January 2nd, 2008

ozarque figure

Scary stuff floating around the infosphere this morning....

This morning I have a choice of three batches of scary stuff to contemplate, one at a time or in combination:

1. There's the prospect of the horrors we'll all face if [Candidate X, left nameless here to maintain the peace] becomes the next President of the United States.....

2. There's the scary stuff that NPR hit me with shortly after six a.m. this morning: That there are roughly 80 million baby boomers, with the first wave turning 62 this year and therefore becoming eligible to claim their Social Security benefits. The prediction is that "about a million of those first baby boomers, people born in 1946, will take the early retirement option even though their monthly checks will be 25 percent lower than if they waited...."

But that's only the beginning; there's more: Social Security's problem, NPR says, could be fixed fairly easily. But "the projected cost of Medicare and Medicaid will jump more than seven times faster than the cost of Social Security over the next four decades." [See "Social Security Debate: Baby Boomers Begin to Claim Social Security," by John Ydstie, at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17767992 .]

I'm unlikely to live long enough for this particular crisis to affect me directly, but it's going to hit my children and my grandchildren hard, and that matters to me.

3. And then there's the vision of the future that Andrew Tobias directed me to yesterday: "Why the future doesn't need us," by Bill Joy, 13 pages of one ghastly prospect after another, written by a man who's not just some Lunatic Fringer; Joy is "cofounder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems, was cochair of the presidential commission on the future of IT research, and is coauthor of The Java Language." Here are two sample chunks from that April 2000 document [which I recommend reading if you're like I was yesterday and haven't already done so]:

"Accustomed to living with almost routine scientific breakthroughs, we have yet to come to terms with the fact that the most compelling 21st-century technologies -- robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology -- post a different threat than the technologies that have come before. Specifically, robots, engineered organisms, and nanobots share a dangerous amplifying factor: They can self-replicate. A bomb is blown up only once -- but one bot can become many, and quickly get out of control."

"The 21st-century technologies -- genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR) -- are so powerful that they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses. Most dangerously, for the first time, these accidents and abuses are widely within the reach of individuals or small groups. They will not require large facilities or rare raw materials. Knowledge alone will enable the use of them. Thus we have the possibility not just of weapons of mass destruction but of knowledge-enabled mass destruction (KMD), this destructiveness hugely amplified by the power of self-replication."

"Why the future doesn't need us" is at http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy_pr.html .

This does focus my attention and create some rearrangements in my sense of proportion. Is humankind capable of sorting any or all of this out, do you think?
ozarque figure

Giving advice across the Generation Gap(s); the consensus; afternote...

The "robust consensus" I referred to in my post at http://ozarque.livejournal.com/483016.html may have been nothing more than irrational impatience and leaping-to-conclusions-behavior on my part. A number of you have posted comments saying that you aren't part of my so-called consensus and that you disagree with one or the other of the propositions I claimed that it contained.

And -- as a separate but closely-related issue -- there've been some comments taking issue with my contention that the Generation Gap is wider now than it used to be. [What I said was: "My perception is that the last time there was a gap this wide was when the first generation emerged in which most people were literate -- and their parents and grandparents not only weren't literate but had never lived in a world where being literate was something anybody concerned themselves about."]

I could use some help here. I'm willing -- uneasy about it, but willing -- to re-open the discussion, but I'm no longer sure exactly what the questions are. I have a feeling that I offered a handy demonstration of the Generation Gap communication problem by formulating the questions incorrectly in the first place.

Maybe you could straighten this out for me a tad by sending questions that fit your perceptions instead of fitting mine?

Nonfiction online: "How Verbal Self-Defense Works" at http://people.howstuffworks.com/vsd.htm ; "Why Are Old Women Older Than Old Men And How Can We Fix That?" at http://www.seniorwomen.com/articles/articlesElginOld.html ; Religious Language Newsletter archive at http://www.forlovingkindness.org . Fiction online: "We Have Always Spoken Panglish" at http://www.sfwa.org/members/elgin/Story-Panglish.html ; "What The EPA Don't Know Won't Hurt Them" at http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/epa.htm ; "Weather Bulletin" at http://www.sfwa.org/members/elgin/Weather.html ; "A Quorum Of Grandmothers" at http://www.sfwa.org/members/elgin/QuorumOfGrandmothers.html ; The Communipaths at http://www.jackiepowers.com/SuzetteHadenElgin/TheCommunipaths.html . More stuff at http://www.sfwa.org/members/elgin/SiteMap.html ; LiveJournal blog index at http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memories.bml?user=ozarque .