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Futuristic Predictions That Came True in 2012 (io9.com)
270 points by andreavaccari 1812 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 122 comments



I hadn't thought of these individual achievements as being that big until I saw them all together in one place and now I can say that this has truly been a breakthrough year all across the technology sector.

Every year we seem to be accelerating our speed of development when it comes to technology, I'm only 19 and in my life I've seen us go from 56kb/s internet to 1gb/s internet, go from the rare NASA launch to regular private company launches (don't forget, SpaceX is not the only private company engaging in these kind of activities, there is also Virgin Galactic in the UK who are breaching the barriers facing them very quickly.) and medical breakthroughs across every sector.

We live in the golden age of human history up to now and I would be willing to place a long bet that in 100 years, we will look back on the last 30 years as the dawn of the modern age.


I believe you are correct; the beauty of exponential growth is that at any point you can make the same observation about the previous 100 years.


Exponential growth in some areas.

I don't think peoples lifestyles have changed all that much in the last 30 years. In 1982 you could point to computers, networks, and cellphones and say these are going to get far more popular. But, medicine, car millage, and battery power while improved are not that much better.

PS: What's so striking to me is how little science fiction has changed over that time span.


Agree on sci-fi, but medical imaging has really been born in the last 30 years and may prove to be a game-changer in diagnosis and localized treatments over the next 70. Also, the invention of PCR techniques allow much better testing and drug development. So I think we'll look back 70 years from now and make the same claim about medicine.


MRI's is another 'old' tech, and PCR is barely inside that 30 year window as it was developed in 1983. In 1952, Herman Carr produced a one-dimensional MRI image as reported in his Harvard PhD thesis. Meanwhile, Paul Lauterbur expanded on Carr's technique and developed a way to generate the first MRI images, in 2D and 3D, using gradients. In 1973, Lauterbur published the first nuclear magnetic resonance image.[25][26] and the first cross-sectional image of a living mouse was published in January 1974. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_resonance_imaging

Granted, improve things enough and you end up with qualitative differences. AKA wind power is near parity with coal which is a game changer.


I don't disagree that the foundations of this technology were laid earlier than 30 years ago (NMR->MRI); there was, of course, even other medical imaging long before that (x-rays, PET, etc). I still think that in 70 years we're going to be able to look at this 30 year span and say it was 'game-changing.' And 100 years from today "we'll" (you maybe- I'd be 150 years old!) look at the years 2010-2040 at "game changing."

Look at 1800-1830 from the point of view of 1900: steam engines.

Anyway, it's fun to think about.


There were long periods of world history where growth and development were anything but exponential, and for significant periods were reversed.

The period since the Italian Renaissance has been pretty spiffy though.


The period since the Italian Renaissance is actually more interesting than "pretty spiffy". While science improved by leaps and bounds, living conditions for ordinary people (in Europe) deteriorated quite significantly. Crop yields plummeted, leading to starvation, disease and decreasing populations all over Europe. Only in the 19th century did things improve again.

The moral of the story being, I guess, that improvements in science and technology, do not necessarily go hand in hand with improvements in living standards.


The foundations for the 19th Century improvements were established in the 14th century, and followed nearly ten centuries of stagnation and decline. The payoff wasn't instantaneous, but it was certainly cumulative.

Exponential, one might almost say.


For the technical improvements, maybe, but for the improvements in living standards, not so much.

Living standards for commoners improved (vastly) during the 15th century, as a result of depopulation due to the Black Death in the 14th and the increased negotiating power of commoners that caused. Improved farming methods helped as well.

Unfortunately these improved living standards led to overpopulation and a subsequent decrease in living standards that only bottomed out during the late 17th century and that was exacerbated further by constant religious war and by climate change (the "little ice age"). Recovery was slow (partly because the "little ice age" lasted until the early 19th century) and only towards the end of that century do we find peasants better off than their 15th century forebears.

The evidence for this is in archives all over Europe and has been extensively written about by people like Emmanuel Le Roy Ladury. While the rich and educated were busy improving science and conquering the world, the poor suffered.


I think you should critically reevaluate your use of the word modern. We've already never been modern once before. Besides being a lot of fun, making up new words to describe historical trends both real and imagined can also be profitable.


In what way are virgin galactic in the UK?


>We live in the golden age of human history up to now and I would be willing to place a long bet that in 100 years, we will look back on the last 30 years as the dawn of the modern age.

Well, we live in the golden age of human _technology_.

But, I'd argue, far from the golden age of human history.

And maybe closer than ever to the extinction of mankind, if that "let's fix the climate issue with even more technology and continue on the same 'development for development's sake' path continues. Not to mention crazy politicians with nuclear, biological and what have you weapons on their hands and a battle for global resources like oil and water...


"development for development's sake"? Development doesn't happen for its own sake. It's about improving the quality of human life and alleviating suffering. If you had to carry water a few miles each day, or gather firewood to keep you warm in the winter or were infected by tuberculosis, you might welcome a little development.

And sure, with great power comes great responsibility. But we've managed to avoid catastrophe so far, and with a global population of 7 billion, we're further from extinction than ever. This is truly a golden age.


>"development for development's sake"? Development doesn't happen for its own sake. It's about improving the quality of human life and alleviating suffering.

No, it's not. It's mostly about making money. No business cares about "improving the quality of human life and alleviating suffering" (they might pay lip service to that on their brochures though). Shareholders don't care about "alleviating suffering", only about return of investment.

>If you had to carry water a few miles each day, or gather firewood to keep you warm in the winter or were infected by tuberculosis, you might welcome a little development.

And yet, _billions_ of people continue to do that, and _billions_ of people die from deceases that technology has eradicated for us half a century or more ago, and development goes on to other stuff, like --to name but a few-- faster smartphones, game consoles, pet food and bling jewellery.

(I don't mean "development" as in the "scientific development" either. I mean it as business development, the idea that production, sales, whatever must continuously expand. I'd be OK with scientific development put directly in the help of humanity, like, say, AIDS drugs sold at cost in Africa instead of pricing them for profit).


> It's mostly about making money

Those things go hand in hand. Ideally, you can't make money without improving human life in exchange. Sure, any political system will include a bit of corruption and rent-seeking, but by-and-large, it's exactly the profit motive that has improved the human condition.

> billions_ of people continue to do that

So it's all pointless? Because we haven't achieved a paradise of endless bliss where no one suffers, we shouldn't bother to try to make things better? As a society we are pursuing both faster smartphones and eradication of diseases. It's really hard to predict which technologies will be the most fruitful. The cell phone, despite being invented to solve first-world problems, has had a huge impact on the third world. It's probably done more to improve the quality of human life than any charitable program ever!

[edit] > the idea that production, sales, whatever must continuously expand.

Production must expand as long as population continues to expand. The projection is that population will peak around mid-century and begin to come down again. At that point, production might well level off or begin to decline as well.


What we are missing as a society is Long Term Thinking. Yes businesses do provide value and reduce human suffering as long as its perceived to reduce human suffering from the customer's point of view. For example, cigarettes. It does provide some value but only for the short term without thinking about the long term. If society makes it legal to sell Meth to the public I am sure big pharma will jump on the opportunities to provide you the highest quality.


Big pharma is already makes billions of dollars off of amphetamines. It's used responsibly my millions of people.

It hasn't stopped people from abusing them even though they are illegal without a prescription.

I'm not sure that's the pharma companies responsible if individuals choose to abuse something that has legitimate uses and strong demand. If the government can't stop it, does that mean the pharma companies have a moral obligation to not sell it?

This is an important question with drugs, tobacco, guns, finance and lots of other industries.

Individual responsibility vs societal control.


Individual should be assumed flawed, shortsighted and selfish. As long as the individual makes decisions for herself its all ok, it is considered freedom. The problem is big companies act like the individuals even though their effects are far reaching.


But companies are just made up of individuals. Individuals make the decisions. Therfore they should be held under the same scrutiny.

The difference is individuals have tons of direct consequences for their actions, but individuals inside (big) corporations who make bad decisions are masked and protected thanks to the legal system (corporate personhood), government policy and influence of money on both of those.

Acting maliciously results in bulk monetary settlements and rarely result in the individuals getting burned. Just look through the yearly pharma settlements, they pay a small percentage of their revenue and things continue on business as usual with zero market effects:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_pharmaceutical_...


>Those things go hand in hand. Ideally, you can't make money without improving human life in exchange.

That's ideology. Specifically, an Adam Smith style ideology.

You can very well make money without improving human life in exchange.

Heck, you make tons of money without improving human life. Like being an arms dealer. Or an African warlord. Or a crack dealer. Or a huge money seeking corporation selling sugar water. Or the very same way Belgium made tons of money for a small elite by royally fucking over tens of millions of people in Africa.

The reverse is also true: "you can improve the human life without making any money". The same way Ghandi or MLK improved human life without selling anything or being involved in any commercial enterprise.


Well, our best understanding of what generates wealth is that it comes from trade. Trade involves two parties exchanging resources for their mutual benefit. Adam Smith was one of the first to write about this, and yes, he thought that trade and wealth for all was a good thing.

> You can very well make money without improving human life in exchange

Notice that I said "ideally," and that all the counter-examples you give are illegal. As I said before, a certain amount of corruption (and evil-doing) is inevitable. (The Belgians wouldn't be able to get away with that today. In fact, that's more evidence that we're in a golden age—that kind of behaviour isn't acceptable even from sovereign nations.)

I'm not trying to argue the Greed-is-good-Gordon-Gecko philosophy of screwing over everyone in order to enrich yourself. By all means, help your fellow man. But don't be so down on commerce. There's a big, important difference between piracy and trade, though both are driven by the desire to improve one's own lot. Trade is beneficial to both parties, and it's the reason that billions of people live a life of luxury that was unimaginable 10,000 years ago.


> There's a big, important difference between piracy and trade

Not really. What the British called "free trade" seemed pretty much like piracy to the Egyptians, the Indians and the Chinese they imposed it on.

And lest you think trade has become more civilized since the nineteenth century: I'm sure farmers in Jamaica are none too fond of having their livelyhood destroyed because their country imports cheap European dairy in the name of free trade. Which is just one example out of many.

Heck, even free trade loving Americans complain about their country getting swamped with cheap Chinese products.

As with most things, it's complicated.


"The Belgians wouldn't be able to get away with that today."

You're right. Today, it's probably only the U.S. that can get away with such behavior.


Nice try, but no. In fact at the time even the Belgians couldn't get away with what they did. When word came out about what the Belgians were doing in the Congo it caused an uproar throughout Western Europe and it stopped.


You are not the arbiter of other people's values. People drink coke because they enjoy it. Keep your moral outrage reasonable please.


> Or a huge money seeking corporation selling sugar water.

If you remove the word 'sugar' from this sentence, it will still be true and also the problem of value arbitrage will be mostly gone. Bottled water is a worldwide scam.


Last time I bought bottled water I'm pretty sure I got water inside of a bottle, and that was exactly what I wanted. It's convenience, and that absolutely is beneficial.


> No, it's not. It's mostly about making money. No business cares about "improving the quality of human life and alleviating suffering" (they might pay lip service to that on their brochures though). Shareholders don't care about "alleviating suffering", only about return of investment.

Umm, not all businesses are in the business of providing happiness to people. Some are in fact in the business of providing misery to people. Anyways, businesses are not the ones deciding what services to provide to the people, customers are. So if you want to blame anybody, blame customers (or as Tool put it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoWMmZEoT84).

> And yet, _billions_ of people continue to do that, and _billions_ of people die from deceases that technology has eradicated for us half a century or more ago, and development goes on to other stuff, like --to name but a few-- faster smartphones, game consoles, pet food and bling jewellery.

While I can easily sympathize with your position, rich western corporations don't owe jack shit to third world people. I agree that it would be nice of us to help them out. However if we are not interested in helping them out for whatever reason, they still have the option of helping themselves out - the way we helped out ourselves. I sincerely believe that we are not doing it because we want them bad, but we are too preoccupied with solving our own problems to help those guys out. Yes looking at the difference between them and us, does show our preoccupation with self interest. But the reason we solved so many of our issues in precisely our preoccupation with self interest.

> (I don't mean "development" as in the "scientific development" either. I mean it as business development, the idea that production, sales, whatever must continuously expand. I'd be OK with scientific development put directly in the help of humanity, like, say, AIDS drugs sold at cost in Africa instead of pricing them for profit).

I believe that you and other people with the same attitude as you should put your money where your mouth is and lead the way for the rest of us.


> While I can easily sympathize with your position, rich western corporations don't owe jack shit to third world people.

Wow that is so wrong it is terrible. Rich western corporations are rich western corporations because of the 1400s to date absolute rape of the rest of the world by the west.

We, collectively including our corporations owe third world people in a way that we will likely never be able to make good on.

> I believe that you and other people with the same attitude as you should put your money where your mouth is and lead the way for the rest of us.

And I believe that people with your attitude should go and read a few history books. You can start with 'Guns, Germs and Steel', proceed to the VOC company history (the UK version and the Dutch one) as well as the history of India.

Maybe that will change your mind on this. In case you don't feel like reading I'll give you a short preview of one possible conclusion: The 'West' is where it is today because it is standing on the broken backs and bloody remains of millions of people slaughtered, robbed and raped for profit.


jacquesm: As a "third world person", I don't think the West owes anything to us. It's actually a very Euro-centric and arguably racist model of the world to believe that only whites have agency and that everything hinges on what whites did or did not do.

Nonwhite people are perfectly capable of killing themselves (and whites!) in huge numbers. Genghis Khan, Shaka Zulu, the Aztecs, and the Arabs conquered lands and put many cities to the sword. Islam radiated out from the Middle East to the Atlantic and the Pacific, with sword.

What do you think Genghis or Shaka Zulu would have done if they invented guns and ships first? They're human. They would have conquered Europe and enslaved Europeans. Indeed, many Europeans were enslaved by North African slave traders.

Europeans do lose battles. It is racist to think otherwise. Didn't the Japanese win the Russo-Japanese war? Wasn't the Muslim world on the offensive when Europeans were in disarray? Weren't China and India the centers of the world economy for hundreds of years?

All civilizations rise and fall. Europeans had a great run from 1492 to 2008. China is currently the top dog, even if many people in the West haven't realized it. And they didn't get rich from Western aid, and they sure didn't benefit from the export of that oh-so-Western ideology of communism, thought up by a dead white guy named Karl Marx.

They created their wealth and are lifting a billion plus people out of poverty.

When they're on top, which they already are, are you going to still claim that the West is the sole driver of history, that everyone is what they are because of Western action or inaction? Or will you agree that China (and India, and all the others) are human too, and can build up their own societies without "help" from the West? Because China doesn't want your aid and it sure doesn't want your pity. But it'd be happy to sell you a chip for $199, as an equal partner in a trade.


> It's actually a very Euro-centric and arguably racist model of the world to believe that only whites have agency and that everything hinges on what whites did or did not do.

Feel free to read into my words whatever you want but don't make it sound like that is what I wrote it makes any kind of discussion impossible.

The world is a lot more complex and involved than you make it seem, the west does have a debt and I highly doubt it even can be repaid, especially because we're still raping and plundering the African continent as we speak.

That dead white guy you're referring to was actually on to something, he just missed on important little detail: the amount of greed and the willingness to commit crimes that is present in the people that he thought would be happy to make the world work in a better way. The fault lies not with Marx but mostly with those that co-opted his ideas in name only to use as a fig leaf to further rob the general population. Note how every communist country was very keen to adopt the stance that they were owned by 'the people'.

Sure China is happy to sell us chips (and Korea as well) but the only reason that trick still works is because of environmental impact denial and low wages make it competitive to do so. That won't last for ever.

China is economically powerful, but morally bankrupt in many ways. India has similar problems, Africa is going from bad to worse reducing its un-replenishable stock of precious resources at bargain basement prices in deals that benefit no locals other than a very select few. With the loot safely stashed in Swiss bank accounts.

Whatever happened in the dark ages is none of my concern, right now a great many fortunes can still be traced directly back to crimes in the past or crimes ongoing today. And that is a debt that is on the books, not lost in the mist of times.

I completely agree that China and India are where the next huge improvements will probably be made. One of the reason the WIPO is so strong in favor of nailing down IP rights globally is to make sure that the west will get its cut, even if it doesn't actually produce anything anymore. Just another chapter in that book.


The dead white guy was responsible for 100 million people dead, most of them non-European. If you want to feel guilty for something, feel guilty for denying that. His great idea was to abolish private property, such that you didn't own the very toothbrush in your hand, the clothes on your back, the house you built with your own hands - or your farm.

Why is it that rejecting the ideas of Marx led China (and Vietnam, and Singapore, and Taiwan) to unprecedented wealth? Why is Chile rich and Cuba poor? Why is North Korea dark while South Korea is alight? Why was Eastern Europe impoverished while Western Europe was wealthy? Why was the Comintern established, why did the Soviet Union foment revolution all around the world, why did Pol Pot stack up a million skulls?

And, most importantly, what exactly "colonized" Eastern Europe and China and North Korea within the span of 10 years to drive them so far behind Western Europe, Taiwan, and South Korea respectively?

It's all Marx. Every time. You want to atone for something, atone for that. That is your sin: converting millions of indigenous people to an alien, white, Western ideology that promised heaven and yielded hell.


I think you're confusing Marx with Stalin, Mao and a bunch of other guys.

Marx -> philospher, Stalin, Mao etc -> opressors, mass murderers.

> That is your sin: converting millions of indigenous people to an alien, white, Western ideology that promised heaven and yielded hell.

So sorry, no that is not my sin.

But part of my sin is the fact that the country that I live in exports a lot of weaponry, that the larger portion of the wealth this country was founded on was based on the slave trade and a few other dirty pages in our history.


I didn't say western people don't own our brethren anything. I said that coporations are not the problem. And that our coporations don't own anybody anything, beyond respecting the law and paying taxes that is.

Also one would expect (and that is what I am hinting at) that the rest of the world will smart up and stop acting as if we know what is the best for them. They are independent people and are not our children.

Regarding history, maybe we should demand something from the Scandinavians, since their current welfare is obviously hugely dependent on the Viking's rape and pillage?

p.s.: And I would advise you to read on Eastern hisotry and learn how Eastern people were more than capable of producing mass genocides on their own.

Also I am not denying anything you are saying. However do you somehow believe that if West said today: "We did you wrong, here take everything that is ours and let us pay our debt in blood". It would make the world a better place?

The crux of my argument is that it is upon third world to improve their situation, with or without our help. The biggest help we already gave them is the massive investments into side tracks. If they want to produce medicine they can just rip off our tech. No need to start from square one. etc.


Except corporations dodge tax in ways no individual ever could. Oh, it's all perfectly legal, it is called 'tax avoidance'.

And corporations as a rule are part and parcel of the societies they're engendered in and quite a few can trace their opportunity and starting capital right back to some crime against humanity, or are in the process of committing some of those during their life-cycle.

The countries we plundered are independent people in the same way that the old lady that was just hit over the head and robbed of her capital is independent and knows what's best for her. She's also clearly not our child. But we as the robbers probably carry a good bit of responsibility for how the rest plays out past the point where the business end of our club contacted the back of her head.

I fail to see the link between the Scandinavians and their current state of welfare and the Vikings, as far as I know the Vikings were no better or worse than what the rest of Europe was up to at the time and they definitely did not lay the foundation for the current welfare system there.


All I am saying is that go ahead and do something about it. Stop preaching to the people who don't believe you and don't agree with your outlook.

If your way is truly better then it should give better results. If it gives better results then you will do more good via paying more taxes and helping people out. Lead by an example. Don't lament old ways, make us want to follow in your path.

That is all I am proposing and all my other arguments are just that arguments for the sake of truth as I personally see it.


> arguments for the sake of truth as I personally see it.

That's called an opinion, not the truth. And in this case it is a misguided opinion.

Attitudes like yours directly result in mass pollution, overfishing, enslavement - direct or indirect and so on.

Profits aren't holy, and the so called efficient market model isn't. It only works for a subset of problems and quite possibly not optimal at that, especially when looking over the longer term. Do we pollute this river and kill all the fish or do we spend an extra half million to scrub the exhaust. That's an easy decision when translated into money, if you're not looking at that river as anything but an exhaust it is an absolute no-brainer.

With shit as this as the result:

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/11/world/europe/netherlands-n...

I'm not preaching to you, I'm trying to make you see that your love affair with corporations isn't the totality of the world and that there is a lot of history - and a lot of stuff happening in the present - that you are wilfully ignoring.


> That's called an opinion, not the truth. And in this case it is a misguided opinion.

Excuse my style of expression.

> Attitudes like yours directly result in mass pollution, overfishing, enslavement - direct or indirect and so on.

How so?

> Profits aren't holy, and the so called efficient market model isn't. It only works for a subset of problems and quite possibly not optimal at that, especially when looking over the longer term. Do we pollute this river and kill all the fish or do we spend an extra half million to scrub the exhaust. That's an easy decision when translated into money, if you're not looking at that river as anything but an exhaust it is an absolute no-brainer.

Whoah cowboy. You are accusing me of things I detest, all of them. I assume two concepts in all of my writing in this topic.

1. The institution of Corporation is concerned only with gaining profit for its shareholders. In accordance to the law. Now while I believe that it is in the best interest of the companies and their shareholders to do stuff the right way in the most idealistic sense. However none of that is built into the institution of Corporation.

2. First, that every sovereign nation has institutions that get to say how shit gets done here. And second that every sovereign nation by definition wants to say which institutions it observes and which it doesn't.

Many people do not know how third world works. Mostly people do not care at all. They want their bribe and they want to feel important. That is the way they do business and that is the way they want to do business. Until they wont.

Corporations are not helping, that is true. However megacorps are not the ones called to make third world institutions. The third world people are the ones who are called to do it.

Blaming corporations for everything is not helping out in my opinion. Its people's fault, hiding behind faceless institutions, yes. But still people's fault.

The issue you have with megacorps is that they are extra sovereign and that indeed is a problem. However multi national megacorp is an extremely new phenomena and will probably take a while to get properly solved.


> If your way is truly better then it should give better results.

How does this logically follow? When speaking of ethics, ideas that are better are not necessarily more profitable. For example, a plantation with slaves would be more profitable than a plantation with unionized workers.


I am not talking about distribution of property. I am talking about the whole sum. If the whole sum of well being doesn't increase then why help people at all?

Thus the ideas that do not increase whole sum of well being are not ethical at all.


>>I fail to see the link between the Scandinavians and their current state of welfare and the Vikings, as far as I know the Vikings were no better or worse than what the rest of Europe was up to at the time

But according to your previous comment, the West owed the third world an incredibly amount. The Scandinavians are OK because their victims (France farmers, etc) were as bad as themselves. That means the third world was much better than the west from the 14th century forward to modern times...?

As ramanujan noted, most others (Huns etc etc) did at least as bad when they had the capacity.

Your position seems based more in emotions/politics than reason.

(Also, the Scandinavian Viking era had a violent clan society which probably was worse than West Europe even in the "dark" period after Rome's fall.)

Edit: Clarity


The West still owes, not owed the third world an incredible amount. And that's because we still have the books from those days, the stock of some of those companies is still being traded today, there are still vast fortunes that trace their origins directly back to those crimes.

The same does not hold for the Scandinavians and French farmers.

My position is mostly based on bookkeeping.


There are lots of documentation of atrocities made by states.

So, you judge the west with a differently different yard stick because there are corporations here and they are different in quality from e.g. the mass murders of Communist parties (google Great Chinese Hunger etc etc), the Mongol invasion, the Spanish state (South/Latin America), etc...?

Here, in the real world, we consider it bad form to blame e.g. Germans (or the Swedes, or...) for their parents/ancestors misdeeds.

But YOU blame the west for 600 years old crimes -- because some of the countries had partly free corporations at the time!! Wow...

I'll just take one argument here:

The western world started science, partly through corporate research. This has increased peoples' food/health/education for centuries. This effect should be much larger than any corporate atrocities can be. (It would surprise me if you think that is relevant... :-) )

I have a conclusion:

If you're not trolling, I think you "know" that corporations(/the west) are bad -- and really are willing to make any logical sophisms to keep your faith.


No, it's simply because I still benefit from those crimes even today.


OK... So, only crimes done by a corporation -- not a state. And the crimes can be 600 years old, no statute of limitations!!

And there is no bookkeeping for boons the corporation(s) did for victims (industrialization etc etc etc).

Probably billions of identifiable people (Mongols in China, people in Argentina where they slaughtered the locals, etc) enjoy a better life from atrocities the last 600 years. But those that did invasions without corporations has no responsibility!?

Now, after at least three explanations, you still argue something that is completely weird -- compared to every similar case in history/law/morality I have heard of/read about.

That is enough for me.

(If you're e.g. Belgian and rich because of what happened a hundred years ago in Africa, that is unpalatable -- but doesn't reflect more upon you personally than WW II on Germans. And 600 years?! both our ancestors ought to have been on all sides of all atrocities in Europe at that time... I'm not going to beat myself up over that.)

Edit: On the other hand... I have played with the thought of keeping track of people whose family fortunes were gotten in an inhuman way (corruption, part of a tyrant regime, etc). The perpetrators should lose motivation when their future rich relatives will be badly shamed. I might agree with that setup, but not only for corporations -- and hardly 600 years back(!).


I'm not beating myself up over it. I just notice that there is a debt, and a substantial one and that it is unlikely to be paid back.

And these things are still happening today, for instance this man that decided to speak out against the royal Dutch Shell oil company and got murdered for that:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Saro-Wiwa


You just ignored 90+% of what I wrote as answers to your strange opinions. Sigh... OK.

Wiki page says "outspoken critic of the Nigerian government ... hanged in 1995 by the military government"

1995 is not "today" -- and the whole execution might even have been done by the military dictatorship, without Shell even directly asking them to do it. (From what I've read about Nigeria, this doesn't seem unlikely.)

If Shell was involved (why would they murder internationally known critics -- the resulting sh-t storm is obvious) -- was any higher up Shell people involved?

It is ridiculous how you limit your criticism to corporations. Any of the tyrants worth his own weight in human ears have done worse than most any corporation since 1995.

I think I'm being trolled.


"Initially as spokesperson, and then as President, of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Saro-Wiwa led a nonviolent campaign against environmental degradation of the land and waters of Ogoniland by the operations of the multinational petroleum industry, especially the Royal Dutch Shell company. He was also an outspoken critic of the Nigerian government, which he viewed as reluctant to enforce environmental regulations on the foreign petroleum companies operating in the area."

And there was an international shitstorm regarding this which is how I came to know about it. Shell was implicated as having leaned on the Nigerian government to get rid of this troublemaker which they promptly did.

Bits like "At least two witnesses who testified that Saro-Wiwa was involved in the murders of the Ogoni elders later recanted, stating that they had been bribed with money and offers of jobs with Shell to give false testimony – in the presence of Shell’s lawyer." in the wikipedia article should hopefully convince you of that.

Really, I feel a bit insulted by your references to being trolled, it's not as if I'm the new guy around here. Feel free to disagree with me but calling names is really bad form.

Shell did what they did because they thought they could get away with it.

1995 is today enough that I remember clearly reading about this in the papers, and about many other big oil crimes since then. I purposefully selected something that should clearly register as an outrage on your spectrum and the only thing you bring up to defend it is that it wasn't 'today'. There are many more recent crimes by large corporations but this one stood out for me.

And no, I don't limit my criticism to corporations but if you look back a bit then you'll notice that this thread started about corporations so that is the topic.


>>Shell was implicated as having leaned on the Nigerian government to get rid of this troublemaker which they promptly did.

I can't find that in the Wikipedia article? Can you?

I wrote: "If Shell was involved (why would they murder internationally known critics -- the resulting sh-t storm is obvious) -- was any higher up Shell people involved?"

That was just not enough to condemn Shell in a court of justice.

Two witnesses much later claimed Shell people helped buy their perjury. They could have lied or where it really Shell layers. E.g. did they get the promised jobs?

>>I purposefully selected something that should clearly register as an outrage on your spectrum and the only thing you bring up to defend it is that it wasn't 'today'.

Where did I write it wasn't an outrage?! I wrote that I couldn't see proof in the WP article that Shell was in on it. (See above.)

I wrote "Any of the tyrants worth his own weight in human ears have done worse than most any corporation since 1995." So I have not denied company misbehaviour, which of course is rampant where companies can get away with it, same as with all human organisations.

  -------
I've mostly quoted what you commented on as answer to what you claimed. That do say something.

>>And no, I don't limit my criticism to corporations but if you look back a bit then you'll notice that this thread started about corporations so that is the topic.

I started my previous comment "You just ignored 90+% of what I wrote as answers to your strange opinions. Sigh... OK."

Enough, you lack defense for what I brought up -- your strange positions of judging (just) western society over the last 600 years by the present moral code.

If you insist on changing the subject to the exact content of wikipedia re an irrelevant old killing in Nigeria and claim I don't think corporate murder is an outrage -- don't complain if it is called trolling.

Edit: If you have a coherent point in what you wrote re western society's unique guilt over the last 600 years because we have corporations, please tell me. (It seems you went from (1) a general point to (2) your personal history to (3) that corporations can do bad stuff (which no one will argue against.))

Edit 2: Clarity


http://reddit.com/r/askhistorians is very good, btw (although I don't think they would like people taking normative positions)


Anyways, businesses are not the ones deciding what services to provide to the people, customers are. So if you want to blame anybody, blame customers

Huh? Since when are businesses like billiard balls, just sitting there, inert, awaiting some external stimuli to push them into action.

A business is an association of individual people. If people have agency, then businesses must have agency, as well.

And in any case, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango.


Are you really sure we as western hemisphere do not own nothing to the eastern or more accurately to people who struggle? I'm no historian but I heard something about the wiping out Indians and enslaving African people. Are you really sure you can say that we are independent snowflakes who deserve all things by right and to not actually look where to pay back for our mistakes to improve all Earth life conditions no matter of location and nationhood ?

The thing is we have not solved many problems yet, we just postpone them and trying to argue with improvements on technological layer which is relatively shallow on its own.

Western culture is for example filled with materialism and definitely not pushing us forward. By reducing the needs and learn about struggle of others beyond our family would help to reduce waste and improve life of others. Both sides win.


Killed people cannot be brought back. Greed is always bad. However you are putting strawmen about.

Let me explain. The Indian situation was at least as unfortunate as Jewish situation in ancient Babilon or Gypsy (Roma) situation in ancient Babilon. Or the situation of Amalekites and Midianites. Or the situation of Moors for that matter. It is unfortunate that sometimes two civilizations clash and cannot get to grips about what to do with some piece of land and then the more powerful group goes to tear the weaker group a new one. It is extremely unfortunate however, this issue will not be solved here on HN and it will not be solved by idealism. It is an story of pragmatism in the face of adversity. Kill or be killed, adopt or be left behind.

Regarding slavery, this is another great myth. Americans (and Dutch) enslaved barely anybody. The poor gentle africans were more than capable of doing their own savagery by themselves. Africans did their own enslaving and western slave traders merely bought the available goods. Does that make slave trade moral? No. However I really dislike this picture of white man as the most amoral being on the face of the world.


> Africans did their own enslaving and western slave traders merely bought the available goods.

There's no such thing as "merely buing the available goods". The very existence of a will to buy creates incentive to make the goods available. It is always a feedback loop, and you cannot shift blame around it. Both parties are equally responsible for participating.


It's really pathetic that you interpret the modern (and ongoing) economic oppression of the 3rd world to a personal attack on White men. Grow up.


Where and how did I do that? All I am saying is that us Humans are a vicious bunch. I have no illusions that Indians would have slaughtered Europeans if they had the means to do so.

If Dutch didn't buy slaves, they would die working for someone else. Was Japanese military and economic oppression merely an attempt to dethrone The White Man(tm) as chairman of hell?

What if Mongols had managed to get their act together?

And in no way I believe that White Man is Pure and Innocent. But I will also not concede that its all the white mans fault.


The fact that you can imagine hypothetical situations where the oppressed was the oppressor, or was oppressed by others, doesn't excuse the actions taken by their actual oppressor. "...us Humans are a vicious bunch" is merely a statement, not a valid excuse.


>>us Humans are a vicious bunch" is merely a statement, not a valid excuse.

If I understand your position:

1. Occupation, slavery and aggression were parts of most/many historic societies.

2. Just because a behaviour is universal among human societies at the time doesn't stop you from judging a subset of the societies that committed them. (I seldom see condemnation of Arab slavery for sexual purposes etc.)

3. As a bit of extra humour -- the societies you condemn are the ones that did most for finally lifting the standard for human behaviour and implementing real rule of law!

(I might add that some societies would, given the opportunities, probably still act in similar ways. No condemnation from you, of course...)

Edit: Clarity


I made no mention of any specific societies or countries. I was merely stating that "everyone is doing it" or "they might do it to us, so we should do it to them first" are not really valid excuses.


>>"everyone is doing it" or "they might do it to us, so we should do it to them first" are not really valid excuses.

Not a relevant answer to what I wrote.

I noted, amongst others, that the atrocities in question were SOP (Standard Operation Procedure) of the non-modern times. So no (heart felt, at least) excuses were generally needed...

Edit: Please don't do as others here and insist on judging (just the) western society of X centuries ago after our present moral standards. I'm misanthropic enough.

(I'm sorry if I addressed that comment to the wrong recipient. It seemed you were continuing the argument from previous comments.)


The capitalist system is continually evolving and eliminating inefficiencies which allow people to profit from harming others. The trend has been strongly towards better controls to prevent businesses from externalising costs to the detriment of society, these controls have in turned spurred innovation which has resulted in cleaner, better, more productive technology benefitting everyone. Just like going around beating people up and stealing their wallets is no longer a viable road to financial success, businesses can no longer expect to profit from dumping harmful chemicals into waterways. The range of options for profit are continually being tightened and focussed exclusively in the realm of mutual benefit.

We are, hopefully, on the verge of sensible legislation to prevent businesses and individuals externalising the costs of greenhouse gases too, and so spur healthy innovation in that most important area, and in so doing securing the future habitability of the planet - hopefully once we do so your objections to capitalism will begin to fade.


Ok, how about the fact that we've halved extreme poverty since the 1990? Or the worldwide increase of life expectancy (Africa's average almost reached 55 this year)? AIDS and malaria are both in decline. And apparently we accomplished the decade with least deaths in war in the last century.

I don't know if i would call this a golden age, but we are seeing improvements in more than technology.


>> AIDS and malaria are both in decline.

Not only AIDS is on decline, but also, two people has been "cure" of AIDS since the "german patient" in 2007. The average life expectancy of HIV+ people has triple since the 80s.

Still a long way to go, but I hope to see AIDS at least as a just another chronic disease.


When, in your opinion, was the golden age of human history?

The reason I ask is that something like 80% of the world today has mobile phones. Or, as another example, this source says about one in seven people don't have clean water: http://water.org/water-crisis/one-billion-affected

So that means ~85.7% of people do have access to clean water. Do you think that fraction has ever been higher in human history?


Enlighten me then, when was golden age of human history then in your opinion?

I have a problem with you new age romantics, bitching about issues of current civilization without providing alternatives or even realizing what "reversing" current state of affairs would really mean.


Generally moving from monarchies to democracies could be considered a "golden" age of human history. Or maybe the rise of rationality and decline of religion.

I don't see any recent big social change that big that happened recently, except the social impact of the web. But i'm not sure i'd considered it as a big positive social change.

What would you say are the big societal changes that happened in the last decade or two ?


In terms of history, recently is last 200 years. True effects of todays developments shall not be seen for the foreseeable future.


>Enlighten me then, when was golden age of human history then in your opinion?

Ever occurred to you that it might be in the future?

Or that human history was perpetually in the same state of mess? Good for a few, a nightmare for others?

Or that "good for humanity" and technological advancements are not necessarily the same thing, and that e.g living an agrarian life in some 18th century farm could be better for someone than living as an industrial worker in a highly modern Foxconn factory, despite increased odds of dying from a decease preventable today or having to get your water from the well?

Damn, I'd take living in the sixties to living in the '00s any day of the week, despite having to let go of my iPad.

>I have a problem with you new age romantics, bitching about issues of current civilization without providing alternatives or even realizing what "reversing" current state of affairs would really mean.

When there's a problem, like a cancer, you need to remove the cancer. You don't need an "alternative" to it.

Also, I'm not sure how to read the part about not realising what "reversing the current state of affairs would really mean".

Who said anything about "reversing"? There's a lot we can do without reversing anything. Stoping the market craze is not the same as "reversing" progress or anything. Not to mention that progress != building more advanced things cheaper.


I believe you don't understand that the term "Golden Age" by definition refers to the past. What you are talking about is denoted by the term "Utopia".

> Or that "good for humanity" and technological advancements are not necessarily the same thing, and that e.g living an agrarian life in some 18th century farm could be better for someone than living as an industrial worker in a highly modern Foxconn factory, despite increased odds of dying from a decease preventable today or having to get your water from the well?

Excuse my ad hominem, however your attitude would lead me to believe that you are at least a middle class kid with romantic perspective. What you are proposing is an actuality for a class of people who are called, gasp... Foxconn workers. There is nearly two million of them saying that you are wrong and that they prefer working for Foxconn over 18th century farm somewhere in north/central China. And as a guy who grew up on a modern farm I decided that farming is not my cup of tea (and from family heritage that 18th century farming where you would be sentenced to hard manual labor from the age of 4 even less so). Don't get me wrong, I love nature and I like that one of my hobby's is gardening. However I absolutely adore that I have a choice.

> Damn, I'd take living in the sixties to living in the '00s any day of the week, despite having to let go of my iPad.

I believe you have no idea what 60's were like. And I believe that you should go and see more of the world.


  > Damn, I'd take living in the sixties to living in the
  > '00s any day of the week, despite having to let go of
  > my iPad.
Let me guess, you're a white male?


I would be wary of romanticizing the past. The 60s were not necessarily a picnic if you were black, a woman, or a poor male.


The world today is more peaceful, more prosperous, and more healthy than at any other time known. Sounds like a "golden age" to me.


Every moment is the closest moment to date to the extinction of mankind.


Unfortunately...Humanity is furthering its technology for both it's survival, and its ultimate destruction. We are but a few years from seeing the truth behind the potential of autonomous robotics, machine-learning, and artificial intelligence.

At that point, humanity will play very little role in the evolution of technology.

:-\


A hundred years ago people were predicting we'd have robot butlers and flying cars. Those predicting autonomous killing robots enslaving the human race once we hit the "singularity" I think are going to be disappointed.


Hurricane Sandy was a Category 1 hurricane at landfall. That's pretty much the opposite of a SUPERSTORM.

Much larger hurricanes have hit New England before. For example, the "Great New England Hurricane of 1938" made landfall on Long Island as a Category 3 storm, killing over 600 people. The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 also was Category 3, killing 390 people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_England_Hurricane_of_1938

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Atlantic_Hurricane#Impact

Imagine if two Category 3 hurricanes impacted the North East within six years today. We'd never hear the end of how Global Warming was destroying the world. But since it happened in the early 20th Century, no one cares.


Sandy was a big deal was because it landed in a highly overdeveloped area that should not have houses. Building your residence on a sandbar (or on a flood plane or below sea level or under an active volcano) is not exactly the brightest long term thinking.

While global warming is going to make weather more unpredictable, hubris will always be the leading cause of damage.


That was the issue with Katrina. Building like that where such storms have traditionally been a century occurrence rather than a yearly occurrence is a far lesser error.


You realize that hurricane category is only one measure of a storm, and not necessarily even the most important one?

"Superstorm" Sandy is not called that because if its wind speed (which is all that "category" is about) but because of its size, as in physical extent.


Also Sandy was no longer strictly just a storm of tropical origin, but had combined with an arctic storm front, producing a hybrid storm, referred to as a "frankenstorm" initially though this was considered not a sufficiently serious term, hence the adoption of the term "superstorm".

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?en...

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57540360/hurricane-sandy...


Excepting instances of extremely small storms, Category is in fact the second most important factor when determining the destructiveness of a storm.

First most important is geography - where the storm hits.

Size of the storm is the least important factor. A large but weak storm (such as Sandy) will always be less destructive than smaller but more intense storm - assuming that they make landfall at the same location.

Sandy killed only 131 individuals, despite making landfall in an extremely densely populated area. Within the US, far smaller - but more intense - storms have killed far more people in areas far less densely populated.


Aren't you leaving out storm surge, which is just as much of a result of wind speed as it is of size... it was the surge that made Sandy at landfall truly unique.


Storm surge is related to intensity much more than size.


If that's the case, then why did sandy surge to a record?


>Much larger hurricanes have hit New England before.

I'm not sure. Sandy was 1.8 million square miles. How large was the 1938 hurricane?


Rounded corners being worth 1 billion dollars in patent-lawsuits evidently not among them. Pantent-trolling being more profitable the producting neither.

Seriously. We have come a so far in technology the last decades. Things we would consider science fiction or maybe even ipmossible ten years ago is every-day stuff now.

And our "tech leaders" (and I say that with the most disrespect possible) are now busy engaging in frivilious lawsuit over the shape of the plastic which all this technology is packaged in instead of doing amazing stuff. People claim to "own" rounded corners and flat-screens. Designs already put to market in the 60s.

In my books 2012 goes down as the year when tech stopped being about tech and became dominated by anti-competitive lawsuits instead of innovation. The year where no new tech arrived, only new lawsuits.

And a sad year it was.


"tech" a hundred years ago was the beginnings of the aviation sector you see today. What you're seeing now is "tech" moving away from the _____ sector (the one HN belongs to) into to the _____ sector (the one with brain-machine interfaces as well as brain enhancing implants).

So I agree with you, 2012 may well be the year the technology sector of 2011 is not the technology sector of 2012.


I'd like to have hope that this is not a long-term trend, that these counterproductive lawsuits will soon awaken politicians to the need to reform patent and copyright law to a form that encourages innovation and creation.

I'm not sure if this is an easy problem to solve, though, or if it requires deeper problems of corruption to be fixed first.


A very important breakthrough is missing in the list : Human Genome sequencing cost dropped to $1000 with processing time of only a day. Just 12 years ago it cost $3 billion dollars and 15 years of work.


I thought we were still hovering above $1000 but getting close?

Either way another important milestone of exponential gain is the cost of solar!


Are you sure? 23andme.com apparently does it for $100.


23andMe doesn't fully sequence your genes. They just look for specific patterns.


I think that's a misleading description. They do identify specific base pairs of your genotype (and you can download this data as a file), the difference is that they only identify a small subset of all base pairs, whereas sequencing identifies all of them.

More info: http://blog.23andme.com/23andme-research/23andme-moves-into-...


How could they forget this prediction of the smartphone by inventor & futurist Nikola Tesla?

"When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket." - Nikola Tesla 1926


Are there any citations for the initial predictions? Or is this just a list of cool technology related things in 2012 that seem like someone might have predicted them? "The World's First Cybernetic Hate Crime Occurs at a McDonalds in France" seems awfully specific for a prediction.


Well no, nobody predicted it would be specifically about an ocular implant at a McDonalds in France, but the concept of cybernetic hate crimes have been generally predicted by various sci-fi writers for some time; I, Robot, The Matrix (in the backstory in the Animatrix at least) and Deus Ex spring to mind as several examples.


The only one I would quibble with is the one that has nothing to do with technology. Sandy was the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, but it was still not as large as the Pacific's Typhoon Tip in 1979. If three decades of accelerating climate change explains Sandy, it doesn't explain Tip, or why its record has yet to be broken.


Yes it does - it's about trends, not isolated occurrences (so in that sense I agree with your quibble, just not with your rationale). The frequency and intensity of extreme weather incidents is on an upward (and exponential) track.


> The frequency and intensity of extreme weather incidents is on an upward (and exponential) track.

I am not one who claims there is no evidence for climate change (I would point to this year's record arctic ice minimum, for instance) but I remain unconvinced that this is true. For example, there is absolutely no positive trend in US F3+ tornadoes[1], or in major US hurricane strikes per decade[2]. I know that's just the US, although the US does have the most tornadoes, but those are just two examples of things that seem like they're becoming more frequent/intense but actually aren't - not even linearly over the past century, much less exponentially.

[1]http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/images/tornado/clim/E... [2]http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pastdec.shtml


I don't think picking one type of weather event from one geographic location over a relatively short time-frame is going to be representative (however I am by no means suggesting you intentionally picked data that favoured your argument).

This more encompassing study shows a definite trend, although I accept my use of the word 'exponential' was ill-advised without concrete evidence to back it up:

'The data show that the number of such events is rising. Munich Re, one of the world's largest reinsurance companies, has compiled the world's most comprehensive database of natural disasters, reaching all the way back to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Researchers at the company, which obviously has a keen financial interest in trends that increase insurance risks, add 700 to 1,000 natural catastrophes to the database each year, explains Mark Bove, senior research meteorologist in Munich Re's catastrophe risk management office in Princeton, N.J. The data indicate a small increase in geologic events like earthquakes since 1980 because of better reporting. But the increase in the number of climate disasters is far larger. "Our figures indicate a trend towards an increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change," says Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Center: "It's as if the weather machine had changed up a gear.'[1]

[1] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=extreme-wea...


Honest question: Is there a good source for this information?

Anecdotally it feels like weather is getting more extreme, I'd be very interested in seeing the numbers.


It's difficult to find all the data in one place, but this article has links to good sources:

http://ccap.org/extreme-weather-trends-climate-science-and-p...


It's hard to get all the data in one place, but this article has links to good sources:

http://ccap.org/extreme-weather-trends-climate-science-and-p...


No, it's not. The Earth has always experienced devastating weather-related occurrences. There's nothing about it that suggests things are on a upward and exponential track.


The process by which you came to know that the Earth has "always" experienced devastating weather is exactly the same process by which contemporary climatologists are now asserting the existence of anthropogenic climate change. You can't pick and choose when you accept knowledge arising from steadfast application of the scientific method. That's kinda the point.


The parent you are responding to isn't denying climate change, just that events like Sandy or Katrina are caused by it. Saying "you can't pick and choose" is trying to have a different discussion.


I'd say that Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature[1] beats the crazy geoengineering businessman with its massive scale. This includes the draining of the Aral Sea, and was followed by attempts to refill it by diverting/reversing several rivers.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Plan_for_the_Transformati...


Hysterical exploitation of the "first true superstorm" meme sticks out like a sore thumb. I stopped reading there, and will be reluctant to visit that site again.


They missed out on the continuing merger of state mass-surveillance and corporate mass-surveillance. That's IMHO one of the biggest stories.


I was really skeptical of this article, but turns out that this is actually a really interesting list. A lot of them are still up-in-the-air as far as end-results and I'd expect at least a couple of them to fall through in the end, but still a really neat collection.


So I notice that Elon Musk was involved with two of those - the Tesla and the Dragon space docking. Congratulations to him.


> Cybernetic Hate Crime

Are you fucking kidding me? That is not a thing. And if it were, the thing that happened at McDonald's would not qualify.


I agree with you. Once everything became clear, it seemed that the conflict was partly fuelled by the wearer of the "cybernetics" being belligerent.

The "hate crime" was simply the wearer being asked to leave, and responding haughtily. Consequently both sides behaved immaturely, but not in "hate".


The McDonalds affair was not a Cybernetic Hate Crime.


I really hope the one point about communicating with patients in a vegetative state is wrong. Not because it's not a groundbreaking discovery, but the implications are horrifying to me. Imagine all those patients who are left to just lie there their entire lives, and those that like Terri Schiavo that were allowed to starve to death. If they were actual aware of what was going on, that is the most horrifying fate I could imagine.


I don't see how discovering this was true or false has any bearing on the reality of it?

Reminds me of that scientist that discovered that germs are cause of diseases and that doctors are spreading the germs with their bad hygiene. So doctors said "Well I know this theory isn't true, since I'm not responsible for all the manslaughter I'm committing according to this person. He is clearly insane.". And several decades later here we are.


That reminds me to the novel "Johnny got his gun". Highly recomended


How are they planning to do the FTL one?



Reading about our positive technological advances makes me feel optimistic about our future. Go science!


What about the Higgs Boson?




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