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Futurology: Qualitative Change

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For many years, progress caused quantitative, incremental change to the way we live. People worked less, earned more, they got cheaper, better, faster stuff and more of it. Now we are accustomed to the incremental change.

The technological progress itself also follows a similar pattern sometimes. Moore's Law, the speed of DNA sequencing, the speed of airplanes and the size of cellphone are all examples of quantitative change.

But there are also dramatic, revolutionary technological changes and these changes usually directly translate into lifestyle changes. The airplane, the phone, the computer, the Internet; these are all qualitative changes.

When talking about the future, people often ignore the possibility (no, the inevitability) of these revolutions. But, given the acceleration of the progress, such drastic changes, not gradual improvements, may be the ones having the most effect.

This progress won't be only about revolutionary new things that we can do, it will also be about things that we can stop doing.

  • The food we eat will get better, safer and healthier, then at some point we will just stop eating.
  • The health care will get better, more affordable, more widely spread, the operations will get more stunning, more and more people will be healed from more and more illnesses, then eventually we will just stop getting sick.
  • Likewise the care and treatments for elderly will gradually improve. First they won't suffer from Alzheimer's, then from heart disease, then from cancer, then one day we will just stop dying.
  • Computer displays will become more vivid, larger (but thinner and lighter), less power-hungry, cheaper. The LCD displays will be supplanted by portable projectors, holograms, wearable displays, laser-projection retinal displays, may be even ocular implants, then direct brain-computer interfaces will be perfected, and we will abandon the idea of a "display" altogether.
  • Humans will work less and in more comfortable conditions. Increased automation and use of robots will shorten work weeks (the 20 hour week promised in 1960s), then at one point the need to work will just disappear completely.

Similar changes will eventually happen in most (if not all) areas of human life. The transition to transhumanity and later to posthumanity is already in sight. In a sense it has already started, so in 10-30 year forecasts we can't ignore the possibility of drastic qualitative changes.

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