Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Predictions for 2030

I have no idea what will happen to the euro in the next month. And whatever happens will have big consequences. Yet I was willing to make predictions for 2030 about lbr, driverless cars, solar power and education in my last post.

The thing is I think I am cheating with technology predictions. Theres a wildly unpopular branch of Marxism that argues for technological determinism. Marx can be interpreted as saying that our technology is inevitable and will change us in unavoidable ways. "The windmill gives you society with the feudal lord: the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist"

After reading "What technology wants" by Kevin Kelly I am a convinced technological determinist. There is a podcast from Kelly on technology at econtalk

The book makes a compelling case that

1. You cannot shut yourself off form technological change. The Japanese tried it and failed. The Amish dont try it, they stay about 50 years behind on average but they do not avoid new technology forever.

2. No technology ever dies out.

3. Each new technology is an inevitable consequence of the last. No one person of country can cause or prevent a new technology, though they can shape its exact form.

Almost all patents of significant technologies have multiple very similar independant patents lodged at nearly the same time. Airplanes, radio, transisters, computers, television whatever you can think of about three guys thought of it and implemented it independantly within a few months of each other. This suggests that once the right prior technologies exist the next one is inevitable.

Kevin Kelly: What Technology Wants

Keynes wrote about 2030 in 1930 in the article “The Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” which has been surprisingly on accurate for the last eight decades. So I am betting it will continue to be for the next two. He made brought claims about future growth rates that have been accurate. I will make similar claims now. Given that I dont think non technological predictions can be made I am going to try anyway
1. Grinding poverty will be gone. This is a low bar of 365 dollars a year in 1990 dollars. Thats really bad. Much worse than medieval England but it is one I think we can reach.

2. Polio and guinea worm will be eradicated.

3. World population will be slightly lower than the medium UN estimate of 8321380. The high is 8776486 and the low is 7867332. So I will guess 8250000.

This is just a few predictions based on the world continuing to go the way it has for the last two hundred years. But like I said I cannot predict what will happen to the cash in my pocket over the next two months so two decades away is being ambitious. If you have any predictions for 2030 please put them in the comments. It might be fun for the floating brains in a jar to laugh at them at the time.

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