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Predicting the future - an MDB writer who predicts what will happen in a world where robots do everything

Submarines and the Whoopi Economy: How Science Fiction Writers Predicted (and Still Predict) the Future

Robots are taking over the workplace. Illustration: shutterstock
Robots are taking over the workplace. Illustration: shutterstock

Let's talk about submarines, and for a change - not the kind that get prime ministers into trouble, but ones that demonstrate an interesting point about predicting the future.

You may have heard of the First World War. When the war broke out in 1914, it was clear to the nations of the world that the main - in fact, the only - weapon of war at sea would be warships of various kinds. Almost everyone ignored a new contender in the arena: the submarines.

At the beginning of the twentieth century there were already relatively advanced submarines, with a diesel engine and two openings for firing torpedoes. All the military bodies examined the possibility of using submarines, but most saw them as a curiosity and nothing more. Great Britain indeed boasted the largest submarine fleet in the world, but most of them were only capable of patrolling coastal areas. In short, they had no idea how to use submarines effectively.

At the outbreak of war, Germany found itself with a fleet of twenty submarines, and with the urgent need to use it to undermine British control of the oceans. The German submarines were sent to sink as many enemy ships as possible, and the results surprised even the Germans.


At the beginning of the war, the German submarine commanders obeyed the naval laws of war: the submarines surfaced, demanded the ship's crew to surrender, gave the enemy sailors an opportunity to abandon the ships in lifeboats, and then sank the ship. At least, that was the plan. U-boat commanders who tried to obey the laws of war in this way quickly discovered that their adversaries were unwilling to lose honorably. The submarines that surfaced would receive a heavy barrage of artillery and cannon fire and were immediately sunk. In a short time the unwritten rules changed, and the German commanders ceased their gentlemanly ways, and began to sink ships all over the ocean without giving them advance warning. The Allies found themselves in a blockade imposed on them by a country whose naval power was minuscule compared to theirs, but one innovative technology allowed it to paralyze the other nations for days.

What's amazing is that the British should have known what to expect, because one of their most famous writers - Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories - published a science fiction story earlier that year, in which she succeeded A small invented country to use submarines as a way to blockade the British Empire[1]. The Admiralty publicly dismissed the story as complete nonsense, and Britain failed to prepare for the new way of submarine warfare before it hit her tooth and nail. Just one month after the British admirals publicly mocked Conan Doyle's delusional ideas, World War I began. Over the next four years, German submarines sank more than 5,000 Allied ships, At the price of 199 German submarines only[2].

I love this story because it shows how science fiction writers can sometimes imagine futures that seem strange to the people living in the present, but can easily come true once the right conditions are met.

But why stop at submarines?

Whoopi economy

Let's look at another example of a successful prediction by a science fiction writer, this time from the early XNUMXs.

In 2004, writer and futurist Corey Doctorow tried to imagine a future society in which there is no longer a need for humans to perform work of any kind. In Doctorow's vision, robots can perform all physical jobs - from transporting loads and people on roads and in the sky, to growing plants on farms and even performing surgeries in hospitals. Artificial intelligence is replacing lawyers, accountants, doctors and other professionals in the knowledge professions. Doctorow asked himself what society and culture would look like in such a world, and what humans would do if they didn't have to work for a living.

Doctorow provided a possible answer to the question in his book "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" - which, by the way, was released to the Internet under a Creative Commons license, so that anyone can read it for free (link here). The book describes life in the 22nd century, where all work is done by robots. As a result, there is no more hunger or poverty in the world. Everyone can enjoy the best and healthiest food, the most advanced health services and artificial intelligences that are able to serve humans in any way they want, among other things through virtual reality simulations that they program and adapt automatically for each individual.

The only thing left for people to compete for in such a world is respect. The book describes a system in which each person has a Whuffie rating. To determine how much Whoopi each person has, artificial intelligences constantly scan the minds of people who know or have heard of them. If people like and appreciate you and your works, you get a high whoopie rating. If people are not happy with you, You can lose respect - lose whoopY [3].

It's not a bad idea, necessarily. In my last book - "The Rulers of the Future" - I proposed a similar system of karma coins. The system relies on the idea that in the world of the future we are going to be monitored all the time in any case by artificial intelligences that will analyze and understand all our actions. These intelligences can be programmed to notice good deeds, and reward the performers with karma coins. And so, if you stop to help someone on the side of the street, you can be sure that you will be rewarded later, and that people will want to help you to gain positive karma as well.

Doctorow presents in his book - and in a self-criticism that he himself wrote later - a different picture of the idea of ​​karma coins, or whoopi. He agrees that Woofi can be used as a kind of reward system, but also points out its negative sides. When one of the protagonists in the book is accused of a crime, he loses so much Whoopi that others can harass him and rob him without harm. Even the elevators stop serving him, and he becomes, in effect, a sub-citizen. And precisely the people with the highest whoopie levels are, as Doctorow states, “sociopathic maniacs who know how to flatter, lick, or threaten their way up. And once you have enough Whoopi – once people see you as having a reputation – other people go out of their way to give you opportunities to do things that will make you even more famous… and generally [allowing you] to take credit for anything successful, and blame the failures on inferior mortals.” [4]

This, by the way, is a problem that also exists with money in the world today. Rich people can avoid failures and punishments that would have crushed poorer people, and the more money they have - the more money they can make. So maybe the Whoopi method isn't so bad, since it allows everyone to move forward in life? In Doctorow's story, after all, the main character succeeds in a big way at the end of the book, when others hear about the injustice done to her - and suddenly she gains huge amounts of Whoopi due to the pity people feel for her. Whoopi makes it possible to turn the emotions of the audience into an immediate return, and this is not something that happens easily with money. So Whoopi is a system with advantages and disadvantages.

Either way, Doctorow was able to foresee the main idea behind the current giant project of the Chinese government. The Chinese government is currently developing and implementing the "social credit rating", which sets each person a certain level of 'respect' according to their actions. If he buys a safe and cheap German car, instead of a car made in China, his social rating goes down. If he frequently talks to relatives outside of China, his social rating drops a bit more. If he is from the Muslim minority in China and prays five times a day, his social ranking takes another hit, and so on. When the social ranking is low enough, that person stops receiving service from those around him: people see that his social ranking is low, and avoid communicating with him out of fear that their ranking will also drop as a result of getting to know him. People with too low a social ranking cannot get on planes or trains, enroll their sons in the prestigious schools in the country, or buy houses in prestigious areas. And alternatively, people with whoopi - sorry, social rating - high, are respected and appreciated by those around them.

All this, Doctorow came up with already in 2004 in the science fiction book he wrote. He dared to ask a big question - what will life look like in a world where there is no need for human labor, and where technology makes it possible to monitor everyone at any time, and revealed an important layer of the society of the future.

Do science fiction writers know how to predict the future?

What did the science fiction writers win that they actually manage to predict the future? Well, first of all, the question itself is misleading. It is not at all clear that the writers of the Madev succeed in predicting the future better than others. They just think a lot about the future, and some things do come true.

So far, no surprise. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. But what is interesting is that science fiction writers manage to describe other possibilities for human society at a high level of detail. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are not, but good science fiction writers manage to free themselves completely from the shackles of the present, and imagine in detail a completely different system realized in the future. Just reading their ideas can help expand our mental models and better prepare us for the future.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so.

In 2005, the Canadian Army hired an MDB writer to write a story (Crisis in Zefra) that describes the possible future of combat in twenty years. The story was written in 2005, but already refers to robots, drones, and instant means of communication between terrorists. The Marine Corps in America opened its own workshop in recent years, to which it invited some of the greatest science fiction writers today, and they sat down with the Marines to help them write science fiction stories that reimagined the future of war.

The French army is actually hiring science fiction writers these days to weave stories for it that will describe the future of war. The writers will try to predict in advance how terrorists and countries will use advanced technology against France. They will not predict one exact future, but they will help the generals of the French army to develop new mental models that include the most innovative technologies - and the ways of using them.

Last but not least, your faithful servant also works from time to time writing science fiction stories for various organizations. In the stories I try to describe how the world could look following certain future developments, and how different trends can combine together to bring about results that seem unusual and strange from our current point of view.

In short, if you want to think outside the box, develop new and broader mental models, and better understand what can happen in the future - you need to read science fiction. And even if I (and the various armies) are completely wrong and you get no benefit from it, at least enjoy every moment.

More of the topic in Hayadan:

9 תגובות

  1. It is always worth going back to the book of Genesis because there are descriptions there that reflect what we see through modern glasses. Let us create man in our own image and likeness implies the possibility that we are actually biological robots of other beings.. The creation of Eve from the side of a man also tells about a process of genetic replication. And the story of the Nephilim and much more Descriptions that today can be explained with modern thinking. Everything that science writers predicted happened in the past.

  2. "You remember" and so on is the order of the law. And here the judgment is made in view of all the past, present and future. and this:
    "You remember a lifetime" and he passed. And here "deed" alludes to the physical, "creatures" to the spiritual. And behold, there are things from whose side they are revealed, and which are rooted in the secret of God, the marriage of the name, and as opposed to "the creation of the world and the creation of the past". And things that are hidden from their roots in the Most High God and are "before you all mysteries are revealed" and so on.

    "You remember all the activity" - the present, "activity" - for physical, "creation" - for spiritual.

    "Everything is predictable" etc. - the future.

    "For you will bring law and remembrance" is the power of the law that rules on New Year's Day. "To command every spirit" - the souls of the sons of men, "and soul" - all the rest of the souls that have life and grow. "To remember many deeds" - the bodies are all. "And many are hidden" - the souls outside the body. "This is the day your works begin" that on this day the renewal of all health begins.

    "And on the states" is the law on the rules. "And creation" is the law on individuals. "Man's action" - what is on the side of choice. "And his command" - what is decreed on his part, and all this in the open. "and plots" etc. in mysteries. "Man's thoughts" - the thoughts in the Bible. "Man's exploits will be done" in the mysteries. "And Noah too", this is the second head that existed forever, since what we gave him in the first man collapsed and was destroyed in the generation of the flood from the unclean majority that ruled in the world, and after that he will return and be renewed in peace that he will not die again.

  3. "In short, if you want to think outside the box, develop new and broader mental models, and better understand what can happen in the future - you need to read science fiction."
    Might actually enjoy it.
    But real change is not made unless you have changed yourself.
    And who are you? This is your desire, the ego that needs to take on an upgrade. Intent.
    The paradigm shift will be carried out so that instead of manipulating an external data, we will do the same manipulation on ourselves.
    And by changing the point of our ego, those parts of desire to receive, our perception will change.

  4. In Hebrew they don't say "going out of their way" it's a too direct translation of going out of their way. They say "go out of their way"

  5. Philip K. Dick also wrote fifty years ago things that today are "self-evident". MDB is also important for developing thinking but also as putting a (black) mirror in front of society. What is currently being done in China with the social credit rating system is happening in one way or another in other countries, including Enlightenment, and there is no going back. It is recommended not to read about it before going to bed.

  6. Apart from the matter of enjoying MDB, everything else seems like looking for skips in your book.
    There is a phenomenon (submarines), look for a suitable story (Doyle) and voila there is an article. Now, go find the book that exists today and correctly describes the reality of another 10 years. There are thousands, at best, and each describes a slightly different reality; when you know which one is the right one (or even choose the most reasonable) you will sit down and write something. For now it's nothing more than a curiosity

  7. Gary Steinberg in "A particularly sad true love story" from 2010 describes the social management system (something like Foucault's transparent prison). For him it is a nightmare that is coming true these days before our eyes.

  8. The problem is that most people are too skeptical about the "forecasters" of the future. See Asimov's stories in "Tomorrow times nine" and you will understand what I am talking about

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