X-Message-Number: 13960
From: "George Smith" <>
References: <>
Subject: An exercise in undersatnding the future in 5 easy steps.
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000 12:26:02 -0700

In message #13957 on  "the Drexlerian nanotech/cryonics link in the mind of
some...", John Grigg mentioned some of the problems some folks have with
Drexler's vision of molecular nanotechnology and the tendency to pooh pooh
the possibility that it can or will happen, etc.

Here is a mental exercise for minds that are still open on the subject of
what the future will probably bring:

Try to imagine an open-ended future in which it will NEVER be possible to
manipulate molecules as Drexler suggested in his books.

Really try.

If you are having trouble doing this (and especially if you are NOT having
trouble doing this, try the following simple 5 step mental exercise:

(1) Think about twenty years from now, the year 2020.

Twenty years in the past, in 1980, as I recall IBM had not spelled its
company name with single atoms, and Drexler had not yet even written his
first book ENGINES OF CREATION.  The Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall were
very real.  There were no cell phones.  There was no internet.

Just put yourself back twenty years ago, get a sense of the change that has
happened since then and now try to project that forward - straight line,
linear projection - not even taking into account the possibility of a hockey
stick, geometric progression.  Really try it.

(2) Now think forty years from now, 2040.

Forty years ago it was 1960.  Kennedy had not yet been assassinated and
Krushchev was premier of the Soviet Union.  The first earth satellite,
Sputnik, went up only three years earlier.  Just take a moment and remember
what it was like to be in 1960 and the state of technology back then.  Now
get a sense of the difference, comparing 2000 to 1960.  Now imagine that
same level of difference projected to the year 2040.

(3) Now think about 2100, one hundred years from now and compare it to the
year 1900.

In 1900 there were no airplanes and the first automobiles were about to be
built.  Most transportation relied upon horses and roads were made of dirt
in the country and sometimes brick in the cities.  There was no air
conditioning, no telephones, no radio.  My father, who was born in 1910 was
taught in grade school that the sun was fueled with coal.  There is a PBS
series being aired now where a family chose to live for one year in a house
with nothing more advanced than the technology of 1900.  Watch this if you
need a better sense of how different, dirty and hard things were 100 years

Now compare 1900 with 2000.  Get a sense of the difference.

Now try to project that sense of difference forward 100 years.  Just try it.

(4) Now think about 3000 CE.  One thousand years into the future.

Imagine life back in the year 1000 CE.  If you need help, consider watching
a good film based on life back then, Perhaps THE NAME OF THE ROSE, for
example.  Paper is a rare commodity.  No printing press.  Books are copied
by hand.  No library Dewey decimal system.  English is not understandable
compared to modern English.  Women are chattel.  In Europe, the Roman
Catholic Church dictates through religious dogma what shall be believed and
taught about the nature of reality.  Heretics are burned at the stake.

Now get a sense of the difference between then and now.

Now try to project that sense forward into the future for one thousand
years.  (Can you even do it?).

(5) Finally, imagine life 10,000 years ago.

According to the most accepted view, at best people lived in huts and had
fire and primitive tools.  You were lucky if you lived to the ripe, old age
of 30.  If you broke your leg and lived, you would be crippled for the rest
of your short pain-ridden life.  If you had an infection you would almost
certainly die.  There were no written languages.  If you need help imagining
this state of affairs, watch any good television documentary on the few
people still living this way in the most remote parts of the world.

Try to put yourself into that picture.  How would it actually feel to live
back then?

Now get a sense of the difference between back then and now.

Now try, just try, to project that same difference 10,000 years into our
future.  (Good luck!).

How will it even be POSSIBLE for the meager projections by Eric Drexler to
NOT come about EVENTUALLY?

And if his SPECIFIC vision should prove not physically possible to achieve
(which I find difficult to imagine since my own biological immune system is
a real example of this technology lacking only intelligent guidance), then
what OTHER even more grandiose and far reaching technologies will SURPASS
Drexler's goals?

To have no sense of history is to be paralyzed by the current beliefs of
your current culture.  The future will hold transformations of the human
condition still unimagined by our best fantasy writers.  Those who honestly
believe they can cap the future with limits based on our current level of
technological science are, at best, kidding themselves.

In the 1950's it was commonly taught that brain cells die out over your life
never to be replaced.  Now we know they do replicate.  Until last year we
were told that the speed of light was impossible to exceed.  Now its been
done at least three times in as many countries.  You've heard them all: "Man
can never fly."  "Man can never go to the moon."  "Space travel is bunk."
This isn't just a matter of cultural chauvinism.  It demonstrates a complete
lack of a sense of history.  It requires swallowing the biggest belief of
all - that we will NOT tremendously progress in our control over the forces
of nature!

(If you really believe THAT, I think you need professional help!  As Bret
Maverick put it, "My Pappy always said,  'Never trust a man who draws to an
inside straight.  He might be crazy about other things too' ").

Cryonics offers a simple, affordable way to potentially cross the gap of
time into the future where the technological answers will have been found.
Those who think it will NEVER be found are the truly amazing visionaries!
To be able to imagine a future with such limits is, in my opinion, the most
difficult thing of all.  (Compared to that, drawing to an inside straight is

Cryonics is simply a way to be "frozen in time" so that you can get past the
current crop of experts (who will all probably die and be "dead right")
until the inevitable future comes when your body will be repaired and you
live again in this physical world.  If you consider trusting the future to
be superstitious, try my 5 step exercise again.

If you can STILL believe the future won't SURPASS Drexler's best
projections, then I know two things about you:

You have no sense of the power and direction of human history...

and I won't play poker with you.

George Smith

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