Monday, January 23, 2012

stuff I won't live to see

A whimsical meditation.

I'm sad that I won't live to see:

1. Korean taco trucks roaming the surface of the moon, selling their spicy fare along with bottles of oxygen.

2. Regen porno: regeneration technology will reach a point where we'll be able to sever each other's limbs for fun and not think twice about it. Come to think of it, such severing may become an alternative path to the fountain of youth: newly-regrown limbs ought to be much more vigorous than their decrepit counterparts... and since the skin is itself an organ ripe for removal and regrowth, I can imagine wrinkle removal becoming synonymous with skin removal. And why stop there? We could replace bones, muscles, internal organs-- you name it. A person could rebuild him- or herself every few years, and if even the brain can be regenerated, there's nothing to stop us from 100% rebuilds. This will initially be the province of the rich and privileged, of course, but will eventually trickle down to most of the rest of society. "I feel like a new man" will take on new meaning.

3. Shuttles to Jupiter's moons. And news of the first-ever politician to die in the oceans of Europa.

4. Solar system comm methods that use quantum entanglement to send instant messages from Earth to Pluto. Imagine how that will change our remote navigation of probes.

5. The evolution of cutting-edge molecular gastronomy. If this field could somehow be merged with biotech efforts so that we could produce pets that shit out our meals in clean, edible sausage casings, I'd buy several such pets. "Fifi the poodle-- handle the salad! Rover, you're on mashed potato detail! And Rico the chihuahua... you're making the Porterhouse steaks."

6. Asteroid homes for the very, very rich. Which brings up a thought: let's say you get two groups of people who see potential in asteroids. One group is the settlers who build biospheres on the larger asteroids; another group is the miners. This immediately brings up the question of debris management, because in both cases you'd be excavating the asteroids and flinging out a lot of rocks. What sort of shielding would we need to contain the flying debris? And since there's probably already free-floating debris out there now, what sort of shielding would homes and mines need? What kind of culinary culture would develop among Belters (Larry Niven's term, if I'm not mistaken)? I imagine a lot of mushroom-based food.

There's also the question of architecture: an asteroid home would be a hollowed-out asteroid, but since such rocks are irregularly shaped, you'd need to impart spin to produce a simulation of gravity. A given asteroid's irregularities would make such spinning problematic unless it were possible to add "ballast" to the asteroid to keep the spin on an unwavering axis. This ballast could be an aesthetic addition to the asteroid. Another, more complex, architectural possibility would be to affix thrusters to the asteroid so that one could have a maneuverable home (mail delivery might be a pain in the ass for the mailmen), and the hollowed-out interior could feature a huge, revolving chamber (again, to simulate gravity) into which the features of a home could be installed.

7. True AI. I doubt I'll see this in my lifetime, but because I'm something of a Kurzweilian functionalist, I think "strong AI" is possible. This won't mean machines that play chess well or are super-strong: it'll mean machines that handle new situations-- social, environmental-- with the same skill and aplomb that humans do: machines that speculate and wonder, that draw their own conclusions and have the initiative to act on them.

8. Detailed time-flow maps of our galaxy. Einstein's theories tell us that absolute simultaneity doesn't exist in the universe: time is woven into space as one integrated continuum; just as space and matter can be dense or thin, fast or slow, time flows differently in different regions of space. We may start plotting the flow of time and discover that time has "weather patterns."

9. Overcrowding on Mars. I expect a great deal of terraforming there, and with the thin atmosphere, plenty of genetic mutation. Mars might end up even more diversely peopled with life than Earth... unless we discover that it really is a planet whose resources have been spent.

10. First contact. Up to now, I think we can safely say that aliens have never visited our planet, and there's a real possibility that we truly are alone in the universe. But as we continue to discover just how numerous "Earth-like" worlds are (the amount of data we've collected in a single decade is insane), the chance that some of them may have evolved spacefaring intelligences would seem to go up. I suspect it's only a matter of time. Just not my time.


1 comment:

John McCrarey said...

I fear I won't live to see reincarnation...