Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Talk About the Future

This Thursday, March 14, 2013, I will be giving a talk at Vanier College in the auditorium (room A103) entitled "Robo Sapiens" at 2:30 pm.  The one hour presentation is about the reasonably near-term future of mankind: the next three decades.  It deals specifically with physiological enhancement by way of robotics and biomedical engineering as well as artificial intelligence and the technological singularity.

As most of my readers will not be in attendance, I will briefly discuss some of the content below.

In particular, I want to address the very notion of predicting the future.  Perhaps you have heard the term 'futurist' or 'futurologist' - such a designation befits a person whose predictions for the future are sought by industry, world leaders, and members of society.  It is a sweet gig: state what you think is going to happen in the world of technology, the economy, societies, and our civilization at large some time from now, and no one will fault you if you turn out to be wrong.  Who will bother to look it up?  Rather than dwell on the past, people will still wish for insight into the future.

What process does one use to predict the future anyway?  One usually examines historical trends, takes a close look at the current state of things and the directions in which they are currently headed, and then extrapolates forward.  The result is a guess, but an educated one.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Staying in 'Contact' with Carl Sagan

Though one of my personal heroes has been deceased for many years, he still touches base with me every so often through the amazing body of work that he left behind.  Carl Sagan, science guru extraordinaire, penned some tremendous science non-fiction, from Cosmos to Demon-Haunted World, but also a fair bit of science fiction.  I just finished reading Contact (1985), his first novel, which would eventually become a feature film (1997, the year after he passed) that I have yet to see.

Contact is a tremendous novel by many standards, but one measure is the extent to which it has permeated my consciousness, and it has a great deal.  While reading this tale of a message from an alien civilization and an eventual visit, and in the weeks since, I have stared a bit longer at the stars at night, captivated by the scale of the universe.  I wonder if there are beings on another planet looking up in similar awe at a view not so different from mine.