Communicator (communicator) wrote,

They can't believe it's all over - it is now

A review in the Guardian of several books about catastrophe. At present anticipated global catastrophe takes two plausible forms: oil running out and a serious epidemic. These are both serious issues. The flu epidemic of 1918 killed between 1% and 5% of our species in a few months. Another one could be much worse. I read the other day that every calory of food we eat in the west uses up four calories of fossil fuel to create and distribute. If the fuel goes, the calories go too.

In that Ken Macleod article I linked to earlier he says: 'Fundamental technological developments are slowed down. Apart from biotech, in which great advances in both theory and practice have gone together, the rest of our technology - even the Internet - is an elaboration, refinement and diffusion of developments made half a century or more ago.'

This seems right to me. We have been told that technical and intellectual change will accelerate ever faster, and that is in some ways a frightening prospect. But perhaps instead progress is slowing down, and fewer new ideas are coming out. Perhaps it started to slow down when we stopped space exploration, and the oil crisis hit, in the early seventies. We SF fans joke about the divergence between our ideas of 2001, and the reality. Perhaps that small divergence is the first sign of a big falling away.

I dunno. I may be over pessimistic. I did underestimate the speed and completeness with whch computers would transform my working life. When I started work in the early eighties I didn't have a computer. People said 'we'll all have one on our desks in five years' and I was like 'yeah, right, I'll believe that when I see it' we had them in eighteen months. They have improved since, refinements of the same basic stuff. We still use word processors, and the words haven't got any better.
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