If you thought the government didn't care about Detroit now, wait until you see what happens when they have to choose between it and New York.
For all of our technology, and science, and advanced sex toys, it doesn't seem like we're actually any more prepared for the future than we were 20 years ago, and the future is rapidly closing in on us like a rabid cheetah (indeed, it gets closer every single day). Because while we're definitely more aware of the potential problems we will face in the coming decades, we haven't really taken any of the necessary steps to brace ourselves against numerous looming threats, such as ...
There's a pretty good chance a massive asteroid will pay our planet an abrupt visit some time in the future. In fact, scientists finds candidates for such impacts all the time. And that's good, right?
Because at least it means they're looking for them. Somewhat less comforting is the fact that they're still looking for them. We've found most of the big ones, the dinosaur-killers, but there are a lot of smaller, city-killinger ones that we still haven't found yet. And we're not exactly breaking the bank to provide funding for our ongoing asteroid search either, much less actually setting aside money for efforts to actually stop one of these space bombs.
Incidentally, stopping a city- or planet-killing rock isn't something we need to leave in the hands of a far-future Space Congress; experts agree that current technology is probably up to the task of fending off any humanity-eradicating meteors, as long as we spot them quickly. The issue is more that, eh, who can be bothered? It's hard putting money and effort on the line to combat a risk nobody alive has witnessed.
So consider what would actually happen if we did try to divert an asteroid, and the even thornier problem we'd run into: diplomacy. Although the goal would always be to divert an asteroid away from Earth entirely, any such mission would have a risk of being only partially successful. In the case of a small asteroid, it might be successful enough to save one particular city while dooming another. You can imagine the heated words -- or worse -- that will get exchanged as superpowers lobby furiously over which direction scientists should try to nudge a particular asteroid.
As the planet continues to experience rising sea levels, not everyone will be rejoicing at the reduced travel time to the beach. There are some countries that very well may disappear entirely into the briny depths, and as it's unlikely that their inhabitants will have enough time to evolve into merfolk, they're going to need someplace else to live. So if you think immigration is a hot button issue now, just imagine when everyone currently living in the Maldives is forced to hit the road and find a new home free from the tyranny of crustaceans.
Besides the more obvious issues with having your home suddenly become a scuba attraction, there are broader questions that will arise. For instance, do the former residents still have any right to their ancestral land, or are all the fishing and mineral rights now considered to be in international waters and therefore up for grabs? Does a country keep its seat at the UN when it's home to more fish than people?
"But what does this mean to me, an honest, immigrant-fearing American?" you, an honest immigrant-fearing American might ask. Well, consider Miami! The 22nd century might not get to see too much of Miami, which will mean a whole lot of Floridians will be displaced, roaming the country looking for a new place to set up stands selling creepy dolls by the side of the highway. Oh, and even sooner than that, there's the Marshall Islands, a small Pacific nation with long ties to the United States. The U.S. has a compact with the Marshall Islands that grants every single island resident the right to move to the U.S. whenever the mood strikes them. The sea level is rising, and they'll get tired of piling up sandbags eventually. So don't be too surprised if the lines at Future Chipotle are crazy long.
If it seems silly that we're willing to pay for plastic bottles of a substance that drops right out of the sky, then get ready to wrap your head around this: Water may soon become an important part of your stock portfolio. According to experts -- these ones do happen to be trying to sell us something, so fair warning -- water could soon become as profitable as oil.
Why? Well, due to factors like rapid population growth, unchecked urbanization, and unstable climate shifts, water is getting more scarce. There's more of us, and we're using more of it, which is already leading to conflicts.
Of course, you don't have to take investment advice from us idiots. Consider the actually smart investors who have been banking on clean water for some time. Michael Burry, the real-life market guru who was the basis for Christian Bale's character in The Big Short, is investing in water. He's doing it by buying up water-rich farmland, but there are a few other ways you might achieve a similar effect, either by buying up water rights for certain rivers or aquifers, investing in water pumping related technology companies, or just giving your money to a mutual fund with "water" in the title and a nice pamphlet.
Most people understand that playing video games probably doesn't turn people into unrepentant spree killers, but the long-term effects of gaming can be subtle, and even smaller effects are worthy of attention and study. For instance, some studies suggest that playing violent video games can desensitize players towards real-world bloodshed. And the American Psychological Association has confirmed there's a link between playing video games and aggression. So clearly there's something going on.
If this is the case, keep in mind we're talking about a phenomenon that occurs when the player is merely holding a controller and staring slack jawed at a glowing rectangle. Now imagine the emotional clusterfuck that might occur in a young, developing brain when it's immersed in a total sensory approximation of a snuff film.
You could argue that pew-pewing realistic-looking humans in VR would merely be harmless fantasy, and no different from the games we're familiar with now (or all the fictionalized, exploitative violence in films and books that's been around for hundreds of years.) However, none of the old mediums presented a situation where, instead of imagining it or pushing a button, you're physically moving your own limbs to end a life. Science has already proven that under certain conditions, our mind can trick itself into believing a virtual appendage is a part of our physical body. A 2012 version of the "rubber hand illusion" showed that even when a limb is distorted to bizarre dimensions, people will still perceive it to be a part of their body. So how's the brain going to handle it when that fake arm is stabbing someone in the face?
And those are the unintentional effects of people trying to create fun entertainment. Consider how VR could be misused. Would evildoers train themselves to be more callous in their future non-virtual cruelty? Would murderers or child predators use it to practice on electronic victims? Or will it just continue to be a lame novelty that people cyclically get excited about and immediately lose interest in every few years, like 3D?
If population growth stays on pace, we're going to have a few more billion people to share this planet with in the next century or so. And because cities are where all the good food carts and erotic book stores are located, that's where those people will tend to congregate, leading to the formation of so-called megacities -- massive urban webs of high rises, slums, and everything in between. These will pose a variety of challenges (including how long we will wait before hiring Judge Dredd to police them), but one interesting one is how a war would be fought in such a place. Which is relevant, because many of these megacities will be popping up in the developing world, which you may recognize as the part of the globe where "civilized" countries tend to fight most of their wars. Indeed, the Pentagon -- which literally has files on how to fight anyone, anywhere ...
... has been considering this matter pretty carefully.
They do not, however, keep any files on how to actually help any of these places.
As the last couple decades have shown us, things like peacekeeping and counterinsurgency in urban environments are now pretty common tasks for a military. These tasks become infinitely more complicated when performed in a city of 10 million people. First of all, the sheer number of people, both combatants and noncombatants, would be a nightmare to try and manage. There would be huge (and sudden) changes in terrain, with skirmishes beginning in shantytowns and spreading into hypermodern urban centers, and vice-versa. Meanwhile, criminal syndicates will know the terrain and become significant threats, as would, as the clip above delightedly points out, the "subterranean labyrinths governed by their own social code and rule of law." Basically, future megacity wars are going to look like the last 30 minutes of The Dark Knight Rises, and nobody should ever be excited about that comparison.
We have certain rights when we're arrested, chief among them being the right to shut the hell up before we say anything that gets us into more trouble. In the United States, this is part of the Miranda Rights, and most other countries in the world have something similar. To be honest, the Miranda Rights seem so ubiquitous that we kind of take them for granted, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, there appears to be a loophole sitting right there in your pocket.
Today the small electronic devices we carry on our person might contain more incriminating information than a notebook filled with Dexter Morgan's sea burial coordinates. You might think that your phone would be protected by some kind of law or something -- and it is! -- but it hasn't been for long. It was only a couple years ago that the government decided police should be required to get a search warrant before going through a suspect's phone.
Of course, this hasn't stopped the police from tricking gullible Guses into voluntarily giving up devices and passwords without informing them that they have the right to refuse.
They do this by skirting the boundaries of when Miranda Rights are required to be read (normally when a person is about to be questioned), or by not clarifying how those rights might apply to digital devices. If that sounds shady ... well, it's because it is a little shady. But the cops have their reasons. Reasons which are going to get worse in the future.
The problem is encryption. A criminal like a child pornographer already encrypts information on their phone or computer in a way that makes it essentially unbreakable without a password. The law isn't too settled on whether authorities can compel a suspect to provide a password at the moment -- it runs up against the Fifth Amendment pretty quickly -- but if technologically savvy criminals continue to exploit that in increasing numbers, how long do you think it will take before the government decides that merely being suspected of a crime is enough to crack open your personal devices? We got close last year, when the FBI demanded that Apple unlock a phone they had confiscated from one of the San Bernardino shooters, arguing that the phone could contain information about a future crime. Apple refused, claiming that in order to do so they would have to construct a software "key" that could be used to unlock any iPhone at any time. Considering how "suspicion of terrorism" can already guarantee a suspension of habeas corpus, how confident are you in the strength of fundamental rights these days?
Behind every awful movie is the idea for a good one. Old man Indiana Jones discovers aliens. Good in theory, bad in practice. Batman fights Superman. So simple, but so bad. Are there good translations of these movies hidden within the stinking turds that saw the light of day? Jack O'Brien hosts Soren Bowie, Daniel O'Brien and Katie Willert of 'After Hours' on our next live podcast to find an answer as they discuss their ideal versions of flops, reboots, and remakes. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased here!
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