[FoRK] What will the big political issues be in the future?

daniel grisinger daniel at netgods.net
Wed Aug 4 10:12:44 PDT 2004

very interesting post this weekend on futurepundit.  what should
we be looking to as the big political issues in 20[1-5]4.

i have serious doubts as to any projections that feature
vinge's notion of a runaway artificial intelligence, but
this was interesting nonetheless.



What Will Be The Big Political Issues In Future Decades?

My readers, I have a speculative exercise for you: What will be the
top 5 political issues 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 years from now? Specify
whether your list is for the United States, your own country, the
world, or some other domain. For instance, if you think the United
States won't exist as such 50 years from now you can state "North
American Union" or Transatlantic Union". You can also specify more than
one political unit for a list if you think the list will apply to more
than one political unit. Post your own in the comments. I'll read what
everyone posts and then come up with a new set of lists in a new post.

Here is my first set of guesses.

United States 2014:

    1. Rising costs of medical spending for old folks.
    2. Low salaries and low labor market participation rates for
       the bottom quarter of society.
    3. Islamic terrorism.
    4. United States debt to the rest of the world.
    5. Funding for rejuvenation research.

United States 2024:

    1. High costs of medical spending for old folks.
    2. Funding for rejuvenation research.
    3. The continuing decrease in the demand for the least skilled workers.
    4. Genetic engineering choices for offspring personalities, cognitive
       abilities, and physical attributes.
    5. Islamic terrorism.

United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada 2034:

    1. Increased violence and other crime as all people become young,
       energetic, and motivated by youthful levels of desire once again.
       This will lead to a debate on whether governments should genetically
       reengineer the brains of criminals.
    2. Debate over reproductive rights as death due to aging becomes rare.
       Should anyone be allowed to have as many kids as they would like?
    3. Widening cognitive gap between the intellectually enhanced offspring
       and the older generations.
    4. Political rights of artificial intelligences and allowable programming
       for their motives and values.
    5. "Uplift" of other species with enhanced intelligence and allowable
       mental qualities of uplifted species. How smart are we going to
       allow our dogs to become? Even smarter than Border Collies?

World 2044:

    1. Migration of cognitive elites to other planets.
    2. Creation of new sovereign states by forced shifting of populations
       to separate cognitively incompatible groups. The sorting will be
       based not just on IQ (or even chiefly on IQ). Desires, values,
       religiosity, and other cognitive differences will become too great
       to allow harmonious existence of some groups with each other in the
       same society.
    3. Religious escalating to armed conflicts will flow from genetically
       engineered causes of differences in religious beliefs and values.
    4. Rivalry between large artificial intelligences.
    5. Debates about cognitive qualities allowed in new biological life forms.

World 2054:

    1. Humans controlled by artificial intelligences.
    2. Cyborgs that are smarter than any human.
    3. Wars between artificial intelligences.
    4. Possible devastation by nanotech goo.
    5. The high level of determinism achievable for the values and
       preferences of newly created intelligences.

One theme running through these lists my view that cognition, whether human,
animal, or artificial, will become the central issue of the future. What are
allowable patterns of cognition? Once desires and values become programmable
the Western rights-based view of the brain as a sovereign entity is going to
run into the problem that technology will be able to be used to create
intelligences that have little or no respect for the rights of others.
Also, some intelligences will be engineered to have respect for the rights
of only well-defined subsets of all sentient beings.

It is hard to guess the relative times at which various technologies will
become available. For instance, as soon as personal DNA sequencing becomes
cheap then each woman making a reproductive decision will be able to decide
on a potential mate or sperm donor based on much more accurate projections
of offspring intelligence and personality than is now the case. But when
will DNA sequencing become cheap enough to provide a strong incentive for
women to become aggressive practitioners of eugenics?

Also, when will rejuvenation therapies become available? That will determine
how far the finances of Western nations deterioriate before rejuvenation
therapies allow older folks to return to the labor force. When those
rejuvenation therapies do become available how expensive will they be
initially? How long will the expensive phase last and how much political
conflict will it produce?

I have a harder time predicting when and if we will get wiped out by
nanotech goo or taken over by artificial intelligences. The achievement
of an artificial intelligence singularity where computers become smart
enough to accelerate scientific and technological progress by orders of
magnitude could make predictions about the 2040s and 2050s (or perhaps
even the 2030s) impossible to make. Yet struggle between conflicting wills
seems inherent to intelligences no matter how fast and powerful the
intelligences become.

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