While space is too vast to imagine, and there are few who are actually capable of littering there, the orbital space surrounding our own planet is considerably smaller. In recent years, the number of launches and functional objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) have increased dramatically, and the amount of orbital trash from a variety of sources has grown at an even greater rate. Meanwhile, strategies to deal with potential problems in this arena are still problematic.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana, The Life of Reason (1905).
Since retiring from full-time future-writing (editing for The Futurist magazine), I’ve had time to catch up on some books I’ve saved on my shelves over the past few decades. Though I’ve gone about it backwards, I do recommend reading the past before writing the future. This might help us avoid the pitfalls that have contributed much to present misery.
It is a measure of the times to see economic sectors that have historically been substantial producers of byproduct waste take a hard look at what they have been ignoring. One such sector is the forest products industry, which had normally burned its sawdust—much like natural gas was initially burned off by the petroleum industry until they began storing it back underground elsewhere, initially in salt mines.
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.
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.
Once a year I try to check in on renewable power issues, and I believe that solar has the most potential but faces the most challenges.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that 43% of new energy capacity added in the United States in 2020 came from solar—the greatest annual increase to date. This additional capacity added up to 19.2 gigawatts (GW), and new installations coming over the next decade will be close to 325 GW, SEIA estimates.
A related element in this expansion is the repurposing of brownfields:
In Washington Irving’s classic short story, Colonial era slacker Rip Van Winkle wanders off into the Catskill Mountains and falls asleep under mysterious circumstances. He awakens twenty years later to a changed world. Most significantly, the British colonies experienced a dramatic political and military revolution during Mr. Van Winkle’s long nap. In place of the portrait of King George III on the sign of ye olde village inn—which is now a hotel—is an image of George Washington. This transformative wild card event would have been unimaginable twenty years earlier.
Not too long ago I wrote about the growing use of AI as a management tool to oversee online customer relations workers and human–robot relations in areas such as warehousing. Since that time, more information has come to light about moving AI decision making up the organizational ladder into human resources, including hiring and firing, and into other arenas, such as decision making in combat arenas.
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 idea of an animated talking head on a screen giving your annual review may sound fanciful, but AIs (of a sort) have been making headway in the worker oversight arena for a number of years. MetLife customer service representatives have been getting an ongoing review in real time in their screen corner with icons prompting them to “slow down speech,” “increase empathy,” and “up energy levels” (with a coffee cup) developed by Cogito.