I think a lot about the future, because someone has to keep the torch burning. I know I'm not alone in this, not with the technology and space exploration diaries, not with an abundance of commentary on sustainable economics, climate change and general all-round moving civilization and civilized values into the mainstream.
We all approach the future differently. We express it differently. Some write. Some make charts. Some post pictures. Some take pictures. Some draw or paint them from scratch.
Me? I make mathematical models, then wonder what to do with them. Then, a few years ago, I homed in on the wonderful world of Youtube videos as a way to tie a lot of pieces together.
I had always loved music - loved listening to it, to playing it, to composing it. At first, I was shy about publishing originals online...and I found out quite often the hesitation is justified. Music's a volume business, even amateur-wise. You have to churn, churn, churn. You have to learn, learn, learn. And like Johhny Cash sang, you got to burn, burn, burn with a hidden fire, if you'd be among those who compose the future.
2012 was a pretty good year for me in this pursuit. More than half of my lifetime views came since late April 2012. I figure I'm getting better at this. Yet it's still a volume business.
Because caring about the future is a perishable skill. You have to keep in practice.
So, for my end of year diary, I'm walking through my year in original compositions, and what they're about.
Geopolitical Consequences of Overpopulation, Climate Change and the Coming Population Crash
We often talk of the consequences of climate change. What we do not always talk about - or visualize well - is how the changes will affect some parts of the world more severely than others.
Also, we don't always consider what's on the other side of 'peak carrying capacity'... that point where process efficiencies will not overcome Humanity's growing numbers and growing per-capita consumption, especially of water.
I took one, exactly one, stab at this in maps. No other project I've done provokes such strong reactions...it seems that many people like their political daydreams of the future undisturbed by other opinions. Heh. Too bad. :)
Great Power Competition
Given reaction to the above, I took a stab at a longer time scale - centuries instead of generations - for the migration of the Earth's metropole countries - those in the top few brackets of power relative to their neighbors.
The quick caveat here being, to facilitate production I kept contemporary geopolitical divisions constant (treat them as activity areas not nation-states).
I built a 'history' to tie the maps together. How's my driving? :)
How Will Our Cities Change?
Sometimes the clues to the future lie in the past. What will we do, when the climate itself turns on us? Or equally likely, the means to fashion dwellings out of native stone become as efficient if not more so than our existing penchant for above-ground construction.
(from the video link below): Consider Vardzia, in the country of Georgia. There were at one time six thousand separate chambers, a vast hollowed-out mountain fortress, a sanctuary against the invading Mongols. It held well... even surviving (after a fashion) an earthquake that sent two-thirds of the underground city falling into the valley below. In time it would fall to the Persians.
There has always been call for sanctuaries - places of refuge not only for lives but for the meanings of life- knowledge, faith, culture and of course the more mundane means to support life.
The thing with sanctuaries though - they almost always end up like Vardzia or some of its more famous cousins, such as Macchu Piccu or Masada. Because they are never made nor sought in times of ease, rather in hardship.
And those who would prefer there to be no sanctuary almost always come looking.
Nanotechnology on a macro scale - nano engineering - could fashion entire cities out of rock, even sieve out mineral and water resources from deep underground, channeling them back (and up) to the habitat levels.
This would not be cave-dwelling; even the monks of Vardzia were able to craft impressive living spaces with hand tools. Contemporary mining equipment can produce spaces millions of square meters in extent already.
Want to colonize Antarctica but leave the surface habitat intact? Dig in.
Want to explore and settle the deep ocean? Go a wee bit deeper; seabed rock is well compressed to local pressures already.
And if we are serious about setting up shop on other worlds, guess what? Subsurface cities.
Don't like planets? Want to treat the delta-vee of Earth escape as a sunk cost not a variable operating expense. Cool...and you will still have comet and asteroid habitats. More digging.
Sharing the Dream
If you haven't picked up on it yet, I'm not a pro composer. The good news is I have a cousin who is, who cheerfully (at reasonable rates) souped up one of my 2011 songs. Featured here is a graphics artist known in these parts: kjoftherock.
Anyway, Alex is splitting his time between movie scores, play scores, an original symphony, piano lessons and I hear I will get some more clips from him in 2013. I like 2013 already. :)
Metallic Hydrogen is Your Friend
Yes, antimatter... eff yeah. Zero point energy for the win. Woo. Casimir Effects til the cows come home. Ion power!
And on our way there, we might want to consider metallic hydrogen as combo energy source, capacitor and rocket fuel. Even diluted, it packs a wallop.
Perhaps you prefer Helium-3...and fusion, which might show up this century but if it doesn't hurry we will have found a new date to the dance. And both "M2" and Helium-3 might exist in significant quantities in the gas giants. Of course...getting TO it might require taking some risks.
One of those risks is the storms. Thus, the song.
So The Space Drama
All of the above is nothing but backstory research for a story I am writing, set in the late 21st Century on an Earth whose reach into space is slipping under the combined onslaught of economic, social, environmental collapse - and despair most of all.
The Earth eventually recovers (under new management). When it finally looks up again, the colonies it abandoned have developed very strange notions, among them the resurgence of something called democracy. But that, and the 'war of worlds' to follow, is another story.
The point is, life persists, we persist, the better part of what we are eventually makes it through the gauntlet of consequences for the choices of our time.
But our children do not look back kindly on what we put them through.
One of the larger 'competitors' of the future is that oft-admired Red Planet of legend, Mars.
In the same vein .. Metis is the innermost known of Jupiter's moons. Fine place for a space station...with lots of radiation shielding....
Oh, the Moon Looks HUGE Tonight
Remember the 'super moon'? I do. I rolled my eyes at the notion. How dare I?!!!
Because 'super' is what the Moon looked like soon after its formation early in Solar history.
I mean, Pre-Late Heavy Bombardment Moon was big. Really big. You have no idea how mind-numbingly big it was.
But maybe we will move it closer, because surfing.
What Might Have Been - Steps To Other Futures
How we perceive reality is anchored to our senses, and instrumentation to turn input from a wider range of sensoria into analogs that our natural kit can make sense of: things we can see, hear, taste, touch and smell.
The topic of vision extending across the EM spectrum, beefing up hearing and smell to canine levels and beyond, and other mechanical and genetic upgrades is well hashed in science fiction.
Even unconventional senses are common fare, especially in comic fiction. Ultrasound, magnetic fluctuations and more.
The human mind is capable of modeling reality - it doesn't always do it WELL, but the level of this actionable pattern recognition function is vastly beyond any current IT architecture, actual or planned, even in the dullest of persons. And in the less than dull...some darn impressive things are possible.
Now, what if we could expand that competency, to model not just 'the real' but 'almost reals' to an extent we current lean on machines to give us? And then package this pattern basis education into a new flexible way to approach information and our place in the deepening sea of it that we swim in all our lives?
And then... what if we could raise every mind as high as it cared to go, to see far down the daisy-chain of consequences, and far afield to recognize alternatives.. .not just in the big policy decisions but in little things like, oh, is this really the best time to provide (cough) constructive feedback on that friend's choice of attire, or a partner's personal quirks? People worry on the little things for good reason. They can start some pretty bad avalanches.
Anyway, you don't want to get TOO far down this rabbit hole. It can drive you cuckoo.
An Explanatory Model of Technological Change, past and present
One of the more entertaining events in my 2012 was giving an Ignite presentation at Netroots Nations in Providence. (It did not come with a soundtrack... this one has a partial track from cousin Alex that I LOVE at the start).
The slideshow explains the particulars. I posted a draft version of my talk at that mos academic intensive of DKOS groups, Top Comments.
Oh, you think I am kidding? Drop in sometime. :)
The Future Will Be Funkified
For better or worse, I eventually discovered this rhythm-enhancing device called, well, ahem, rhythm, that I did not possess it in high concentrations in my natural state and perhaps I should do something about it.
My mildly irreverent subtitle is not snark; as the developing world becomes developed, so will its cultural footprint.
Brazil, already important...
Angola; eventually the landmines and wreckage of numerous wars will be set aside.
And despite its billing as something half-jungle, half-desolation, much of Africa is quite rich. All it needs is some space to do its thing.
The Great Lakes of the Rift Valley are something else.
The future isn't just ours. In point of fact, it will be mostly that other 6 billion's. In other words, theirs.
New New Worlds
Ah, now my favorite part of the diary and the 2012 composition cycle: Interstellar exploration! What's not to like?
Here's a quick fly by HD40307g...
This next is a brand new solar system: Tau Ceti. It is also on pace to be my best received video yet. Am rather proud. :)
And before we come back to Earth, a stop by the next door neighbors at Alpha Centauri Bb...
For Those With No Future, Thanks To Us
Not all of us will make it to the Star Trek phase of our existence.
Many animal and plant species won't at all.
If you assume that any 'severely threatened' species is at risk of cashing out within a century, and map out just macro species across their respective clades, you get some terrifying numbers on the pace of mass extinction even if nothing gets worse.
I'll save you the suspense: 90 percent wipe out of all large species (large = bigger than a small frog or shrew or hummingbird) within 30,000 years.
And mammals gone in less than a third that time.
That is, if we do nothing more than pick at the festering wounds as we do now. That is, if doing nothing doesn't get worse.
One hundred years from now, there could be a lot less of us than many think, and that number could decline for a long, long time. It's all but certain that thousands of species large and small will not be around for New Year's 2101. Many countries won't be. Many freedoms we take for granted MIGHT not be. Many rights long denied so many will not be grudgingly acknowledged and shared as they are today.
We'll have more advanced space flight, architecture, means to produce shelter, water, food, work and education. A good, good civilization is well in grasp. Yet so are the weapons possible with such tools.
And it will always be up to choice which path we take - the rising to the stars, or to the torment of the Furies we carry in our blood and wish oh so very much sometimes to share in harsh words, willful silence, noncooperation and sometimes active hatred and even deadly violence.
We can be more. We will be more, just not necessarily all of us. And not necessarily anyone in this particular country.
Though I cleave yet to the idea we Americans are not worn out as a source of good hopes, dreams, ideas and causes.
We might yet earn that word so many of us crave to use: exceptional.
We might even be so in very admirable ways.
And that's the future I'd like to help compose.