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Section 4 / Pages 101 - 104
Here Are Some Examples Of The Technological Domino Effect Which Come To Mind And That Are Actually Happening Right Now.
The up and coming interactive VR market place described in the first three sections, goes to show how online shopping could become more fun than actually going to real shops. This will affect the infrastructure that keeps every shop open; so keep in mind the domino effect that these potential problems could cause. If every home gets connected then the chances of it happening will just keep in increasing. The use of increasingly intelligent search engines, will allow people to find the cheapest prices online, for whatever their looking to buy, this could spell disaster to the small high street stores or any middleman. Do not underestimate the spread and the impact that this technology will have.
As voice input becomes the norm, then you may end up saying to your new e-home, find me the cheapest price for whatever and then an advanced search engine would do the rest. So who is going to go to the shops, when you can get whatever you want delivered direct to your home and probably cheaper than you can find it in your local high street. The amount of unemployment this could cause, maybe enough to start a catastrophic chain reaction within itself.
Online ordering could go like this, your order goes through an automated A.I. system that then passes that information to an automated warehouse, which then puts it onto a truck, which then delivers it to your home. The little people will find themselves becoming increasingly marginalized, but even big businesses will be affected as the chain reaction spreads. The global virtual middlemen will be able to undercut most smaller middlemen who will not be able to order in bulk or pay to get noticed on the Internet. I can imagine every small proprietor looking for new ways to tap some niche local markets, in a vain hope of surviving this coming wave of inevitability.
The Internet does not recognise international boundaries, so if you would like proof of some of the effects this can have, then take a look at DVD movie sales. In the UK, you can order just one DVD from the USA and have it delivered to your door cheaper than you can buy it in most UK shops, most of the time and quite often before the movie is even released in the UK. The search engines of the future will mean that consumers, may never even know where the products they purchase come from.
If we manage to get the future right, then, if most shops do start to disappear because of the above problems, then the landscape of most of the civilised world could change dramatically. Software based virtual workers will mean that companies will no longer need office space, if you don't need workers then you don't need big offices, plus this would also mean lower overheads = higher profits = happy investors. Also Sept 11th showed us all that high density living can be very dangerous and some planners are already considering a different approach to cities and high rise living. Villages, towns and whole cities could start to disappear into the history books. Its only a matter of time until this happens, I often wonder how cities will look in the future. Maybe all of those nice new offices could be used to shelter the homeless or be made into nice recreational or rehabilitation centres for a disposed and potentially homeless workforce, especially with property market being what it is?
The proliferation of new memory devices in conjunction with advanced compression techniques, will mean that the storing of everything that the human race has ever produced will be possible within a handheld device. This will probably happen within the next 20 years and not just text and pictures but every film and anything else that humans may have come up with. So all of the TV networks; publishers and media barons, will have to find a hell of a lot of new content for their networks, because all of the old material could quite literally be at the end of everybodyís fingertips. Press a button and any material you could ever possibly want, could be displayed on whatever home or handheld device you may have. Tie that capability into the basic model concept and a net connection and what you get, is a machine potentially smarter than any one of us. Having that much information on tap and the computing power to correlate all that information, is analogous to a single human knowing everything. Keep in mind that knowing and understanding being two different things.
As soon as one employer finds a way of getting a computer or A.I. based system to do a job cheaper, than most humans, then this could drive most of that companies competition to jump on the same bandwagon, causing massive unemployment, Market forces or more to the point, profit margins dictate how businesses handle there workforces, keep in mind, higher profits = happy investors & bosses etc, lower profits, usually = job cuts.
Current economic structures can be seen as a form of pressure, this pressure will not permit companies working on all of these new technologies to quit, thatís presuming that these companies want to stay in business. Competing companies always look for the best and cheapest solution, so if big companies do not use this technology, then smaller firms may well do. My personal belief is that it is going to be very difficult for most of the developed world, because we have all become so used to the trappings that a modern economy brings with it. The rest of the world may actually have an easier time of it, because of the type of conditions that they currently find themselves in, i.e. having less dependency on technology and slightly lower expectations when it comes to the quality of their own lives. If we do not change the economies of the developed nations so as to fit in with these new technologies, then this type of domino effect could lead to an uncontrolled chain reaction.
Nanotechnology as Drexler envisions it, is going to happen eventually, but intelligent machines will probably be here first, so preparing the general public and the global economy for the arrival of these things has got to be seen as a good idea. The current infrastructure that allows the powers that be, the control they currently have, will become increasingly undermined, by the introduction of these technologies. Right now this technology is helping them to maintain control, but this situation could soon be turned on its head.
Now Iím not anti technology, Iím actually pro technology, but I don't see how any economy in the world will be able to weather this coming storm. This is going to lead to real economic problems and as has already been seen, when one part of the worlds economy is hit by a problem, then that problem usually travels outward and then impacts on a global scale. Big economic problems do not always stay localised to any one country because of the way the global economy is structured. This structuring shows how the domino effect can happen and sometimes does happen very quickly, and although there are safeguards in place to prevent this type of thing, these safeguards will I believe, not be enough to prevent the problems outlined from occurring.
If the last petrol crisis was anything to go by then we could see the powers that be once again being overtaken by events beyond their control. This is the crux of the problem, how do you convince everybody in the world, or even just the developed nations to play ball with the economic reforms that will have to be made so as to meet this very probable crisis. As was seen when Black Monday hit, the markets problems and the politiciansí response times to those problems, where totally out of sync and this led to an even larger problem developing. If little computer problems such as the Barclays bank bug and the problems found in the UK air traffic control system, can cause so many problems and for so many people, then this does not bode well for the future. The answer most governments and corporations look too, so as help them solve a lot of these types of problems, is even more advanced technology. This being the case, then the chain reaction could happen very fast, and in a matter of months the global economy could collapse from its own push towards trying to stay in control, of something that it is not actually within its control. If we continue to use the current economic systems and this philosophy, then this could perpetuate the problem to its ultimate and disastrous conclusion. No government or combination of governments will be able to stop it, the economic global meltdown is not something that can be prevented by good will or just hoping it will all turn out ok or reacting to the problem once it begins.
This is a disaster just waiting to happen and if the world does not wake up to it, then it will happen. The chain reaction is already happening in some industries and no amount of retraining for the public, will prevent the inevitable consequences of this technological revolution. The public will react violently to having no work or if they wake up to the fact that most of the work they are actually doing, is ultimately menial and pointless, the, "do you want fries with that" phenomenon, this is when the domino effect may start.
The localised economies of every nation will be hit, thus leading to terrible internal problems for most countries and the governments controlling these countries, the last petrol crisis will look like a storm in a teacup. Russia is the best example yet of what happens to a country when its economic structures fall apart. This is still mild, in comparison to what could happen if the whole world is thrust into this economic nightmare. Russia is turning itself, inside out, trying to come to terms with its economic problems. Russia also shows just how fast this economic nightmare can happen and itís amazing when you see the reaction of some of the pro Americans who said "Yep isnít it great, we won the cold war by bankrupting the old Soviet Union." Obviously these people consider their economy to be unbreakable, but they may find themselves, being found just as wrong, as their Russian counterparts.
So if the powers that be just carry on hoping that the economy can survive and be carried on in the same fashion as it is today, then the developed nations could also suffer a similar fate to Russia. Argentina's economic problems and the populaces response to those problems, showed us all how society can very rapidly degenerate into violence. It is no surprise to me, that let's say more basic instincts arise when people are threatened, this is the single biggest problem we face. We are animals and when threatened, physically, emotionally or financially, then we usually react proportionally to the threat.
The only real answer I have to this problem, is to get the technology up to speed, so allowing it to do all of the work, whilst also getting everybody in the world used to the idea of ending money. This is obviously going to be a very difficult task to achieve, but if the human race doesnít come to terms with the fact that this is the only way, it really can go, especially if we want to use these advanced technologies, then everybody on the planet is going to suffer the consequences of their own greed and technological short sightedness. End money?, what the hell am I talking about, Drexler has a utopian dream and I believe in that dream, I believe like many others, history will read, Newton, Einstein, Drexler.
The up side is, if we can make it through the economic transition that will be necessary, then we could all live forever and have the technology to do almost anything. The proponents of this type of future, are saying itís definitely going to happen and sometime in the next 100 years. Most think itís more like 35, so this is going to have a lot of implications for most of the population living today. This singularity as some people have come to call it (Vernor Vinge), will be a combination of VR type technologies, A.I., space travel, nanotechnology and genetics etc. This will apparently give everybody the ability to realise any dream, thought or nightmare, the dangers are, we may all end up like the Krell. The world as we know it today could be completely different in the very near future, but the cost of this technological progress maybe the death of every carbon based life form on the planet?
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