Hello, NECSS Workshop participants,
Here are some articles and other resources that I mentioned in my talk on "Viewing Futurism Skeptically," along with a couple of comments that I'd intended to make but didn't, either for lack of time or temporary amnesia. Enjoy! If you have any questions, feel free to use my site's Contact form. And of course, you're more than welcome to follow my ongoing nonsensical chatter on Twitter at @tvjrennie.
To understand professional futurists, remember that their primary job as they see it is not to predict the future. It's to get people to think about the future so that they're better prepared for it. I once ran into a wonderful comment by a futurist that I'll paraphrase: "I don't care about being right or wrong. I care about being useful."
Here's a PDF of my slides.
- Here's a news report on the Harris poll showing that the U.S. public is (surprisingly?) blasé about owning self-driving cars: http://www.zdnet.com/article/self-driving-cars-are-the-future-but-you-wont-be-buying-one/
- Here's a news summary of the Lux Research findings that the penetration of fully self-driving cars into the market might be only 8% by 2030. http://www.zdnet.com/article/self-driving-cars/
Fusion and its problems:
- An Amazon.com link to Charles Seife's book, Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking.
- A Slate article by Charles Seife that summarizes some of the arguments against fusion power: "Fusion Energy’s Dreamers, Hucksters, and Loons"
- A PDF of Matthew Moyer's article for Scientific American that points out engineering and other problems plaguing fusion: "Fusion's False Dawn"
- A concise summary from Vox about fusion's problems: "Nuclear fusion could be the perfect energy source — so why can't we make it work?" by Susannah Locke
- Four articles about Lockheed-Martin's claims that it will soon deliver a working prototype of an innovative compact fusion reactor: from MIT Technology Review, Aviation Week, Space Daily, and Physics Today. And here's Lockheed-Martin's own page about it.
Ray Kurzweil, his predictions, and my own interactions with him:
- First, you should have proper background information on Ray Kurzweil, so here's the biography of him from his own site and the Wikipedia entry about him.
- Here's my article for IEEE Spectrum, "Ray Kurzweil's Slippery Futurism," in which I was first critical about his futurism.
- And here's a related post I wrote for my blog, "The Gleaming Retort," on PLOS Blogs, that refers to other observers' criticisms of Kurzweil's understanding of neuroscience.
- Here's the response that Kurzweil wrote to rebut my IEEE Spectrum article.
- Here's my response to his rebuttal.
- We didn't talk about this in the workshop, but here's a review I wrote for Scientific American of a movie about the Singularity, Kurzweil, and his personal pursuit of immortality: The Immortal Ambitions of Ray Kurzweil: A Review of Transcendent Man.
- And here's a special surprise—something I didn't know about during the workshop but only discovered while pulling together this reading list. It's a list of predictions that Kurzweil made this past January for the next 25 years! Take a look at them and see what you think of them. You'll see that the article, which is by the entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, includes a kind of apologia that it doesn't really matter whether the predictions are exactly right or not because what's important is that we think about these issues. Okay. But you'll notice that Kurzweil also keeps emphasizing how accurate he is, which sounds to me like he's trying to have it both ways.
Predictions about 2015 made by The Institute for the Future in 2005:
- Here's the full report by the futurist organization The Institute for the Future.
- Here's a guide to a map that the Institute created that summarizes what was predicted.
Read and enjoy, and feel welcome to get in touch if you have questions or want to share your thoughts. —JR