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back to article KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!

Coming advances in technology have a majority of Americans optimistic about the future, yet nervous about looming technologies, a survey has found. According to a Pew Research study, 59 per cent of those polled believe that technological change will make people's lives in the future "mostly better" compared to just 30 per cent …

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How about?

altering the DNA of their children to improve...their...serving as caregivers to the sick and elderly?

also maybe machines that can argue law at the same skill level as humans? I'd rather have less lawyers in the future rather than less artists?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How about?

Remember, this is the same public that thinks vaccines cause autism, the earth is 6800 years old, and aliens live amongst us.

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Unhappy

Re: How about?

You're spot on. Have an upvote.

We Americans have too many among us that listen to celebrities who, in the real working world would wear a paper hat and ask you if you'd like fries with that burger. We elect Congress critters that get to run NASA while believing (the Congress critter and his constituents) the universe is only 6000 +/- years old. We also believe that the government will protect us and we can give our personal info to anyone who asks because they wouldn't do anything evil.

This is also the same country that puts kids into school and expects the schools to teach them about sex, technology, popular culture and then we scream because the kid can't read and do simple math. And we teach our kids that they are the most important people in the world and that their feelings, wants, and desires come first and then scream like hell when they act on that belief and kill, rape, etc.

As for improving genetics, I've met way too many people who's family tree is a straight line and theyare proud of it.

</rant off>

Sadly, I've met an awful lot of intelligent and informed people but their voices get lost in the vocal madness of the majority who get their information and news from People Magazine.

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Bronze badge

Re: How about?

Second upvote.

"...though the study found that personal flying craft..."

Damn! But, they can barely drive on the ground, now they want to play rush hour bumper cars in the air too?!

@Mark, better the family tree that is a straight line than those whose family tree is lousy with tight circles.

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Silver badge

Re: How about?

> hey can barely drive on the ground, now they want to play rush hour bumper cars in the air too?!

If someone could find a cheap propulsion system for flying cars, then two things are obvious: if they were driven like surface cars the sky would be filled with carnage. So they have to be networked and robotic.

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Re: How about?

Dead on, Mark 85.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How about?

People Magazine? Probably. But don't forget about Fox Noise and all their conspiracy theories, as well as crazy false ads around election times, that for some reason, educated people actually believe without thinking for themselves. Maybe genetics to improve our intelligence isn't such a bad thing?

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Most of the things people regard as threats are what hope there exist for the future.

Robots & AI will never go to war against us, but are already better than us at many things (like driving) and may become better than us at everything even in the lifetimes of those who read this. The efficiency and skill of robots & AI will drive future productivity increase, and economic growth, even as resources peak and dwindle.

Gene modification is the way forward, not just to eradicate nearly all forms of disease and extend longevity, but in the medium term also for humans to keep pace with robots (by upgrading eyes, brain, muscles, reaction times...), and in the long term necessary for humans to spread to the stars (by tailoring our bodies to the conditions on the new planet).

That's the one-two punch that will take us through the upcoming resource shortages on this planet, and allow us to spread in the galaxy. It annoys me that the one is being opposed because of irrational bronze-age beliefs that we were created perfect in the image of an invisible friend, and the other opposed because of a string of successful Hollywood action movies.

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Re: Most of the things people regard as threats are what hope there exist for the future.

There is some concern about the possibility of an 'automation apocalypse.' Those robots may increase productivity hugely, yes - but they may also greatly reduce demand for labor. Potentially this leads to a collapse of the labor market, and as everything else in a free-market economy is entirely dependent upon a functioning labor market, the economy then follows in a positive-feedback death spiral.

It doesn't matter how cheaply the robots can churn products out of the production line if most of the population no longer have jobs to pay for any of those products - the current economic model provides no solution for this, as even if a factory of robots is capable of easily meeting demand there is no means by which it can continue to operate if the product is simply given away without payment to cover the running cost, however low it may be. This was the scenario predicted in the short story 'Manna' - the end point had most of the population of the developed world living in cheaply-made slum housing, where the government ensured they got the bare minimum of hand-outs needed to keep them from rising up in violent rebellion at the prospect of starvation.

There are proposed solutions to this, like a basic income, but these face a lot of political opposition and are of dubious economic viability at best - just look at how loathed the welfare leeches are today, and imaging trying to convince the population that the way forward is to hand out free money to everyone even if there is no intention for them ever to work again, funded by heavily taxing the few who do work or who own income-generating assets. There would be outrage.

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Re: Most of the things people regard as threats are what hope there exist for the future.

There is much potential in the field. The problem right now is that a certain Mr Hitler gave the subject a bad name. Most of his practices were founded in very poor science and motivated by misunderstood history of political reasons, but it doesn't matter - as soon as one starts talking about improving human genetics, people start shuffling uncomfortably and thinking about the gas chambers.

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Re: Most of the things people regard as threats are what hope there exist for the future.

Yes. There is no way around that the rise of machine labor will inevitably mean mass unemployment, and under the current rules of economy the result would indeed be that the vast majority of the population living in slums, surviving on handouts, while those who own the robotic factories lead lives of unimaginable wealth. It is actually even worse than that: the wealthy will have no use of the poor, and it would be in the interest of self-preservation for the wealthy to decimate the poor.

And yes, the best solution to avoid this dystopia would be extreme tax pressure on the owners of those robotic factories, combined with a "citizen wage" equal or nearly equal for all citizens. The biggest hurdle to such changes is the fact that the very rich already have a disproportionate influence in politics.

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Re: Most of the things people regard as threats are what hope there exist for the future.

Which really only leaves three routes I can see that a society could go down, assuming it reaches a post-scarcity state:

1. Mass unemployment and poverty. The idle and desperate poor would create a population ripe for rebellion, so a place state would be created to keep them in check. The scenario of Manna. The unwashed masses would be swept off to some out-of-the-way place to serve as a source of cheap labor for those few jobs that resisted automation, and kept pacified by tried-and-tested social manipulation techniques. Although resources would exist sufficient to transition to state three, there would be no means by which the masses could access them, and no incentive for the ruling class to compromise their own wealth and power. Manna's comparison is apt: Those with money to spare wouldn't wish to support a welfare state for the same reason that all of us can be aware of the poverty in the third world yet feel no great desire to donate more than a token sum to charities to help.

2. As above, but the police state fails: Violent revolution results, triggering a transition to state one or three. The situation is (rather correctly) interpreted as class warfare. Unfortunately history has shown that these popular uprisings don't tend to work out very well, and are more likely then not to end with a new totalitarian dictator in power.

3. Popular support manages to trump money. This is unlikely to happen in the US (Where 'socialist' is a dirty word) but is a potential route in much of Europe. Basic income established. Much fuss is made by the rich who find a substantial chunk of their wealth 'stolen' by the government, but the plan goes ahead. This results in a large unemployed population who can live lives of comfortable leisure. The upper class continues to live in unimaginable wealth while complaining bitterly that thanks to the government theft they can only afford twelve bathrooms in their mansion, and they really wanted fifteen.

Three may sound like a utopia, but it's also untested: No society like it has ever existed, or could exist today. It's been tried, but the socialist ideal always fails when scaled up beyond a small community. It's possible that vastly cheaper production combined with the organizational power of computers could change this, but there are just too many unknowns to say if it is remotely viable.

All of this depends upon post-scarcity, though. It's not guaranteed to happen, as such a condition would require major advances in several areas of technology: Robotics, energy production, transport, manufacturing, recycling. It may even be counteracted by depletion of natural resources.

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Re: Most of the things people regard as threats are what hope there exist for the future.

"Yes. There is no way around that the rise of machine labor will inevitably mean mass unemployment, and under the current rules of economy the result would indeed be that the vast majority of the population living in slums, surviving on handouts, while those who own the robotic factories lead lives of unimaginable wealth. "

"Beggars in Spain" by Nancy Kress

As scary and most likely prediction of the future as was William Gibson's.

Recommended reading.

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the future looks bright!

I'd better wear shades..

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