What Would You Say To People In The Future?

If you had a chance to convey a message to future generations, what would you say? What would you hope to communicate?

Speaking to the past is easy. For instance, here at Intellectual Roundtable, we previously asked the question: What advice would you give your past self?

Such a question is relatively common in our society, and it is easy to see why. Even though to your past self, the future is a mystery, your present self knows what happens. You have the advantage of knowing how it all turns out.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What are you waiting for?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Are science and religion compatible?’


However, to your present self, the future is unknown, perhaps even unknowable. So what do you say to the unknown?

You might even have some idea of what to tell yourself a decade on (or more). But what about someone a hundred, five hundred, or a thousand years from now? What information would you try to convey? How is it different from sending a message in the present moment, to the other side of the world?

Of course, we have a version of talking through time already. After all, isn’t that what writers do? What is, say, the novel Frankenstein, if it is not Mary Shelley taking to us from the 1800s? Was Homer speaking to people more than a thousand years later when he wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey?

So the technology exists to send a message forward in time. How would you use it? What would you say to people in the future?

Related questions: Past, present, or future? How do you plan for the future? What is time? What do we owe the future? Will the future be better than the present?

What Social Media App Do You Wish You Knew More About?

Social media apps like Facebook and Twitter have been around or quite a while. Others are newer, and you might not know as much about them. Are there any that you wish you knew more about?

Share why if you wish.

Should We Pursue Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear energy , like any other form of energy, has advantages and disadvantages. Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Our knowledge of the workings of atoms and the subatomic particles that make up those atoms marked a significant breakthrough in our understanding of the universe. It also allowed a leap forward in technology, which led to power plants that generate lots of electricity.

Energy that is generated from nuclear reactions has one primary advantage: no carbon emissions are produced. Most of the world’s energy currently comes from burning fossil fuels, which releases carbon into the air. That carbon is now threatening us all in the form of climate change.

Time is growing short to find an alternative form of energy, one that does not pump billions of tons of carbon into the air each year. Nuclear energy is one such possible alternative. (As are solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and others.)


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘Is technology neutral?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Freedom or security?’


The drawbacks to nuclear power are, primarily, two-fold.

First, nuclear plants produce radioactive waste, and no one has come up with a satisfactory plan for its disposal. That waste will last for hundreds of years. The current strategy for dealing with it is to put it somewhere that seems to be geologically stable, and far from any human civilizations.

The second danger comes from accidents that produce radioactive fallout. We’ve seen this play out most recently in Japan in 2011, when a tsunami destroyed a nuclear power plant. As a result, radioactive material was released into the surrounding air and ocean.

We have an energy problem. To live a lifestyle that is common in a first world country is energy intensive, and the energy demands of the human population across the world are expected to increase for the foreseeable future. No combination of alternate energy sources can meet our current needs, let alone larger ones.

Should we explore all possibilities, including nuclear? Or are the risks associated too great — even greater than those posed by climate change? Should we pursue nuclear energy?

Related questions: What is keeping us from sustaining the planet? What is the greatest problem facing humanity? How is climate change impacting you?

 

Will Machines Develop Consciousness?

It is easy to see that artificial intelligence has been improving consistently over the last several years. But will machines ever develop consciousness?

It might seem that society has been anticipating intelligent machines for a long time. Science fiction writers have been envisioning self-directed, thinking machines ever since the word “robot” was introduced in 1920 (and even before then, as well). From Asimov’s robots to Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, fictional thinking machines have been a part of our culture for a long time.

Our modern world has ever-advancing technology. On one hand, simple robots, ones that do a very limited series of tasks, are everywhere. They populate factory assembly lines, and zip around our homes, vacuuming up our spills and messes.

On the other hand, advances in artificial intelligence have led to breakthroughs like Deep Blue beating a human World Champion in chess, or Watson winning handily against past Jeopardy! champions. And Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are becoming increasingly able to understand human speech and respond appropriately to human interaction.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘Is technology neutral?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Freedom or security?’


And yet, true intelligence has proven harder to produce in machines than some have thought. Estimates for the arrival of truly intelligent machines seem to recede further and further into the future.

Of course, intelligence is not the same as consciousness. What we mean when we refer to a human being being conscious is not obvious. And if we cannot define what exactly it means to be conscious, we may not be able to recognize consciousness if or when it arrives, via another species on earth, and alien from another planet, or from an AI we have designed and built ourselves.

Is the era of conscious machines right around the corner? Or is it in some distant future, or will it never get here at all?

Related questions: Will technology save us? What new technology do you want? What are you thinking about?