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Using the Past and Present to Predict the Future

Our future is far from certain, but we can also make predictions about what the future might hold based on what we know about the past and present.

The newest episode of Anstandig on the Future does exactly that. Featuring an interview with scientist and novelist S.B. Divya about her new book, Machinehood, the episode looks ahead to what the next 100 years of humanity could look like.

Divya is an award-winning storyteller, but her studies of computational neuroscience and signal processing combined with her twenty years in the electrical engineering field give her plenty of science to infuse into her fiction.

So what does the future hold for humanity? Here are three (of many) possibilities that are discussed in the podcast.

The Advancement of Biotechnology

Humans have long been accepting the idea of letting technology help us. Hearing aids are the perfect example of leveraging technology to improve the function of the body, although they are an external treatment. There are more “invasive” procedures too, including intraocular lenses to improve eyesight.

The future of humanity will include a much closer relationship with computer-powered technology to improve the body’s function–biotech, for short. Some examples are more extreme than others, but companies such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink are working to bridge the gap between humans and computers with implants, or possibly even swallowable pills someday.

Currently, we use technology to improve our senses and mobility. In the future, by potentially implanting computer power inside of our bodies, we might be able to do a lot more…

A Shift in Consumer Culture

Divya’s novel, Machinehood, takes place in the year 2095. To do this convincingly, the book makes evidence-based assumptions about the future–years 2021 through 2095.

Dibya does this masterfully, and she chalks it up to her ability to use what she knows now to predict the future. As she explains in the podcast, “Any time you’re playing with realistic near-future fiction, you’re really just borrowing from the present and the past and recasting it into a slightly different setting.”

One of the main issues that stands between humanity and a brighter future is sustainability. For the population to continue to expand, we must innovate new ways to accommodate the growth.

As discussed in the podcast, consumer culture is one of the biggest obstacles we face. In short, to stay up-to-date with fashion, trends, and technology, we consume a wasteful amount of material.

A potential sustainable solution to this problem is a consumer culture based more on consuming ideas than physical objects. For example, imagine a future where we buy fabric that reconfigures itself into the most modern fashion designs we choose to purchase. In this way, we’re paying for the intellectual property instead of the physical clothing.

Science-Fiction Tropes Coming to Life?

It’s hard to watch a Star Wars movie and not think, What if?

With Dibya’s expertise in both science and fiction, we dive into which tropes we can expect to see in our lifetime and which might be more fiction than reality.

For example, as discussed in the show, human cloning is already possible but not practiced because of ethical reasons. Other tropes, like cold fusion, are unlikely to be possible any time soon–if ever.

What does the future hold for us?

We know nothing about the future. In most cases, we can’t tell what tomorrow may bring. But, thankfully, we can predict a lot about the future, and we’ve been doing so for years–both for scientific and entertainment purposes.

While details can’t be pinned down, it’s safe to assume this: with every passing day, humans will be learning more, doing more, and becoming more.

It’s exciting to see what the future holds.

Be sure to listen to Anstandig on the Future and read Machinehood, by S.B. Divya.


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