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November 12, 2017

7:19 PM

“Let’s talk about the future in two weeks. Nothing will change in just a short time.”

Francisco Miraval

I recently received an invitation by a man who said he wanted to talk with me about one of my favorite topics: the emerging future. At the last minute, he canceled the meeting. “Let’s talk about the future in two weeks”, he said. “Nothing is going to change in just a short time”. He was wrong. Very wrong, indeed.

Many things changed during those two weeks before the cancelled meeting and the rescheduled meeting. It is true that two weeks is an insignificant time compared to the 4,5 billion years of earth, but it is enough time for deep, irreversible changes.

For example, the government of Saudi Arabia allowed an intelligent robot, Sophia, to become a citizen of that country. (Sophia is known by her controversial statements about the future of humankind.) And Uber and NASA signed an agreement to provide autonomous flying taxis over Los Angeles by 2020.

Also, China announced the creation of a new encryption system for quantum computers, thus facilitating and speeding up the process of sending and receiving messages. And Russia, according to news reports, could possibly have the largest army of autonomous robots in the world.

And there are many other similar stories, including the growing use of virtual reality and artificial intelligence in nursing homes, the growing presence of intelligent robots able to “save lives” at hospitals, and the growing acceptance among Christian and other traditional religions of spiritual machines and transhumanism.

The key point for sharing those stories is that if you want to talk about the future, two weeks could be (and usually it is) a long time. Today’s future is different from the future that existed two week ago. The future is constantly changing. For that reason, what it could have been said two weeks ago, today is irrelevant.

Therefore, we can say that the man who wanted to talk with me about the future “miscalculated” the time needed for deep changes to happen. In fact, two weeks is more than enough time for those changes to take place. But he also made another mistake: he refused to recognize or accept those changes.

When I shared with him some of the stories mentioned above, his answers were “That has happened before” and “I heard about that years ago”. It is true that people have been talking for a long time about artificial intelligence, quantum computers, and robotic soldiers. But before it was a matter of science fiction or of future research. Now, it is actually happening.

I was thinking then what’s the best way to talk about the future with somebody unable or unwilling to see that the future is already here and that irreversible changes are happening, changes as deep or even deeper than any of the changes that happened in previous transitions from a historical age to a new one.

In fact, it is a challenge to talk about the future with a person who only sees the future as a continuation of his/her idealized, narcissistic, retro-Utopian past. 

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