Blogs of the Union

By Razib Khan | January 30, 2006 10:30 pm

Radio Open Source is calling for Blogs of the Union ()posts. So here I go….
Ten years ago the internet was a new and innovative technology that was going to change our lives as it entered into mass culture. Today I doubt most citizens of this union could imagine a world without the internet or wireless technology. What was once cutting edge is now banal. No doubt when we reflect on our lives many of us old enough to remember the Jetsons wonder why so little has changed, but I believe that is a false perception, for when the future is the present it fails to elicit awe. We may not live in an age of flying cars, but we live in one where Google has made old-fashioned erudition obsolete. Today we can foresee a day when total knowledge of our personal genetic code is within reach. We have even sent a probe to the outermost planet. The rate of change that we take for granted in our lives was unimaginable even a generation ago, and it seems likely that the rate of this rate of change is increasing ever more. We should appreciate the lives we lead because it seems likely that our generation is the bridge between the vast epochs of man’s past when he was still a creature of his nature, limited by the tools that evolution provided, and the post-human future when the melange of bioengineering and cybernetics consumes us. Let us give thanks for the affluence that technology affords us. And let us look to the past and cherish who we were as a people, for it may be that we will be the last who will be able to relate in any fundamental way with the experience of what it has meant to be human for the last 50,000 years. We are the end, and hopefully the beginning.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Blog
  • http://conjecturesandrefutations.net/weblog/ Matt McIntosh

    Amen.

  • Rhiannon

    The Internet has changed the lives of the affluent but is inaccessible to a huge portion of the world’s population. The gap between have and have-not is widening rapidly. What it means to be human cannot truly change if most of the world is left behind.

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    The gap between have and have-not is widening rapidly. What it means to be human cannot truly change if most of the world is left behind.
    the gap is widening on paper in relative terms (ie the asset levels of the haves is skyrocketing vs. the non-haves). but in terms of basic minimum quality of life the haves peaked a long time ago (freedom from want). the have nots are catching up, obesity is a problem even in third world countries. my family is from bangladesh, and i went to that nation last year, and i can attest to it there. the basic quality of life and extent of abject medieval poverty is being mitigated. and not to be glib, but even though they don’t have the latest nokia, my cousins who attend madrassas have cell phones.

  • http://quantumghosts.blogspot.com matoko kusanagi

    razib!!!!

    the post-human future when the melange of bioengineering and cybernetics consumes us.

    i keep telling you, our trans-human future comes first.
    there may not a be a post-human future, if we can live up to our trans-human potential. ;)
    btw, coolio Dune reference.

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    matoko, what are you, a jesuit of our Faith, keeping the flock in line? :)
    “only the fool sayeth in his heart that the future will not be”

  • http://quantumghosts.blogspot.com matoko kusanagi

    lol, razib, i meant only that all possible futures will incorporate humans, so there cannot be a “post-human future”. ;)
    a jesuit? jamais de ma vie!
    i’m sure grrls weren’t allowed in that club.

  • http://www.daretoreason.blogspot.com Dan Dare

    Rhiannon,
    Per capita economic growth rates tend to be higher in developing countries so there is a broad tendency to converge.
    Check Table 1 “Summary Of World Output” where the average annual growth rate in GDP per capita during the most recent decade 1997-2006 is shown as 2.1% for advanced economies versus 4.0% for emerging market and developing economies. IMF World Economic Outlook Statistical Appendix. This is a PDF file.
    Or you can download any statistical data you like from here: IMF World Economic Outlook Database
    The Purchasing Power Parity GDP Per Capita series for all countries is particularly informative. But requires quite a bit of work to extract the regional patterns you might want to see. Good spreadsheet practice.
    The thing you have to remember is that the “developed world’ started to industrialize in the 18th or 19th centuries whereas the “developing world” only really started in the late 20th. That two hundred year start is going to take a while to catch up on. Personally I expect much of the catching up to be complete by the end of this century.
    In broad terms this will be the Asian century. In retrospect the 20th century will be seen by future historians as the last century of unquestioned Western domination.
    In Total GDP at PPP terms you can project that China will pass USA in the coming decade. But that is mainly due to its huge population. It will still be much poorer in per capita terms for quite a few decades.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/evolgen RPM

    We should appreciate the lives we lead because it seems likely that our generation is the bridge between the vast epochs of man’s past when he was still a creature of his nature, limited by the tools that evolution provided, and the post-human future when the melange of bioengineering and cybernetics consumes us.
    Doesn’t every generation feel this way — bridging a gap between what was before (primative) and what lies ahead (advanced)? Some major shifts that stand our are from stone to metal, nomad to agriculture, birth of empires, renaisance, industrial revolution (I’m really bad with history/anthro, so I’m sure other people can come up with more and better events). I don’t see your shift as any more monumental.

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    Some major shifts that stand our are from stone to metal, nomad to agriculture, birth of empires, renaisance, industrial revolution
    as i said, i think the rate of change is faster today. for example, consider my grandfather, he was born in 1896 and died in 1996. can you imagine another 100 someone in the period from 1500 to 1600 experience as much change? yes, the christian world fractured and the scientific revolution was being seeded, but in terms of mass change i don’t think it compares because the shifts were generally elite (on the village level the change between catholic and protestant tended to go in stages and contrary the stereotype literacy did not show overnight will translations of the bible into local languages).
    one comparison might be the transition from pre to post-neolithic, but my understanding is that this line is fuzzier than we might think, especially in the past when there was more of a continuum.

  • http://www.daretoreason.blogspot.com Dan Dare

    There is nothing to compare to the rate of change the world has seen since the start of the industrial revolution. This is usually thought to have started around mid 18th century in England, and has slowly encompassed more and more countries as the centuries have passed.
    In the initial “catch up” phase, newly industrializing countries tend to grow particularly rapidly as we are seeing in East Asia and China today.
    Leading-edge industrial nations (i.e. those that have caught up) tend to grow at a surprisingly steady 2% or so per annum per capita, if you average real GDP per capita over periods of a decade or two so as to “blur out” wars and depressions/recessions.
    e.g. USA Average GDP per capita at constant 2000 dollars 1970-2004 fits an exponential regression line with a slope of 2.03% per annum. Source OECD

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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