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Future Imperfect Technological Revolutions That might happen That might change the world And how to deal with them.

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Presentation on theme: "Future Imperfect Technological Revolutions That might happen That might change the world And how to deal with them."— Presentation transcript:

1 Future Imperfect Technological Revolutions That might happen That might change the world And how to deal with them

2 Everyone is too conservative: A true story Graduation talk by Norman Minetta, ex- secretary of transportation “Some day, perhaps a century from now, someone puts key in ignition, car doesn’t start, because no more gasoline in the world Wrong twice over: – Economics wrong—slow price rise, not surprise – More importantly, view of the future wrong Assumes we still use cars, ignition, … in 100 years A hundred years ago we used horses

3 Transport a Century Hence Electric cars, natural gas, hydrogen, … ? Solar powered ultralight airplanes? Teleportation as in Star Trek? Or Do it all in Virtual Reality – Why move your body? – “Let your fingers do the walking.” We don’t know, can’t know, how it will be done Very unlikely to be automobiles burning gasoline Even today, many cars don’t use a key in the ignition

4 Two Topics Technologies that might revolutionize the world – Internet, Encryption, VR, Surveillance, A.I. – Biotech, nanotech, – Cryonic suspension, life extension, mind drugs How they affect us and what to do about it – They change what we can do at what cost – Wrong answer: Keep doing what we were doing – Right answer: Why were we doing it? What is now the best way of achieving that objective?

5 Change what we can do “Every phone in America tapped?” – Movie: The President’s Analyst 1967 – Not so funny now What changed: – Wire taps limited mostly by labor cost – We have speech to text software, and … – Computers work cheap Solution? – Laws against wiretapping? Experiment tried – Solution? End to end encryption

6 The Death of Copyright Internet, eBooks, make enforcement very hard Do whatever it takes to enforce? – Every computer in the country open to search? – Every computer modified to be unable to copy anything without permission? – Looks like burning down the stable to get rid of the bugs Solution? Find other ways of getting paid to create

7 Examples Control only large scale copying – I can pirate Word, my university cannot – Because someone with a grudge will inform on them Technological protection: Digital barbed wire – Impossible for works fully revealed in one use: The Analog Hole – Possible for a data base such as Lexis or Westlaw – Or World of Warcraft Give I.P. away, get paid indirectly – Software that only runs on your computer – Give away the songs, sell tickets to the concerts – Make a reputation with books, be paid for lectures, consulting

8 Defamation Online Defamation law works poorly when – Someone with no assets can slander you to the world – Anonymously The same technology that makes suing harder makes answering easier – On Usenet, I could search a million posts for my name every day. If one requires an answer … – Put it in the same thread, where the same people will read it – Should work for Facebook, G+, today What about the Web?

9 Answering on the Web You put up a webbed slander – I can answer on my web page, but … – Those who read yours may not see mine Solution: A backlink browser – Shows what links to the page as well as – What the page links to Problem: Arguably violates copyright law – Because your page + backlinks is a derivative work – Which was a legal issue in the framing controversy So prevent slander on the web by – Not interpreting copyright law – In ways that block the (a) solution

10 New Technologies also change facts on which our approximation depends Law, language, thought use approximate maps of the world – Everyone is male or female – Alive or dead – … Some examples where the approximation breaks

11 “Mother” is well defined? The child with 5 parents—a real case Husband infertile, wife doubly infertile – Could not produce a viable egg, or – Bring a fetus to term They hire a sperm donor, egg donor, host mother – Problem solved. Baby born. At which point – The couple get divorced – Who are the legal parents? Literal reading of the law gives the wrong answer Court instead defined parenthood by intention Imagine future harder versions of the problem

12 Everyone is Alive or Dead? You are dying of a presently incurable disease – Have your body frozen—carefully – In the hope that it will be possible to revive you – And cure you. Some day. – Cryonic Suspension Are you alive or dead? – Is your wife a widow? – What happens to your property? – Was freezing you murder? – Is destroying your frozen “corpse” murder?

13 Privacy x3 Public key encryption could give us more privacy than humans have ever had – Combine anonymity with reputation – In a cyberspace where conversations are invisible to everyone else – A world where force is impossible Surveillance technology could give us less – If combined with face recognition – And database tech

14 What if we get both? Can we control the realspace/cyberspace interface? – Encryption is of no use if a video mosquito is watching you type – Type under a hood? Brain to computer link? What matters to us? – If almost everything important happens online – Realspace surveillance has nothing to watch

15 Doing Business Online Anonymous ecash (which bitcoin isn’t yet) – Allows transactions the state cannot see – Makes money laundering laws unenforceable – And collecting ransom on kidnapping safer – But with enough privacy, nobody knows who to kidnap Contracts online, possibly with anonymity – Hard to enforce in courts – But cyberspace provides wonderful tools – For reputational enforcement

16 Biotech The stealth reproductive technology – – Paternity testing alters the ancient rule on which human mating patterns have always been based – With what consequences? Designer babies: How to pick and choose genes Life extension – We are all suffering from a fatal disease: Aging – What if we find a cure? – How does the world change? – What sort of life would you choose to live? “It’s a wise child that knows its father”

17 Nanotech The idea: Engineering at the atomic scale – Up side: Cell repair machine – Down side: Grey goo scenario. Tailored diseases. Can we prevent that down side and others? – Some argue for enforced restrictions on nano – But who is most likely to build destructive tech? – Setting the fox to guard the hen house? Two uses: Offensive and defensive – Market demand for defensive much larger – So unless offensive much easier … – We might be safe. – Evidence so far: Living creatures are nanotech

18 Artificial Intelligence What am I? – Arguably, software – Running on the hardware of my brain Computers get better, we learn more – How soon before human level A.I.? – Kurtzweil’s estimate was 30 years Computers keep getting better, we don’t – So in 40 years we are Gerbils – Better hope they like pets

19 Kurzweil’s Solution We develop better mind to machine links We learn how our minds work We do more and more of our thinking – Outside our heads – In silicon So as computers get smarter, we get smarter too

20 Virtual Reality Current version: Screen and speakers. WoW Deep VR: Cracking the dreaming problem – Full sense illusion piped into the brain – In real space we are poor, in cyberspace rich – Eating soybeans, tasting filet mignon – Living in tiny cubicles – That to us are mansions on the Pacific coast Is this Heaven or Hell? – Nozick’s experience machine – Is everything that matters inside our heads? With encryption we get privacy back Also Nozick’s Utopia

21 Mind Drugs x 3 Drugs that affect the mind can be used for – Pleasure (Alcohol, Marijuana) – Performance (Alcohol, Ritalin, Steroids) – Control (of other people) (Alcohol, …) We are getting better at it What happens when we have – Really good pleasure drugs? Niven’s wireheads – Credulity drugs? – Obedience drugs? We might defend against them by – Unobtrusive testing (exists) – Nanotech monitor and filter of the bloodstream – Laws requiring blood tests before a binding contract?

22 Some Conclusions Change can be very fast and unpredictable – Why I mostly limit myself to the next 30 years – Past that the future fades into mist Possible downsides – Global warming a pretty wimpy catastrophe – At least three ways of wiping us out faster – A.I., Nanotech, Biotech Upsides. Everyone brilliant and immortal. Stop this train I want to get off? – This train has no brakes – And China is one reason why

23 How Can Progress Make us Worse Off? First guess: Can’t. – Technological progress lets us do more – Of what we want to do. No problem. My being able to do more is good for me But your being able to do more might not be – Tap my phone – Drug me to believe you – Create a disease tailored just for me

24 An Economist’s Answer The coordination problem – In a world of many different people – How do we get them to coordinate – To get anything done? Two answers, one of which doesn’t work – Obvious answer: Central control – Answer that scales: Decentralized coordination Some version of private property and trade Everything belongs to someone, if I want to use you or your stuff I make you an offer you are willing to accept

25 For That to Work We need some way of dividing up the world – Into pieces called property – Such that what I do with mine mostly affects me – Small scale violations of that can be dealt with By contract if they affect few others By tort law if they affect many or unpredictable others Technological progress makes us more powerful – Which might mean longer range effects – Making it harder to divide the world – Fireworks displays are fun, a bit of a problem, but … — Suppose we did them with nuclear weapons?

26 On the Other Hand Technological progress might also make it easier to control and observe effects Use computers to negotiate more complicated contracts to deal with interactions Protect ourselves against injury, accidental or otherwise – Tailored diseases no problem – If I have cell repair machines fixing everything Nuclear fireworks shows are no problem In virtual reality

27 Welcome to an Interesting Century

28 To Read More Future Imperfect in print and online free from my web site: Along with a lot of other stuff My blog: But you may need a proxy server to read it


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