Monday, April 7, 2014

How Should Humanity Steer the Future?

Time for the annual FQXi essay contest:
Contest closes to entries on April 18, 2014. ...

The theme for this Essay Contest is: "How Should Humanity Steer the Future?".

Dystopic visions of the future are common in literature and film, while optimistic ones are more rare. This contest encourages us to avoid potentially self-fulfilling prophecies of gloom and doom and to think hard about how to make the world better while avoiding potential catastrophes.

Our ever-deepening understanding of physics has enabled technologies and ways of thinking about our place in the world that have dramatically transformed humanity over the past several hundred years. Many of these changes have been difficult to predict or control—but not all.

In this contest we ask how humanity should attempt to steer its own course in light of the radically different modes of thought and fundamentally new technologies that are becoming relevant in the coming decades.

Possible topics or sub-questions include, but are not limited to:

* What is the best state that humanity can realistically achieve?

* What is your plan for getting us there? Who implements this plan?

* What technology (construed broadly to include practices and techniques) does your plan rely on? What are the risks of those technologies? How can those risks be mitigated?

(Note: While this topic is broad, successful essays will not use this breadth as an excuse to shoehorn in the author's pet topic, but will rather keep as their central focus the theme of how humanity should steer the future.)

Additionally, to be consonant with FQXi's scope and goals, essays should be sure to touch on issues in physics and cosmology, or closed related fields, such as astrophysics, biophysics, mathematics, complexity and emergence, and the philosophy of physics.
I am drafting a submission, based on recent postings to this blog. No, I am not going to shoehorn anything about quantum computing, as that subject may have gotten me blackballed in the past.


  1. "How Should Humanity Steer the Future?"??? Ok. This is not a good question at all, or a suitable premise for anything other than misery. Please examine the subtext carefully before you even think of answering it. The subtext is quite plainly "How should we control humanity?" I placed the 'we' in the question since the original question overtly tries to avoid attributing who is doing the 'steering' (this is common in the 'official style' of political rhetoric). If humanity was supposed to 'steer' the future, why would you ask the question? You wouldn't unless you weren't really talking about humanity doing the steering at all, which is why under an asterisk it is revealed what is actually meant is "What is YOUR PLAN for getting US there? WHO implements THIS PLAN." The emphasis is mine to draw attention to what is really going on under this flimsy fig-leaf of benevolence is actually more about compulsion. This is about who gets to control people, and how they should do it.
    1. First question: The use of the word 'steer'. It means direct or guide or control the course of, or as a noun it can mean 'castrated male bull'. All of which ominously begs the question of "WHO should be steering", and for what purpose. 'Control' and 'power over' are synonymous where abstractions like 'humanity' are concerned.
    2. Second question: "The BEST state that humanity can achieve". What the hell does that mean? What is 'best'? Best for who exactly? According to you? According to the government? According to scientists who think they know better? This kind of rubbish is what empowers everything from eugenics to thought crimes, to the police state. Humanity is composed of individual human beings, not robots, and applying the word 'steer' or 'best' to mankind is the problematic stuff of all nightmares and dystopias ever written about. One size of 'best' can never fit 'all' (outside of communist or collectivist literature), and in almost all cases, it should only be determined by the person for themselves, not by the state.
    Any kind of technocracy sounds like hell to me, especially since it would appear many scientists have readily forgotten the difference between political advocacy and scientific objectivity, and why the two are not compatible without a serious conflict of interest.

  2. CFT, I like the way you think. Consider submitting an essay.

  3. Ditto. I immediately began obsessing on "steerage". Will try to cobble together something to save the planet P.S. don't feel bad, my film script got blackballed too.

  4. Some of the submissions are online already. Expect some goofy ideas.