All Posts Tagged With: "future"
As promised, here’s a column on how to survive the next decade meant for Millennials and late Gen-X who have based their future plans on the indefinite continuation of prosperity and importance of college-taught skills. Read more…
You never know when something is going to set you off on a column. I didn’t even have my notebook with me when I stopped by Le Peep this lunch hour to have my breakfast. The fellow next to me was in his late-40s, wearing a Harley-Davidson t-shirt from Sturgis. We started chatting about work and he told me he was an electrician.
“How much do you make an hour doing that?” I asked.
“In Champaign? Thirty-four dollars an hour.”
Wow, I thought to myself, that’s competitive.
“You know our biggest problem, though?” he continued. “Getting smart people to become apprentices. We can never fill all our positions. You know anyone?”
This got me to thinking. For a person of high intelligence, how would a career as an electrician pan out compared to say, getting a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois? I came home and ran some figures.
Taking the median values for earnings and the cost of tuition and fees only at the University of Illinois (I think I’m being fair here–it’s reasonable to assume that day-to-day living expenses are covered by parents or job) I was able to make the following calculations:
Total earnings electrician age 22–$113,633
Total earnings minus education costs chem e age 22–minus $80,000
Total earnings electrician, age 27–$327,540
Total earnings minus education chem e, age 27–$206,800 (includes interest on student loans)
Total earnings electrician, age 34–$633,697
Total earnings chem e, age 34–$791,300
The break-even point for total income in an area with the median income for an electrician is age 30. Interestingly enough, for a high-demand location like Champaign-Urbana (with a $34/hour pay scale for electricians), the break-even point is age 45.
Still, this seems like a good deal for the Chemical Engineer until you examine other circumstances involving the jobs.
1) Amount of time at work.
The median workweek for an electrician is 37.5 hours. That of a chemical engineer is 45 hours. This reduces the per/hour salary differential by 17%.
2) Number of jobs available
There are 705,000 electricians employed in the United States and 50,000 chemical engineers. There is no projected increase in the number of chemical engineering jobs and a 5000 per/year increase in electricians employed over the next ten years.
Any pay differential must be multiplied by the probability of obtaining a job in your field. For an electrician, the probability is near 100% because of the apprentice program.
3) Investment Opportunities
One approach to long-term investing is to approach the market intelligently early and make as much money as you can while you’re young. While the 22 year old chemical engineer is busy spending every cent he has on college expenses, the apprentice electrician has already made $114,000 in income. The median necessary monthly living expenses for a 22 year old single male in the US is just over $500. This means that after that four-year period, the apprentice electrician has $90,000 of disposable income available to him, if he so desires, to use for investments. If he uses that wisely, he might not have to work for a living after all.
4) Job Security
Since the number of total chemical engineering jobs in the US is stable, it is in the best interest of companies’ profits to lay off expensive older engineers and hire the cheap ones coming out of college. There is a $45,000 difference in income between a new college graduate and an engineer who has been with a company for 12 years. This difference is a powerful incentive to get rid of the experienced engineers.
The case is the opposite with the electricians. With a 5000/year increase in number of jobs, it is in the best interest of the employers to keep experienced employees around to teach the new people the ropes. Since salary is capped (except for CoL raises) after the apprenticeship, there is no savings for the company in firing older employees until their medical costs become a problem.
In addition, most electricians are protected by their trade unions, which prevent arbitrary decisions about termination and negotiate salaries for a wide area. The employment price for an electrician is not set arbitrarily by the employer, but is the highest value that the local market can bear. With the need for such talents, a smart electrician can assess that market and move to where the highest wages are paid.
5) The Global Economy’s Impact
Engineers of any sort work in software–they trade their problem-solving abilities for money. The problem with software work is that it is not localized. It is just as easy for a corporation to use an engineer in India or the Phillipines as it is for them to use one in the United States. Since education costs are lower in other countries, the engineers there will work for lower wages. It’s similar to the situation with manufacturing jobs when NAFTA was instituted. Over the next two decades, the white-collar “brain” jobs will be outsourced more and more often.
Electricians, on the other hand, are hardware providers. You will not be able to have a foreign national run conduit in your business’s basement from 12,000 miles away anytime soon. This can be said of any of the other trades–plumbing, heating, carpentry, painting or ironwork, too.
6) Opportunities for self-employment
An ambitious, intelligent electrician with an eye to the niche-market (for example, installing fire alarms) can move into his own business easily. The engineer, on the other hand, would have to return to college (or stay there long enough) to get an advanced degree and then move up in a partnership in a model just like that of a lawyer. He will never, in truth, be his own boss until he in his late 40s or early 50s at the earliest.
Truth be told, if I was a 2008 high-school graduate with my intelligence and what I know about the situation right now I would be at the union hall with a letter before the ink dried on my diploma. The fact is, the situation for chemical engineers is the BEST one for any of the engineering professions–all the others are less competitive economically. I figure that with the current economic situation and early investment in the market before marriage or a serious relationship, I would be able to retire from being an electrician by age 45 or so.
Something to think about.
A hat-tip to Augur for pointing me to this site:
Now, imagine millions of these scattered across the country, inside and out, recording 24/7, user pointed, multi-taskable, almost invisible and easily searchable by Google and you’ve got what 2016 is very likely to be like. Play with the zoom for a bit–I go to lunch in the big building with the clock tower in top center of the FoV.
For the economists and political scientists on the blog:
“What would be the effect on our economies and social structures if there were one billion millionaires in the earth’s population in the year 2025?”
Assume that this is nuclear-family worth and that there is no significant inflation.
My lovely librarian-wife sent me this this morning:
I am not quite sure what to make of it. It seems possible to me that it may be an example of the kind of group-mind I am experiencing among my Freshmen this year. The Millenials that are coming in now are qualitatively different from any students that I have ever seen. I do not yet have words for it–I may write a piece on it later this year.
I think that Americans in the next decade are going to have an opportunity to witness something that hasn’t happened since 1856–the death of a political party. A century hence, the history downloads are going to be speaking of the old GOP in parallel with the Whigs and noting that in both cases, their end occurred before extreme social upheavals.
A lot is made of the theory that the Democratic Party is made up of a coalition of disparate groups united mainly by their own enlightened self-interest and a dislike of their opponents. What many pundits continue to ignore, however, is that the Republican Party is equally fractionated, and the glue holding those groups together is dissolving.
Let’s do a bit of a history lesson. For the first three-quarters of the 20th Century, the Republican Party was a minority party, even when they had a member in the Oval Office. The power that those of you who are younger than 35 are familiar with is a relatively recent event.
The party of Lincoln during the first half of that century was populated almost exclusively by northerners. The scars of Republican carpetbagging in the Deep South put a lock on the offices there for the opposition. Most of the GOP members were “owners” of one kind or another–they owned the steel mills, the prosperous farms, the businesses, and the banks. Their bastion of strength was the Northeast, where families like the Rockefellers and the Bushes fiercely protected their wealth.
Internationally, the party was isolationist, opposing not only the two world wars, but also adventurism in general. The big exception to this was the Communists of the Soviet Union. Since the power in the party was in the hands of capitalists, those who executed them whenever they got the chance were natural blood enemies.
Now, it’s easy to explain why the Republicans were a minority during these years. There are always a lot more workers than plant owners. There’s only enough prosperity, even in boom times, to support a few multi-billionaire families. Having to write off an entire section of a nation year after year is never a winning proposition.
Enter Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. The economics that they espoused ran contrary to the vast majority of thinkers at the time in that it theorized that government was not the solution to problems in the marketplace, but the root cause of many of them. This stood in opposition to the interests of the eastern capitalists, since many of them were dependent on the Cold War buildup of the military-industrial complex that was making them richer every day. A new kind of Republican began to gain influence–the Libertarian. These outlaws expanded the economic theories of the “Big Three” above to social questions. In 1964, they managed to get Barry Goldwater nominated to oppose LBJ. He lost the main election by a landslide, relegating that group to the wings for a while. In many ways, this was not a bad thing, since it allowed visionaries like Karl Hess (who wrote Barry’s speeches) to mature in their thinking.
We entered the mid-1970s with the two sides sparring, but not having much to fight over. The party was in disarray from the scandals of their last elected President, Richard Nixon. Ronald Reagan, the governor of California during the hippy years, served as the torch-bearer for the libertarian wing and Nelson Rockefeller did the same for the eastern capitalists. Reagan mounted a respectible challenge for the 1976 nomination, but the monied interests kept the incument, Jerry Ford as their candidate.
During the years of the Carter administration, though, there was a sea change in the South. Even though the president was from their section of the country, many many voters there felt betrayed by the Democratic Party on social issues. The late 70s was a heyday of progressive thought, with social experimentation occuring in areas such as women’s roles in the family, gay rights and affirmative action in education and employment. Sex was casual and often, especially among the young, since there were few impediments to it–diseases were easily cured by antibiotics and pregnancies were either avoided by birth control or ended with abortion.
There was a large segment of social conservatives, however, who felt that progressive thought had gone way too far. Many of these were evangelicals from the southern states and the west. When the Republicans nominated Reagan in 1980, they attracted both the social conservatives (who became known as “Reagan Democrats,”) and the Libertarians. In exchange for one of the monied class, George H. W. Bush, becoming Vice-President, the eastern capitalists agreed to support the ticket.
For the first time since the stock market crash of 1929, the Republican Party had managed to put together a winning combo. The Congress was still in the hands of the opposing party, but the wide-ranging influences of the three groups would often provide synergies which would allow bills to pass through Capitol Hill that would have failed under Nixon or Ford.
In the late 1980s, because of the success of the coalition, especially in the foreign policies that were considered to be responsible for the ending of the Warsaw Pact, the GOP attracted a new group of ex-Marxists and student radicals. The Neo-conservatives saw in the collapse of Marxist states and Fukuyama’s End of History an opportunity for the birth of a new opportunity for a Wilsonian expansion of democracy to the world.
They were all thrown a curve by a new, rising force in the early 1990s, however, Nativist Populism. An unknown and eccentric millionaire, Ross Perot, appealed to these new sentiments in the American people and managed to divert enough votes away from the Republican candidate to get Bill Clinton elected. However, two years later, the Republicans showed enough power to take control of Congress for the first time since Harry Truman. This control would last a full decade, almost to the present day.
Ok, so much for history. Now, let’s discuss the present state of affairs and see how it is perceived by each of the four members of the GOP coalition:
Neo-conservatives–The Iraq War has not been as easy as they thought it was going to be. For the most part, the members of this group are not blaming flaws in their own Wilsonian theories, but on outside agencies like Iran. While the lesser candidates of the Democratic Party are loud in their criticism of the war, the front-runner, Hillary Clinton, has already stated that she is opposed to an immediate pull-out from Iraq and a continued presence in the country. In addition, Clinton’s husband showed a great deal of ambition on the world stage by promoting democracy in Yugoslavia along the lines of neo-con theories. It is rumored that neo-conservatives within the Bush administration are already briefing Hillary regarding the situation in the war zone in the belief that she will win.
Social conservatives–There are three major issues in play with this group. First and foremost, there’s abortion. No matter what any pundits say, this group absolutely will not vote for someone who is even perceived as soft on this issue. They will stay home or vote for an available third party. The second issue is “family and tradition.” While this is most strongly exhibited by the call for a constitutional amendment against gay marriage, it also causes this group to look closely at the past history of a candidate to determine the liklihood of their supporting legislation in this direction. Scandal after scandal within the GOP’s members in Congress has also eroded any confidence that the social conservatives might have had in there being a difference between the two parties. The third is immigration. Since most of the social conservatives and evangelicals are Reagan Democrats, they are concentrated in southern states and the West. These states are closer to the Mexican border and therefore have been exposed to a larger influx of illegal immigrants. The Republican party has not shown much ambition whatsoever in ending the wave by enforcement and has extended the olive branch to the new, potential citizens in the last few months.
Libertarians–To a libertarian, there is no signficant difference between the Republicans and Democrats at the moment except the issue of abortion. Neither party is particularly interested in reducing the size of government, lowering taxes for all Americans and reducing the amount of foreign involvement, especially where money is concerned. The GOP has been more intrusive on individual rights with the Patriot Act than any Democrat has ever dreamed of being. The only candidate of either party that looks attractive to a Libertarian is Ron Paul.
The Capitalist Class–These guys are going to go for whoever is going to do them the most good. They don’t have large numbers, but they have a great deal of money. The best way to tell who they’re backing is to look at the rate at which candidates are collecting campaign contributions. The Republican congressional campaign financing in the past year has been so unsuccessful that they laid off their phone solicitors, so the party is doing very poorly on the grassroots level. The power of each individual capitalist these days, however, is so great financially, that the race on this level could shift back and forth at a moment’s notice. The capitalists, however, are consistenly in favor of free-trade and would like a new, low-salaried working class in the country.
The situation we see, therefore, is one in which the four parts of the Republican coalition no longer have a common interest and in some cases are in direct opposition. The Libertarians see no real reason to vote for any candidate of either party. The social conservatives simply will not vote for Giuliani and have questionable support for any candidate except Ron Paul. The Neo-cons like Giuliani for his support of the war, but are very nervous about his stability long-term. All of the candidates have spoken about protectionism and are in favor of reducing immigration so the capitalists are shaking in their boots.
So, I think that the candidate next year will probably be Rudy. What I expect to happen, then, is this–there’s going to be a third party in the election, promoted by the social conservatives. It might nominate Paul, or its candidate could be someone else like Dobson or one of the other evangelical leaders. This will draw enough votes away from the mainstream of the Republican party to create an election landslide for the Democrats that will put a veto-proof majority in Congress.
The rancor afterwards will make the dislike of Nader in 2000 look like a love-fest. The social conservatives will have already left. The libertarians, encouraged by the support for Paul, will work to merge with the Buchananite nativists to bring about a reduced government state. The GOP will find itself with only the remnant of the Eastern capitalists that didn’t go over to Hillary and the Neo-cons.
…And then we lose the war in Iraq. The Neo-cons are eliminated–laughed out of town riding a rail. The end of history has not only not occurred, but we’re stuck in the middle of a rather unpleasant chapter. What’s left of the party is exactly where it was in 1960–a minority, dreaming of its halcyon days.
The funny thing about all this? Ron Paul, if the party got behind him, could draw in all of the voters of the party except for the Neo-cons. He’s not going to come close this election, but watch closely. If he even gets close to putting up a floor fight, the neo-cons are going to sharpen their pitchforks. He is the only candidate with even a minor chance of beating Hillary in 2008 for all of the reasons that I have explained above.
And one, final note: Here’s the best example of why Rudy will never win the Presidency of the United States and a salute to New York City in general, courtesty of The Onion (hat-tip to Vox.)
Explorer scouts from the Homer, SoCha, troop 314 have found the first evidence of sentient extraterrestrial life during their virtrip to Asteroid 253 Mathilde. The remote sensing device that the troop had created found an entrance which had been covered by a thin layer of dust for geologic ages. Mathilde had been flown by last century, and at that time had been found to have an average density lower than that of water. No scientists of that period, however, could have guessed that it was a hollow artifact. Marc Hoover, scoutmaster, stated that when their bot entered the craft, they found what seemed to have been a control room, although all the equipment had been removed. A plaque was mounted on the wall of the interior and was holoscribed and turned over to the University of Illinois for decryption. Brigette Okuma, linguist, said that the plaque, “is similar to the ones that were included by humanity on the Pioneer and Voyager probes during the 20th Century.” Made to be easily understood, the plaque contained the symbols for both DNA and a map of the earth with a supercontinent. Paleontologists confirmed that the map approximately corresponds to the Edicarian Period, a time when all of the planet’s original phyla appeared.
The first created Martians leave for the Red Planet early next spring. Baby Boomers have been offered regeneration to a bioage of 25 in exchange for two years supervisory work on the Martian colonization project. There have been no shortage of volunteers. Eris Morgan, head of the Austin-Center based company managing the operation said that, “Humanity no longer will have all of its eggs in one basket.”
Edward Jenkins was arrested by NorthAthens officials as he attempted to send a package containing a tailored retrovirus into the center of Southeastern Europe. Angered by the refusal of authorities there to refund the charges on his Age of Pericles virvacation, he has allegedly created a nan which would render anyone with one or more Greek ancestors sterile. His trial is planned for next month.
KansasCityCenter city council voted to increase the tax on stim within their borders to help pay for the power-downlink infrastructure. This 128-block area at present is the largest remaining governmental body in North America. There have been no comments from the citizenry yet, but the last tax increase was followed by calls for secession.
The reforestation of the Ohio Valley has been completed. The head of the Cherokee Tribal Council announced that any humans with provable Cherokee mitochondrial DNA will be afforded citizenship in the lowtech reserve. “About damn time,” Ben Whitebuck said, looking over the new growth from a bluff overlooking the River. “The place was a lot better before those crazy bastards showed up from Europe.”
The Fujita family of Okinawa has offered their latest creation to the ‘Sphere for the cost of manufacture. This new nanobot is designed to remove the ability to perceive differences in race from the brains of infected humans and uplifted animals. “We’ve gotten so much from others since the tsunami, the least we could do is end racism forever.”
The Wrigleyville Cubs failed in their drive for the playoffs when they dropped a critical game 36-34 to the Riverfront Cardinals. The hapless team has not won a World Series since 1908. “Wait til next year,” Eddie Bukoski of Lakeview said. “I’m sure we’ll have the pitching worked out by then–lots of new blood.”
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Pile on many more layers and I’ll be joining you there.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
And we’ll bask in the shadow of yesterday’s triumph,
sail on the steel breeze.
Come on you boy child, you winner and loser,
come on you miner for truth and delusion,
Late last evening, Augur challenged me to be more specific in my futurist predictions. He stated that while it was interesting to read about vague references to the changes that are in store for America and the rest of the human race, it might be useful if I could put all of my speculations in one, easy to reference document.
I spent very little time sleeping last night. By morning, I had managed to mentally outline a set of six blog posts which would feature news stories from the next forty years. I plan on printing them, one per day, beginning tomorrow. I’ll finish up with a post a week from tomorrow summarizing the exercise and answering any questions that you might have raised that were not sufficiently covered in the discussion.
Some caveats, though:
First of all, I don’t know what the future is going to bring, really. What I am going to be positing is the most likely, in my mind, path that humanity is going to take. As was demonstrated in 2001, a couple dozen determined individuals are more than capable of changing the course of history on a world-wide scale. As technology gives individuals more and more power, the groups of world-shakers will become smaller, not larger. Therefore, as time progresses, the specifics of my educated guesses will probably diverge further and further from reality.
Even trained science-fiction writers and technical experts are dismal at predictions. Only Heinlein, that I know of, successfully predicted the sudden fall of the Soviet Union. Tom Clancy was the only person in techno-thriller fiction that proposed the use of airliners as weapons of mass destruction. Very few of the prognosticators of the 1960s came within a block of understanding that computing would be distributed in the 21st century, not locked into huge mainframes.
Therefore, I would consider myself a genius if I managed to be more than about 75% correct on these predictions. I’ve thought about each of them at length, examining the root causes, as well as the effects that they will have on the lives of individuals and the chain of events that will result from them.
The future will look a lot like the past with a few things changed in major ways. As the rate of technological change accelerates, that future will become less and less comprehensible to those of us living today. Many of you reading these posts will live the forty years necessary to see the predictions succeed or fail. Like me, you’ll find yourself on a journey from a lost world (like the one I describe in my Tonica Days stories) to one in which every day presents new wonders, for good or for ill.
So, beginning tomorrow, we’ll take a walk on the wild side. Any of you who are budding science-fiction writers are welcome to take any idea that I present here and run with it. If you do so, please include a note of credit for the germ of your story in the introduction, that’s all I ask–my ego will supply the rest of what I need from that. I reserve the personal right, of course, to do the same, although fiction-writing is not in my current plans.
The posts will be in the form of short news stories, similar to those that one can currently find on CNN.com or The Drudge Report. We’ll start slow and familiar with a couple of six month intervals, then proceed to five years, then a decade or so before ending in 2047. All commentary is welcome in the comments section (except for screechy monkey poo, of course.)
Ready to go? Let’s fasten our seat belts, folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride….
I’ve been pondering sex the last couple of days. I do know that there are those of you in the audience, of course, that are saying right now, “A couple days? I thought it was your way of life?”
Be that as it may, let me get a show of hands: “Is there anyone out there who still isn’t convinced that without the influx of money from porn, they wouldn’t be reading this on the web right now?”
Oh, you–the guy in the white shirt in the back row who came here to read about polygamy. Tell you what, I’ve got this lovely ‘65 Les Paul guitar for you for only $3000. If you don’t want that, I’ve got a unicorn hair for only $2000–make you live forever, it will.
Let’s talk about masturbation, “hooking up” virtually and all kinds of wonderful non-procreative sex for a while. We’re in the middle of a technological and societal revolution, and before we know it, it’s going to change the way that men and women relate to each other forever.
What started me on this particular round of pondering was this article from C/Net News about a new virtual sex device for men that uses a computer and DVD with an additional track to run the machine. While viewers have been using computers to provide themselves with textual and visual stimulation at least since the start of USENET, (which last time I checked still had 464 different newsgroups in the alt.sex.* category,) this is the first time that I have seen a commercial device set up to provide a true “cybersex” experience for men. I find it fascinating that this is a traditional garage start-up tech company.
The Sinulator, for women is a few years older, and has an interface for the sending end that looks a lot like a racing control for a Playstation 3. It has a small but fervent following in the Webcam community. The revolution for women, on the other hand, is not only in technology, but in distribution and acquistion, as well. I’ll get to that in a little bit.
At the moment, there is a legal battle going on over in Second Life over the theft of some software that allows the avatars of the virtual space to, well, “do it.” It is possible that this theft could cost the designer thousands of dollars in business if the pirated software was distributed widely.
So, in my pondering, I’ve ended up with some questions that I’d like to put out to the readership for discussion:
How is the popularity and easy availability of sex toys for women changing how they relate to each other and to men?
Pure Romance is a $60 million business based in Ohio that has, with its 15,000 consultants nationwide, changed the way in which women buy and use sex toys. Operated similarly to Tupperware parties, the consultants bring demo models of the latest developments in stimulating devices to the homes of customers for all-women parties. While the sale of sex toys is still illegal in a number of states (Texas and Alabama being the most-often mentioned cases,) the parties have spread in popularity among groups of women ranging from the Hollywood A-List to the girls in the trailer-park behind the diner in small-town America.
The consultants don’t just provide toys, lotions and scents, though. They also provide a pro-sex attitude that some of the women at the parties have never experienced before. Women in their sixties have been able to ask questions that have been puzzling them for decades about their sexuality. Young women, just out of their teens, are finding out that they’re not the first generation to discover sex and that their grandmothers have done things that would give them the gosh-willies.
The kind of gender power-structure that has been present in America since the first sexual revolution of the 20th Century in the 1920s has been that women have power because they possess the sex for which men are willing to provide material goods and security in exchange. Only in the 1960s, when female-controlled contraception appeared, were the stakes lowered enough for women to begin to truly examine the necessity for their pleasure as well.
This new, empowering distribution of the means of pleasure now uncouples men from the process completely. There are many, many customers of Pure Romance who are married. In many cases, their husbands are consulted during the ordering process, so they are certain to get something out of the whole process. However, the emphasis is on maximizing the pleasure for the women involved and that decision rests solely in the hands of those women.
Will superior cybersex for men lower the amount of power women hold over men?
There is, of course, the other side of the coin. Men, in many cases, tolerate behavior from women that would get another man slugged at worst or shunned at best simply because they are desperate for the sex that the women could possibly provide. In the worst possible cases, men (particularly naive ones) actually marry completely incompatible women simply because of that sex. Often these women are discarded for a younger model when their beauty and sex-appeal begin to fade and the man has become successful enough to extend the age range of his attractiveness.
Right now, however, there’s a competitor for that younger woman. There are a growing number of men who are being termed “porn addicts,” since they are seen as neglecting their wives, who are pining away in the bedroom, for the glowing screen in the den and no-strings sex with a webcam girl or downloaded movie.
I don’t think it’s an addiction, whatsoever. What it is is a case where the sex with the machine is superior to the sex in the bedroom for the man. This kind of “addiction” seems to be very prevalent in those parts of our culture where men have been coerced into marriage in order to get sex in the first place–fundamentalists have been shown to be so prone that some churches are taking part in the “elephant in the pew” movement this month to combat this “perversion.” It can best be summed up by the phrase, “the fucking he’s getting is not worth the fucking he’s getting.”
What I feel will take place, as virtual sex gets better and better, is that women and men will be forced into a situation where they will have to negotiate their relationships, for the first time in human history, without the dichotomy of power that has existed up to now. It is possible that when couples (or more, can’t forget us poly people) get together in the future, it will be more likely that it will be out of mutual respect and love, rather than fleeting sexual desire.
Is cyberphilia an indication of a new gender?
As the available technology of virtual sex advances, there are going to be those individuals who consistently prefer the stimulation of the cyber-world over that of the squishy, smelly, troublesome real world. We will need to move beyond thinking of these individuals as obsessed, addicted (keeping in mind that the Victorian concept of hysteria is that of a woman who had the ability to become sexually stimulated) or lacking the ability to interact with other human beings.
Instead, we can think of a new gender that is primarily attracted to machines–a technosexual, so to speak. It is interesting to think of the potential intersection of this new gender with the growing number of individuals who would be, at the same time, adopting wearable or permanent hardware. Would it be possible that the most attractive thing about the young woman at the bar would be the 24/7 earpiece that she is wearing or the under-the-skin computer processor that was surgically implanted? What would sex be like between two individuals with VR glasses and stim suits that do not touch at all, but still hump like rabbits two or three times per day?
What’s the next step beyond these?
This new change is the third big change in sexuality that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I was born into the artificially repressed world of the 1950s, with the unnatural nuclear families born of the suburbs and superhighways. When the Pill, feminism and gay rights arrived in the 1960s, I watched a hedonistic society spiral to a point where having sex was approximately equivalent to playing tennis–good exercise after which you took a shower. The Plague Years in the early 1980s put an end to that, with many of us in the more avant-garde circles losing up to ten percent of our friends.
Now, we’re on a platform powered by the cheap availablity of both cyber and bio-tech. Will people be able to choose new genders at will in a generation? Will they be able to switch back the next night? What about folks like Furries with an orientation that’s biologically possible to create, but completely out of the ordinary? And the biggest question of all…
What would a society be like in which everyone had as much sex as they wanted and needed every day?
Disclaimer: One of my wives currently sells Pure Romance products and I have written for their consultants’ magazine. While I do enjoy the products that she sells, this article in no way is an advertisement or endorsement of her business.
Since I have written the first two articles in this series, a number of readers have asked me what I think is going to happen to the poor, the disenfranchised and the unwanted in the vastly-changed future that I’ve been talking about.
I was heading into Borders bookstore Friday night when I spotted a copy of Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry Jenkins’ The Remnant. It occurred to me that a disturbingly high number of us in the futurist community that are speaking of the Singularity right now sound like pretribulation dispensationalists, believing that the intellectually virtuous will be saved while the rest of the world suffers through the tribulation of the end times.
Humanity is, indeed, heading at a breakneck speed toward an inflection point. Since the invention of agriculture, which allowed storage of food, and iron, which made metropoli possible, it has worked its way up the food chain to become a superpredator. There is no creature on this planet capable of giving it a run for its money. Ultimately, the next twenty or thirty years is going to answer the question of where it will end up in the Universe’s grand scheme of things.
So, to answer the readers’ question: I don’t expect that the great, unwashed masses are going to do a whole lot one way or the other in this period. However, there’s a couple of points that need to be made in this regard, lest I bring the wrath of heaven (or at least the idealistic) down upon me:
Society sets the stage, “great people” are the actors.
There is always debate within the historical community as to whether or not “the man makes the times” or “the times makes the man.” I am of the opinion that neither is the case, that there have been, throughout history, both polymaths with the range of knowledge that the world needs and visionaries with the understanding of the methods of applying that knowledge. When you get someone like Jefferson (who we discussed yesterday) who is both, you have an individual who significantly alters the future of humanity.
While we can certainly have visionaries within the “outsider” groups of humanity, it is much more difficult to create polymaths there because of the inaccessibility of knowledge within those groups due either to lack of time to pursue it, cultural opposition to obtaining it or lifespans too short to fully utilize the knowledge obtained.
This is not due necessarily to any intrinsic flaw in those groups–often they are oppressed by power structures beyond their control and enslaved by those who wish to use their bodies and minds for their own profit. Nonetheless, with the exception of those few furtive individuals who have the drive for self-education, the world-shaking will not come from that quarter.
Big social and technological changes have come at times when there have been enough of a surplus of goods to allow a class with time over and above mere survival and access to enough information to self-educate. This maximizes the probability that a “great person” will arise through synergy.
Part of the reason that the Singularity is going to have such a big impact is that for the first time in history, we have enough dissemination of information combined with wealthy (historically speaking) individuals, that it is possible that all of the “great people” within a quarter of the earth’s population could be simultaneously empowered at once.
One Jefferson created our present government. One Newton created our science.
What is going to happen when we have a million of them all working at once?
A virtuous “great person” can save a multitude.
“Well”, you say, “looks like it’s really going to suck to be a postman or a taxi driver.”
Humanity has always had the disenfranchised and the poor. (After all, the disciples complained to Jesus that he wasn’t doing enough to help them.) However, for the first time, we now have the capability of making large-scale changes which will aid them powered by the efforts of a single person.
Too idealistic, perhaps?
Absolutely not. Let me give you an example of one person who saved the lives of one billion people and ended hunger for a billion more (and with late 20th Century technology):
There is some controversy over the methods that he employed. However, it is inarguable that in 1960, 60% of the population of the planet suffered from hunger at some time during the course of a year. By 2000, that percentage had dropped to 14%, despite a doubling of the Earth’s population. Anyone who has suffered from the pangs of hunger for more than a couple weeks of their lives knows that they will do anything to avoid this happening again. This great man ended this problem for most of the world.
So, there’s my answer.–While it is unlikely that a great number of the changes that are going to happen are going to be due to the efforts of the “outsiders,” it is quite possible that some of the changes, particularly the ones created by idealist polymaths, could usher in a better life for all of them. It is up to all of us to provide that idealism.