Back in 1984, technology leader Nicholas Negroponte was able to predict, with surprising accuracy, e-readers, face to face teleconferencing and the touchscreen interface of the iPhone.
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Forty years ago for Radio Times, the scientist and broadcaster James Burke predicted events in 1993. He got a lot right. So we asked him in to PM this afternoon to predict the future. The sound begins with an actor reading from the original article, written by Tony Peagam.
Noted author and futurist Vernor Vinge is surprisingly optimistic when it comes to the prospect of civilization collapsing.
“I think that [civilization] coming back would actually be a very big surprise,” he says in this week’s episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “The difference between us and us 10,000 years ago is … we know it can be done.”
Vinge has a proven track record of looking ahead. His 1981 novella True Names was one of the first science fiction stories to deal with virtual reality, and he also coined the phrase, “The Technological Singularity” to describe a future point at which technology creates intelligences beyond our comprehension. The term is now in wide use among futurists.
But could humanity really claw its way back after a complete collapse? Haven’t we plundered the planet’s resources in ways that would be impossible to repeat?
“I disagree with that,” says Vinge. “With one exception — fossil fuels. But the stuff that we mine otherwise? We have concentrated that. I imagine that ruins of cities are richer ore fields than most of the natural ore fields we have used historically.”
That’s not to say the collapse of civilization is no big deal. The human cost would be horrendous, and there would be no comeback at all if the crash leaves no survivors. A ravaged ecosphere could stymie any hope of rebuilding, as could a disaster that destroys even the ruins of cities.
“I am just as concerned about disasters as anyone,” says Vinge. “I have this region of the problem that I’m more optimistic about than some people, but overall, avoiding existential threats is at the top of my to-do list.”
Many of us like to believe that there’s a little magic behind the making of a hit single. David Meredith, CEO of Music Intelligence Solutions, says there’s no magic in that; it’s math.
What new technological developments will change our lives in the months and years ahead? A radio interview wirh futurist and technology forecaster Paul Saffo.