[FoRK] Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The future will not be cool

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Mon Dec 3 16:21:45 PST 2012

It would take much more time than I have available this week to 
properly rebut many of the points here from Nassim / Antifragile.
The fact that we still eat food, find it efficient enough in some cases 
to walk, want to talk to other humans who are naturally reasonably 
animated is no surprise.  Except for a few cases (pervasive space and 
undersea habitation perhaps) this is likely to remain for most people 
for a very long time.

What these people don't get is how recent and groundbreakingly 
different is even the subtle and hidden modernity we have available and 
use frequently.  Even when we don't make use of flying around the world 
or to the moon, or extreme medical technology, we benefit from it 
directly or indirectly.  Just the fact that it is an option is a huge 
benefit relative to the past.

Even pervasive plumbing, clean water, constant power, easy 
transportation, mail, education, books(!), radio, TV, satellites, etc. 
are modern.  And that doesn't even get to the Internet, various 
services, massively powerful mobile devices, etc.  This is a 
ridiculously myopic and narrow complaint about people who, having 
understood the leaps of the past, look for similar leaps in the future. 
 The fact that actually created and accepted leaps are subtle is no 
knock to their power and significance.  Generally, on the contrary.

Clearly this person has a short memory, either because they are young 
or can't clearly remember the past.  I'm not that old and my current 
world is several orders of magnitude more interesting and powerful than 
my clear younger memories.

Yea, the Cessna's I learned to fly haven't changed much in 40 years 
(and in fact I flew 40 year old Cessnas many times), but I could 
afford, right now, the hardware that it would take to produce a self 
driving electric car.  That can take voice instruction.  And, with 
modest additional hardware and services, keep me in constant video and 
even 3D connection to a significant portion of the population and 
virtually all of existing knowledge any point on the planet.  And 
technology exists to power it for decades with a mini nuclear reactor, 

Even if we didn't evolve technology much and simply concentrated on 
getting things to market, our world would be much different.  Techies 
are alternately interested in what is possible and what is feasible, or 
good entrepreneurial techies are anyway.  What is possible is off the 
charts already, and still accelerating.  What is feasible jumps in 
random ways, often trailing the possible by long periods.

Are these people really hurt so much by overblown and misguided or just 
plain silly predictions that they must try to stamp them out, take away 
all the fun, and insist that people stop dreaming up crazy new worlds?  
Like a true visionary hasn't already heard that all the time already 
and developed complete immunity.

"I've seen things you couldn't even imagine."

On Mon Dec  3 10:20:51 2012, Ken Meltsner wrote:
> These things go in cycles -- there was a period where "new" was assumed to
> be better, which kind of ignored the sheer amount of development and

Re: pesticides, ignorance of radiation, etc.: Yep.
But then we swung the other way a bit too far sometimes: nuclear power, 
GMO (good to be careful, bad to be irrational).

> optimization over past centuries.  I remember weird foods associated with
> the space program that were, in retrospect, pretty horrible.  Detergents

Are you sure you remember what quality and availability of food was 
available to the bulk of the population "back then"?
If it (oranges, guava etc.) wasn't grown locally (apples, peaches, 
plums, and strawberries) or had special status (bananas), I saw very 
little of it growing up.  There were probably enough people for which 
Tang was an upgrade that it was attractive at one point.

> still beat the crap out of old-fashioned soap, though, and I think there's
> a fair amount of specious reductionism in the article -- equating high-tech
> running "socks" with well-calloused feet seems naive at best. And beer
> produced in modern industrial processes may lack flavor, but it's
> predictably mediocre and isn't likely to be sour or skunked.
> Besides, there have been genuine innovations driven by technology in the
> oddest of places.  Consider sous vide cooking which uses precise
> temperature control to change, sometimes radically, the texture and taste
> of common ingredients.  You could not have done this a century or so ago
> outside of a well-equipped laboratory, and probably not even then.  Now,
> you can do it at home in a well-insulated cooler or a slow cooker tricked
> out with a cheap PLC from eBay.  You might not realize it, but that
> medium-rare skirt steak may have been cooked inside a plastic bag for
> several hours, and then finished at high temperature to yield the right
> amount of carbon and flavorful carcinogens.
> Ken Meltsner
> On Mon, Dec 3, 2012 at 11:49 AM, Reza B'Far (Oracle)
> <reza.bfar at oracle.com>wrote:
>> Wow.  Is she for reals?  This statement is really whacked:
>> Consider the futuristic projections made throughout the past century and a
>> half, as expressed in literary novels such as those by Jules Verne, H. G.
>> Wells or George Orwell, or in now forgotten narratives of the future
>> produced
>> by scientists or futurists.
>> Uhhhhh.... Jules Verne, the same guy that predicted CORRECTLY a pretty
>> accurate depiction of a modern submarine?
>> This is not a very bright or well-rounded author.  Sounds like someone in
>> their 20's who thinks they have it all figured out.... what a horrible and
>> short-sided article.
>> *
>> *
>> On 12/2/12 11:32 PM, Eugen Leitl wrote:
>>> http://www.salon.com/2012/12/**01/nassim_nicholas_taleb_the_**
>>> future_will_not_be_cool/<http://www.salon.com/2012/12/01/nassim_nicholas_taleb_the_future_will_not_be_cool/>
>>> Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The future will not be cool
>>> Futurists always get it wrong. Despite the promise of technology, our
>>> world
>>> looks an awful lot like the past
>>> By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
>>> Topics: Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Books, technology,
>>> science-fiction, Life News
>>> Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The future will not be cool
>>> Excerpted from "Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder"
>>> Close your eyes and try to imagine your future surroundings in, say,
>>> five, 10
>>> or 25 years. Odds are your imagination will produce new things in it,
>>> things
>>> we call innovation, improvements, killer technologies and other inelegant
>>> and
>>> hackneyed words from the business jargon. These common concepts concerning
>>> innovation, we will see, are not just offensive aesthetically, but they
>>> are
>>> nonsense both empirically and philosophically.


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