Updated: Nov 15, 2021
Simulation Technology for Ecosystem Wellness through Antifragile Resource Deployment (STEWARD) blog series - part 6 of 7 (part 1)
The STEWARD blog series focuses on how to win the Second Cold War. But that may be among the least of our problems. Here are some gloomy predictions for the next two decades. Not what anyone likes to think about, but it's no use burying your head in the sand.
Starting with the next ten years:
The pandemic will get worse. Only 16% of the world is vaccinated against existing strains and as new variants emerge the percentage required for herd immunity is far higher. As sick leave becomes the norm, we may need to train more people. Or more AIs.
As weather gets even more extreme (hotter heat waves, drier droughts, bigger storm surges and greater snowfall), and governments devote more of their resources to countering the effects, borders will blur. Climate doesn't respect lines drawn on a map, so governments may need to help each other more.
Open data will become unreliable - not just via fake news and deepfake videos, but databases. Russia is weaponizing AIS now. Will GPS be next? To save the dream of the Internet and Web pioneers, we need to act.
The next financial crisis will have a permanent effect. If the euro fails and cryptocurrency bubbles burst, governments may not be able to afford to bail the banks out again. Global supply chains run by multinationals may evaporate. Start buying local now.
Basic security will vanish. Quantum computing will make symmetric cryptography worthless. We all need to transition away from dependency on symmetric cryptosystems like RSA, ECDH and ECDSA and towards universal use of multi-factor authentication. Including people who don't understand that sentence.
A biological war will devastate the world. The pandemic showed us how unprepared global society is. But terrorists may not be. Al Qaeda’s spokesman Abu Gheith stated in 2002, “We have the right to kill four million Americans, two million of them children….and cripple them in the hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our obligation to fight them with chemical and biological weapons, to afflict them with the fatal woes that have afflicted Muslims because of their chemical and biological weapons.” We need to know which trained scientists would support such an aim.
Now 2030-40. Even more unsettling. Apologies in advance.
The seismic tech change will be the convergence of atoms and bits. In his latest trilogy, William Gibson refers to this as the Jackpot. In his vision, it follows and cleans up an interconnected set of apocalyptic events that wipe out 80% of the human race. And if you want a futurist, he’s the real deal, since for 40 years now most of his predictions have come true - the exceptions being a few early ones about sentient AI and aliens, a burst of youthful enthusiasm that he’s long set aside.
This is a lot more than chips with everything. Even more than 3D printing, smart clothing, smart buildings / streets, smart implants, ... It is about the metaverse encroaching on a reality in which computers are controlled by the mind. Cyberpunk writers have been forecasting since the 1980s that this liminal zone would be dominated by corporate machinations and underpinned by dark dealings in a half-lit netherworld. Right now, that’s exactly what is happening.
The world sat back while Bitcoin gave McMafia a route to market free from surveillance. What will bad actors do once virtual incentives drive real-world behaviours? If more than 70% of people would reveal their computer password in exchange for a bar of chocolate, think what they would do, isolated at home in a never-ending pandemic, for membership of an elite chatroom, powerful game items, or a Non-Fungible Token that gives early access to the latest Marvel movie. What freedoms would they give up? Actions would they take? Moves would they support? The attack on Capitol Hill was a shot across the bows from the metaverse.
That’s partly why I feel so strongly that we need to put in place a healthier metaverse - one that has a positive relationship with the real world. In this blog series, I propose the STEWARD initiative. Whatever route we choose, at some point governments must take a stand and build a sustainable alternative to what is currently forming. With the metaverse, Not Losing may no longer be an option. We have to Win.