How could such a 2023 occur? Several things will have to not happen:
- Right now there’s a lot of discussion about a coronavirus vaccine. While one doesn’t exist, many hope or expect one over this winter. However, the vaccine will take time. To begin with, it’s a hard problem. Nobody has ever built a coronavirus vaccine before. It’ll have to be tested and trialled for human safety – and it will have to actually be effective. Then it needs to be produced at enormous scale, hundreds of millions of doses. Then distributed worldwide. This assumes people only need one dose; given recent reinfection stories, we might need doses every year, or more frequently still, which amplifies production and distribution challenges. On top of that, this rosy view assumes enough people will actually take the vaccine. Given the persistent antivax movement, the politicization of science in many nations, and some popular skepticism of medical authorities… it could take a while for an as yet uninvented vaccine to actually do its job. Months or years.
- COVID-19 will have to not mutate into less virulent forms. Viruses mutate, like all life forms, and it’s possible that this awful thing could develop into something less terrible.
- An effective treatment for infected people would have to not appear. Over 2020 better therapies have been developed, but the infection experience is still terrible.
- Some call for herd immunity as a solution to COVID’s ravages. I’d like to discuss just what a horror that would be in another post. For now let’s imagine the death toll, should America truly attain herd immunity. There are roughly 328.2 million people in this country. Let’s posit 80% of them need to get infected for immunity to work, or about 262.5 million. Then let’s assume a fairly reasonable-to-low case fatality rate of 0.6%. The result: around one million, five hundred thousand dead. Which is an astonishing, terrible figure to contemplate. For the purposes of forecasting, it’s also a problem in that it would take some time to attain. In six months about 6 million Americans have been infected. At that rate sufficient infection will take something like 20 years. Even if infection rates take off, through accidental or deliberate means, it will take some time for herd immunity to be attained.
For the sake of futuring one possible path I’d like to posit that none of those things take place before 2023. No herd immunity arrives any time soon. Hundreds of millions of people are not taking our COVID vaccine. No benign mutation has appeared. Medical professionals have not developed a splendid treatment. If none of those occur, then we have one path forward for COVID-19 to keep ravaging the United States for at least several years.
For nearly two months I’ve been tracking the coronavirus outbreak. I’ve been sharing forecasts, examining analyses, and collecting forecasts here, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and Facebook…
In this post I’ll summarize some evidence and analyses, then outline general thoughts about how the coronavirus story might unfold
What are the best movies for thinking through the future and technology?
This week my new education and technology seminar began. It’s in Georgetown University’s Learning, Design, and Technology program, and called LDES-702: Studies in Educational Technology. I first taught it in 2019.
Here I wanted to introduce the class, starting with my plans for it, then the tentative reading and assignment schedule.
The general idea is for students to work through a different tech or tech-related practice each week. They’ll read and engage with scholarship about the stuff, both asynchronously (online) and synchronously (in person or via video). They will also get some hands-on work with the tech, like recording audio, creating a class in an LMS, creating an information literacy guide, etc.
The movie theater showing Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker began by screening 35 minutes of trailers. At first I thought this was because they had us trapped. Then, once I saw The Rise of Skywalker, I realized it was a kind of preemptive consolation prize.
Yes, there will be spoilers aplenty in this post. If you really want to see the thing and don’t want to have details revealed, please stop reading and come visit afterwards when you need a hug.
I started reading James Bridle’s New Dark Age thinking it was another entry in the recent spate of “techlash” books. The subtitle, Technology and the End of the Future, is a hint.…
There are also some curiously too-quick dismissals. Bridle slams geoengineering and new developments in material science in less than a sentence, without citation (64). Hollywood is paranoid, but it’s not clear what that means (130). The charge that tech companies “are still predominantly white” (143-4) manages to ignore the large numbers of Asians in those firms, disproportionate to their representation in the general population. An early chapter makes good use of an 1884 Ruskin lecture, but then mistakingly sees it describing, rather than anticipating, World War I’s battlefields, a generation later (195).
Let’s envision video as our default setting in life. In this future we prefer to communicate through video, as opposed to all other mechanisms, so during a given day we participate in videoconferences as often as we check emails or text one another today. We consume content primarily through video – i.e., we’re watching stuff pretty frequently. We also make video, either by passive recording (having systems record our lives) or actively creating video content (recording, remixing, editing, sharing).
This week is the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon. My son and I visited Washington, DC’s National Mall to see some of the commemorations. A brilliant team projected a …
Last week I asked your help, dear readers, in selecting a reading for my upcoming summer seminar on emerging technologies. You responded generously, both here and elsewhere, and I’d like to …
Our online book club has chosen its next nonfiction reading. After an energetic round of voting, the winner is… Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Fut…
Our next book club reading has been decided! After a furious polling, the winner is…
…Zeynep Tufekci, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest.
It’s useful if unsurprising to see how much of my work depends on digital networks, how uneven they are, and how accustomed we are to the latter. Nobody groaned on the Silver Line when the car slipped out of 4G coverage, because we expect it. Conversely, at no point was I beholden to a physical office, as my work exists in a distributed assemble of brain, devices, networks, and multiple storage/service sites.
How do you think automation will transform society over the next 15 years?
A) Significant unemployment and underemployment will result as automation fails to create new jobs to succeed the ones it replaces.
B) New types of jobs appears in response to emerging technologies and practices, as they did through most of the Industrial Revolutions.
C) Humans increasingly feel unease or panic at being rendered obsolete. This manifests in various cultural and political forms.
D) Income and wealth inequality grows immensely, as businesses involved in automation generate and accrete enormous financial power.
E) Very little change will occur, because AI is overhyped and robotics are too limited in practical application, at least in this timeframe of a mere 15 years.
F) Some form of universal basic income will be implemented.
G) A data-based surveillance dystopia is installed, grounded in ubiquitous technology and guided by governments and/or business.
H) A new arms race breaks out between nations to see who has the best AI.
I) A major backlash emerges against automation for various reasons, leading to a major social step back from AI and robotics.
J) A very pleasant time will result, when we don’t have to work so much, our basic needs are met, and we are freer to develop ourselves.
Type I webinars are a mistake in 2018, and they need to die. We can leave them behind and take our presentations and conversations to other platforms, either Type II or by flipping the webinar. Or we can re-invent, re-use, and reboot Type I. In a time where discussions are more fraught and also more needed, we should do this now.
I am keeping an eye on Aaron Parecki’s #Indieweb Reader too.
Here is a selection, focusing on podcasts I’ve started listening to after those previous posts.