So, I’m sure by now you’re going ‘okay zac..16 possible futures…gee that’s great. Before, I only had to pick between two or three. Thanks asshole. ‘

But fear not. I wouldn’t leave you in such a dismal condition. From this point it’s just matter of which one you think is the most likely, or fits the evidence best, right?

So, I’ll condescend to predict a little more, but I’ll add one more wrinkle of complexity first.

Because, you see, it’s entirely possible and even likely that just one scenario won’t cover it. we could get the best and the worst, and indeed, all I can really do is attempt to draw a line down the middle and speculate on which side of the line we might skew towards.

To add a little more veracity we can introduce time periods into this; short mid and long terms to be precise.

If we deem that things are fluid enough to reverse completely from short to mid terms, and from mid to long terms that means that we have not 16 but rather 16x16x16=4,096 possible through lines for our future, arising from just four main variables. I will spare you all four thousand of them.

Given all that, lets weed it down and pick which we’ll lay our money on.

In the short term:

we’re enjoying the bloom of some real climate hysteria, so even if it turns out that the anthropocentric greenhouse effect was a fat load of horeshit, it won’t matter because we have adopted it as an operating premise. Another katrina-like catastrophe, even if it turns out to be totally natural and unavoidable, will cinch that.

Based on the best scientific studies going, we’re much too late and much too clueless to prevent, at the very least, a major liquid fuels crisis that will mean a major economic crisis that will probably take a decade or two at the very least to mitigate or begin to recover from. This will have reverberations in everything from food distribution to geopolitcs. So that means worst case energy, in short.

Unless someone busts out the bioweapons, or nuclear bunker busters in short order, it looks like we’re still on the good side of the technology equation, for a little while anyway. wireless and peer to peer technologies continue to incubate the promise of a new form of social organization that may well realize itself sooner than later. There’s not much chance we’ll have a real upgrade in transport, manufacturing or medicine, but you never know. In any case something big like that wouldn’t penetrate the mainstream for a few years at least. So it’s a soft best case for technology.

While population continues to grow at a small but potentially disastrous rate, it’s not likely that this will take over as a real issue for anyone right now. The words ‘carrying capacity’ will be met with blank stares for a while yet. So while we’re living in the seeds of a worst case, we’re treating it as non-case, or even a best case. Depends on where you live, mind you.

All that adds up to neonate form of world #12: continued resource war, malthusian/green backlash against ‘business as usual’, and advanced technology mostly channeled into conservation of energy and efficiency measures.

Al Gore or someone like him convinces the great unwashed to tighten their belts and conserve, as we shift phases into a more blatantly energy influenced foreign policy. venzuela, mexico, and iran in the crosshairs. 70’s style oil shocks, leading into major recession. Back to the land hysteria. Futile flailing for stupid alternative energy ‘sources’ like ethanol, or coal-gas. All this is potential set up for some kind of hitler figure, while tough times sweat all the idealism and airy fairy abstractions out of us.

Noble leaders will suffer a sad fate unless they can get their head around the full scope of all the problems and somehow communicate that to the public. In other words, fat fucking chance. Expect a chain of martyrs for, in no particular order: 5$ a gallon gas , losing the war in iraq, lack of air conditioning, empty shelves at the safeway, the stink of manure in your neighborhood, and every other piece of reality that we’re been trained to not want to hear about. Maybe jimmy carter will do us a favor and take another one for the team.

Mid term:

Eventually things will get hard and scary enough it terms of resource shortage that any high minded ideas of reducing our carbon footprint will be quietly dispensed with/ The first genius to realize that because we’ve peaked in fossil fuel use, that we don’t need to take any special measures to steadily reduce our emissions, gets a free term in office. Things warm up to a certain point and no further. Weird climate shit will keep happening, but we will eventually realize that weird climate shit has always been happening, so fuck it. Get a helmet and move on. Meaning, we flip into into a best case climate scenario. The vocal greens will be hiding in their solar mansions and issuing increasingly irrelevant proclamations to the mob, who are preoccupied with something besides melting ice, and couldn’t care less. Turns out co2 is pretty harmless after all. Plants even, like, breathe it, and stuff.

We probably hit rock bottom in energy about now. Rolling blackouts, fuel rationing, growing your own food in the backyard, etc. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Turns out we’re social animals and we actually like having a connection to the real world and each other more than we thought we would. It’s actually a lot nicer to work at home and walk everywhere than the shit we used to do. Your neighbors are a lot less scary then they looked a few years ago. Most services are going for shit, but the reduced stress and slower pace make it quite tolerable. A lot of things can actually be handled by you, believe it or not.

On the other hand, by this point we’re in the awkward infancy of things like advanced bioenegineering, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. It’s more likely than not someone is gonna get the idea to turn them to destructive uses. We are, after all, at the bottom of a resource war without end, and weapons technology is always the first place new shit gets used. It’s getting a bit hard to find gas for tanks and planes, and stuff, so those targeted bioweapons are starting to look good. There’s not much point worrying about it, because it’s not the sort of thing you’re going to survive. You’re either a target or you’re not. Work on not being a potential target.

The very simplest forms of this are penetrating the mainstream and so you can change your hair and eye color, correct most genetic disorders and disease proclivities, rebuild damaged nerve tissue or bone, play in virtual words, and conduct mostly convincing relationships with simulated persons. Computers are embedded in everything, and privacy is becoming a sort of quaint anachronism.

So, a soft worse case for technology, because dying in a engineered plague sort of outweighs virtual sex, but not by much, I guess. The nerds out there are a lot happier and more productive, if nothing else.

By this point, it’s getting noticeable that we’ve a shit load of people, and not enough food. Partly because of the natural gas crisis that torpedoed fertiliser production a couple decades back, and partly the sheer weight of numbers. Things get a bit too crowded and squalid for anyone’s liking. Some nimrod probably gets the idea to create a virus that sterilises indiscriminately. That’s right, worst case population, too…

So this is equivalent to world#8: resource war without end, minus the green pretensions of a little ways back. Pragmatism will trump aesthetics, and the world takes a gut check. We get a nice close look at the end of everything. When you’re not jacked into virtual moneyshot vol12, or something, that is…

Long term:

By this point we’ve well understood what’s really going on with the climate, and we’ve got enough knowledge of genetics and nanotech to start to fix the shit we broke on this planet. The big issue ends up being toxification of various kinds, and programmes to remediate the soil, water and air go into effect.

Eventually we figure out a way to get plentiful electricity, and leverage that to make liquid fuels again in large quantites. With enough free electricity, say from nano-engineered solar, you could make a limitless amount of hydrogen out of seawater, even if it’s a shitty fuel storage method, we’ll eventually make it usable, or else have some engineered fungus that breaks cellulose into biodiesel with near perfect efficiency.

All the promise of advanced technology begins to pay off, as we get near total ability to manipulate matter from the molecular level up. You can look how you want, feel how you want and go where you want, real or otherwise. You can find out how other people think and feel pretty easily, and swap experiences. Anything you want to know about anything is pretty much available instantly, if you have a connection to the wireless network. Which you pretty much always do.

Lastly, our population probably keeps growing, but we have the means to provide everything except (real)space for free. Conflict is a bit less of an issue, but the narcissism of minor differences will never go away for many people, no matter how many minds you share. Everything comes down to the war of ideas, in the end.

and what happened to the resource war, you say? Pretty simple. Eventually people realize that they don’t have to participate in that shit anymore, and with free energy, free food, and free information, they just don’t. Near perfect telepathy means near perfect democracy. Which, yeah does in fact mean the lowest common denominator, but it’s the lowest common denominator amongst nearly immortal superhuman intellgences.

So, world#3: the transhuman diaspora, as we seek more room to express our minor (and not so minor) differences. Space, the oceans, maybe even time and other dimensions. Different minds, and different bodies. Life is restless, forever and ever. Amen.

19 thoughts on “where the rubber meets the road

  1. Gadz, I hope we’ll all be around in several hectades to see how this pans out.
    What can we do? Get down! Make Love!

    It’s purple, not blue.

    Each spin around the sun is a Revolution, how can we not be (r)evolving?

    Work it out. Step it up. Raise the level. Enlightened lovers have enlightened babies! Jah guide …

  2. Just want to say well done… a lot of thought gone into this and good points made.

    I’ve got one question.. where do you see religion / spirituality going in all of this?

  3. In this particular timeline, I see a general drift in two directions: one way towards an incredibly efficient hyperconditioning in the guise of various local religions, and increasingly as watered down pluralist ‘global’ religion, that has no actual transmission left in it. the counter initiation theme park basically.

    on the other end of that, i see the underlying technology of spritual understanding breaking loose of the particularisms of locality and cultural ritual. eventually it will be well enough understood that it will be like lifting weights or any other demanding program of personal growth. if you can hack it, you get to wear the t-shirt. the baseline level of ‘insight’ will gradually increase, so the climb for each person gets shorter, but the odds they’ll snap out of their stream of media indulgences to do it will be worse than ever.

    but with increasing population, that still means more enlightened people than there have ever been, and they can talk to each other more easily than they have ever done.

    eventually we cross a tipping point where the fidelity of mind to mind communication makes it possible to send out fundamental insights at the speed of light. one realised person can touch everyone else on the network instantly, and they all ‘get’ it. the whole planet goes through the stages of insight en masse, dark night and all, and depending how fast everything cycles, the world is populated with arahants in short order. be a bit touch and go for a while, though.

  4. With all of the dogmatism and mixed messages and everyone retreating into their own psychospiritual bubbles, i think it might be hard for us to come to any spiritual / religious consensus in which the insights will make sense to enough people as to cause any kind of change… the same as today.

    Sure me might all be able to instantly communicate our thoughts via techno – telepathy, but what if we still all disagree?

    What needs to be done is a consolidation of all of the fundamental insights as they come to hand, like a peer reviewed journal type thing.. maybe

  5. Is enlightenment in the mind?

    Aren’t thoughts, ultimately, as symbolic and ’empty’ of essence as words?

    I’m reading Rudolf Steiner at the moment. I have a hunch that even if my brain was hooked up directly to his, I still wouldn’t get it…

  6. enlightenment isn’t in the mind, but it’s the mind that has to recognise it. It’s beyond words, but I’m sure there’s a fundamental neural pattern or precursor that could eventually be mapped and communicated. think of it as a super-zen koan package that could be torrented around the world.

    even if all you could do was bring 70% of the population up to the edge and only 10% of those actually found their way over on their own, that would be enough.

  7. two? why two?

    that’s really hard to explain, cause i’m not really speaking of ‘content’ or story-type insights. I mean, I could tell you how the sense of linear time and subject/ object break down, or how the observer of the senses is a phenomena of the senses itself, but… I dunno. what i tell you about that is not really what it is.

    If I had time to suss out your way of thinking and representational systems, i could talk you up to the edge of it, maybe, but chances are most people’s brains recoil from it without a lot of practice.

  8. Thats cool, no reason for two.

    The two you provided were valid for me too.. i was just curious as to what you would write.
    These types of insights, and not the content / story type ones are where I see real progress being made. Everyone wants to attach their own content or flavour to these base insights, to ‘brand’ the insight as their own.

    With these insights that have been removed of context, you get a kind of spiritual mathematics or axioms.

    After being on the web for ten years or so you start to get mighty sick of the stories.

    But then again, i’ve got a theory going at the moment that the majority of what people think of as their spiritual self (or in fact any sense of identity that they have) is really just a story that they continually tell themselves. They have a story of their future, a story of their past, and a story of their present.

  9. When I say that I am sick of the stories, i am sick of the way that as soon as someone has a spiritual insight that gains any kind of following it is quickly dogmatized, crystalised and the form set in stone. It gains an accepted narrative structure, an outer form which quickly eats the inner truth and renders it impotent.

  10. Wow. Alchemically braindamaged indeed. I just found you so these past seven posts is my initiation. I greatly enjoyed the ideas, subject matter and thoughtfulness from your posts, and also the comments so far. I might have asked the same question about spirituality and I was interested in your response. Anyway impossible to determine the future exactly – regardless of prophecy I believe the future is more like plasm; pliable, yet also ultimately controlled by a Force far greater than ourselves. A bit of a free will conundrum. However you’ve done a magnificent job of demonstrating many of the pertinent issues we face. I might include as a real possibility, the power of our warped ruling elite to manipulate the masses in terms of fear or religion. There are many who currently attempt to sway the balance of population, resources, free energy and even climate from behind the scenes with their technologies and agendas.
    Thanks again for working my brain. Its alchemical transformation is in overdrive.

  11. R.U. Sirius did a short show where he says he thinks that in a few years the Gore Scouts will be going door-to-door making sure you have fluorescents only. While I generally don’t think this will happen because as many have said, We Have the Technology (and it gets better every day)–come on, per capita oil usage dropped in the 70s because a concerted effort was made to conserve, and that was back when motors weren’t nearly as good; one author, a WSJ reporter, thinks that in 10-15 years congress and the auto industry will have finally woken up enough to be rolling out battery/diesel hybrids (the oil industry, he says, is, with the exception of Exxon, working quietly to transition to alternatives) after all the stupid-ass “solutions” like corn ethanol and crap-and-trade boondoogles fail. That doesn’t mean we aren’t already screwed. We’ve dumped 50 million years worth of stored energy into the atmosphere in a century, wild weather is going to be the norm.

    I generally agree that while maybe the “baseline” insight level might rise, it’ll be increasingly difficult for people to snap out of the social and media streams they’re stuck in. I also think that in the nearer future social pressures for conformity, largely driven by the return of the middle class to urban areas and the increase of security technology applications. Not to single anyone out, but while I generally respect some aspects of Douglas Rushkoff’s work, his suggestion that “reality hacking” entails, in his example, building neighborhood barbeque pits to increase the sense of community, seems caught up in this stream. The idea that increased “community” is The Solution gets bandied about in lefty circles and in a lot of the paleo/theocon ones as well, but try explaining to your community why you have to skip the sunday night barbeque to go sit in a dark room. At the same time, social media provides a support for those whose hobbies are a little out-there.

    I’m not so certain that The One World Religion could rise, despite the best efforts of the Lucis Trust, particularly in a resource-deprived world. The type of complete psychospiritual softness you need to accept that hogwash only seems to come from material surety, ritual abuse, or spending a long time talking about your content in a pained way. If anything fundamentalism seems on the rise and I doubt your typical xian fundie or iranian car-bomber is going to truck in that shit, especially when he hasn’t eaten for a week. Nothing short of the Maitreya teleporting into their living room will change that, and then said fundie will probably just try to exorcise the djinn or demon.

    @astepoutsdie: even though i have only really started doing insight formally recently, i have plenty of stories regarding early-stage insights, but mot of them are: “i was sitting still attempting to note sensations as they occured, then felt like something clicked. A moment or two later my mind made an attempt to verbalize what happened, sometimes in a useful way and somrtimes not. i did not entertain the line of thought. Now my tailbone hurts from sitting on a crummy bean bag cushion.” Not exactly a trip report–I pretty much agree, and also especially with your concept about people telling themselves stories about themselves. Maybe it feels “empowering”, and maybe that is a valid need, but damn, don’t make it out to be something it’s not.

  12. “don’t make it out to be something it’s not.”

    exactly. that’s the self-delusion we all face, and must face up to, if we’re strong enough to seek the truth, and humble enough to accept it.

    I’m hoping that setting one’s intention on seeking the truth, allows the course to set it’s own direction. That’s charismatic Faith, assuming God and the universe are listening …

    Be open to grace and be willing to follow, with eyes wide with discernment and heart in expectation. The problem is we’ll never be perfect or ready enough …

  13. “Perhaps the most consistently harmful and debilitating tendency in man has been to overestimate his spiritual accomplishment and to underestimate his spiritual potential. The tragic consequences of this double heresy, in my view, are to be found in our present condition of incipient oblivion and in our almost total confusion concerning the reasons for our predicament and the possibilities for personal and world transformation and emendation.”

  14. The funny thing about hypothetical scenarios is that they are (a) only as good a predictive tool as the variables used to ‘grow’ them are complete & accurate & (b) they invariably miss the mark because of unknowns that arise outside of (or in the shadow of) the ‘known’ variable pool, which in itself is prejudiced by the experience of the individual or group crafting said predictive scenarios. To be sure, there is value in exploratory visions to craft a map of the future… as long as we keep in mind that the map ain’t the territory.

    Everybody goes on & on about peak oil this & that, but I contend that what folks seldom consider is a world in which we hit the jackpot… where we shoot past oil dependency altogether; it may happen alot sooner than the average bear suspects. Don’t think that the world will be wine & roses if something like fuel cells becomes feasible tech for the masses. It could make a future of depleted resources, of oil & water wars, look downright quaint. The world may look back & say that an innocuous place like – oh, I dunno – Honeoye Falls & say that was where the world of yesterday ended & the forever tomorrowland began. Ever notice when Joe Average wins the Lotto, he’s often lost it all in a few years? Ye-aah…

    In the meantime, whether the future is so bright that we’re gonna haveta wear shades… or SPF 9000… it still comes down to how we treat or neighbors/ ourselves. For too many, sitting on a cushion is easier than going out into the world & putting insight into practice, fer sure. ‘The Rubber & the Road’ indeed. 🙂

  15. well, at least half of the scenarios deal with unlimited energy in some form, i just don’t see any evidence that will happen in any thing like the short term. even the most optimistic estimates figure that if we had a completely new energy blueprint today, it would take 15-30 years to retrofit everything. so that’s a rough window, no matter how you slice it.

    at the very least, we all have to take part of the weight for our collective neglect, and that’s not gonna go down easy.

  16. rough window indeed. I need to order more resveratrol or get some of that xibalba root bark to see this through.

  17. Zac,

    Dude, Are you a Gnostic? There is only one possible future, several possible developments in the interim, only the interim. All of them will suck and cause suffering.

  18. in the big sense, yes , I am a gnostic, insofar as I am concerned with the experience of gnosis. I am not however interested in any particular doctrine of ‘gnosticism’ or putting a + sign in front of my name or anything.

    as for the rest, those are beliefs. I don’t necessarily share them, but you’re welcome to them.

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