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Tech-Related Futures and Their Impacts Upon Major Societal Issues

by Dennis M. Bushnell

The tech-related futures literature primarily concerns specific technologies and their societal impacts. This discussion is an attempt to provide a precis of the major emerging technologies and their impacts upon societal lifestyles and upon the increasing numbers of serious to existential societal issues. The discussion is based upon Bostrom’s Technological Completion Conjecture,1 wherein technologies are carried forward to produce useful capabilities.

Putative Deep Space Futures

Space business is currently approaching $500 billion a year and is composed of space science, national security space, humans in space, satellite communications, and imaging from space. These efforts are almost wholly “space for Earth” programs with strong business cases, becoming ever more capable and affordable due to the large ongoing decreases in costs of space access and to miniaturization.

Prospective Futures of Distance Education

Society is in the midst of multiple technology revolutions that are changing econometrics, national security, health, transportation, shopping, travel, cost of living, socialization, commerce, employment, and education. We have moved beyond the Industrial Age into the Information Technology Age, heading rapidly into the Virtual Age. In that process we are changing from physical activities to virtual activities, developing and embracing tele-everything, including tele-education, or distance education.

The Developing Econometrics Beyond COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic is and has been a singular event in the development of postindustrial econometrics, greatly accelerating several massive ongoing trends and technologies. The totality of these trends and technologies is changing and will continue to change where we live, our costs of living, independence, modes of transportation, econometrics, health, communications, housing, and the climate and ecosystem. By Dennis M. Bushnell

Digital Reality versus Air Travel: The Responsibly Imaginable

The development of digital reality (DR)—virtual, nonphysical presence—began with the telegraph, progressed to the telephone, then moved to telephones with screens, and now to computers. The nearer-term developments of DR include augmented reality and advanced virtual reality (VR), and it is heading toward five-senses VR and holographic projection. Going forward with the availability of ever greater bandwidth and direct machine-to-brain communications (bypassing the senses), DR is projected to be as good as, or better than, physical reality.

Broadband, Effective, and Affordable Approaches to Climate

Although we have had many decades of projections and warnings about climate change, it is only fairly recently that actual impacts have stirred serious societal interest in mitigation efforts. Such efforts will involve changes, and changes are always difficult. In fact, although renewable energy is a bedrock mitigation approach, they have been taken very seriously only as technology has reduced renewable costs below parity with fossil carbon. Renewable energy technologies are already producing some 25 percent of electricity worldwide and constitute some 65 percent of new generation.

Emerging Technologies and Their Implications

Starting in the middle of the last century, humanity embarked upon the largely serendipitous development of a wide spectrum of massively disruptive technologies, including information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, quantum computing, and energy technologies. These are projected to alter nearly everything, including precepts of the human existence theorem.

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