Forecasting the Future –
start with the past and add in some Black Swans
Introduction- It all starts with KNOWLEDGE
In 1793, I think, it was declared this was the last time any one person knew everything there was to know.
There were as many books printed between 1950 and 1970 as there had been in the entire history of the world prior to 1950.
The word ‘science’ is derived from the Latin ‘Scio’ meaning I know or ‘sciere’ to know., so knowledge and science are the same thing.
Everything that follows here comes from what we knew ten thousand years ago; what we knew in 1900 GMT; what we know now (year 2012 GMT) and what we will know tomorrow and further into the future.
‘Knowledge is power’ (1597, Francis Bacon.) Certainly denying people knowledge enabled the ‘scientist’ to have power over them whether Druids Priests, Aztec priests, The Pope (and the Roman Catholic church), Muslim Imams, doctors, bankers and economists. Knowledge was always controlled if the person with the knowledge could profit from it, the ‘privileged few.’
This is still largely true today to a large extent except that UNIX computer operating software was given away free to American Universities;Linux is freely available to anyone, as is other open source software; Wikipedia is free; Google Search and News is free; Google Maps and Google Earth are free; and also the hard ware for robotics.
The ‘oil’ to make it happen is the use of english as the lingua franca for the world. This will change as Simultaneous Translaters become available (from Google) as it won’t matter what language you use or it will also change if the Chinese become the government of the world as they will just implement their existing laws in their language everywhere-else.
For the moment though english is still the main carrier of Knowledge and the main communications media is the Internet, mobile phones, snartphones, telephone calls, corporate information networks and ebooks. Plus television , and filns [Copies of each of six hundred thousand ebooks can be down-loaded free of charge from Kindle.] The demand for and therefore the supply of telecommunications capacity is growing every year and with new technologies the knowledge is continuously becoming more affordable everywhere.
There is a separate problem about the word Knowledge. Knowledge is not much use if it’s only known by one person. Knowledge needs to be known by as many people as possible but knowledge needs time to spread round the world. There are billions of people who are only recently moving up from subsistence level living – those people who in bad years face starvation or at least malnutrition.
Knowledge needs to lead to innovation and implementation and then to enhancement, improvement and then to re-invention.
There is of course is the problem of which language the knowledge is in. Obviously knowledge was held by the Arabs in Arabic, then there were the Greeks, but Latin was used by the Roman Catholic church, and then as each country developed its own language that was the one used. Nowadays everyone is joining together through using english, the lingua franca. It is the first language, official language, or the second language used by an estimated two billion people. Denying the opportunity to learn and use emglish denies people access to the existing knowledge and to the avalanche of new knowledge becoming available
[Chinese may become the lingua franca within a hundred years,. As I understand it the official language is Mandarin, which with Cantonese are the two great languages fo China. All the different Chinese languages use Kanji characters for written work , so you can get different meanings as there are more than two hundred Chinese languages, from any character. There may be more as there were nearly six hundred tribes and the peoples were spread over a vast expanse of land with difficult geophysical characteristics making it probable that they kept separate.]
[India, whose current population is estimated at 1.3billion, identified twenty seven unique languages when they went independent. They then found they had to revert to english in order to talk to each other and work to create the modern state.]
So all, or largely all, the information on the Internet is Free… to all. Well except China, Russia, North Korea, and Syria where the governments control what content their peoples can look at. Other governments are frightened that knowledge (and education) will destroy their control over their people.
WHAT IS OUR CURRENT KMNOWLEDGE?
It’s everything we do in the ”West’ including all Western style countries for example Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and many others.
Knowledge is what we need to run, and also to further improve, our lives. It covers everything from food to medicine, electricity to oil, housing to aeroplanes, entertainment to leisure, cooking to singing and dancing, computers to MRI Scanners, agriculture to rare earth elements, engineering to nanotechnology, exploration of both space and the sea depths.
WHAT IS NEW KNOWLEDGE?
New knowledge is what ever we are working on at the moment. Google searches just in Google News respond with 1,590 results for research for neurons and synapses; 16,000 for stem cell; 11,000 for nanotechnology; 30,00 for robotics; 239,000 for new materials; 19,000 for cancer etc.
But Knowledge has to be used, it has to be incorporated into new products, new machines, new treatments, new materials. It has to be incorporated into new processes, new systems, new buildings.
Knowledge, or even a new concept, is then re-used in a slightly different manner and can lead to a break-through in a totally unexpected field of endeavour.
HOW IS KNOWLEDGE GROWING?
What a wonderful world we will have when globally everyone’s knowledge reaches the present average level of ‘Western’ knowledge. This will also mean and involve huge social changes as it demands that everyone has electricity, clean water, and sanitation together with equal knowledge and equal treatment or women as for men.
Acquisition of knowledge starts at our mother;’s knee and uses the brain our mother has generated for us, so we in society need to do everything we can to give that new brain the best start in life that we in ‘society’ can provide. Pre-natal specialist education for the mother-to-be and then the realisation that the next adult’s life has already begun and their education begins immediately.
Generally in the world our women get a rough deal starting with female infanticide; being treated as lesser citizens; being denied education; being treated as slaves, even in marriage; but education and knowledge (and machines) are entitling women to be equal to men and to being treated as equals. This in itself will increase the knowledge growth by. Say. Eighty per cent.
Knowledge itself is the ‘oil’ that increases every single person’s productivity whether it be driving more buses, using more computers, buying foodstuffs at the supermarket, [food lasts longer these days so there’s lees wastage] or just doing everything faster and more easily. This in itself enables them to do more in the same time and it’s this extra time which is used to create even more knowledge.
MOOC, Massive Open Online Courses are now being operated and implemented by Universities round the world. The Open University, in Britain, is launching ‘FutureLearn’, in 2013 available free of charge to users anywhere in the world and there is no charge for learning, though there will be a charge for the optional examination and the degree a the end of the course.
In the Britain since the eighteenth century the number of people that society can afford to be deployed to creating new knowledge has been growing in direct proportion to the increase in surplus capacity in society:-
– We started with agricultural revolution, which including imported foods, brings us from subsistence level for everyone to needing just three percent of labour force today…. 33 times
– Then the invention of steam power….. 1000 times
– Followed by the invention of steel and the rest of the industrial revolution, including railways and ships;
– Invention and widespread use of electric light added four hours to each day….. 50% more
– The advent of motor cars, goods vehicles and roads…..say 2 times
– Computers even just up to 1970…. 14 times [Some people in 2012 say one billion times more powerful]
– Other machines robots etc., say the same, 14 times
– Telecommunications and the Internet etc., say the same, 14 times
– Increased working population (UK) from immigration … 5% annually
– Extended useful people’s life, from age 60 to age 80….say 50% more
Now let’s add tomorrows developments:
– Equality for women …. 80% more
– Effective education for all from the earliest moment….. 2 times
= mplement the knowledge and the machines across the whole world population…. say for a further 6 billion people…5 times
– times the total multiplier from above
More computers and machines…..
HOW IS KNOWLEDGE CREATED?
Knowledge is created whenever someone wants to do something they haven’t done before. Whether it’s to test a theory or to do something in a novel way
THE FORECAST ABOUT KNOWLEDGE
Knowledge will grow faster than we think. The sheer speed is it’s own Black Swan. So everything we think might happen will happen much earlier than we think. Obsolescence will occur much earlier, and even though almost all our buildings are obsolete new materials will enable us to improve the life of those existing buildings or change their use unless they are in the wrong place..
The biggest problem will be that older generations are not used to change and want demonstrable evidence that they will personally benefit.
The people with the biggest difficulty will be those who won’t derive a personal benefit and unfortunately this applies most clearly to retired eldetly people, bureaucrats, civil servants and employees of monopoly organisations as increases in their productivity may mean that fewer personnel will be needed even though the primary benefit will be quicker or more cost-effective results.
Knowledge can only be useful when it can be absorbed and is a small step from people’s existing knowledge and experience, except for some young adults who seem to make leaps of faith, jumping into and grabbing with both hands whatever the future offers them.
Cliff Kenkins, 31 Dec 2012.