(Two years since my last post? Geez, I need to get on it! Also of note, I’ve now had this blog for half my lifetime! Here’s to another arc of life to come!)
Can’t believe it’s 2020 already — even the number evokes “the future” for me. Yet now it’s here. What will come of the next decade? Not sure, but there will be a lot of work on millenials as we take on the sterardship of the world.
I think at core, I’d still describe myself as a problem solver. That’s why I picked engineering as a discipline; not just because the role solved problems, but also because I like problem solvers :P.
So with that in mind, here are some humanity scale problems that have been on my mind lately:
Sustainable urban development
Cities continue to be thriving hubs of humanity; but to continue to thrive into the foreseeable future, we need to incentivize solutions for sustained development without exceeding planetary boundaries.
Also key is to evaluate our relationship with our communities and develop new dynamism essential for the long term prosperity of our communities.
I only recently realized this but we surpassed 50% of the human population in urban centers back in 2014! This means we’re dealing with the consequences evermore and some of the ideas we had about urban development deserve rethinking. Still, if you’re going to have 7.7 billion people, cities are the way to go.
When in a cynical mood, I do wonder what good it is for humanity to have such a large footprint that we’re undoubtedly going to call this epoch the anthropocene, but maybe I’ve played too many 4X games like Civilization that I see population as potential.
When I first learned of the world population figures, that was back in the early 1990s in elementary school; I think I read a book of records, where I first learned the world had ~4 billion people (1990s figure); with multitudes of people being born every second! In that moment, I think I first became awakened to the idea that humanity was finite, but also immense. I think even during that time, my idea of humanity has shifted from being a dominant player in the game of life on Earth, to being a geo-engineer hitting planetary limits of sustainable development.
This is of course, a concern — but those are problems to be solved. In the mean time, I’ve come to appreciate that 7.7 billion souls means that many more stories, that much more economy, that much more potential to work together; and in some ways, the necessary urbanization has coevolved the means to get along, at least, along the arc of recent history.
Developing a common human history
Human tribalism at all levels–the bad parts of it, isn’t going to go away–but to mitigate the risks of destructive hate, tribalism, and progress toward a future we can accept and get along, a shared history and understanding of planetary responsibilities need to be developed to ensure we can all coexist and develop peacefully.
Those alive today (especially those with the future they’ll need to live in ahead of them) need to play an active role in preparing humanity for the future, and a foundation to that is needed.
Technology can play a role here, but people have to want to depolarize–how can we incentivize people to be better to each other?
Personal and Commercial robotics application development
Drones, location tech, visual sensors are everywhere, and millions of drones are in peoples’ hands. Yet, why are they not doing things for us? Roombas have only progressed incrementally for the past decade. I got my first consumer drone in 2012, yet the promises have yet to be delivered on. This is still wide open territory.
I’m mostly thinking utility-oriented applications, but entertainment, pets, and the emerging realm of companion robot is are also likely to see mini-revolutions in the near future. (SpotMini is supposed to be a development platform; but at the likely pricepoints, it seems like not the dominant platform in the 2020 timeframe. Commercial use, I can see).
Individual/community driven privacy/security management
My community (Seattle) it seems worries simultaneously about a police state, but also if they’ll be there when the need arises. In my recent experience, the police are great, but it’s become abundantly clear that there’s a realm of crime that won’t easily be mitigated. We also complain about police when they don’t do what seem like obvious activities to disincentivize people/property crime, (To illustrate the climate, then-Seattle major McGinn in 2013 issued a still observed moratorium to police drones.)
To help communities find their own balance of autonomous physical security/privacy without the concerns of a government/police driven surveillance network across residential neighborhoods, I envision the development of privately managed security autonomous agents (likely small aerial drones, but backed by smarthomes) with data sharing controlled by individuals and managed via a community federation. A legal framework perhaps might be needed to ensure active consent and voluntary participation, as well as a general framework for privacy expectations.
The cost structures are likely favorable to 24-7 availability for <1 min deployment across most homes.
Space commercialization of the solar system
Thank you Elon Musk–you have a bit to go to fully deserve the mention in Star Trek Discovery alongside the Wright Brothers and Zephram Cochrane, but certainly, making space more accessible to private (non-government) is probably going to revolutionize humanity at least as much as the internet, and you’ve helped us get a LOT further.
Through 2019 and the decade, I’ll be watching for progress and launch of Starship, the internet satellite constellation Starlink, as well as other initiatives looking to develop human ISRU capabilities across the solar system. This may be the time where a broader set of nations develop space faring capability — it will necessitate an international framework for governance.
Space science is now merging with space current events it seems. The recent developments in planetary sciences and cosmology have been incredible–with humanity’s probes basically have reached all planets across our solar system.
But still, call me an engineer, but what thrills me the most is the possibility for humanity to be on a path to establishing a permanent, self-sustaining presence across space.
We will do this in my lifetime, so it’s worth envisioning the work needed to make this happen.
There are other ideas
- Ongoing projects: Personal, experimental, etc..
- Breaking cultural barriers?
- Korea issues?
- Simple musings?
I’ll have to start somewhere. 😛
Happy August 2019!