The Difficulty of Prediction

“The reason that the future is difficult to predict is that it depends on choices yet to be made, including by our governments, in circumstances that remain uncertain. We ask questions about the future to inform choices not to succumb to fatalism. By stressing this aspect if thinking about war, peace, and the use of armed force this book provides a reminder that history is made by people who do not know what is going to happen next. Many developments that were awaited, either fearfully or eagerly, never happened. Those things that did happen we’re sometimes seen to be inevitable in retrospect but they were rarely identified as inevitable in prospect. ‘History’ as John Comaroff has observed, can be usefully studied as ‘any succession of rupturing events which together bring to light our misunderstandings and misrecognitions of the present.'”

The Future of War by Lawrence Freedman

Hubris And The Polemic

“Polemos appeared in Greek literature as war’s vicious personification. One of Aesop’s fables describes how, as the God’s chose their mates, Polemos struggled to find a partner. Eventually only Hybris was left. She was the goddess of reckless, arrogant pride, from when we get the word ‘hubris’. Polemos fell madly in love with Hybris and followed her wherever she went. The moral of the story was that the nations of the world should never allow Hybris to come among them for if they did war would not be far behind.”

The Future of War by Lawrence Freedman

The Boring Robot Apocalypse

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Which world are you living in?

 

Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 64,070 people died from drug overdoses in 2016. This has been accompanied by a 24 percent increase in the annual suicide rate between 1999 and 2014. Something dark is afoot in America, and as the public policy professor at Harvard named Robert D. Putnam says in the linked New York Times article, “This is part of the larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between poverty, hopelessness and health.”

Perhaps the sci-fi visions a future in which a sentient A.I. enslaves and then wipes out humankind isn’t what we should be worried about in the literal sense. As it is, a man whose body is his primary economic asset can no longer expect a living wage. 

What if the existential threat a digital super-intelligence poses to humanity is much more mundane, and already here? Instead of a fight to the death with a superhuman robot, man is quietly being faced by a devaluation of his physical world and forced to contemplate the worth of his own existence.

The answer to that question won’t come up lacking for everyone. At the same time, we can expect:

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But mostly for the rich.


While I get excited by technical progress I am also concerned by what we lose on the inexorable march toward Godliness. Perhaps that’s the modern Faustian bargain: greater material abundance at the expense of a deeper spiritual meaning.