Chapter 12. Visions and Challenges – Priorities for Professionals

Monotrend Extrapolation Errors (MEEs)

Extrapolating single trends while ignoring other moderating, competing, or opposing trends and factors is another common futurist mistake. We can call that a monotrend extrapolation error (MEE), and it can be considered as a specific type of hype cycle or extremism bias.

Future thinkers who fall into MEEs are obsessed with extrapolating one particular trend they are emotionally overexcited about (a hype cycle mistake) or think of as more powerful than it is (an extremism bias). They are emotionally or cognitively overinvested or overfocused on envisioning the trend and its future, so they anticipate its development much faster or farther than it deserves, ignore how difficult its early development will be, and all the countervailing trends, competitors, and constraints that will slow, stop, or outcompete it.

A good way to remember this mistake is to think about the future from the trend’s point of view. The trend, and its enamored futurist, think the future is all about “MEE”. But the real future is much more complex. MEEs always miss key constraints, countertrends and competitors likely to change their predictions. Here are just a small sample of recent MEEs you may have heard from an enthusiastic, visionary, yet not sufficiently critical futurist in recent years. Many many more could be named, this is just a small sample:

“We’ll soon be mining the asteroids.” This is just bunkum. Yes, private spaceflight can get into near space, but extrapolating to anything beyond even medium earth orbit anytime soon makes no sense, until we can solve the horrific launch cost problem. Enthusiastic space futurists have long tried to ignore that that robots and telepresence are far more likely and cost effective ways to leave Earth. For any who would look closely, humans in any numbers living off planet before the arrival of human surpassing AI was always a vision that was much too expensive, dangerous, and impractical to ever materialize. Of course after the AIs emerge, sometime this century, the key question at that point will be where they want to go, not us. As we have argued, their interests may lie in a very different direction than most people today think.

“We’ll soon be hacking our biology for personalized medicine.” Sure, we’re beginning to hack biology in lower organisms and plants, but we still have no good idea what we’re doing, because we cut back deep funding to molecular, genetic, cellular and organismic biology research decades ago, so we won’t really understand these things until deep computational biology and biologically-inspired computing arrive, and the AIs that result from those efforts themselves crack gene-protein regulatory networks for us. Of course, cracking those codes means they will necessarily wake up either just before or in the process of doing so. Until then, we’re mostly guessing in all the complex areas of biotech and medicine, and the ethical injunctions against doing such guessing in humans will only get higher as social wealth grows.

“We’ll all soon have 3D printers making complex things in our homes.” Sure, we’ll continue to see simple, solid object 3D printing make technical progress. We’ll eventually see 3D printing of complex objects at local rapid prototyping centers (Amazon warehouses?), with same day delivery to our homes. That would clearly be a major competitor to home 3D printing. Such a regionalized or neighborhood solution, done on expensive city-based rapid prototyping systems will clearly beat out home 3D printing of anything complex for many years to come, while these machines are expensive, and the technology is immature. Think of the $150,000 Xerox DocuTech that inexpensively prints books at your local FedEx Office. Of course, there are niche exceptions. We can imagine someone displacing Legos with a Minecraft-style 3D printer for home fabrication of plastic kids toys, if it has a great online design/game component, and if we can recycle the plastic. But widespread use of home 3D printers, for say, metal and electronic parts, are a futurist fantasy for years to come.

“We’ll soon see lots of human-driven flying cars.” This is another MEE, though it is not as bad as the others. If we change this statement just a little, we’ll see that a version of it is a much more likely near-term future (e.g., the next decade) than many folks currently think. Recall all those twentieth century futurists who looked at Moulton Tayler’s 1949 Aerocar, or the US Army’s 1959 jet packs, and assumed that from those prototypes that we’d have mass-affordable flying cars and personal jet packs just a few decades later. Those futurists forgot all the other trends and factors that would regulate or compete with the arrival of their predicted future long before it could materialize. Flying car technology is at present highly expensive and unacceptably dangerous, both to folks on the ground and in the air. It is a mistake to assume that just because today’s society allows horrific levels of automobile deaths (30,000/year in the US, 1.3M/year globally) without mandating affordable crash-proof cars with seven point harnesses and external airbags (a major moral lapse on the part of industrial societies) that we’ll allow the same levels of deaths in flying automobiles. There was never any chance, in my view, of that extrapolation occurring, though many flying car entrepreneurs ignored that reality. The marginal gain we would get in transportation value isn’t worth the cost, in any rational societies calculation, of putting lots of human-driven flying cars in the air.

Flying cars won’t emerge in real numbers until we have in-plane collision avoidance (self-driving planes), in-plane radar (for clouds and fog), whole-plane parachutes and external airbags (in case of mechanical failure), and other such advances in safety and reliability. Fortunately, those technological solutions are fast arriving now, and we see a near-term version of this vision, arriving an on-demand network of human-carrying passenger drones. That future will arrive long before the mass ownership of personal human carrying drones, which will be quite expensive in their early versions. You can see more on this surprising future in the online Guide at Air Deliveries and Air Taxis: Finally Solving Urban Gridlock, and in Book 3.

Space flight, genetic engineering, 3D printers, human-driven flying cars, picture phones, Segways, almost anything that has been greatly overhyped in the past has been caught up in a MEE by some well-meaning future thinker. If you see yourself getting very excited about one kind of future, ask yourself if the trends truly support it, and if you’re mistaking a clear view for a short distance, or alternatively, overestimating the trend’s effects in the short run and underestimating them in the long run.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 2. Personal Foresight – Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 2: Personal Foresight

Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 4. Models – Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 4: Models

Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 7. Acceleration – Guiding Our Extraordinary Future

Chapter 7: Acceleration

Guiding Our Extraordinary Future (In Process)

II. Global Progress: 5 Goals, 10 Values, Many Trends

Innovation: Our Abundant Future
Intelligence: Our Augmented Future
Interdependence: Our Civil Future
Immunity: Our Protected Future
Sustainability: Our Rebalanced Future

III. Universal Accelerating Change

Great Race to Inner Space: Our Surprising Future
Entropy&Information: We’re Running Down & Up
The Puzzle of Meaning: We Have No Einstein Yet
Trees, Funnels & Landscapes: Intro to Evo Devo
Big Picture Change: Five Scales of Accelerating ED
Transcension Hypothesis: Where Acceleratn Ends?
IDABDAK: Social Response to Accel & Developmnt
We’re On a Runaway Train: Being Accelaware

IV. Evo Devo and Exponential Foresight

Seeing It All: Accel., Diverg, Adapt, Convrg, Decel.
Natural (I4S) Innovation: The Evolutionary Drive
Natural (I4S) Intelligence: The Human-AI Partnership
Natural (I4S) Morality: Why Empathy and Ethics Rule
Natural (I4S) Security: Strength from Disruption
Natural (I4S) Sustainability: The Developmental Drive
S-Curves: Managing the Four Constituencies
Pain to Gain: Traversing the Three Kuznets Phases
Hype to Reality: Beyond Hype Cycles to Reality Checks
Exponentials Database: Measuring Accelerations
TINA Trends: Societal Evolutionary Development
Managing Change: STEEPCOP Events, Probs, Ideas
A Great Shift: A Survival to a Sentient Economy

V. Evo Devo and Exponential Activism

Building Protopias: Five Goals of Social Progress
Normative Foresight: Ten Values of Society
Top & STEEPCOP Acceleratns: Positive & Negative
Dystopias, Risks, and Failure States
Three Levels of Activism: People, Tech & Universe
A Great Opportunity: Exponential Empowerment


Chapter 8. Your Digital Self – The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

Chapter 8: Your Digital Self

The Human Face of the Coming Singularity (In Process)

I. Your Personal AI (PAI): Your Digital Self

Digital Society: Data, Mediation, and Agents
Personal AIs: Advancing the Five Goals
PAI Innovation: Abundance and Diversity
PAI Intelligence: Bio-Inspired AI
PAI Morality: Selection and Groupnets
PAI Security: Safe Learning Agents
PAI Sustainability: Science and Balance
The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

II. PAI Protopias & Dystopias in 8 Domains

1. Personal Agents: News, Ent., Education
2. Social Agents: Relat. and Social Justice
3. Political Agents :  Activism & Represent.
4. Economic Agents:  Retail, Finance, Entrep
5. Builder Agents :  Work, Innov. & Science
6. Environ. Agents : Pop. and Sustainability
7. Health Agents :  Health, Wellness, Death
8. Security Agents :  Def., Crime, Corrections

III. PAI Activism & Exponential Empowerment

Next Government: PAIs, Groupnets, Democ.
Next Economy: Creat. Destr. & Basic Income
Next Society: PAI Ent., Mortality & Uploading
What Will Your PAI Contribution Be?

Chapter 10. Startup Ideas – Great Product & Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs

Chapter 10: Startup Ideas

Great Product and Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs (In Process)

I. 4U’s Idea Hub: Building Better Futures

Air Deliveries and Air Taxis: Finally Solving Urban Gridlock
Ballistic Shields and Gun Control: Protecting Us All from Lone Shooters
Bioinspiration Wiki: Biomimetics and Bio-Inspired Design
Brain Preservation Services: Memory and Mortality Redefined
Carcams: Document Thieves, Bad Driving, and Bad Behavior
Competition in Govt Services: Less Corruption, More Innovation
Computer Adaptive Education (CAE): Better Learning and Training
Conversational Deep Learning Devsuites: Millions of AI Coders
Digital Tables: Telepresence, Games, Entertainment & Education
Dynaships: Sustainable Low-Speed Cargo Shipping
Electromagnetic Suspension: Nausea-Free Working & Reading in Cars
Epigenetic Health Tests: Cellular Aging, Bad Diet, Body Abuse Feedback
Fireline Explosives and Ember Drones: Next-Gen Fire Control
Global English: Empowering the Next Generation of Global Youth
Greenbots: Drone Seeders and Robotic Waterers for Mass Regreening
High-Density Housing and Zoning: Making Our Cities Affordable Again
Highway Enclosures and Trail Networks: Green and Quiet Urban Space
Inflatable Packaging: Faster and Greener Shipping and Returns
Internet of Families: Connecting People Over Things
Kidcams: Next-Gen Security for Child Safety and Empowerment
Kidpods: Indoor & Outdoor Parent-Assistive Toyboxes
Microdesalination: Democratizing Sustainable Fresh Water Production
Noise Monitors: Documenting and Reducing Noise Pollution
Oceanside Baths: Sustainable Year Round Beach Enjoyment
Open Blood Scanners: DIY Citizen Health Care Sensor Tech
Open Streaming Radio: User-Centered Audio Creation and Rating
Open Streaming Video: User-Centered Video Creation and Rating
Open Values Filters: Social Rankers, Arg. Mappers, and Consensus Finders
Personal AIs: Your Private Advisor, Activist, and Interface to the World
Pet Empowerment: Next-Gen Rights and Abilities for Our Domestic Animals
Safe Closets: Fire-, Earthquake-, and Intruder-Proof Retreat Spaces
Safe Cars: Reducing Our Insane 1.3M Annual Auto Deaths Today
Safe Motorcycles: Lane Splitting in Gridlock Without Risk of Death
Shared Value Insurance: User-Centered Risk Reduction Services
Sleeperbuses and Microhotels: Demonetized Intercity Travel
Space-Based Solar Power: Stratellite Powering and Weather Management
Stratellites: Next-Gen Urban Broadband, Transparency, and Security
Touch DNA: Next-Gen Home Security and Crime Deterrence
View Towers: Improving Urban Walkability, Inspiration, and Community

Chapter 11. Evo Devo Foresight – Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Chapter 11: Evo Devo Foresight

Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Appendix 1. Peer Advice – Building a Successful Foresight Practice