]he rich variety of proteins in fetal bovine serum maintains cultured cells in a medium in which they can survive, grow, and divide" (from Wikipedia) should really make people think about this.

As SFReader noted, extracting it is not free of suffering for the animals, and the product can easily be contaminated with viruses. There IS an incentive to make an effective axenic substitute, but it should be obvious that it isn't easy.

The bottom line here is that nature has provided these wonderful bionanotech systems that take plentiful, low grade nutrient sources (straw, for example) that we can't use, and slowly turns them into forms we can use. They'll even helpfully adapt to our Darwinian engineering to upgrade their performance. They actually aren't the problem. The problem is that people get greedy to have more of them, resulting in stress on the production system, then techies come along and think that reverse engineering the system, so that some of its components can be operated in sterile isolation, will be radically more efficient somehow, and wonder why the rest of us start laughing at them.

If it weren't so rude, I'd suggest that things like induced liberal guilt over being a consumer (as opposed to an autotroph), and chauvinism that animals are innately more valuable than, say, old growth trees (or any plant) are the problems vat meat is actually designed to solve. Trying to make it cheaper than raising and slaughtering animals is almost certainly grossly impractical. In several senses.

Besides, you want some hotel maids tending the cell cultures that are feeding you dinner? Really? Would you trust yourself to maintain one of those cultures, especially if you regularly cut bits out of it? Without good sterile procedure or even a sterilized hood to work in?



My late MiL made the best frituras de sesos (de cerdo)...


You are actually supporting my point! An emoji is not a reliable form of communicating unless the concept it describes is identical in both languages and, even more for emojis than single words, that includes the connotations it has.


[The apostasy of capitalism]
What I'm worried about is the vacuum it's going to leave behind; what's going to fill it?

People have to cooperate in groups. HOW people co-operate in groups is a function of what they believe is legitimate, which in turn is a function of how they see other people behaving (mostly).

Right now, cooperation in groups is effectively banned; you have to be an individual or you can participate in a very limited number of ways in a corporation and corporations are very narrowly defined and very focused on "shareholder value". (That is, the model is (some descendant of) the New Model Army, a Presbyterian church, a temple-focus church, or a latifundia, and it has to produce an extractive profit. And the latifundia are winning in terms of ecological dominance.)

My take on this is basically "what if condos weren't a scam?" You could have a really full-service credit union; housing, food, child care, retirement supports and elder care as well as financial services. It gets those basic things on an efficient scale and you can -- or at least I can -- easily imagine laws that facilitate switching such organizations (whether you move for a job or marriage or whatever) so your equity follows you around and badly run ones erode and good ones grow (and get forced to split, because upward size limits.)

It's close enough to the old capitalist orthodoxy that people could cope, emotionally; it's big enough to take advantage of specialization. It goes right on using market mechanisms which mostly work fine for a group of roughly equivalent participants who know what they are doing. It provides opportunities for social engineering. (As any cultural orthodoxy must; it has to get copies of itself into the future.) It solves a lot of problems individuals don't necessarily want to solve for themselves. There's a community. (the primary housing customer becomes a long-term thinker with actual capital...)


OP: So here's a projection: by 2117, there's going to be a marked decline in the diversity of ideological and social systems in which we live, brought about by faster communications and the forced spread of the most aggressive societies.

Disagree. Yes, there'll be a continuation of 500 years of (post)colonial destruction and deracination of indigenous societies, but:

In the absence of vigorous repression, the internet makes it not just possible but almost unavoidable for people to find niche or radical ideas,and to form communities or constituencies around those ideas, reinforced by confirmation bias, echo chamber effects, and in-group out-group dynamics.

A white, gay 17 year old Doctor Who fan in Texas probably has more in common with a gay 17 year old Turkish Doctor Who fan in Germany, than with his 17 yo neighbour. In 1980 those people never would have met or communicated. Now, they're a sub-culture.

So you get a balkanization on micro-niche cultural/ideological/social lines, mediated by the internet rather than geography.

That can be healthy or toxic, sanity preservation for small town gays or Pepe the frog for MRAs.

At the same time, there's a move to supranational organizations, despite the hiccup of Brexit. Carbon markets will have to be regulated by a transnational body with teeth, despite the fact that it gets the black-helicopter crowd frothing at the mouth about one world government, but it isn't much of a step from the unnaccountable bodies which arbitrate trade disputes. Like the EU it can be done democratically and competently or . . . not.

(Side note: Climate policy may be the ideological fault line which divides the world into blocs later this century)


Or, thanks to texting, acronyms become the new grammar and vocab.


In one sense, there is much to celebrate in this: it turns out that bankers do not own the government. But somehow, I don't think that you'll be reassured by this at all.

England: a nation of lions led by lemmings. (In the Disney Jungle Book and faked-up documentary senses of the species stereotypes.)

Am I right?


That's been around for decades and doesn't fly, though the reasons are going to change. It gives only a small factor improvement (typically 1.5 to 5), and it was simpler and cheaper just to spend more money and/or wait for the generic technology to catch up, as you said. That doesn't mean that it hasn't been used at all, but that it hasn't become more than an extreme niche. Let's assume that the days of serial performance are over, why won't it fly now? Well, because small factors like that typically aren't very useful - you can usually achieve them in other ways, such as rewriting the bloatware or small-scale parallelism.

Yes, special-purpose CPUs will become a bit more widespread, but they aren't the next great thing. If you want to implement (say) real-time language translation, you need a lot more than they will give you. If you want to run (say) real-time machine vision in glasses, you need a similar reduction in wattage.


So I'm curious as to what evidence you're offering to support your hypothesis?

I think he's right, though. What you're missing is that we don't need a pair of uniformed boots on every street corner to monitor signs of criminal activity when we've got CCTV and track everyone's cellphone. A lot of the former functions of a high-manpower military or police force have been automated, and this trend is ongoing. We're well on the way to being a total surveillance panopticon society. For example, the Five Eyes are pretty much guaranteed able to rootkit any wifi router on the market; new high-bandwidth wifi systems are moving towards using beam-shaping via multiple antennae, and the wavelengths wifi relies on are able to penetrate many materials and can be used to locate humans on the other sides of walls — MIT's signal kinetics people are publishing research on this subject, and you can bet the Five Eyes are on this particular ball.

Upshot: they don't need to hire bodies to watch us when our own comms technology tells them where we're standing or sitting to the nearest centimetre and we're all carrying wireless repeater bugs with cameras and microphones the whole time! Everything else is an implementation detail, plus enough warm bodies to run the snatch squad (or, more likely, just an algorithm to suspend your bank and e-cash payments until you end up starving on the street and thank them for taking you in and giving you a meal and a roof over your head).


First, Musk says that the optimal distance for a Hyperloop is 900 miles (1,400 km).
The distance between NYC and LA is 3,944 km.

I think you guys are misunderstanding what I'm saying. I'm not saying that a transcontinental electric hyperloop or Shinkansen can't be built. What I'm arguing is that the region West of the Mississippi River and East of the Sierra Nevada mountains is too empty to justify the economics of a hyperloop over an electric regional jet. The parts that aren't empty are found in VERY isolated terrain (Salt Lake City, Denver, Albuquerque). Texas and Arizona are (very tenuous) exceptions to this.


I have seen a pair of 19th century British Empire rhino hide infantry boots. They were accompanied by a rapturous testimonial. (I suspect that if you can get top grain off it's an important increase in the utility of the stuff; good steel knives time.)

The default vegetarian position -- farm everywhere that can be farmed for human food -- is what's driving the current mass extinction. I want the farming footprint to go down by half. Which means an increase in efficiency, which means more return per footprint.[1] Which means starting to treat cities as part of the footprint and part of the loop rather than the current horrible open system.

(As an aside; straw is not something cattle will eat. Straw gets used as bedding because it doesn't have food value. Hay has food value and optimizing that food value is wiping out ground-nesting meadow birds. (The mowing date moved up before the fledging date to optimize the protein content of the hay.) Fetal calf serum, if it's just a haze of proteins, can be sequenced and replicated in principle. It's going to take government-scale investment but that's not inherently a bar to doing it.)

Many people -- I am one of them -- die if put on a vegetarian diet. (In my case, slowly and horribly. "you should be a vegetarian" = "I want you to be tortured to death! for years!" I am not free of emotional bias on this point.)

If you want good meat, you need to maintain an ecosystem that supports a whole lot more diversity and has a much higher apex. It's not cheap meat. I don't see carniculture as a tool for consumer price reduction, I see it as a footprint reduction mechanism. (I would expect on the scale of the local abattoir, not the local timmy's, with their very different scales of local.)

If you want people to survive the next couple centuries, a food pyramid built pretty strictly on wheat, rice, and maize isn't going to do it. Reliable large crops aren't going to be a feature of the future. That's another reason to look at footprint reduction.

[1] this is not the same thing as an area reduction; mixed intensive agriculture that's extracting less per area is an ecological win and probably a reliability win in terms of how consistently it can feed people.


We're starting to grapple with this problem in California, because the Board of Forestry thinks that burning hundred year-old trees is carbon neutral, because the carbon in the trees isn't coming out of the ground. If we called carbon "money," the problem would be obvious, because you're spending now, repaying over the course of the next hundred years (for a tree to regrow) and declaring that there is no change in your bank account because you didn't mine gold to put it in your account.

Yes, algae isn't wood, but it faces a similar problem. The biggest problem with climate change isn't the average increase in temperature, it's the strong increase in extremes, loss of the jet stream (which makes air transport more useful), the increased size of storms, the decrease in predictable weather, and so on. The only good solution to this is to get the carbon out of the air.

Now, everyone and their dog wants to carve out an exception for why their emissions are okay, but someone else's are not. For example, in San Diego, transportation (primarily car and truck exhaust) causes 55% of GHG emissions, while construction causes less than 5%. Therefore, it can be and is argued that continued growth is okay, because it's not a major contributor to climate change (ignoring the reasons why people are driving to and from all those new buildings).

Since I've been working with this for a little bit, I'd gently suggest that, if you're positing that global civilization still exists in 2117, about the only way to get there is to stop burning all carbon-containing fuels, period, whatever the source. Civilized transports in 2117 will all use some form of electricity storage or hydrogen. We're at a point where if you carve any major sector and say that their emissions are okay, politically I don't think you're going to be able to prevent all other sectors from pointing out that they deserve an exemption too, because of their critical role in maintaining civilization.

Now, if you want to really dive into the weed, the other problem with growing huge amounts of algae for biofuels is that they take huge amounts of nutrients other than carbon. I believe there's a calculation out there from about five years ago that said that replacing gas with biofuels was infeasible, because there wasn't enough fixed nitrogen or phosphorus available to feed the algae, even if we could scale up their tanks to make enough. Leibig's Law of the Minimum is the relevant rule: what limits the growth of any organism isn't what nutrient is most available, it's the nutrient that is in shortest supply. Having a huge amount of carbon in the air is worthless, if you don't have all the other nutrients that plants need to grow and capture that carbon. In the future, the limiting nutrient is likely to be phosphorus, and if we don't have good supplies of it, biofuels are going to be a non-starter, along with continued industrial agriculture

That's why I'm saying that ultimately, Americans may simply be forced to slow down and take the train or the boat, rather than flying as we do now. If the tradeoff isn't the inconvenience of lost time, it's dying horribly after burying your children in the ruins of your civilization, people may eventually agree that a few extra days on a train away from the office is (just barely) a doable sacrifice.


Google TPU chips for running trained neural networks (the training is done on GPUs but the trained weights can be run on much simpler specialised TPU chips).


Actually, I was arguing that Portuguese would be an apex language, not that it would survive

1. It has currently 250 million speakers found on 3 continents
South America: Brazil, any neighbors who wish to trade with Brazil
Africa: Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe and Equatorial Guinea
* These countries are facing a population growth
Europe: Portugal

2. It can becomes a language of trade
It depends on commerce within Latin America progresses. Mexican companies are already looking at Brazil as a supplier of corn should the country need to retaliate against the US for trade restrictions. Plus, I predict deepening trade between Brazil and Africa in the future, especially Portuguese speaking Africa


Have been wondering whether anyone has started a 'language vault' similar to the international seed vault in order to record and store languages against loss and/or future study. Something like YouTube would be ideal because of its audio and video capabilities to save/explain both the written and spoken. Usage, grammar, lit/poetry/jokes/quips/witticisms/adages, music (lyrics and tunes) should be included. No idea how long per language would be needed so probably a good project for grad students/academics as well as hordes of lay persons/hobbyists/seniors with a strong interest in any of these areas. Most importantly: computing power/data storage as well as human ability and time are available, so this is technically feasible.

G7 countries along with the UN and a wealthy corporate language-loving patron or two would be enough to provide the impetus and possibly the funds for this 'Universal Rosetta Stone Project'.


The problem with limiting, controlling, or even understanding AI is that quite a lot of it uses neural networks which are black boxes. You train a network and the result is a matrix of weights which is completely opaque. You can take this matrix and run it on a software (or hardware like the Google TPU) neural network processor and it will recognise faces or play GO or whatever but the matrix of numbers produced by the training doesn't come with an explanation.


That's only true for civilian versions. The military has continued its research into supersonic engines, so the engine probably needs less catching up than you think?


Right now, cooperation in groups is effectively banned
Not even wrong? Maybe.

What about "Unincorprated Associations"?
( HINT: I'm treasurer for two of these - the Morris-side I dance in & my local Allotment Association. )

Or you speaking from a USSA viewpoint?
The voluntary sector, based on co-operation & the so-called "Mutuals" are really big in the UK.


Angola & Mozambique are switching, slowly, to English


Re: 'Leibig's Law of the Minimum is the relevant rule: what limits the growth of any organism isn't what nutrient is most available, it's the nutrient that is in shortest supply.'

Suggest you keep repeating this because too few people are aware of it.

Something to consider about future travel - fewer kids per family this generation therefore fewer relatives to visit for family reunions, etc. According to 2015 US Travel stats, almost one-third of pleasure travel was to visit family and two-thirds for vacation. In-town spas, sports and theme parks are becoming more common, so this could absorb some vacation travel plus provide local jobs.

Even so,I'm guessing that vast majority of travel is for the daily commute. Nip that by changing zoning in favor of multi-usage buildings and multi-generational friendly communities* and lots of money/energy saved. Also, more orgs are using desks/spaces rather than offices for many of their staff who mostly work from home. This reduces travel (energy consumption) plus the excessive street lanes, parking spaces, and office building spaces that could be used for other purposes, i.e., housing and in-city parks/green spaces.

* 'Generation-friendly communities' (from kiddies to seniors) are already being marketed as a major feature/benefit by smaller cities.


Actually, it applies even here to an increasing extent. Over the past quarter century, an increasing number of restrictions and penalisations have been placed on such organisations. The small-scale and peripheral ones are ignored as unimportant, but look at what happened to the Plant Breeding Institute etc. and many of the mutual etc. housing societies. Also, some (many?) of the penalisation laws apply to every member of such a thing, but not even to all directors or executives of standard for-profit corporations.

Dammit, Sir!, what you are proposing is pure communism! You should be horsewhipped for mentioning it where ladies might hear!


For a more business-y way of talking about limiting factors, you could reference the author of 'The Goal':


Ironically, the Long Now Foundation is running a Rosetta Project as you describe.

From my limited experience, I don't think linguists should be involved in this project, and there's a couple of stories behind that.

Many years ago, I lamented online that so many aboriginal (and Indian) languages had been lost. As a budding land manager at the time, I wished I had the technical knowledge that the aboriginal inhabitants of that land had had, because they'd done a better job of managing that land for 10,000-odd years than my employers had for forty. Unfortunately, epidemic disease and forced missionization had destroyed that knowledge centuries ago.

A linguist scolded me for even expressing this desire. She (?) told me that linguists generally only collected "everyday" terms, like terms for familial relationships. She regarded the kind of technical knowledge that I wanted to be part of a cultural patrimony/copyright, and thought that I was wrong to want it. Now, I agree that western science has a horrible record of exploiting native discoveries (see the jerks that tried to patent yoga, bismati rice, and so on), but what do you do about people like me who just want to take care of a piece of land properly, so that it can be passed on in good shape to the next caretakers? Being judgemental about not recording technical knowledge can deny people the opportunity to do good with it, as well as the opportunity to profit from it.

The bigger issue is that linguists often have no clue about technical subjects and mistranslate them horribly. Even the Spanish gardeners use is specialized, and if you're trying to translate a gardening book into Spanish by employing a bilingual non-gardener, problems can crop up. I was actually part of a project like that. Its goal was to create a bilingual gardening book that landowners could use to communicate with their workers even if they had limited shared language. Unfortunately, one translator didn't understand the difference between mulch and manure, so all the text references to mulch in the English text were translated as manure in the Spanish text. At least we caught that one...


I raise you the Sugarcubes' first album, much of which was sung in Icelandic, by Bjork. But there were enough English tracks to give us "Deus", which became a mega-hit, and their subsequent albums (until Bjork went solo) were all anglophone because (duh) that's where the platinum sales were.


Speaking of which, where has book 4 gotten to?


I did not know that. Thanks for the info.


Interesting and related article in Nature:

Track how technology is transforming work

Without data on how artificial intelligence is affecting jobs, policymakers will fly blind into the next industrial revolution, warn Tom Mitchell and Erik Brynjolfsson.


I have the impression, from Pinker, I believe, that this used to be the standard thing linguistics graduate students got sent to do, using lower tech, of course: notebooks, IPA to record the exact speech sounds, maybe tape recorders. Then the Chomskyan revolution came along, and you had young radicals saying that you could deduce the inherent structure of all languages by thinking really hard about the grammar of English; if I recall correctly, Pinker described traditional linguistics presentations on descriptions of little known language X, and Chomskyans asking, "But what does this have to do with linguistics?"

These days, I think the primary people who do the old language description thing are Christian missionary organizations that take seriously the text about the Gospel being preached in all languages (even if that means writing about "the baby seal of God" in one of the Inuit languages, if that story is accurate). That likely produces a selective choice of what vocabulary to record.

But language preservation gets much less attention than species preservation. Of course there are only around 5k languages and a thousand times as many species to preserve, or more. But I don't know if the effort should be proportionate.


Why don't we talk about hyperloop failure modes, too?

Aside from the trivia of running it across the San Andreas fault at least twice (into and out of LA or SF), there's the problem that the vehicles are supposed to run at something like 500 mph about five miles apart. Assuming one has a breakdown, the ones behind it have to stop, and I'll leave it to you to do the math. I got something like people hanging from their harnesses at >>1 gee as they go from 500 mph to zero over five miles, but I'm probably wrong on that. At any rate, the stopped vehicles are now sitting in a vacuum tube, piling up until (I guess?) their combined weight makes the tube sag, crack, let the air in (boom goes your vacuum across the entire five hundred mile length of tube), and spill the vehicles to the ground. Then they can be rescued, but the tube won't work *at all* until it is repaired, resealed, and evacuated again.

You want to ride this thing? I'm not sure I do. It beats spending a week riding 50,000 miles up a beanstalk to orbit when the beanstalk itself is vibrating like the bass string from hell, but not by all that much.


Not quite - 500 MPH at 1 g is 1.6 miles, and you could stop in 5 miles at 0.32 g. I agree with your points, though. At a perfectly feasible railway speed (200 MPH), it's under 13 hours from New York to Los Angeles, and the overall time is only about double that of flying.


the primary people who do the old language description thing are Christian missionary organizations that take seriously the text about the Gospel being preached in all languages (even if that means writing about "the baby seal of God" in one of the Inuit languages, if that story is accurate). That likely produces a selective choice of what vocabulary to record.

... And the preservation of these languages then falls to the US National Security Agency, who apparently have the biggest archive of Bible translations on the planet and curate them carefully. (Alas "Bible" and "National Security Agency" are useless search terms on the internet because god-botherers and paranoiacs, but there's chapter and verse in one or more of James Bamford's books about the NSA.) The point being that the NSA is as much about linguistics as cryptanalysis, and Bibles are a kind of Rosetta Stone — as far back as the late 80s they were known to have upwards of a thousand bible translations on hand.


Not quite... I suspect I wasn't clear enough by what I meant as "specialist processor". These are ten-year-old slides, but they capture the problem neatly

As you correctly say, the "design a specialist processor to carry out a task" of thirty/twenty/ten years ago was indeed limited - although as a worked example, wayyyyy back when, we saw a 2x to 6x gain in usable processing power over our equivalent competitor in the USA who used general-purpose computers (comparing the Blue Vixen signal processor with that of APG-65 / APG-72). It makes sense when you need the performance, cost no object; as you say, the advantages on the other side come with being able to rely on Moore's Law and waiting a couple of years...

However, I'm not talking about hard-silicon implementations of specialist circuitry. When you compare (say) a Network Processor with an FPGA implementation; you now get much better performance for the same socket cost, or much lower costs for the same performance, if using an FPGA. That's why if you crack open any 4G base station, or exchange line card, you can play "spot the FPGA in the critical path".

I'm also talking about a working, good QoR, C-to-gates compiler putting their output onto programmable logic. This is something that's only really reached feasibility (as in "they're now out there, working") in the last year or two - even a decade ago, I saw a "C-to-gates compiler" project crash and burn, because it was awkward to use and didn't give great results. Microsoft is already using FPGAs in all their new search engine server farms:

But even that is only a half-step in the right direction; we now see this kind of thing:

and can expect to see programmable logic at personal, not just server-farm level. Tools that turn up with DLLs for the CPU, and bitstreams for loading into the FPGA. Tools that support the designer in offloading compute-intensive stuff onto specialised hardware by tagging it, not by having to lovingly hand-craft it using the experience of years of specialism; reconfigurable processors that change their circuitry on the fly, not after a complete reload and reboot...


Seconded. Looking forward to the next one :)


I got clever. Clever is bad.

Book 4, Under One Banner, is written but because it is chronologically nested in the events of Book 5, A Mist of Grit and Splinters, I need to get #5 finished before I can be sure of various chronological details in #4. ("When <character/> looks out that direction, is the road there yet?" stuff.) So I have to finish #5 before I can let #4 out into the wild, and one of the things I know for certain about #5 is that I shouldn't try to write in the viewpoint of someone whose character is intended to be a conflation of Dread Achilles and US Grant. (Those bits are done. All the other bits, not so done. Tentacular timeline, emphatically not done. This one seems to be like a mosaic.)

Book 6, tentatively The Hempen Jig, is from the viewpoint of people who are not from the Commonweal. It starts before and ends after Book 5, but there's less chronological meshing to worry about. So I do not now foresee that it will be a problem.

The clever -- that word again! -- plan was to publish the Doorstop this year, more properly The Human Dress. That's still the plan; what I neglected to consider was that it's 330,000 words long and involves, urm, a more extravagant register than the Commonweal books do. So it might be worse than the "double the word count to get the effective word count for scheduling purposes" rule about my writing. It takes a long time to copy-edit and the copy-editor has a life, so it's been going slower than I had hoped. Still plan to release it sometime this year. Very much NOT a Commonweal novel; that reaction to The Lord of the Rings every (anglophone of a certain age) fantasy author has in them.


Mozambique joined the Commonwealth in 1995, the first (but not the last) country with no colonial ties to Britain to do so. Its neighbouring countries are predominantly in the English speaking sphere.


Seriously? 'Then the Chomskyan revolution came along, and you had young radicals saying that you could deduce the inherent structure of all languages by thinking really hard about the grammar of English; if I recall correctly, ...'

Sounds like the equivalent of the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin with a megadose of Chauvinism. Not a linguist but can easily think of stuff that English doesn't have but other European languages do, i.e., cases, gender.


Figured I'd done it wrong. Thanks.

Anyway, the idea of going through the Rockies (or the San Gabriels, or the Sierras) at 200 mph without a seat belt sounds like a fun ride. Still, you can drive from NY to LA in about five days by yourself, so 3-4 days in a normal passenger train without the stress of driving isn't that horrible, especially if you have wi-fi to get other work done.


I hve owned two Fabias. They are a lot smaller than Golfs. Fabia boot 330L, Golf boot 380L, Leaf boot 390L.


An example that strikes me is that the first move in a Chomskyan analysis (at least the "transformational grammar" version he came up with in the fifties) was to split a sentence into Noun Phrase and Verb Phrase, or in traditional terms Subject and Predicate. That works fine in English. But what about Spanish? If I say ¡Te amo! the verb phrase/predicate is "te am-" and the noun phrase/subject is -o. In fact it's worse than that, because the -o means not just first person singular but also present indicative, so it also has to count as part of the verb phrase. The NP/VP split is really unnatural in a simple pro-drop language like Spanish. . . .


what I neglected to consider was that it's 330,000 words long

Good grief; that's about the length of the entire EMPIRE GAMES trilogy, which is a multi-year project. (Overlapping with a couple of Laundry novels and GHOST ENGINE, currently at 145,000 words.)

Which is to say, I should be more patient ...!


I have so much to say about this and so little time.

1.) When we lose Florida, the U.S. will get religion about climate change in a major way. The world will be "all electric" twenty years after, with guaranteed bombing of your coal mine or any oil well with an output used for something other than lubrication. (The prophecies of this new religion will have something to do with "Florida Man will go home and leave us in peace.") We may go with fusion or pebble bed reactors instead of solar and wind, but coal and oil are dead right now, we're just waiting for the house of cards to fall. Trump will give them an extra 5-10 years of life, but hydrocarbons are dead men walking. Divest now and don't try to short them. (No human can know the time.) In the U.S. this will probably kill the Republican Party.

2.) Car manufacturers will standardize on a particular battery size and an infrastructure which will allow batteries to be changed in charging stations by semi-skilled labor (in other words, the same people who currently pump your gas and check your oil) in less than five minutes. The smarter oil companies will take part in this shift - your "Shell Gas Station" will become a "Shell Battery Station", the rest of the oil companies will die rapidly. There may be multiple battery sizes available; you can't run a semi-truck (lorry for the Brits) with a car battery, but "change it in less than five minutes" will hold true.

3.) When we stop using oil we're going to clobber the Saudis, (and possibly the Iranians) and we'll round up the Wahabi clerics and shoot them. The only thing saving the Saudis from having this happen today (by which I mean 4/13/2017) is oil. When we stop using carbon the "nuke Mecca" crowd will gain political power with a speed that surpasses c by orders of magnitude.

4.) Yes, many languages will die.

5.) There will be a general decline in prejudice in the WEIRD countries. The real "Howard Foundation" of our future may well be a non-profit which pays people to marry outside their race, having taken their cue from the fact that everyone realized they had a Gay relative and... things changed quickly. I see the current increase in fascism as a minor minor problem in historical terms. The issue of "U.S. intelligence community vs. Trump" is going to involve large reveals about who is financing certain kinds of social change. The temporary positive change in the fortunes of the prejudiced is bringing them out in the open. Over time, this will be a good thing (as more Nazis get "punched" in various forms.)

6.) Climate change guarantees a very ugly period starting around 2040. By 2117 this ugly period will be mostly over, with a significant reduction in population and a much greater understanding of the dangers of badly managed capitalism (or a badly managed ecology.) Capitalism will still exist in 2117, but it will be a spayed and neutered capitalism designed to feed into better health and life for citizens. By 2217 these restrictions on capitalism will dissolve as people forget their history. 2077 and 2217 will be pretty dystopian, but 2117 will be socialistic (in a good way.)

I have a couple more thoughts but no more time to record them. I will hopefully post more later.


No wonder Chomsky dislikes Piraha so much. Actually, writers can have a bit of fun writing non-Chomskyan languages (for instance, without recursion) as one way to (at least fictitiously) make them less amenable to machine decipherment.


This is where YouTube is really handy: you get the real live person talking about their real life in their own vocabulary and then combine this with everyone else who shares that language describing their day-to-days to give you an authentic (non-editorialized/-sanitized) trove of what that language/culture is.

Your 'linguist' sounds like a grammar obsessive and probably should not be allowed/would prefer to not be near real-live talking, walking, eating, defecating, sleeping, working, laughing, etc. humans.


0.6 Ash :)

I wrote the Doorstop between 1997 and 2003, with a different brain. Dealing with the edits has been strange.


I know the problem - but, more importantly, I know the elephants (plural) in the room those references are ignoring. I was a supercomputing expert before I retired, incidentally. As an aside: slide 21 in the first one - Oh! Dear! That's nearly as bad as the 1950s Brand X comparisons. The Itanic was a disaster in silicon - almost anything did better.

The main problem is that CPU power hasn't been the bottleneck for most applications for well over three decades! The limit is almost always data access, often caused by bloatware, and FPGAs don't really help there. Oh, yes, they can provide a limited improvement in some cases, but the key problem (as with using them for specialist calculations) is that the improvement doesn't scale. And, because of that, it doesn't enable anything that can be done without it, even if it may make it a factor of (let's be over-generous) up to ten times cheaper or less power hungry.

To expand what is done to things that aren't feasible at present, you need hundreds or thousands of times more oomph per watt, not under ten; I gave a couple of real-life examples. And, while there ARE a few things for which FPGAs are more than ten times faster or efficient, there aren't many, and it's normally a lot less than ten. Actually, the same is true for GPUs (as general compute engines), which is why they have not taken off the way that some people predicted. Even in the supercomputing area, the proportion of people who convert their codes, only to find they are no faster, is large.

Your point about easy programming is good, but the issue there is whether you can take an existing C++ program (which you can assume to be ghastly) and speed it up. That's also the reason that GPUs haven't spread out of their niche. You need an application that is dominated by a small, comprehensible kernel, and then change the code of the kernel to be efficient on the specialist processor. That's also why they don't rewrite their code in more suitable languages, or even clean it up. Doing that automatically is a research topic, but isn't likely to be delivered before full automatic translation is (it's a closely related problem).

I agree that FPGAs aren't going to disappear soon, and are probably going to be more common, but they aren't any more of a game changer than GPUs have been. Not really relevant on a century timescale, I am afraid.


I said the OLD Golf - VW increased the size of the Golf.


Which brings up the subject of hybrid languages. Several years back when I was living in San Antonio, Texas, riding the bus back home after work one afternoon I overheard a conversation between two Hispanic men. The conversation started out in Spanish and then the word “babysitter” in English, then back to Spanish and ending with a phone number in English. This way of speaking known as Spanglish is common in regions of the US Southwest, including California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. These states were actually part of greater Mexico before being annexed by the US. Spanglish is also spoken in Florida and NYC by Cuban and Puerto Rican populations.

I can see a form of Spanglish (perhaps more English with Spanish slang) taking hold in these regions in 2117. Donald’s wall and immigration policies in this century will be moot a hundred years from now.

The letter “y” is the Spanish word for “and” may well be used as a substitute like the “&” in written form. The Spanish “y” pronounced like the English letter “e” when spoken may also substitute “and” in conversations. The query “eh?” substituted by “y?”…

In short, Spanglish will be used in communication and marketing to these regional populations in 2117.


You know, I'm seriously looking at getting a Bolt. The battery pack for that sucker weighs 436 kg, and I don't think you're getting it out of the car without disassembling the car. Indeed, it's a major part of the car's cost. That's just to go 238 miles at a sane speed.

I'd suggest it's simpler to rethink service station purpose and architecture. Instead of swapping out gynormous battery packs, perhaps it makes more sense to make it a true service station: a place to stop for a few hours, eat, sleep, whatever, while your car recharges, sort of like a truck stop. I don't know if we'll get to 300-400 miles per day for electric vehicles in general, but if we go towards electric vehicles for all purposes, this will have the effect of regenerating any number of little towns that used to make their money on gas stations back when gas cars didn't go that far either. And if they're not putting their watts in cars, they can sell them to the grid, so it's a win either way.


You can go further than that: Spanglish, Chinglish, Konglish... It's pretty obvious that, over the next 500-1,000 years or so (absent an extinction event), there's going to be a whole family of Lish/Glish languages developing, where the basic vocabulary, syntax, and structure derive from English, but local terms are welded in (like Chingus for friends in Konglish). This exactly parallels the development of Romance languages from Latin, and will happen for much the same reason.


Electric vehicles with pumpable fuels are pretty straightforward; long-range vehicles like long-haul trucks and trains will probably use them. (I continue to expect anhydrous ammonia, but that's not the only possibility. Aluminium is a good choice if someone can figure out the sludge problem.)

We have battery electric cars now because we've got the batteries; the point is not that the batteries are good, it's that they're good enough and the basis for mass production on a sufficient scale almost existed. (Less almost than Musk was counting on, I think.) (Which I am sure you know! but it seems to get lost from this kind of discussion.)


Some of the Tesla superchargers are that -- they're referred to as "destination chargers."

The one I used to use a lot was at Harris Ranch; this is a 90-120 minute drive from home, and the restaurant has superchargers.

But since November, I'm significantly cutting down activities that give money to the fascist's supporters.


Sorry - I realise that I was being very confusing, because I was forgetting which comparisons I made when.

We could get four 6' people in the old Golf and can in my current Fabia without severe discomfort; we could not in my Polo. I agree that the boot on my old Golf estate was a lot larger.

To stop this debate, let's assume that I made a mistake about the Nissan Leaf's capacities; my points about its distance limits and price stand, especially for people who replace their car before it dies. But, to repeat, the former is not a problem for many people, and the latter is within the range that could be overcome by taxation (yes, I am siding with OGH). However, both the Fabia and Leaf count as small cars, and those do not dominate even in the UK - electric is not yet in a position to take over for larger ones, even with considerable taxation support. By 2030, perhaps.


Yes :-) But a reasonable compromise would be the trip in a long day (or long overnight), with 200 MPH across the plains and much less in the tricky parts. What we need to do is get away from the 'minimise time at all costs' mindset.

Disclaimer: I first started long distance (intercontinental) travel when the default mode was steamship :-)


English vs. Every other language

What kind of English are we talking about here? How will it evolve and change?

Will it be as different as today's English is from that of Shakespeare or Chaucer, or even "A Clockwork Orange"?

Will it be regional with mutually incomprehensible dialects even here in the US?

How about multinational hybrids like Spanglish, Engnese or Engdustani?

I can see English conquering the globe only at it moment of victory to split and break up into dozens of English derived languages the same way Latin became Romanian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French.


Re: 'This implies that survivability is closely tied with how rich the native speakers are.'

Disagree - Latin which was spoken/written only by the 'learned and elite' was replaced by the local (peasant-class) dialects thanks to widespread affordable tech, i.e., Gutenberg's press.


"Capitalism is gone. People will kill you for saying you want to make a profit, and if the recording -- of course there is a recording -- is clear that, yeah, you said that, it will be legal."

"Well, there's a simple answer to that problem.
Denis Diderot: "Hang all the priests!"

The world will be "all electric" twenty years after, with guaranteed bombing of your coal mine or any oil well with an output used for something other than lubrication.



I wonder why there is so much bloodthirstiness in this thread?


Vat-grown meat seems unlikely to me. More likely is fake meat made from plant inputs and flavoring ingredients that near-perfectly replicates the taste and texture of meat. We're close to that already with fake boneless chicken breasts.

Agreed on the biofuels for air travel. What would really be revolutionary, though, would be if we could get full electric battery planes capable of carrying 100-200 passengers. Electricity is a lot cheaper than fossil fuel, to the point where if we had such planes it might be cheaper to do more short trips with stops/transfers versus the long distance flights that are best when you're running the planes on fuel.


Rural vs. Urban - Cities Triumphant, especially here in America.

As they say down South, nothing kicks harder than a dying mule. The 2016 election was that kick.

Economically and technologically, Red Rural America will soon have no reason to exist. And its a world wide trend with more people for the first time living in cities than in the countryside.

Got coal?
Nobody cares because fracking gas is cheaper and solar energy is now cheaper in most areas (the Chinese just cancelled 103 coal burning plants in favor of expanding their already impressive renewable energy industry - so overseas markets won't save the coal industry).

Got oil?
Nobody cares because we will be driving EVs (Tesla now has greater market valuation than the Ford Motor Company).

Got cattle and livestock?
Nobody cares because we will grow meat from stem cells (its already on the market and the price of a lab grown hamburger patty fell from $300,000 to $3 in a single year)

Got farms?
Nobody cares because we are turning old warehouses into vertical farms in the hearts of major cities worldwide from Newark, to Singapore to London to Tokyo - growing crops 24/7/365 more cheaply without the transportation costs needed to haul fruits and vegetables cross country.

Got farm labor?
Nobody cares because any remaining outdoor farming will be done with robots and drones.

Got small town manufacturing?
Nobody cares because we have robots, automation and algorithms that replace repetitive human labor on the factory floor and 3D printers that can perform customize batch production from anywhere.

Got a fishing boat?
Nobody cares because we will be harvesting multi-modal oceanic farms for kelp, fish and shellfish - and the fishing industry can finally advance from the hunter/gatherer stage.

A new technology - fracking - killed coal. These newer technologies will kill what is left of Red Rural America's economy, leaving Blue Urban cities as the only source of economic growth and prosperity.

Look for large mega cities surrounded by vast empty spaces filled with old industrial and agricultural ghost towns populated by a few back to nature off the grid hippies and that family from "Deliverance".


We certainly agree on getting past time minimization, and I agree with you that it's probably possible to do high speed rail across the Great Plains, unless there are blizzards, tornados, or cyclones to deal with (CF climate change. The Great Plains have some of the most unstable weather known on the globe).

As for the rest of it, a lot of people need to remember that the US has a lot of inconvenient topography. Here in Southern California I'm used to it, and I've been here long enough to have learned that all of the good routes have century-old rail lines on them already. If they can't accommodate high speed rail, there's not another way for the line to go, other than burrowing through some young and seismically active mountains. Sucks, but there you have it. At least no one here is talking about ramming a high speed rail tunnel through Mt. Rainer...


Educated vs. Uneducated

Trump's election wasn't so much a victory as a last stand. His voters pine for the days when a high school education was all you needed to get into the middle class.

Those days are gone.

When trucks get automated the last good paying blue collar job will be gone.

Those humans still working on the factory floor will need to know how to program computer languages and perform college level statistical analysis for quality control.


Heteromeles noted: "Now, if you want to really dive into the weed, the other problem with growing huge amounts of algae for biofuels is that they take huge amounts of nutrients other than carbon. I believe there's a calculation out there from about five years ago that said that replacing gas with biofuels was infeasible, because there wasn't enough fixed nitrogen or phosphorus available to feed the algae, even if we could scale up their tanks to make enough."

Excellent point, and thanks for mentioning Leibig's Law of the Minimum. Two quibbles:

First, nitrogen fixation is relatively easy, since there are a great many soil microbes that will do the job for (essentially) free. Shouldn't be too hard to scale them up to industrial levels of production, though as you probably know, bioreactor technology isn't trivial. It can take quite a bit of R&D to get a bioreactor working effectively and keep it stable in the long term. Fortunately, it seems that it's not too hard to reboot the reactors by starting with a fresh infusion of appropriate bugs.

Second, I just edited a paper by a Chinese colleague about global phosphorus budgets. Seems we're more likely to run out of phosphorus in the near future than most other plant nutrients. That's a non-trivial problem, since its primary source is phosphate ores (a nonrenewable resource), though I suspect that we'll be able to harvest the element from most eutrophicated bodies of water for many decades before we run out. Since phosphorus doesn't become part of the biofuels, I can foresee some kind of really tight recycling system to recover the phosphorus during extraction of the biofuel. Again, R&D will be required, but it doesn't seem like an unsolvable problem.


Probably want to read the US Constitution again, if you think that a big nation full of no-hope rural people isn't an enormous political problem. That's a mistake the Democrats keep making, to everyone's collective sorrow.


Old Vs. Young

Practical gerontocracy with life extension techniques and reduced birth rates (sorry Millenials, we Boomers aren't going anywhere for a very long time).

World population peaking at 10b more or less and (depending on your assumptions) either slowly declines or drops like a rock. By 2050 there will be 30 million fewer Japanese and 50 million fewer Russians. Don't worry about Putin, his Russia is already a Potemkin village.

Declining population alone is enough to cripple capitalism, which depends on an assumed ever increasing pool of laborers and consumers for real growth.

Capitalism itself cannot survive the demographic transition to lower birth rates, graying populations and declining populations

No-growth capitalism is an oxymoron.

Economic growth is not possible with falling populations.

Fake economic growth mostly from mergers into bigger and bigger conglomerates followed by bubbles that burst taking investment money with them, only to see another bubble form.


Russia vs. Demographics

Aside from being a corrupt, oligarchic, mafiya state whose only source of income is ever cheaper oil, Russia is demographically doomed. By 2050 there will be 50 million fewer Russians:

The shrinking population is the result of deaths outnumbering births for nearly two decades without sufficient immigration to compensate for the deficit. The increasing number of deaths reflects the persistence of comparatively high mortality. The decreasing number of births is due to the prevailing low fertility, which plummeted to 1.2 births per woman in the late 1990s and now hovers at 1.7 births per woman. That rate is still about 20 percent below 2.1 births per woman, the level necessary to ensure population replacement.
High rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, obesity, heart disease, violence, suicide and environmental pollution contribute to Russians’ poor health. Russia’s current male life expectancy at birth of 64 years is 15 years lower than male life expectancies in Germany, Italy and Sweden.

Notwithstanding a recent fertility uptick, low fertility persists due to inadequate reproductive health services, lack of modern and low-cost contraceptives, widespread and unsafe abortions, infertility, fewer women of childbearing age, changing attitudes toward marriage and voluntary childlessness. In addition, Russia’s abortion rate, estimated at two abortions for every birth, has traditionally been the highest in the world.

Russia’s aging population has placed strains on the economy that will impact numerous sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, the armed forces and retirement schemes. In the next decade, Russia's labor force is expected to shrink by more than 12 million, or around 15 percent.
The contraction of Russia’s labor force is exacerbated by low retirement ages: 60 for men and 55 for women. In certain situations, for example, hazardous occupations or unemployment, retirement ages are lower. Nevertheless, Russia’s older population does not fare well. According to a 2014 global survey of the social and economic well-being of older people, Russia ranked 65 among 96 countries.

Which will lead to political collapse:

"There will not be an uprising against Moscow, but Moscow's withering ability to support and control the Russian Federation will leave a vacuum," Stratfor warns. "What will exist in this vacuum will be the individual fragments of the Russian Federation."

Sanctions, declining oil prices, a plunging ruble, rising military expenses, and increasing internal discord will weaken the hold of Russia's central government over the world's largest country. Russia won't officially split into multiple countries, but Moscow's power may loosen to the point that Russia will effectively become a string of semi-autonomous regions that might not even get along with one another.

"We expect Moscow's authority to weaken substantially, leading to the formal and informal fragmentation of Russia" the report states, adding that "It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form."


China vs. Demographics

But China is also doomed.

Remember back in the 1980s when everyone was predicting the Japan would take over the world? Didn't happen. Why? for the same reason China is not going to take over the world: demographics.

Hard to imagine, but China is running out of people and workers. Like Japan before it, China has very poor fertility rates. Its so bad that the interior provinces are asking for a 2 baby MINIMUM policy:

The decades-old one-child policy has skewed China’s population older, as well as resulted in far more boys than girls, due to some couples seeking to make sure their only child would be male. The aging problem is weighing on China’s pension system, while the gender imbalance has made it hard for some men to find wives. As a result, Mei said in his proposal to the provincial political advisory body earlier this year, the mere relaxation of the one-child policy isn’t enough, and two-child policy should be enforced.

But it's already too late. Easing its one baby policy won't alter China's demographic collapse:

As a result of rapid declines in birth and death rates over the past four decades, China’s life expectancy at birth has increased by more than 10 years to 75 years. With steep declines in fertility and increasing longevity, China’s population has aged rapidly over the past 40 years, with the median age nearly doubling from 19 to 35 years. The adoption of the one-child policy also accelerated the decline in the proportion of China’s children, falling precipitously from 40 percent in 1970 to 18 percent today.
In contrast, the working-age population aged 15 to 64 years jumped from 56 to 73 percent, higher than the 62 percent average for more developed countries. The extraordinary age-structure transformation allowed China to benefit from the demographic dividend, a short-term productive advantage due to a large labor force relative to small numbers of dependent young and old. Throughout the past four decades, China’s potential support ratio, or working-age persons per retiree, was high, early on 14 working-age persons per retiree, and now eight, versus three per retiree in Germany, Italy and Japan and five per retiree in Australia, Canada and the United States.
Also, before the one-child policy, China’s sex ratio at birth averaged around 107 boys for every 100 girls. Ten years after the policy’s adoption, the ratio reached 115 boys for 100 girls and may exceed 125 in some provinces, reflecting the strong preference for sons, especially in rural farming areas. China’s unusually high sex ratio at birth indicates extensive use of sex-selective abortion. The number of young males unable to find brides is estimated at more than 25 million.

The critical factor determining China’s future population is the level of fertility. If China’s current fertility of about 1.6 births per woman were to remain constant, its population would peak at 1.44 billion in a dozen years and then begin declining, reaching a population of 1.33 billion by mid-century and 868 million by the century’s end

In addition, constant fertility would reduce the proportions of children and the working-age population and nearly triple the proportion of elderly to 25 percent. As a result, China’s current potential support ratio of 8.3 working-age persons per retiree would fall to 2.5 persons per retiree by mid-century. China’s fertility could also decline further, perhaps approaching low levels of Germany, Hong Kong, Italy and Japan. Further reduction in Chinese fertility to 1.3 births per woman – the low variant - would accelerate population decline, shrinking labor force and aging, with China’s population peaking at 1.40 billion by this decade’s end, then declining to 600 million by 2100. In 50 years, one-third of the population would be elderly and the potential support ratio would fall to an unprecedented 1.6 working-age persons per retiree.


Descriptions of zeppelin travel do sound attractive. :)

One thing about hyperloop is you can see it as a way to keep making use of the (tremendously improved) pipeline tech that isn't going to be useful for oil.

And of course it's meant to compete with air travel, so it has to be really fast.

I can't help but be reminded that the average speed for freight rail is low; somewhere around 40 kph considered over the journey, and that one of the big issues is in-city delivery. These don't necessarily connect anymore; a lot of things are going off long-haul trucks straight on to shelves because if you build a big box store you can build a big loading dock round the back. Of course, this is not what you want if you're trying to push towards dense urban living.

Anybody can fit a 2 metre pipe down a lane of road; there are places where you could fit a 2x2 grid of those in a slightly enlarged centre lane no problem instead of the jersey barriers. Run a 4 rail X rail electric system down the inside of that and deliver ~1.7m cargo cubes (up to whatever length your turning radius decision can handle) down them. It doesn't have to be fast; evacuated is nice, constant pressure would be nice, but all you really need is ~50 kph and a good switching system. Build the city a material circulation system.


What we need to do is get away from the 'minimise time at all costs' mindset.

A good start would be to adopt EU norms for annual vacation from work; 6 weeks/30 days paid leave, plus maybe another 10-20 days for health/spa leave (the German pattern) and no set allocation of sick leave, just time off as vouched for by an accredited medic.

(For me, one of the most annoying things about US SF conventions is the way everybody begins to leave on Sunday morning in order to catch their flights home, because they can't take an extra day off the following Monday. It really drives home the difference between 10 days paid leave a year and 20 days paid leave — the UK norm, which is pathetically short by EU standards.)


I wonder why there is so much bloodthirstiness in this thread?

Because it's overrun by Brits and Americans (citizens of a former aggressive imperial hegemonic power and citizens of the current one). Next?


Working age population isn't especially relevant if your economy has shifted to robot labour.

China is ... in a really tough spot, let's say, but that's mostly because of food and economy = coastal issues, not demographics.


Those humans still working on the factory floor will need to know how to program computer languages and perform college level statistical analysis for quality control.

In the Year of Grace 2117, I don't think the few (if any) humans on the factory floor will need to do any of that. If they see anything wrong or have suggestions, they'll just point it out, describe it to the machines in the human language du jour and the machines will take it from there. If there are any humans still doing programming and statistical analysis, they'll be way up the line from the factory floor.


Disagree strongly with your prediction that the rural areas will empty

Look at Figure 2. Current US rural population is about 125% of what it was in 1900. This is despite the massive automation the region experienced in the 1920s, 30s, and the depopulation that occurred as a result of WWII (young men and women joining the army or working in factories). There is even an increase in population in the 1980s.

My theory is that the increase in the 1980s - 1990s corresponds to
a. Increases in tourism
b. the WWII generation retiring

It would be interesting to see another analysis of the population of micropolitan areas (US small towns) over the years.

In short, rural areas aren't going anywhere. Unless the Electoral College is abolished and the Senate is reformed, they will continue to play an outsize role in US politics.


I put in spaces. If I had known how this would be formatted, I would have put in asterisks or another place holder. I attempted to apologize and explain the problem, but the site would not take a second comment from me that quickly. When the comment did not draw any interest, I decided a follow up would just be uselessly cluttering up Charlie's site.

So in case anyone else cares. I apologize for not formatting correctly and if the moderators are in the mood, they can delete said comment with my blessing.


>Current US rural population is about 125% of what it was in 1900.

American population in 1900 = 76 million. American population now = 324 million. A 425% increase.

Rural America is not keeping pace and is falling behind. The median urban adult is six years younger than his or her rural counterpart: 45 years old compared with 51. Immigration will keep urban areas younger as depopulation makes rural areas older.

Its a trend that has been going on for over a quarter century:

OVER the past two decades a strange phenomenon has become clear in much of the center of the United States: people have almost stopped having children. Several factors may explain this. Much of the Baby Boom generation has finished having children, and its successors, known unimaginatively as Generation X, have delayed having children and chosen to have much smaller families. These facts, which apply to the country as a whole, acquire ominous dimensions when considered alongside the "rural flight" away from the Midwest which began in the 1930s and continues today. The problem is far from just local: the area suffering from this reverse baby boom comprises 279 counties in six states, totaling nearly 470,000 square miles. Included are Wyoming and Montana, most of North and South Dakota, three fourths of Nebraska, and more than half of Kansas. In the past ten years 16 percent of the lower forty-eight states has seen barely one percent of the nation's births.

The region is already underpopulated. As a whole, the 279 counties average only six people per square mile, according to the 1990 census. Even this average would be lower were it not for a few comparatively populous places, such as Hall County, Nebraska, which is served by an interstate highway and is thus a center of trade; in 1990 it had ninety-one people per square mile. In that census half the counties had fewer than four people per square mile and nineteen counties had fewer than one. In contrast, New Jersey has nearly 1,100, and three New England states taken together average more than 750. This area can ill afford the economic and social consequences of a lost generation of unborn children. When it comes time to pass the torch to the next generation, too few hands will be waiting.

With fewer children, schools will be closed and consolidated. As the population drops, the Postal Service will close post offices. Government at all levels will reduce staff. Elks Clubs and American Legion posts will close, as will movie theaters and barber shops. Churches with dwindling memberships will be unable to support a pastor. In many towns the clinic or hospital will close, owing to a lack of patients and an inability to retain doctors. The effects of reduced economic input will ripple through the local economy -- particularly in rural areas, where people depend on one another. As the cutbacks continue, the value of real estate will plummet. Adding to the problem, in fifteen years Baby Boomers will begin to retire. Many will move to Omaha, Wichita, Denver, or even Texas. WOOFs (well-off older folks) will seek easier climes, and houses in many small towns will go begging. A similar fate awaits commercial property.

The colleges throughout the region will also suffer from declining birth rates. College and university enrollments will be high over the short term, because of the comparatively large number of children born during the "echo" years. In recent decades college towns have been insulated from the ebb and flow of the economy. By 2010, however, enrollments will decline substantially.

Without doubt the decline in births will gradually drain the life out of the region. Children are the key to holding society together. Any village, town, county, culture, or other social unit is just one generation from extinction. Without more children, the aging social fabric will fray and finally fall apart.


Also, before the one-child policy, China’s sex ratio at birth averaged around 107 boys for every 100 girls. Ten years after the policy’s adoption, the ratio reached 115 boys for 100 girls and may exceed 125 in some provinces

Trying to remember where I read this (recently — i.e. in 2017) but apparently this is the official figure; unofficially, what happened is that a lot of second children were born but were not reported by their parents and are now undocumented teens/adults. Many of these are girls; sex-specific infanticide is apparently less widespread than previously believed, but underreporting of female births is widespread (by parents hoping for a boy to carry on the family name).

(Note that the "X murder their girl babies" story plays to a xenophobic audience's prejudices; in reality most people have a really strong preference for not killing their children—any of them—so while I'm sure some infanticide happened, I suspect that a whole lot of underreporting of births also happened and was tacitly ignored by the neighbours because they were doing exactly the same thing.)

This is still a huge administrative headache but it's a bit less damaging in the long term than a 5:4 sex ratio; in particular, it could in principle be fixed retroactively by a general amnesty process.


Actually, the Imperial power wasn't expansive, and the expansive power wasn't the Imperium, but what the hell? - they were in bed with one another.


America vs. Demographics - A Nation of Mutts

"We're Americans, with a capital 'A', huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts! Here's proof: his nose is cold! But there's no animal that's more faithful, that's more loyal, more loveable than the mutt. Who saw "Old Yeller?" Who cried when Old Yeller got shot at the end?"
- Bill Murray in "Stripes"

Trump and his more racist followers not withstanding America remains open to immigrants. As such remain the only industrial nation with relatively high birth rates, and growing population that isn't getting old as fast as the others. We have to remain immigrant friendly, we can't fund social security and other sacred programs without an influx of new Amwericans.

But something interesting is happening, something predicted by the late Ben Wattenberg in his book "The First Universal Nation".

The fastest growing racial/ethnic census category is "Mixed".

"The 2010 Census showed that people who reported multiple races grew by a larger percentage than those reporting a single race. According to the 2010 Census brief The Two or More Races Population: 2010, the population reporting multiple races (9.0 million) grew by 32.0 percent from 2000 to 2010, compared with those who reported a single race, which grew by 9.2 percent. Overall, the total U.S. population increased by 9.7 percent since 2000, however, many multiple-race groups increased by 50 percent or more. The first time in U.S. history that people were presented with the option to self-identify with more than one race came on the 2000 Census questionnaire. Therefore, the examination of data from the 2000 and 2010 censuses provides the first comparisons on multiple-race combinations in the United States. An effective way to compare the multiple-race data is to examine changes in specific combinations, such as white and black, white and Asian, or black and Asian. “These comparisons show substantial growth in the multiple-race population, providing detailed insights to how this population has grown and diversified over the past decade,” said Nicholas Jones, chief of the U.S. Census Bureau's Racial Statistics Branch."

From Ben Wattenberg:

"But while separatism may be
trendy among foundation-supported "grass roots" advocacy groups, it is
losing its war where it counts, between the sheets. The 1990 Census revealed
that exogamy was booming. Just 13% of first generation Hispanics intermarry.
The figure for second generation was 34%, and 54% for third generation. The
corresponding rates for Asian Americans were 14%, 34% and 54%. About half of
Jews intermarry. The black rates are much lower, but climbing rapidly. The
final 2000 Census results will reveal this pattern more fully.

How to regard all this? With interest. Americans have had a tangled view of
racial and ethnic skeins. Only a few decades ago the elimination of legal
segregation was denounced by racists as a precursor to "mongrelization."
But, when they're called "mutts,"Americans think mongrels are cute. When we
hear that someone is "mean as a junkyard dog," we're not condemning dogs,
junkyards or even meanness, only indicating that those half-breeds are
plenty tough, maybe like Tiger and Derek.

From "The Melting Pot" to "Abie's Irish Rose," to "Guess Who's Coming to
Dinner," Americans have had a, uh, mixed attitude toward melting pottism.
And we still do. Some Anglos fear that America will become "a third world
nation." In a world where Indian techies are worth their weight in
semi-conductors, not to worry. We're becoming the first universal nation.

The typical American of the year 2117 will be 1/8 Icelandic, 1/8 Irish, 1/8 Italian, 1/8 Israeli, 1/8 Iranian, 1/8 Indian, 1/8 Ibo, and 1/8 Iroquois.

And that's just the "I"s.


"When an distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right"? That Clarke's Law?


Ok, so, slightly before 300, but a serious response. We'll even do you a Utopian bent for a change of pace:

What am I overlooking?

#1 Culture Shock, esp. surrounding the extinction of the last mega-fauna (elephants, tigers, whales, lions etc: say sorry to your kids, wild populations will no longer exist). Regarding meat eating: now largely considered a remnant of a time when serial killers got their own TV shows (Dexter, Hannibal) and viewed in the same light. Plus, with the loss of the Amazon Rainforest, everyone is very aware of what cheap burgers and palm oil actually cost.

It's 2067, the UK is vegan, but older generations are suffering the guilt of their carnivorous past. Simon Amstell asks us to forgive them for the horrors of what they swallowed.

Simon Amstell: Carnage BBC, 19th March 2017 (note: the satire is an acquired taste, not really my favorite comedic style, but just to show it's on the radar).

Likewise, clone vat meat, while a staple of SF since 2000AD, is really impractical (think: tonnes / frameworks to grow on / support networks, largely medium + feedstock the global supply chain requires (455 million tonnes by 2050: World Agriculture: Towards 2015/30 FAO). Also ~ Muscle cells doesn't just infinitely divide and not require electrical stimulation: if you spot anyone talking about vat meat who isn't considering the inputs required to keep that muscle, well, alive and functional - they're a TedX talk, not an industry disruptor:

Imbalanced biphasic electrical stimulation: muscle tissue damage. NCBI, Annuals of Biomedical Engineering, 1990. WARNING: yes, they used cat muscle tissue. We don't think the cat survived.

#2 The Weakness of Hegemonic Systems: when the Game is not just fixed, but stratified and kept stagnant, something breaks. Brexit, Trump, Putin, even the Eurocrats lead by ex-GS / BIS banker class. All have shown (quite comprehensively) that "no one is home".

What replaces them? We're seeing a whole lot of "no-one is home" (largely because why bother playing sociopathic games with Things-that-Cheat-even-when-they-lose?) and balloon deflation. Someone will pick up the ideological equivalent to Prometheus' Fire. And it won't be the Far Right, either.

At the moment we're globally watching the last generation who fought WWII die off and their children (Boomers) collective shit the bed.

#3 First Hive-Mind launches, goes totally Jim Jones and biotech becomes popular. Silicon is fast, silicon is cheap, silicon is fucking ridiculously dangerous in the wrong hands. Which is almost the entire of Silicon Valley. 2117, computers will be firmly back in the box of "TOOLS" rather than "TEEHEE DISRUPT ALL THE THINGS" with some very large padlocks on the doors.

We're at this stage at the moment [*cough* Public Source This is a Lie Things are Much Worse *cough*]:

Google Disabled Burger King’s Ad Hijacking Google Home, but BK Got Around That Too AdWeek, 13th April, 2017.

Meta-hacking across media? Clever, but hardly novel. When someone starts weaponizing aural channels for realz, there's going to be a huge market for 'hard-wired defenses'. i.e. Womb onwards. Oh, and if you're switched on, you'll have heard about hacking Dallas early warning klaxons. Nope, more interesting than that:

Pirate radio: Signal spoof set off Dallas emergency sirens, not hacking ArsTechnica, 12th April, 2017

#4 Mental Schema as Cultural Signifier. This has always been a thing since Oxford / Cambridge (UK) or Ivy League (USA) or the Sorbonne (France) etc etc. The grunts who run the computers (and even, ick, interface with them) will be a lower class than those who can afford to be 'pure', and there will be (all very sensitively done, of course) very specific slots for the neuro-atypical. Mentats, but autistic so they're not a security threat. That kind of thing.

Expect a lot of tinkering on the side as well. Pure =/= CisWhiteEuropean, but more than that. Empathy ramp ups (mimicking MDMA), celephopod gene hacks to prevent DNA damage (via automatic RNA sequencing), Neanderthal [redacted] that gives [redacted], the full nine yards - "pure" is going to mean "biological enhanced diversity maximals".

It's already here if you are watching closely.

[Links redacted]

#5 This 'purity' will also be linked to environment: total horror at the levels of pollution once endured. Although it is largely the case now that Global Wealth = lack of pollution (at least visible), this will be a major change. The very idea H.S.S lived with lead in the air, PCBs / endocrine disruptors (as well as both illegal *and* medically prescribed drugs in the water supply) will be horrifying. On the levels of looking at the Somme horrifying.

Anyhow, all of these are boring and predictable.

#1 Full Furry kink chimeras: someone's going to do it, and 100% it'll be the furry community. By 2117 the ones not hunted down will be a separate subspecies.

#2 Crone Island becomes Reality. Given Western male sperm decline, well. Are men still around in 2117? Did they all die out in that 'unexpected' plague of 2079? Just who was Doctor Anaya Virtanen, and why is her name erased from history?

#3 Aliens / Higher Plane Entities turn up. It goes how you would expect: Zoorp Oglaf, NSFW, cartoon nudity / swearing.


I seriously considered replacing my mk2 Fabia with a VW Golf GTE plug in hybrid but the fairly poor fuel economy on a long journey and the high purchase price put me off. However I could do most of my journeys on electricity only. Another problem is that the battery size reduces the boot volume considerably.


I'm open to suggestions concerning a cure to what ails Red Rural America.

But I can see a future republican winning the presidency in the electoral college while losing the popular vote by as much as 10 million.


Demographics aren't the worst of China's problems. In their rush to industrialize they have turned China into a toxic cesspool.

As for China's degraded and poisoned environment see "Our Real China Problem"

Within seconds we saw a broad stream of bubbling water cascading out the back of the plant and down the hillside. The astringent odor of chlorine attacked our nostrils, and once we reached the stream's edge, the smell was so powerful that we immediately backed away. Below us, where the discharge emptied into the Jialin, a frothy white plume was spreading across the slow-moving river.

Fifty yards farther on we encountered a second stream, this one a mere foot wide but clogged with pineapple-sized clumps of dried orange foam. Beyond was a third creek. Its stench identified it as household sewage (workers in China's state-owned factories generally live on site or nearby), but its most extraordinary feature was its color -- as black as used motor oil. Not ten yards away a grizzled peasant in a dark-blue Mao jacket and trousers (an outfit still worn in China by the poor) bent over a tiny vegetable patch to pick some greens for his midday meal.

All this was dwarfed by what lay ahead. The vapor was what we saw first -- wispy white, it hung low in the air, like tear gas. Stepping closer, we heard the sound of gushing water. Not until we were merely footsteps away, however, could we see the source of the commotion: a vast, roaring torrent of white, easily thirty yards wide, splashing down the hillside like a waterfall of boiling milk.

Again the scent of chlorine was unmistakable, but this waterfall was much whiter than the first. Decades of unhindered discharge had left the rocks coated with a creamlike residue, creating a perversely beautiful white-on-white effect. Above us the waterfall had bent trees sideways; below, it split into five channels before pouring into the unfortunate Jialin. All this and yet the factory, as one worker had informed us, was operating at about 25 percent of capacity.

At least five of the cities with the worst air pollution in the world are in China. Sixty to 90 percent of the rainfall in Guangdong, the southern province that is the center of China's economic boom, is acid rain. Since nearly all the gasoline in China is leaded (Beijing switched to unleaded gas in June), and 80 percent of the coal isn't "washed" before being burned, people's lungs and nervous systems are bombarded by an extraordinary volume and variety of deadly poisons. One of every four deaths in China is caused by lung disease, brought about by the air pollution and the increasingly fashionable habit of cigarette smoking. Suburban sprawl and soil erosion gobbled up more than 86 million acres of farmland from 1950 to 1990 -- as much as all the farmland in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Farmland losses have continued in the 1990s, raising questions about China's ability to feed itself in years to come, especially as rising incomes lead to more meat-intensive diets.


>The evidence suggests that vat-grown meat is plausible, but commercializing it is going to take a lot of effort.

If McDonald's can sell the McRib it can sell vat grown meat.


By 2117 we reach the end of science.

This is based on the assumption that we are about to reach the "end of science" and the limits of scientific inquiry due to inherent physical limitations or practicality (string theory would need an atom smasher the size of the solar system to test). The main proponent of this theory is John Horgan.

His book, "The End of Science" hasn't sold me completely on his argument, it does make intuitive sense. If a graph of our scientific progress can truly be described as an S-curve, the rapid growth in human knowledge we have seen since the time of Galileo would be considered the steep vertical portion. Prior to Galileo, human knowledge increased only incrementally with a few dark ages thrown in (the first flat portion of the s-curve). After our current age of rapid knowledge growth, another era of incremental knowledge growth (the second flat portion of the s-curve) will occur.

In an interview with Edge, Horgan makes it clear that he is referring to pure scientific research, not applied science or engineering. These can continue long after science butts about against the limits of inquiry, so there is no need to close the patent office just yet:

I believe that this map of reality that scientists have constructed, and this narrative of creation, from the big bang through the present, is essentially true. It will thus be as viable 100 or even 1,000 years from now as it is today. I also believe that, given how far science has already come, and given the limits constraining further research, science will be hard-pressed to make any truly profound additions to the knowledge it has already generated. Further research may yield no more great revelations or revolutions but only incremental returns.

In other words, evolution, relativity, quantum mechanics, etc. can only be discovered once. Though some scientists strain against the limits of inquiry, indulging in what Horgan refers to as "ironic science":

The vast majority of scientists are content to fill in details of the great paradigms laid down by their predecessors or to apply that knowledge for practical purposes. They try to show how a new high-temperature superconductor can be understood in quantum terms, or how a mutation in a particular stretch of DNA triggers breast cancer. These are certainly worthy goals.

But some scientists are much too ambitious and creative to settle for filling in details or developing practical applications. They want to transcend the received wisdom, to precipitate revolutions in knowledge analogous to those triggered by Darwin's theory of evolution or by quantum mechanics.

For the most part these over-reachers have only one option: to pursue science in a speculative, non-empirical mode that I call ironic science. Ironic science resembles literature or philosophy or theology in that it offers points of view, opinions, which are, at best, "interesting," which provoke further comment. But it does not converge on the truth.

In other words, once science reaches the practical and physical limits of inquiry, all scientists can do is speculate about non-testable, non-falsifiable hypotheses — much like medieval theologians arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

All the big questions have been answered. We are leaving the golden age of science which was akin tot he age of exploration (from Columbus to Perry) when the planet was mapped. All that isleft to us is some surveying to fill in the gaps.


I think we're all open to a "Cure for What Ails Red America." In general, I figure if I can toss it off the answer in a few sentences, the problem wouldn't exist, so anything I say towards that end is best treated as BS until proven otherwise.

That said, there are multiple issues here:

One (per Cadillac Desert) is that we're nearing the end of a lot of government sponsored, groundwater and dam-based stupidity. The idea, starting with the Mormons and going still trickling on even today, was to dam and irrigate everything, and make the western desert into a paradise. We've tried, we've managed to green an area about the size of Vermont across the western US, and it's taken billions of dollars, thousands of dams, and exhausted just about every major aquifer. Simultaneously, Washington imposed limits on what could be grown east of the Mississippi, to make western crops competitive with eastern ones. The groundwater's running out, the fields are getting salted up, but the heavily subsidized farmers are too big a political force in the western US to let them dry up and blow away. Simultaneously, their allies in the eastern farmlands are being punished to subsidize the western farms, and both are taking money from cities. There's a nasty solution to this (cut off water subsidies), but that would result in armed revolt on the ISIL model. Still, it's not sustainable, and when there's more farming in the east and fewer people in the west, some of the problems will be solved the hard way, and certainly by 2117. By the way, this bodes badly for terraforming Mars. Just saying.

A second issue is simply culture and religion. A lot of people who don't like to deal with The Laws also tend to prefer messianic religion. You can see this in Southeast Asia as easily as in Appalachia. A lot of unscrupulous types have figured this out, and use the trappings of messianic religion to form a power base.

They also do things like read Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians and use it as a cookbook for assembling an authoritarian power base. That's kind of a third thing, but this is where the vicious attacks on public liberal education and science come from. The way liberal education works is not so much that professors reprogram students (that's the red herring of the culture wars). Rather, it's that rubbing shoulders with a lot of different people (LGBTQ, other races, creeds, beliefs, etc.) helps undo some of the narrow-mindedness and xenophobia that underlies authoritarian personalities. And that's just from exposure to other students and faculty. Professors may or may not play a role. This is why there's such a push to have far-right schools that teach an applied curriculum that tries to keep students from questioning, because the authoritarian types understand the power of a liberal education more than the liberals do.

A fourth issue is economics. So many towns have tried to run their economies on a single big business, whether it's a factory, a plantation (in days of old), or a prison. When these close, people suffer. A few towns (like Arcata, CA), figure out this trap and try to diversify their way out of it. Rather more just suffer, wilt, and die, as towns have been doing for the last 10,000-odd years.

A fifth issue is opioid drugs, which are epidemic in Red America. Some state that this leads to mistrust of science, because people have their lives destroyed by drugs prescribed by their doctors that the doctors swore were safe. This leads them to distrust all science, maybe.

A sixth issue is the deep racism that pervades the US. On the one hand, we state that "All men are created equal," but on the other, our country was built, quite successfully, on the backs of black and Indian slaves, and on the genocide and replacement of Indian populations. There's a nasty moral contradiction there, and it's been papered over (semi-successfully) by the doctrine of white male supremacy. You can see it in action now in the current administration and Congress, where the Republicans don't have a coherent policy, they just want to destroy everything Obama did. Because he was black. From a policy point of view this is stupid, but from the view of racist politics, it makes too much sense. Governing successfully while black is a capital crime to some people, and so is governing while female. Hillary Clinton isn't a terribly charismatic candidate or a sufficiently good strategic campaigner, but she did remarkably well, considering that she was systematically and thoroughly smeared for going on 20 years before she ever ran.

So you've got at least six problems: a profoundly stupid hydraulic policy, messianic religion and authoritarian politics, and racist and sexist ideologies yanking people around against their best interests, short-sighted boom-bust economics, and an opioid epidemic. Solve all those, and the heartland will be whole and healthy. But, of course, they'll object if you use any of their tax money to do so.


1. Smaller growth doesn't equal emptying out. I never made the claim that rural area growth has kept pace with the rest of the nation. You made the claim that rural areas are emptying out. That would require an absolute population decline, not a relative one.

2. Rural areas are diverse places. Right now, some rural areas are growing their populations due to tourism (Andirondacks, parts of Appalachia) or shale oil (parts of North Dakota and Texas). Others are declining. So far, this has evened out. However, the price is that rural areas are older than average. However, how much of that age differential is due to people retiring to rural areas?

3. I think that rural tourism is still relatively untapped. River cruises are far more popular on the Rhine or Danube Rivers than on the Mississippi, Colorado, or St. Lawrence Rivers. These cruises exist, there's just little demand for them compared to their counterparts. No reason that can't change.


Predicting the end of science is like predicting practical fusion power in thirty years time. The end of science has been proclaimed for over a century. There's always more to know.


I'm not sure China is more polluted than the US was at this point in its industrialization. Look at how many superfund sites we have now

Probably if we used EU standards, the number would be much higher?


Daniel Duffy noted: "Demographics aren't the worst of China's problems. In their rush to industrialize they have turned China into a toxic cesspool."

I'm also unconvinced that demographics are a major problem for China. On the contrary, they have a desperate need to decrease the population so they can live within the carrying capacity of their severely degraded environment. You can cheat Malthus, but he's going to rear up and bite your ass eventually. There are two huge and looming problems that are every bit as bad as the environmental pollution, which is not trivial even by U.S. "EPA superfund site" standards.

First, there's unsustainable land use (under Mao, in the interest of economic development at all costs; today, in the interest of food security at all costs). Enormous areas of China's land (larger than many European countries) have been severely degraded through inappropriate agriculture and livestock grazing to the point that desertification has become a major challenge. Inappropriate crop choice and highly inefficient fertilizer use accompanying these practices contribute strongly to pollution problems.

Second, they're also overexploiting their groundwater and surface water resources in ways that make the U.S. overexploitation of groundwater and imminent collapse of most aquifers look like a non-problem. (It's not. It's going to have ginormous negative consequences for the U.S., even if they invade Canada to seize our water.)


>One (per Cadillac Desert) is that we're nearing the end of a lot of government sponsored, groundwater and dam-based stupidity.

I highly recommend "The Water Knife" by Paolo Bacigalupi


The big wrench here w.r.t. Russian demographics is immigration.

Russia is poor compared to the West, but not to parts of the world. It also has about 11.6 million immigrants. Plus, Putin can implement policies such as Christians only to cater to Russian racism if so chooses.


Economic growth is not possible with falling populations
Not sure I Believe you ...
May I suggest the words: "The Culture" ?


I suggest that you remember that I quoted D Diderot, just prior to the French revolution.
And, therefore, your strictures are, um, err ... inaccurate.



I hate the way Donohue and Levitt popularized their work with the heat of a burning sun. They were wrong, they know they were wrong ... but once the idea was out there it became unkillable.

Short version: over at the Fed, two guys named Christopher (Foote and Goetz) decided to check their work. They found out that Donohue and Levitt had left out some important control variables in what appears to have been a coding error. (I write Stata code all the time; I'm sympathetic.) Put the controls back in, and poof, no more significance.

This is as wrong as an empirical economic study can be wrong.

To be clear, I have no beef with the original work. It's an honest error. I will certainly make such myself. What I have beef with is how Levitt (Donohue not so much) built an iconoclastic brand based on that article about abortion and crime ... which you now see cited as fact by a commentator on a well-read blog.

I don't blame you, either, HC Meyer! The retraction was not as publicized as the article. But please please don't ever state that connection as fact ever again.


At the moment we're globally watching the last generation who fought WWII die off and their children (Boomers) collective shit the bed.
As a boomer, born 1946 I comprehensively reject that statement.
We wanted a better world & some bastards stole it & we are still angry about it ....


All the big questions have been answered.
Which is why QM & Relativity are incompatible, & the question(s) is/are still unanswered.
Err , methinks you are mistaken


By 2117 we reach the end of science.

You're a naked ape, running wetware that's full of errors (before we get into the damage that your environment hands out like free heroin samples) who currently doesn't even have good models for how consciousness occurs. (No, fMRI =/= good models).

You, the majority, can barely scrape past first stage Higher Order Thinking let alone expanded consciousness and so on. Your sense of empathy is more easily triggered by puppies and cats than other human suffering and you're unable to see Pattern Networks intrinsically (spider-webs vrs linear models - your brain has been lashed unto a straight mast by slavers looking to ward of the dangers of the Sirens).

I'm thinking you're a falling into the old 'In G_D's Image' trap there.

So, no: wrong. Very very badly wrong.


Oh, #6

Sensory inputs will have been upgraded. Most H.S.S are running at sub-optimum levels even given the bad baseline (mostly sight / smell due to environment). EM sensing, tetrachromia, sense of smell equivalent to at least a hamster, if not dog etc.

Your environment determines such things: Minds wanting to keep their edge have clean environments.

Same thing for the internet: determining what is a 'clean environment' is going to be a full on battle though, and 2,000 year old manuals aren't going to help.


For Mr Arnold: rhythmic wave-length attunement akin to telepathy, swapping of memories / emotional experiences, causal pattern creating that changes reality. But those, well. We'd get in trouble if we proved them, wouldn't me? (oh, and p.s. - seeing in the dark: *points to full moon*. Your cities give out light pollution like rampant males in heat, 'seeing in the dark' is just a different thing. But it's really annoying when it's taken away).


Got Heroin ? Where are they dying from it ? Everywhere, but dying from it in rural areas is new.



As a native Spanglish speaker myself, I can tell you that is not how it works. You're confusing code-mixing for hybridization. And you're assuming the two gentlemen were native-born.

There is no sign of English grammar morphing, nor of Spanish surviving much beyond the second generation. You do have the emergence of a regional accent in South Florida (and, weirdly enough, in parts of the Northeast) which appears to have been influenced by Spanish but is now spoken by people with no knowledge of Spanish and no ancestral connection to the language.

The Miami accent is a far cry from what you're proposing. Ditto the possibility that "y" will enter American English. That isn't hybridization, kapeesh?

In all seriousness, while hybridization may happen, it would be a massive reversal of current language trends. I don't see which technological or social developments would cause those trends to reverse over the next century.


(Head desk)

See above, please. The link actually discusses southern California in depth. It ain't happening and shows no sign of happening.


Ok, Greg, since it's a full moon, let's dance that dance.

Note: all these questions are personal, but feel free to reply with reference to your collective age bracket if you don't want to give personal data:

#1 Do you have a pension?

#1a Is it just State guaranteed or also via private company or public service?

#2 Do you own shares / stocks in any companies?

#2a If so, do you personally manage them, or are they part / parcel of a larger wealth fund (be it via a Private investment agent, or via membership of a larger public body, or Union, who does so)?

#3 Do you have private savings in a bank account where said savings saw (historically) over %4 return for a minimum of 10 years, or a long-term mortgage (20+ years) in a house that has increased in value over the past 20+ years that was never 'under water'?

#3a If so, please explain why since 2008 saving rates have been at 1%, the impact on mortgages and house rise inflation over the last 40 years.

If you are somehow living in the London area with none of the above applying, well: you're a Saint (as well as a very sweet man).

Pro-tip: it's impossible to fulfill any of those, and you can't.

Guess which parts of #1-3 current generation will enjoy?


Fucking None of them.


Trying to remember where I read this (recently — i.e. in 2017) but apparently this is the official figure; unofficially, what happened is that a lot of second children were born but were not reported by their parents and are now undocumented teens/adults. Many of these are girls; sex-specific infanticide is apparently less widespread than previously believed, but underreporting of female births is widespread (by parents hoping for a boy to carry on the family name).

Yes, correct. That's even without knowing about the different stages / relaxations / enforcement districts. i.e. "One family = one child" was never the actual policy across the entire country: there were plenty of provinces where that was never the case, and relaxation examples are always there (guess - 1975 one instance, 1990 another, would have to drag out case files). It was never ever purely about Party Elites either (although, of course, if you made a billion in China, and didn't run into a murder scandal, that third child isn't going to be an issue with the right amount of donations to "Orphanages"): it was about all those "empty" (now filling) cities.

There's a strong Christian network (USA / Falun Gong) that has been pumping out propaganda about the evil Communist baby-killers for 30+ years now. We did the work back in (2010?) and spotted that it didn't really play out. i.e. Enforcement is never a real thing (well, politically motivated, but...) esp. if the local beauro is open to bribes. It does, however, work into a patriarchal narrative where said 'undocumented' women are happy to marry 'lower than their expectations' in return for a marriage certificate and thus legal rights.

Never let it be said that the Minds of Men aren't always on the make. And fairly sure China saw that one coming. They did, after all, plan empty cities 20-30 years in advance...


(And, really apologies for spam, but):

Capitalism and denying women's rights to property ownership / sole bank accounts etc work in exactly the same fashion. But, you know, "Communist" so hard to put that one in the books without a lot of issues.

It's all the same Game, just with different trappings: assuring low-status males (wait... Communist wut?) that there's a lower state category who is forced to pair up with them because otherwise the RULES are against them. It's not like this wasn't deliberate, either. Told people this before 2010 as well.


No, not a baby-killing psychopathic regime, a regime copying what Western Capitalism did, to attempt to avoid the "MRA virgin killer rabble males getting radicalized leading into ISIL" stuff.



Mr PrivateIron: Not only are you far too 'Human' to entertain the required levels of cynicism to manage Human Populations, but you missed the biggest joke on the planet at this point in time.

What if we accidentally de-extincted a parasite, but not the mammoth

No, someone removed the parasites and look what happened.


Oh, you ain't ever gonna enjoy life until you understand that one.

(If you need this unpacking, well: that moment when H.Clinton played with balloons while stating "we'll go high", with B. Sanders looking defeated in the background and Wikileaks banner unfurled)

I think a previous version of me stated something like: "Cunts, spell broken".


Dreamworld, Neo, broken spells. (MOAB's in the Desert: not quite the Dune translation they should be looking for).


"So, anyway, no; Creek chickens have beaks, not delicate toothy jaws. "

This will affect flora in ways that you'd find interesting.

Here in New Zealand the flora evolved to try to avoid being eaten by birds, whereas your flora evolved to try to avoid being browsed by mammals.

Hence few thistles or thorns in the NZ bush. Spikes are not efficient at stopping Moas, or 30-point chickens, because beaked animals don't care the way a soft-mouthed mammal does.

More complex dense bushes made up of small leaves (moehlenbeckia, etc). A mammal will take a big mouthful and suck the leaves off - bird's mouths don't work that way.

More visual mimicry and high nutritional leaves trying to be less obvious with dark/drab colours. Because birds are sight-dominant and have a crap sense of smell.

Ferns are also harder for birds to browse, compared to mammals.

David Attenborough used to describe herbivorous mammals as "plant predators". Apt.


MOAB's in the Desert: not quite the Dune translation they should be looking for
Was wondering about that MOAB today. Seemed a bit confused politically.
Lots of material from you today, interesting, and read. Tx for the link to that PhD thesis on "Oscillatory Dynamics..."; if that's the best there is (-3 years), then ... it's indeed a pretty wide open field. New search keywords though; oscillatory dynamics gamma, are finding plenty of work like Common oscillatory mechanisms across multiple memory systems (05 January 2017) to make sense of. (Was inspired to purchase a cheap EEG rig.) Long weekend of pdf consumption ahead.


Here's a 2017 prediction:

A solution to the problem of heterogenous transport for people, as we did in the 20th century for freight.

Because right now for most people increasing airplane's speed by 50% (which is a lot!) just wouldn't get you there anything like 50% faster.

In 1917 transport of freight was super-slow. Largely because of loading/unloading - on to a truck at the factory, from truck into a warehouse, from warehouse onto a railway car, from railway car to port, from port to ship, from ship to port, to railway car, to truck. Typically goods spent as much or more time getting loaded onto and off ships than in transit, and the labour costs involved were horrific.

Containerization solved that for freight.

But we have the same problem now for transporting people. Getting from your house to an airport and waiting for the plane will typically take you as long or longer than the flight. Connecting flight sometimes don't. Check-in time is often ridiculously long.

Some better way of connecting all these things up is badly needed by 2017. Imagine an automated system where you buy a ticket to get you from your house to your destination, and where it handles the routing by the most efficient means. At its simplest, imagine the autonomous car picks you up from your door, handles your checkin and checks your ID, drives to the airport and drops you at your gate (and your checked luggage to the airport luggage system) - moving you to an earlier or later flight if necessary.

This isn't really about technology - just as containerization wasn't really about technology. It's about integration, leveraging technology.

(And as an aside: just how long will people keep insisting that auto-pilots for planes need a "real pilot" watching them, and keep dragging the feet on self-driving trains, once we have self-driving cars?)


"All the big questions have been answered"

That's what people said in 1907. Newtonian mechanics had been perfected, Maxwell had explained electro-magnetism, equations for thermodynamics were well-established.

The periodic table had been developed, chemistry was now fairly well understood.

Oh, there were some fiddly little details about just what 'atoms' were like, and some debate about the composition of and distance of distant stars. But really, those were just fiddly things far distant from the important frontiers of science.


"What am I overlooking?"

Um, an explanation for why someone wearing technology in 2117 needs to know how to read?


Some odd growth patterns where you get lattice stuff up to about the limit of moa reach and then straight stems, too.

(I am particularly fond of the suggestion that tall straight conifers where the lower branches fall off as the tree gains height, leaving a relatively small crown of leaves, may be a locked-in anti-sauropod/other dinosaurian high browser adaptation. Not strictly required, these last sixty million years, but the memory of long, long necks is graven in the possible survivors.)

Creek flora is a bit patchy; there's a bunch of climate zones and soil types, and there are ungulate populations, some wild, as well as galliform ones. (and maybe some xenarthrans; it's tempting.) And the various notions of irresponsible sorcerers; no shortage of thorns, and probably no shortage of analogs to those horrible Australian glass-fiber-bark-needle trees.


Apropos language extinction - I think it depends heavily on the political context.

Somewhat related: what will happen to the sign languages? Cochlear implants are getting better all the time, so a big pool of people who would have been part of the Deaf culture(s) are going to be only hard of hearing. At least in places where the public healthcare will provide those for people who can't hear, the Deaf culture and the local sign language can well be in peril.

In poor places (those that do have a local Deaf culture and sign language) deaf children just don't get cochlear implants as a rule will not have as much trouble. In rich places which decide to rely on charity (The US of A, I'm looking at you) or places where the main inflow of deaf children is not the children of hearing parents you still might have a strong Deaf culture.

The cochlear implants obviously don't work for everybody, while many of the people for whom they don't work can still learn sign languages. I can argue that it's going to be very lonely for the people whose local sign language has died, but who would need it (and the Deaf culture around them) for them to express themselves properly.

Just as an example of languages few people realize exist, too.


Because it's overrun by Brits and Americans (citizens of a former aggressive imperial hegemonic power and citizens of the current one). Next?

Yeah, no. I'm pretty sure 99% of the commenters here are anti-imperialists.

It's more of a typical sci-fi nerd maximalism. "If things don't follow my solution exactly - and I have the best and onliest solution - then everything might as well crash and burn".

Followed by several masturbatory pages describing exactly how things will crash and burn...


This appears to be a disguised personal attack from the re-morphed SEAGULL.

Let's play anyway:
#1 YES
#1a 2 of them - one from an ex-employer
#2 Do ISA's count? Otherwise, NO.
#2a NO
#3 None of your fucking business.
#3a Irrelevant tosh.

There is something also - called inheritance - my father bought the house in 1948
Now, why don't you go & enjoy sex & travel?


A search for creek chickens did not show any large birdies - was I looking in the wrong place?


Statistical analysis is work computers can likely do better than humans NOW.

The humans still working on the factory floor aren't there to tell whether
we're exceeding the .03% maximum deflaggelation rate on the orifice scaffolds
often enough to trigger the penalty clause in our contract; they're working
the factory floor to check to make sure that the orifice scaffolds actually
exist and that none of the expert systems are optimizing yield ratios by
recalibrating their sensors to ignore lichen-3 infestation again. And they
do a hefty sideline in stuff like unjamming the moebius conveyor and fixing
squeaky wheels.

Now on to Speculation:

Lifeform compilers will be common. Not like washing machines where there's
one in every house - more like public libraries. And they will have the
expected flaws, including 'you don't need to be LITERATE to make airborne
Ebola. All you need to do is be dumb enough to make the recipe for chocolate
mushrooms you found on a fileserver between California's Funniest Medical
Emergencies vids and a 9000-hour-long loop of a green frog distending its
anus until you can see another green frog inside ad infinitum.

Most polities will have lifeform compilers, because those that successfully
outlawed 'em generally got wiped out by some stupid plague put together by
the ass end of a culture that made 'em widely available - while WITH a
compiler you can run off a satellite virus to turn airborne Ebola into a
decorative rash, and temporary glands that secrete the antifungals needed
to cure your lichen-3 before it reaches the Obedient Phase.

Overall, bioterror will not be seen as a major risk by the people of 2117.
Either they live in a perpetual quarantine that reads Newsflesh to fantasize
about casual gregarious contact, or more likely it is a Solved Problem. Doing
a full gene readout on every microorganism in every square meter to check for
plagues is impractical - you need a god tier AI to do it, for one thing, and
for another if you're going to spend the energy to liquify and scan every
candidate infectious vector a tourist is carrying at the airport turnstile,
you might as well just turn the energy dial up and convert 'em to plasma.

But you don't NEED a full gene readout of every microorganism - once you
control the chordate bud process, you can construct homunculi of genuine,
infectable human tissues, place them at every intersection, and just sample
them every morning to scan for new pathogens. This does require new
systems to ensure the homunculi are properly fed, since human organs
don't really run well off a solar panel. Hence the occasional sociology
papers with a title like 'Changes in the correlation between perceived
sexual desirability and public trophallaxis between 2060 and 2090: A
Longitudinal Study.'

Secondary defense against plagues will come from obsessive logging on use
of lifeform compilers - quite possibly extending to 'you must have worn
a surveillance collar for a week before being allowed to touch this machine,
and the logs are freely available to everyone' - and policies requiring
multiple people sign off on a 'Run' command. This won't stop someone
from cooking up a batch of fentanyl poppies that look and taste like lettuce,
but it will give warning when someone who attends the Involuntary Human
Extinction Society's events three times a week uses the compiler.

This also implies highly engineered ecosystems, and fucktons of feral tech
out there. Charismatic megafauna back with a vengeance in some rural areas,
because while a homunculus will catch smallpox-C Just Fine, it will not
notice an 'allosaur' (scare quotes because it's NOT an allosaur or even
a large birb - the genome is mostly frog, with snake for the scale patterns
and hornet proteins for the in-scale cooling system) unless it's hungry.

The personal ecosystem will also be restructured. The obvious workaround
for homunculi is smarter diseases - ones that won't infect something that's
got seven eyes and sixteen flavors of mucous membrane just flapping in the
breeze. You can't fit much processing power into a mimivirus or a spirochaete,
though. So people trying to get NASTY will rely on programmed macrofauna.
Jumping spiders are smart enough to recognize humans as a Thing They Can Make
Intimidation Displays At (though not smart enough to recognize Also Humans
Are A Thousand Times Taller.). When it comes time to stop all flies from
landing on you for your own protection, you develop a new appreciation for
the symbiotic mites you picked up at the sex club the other week - sure, they
aren't quite the shade of blue you wanted, but they do a surprisingly good job
of detecting flyders and switching your skin to hyperallergenic mode before
the sting.

And as Ms. Moore points out @296 Aliens. If our technosphere survives until
2117, while CONTACT is wildly unlikely (unless we learn that 'actually,
Pluto and Eris are kind of too warm for comfort, sensible people live in
the Oort clouds of, well, everywhere, now FUCK OFF your probes are too
damn hot), a century's enough to notice anyone building yottastructures
in our neck of the galaxy. If we know the travel time from Tabby's Star,
what's happening there, how long enclosure took, and how many centuries
ago the Starswarmer ships launched for Sol that may have a bit of an
impact on our memespace.

Reading is faster than listening for a large number of users, and can be
parallelized to scan for interesting bits faster. Channer/tumblr users
still type and read lucidly despite also picting like mad. (Generally.
Though I'm not entirely convinced that channer nazis are all human - the
posting quality on the politics board seemed significantly better when
notmoot changed the URL a couple weeks back, though it's also
possible that the nazis just went away because they couldn't handle the
horse porn that came with the url change)


That's completely irrelevant. Greg Tingey is largely right - many (perhaps even most) of us did - I have been despondent about and vocal against the stealing for 50 years. While many of those that did the stealing were also baby boomers, they probably weren't even the majority - there were as many of previous generations and even some of later ones. Look into it a bit more deeply.


There will be intelligence increase, at least at the low end.

This is a hard world for people who aren't especially bright, and it seems to me that technology for getting people from what is currently considered dull to what is currently considered average or somewhat above average should be a lot easier than the fascinating idea of getting smart people to be smarter than anyone who has ever lived.

I'm not saying there will be tech to solve all low-end intellectual problems, but there should be tech for the most common problems.

In the same spirit, there are people who live into their nineties in good health, and it seems to be genetic. It should be easier to make this generally available than to completely stop or reverse ageing.


That's not a great analogy, but I know what you mean. It was stated in the 19th century, but didn't really resurface until the late 20th. It's obviously bollocks, but we are in the same situation that we were in a century and a quarter ago. The mentally fossilised (and I mean eminent scientists here) believe that we can resolve all the known discrepancies just by adding more of the modern equivalent of epicycles, and then close the book. Unless civilisation collapses, we will sooner or later get someone who breaks the mould, in the way that relativity and quantum mechanics did.


I think the effect on memory is going to be profound. We have already partly outsourced "knowledge" to the cloud. By 2117 the process will be complete. Stopping entire populations knowing something, even in principle, will simply be a case of making it unavailable on their AR devices.

Also, I suspect that the end of Moore's law will mean that the tens of billions of pounds currently spent hyper-optimising hardware may be somewhat redistributed to optimising software stacks, but there'll also be a continuing proliferation of ASICs on low-end consumer hardware, sidestepping the issue to a certain degree.


You aren't thinking it through. There doubtless are some people like that, but I think of such things as an engineering problem (i.e. I think like Churchill - seriously). The first two, and most critical, steps in resolving a hard problem are (a) to face up to the severity of the problem and (b) accept that carrying on as before, even with modifications, will only make it worse. The problems ARE soluble but, so far, our politicians and the public haven't got beyond (a) and almost nobody has got beyond (b).


I think there will remain a Network Standard English, "For Engineers" if nothing else. American usage seems to be winning, at least in Europe, watched a bunch of YouTube videos about English in Germany recently.

Dialect speakers (Nigerian, Ebonics, etc) will be taught "Proper" Pronunciation, get clues from Media and use it as appropriate.


USA Transcontinental High Speed Rail?

IIUC, US Transcontinental (passenger) Rail used to frequently involve a change in Chicago; All the Major Eastern railroads went to Chicago.

Chicago is STILL the major mid continental freight car (Container) interchange point, with major (Probably inadequate) investments under way to stop the system breaking down under all the containers full of stuff flowing through.

The Republican controlled congress is unwilling/unable to even consider the infrastructure investments in this key part of the American Infrastructure, because you know, socialism. And the Presidents draft budget proposal zeroed out the current subsidy for Passenger Rail (Amtrak); It will be interesting to see how the Red State rural legislators handle that one.

There are a couple of MAJOR projects that absolutely need to be done in New York City, if they don't get the Federal Dollars planned for, all commuter and Freight Rail in the Northeast will be awkward.

The American Railways never turned much of a profit on Passenger service, too seasonal, one reason they were all so eager to turn it over to Amtrak. Freight was always where the money was. But back then, as a corporate citizen, you would not have been much of a Railroad if you did not have Passenger Service.



You should be looking for Creek chickens in Graydon Saunders' most excellent Commonweal books.

Start with "The March North", though the chickens don't appear until one runs down Ed in "A Succession of Bad Days".


"Was wondering about that MOAB today. Seemed a bit confused politically."

The military have wanted to play with their toy for some time, and now there is a president distracted enough to have let them do so. I doubt that there is much more than that - or that it will have been particularly effective. Inter alia, it is intended to demoralise the enemy by its power, and if there is one thing that Afghans do not do, it is demoralise when faced with more firepower.


I think that you WILL find that there is a connection - but it's a very minor factor. There is a strong link between rejected (and even neglected) children and criminality, and (I believe) a weak one between unwanted / excessive children and rejection and neglect. The issue is so foul, statistically, that a really convincing investigation is almost inconceivable. So, while the claim that it is a major factor is bogus (and I agree that it is), that's not the same as saying that there is no connection at all.


Plus the fact that apart for the limitless horizons types the End of Science is far less impactful than the end of Engineering.

There are very few of who can predict the impacts of the next Moore's Law analogue.


actually, in 1917 any respectable factory had it's own railroad siding. Loading dock straight into box car, car load lots to distributor/wholesaler. Who had their own Rail access.


Oh, it's easy enough to predict the impact - what people will do then is the great unknown :-) But, niggling apart, I agree completely. My prediction record in the IT area is fairly good, and I don't have a clue about even which possibilities are likely. I know what could be done about it, but don't see a hope in hell of it actually being done.


Yes, major problem. Be aware, much of the "Rural" population was dependent on the economic activity generated by the local manufacturing plant of some sort, so many of which have closed. There are not enough Walmart and Amazon distribution centers (Which tend to pay minimum wage) to make it up.

My sister amuses herself by pricing housing in Decatur, Illinois. Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), the last major economic enterprise is moving their corporate HQ to Chicago. You can buy a decent house for less that $50K. Multi unit buildings still have investment potential, because of the structure of American Social Housing policies. There are old people, the disabled and homeless veterans.

Meanwhile, Decatur Arkansas, same County I live in, say a twenty (?) minute drive from Walmart HQ, is one of those Dead Towns Walmart closed it's small grocery experiment ("Walmart Express") out of a year and a half ago. 80% of the Children in the Decatur schools are eligible for the Free/Reduced Price Lunch program (Very Poor by American standards). In Bentonville it is 40% (?)maybe less.


Chicago as the hub has a lot to do with there being some big rivers in the way. Bridged now, but not when the initial transcontinental railroads were going in.

If you haven't -- to combine a response to 346 here -- read Jane Jacobs, "Cities and the Wealth of Nations", it is worth a read. Jacobs took a historian's approach to economics and how cities work.


"With 7nm processes on the horizon (and atoms on the order of 1-3nm across)"

I think you mean 1-3 angstroms (1A = 0.1nm) for atom size/bond length.

Still not many atoms across a 7nm wide wire, but it gives IC fabs another ~3-4 generations before _that_ becomes the limiting factor. As opposed to cost, cost, synthesizing, emplacing, and successfully etching masks with a dimensional tolerance of one nanometre or less, current leakage...

But yes, I definitely agree that there will be a very un-pretty collision between Moore's law and the laws of physics/chemistry/


Some better way of connecting all these things up is badly needed by 2017. Imagine an automated system where you buy a ticket to get you from your house to your destination

Yes, this is a REAL BIG win; it's also one that is do-able but challenging because it requires ripping up the entire ticketing playbook and reinventing it. The airline booking systems descended from SABRE (a 1950s design) evolved time-sharing terminal front-ends and then we got web sites that do demand/bid pricing and back onto these mainframe systems ... but under the hood it's still the same-old same-old, which in turn was designed to implement on punched-card vintage machines the pre-computer techniques the airline industry copied from shipping lines, probably going all the way back to the age of sail.

Modern budget airlines that only do point-to-point flights (no connections; you collect your checked bags, if any, then re-check-in for your next flight, if you need to fly multiple sectors) generally invented their own booking systems in the 1990s and 2000s and are a whole lot more efficient ... only not joined-up.

A true point-to-point ticket system would indeed work the way you describe, including the Uber or taxi to the airport and from the destination 'port to your hotel or final stop; it'd probably also rearrange itself in transit in event of missed connections, so the only change you'd notice would be an extra hour or two in a transit lounge before your phone directed you to go to the onward connection gate (hopefully via a stop at a charging point if your phone is running low en route).

Also: security clearance should happen in the taxi — checked bags go in the boot (and get inspected at the airport), the self-driving cab's passenger wifi does a quick scan for obvious weapons using beam-shaping radar (see that MIT research link I posted earlier), and you only get stopped and examined by a human TSA or airport security person if you're carrying something suspicious. And the stop should occur before you even reach the terminal building. The terminal itself should be sterile, inside a virtual security cordon and impossible to approach without having been pre-checked, thus making the entire airport a much less tempting target for malefactors. And also making the airport experience itself much less unpleasant — no shuffling shoeless in queues beneath the gaze of bored knuckle-draggers with a license to commit mayhem on the traveling public.


Um, an explanation for why someone wearing technology in 2117 needs to know how to read?

Speed of information assimilation.

Unabridged audiobooks typically run for two to three times the playing time that it takes to actually read the thing; proficient readers assimilate 300-400 words per minute (speed readers can push it up to 500-1000 wpm) but human speech is a whole lot slower; during public readings I typically declaim at about 120 wpm.

Video is sometimes much, much worse: yes, "one picture tells a thousand words", but to take all those words in you need to study the image. There's a reason most monthly comics run to a core of 20-24 pages in a 32 page issue, and the amount of dialog/text involved is relatively limited. Video and film use time as well as images to convey tone and pacing; but in terms of text a 2 hour motion picture script is under 30,000 words, running to about 200 words/minute max


Yes: we're discussing the biology and world building of the Creek territories in Graydon's ongoing fantasy series.


Yup. I travelled from Cambridge to Montgenevre a few times by train, allowing ample time between trains (2 changes, neither trivial), which takes about 13 hours. Flying would have taken 11 hours, at best. Door to door times, of course.


"3.) [...]When we stop using carbon the "nuke Mecca" crowd will gain political power with a speed that surpasses c by orders of magnitude.
5.) There will be a general decline in prejudice in the WEIRD countries."

Your posited general decline seems to contain a specific spike.


When planning trips these days I always calculate travel time in terms of door-to-door. (Starting with: 30m for taxi to EDI airport, 2 hour margin for check-in with checked bags in case of problems, then flight and transit time at next airport, and so on.)


>Smaller growth doesn't equal emptying out.

It's not just slower relative growth. Rural America's population is declining in absolute terms:

"Over the past two decades, as cities have become job centers that attract diverse young people, rural America has become older, whiter, and less populated. Between 2010 and 2014, rural areas lost an average of 33,000 people a year. Today, just 19 percent of Americans live in areas the Census department classifies as rural, down from 44 percent in 1930. But roughly one-quarter of seniors live in rural communities, and 21 of the 25 oldest counties in the United States are rural."

"The total population in nonmetro counties stood at 46.2 million in July 2015—14 percent of U.S. residents spread across 72 percent of the Nation's land area. Annual population losses averaged 33,000 per year between 2010 and 2014, but dropped to about 4,000 in 2015."

What is being left across vast stretches of rural America are towns with boarded up main streets and closed schools = shells of their former selves populated by the aged, the uneducated and the unemployable.

Prediction: In another generation all of Red Rural America will come to resemble Appalachia in economics, demographics and social pathologies.


And doesn't it make a difference? I find it slightly incredible that, even for long-haul flights (e.g. UK to NZ!), the time taken at both ends, stopovers etc. is comparable with the flying time. But enduring is believing ....


Not really. The interaction between statistics and quantum mechanics is already causing quite serious problems. Like all approaches to singularities (and this one IS a true singularity), the problems increase super-exponentially as you get closer. Exactly when they will hit the feasibility / RAS / economic limit, I don't know, but it will be before the fundamental limit, not at it.


A couple of interesting factors emerge.

Every additional sector (flight) on a trip adds the flight time plus 1h30m to 6h to the journey. Also, wearing a fitness tracker, it turns out that each airport terminal traversed at departure or arrival adds an average of 1.5km of walking (roughly a mile), even with travellators. (Small airports don't have moving walkways, so you walk the same distance; big airports ... only provide moving walkways because they're big. You still walk a whole lot.)

Part of the latency in sectors is down to me never allowing less than 70 minutes for a transfer, even at a hub I know extremely well; chances of a missed connection are just too high if your first flight misses its slot and ends up waiting half an hour for a gate to free up, or going for a guided tour of the Polderbaan at Schiphol (one of my two preferred hubs: I swear the Polderbaan taxiway is about the same length as the A1(M) from Edinburgh to London). Realistically, allow two and a half hours for a transfer: most ATC delays or minor (non-cancellation-causing) technical problems get fixed within a couple of hours. But it all adds up.

A side-effect: direct flights to a major hub aren't too bad. With hand luggage only I can get from my home to the center of Paris or Amsterdam in about the same time it takes me to get to the center of London. When the seasonal direct flights are operating, it would only take me another 5 hours to get to Manhattan. But anything that requires three flights—say, Austin, Texas (I'd end up flying EDI-hub, hub-Atlanta, Atlanta-Austin, or something like that) is gruelling: adds about 12 hours to the flight duration.


Haven't read the last 100 or so comments yet ...

Air travel may decline and not just because of more expensive fuel. Saw a blurb that air turbulence is increasing and will continue to increase in-step with global warming. No idea how many planes with all their passengers and crew lost, or number of homes with their occupants destroyed by falling aircraft and debris before insurers, gov’ts (who often underwrite/assist in disaster relief) and consumers decide they just don’t want to take that risk.

Depending on how bad the airplane disasters, could be that even after global warming is abated, airplanes as we know them may never come back. No idea whether Zeppelins would be any safer.


Naah, turbulence isn't going to be a huge problem on this scale. Yes, more diversions and cancelled flights (airports being closed by storms); yes, more clear air turbulence at cruising altitude means the seatbelt signs will stay lit a lot longer. But airliners have weather radar for a reason, and usually route around bad stuff successfully (the exceptions are famous precisely because they're exceptions). Most of the weather is low down anyway, and long-haul jet airliners typically cruise between 33,000 and 40,000 feet up — above the worst of it.

The main lesson from reading Aviation Herald too much is: ALWAYS keep your seat belt fastened, even when the lights are off. Doesn't need to be tight when in cruise flight, but if you hit a bump in the air and the plane drops a couple of hundred feet it might save you from bouncing your skull off the overhead luggage bins; only unfasten your seatbelt if you're actually going to leave your seat, and do so for as little time as possible.

(In event of worsening climate/weather, airships would be a lot worse. They can't cruise above the worst weather and they're not fast enough to detour around it.)


“But anything that requires three flights—say, Austin, Texas (I'd end up flying EDI-hub, hub-Atlanta, Atlanta-Austin, or something like that) is gruelling: adds about 12 hours to the flight duration.”

Precisely why I select flights with one transfer (or none), anything that involves multiple transfers adds to the possibility of flight delays and cancellations. I loathe hanging out it airports for more than 3 hours. That’s why I don’t necessarily look for the cheapest flights, affordable yes, but with the least time spent.

I fly Delta when flying home to Flint, Michigan, since they are one of three airlines that do. It’s usually AUS-ATL-FNT or AUS-MSP-FNT with one transfer. I love flying Southwest out to San Diego, it’s a straight shot with no transfers … a 3 hour flight from Austin, Texas.


Precisely why I select flights with one transfer (or none)

You live close to a major hub, don't you? Flint, MI is close enough to DTW, and DTW is a big-ass hub.

EDI, in contrast, is well-connected within the UK and to a variety of European hubs — LGW, LHR, CDG, AMS — and even to Emirates' hub in Dubai, but has very few trans-Atlantic connections (daily services to JFK and LGA on Delta and United respectively, and the Delta service only operates six months a year). Nor can I use other local airports; GLA and Newcastle are both > 2 hours away from where I live by ground transport (GLA is only forty miles away but to get there I have to go through two city centres that were designed before automobiles were a thing); the nearest real hub, MAN, is a mere 250 miles away. So pretty much everywhere I want to go requires a minimum of two sectors.

I submit that this is a lot closer to how most people—excluding residents of megacities with populations over 5 million—experience air travel than your version (living on the doorstep of one of Delta's three main hubs).


Well, if you're talking about redwoods overtopping dinosaurs, it kinda makes sense, in that no sauropod could reach 100 meters up a tree, and I don't think even the biggest sauropod could topple one.

That said...

Trees compete with each other for light, which is why, in certain fairly rare environments, you get trees competing to grow 100 meters tall. This is even true for trees (such as douglas-firs and eucalypts) that really evolved in the Cenozoic, well after the dinosaurs went extinct. They still shoot for the 100 meter mark as well.

As for thorns not deterring birds, oddly enough, some of the plants in Hawai'i evolved spines apparently to deter the indigenous (and extinct) giant geese. Go figure.

Finally, no one pays attention to what came out of sauropod cloacas. The Jurassic wasn't just a time of giant grazers, it had to have been a time when there was a whole dung ecosystem that's not really necessary now. Indeed, some have suggested that some of the weirder dinosaurs were evolved to scavenge in dung heaps for whatever, and this may have also been where termites got their start. Sadly though, this unique aspect of Jurassic ecology (worldwide feed lot?) never gets shown in the artistic reconstructions of the era.

2.) Car manufacturers will standardize on a particular battery size and an infrastructure which will allow batteries to be changed in charging stations by semi-skilled labor (in other words, the same people who currently pump your gas and check your oil) in less than five minutes.

Swapping out the battery, which constitutes a substantial fraction of both the mass and the cost, seems impractical. At the same time, the benefits seem limited, particularly with self-driving.

The majority of trucks don't care about time, in the same way that you don't get high-speed freight trains and cargo ships on the sea use "slow steaming" to save fuel. The main reason to hurry is the cost of the driver, which is eliminated with self-driving trucks.

For time-sensitive cargo, trucks already have existing standards for swapping the cargo in and out, all the way up to the intermodal container twistlock. The additional benefit of also detaching the battery is probably not worth the extra complexity.

For self-driving passenger cars which are hired by the trip, it's not needed at all; you'll in any case let it go and get a new one after lunch, no point paying waiting charges.

All that's left is the passenger with a lot of luggage or special needs, and privately-owned cars. That doesn't seem worth putting in all the engineering and infrastructure, especially if the delays are on the order of a leisurely lunch...


Re: 'Most of the weather is low down anyway, ...'

Precisely ... and because you have to take-off and then land, this means? Now, multiply this by the number of times you have to change planes per trip.

Not sure how comprehensive this report is but provides some interesting stats. See page 21 of this PDF for accidents during phases of flight for years 2006-2015 combined.

Note: Malaysia 370 not included because it's still 'missing'.


Make that Page 20 ...


Can you please point me in the direction of those papers on Jurassic dung ecosystems? It sounds genuinely interesting.


Did you even read the second sentence of my comment before you hit "submit" on your reply?


For those of us who don't live near major hubs delays can be even longer. I could fly from Norwich to Amsterdam and take a connection from there. The problem is that it's almost always much more expensive than driving to Stansted, Gatwick or Heathrow. So we often book a night at an Airport Hotel. The Hotels usually include car parking and cost about the same as a car park alone. It also gets rid or the worry that the M11 or M25 will be at a standstill.
Travelling by train is much more relaxing but getting to Heathrow from Norwich involves too many changes of train/tube carrying luggage.
High speed rail is much more relaxing and efficient. We were once held up by a motorway closure and arrived at the Ebbsfleet Eurostar terminal ten minutes before the train was due to depart. We got through security and onto the platform in eight minutes. This could never be done on an aircraft.


Was wondering how quickly air traffic control could clear the skies safely and found this excellent Time story re: 9/11.

The Day the FAA Stopped the World,8599,174912,00.html


Yes I did read it ... being diverted to another airport is not always an option.


Getting back to the original question: what else got overlooked?

Ooh, ooh: what replaces consumerism?

One obvious candidate is religion, as practiced by various fundamentalist authoritarian types. Thing is, there's already non-violent pushback on all of it (non-violence being more effective than violence in this regard, because it makes would-be martyrs look too violent). On the bigger side, some fairly important religions, like a the pro-commercial chunk of evangelical Churchianity, Salafist Islam, even Tibetan Buddhism and for-all-I-know Scientology, look set to undergo massive upheavals in the 21st Century. Hard to say if they come out of it stronger or weaker.

So no, I don't think current religions will replace current consumerism. Ascetic religion *might.* It certainly happened in the Late Roman Empire, partly in reaction to Rome's conspicuous consumption and corruption, partly as a lemonade-making exercise, but monasticism, pillar-sitting and the like became increasingly popular as the empire declined. So if current conditions gradually worsen, the appeal of religions that praise endurance of suffering may increase.

Still, I can't help wondering if something else out of left field will be the Next Big Thing. My candidate so far is gamification: instead of being defined by what you consume, treat life as a game. Now, you can play to win, but for anyone who's read Carse's Finite and Infinite Games, the only reason to play the infinite game of life isn't to win, because the only way to win a game is to be ahead when it ends, and (hopefully)the game of life will continue after your death. Instead, the reason to play the infinite game of life is to keep the game going, and if you fancy yourself to be a good person, it is to keep The Game going with as many players as possible.

If you think about it, politics truly works on an infinite game model. The point of politicking is to solve problems and to keep the system running, and the only way to be a "winner" in such a game is to crash the system when you're on top (which some in the current US Administration seem to think is worthwhile).

So if 2117 isn't about global consumer society, is it about global gamesterism? I don't know, but the idea leads to a bunch of issues: Would gamification even work if gaming was theoretically extended to all aspects of life? Of course it can't be: things like love, raising families, tending elders, and mucking out large animal barns don't easily lend themselves to gameplaying. Worse, people always confuse finite games with infinite games, and there will be inevitable and vast tension between leveling up and keeping the bigger game of planetary life going. Still, making a game out of keeping the planet and civilizations going and inviting everybody to play makes at least as much sense as trying to stop ideological wars by urging everyone to become hedonistic consumers.

Or is there something else around which 2117 life will be organized?


I would add a seventh problem, which is that Red-State people are subjected to horrifying amounts of ugly propaganda from both their churches and the right-wing media.

When I look back at the point where American starting going to crap, I focus on Reagan overturning the fairness doctrine.


Can I suggest that you have a look at Brian Uptons book "The aesthetic of play" which has some intriguing ideas on play space and its relationship to life.


On the topic of transport, this nice graphic popped up on my twitter feed today, showing isochrones of travel from Berlin:

Naturally, the introduction of trains made a massive difference in achievable distance.

Sfreader #371- if turbulence was that much of a problem, airplane travel wouldn't have grown so much in the first place. Go read some historical books. Your concerns are bunk.


I've been thinking about that one for a long time. Once we have self-driving cars we'll route them like they were packets, with a much-less-expensive option to ride with multiple strangers. You'll have the option to rate your fellow passengers (this will probably be the beginning of a national/international "reputation market") and choose the average rating of the passengers you're willing to ride with. If your reputation is too low, and you choose too high, your ride will be more expensive.

Among other things, this will completely kill any kind of road congestion.


And because we're Humanity 1.0. (I like to think that my own comment wasn't bloodthirsty so much as describing the bloodthirstiness of others, but I could be wrong :) )


Probably the solution is to look for someone who runs up a deadly virus and also the appropriate antibodies on the same machine. (More sophisticated versions of this are possible for both attack and defense.)


Um, packet routing hasn't killed internet delays, so I'm not sure why packetizing human car trips will automatically cause traffic jams to go away. After all, these can also be caused by too many people on too narrow a road with no way to widen the road. That's the major problem in places like LA.


I think the bigger concern for turbulence is climate change-based. After all, the jet stream got its name for its utility for jets, but what happens when it starts going away?

As I understand it (not being a meteorologist), the Jet stream and its Antarctic counterpart are driven by having a very cold region at the pole and a much warmer region in the temperate zone. The energy from the temperature gradient dissipates by blowing up a huge gyre of wind between these two regions: the Jet Stream.

The problem is, as the gradient dissipates, there's less of a gradient to feed the Jet Stream, so it starts showing all the problems with slowing streams: slower velocity, increased meander, and ultimately, dissipation.

That's the turbulence I'm more worried about, going forward. Just for air travel, it could seriously complicate routes and route times. And of course there's all the chaotic weather, from bigger, slower moving storms, to polar vortexes when the slowing jet stream loops far enough south to let Arctic air into temperate regions, to Arctic heat waves when the Jet Stream wanders far enough north to let temperate air to the poles.


Yes I did read it ... being diverted to another airport is not always an option.

Actually, airliners are not supposed to depart unless they've got a margin of spare fuel for holding and then flying on to (and landing at) one or more planned alternate airports; if an airliner doesn't have enough fuel on arrival to divert, or spends so long holding that it can't divert, then that's pretty much the definition of an emergency, and triggers all sorts of paperwork (starting with an enquiry by the responsible aviation authority—FAA in the USA, CAA in the UK, etc—with consequences that can cost the airline its operator's license). Here's a classic example of why airliners usually carry extra fuel around (i.e. an incident where one didn't, and 80 people died).


Increased stacking is what I expect to happen EVEN IF Moore's law has hit the wall, because that shortens the paths, and thus speeds things up. But because of stacking I also expect it hasn't hit the wall. There may, however, be some sort of split, similar to that between dynamic RAM and static RAM, where the denser computation has the computation in sleep mode most of the time. This seems inherently true of the designs that mix storage with the CPUs. The alternatives so far all seem pretty expensive (Silver heat pipes, liquid Nitrogen cooling, etc.) and so would only be used in things like supercomputers. OTOH, going back a bit liquid water cooling was only used in mainframes, but these days you can buy it for a desktop. So maybe the cooling designs will improve.

That said, there seem to be early reports of bits being stored in single atoms...but I expect the equipment to stabilize or read them is sufficient to negate any current value. In a century, who knows.

A century can bring a LOT of changes. And halving the dimensions of a circuit means that you can get 8 times as many in the same volume. There *is* a hard limit to Moore's law, but we're still a distance away, even without heavily increased stacking. But I have a suspicion that noise*uncertainty will put a limit to it before the hard limit...and that it will be circumvented by some kind of increased stacking. Which will also have limits that are circumvented by altered designs. But more slowly. We haven't yet even adapted the the need for multi-processing. Mixing the computation with the memory will be a further alteration, and not necessarily an easier one.


I'm very much a Liberal, and while I'm generally anti-violence and anti-prejudice, I'm also sick of Islamic terror. I dislike Islamic terror just a little less than I dislike the way Western governments use Islamic terror as an excuse for passing ugly laws and engaging in gruesome behavior.

I think the mechanism by which Islamic terror spreads is pretty well-known; that is, the Saudis (possibly some faction amid the Saudis) use the money generated by their immense oil fields to send Wahabi missionaries to countries which historically practice a much mellower brand of Islam. In Christian terms, it's as if the Westboro Baptist Church was the official church of some rich, powerful country and that rich, powerful country regularly sent Westboro Baptist missionaries off to poor countries filled with Methodists, Quakers, and Presbyterians. The rich country only gets away with this because they are rich (and powerful.)

In terms of violence and other forms of ugly behavior, the results of the Saudis' missionary urges are very predictable.

We only put up with this crap because we need Saudi oil. When Saudi oil goes away, so will the Saudis. And their missionaries.


Doubt very much that the SABRE descendants are less efficient than a budget airlines. They were built efficient from the ground up back when they had to deliver sub 3s responses across networks measured in a few 10's of Baud. Hence being written in assembler and running on some of IBM's biggest baddest mainframes. They've been reegineered in c++/Linux since of course but contrast that with say Ryan Air who rumour has it paid a couple of summer students to build their core in Java. There'll be 30 years of cruft but I'd still bet on Sabre and friends.

The GDS' have also been multimodal since day one covering nearly all forms public transport and they have had the Interoperability built it. All that's missing is a bit of reroute logic over the top and Bobs yer uncle.

Of course it not the systems that are the main problems it's the business models of the dinosaurs using it. I'm surprised no one swamped in cheap VC cash hasn't done an Uber-Budget Airline mashup app yet....


the jet stream got its name for its utility for jets, but what happens when it starts going away?

In terms of air travel, not a lot.

Whenever I fly to the USA (prior to Trump that'd be 2-4 times a year; now, a whole lot less), the outbound trip takes an hour longer than the homebound trip? Why? Well, because I'm flying from Northern Europe out across the Atlantic and back. There's always turbulence passing over the Western Approaches and then hitting the Atlantic, or coming off the Atlantic and crossing over Ireland, because flying west means flying straight into the teeth a jet stream that varies between 60 and 150mph; coming back in the opposite direction, the airliner is surfing the same jet stream in the opposite direction. So: outbound ground speed is 400-500 mph, homebound ground speed is 550-700mph. (Note: ground speed is not the same as air speed!)

Now, suppose that jet stream goes away completely. What happens? Well, instead of the westbound flight taking 7h30m and the eastbound flight taking 6h15m, both flights take 6h45m.


I was thinking more in terms of full cars vs. cars with only one person in them, plus better routing.

I have a sort of rough expertise in this, as I make my living by driving around Southern California installing and repairing stuff. There are lots of ways to beat freeway speeds. Look into the Waze app if you don't believe me, or ask a driver with several years of experience in beating the local freeway mess.


Charlie specified human industrial/post-industrial cultural survival in 2117.

That is not where we're presently going whatsoever. If it were to be, the path change required to accomplish that has to be large, abrupt, and soon. So no quiet fade-away models; something on the order of the initial rise of Islam. No tactful gentle reasoning; one of the major problems is a US culture of never, ever acknowledging defeat in anything, which means you either accept that the innumerate slavers are in charge, or you destroy them. They're not going to stop on their own.

One abrupt soon thing is very likely to be the market consequences of the carbon bubble popping. Combine that with a US attempt to revert to a hard currency and maybe the cohesive response will be the forcible replacement of capitalism.


Personally, speaking only as an American who was raised Christian, I'm much more sick of Christian terrorism than I am of Muslim terrorism.

The problem with terrorism, at least the US flavor, is that it is, by law enforcement definition, performed by (brown) people who aren't Christian. Christian terrorism is almost always handled under other laws and memes, whether it's hate crimes, or "lone wolves" shooting up abortion clinics, or whatever. Many of our terrorists are mentally ill. Their terrorists are dehumanized monsters.

And yes, Islamic terrorism is a serious problem. I just happen to be a lot more sympathetic to the non-terrorists when I recategorize our violent extremists as terrorists too.


it's the business models of the dinosaurs using it

Also the regulatory framework that evolved to police them, remember.

F'rxample, flexible rebookable ticketing would be wonderful, but it ain't going to happen between the UK and USA (or the USA and elsewhere) while the current ESTA and APN collection mechanism ties passengers to specific flights and arrival times — and the ESTA stuff is simply an electronic implementation of the old I94w visa waiver form which in turn was fixed in stone by Act of Congress (hence it still asking if you've been convicted of a "crime of moral turpitude" or if you were "a member of the Nazi Party").

Yes, the system can cope with ESTA-granted visitors returning periodically, and the APN requirement (advance passenger notification) is flexible enough that if your flight is cancelled or you get bumped they don't keel-haul you for arriving on the wrong airliner; but it's treated as an exception, not the norm.

An online application for "clearance to visit the USA (tourism/business) with flexible arrival scheduling" would be great, but it runs up against US primary legislation and CPB and TSA existing practices and baked-in IT systems.


Let's see, other things to think about:

What will be considered classical music in 2117? The Beastie Boys?. Will academy-trained classical musicians still be rapping in a century? If so, what will they be playing in the street. If urban soundscapes are any indication, the electrified 22st Century may well be a lot quieter than the 21st Century, and it will have a different set of background sounds and rhythms to inspire people.

Dance and other arts have the same issue. Will there be a street vs. elite division, and if so, what's on the street?


I was thinking more in terms of full cars vs. cars with only one person in them, plus better routing.

Objections to ride-sharing in self-driving vehicles (playing devil's advocate here):

* I have a compromised immune system. What guarantee do I have that my co-traveller doesn't have a mild throat infection that will give me pneumonia and hospitalize me?

* What guarantee do I have that my co-traveller isn't drunk-to-throwing-up or planning to spend the trip shooting up heroin? Or just being annoyingly conversational (at me, or at $FRIEND on their phone)?

* Assume I am female, young, and conventionally attractive: what guarantee do I have that my co-traveller isn't going to take a couple of hours alone in a car with me as an opportunity for harassment, or even violent sexual assault? (NB: this is the commonest reported problem, but: applies to any other vulnerable demographic.)

The objection that "you can always pay more to travel alone" is, of course, inherently discriminatory against people who are already marginalized/disadvantaged.


Religion evolves in Darwinian fashion. Instead of dying out as many atheists predicted, religion is experiencing its own Cambrian Explosion. The next century will see the greatest diversification and expansion of religion in history.

Religion didn't begin to wither away during the twentieth century, as some academic experts had prophesied. Far from it. And the new century will probably see religion explode—in both intensity and variety. New religions are springing up everywhere. Old ones are mutating with Darwinian restlessness. And the big "problem religion" of the twenty-first century may not be the one you think

ew religions are born all the time. Old ones transform themselves dramatically. Schism, evolution, death, and rebirth are the norm. And this doesn't apply only to religious groups that one often hears referred to as cults. Today hundreds of widely divergent forms of Christianity are practiced around the world. Islam is usually talked about in monolithic terms (or, at most, in terms of the Shia-Sunni divide), but one almost never hears about the 50 million or so members of the Naqshabandiya order of Sufi Islam, which is strong in Central Asia and India, or about the more than 20 million members of various schismatic Muslim groups around the world. Think, too, about the strange rise and fall of the Taliban. Buddhism, far from being an all-encompassing glow radiating benignly out of the East, is a vast family of religions made up of more than 200 distinct bodies, many of which don't see eye-to-eye at all. Major strands of Hinduism were profoundly reshaped in the nineteenth century, revealing strong Western and Christian influences.

The fact is that religion mutates with Darwinian restlessness. Take a long enough view, and all talk of "established" or "traditional" faith becomes oxymoronic: there's no reason to think that the religious movements of today are any less subject to change than were the religious movements of hundreds or even thousands of years ago. History bears this out.

Secularization of a sort certainly has occurred in the modern world—but religion seems to keep adapting to new social ecosystems, in a process one might refer to as "supernatural selection." It shows no sign of extinction, and "theodiversity" is, if anything, on the rise. How can this be? Three decades ago the British sociologist Colin Campbell suggested an answer. A way to explore the apparently paradoxical relationship between secularization and religion, Campbell felt, might be to examine closely what happens on the religious fringe, where new movements are born. "Ironically enough," he wrote, "it could be that the very processes of secularization which have been responsible for the 'cutting back' of the established form of religion have actually allowed 'hardier varieties' to flourish."

The essence of the idea is this: People act rationally in choosing their religion. If they are believers, they make a constant cost-benefit analysis, consciously or unconsciously, about what form of religion to practice. Religious beliefs and practices make up the product that is on sale in the market, and current and potential followers are the consumers. In a free-market religious economy there is a healthy abundance of choice (religious pluralism), which leads naturally to vigorous competition and efficient supply (new and old religious movements). The more competition there is, the higher the level of consumption. This would explain the often remarked paradox that the United States is one of the most religious countries in the world but also one of the strongest enforcers of a separation between Church and State.

One of the most remarkable changes already taking place because of new religious movements is the under-reported shift in the center of gravity in the Christian world. There has been a dramatic move from North to South. Christianity is most vital now in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where independent churches, Pentecostalism, and even major Catholic Charismatic movements are expanding rapidly. The story of Christianity in twentieth-century Africa is particularly noteworthy. There were fewer than 10 million Christians in Africa in 1900; by 2000 there were more than 360 million. And something very interesting is happening: ancient Christian practices such as exorcism, spirit healing, and speaking in tongues—all of which are documented in the Book of Acts—are back in force. In classic NRM fashion, some of these Christianity-based movements involve new prophet figures, new sacred texts, new pilgrimage sites, and new forms of worship.

"We need to take the new Christianity very seriously," Philip Jenkins told me. "It is not just Christianity plus drums. If we're not careful, fifty years from now we may find a largely secular North defining itself against a largely Christian South. This will have its implications." Such as? I asked. Jenkins paused, and then made a prediction. "I think," he said, "that the big 'problem cult' of the twenty-first century will be Christianity."


I'm also very sick of Christian terrorism, or maybe I should say Right-Wing terror in general. My thinking in this case is that the Saudis have made a great short-term decision if they want to have soft power. But it's a really poor long-term decision because of the huge number of both people and nations they have pissed off.

BTW, I personally would not handle the problem by "nuking Mecca" or shooting Wahabi missionaries, but I suspect things will go more that direction than the peaceful alternatives.

Just so you know how I think, my 9/11 fantasy was that we should confiscate all Saudi assets in the U.S. and use them to finance a tax holiday for a couple years, with the remainder of the money being used to pay down the national debt. Imagine the morale effect on Al Quaeda when the end result of their attack is a tax holiday for the victims. Aside from putting a much-needed restraint on Saudi impulses towards financing terror, it would also have been an enormous defeat for bin Laden. I would have done other things to end Islamic terror as well, of course.

I'm rather annoyed at this thread; its the best thread we've had for a couple months and I'm crazy busy right now, so I'm not able to give it my best. In fact, I'm out the door late just to give you this overly-quick reply!


Great posts!

China has a young retirement age (60 for men, 50-55 for women) which could easily be changed for budgetary/economic/labor-requirement reasons. Also, traditional medicine was never abandoned in China so is still in use, widely available and works fairly well and probably much less expensive than the drugs/medical treatments in the West. (Therefore age-related health cost estimates may be overstated.)


There are a bunch of big problems with this idea: religions are not species or even populations, they're clusters of ideas and identifiers. They also don't "evolve" even as bacteria do, primarily because people talk to teach other and swap ideas. For example, the founders of modern druidry and Wicca were friends, and that (along with the fact that many people are practitioners of both) is probably why they continue to look so similar to this day, 70 years down the line. I agree there is change, but it's not Darwinian and it isn't rational. I don't even have to go with all the death cults to point out the various forms of religious behavior that reduce the reproductive fitness of their practitioners, whether we're talking about them passing on their genes or their memes.

The second problem is the idea that "we're special now." BS. EVERY era has a lot of spiritual people in it, and most of them found groups that don't last very long. This was as true of Roman times, or the Ottoman Empire (look at the diversity of Sufis) or the Chinese empire (look at the diversity of folk cults: they'd even canonized the heroes of The Water Margin) as it is now. And that doesn't even begin to delve the vast majority of religious practices that were destroyed by the forcible proselytizing of both Christianity and Islam. A tremendous amount of spiritual diversity has disappeared in the last 2,000 years, along with linguistic diversity. Indeed, most religious/spiritual diversity is outside the big faiths, not within it, and we're losing that diversity to continued missionary work as fast as we're losing languages.

The bottom line is that we're not special. We just like to think we are.


Re: 'Go read some historical books. Your concerns are bunk.'

Not sure history books would have answers to all current problems.

Had also been thinking that increased humidity (known effect of global warming) could have serious consequences apart from a bumpier flight.


'Water sucked into the compressor duct is gradually evaporating. Normally water in liquid form is rejected due to the centrifugal force by the rotor blades on the surface of compressor duct and then flows towards the combustion chamber. This water can get into the bleed valves. If all of the water does not evaporate in the compressor or will not be removed by bleed valves can enter the combustor and may lead to the engine shutdown. Large amount of water vapor worsen preparation and combustion of the air – fuel mixture and moreover, water can rapidly (quasidetonation) vaporize becoming anaerobic filler of the air stream in the combustion chamber causing flame out.'

Plus, ...

'High humidity can also cause icing of the engine, which can occur in temperatures between +10 °C ... +15 °C and corresponding relative humidity. Icing formations depend on engine design, as well as inlets position on the airframe and their structure.'

There's a graph on pg3 that shows lift and humidity .. need lots more lift (fuel) in high humidity situations.

And yes, airplane manufacturers and airlines will probably address this at some point.


Pluto and Eris are kind of too warm for comfort, sensible people live in
the Oort clouds of, well, everywhere, now FUCK OFF your probes are too
damn hot...

Ah, Niven's "Outsiders"?


Increasing turbulence and humidity are known problems that could be dealt with, if necessary, by minor reengineering. Yes, they could get so bad that current aircraft could not fly at all safely but, by then, we would have really catastrophic problems on the ground.


( And Icehawk)
Thank you.
NOW it makes sense ( sort-of, anyway! )


Heteromeles noted: "There are a bunch of big problems with this idea: religions are not species or even populations, they're clusters of ideas and identifiers. They also don't "evolve" even as bacteria do, primarily because people talk to teach other and swap ideas."

Not so fast: without overextending this into the whole "religion as disease" metaphor, which I find toxic, there are more than enough parallels to consider an evolutionary model for religion. (Substitute "memes", sensu lato, for "genes" if you wish.)

First, there are large bodies of conserved genes (the holy scripture). These change slowly or not at all, except for periodic mutations (i.e., schisms and reformations, spawning of new subreligions).

Second, religions promiscuously exchange ideas the way bacteria exchange genes. Some of these exchanges are even "viral", pardon the pun. They can be replaced, outcompeted, or even defeated by other viruses (memes).

Third, religions are not monolithic; they exhibit considerable "genetic" variation, witness the dozens of flavors of Christianity. Those that no longer have what it takes to survive in a changing environment die out or are culled so that only "fitter" ones survive.

Fourth, like other microorganisms, religions may live largely independently or they may require hosts. Once inside a habitat, they may completely dominate that habitat (see "state religions"), or they may coexist with many other organisms (see the U.S. multicultural example). For those that require a specific host, they may be largely passive (commensal), parasitic, or even mutualistic. As examples of the latter, they may even reshape the host's whole metabolism (see "microbiome"), witness how conservative religion has crept back into modern U.S. politics.

Needless to say, I am not proposing this as a physically deterministic/mechanistic model for how the social world really works. And it's easy to extend the metaphor to reductio ad absurdum, as with any overextended metaphor. Just pointing out that as metaphors go, this one works quite well.


And, even living in London, with easy access by train to 3 airports, it may be faster by train, once you note the security-farce & checking-in-time fuckarounds.
Certainly faster for here to Paris or Brussel by train, probably Amsterdam or Antwerp.
Köln is slower - FUCK the Brit guvmint's security-paranoia re "Eurostar" & other trains, as without it, I would not ever need to fly for my normal travelling - excepting Dublin, which I expect to re-visit for the first time in over 50 years, quite soon.


"The Night-Blooming Saurian"
James Tiptree Jnr


That problem will disappear in 2019
Norwich Thorpe - Liverpool St - Crossral-1 ( Liz-line) to Theifrow.
Job done


“You live close to a major hub, don't you? Flint, MI is close enough to DTW, and DTW is a big-ass hub.”

Sure, DTW is an hour drive (~65 miles) from Flint, MI. I used to fly into DTW and my family would drive down to pick me up, a two hour round trip for them. Back then DTW was a Northwest hub and cost an extra $150 – $200 for a 17 minute hop to Flint (half the time flights canceled due to low booking). After the Delta/Northwest merger there were better flight alternatives. Also, current connecting flights to Flint are no longer made through DTW. From Austin, TX I have a choice between Minneapolis/St. Paul or Atlanta for connecting flights to Flint, MI. It takes between 5 to 7 hours depending on the layover.

Granted there is a huge difference between regional/continental flights and transatlantic or transpacific flights. We’re talking major time warp and traveling multiple time zones. Last time I flew to Europe was in 2001 (before 9/11), flying American from Austin, Texas to Frankfurt, Germany (with a transfer in Houston) for $445 round trip. Those were the days, today it costs me more to fly to Flint, MI.


because flying west means flying straight into the teeth a jet stream that varies between 60 and 150mph; coming back in the opposite direction, the airliner is surfing the same jet stream in the opposite direction.

Past #300, so,

Back around, I guess, 1990, I was taking a 757 on a direct flight from KSEA to KIAD and the pilot could not stop enthusing about how the jet stream was super-strong and in just right place and we were really ripping along. IIRC, we went gate-to-gate in about four hours.


"What guarantee do I have that my co-traveller isn't drunk-to-throwing-up or planning to spend the trip shooting up heroin?"

This is what everyone ignores about the autonomous taxi idea: the autonomous taxis will be full of piss, shit, puke, and used needles/condoms.


Maybe not.
Religious revival is a phenomenon of most religions & both the bronze-age goatherders' & the dark-ages camelherders' varieties are undergoing those, right now.
But, it almost certainly won't last.

Remember, education is the deadly enemy of any "revealed" religion, same as education is the enemy of women's slavery ( And, obviously the two are connected ).


Not necessarily; but the alternative is that they're as full of CCTV cameras and urea-sniffers as elevator cars in Singapore ("Singapore is a FINE country — $50 for littering, $100 for chewing gum, $200 for not dressing smartly in public ...")

Also, reputation markets can be gamed, even in the highly constrained paddling-pool of a ride-share app. (Afraid of a