Not Obama ?!?!
December 31, 2008 10:10 PM   Subscribe

What Will Change Everything? - the 2009 Edge Annual Question

[the editions of 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002]
posted by Gyan (25 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This shit is easy. The economy will change everything. What we thought was valuable wasn't. That means that manipulating wealth will be less valuable than creating wealth. That means that smart people will do things like medical research and engineering where wealth can be created, rather than finance where value can maybe but not actually be leveraged.

There's no technological Jesus, but there will be a pantheon of little saviors. Things that are actually good, maybe. Things that are worth what they cost and then some. I just got back from a new years eve party and when the clock struck 12 me and this girl were lonely together for a change. I'm pretty drunk, but what I think will change is that the smart money will be on things that are at the very least probably valuable. That's a big difference from eight months ago. People are sane now, and that's never a bad thing. I knew this guy and he was kind of a fuck up. A couple of years ago his dad died, and it was really sad. I was sad for him and I'm sure he was sad for himself, in the way that people should be sad, in the way anyone would be. But here it is a couple years later and he runs a profitable corn feed business. And there's no way that would have happened without sadness happening. He would have been doing psych experiments for money and borrowing cherry pickers for something to do.

So what will change everything is the need for change. No one walks to water unless they're thirsty. She was beautiful though, and I got her number. No area code though, so I'll assume it's 202.
posted by I Foody at 11:04 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


See? Everything's different now.
posted by erniepan at 11:16 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

Politicians say more taxes will solve everything.
posted by fleacircus at 1:14 AM on January 1, 2009

Wait, is this thread for bitching about pretentious "paradigm shifting" crap science writing, or are we supposed to make up our own predictions? Will adventurous posters try to take a linear combination of these orthogonal posting themes by sarcastically pointing out what won't change anything? Or perhaps what nothing will change?

Here's my prediction. First, what won't change: People will still be killing each other all over the planet over sundry bullshit. The war on drugs will continue and we'll still have 1% of our population in prison. The government will continue to wiretap phones, except now under some vague legislative mandate, as opposed to pure illegality. The people responsible for torture under the bush administration won't face justice for their actions (unlike people caught smoking pot in most states), thus perpetuating the cycle of government criminality the next time we get a republican administration. After if there are no consequences for breaking the law, then laws will continue to get broken.

Corporations will continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby governments in the interests of their board members. Notice I said board members. Universal healthcare would boost the share price of many corporations because corporations freed from paying for their employee's healthcare would be more profitable, but the billionaire board members and CEOs would have to pay more in taxes. So they'll pay lobbyists to fight it, on their shareholders dime.

Banks will continue to feed from the taxpayer tough without giving up anything, or even telling anyone what they're doing with the money. They'll pay their CEOs billions of dollars.

Next what won't change anything: iPhones. Friendfeed. Twitter. Facebook. Anything Web 2.0+
posted by delmoi at 2:37 AM on January 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Politicians say more taxes will solve everything.

More taxes would solve a lot of our problems. However, if they actually did say that it would be a huge change.
posted by delmoi at 2:38 AM on January 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Who told KEVIN KELLY a neckbeard was a good idea?

Huh, HOWARD GARDNER is a douche bag who totally misrepresents Gladwell's thesis.

Someone needs to explain the sapir-wharf thesis TIMOTHY TAYLOR, and let him know it's been disproven.

JOHN GOTTMAN needs to lay off the bong hits.

Someone needs to explain punctuated equilibrium to JUAN ENRIQUEZ. In fact, someone needs to explain to him the concept of a species.

STUART KAUFFMAN certainly managed to use a lot of words to say "Stuff will continue to change over billions of years!"

KARL SABBAGH: Let's give everyone a lobotomy!

MARC D. HAUSER: If we hacked up people's brains and rearranged them, they'd be able to imagine new stuff that had never been imagined before. That one is actually kind of interesting. He needs to hook up with some of the AI nuts, because these uber AIs could be a stand in for remixed-brains. I don't think it will actually change anything, though, because it would never actually happen.

And... I'm bored now.
posted by delmoi at 3:07 AM on January 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

delmoi writes "Here's my prediction. First, what won't change:"

delmoi (is the "moi", or does it rhyme with "soy") is like the son I never had.
posted by orthogonality at 5:04 AM on January 1, 2009

Politicians say more taxes will solve everything.
Libertarians say *no* taxes will solve everything.
They're both right. It's just that the solutions are different.

Personally, I think the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano will change everything. And I mean everything.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:04 AM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

For my clothes, nothing, not ever anymore.
posted by crapmatic at 6:31 AM on January 1, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell has a thesis?
posted by proj at 7:45 AM on January 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

What Will Change Everything?

Strange matter.
posted by eriko at 8:32 AM on January 1, 2009

Wait, is this thread for bitching about pretentious "paradigm shifting" crap science writing, or are we supposed.....

Somebody has a bad hangover.
posted by overhauser at 8:47 AM on January 1, 2009

Nothing will change everything. Having read Shakespeare and the Greeks, I say nothing HAS changed everything: people in the future will still fall in love, fall out of love, lust after each other, cheat on each other, be faithful to each other, fight each other, be fair to each other, be unfair to each other, be religious, be unreligious, be conservative, be liberal, be scared, be curious and want food.
posted by grumblebee at 9:05 AM on January 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Can we have a little love for what these folks are trying to do? First, there is a challenge to an implicit assumption in the question.

Our nervous system is biased for the detection of change.

For the most part, the writers are limiting themselves to their areas of expertise. But they are recognizing that they can only go so far:

(I)n many instances no models were better –and wiser –than the mathematical acrobatics we had in finance and it took a monumental crisis to convince people of the point.

There is an aspect of 'Know thyself' in this:

Alas, once again, the elders knew better –Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Arabs had a built-in respect for limits of knowledge.

This runs counter to wild speculation of the 1950's style 'infinite progress' predictions (see 'jet pack' and 'flying car.') Physicists and logicians grappled with this in the 20th century, but this more cautious approach now seems to be spreading through other disciplines.

(A) quote from Max Planck: "a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

These people are doing their best to jump-start the paradigm shift before they die. What is implicit seems a shift to the practical, a challenge to the philosophy of progress. To quote Dr. Ian Malcolm:

(Y)our scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.

(The last two quotes are not from the Edge site.)
posted by dragonsi55 at 9:09 AM on January 1, 2009

Metafilter: Never-Ending Childhood
posted by lukemeister at 10:17 AM on January 1, 2009

Nobody ever voted for printing. Nobody ever voted for electricity. Nobody ever voted for radio, the telephone, the automobile, the airplane, television. Nobody ever voted for penicillin, antibiotics, the pill. Nobody ever voted for space travel, massively parallel computing, nuclear power, the personal computer, the Internet, email...

And our politicians, our governments? Always years behind, the best they can do is play catch up.

Who are these people? How can they seriously make a list of innovations that include the Internet and space travel and massively parallel computing and nuclear power and then seriously make comments about government playing catch-up?

Furthermore, presumably if you believe in the market as the premiere mediating social institution, you ought to at least pause on the threshold of some statement like "Nobody ever voted for radio" and consider the cliché that buying is a form of voting with your wallet.

I think I can take the overall point that the impetus behind most of these inventions wasn't a premeditated referendum, and I think that's more or less a good observation. But making mistakes like missing government involvement in the development of the Internet and space travel ought to disqualify you from social/policy commentary for a few years, unless the goal really is to convince people that libertarianism as a philosophy has a pathological streak that corrodes the ability to see reality.
posted by weston at 12:54 PM on January 1, 2009

Yeah, this is easily the most annoying Edge Question and answers yet. It's interesting how these hard-nosed scientists (some of them) can't resist using the same bullshit rhetorical strategy as the rest of us: First, set up a straw man in the form of some supposedly widely held or conventional belief. Second, knock the straw man down by drawing attention to some leading edge development in whatever field you're promoting. Third, confidently predict some wild, speculative scenario, as if it were the logical outcome of the science described it step two, instead of the product of your psychological problems/political axe-grinding/or funding needs.

My disappointment in this year's answers may also be attributable to the fact that the Edge Question concept is more or less played out, and the feeling that since the crash, and the failure of our best and brightest to predict or prevent it, has devalued the pronouncements of all big brains. It doesn't feel like the right historical moment for speculation about change. As the economy and all forms of authority collapse around us, we're about to see some big changes very soon, predicted or not.
posted by Faze at 1:44 PM on January 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was shocked by the number of blithely fascistic predictions like perfect lie detection and violence/child abuse/ murder prevention without any discussion of the possible downsides of such controlling technologies.

The one about violence prevention was especially clueless-- presuming that all violence is similarly motivated and that taking away people's control over their behavior is a good idea.
posted by Maias at 2:27 PM on January 1, 2009

In my considered opinion: algae.

Trust me on this...we're on a verge of a complete energy shift, but it's not going to be most are expecting. It's going to be quiet, slow, and have more energy potential than any new search for fossil fuels. Nor will it depend on super-advanced technology.
posted by Kickstart70 at 5:36 PM on January 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Malthusian Information Famine: As information grows, noise begins to block out the information which is useful.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:39 PM on January 1, 2009

Metafilter comments.
posted by salishsea at 7:41 PM on January 1, 2009

> In my considered opinion: algae.

Do you have any suggested reading on the topic?
posted by simoncion at 12:04 AM on January 2, 2009

blog with links

google search
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:56 AM on January 2, 2009

STUART KAUFFMAN certainly managed to use a lot of words to say "Stuff will continue to change over billions of years!"

It's possible to accuse Kauffman of axe-grinding, in that he isn't saying anything he hasn't been saying for a long time, but to be fair, he's trying to summarize a complicated argument in a few paragraphs, and it's hard not to sound glib under these circumstances. The point is not that "stuff will continue to change" but specifically how things change, and what we need to understand in order to effectively manage change within our society and our environment. In other words, the value of any particular invention or innovation can only be realized in the context of an open-ended, evolutionary, interdependent "ecosystem" in which unexpected interactions are the rule. Whenever something new appears in an ecosystem (or a market) it creates a new relationship with every pre-existing element, and it is these new relationships which provide the raw material for new innovations. The number and variety of possible interactions is effectively infinite, as he illustrates by pointing out that the number of possible different proteins is far beyond what could actually be produced (1039 times the age of the universe if every elementary particle in the known universe was doing nothing but creating a new protein every second), that it is impossible to "simulate" or otherwise predict what will happen -- everything has to be worked out on the ground, in real time.

In the same way that the concepts of relativity and quantum mechanics slowly seeped into popular culture over the course of the 20th century, as a society we need to digest and internalize the concepts of self-organization, emergence, "co-dependent origination" etc. Because as a society we're still stuck in the old command-and-control paradigm in which "experts" make decisions and bosses give orders.
posted by dinsdale at 7:46 AM on January 2, 2009

John Brockman is a master publicist for the people he publishes. These "challenges" are about money, which accounts for the high bullsh*t level.
posted by cogneuro at 6:51 AM on January 3, 2009

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