How wide should CRN's focus be? Can we tell where responsible nanotechnology ends and futurist speculation begins? It's not clear that there is any obvious point on the spectrum where our concern should end...
Should we, for example, include artificial intelligence in our list of risks? Should discussions of a possible technological singularity inform our research and recommendations? On the other hand, ought transhumanist ideas like radical life extension, mind uploading, or man-machine hybrids be exempt from CRN's purview?
These are not easy questions to answer, and our choices are likely to shift as time passes.
Speaking of spectra, our friend and colleague Jamais Cascio recently posted a stimulating Open the Future blog entry. Cascio's ideas -- especially his futurist technology matrix (below) -- generated a lively discussion among members of the CRN Global Task Force (CTF), of which he is a member.
Another CTF member, David Brin, posted some interesting comments on his blog about how we can usefully represent belief sets about the future in graphic form. Brin quotes CRN's Chris Phoenix, who says:
The [Cascio] matrix can't really describe me, because it assumes I have a dichotomous view of the future -- that I see the future as either good or bad, either transcendent or mundane.
Now, I do recognize the possibility that things will go so sour that we wipe ourselves out, and I also recognize the possibility that we'll all live happily ever after, forever and ever amen. But my view of the future goes beyond ignorance about which of two choices we'll end up in.
I see the possibility of a weird superposition of states. We could all be happy slaves. Or we could be struggling individualists who have transcended today's problems but face bigger ones. Or we could split into a race of terrestrial couch potatoes and adventurous starfarers. Or...
Ask yourself this koan: Are we happier than our caveman ancestors? It is not only ignorance of the past that prevents us from answering.
If you have any thoughts on these random futurist musings, please enlighten us.