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Table of Contents:

-The Drake Equation and what it may mean for us

-Possible catastrophic events

-Ways to prevent catastrophe

-Columns

-The Survival Plan

-Possible utopias

-Possible dystopias

-Book recommendations

-Movie recommendations

-Future technology

-Free literature

-Personal survival

-Public forum

-Links


Dystopian Futures:

If we avoid catastrophe (i.e. the end of the world or the fall of civilization), then we still face the very real possibility of a future where we are worse off then we are today.  Furthermore, technological advancement may make it possible for our future to be so different from our modern world that we can barely begin to judge whether the future is good or bad.  This page is intended to list possible dystopian futures - although, frankly, the authors of this website are not sure that there is a possible future that can definitively be called good - so some of these dystopias may actually be something we should hope for. Again, we would like to link each listed possibility its own page which would analyze the dystopia in detail.  If anyone has done a great deal of thought about a dystopian possibility, and would like to contribute to this page, please feel free to submit a written analysis to admin@thefuturewatch.com.  We will, of course, give full credit to any author whose analysis is used on the site.  Please include documentation for any controversial statements of fact.

The Income Split:  It's become quite common for political commentators to remark on how the income gap between the wealthy and the working class has rapidly widened during the last few years.  This trend is likely to continue.  Advancing technology will allow machines to replace workers in more and more occupations.  As a result, owners of capital (i.e. machines) will accrue a greater and greater return on their capital.  At the same time, anyone who does monotonous work (the sort of work that can be done by a machine) will find that there is less and less call for his or her services.  We already see this effect somewhat as a result of lowered trade barriers (we ship many simple, task-oriented jobs overseas), but advances in computer and robot technology will affect far more working class people than trade.  In the long run, we may see society divided between those who own the world, and those who merely survive on it's leavings. 

A Replacement Species:  If we keep researching, we are going to become adept at manipulating our genetic code.  As a result, it will be possible to redesign the human species.  If we restrict our tinkering to small changes (good looks, high IQ, health, etc.) then this advancement may cause only limited problems.  But, in all likelihood, some parents will want to give their child every advantage, and competition will probably lead to a series of more and more highly modified babies.  We may quickly end up designing children who are far beyond us in intelligence, do not share some common human personality traits, and are physically superior.  When there are a sufficient number of these advanced children, humanity will become obsolete, and we will only continue to exist on the sufferance of our successor race. 

A Better Tool Makes Us Obsolete:  If we keep improving computer technology at the rate we have for the past few decades, then computers will eventually make us unnecessary even for the most creative or intuitive tasks.  A sufficiently advanced computer could perfectly mimic the processes of the human mind.  Furthermore, once we build a computer that is significantly better at designing new computers than humans are, computers may get smarter at an exponential rate.  We may wake up one day to find that all scientific research is directed by computers, that the most satisfying works of art are created by computers, and that the AIs in our desktops make better conversation than any of our friends.  The best we may have to hope for is to be well cared for children in a nursery run by our machines.

TV Makes Reality Boring: 
TV won't end our interest in the real world.  But virtual reality might.  Even today, most people in wealthy countries spend a large fraction of their lives staring at a two-dimensional screen.  For many people, the effect on their lives is comparable only to drug abuse - they watch tv when they could be playing a sport, learning a skill, making friends, or connecting with family.  Virtual reality promises to be much more addictive.  Technology may advance to the point where virtual reality users feel like they are in a realistic 3-dimensional world - complete with sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.  In a rich, technologically advanced society, where it's simple to take care of physical needs, this sort of entertainment could easily prove irresistible to a very large percentage of society.  In virtual reality's defense, however, one could easily make the argument that it might not be so bad if everyone was happily plugged into their favorite virtual world, and no one had to live in or worry about the real world.

Democracy Dies:  Many people in Western societies believe that some version of a democratic government and some form of a free-market economy are the inevitable evolutionary endpoints for all societies.  Yet, they might be wrong.  China is modernizing rapidly, yet is retaining its authoritarian government.  Russia has rebuilt a version of its authoritarian system.  Religious fanaticism has scored victories against freedom around the world.  Corrupt, heavy-handed government intervention into free-markets is still a fixture even in the West.  Terrorism has demonstrated its ability to use Western freedoms against free societies.  During this next century, the world may see China grow as a powerful alternative to democratic governments, while at the same time, the West begins rolling back its freedoms in the name of anti-terrorism.

We Stagnate:  People point at the rapid pace of technological advancement as evidence that continued advancement is inevitable.  It is not, however.  We have achieved our rapid advancement by encouraging innovative thought and by devoting large amounts of resources to research and development.  A number of factors could combine to stifle future technological progress.  Ecological disasters may sap resources and cause wars.  Terrorism may cause wars and may cause governments to limit their citizens' freedoms - and thus their ability to innovate.  A growing retiree population may vote themselves money from government treasures and sap resources from working generations.  Each problem would make the others worse, and would take resources that are needed to adequately deal with the others.  Furthermore, new, unpredicted problems will continually arise.  Instead of being in front of our problems, we may end up playing catchup to the most urgent while our other problems get further ahead.

We Live in a Simulation: 
We might not even be here in a physical, biological, sense anyway.  We could be part of a complex computer simulation.  Or we might be biological beings living in a virtual reality world.  These scenarios actually might not be that bad, but you can make an argument that they're dystopias.