Future Scenarios...Stories That Won't Happen
Time Cliffs in the Future
An old science fiction story tells of the 60 year trip of a spaceship from earth to a planet similar to earth
circling a distant star similar to our sun.
When the travelers get to that planet they find that it is inhabited by English speaking humans. It seems
that after the first spaceship left, another advance in technology allowed the trip to be repeated by a
second team with the total travel time being only one year. Space is so vast that it was not possible for
the second ship to contact the first ship with this information. By the time the first ship got to the planet
it had already been colonized by the second ship and two generations of humans had been born on the
This is an example of a “Time Cliff”, or perhaps “Technologically Induced Discontinuity (TID).” (Please
offer any other name you feel is more apt for the concept.) A TID is a discontinuity created by an
outpacing of an old technique with its delay of implementation by a new technology whose
implementation can be made more quickly. By the time the older technology is delivered, a new
technology has made it obsolete. If someone sets out to bring up a daughter to sew clothes by hand and
during her upbringing the sewing machine is invented, then the plans made for her life should be
changed. One must bring up a generic daughter and let her decide which profession she is suited to
when she is old enough to see what is available at the time.
It seems to me that we are now facing a TID with the birth of most humans because most jobs now
performed by humans will be obsolete in 20 years.
If you set out to create a human neuro-surgeon starting today, you might want to consider that robots to
do this surgery are already at the stage where human hands are no longer used directly because the
human fingers are much too large, clumsy and shaky. By the time you raise your child and educate her
to be a neuro-surgeon, the profession will be totally given over to the specialized robots for that function.
At best, humans will be refining the programming of the neuro-surgical robots. Consider the job of
joining millions of nerves in a broken spinal column. Would you expect a human surgeon to be capable
of doing this in one sitting? Only a specialized robot whose “hands” are designed for such a job and
whose speed is adequate to the task will be capable of performing such a miracle.
Now consider the following scenario: two sisters are reared by the same parents who guide them both
into the field of surgery. When the oldest sister is 35, she completes all of the necessary education and
passes all of the qualifying exams. At that point in time, the younger sister is 18. The year is 2030 and
the ability to connect computers to the brain has evolved to the point whereby in one year the younger
sister is attached to devices which allow her to learn at an accelerated rate. At the age of 20, the second
sister passes all of the same qualifying exams and becomes a surgeon just like her older sister did, but
she is 15 years younger. The younger sister has better memory retention than the older one because of
the use of digital electronics. Meanwhile the parents have given birth to a son who is a clone of a child
prodigy and graduates from medical school at the age of 12. He does his residency using virtual reality
machines which give him realistic situations and allow him to gain the practical knowledge of residency
in only one year. They all come home for Thanksgiving dinner at their parent’s home. How does the
oldest sister feel at 35 years-old when discussing medicine with her 13 year-old brother and 20 year-old
sister who have met all of the qualifications that she has? How do they all feel when most people are
having their surgery performed by robotic surgeons made by Dell?
The situation is similar for parents who are raising a child to flip hamburgers. McDonald’s is already
starting to use robots in their restaurants. Building roads? This will be totally automated as well.
Driving a taxi? Cars will drive themselves and the accident rate will plummet. By 2025 it will be illegal
for a human to drive an automobile or truck on an Interstate highway unless they are a service vehicle
such as a tow truck, etc. Safety considerations will mandate such laws. Most accidents are the result of
human error. The only solution is to remove the human element. We have air bags because we don’t
trust people to fasten their seat-belts. If we don’t trust someone to fasten their seatbelt, why do we trust
them to drive an automobile which is potentially a lethal weapon? The only automobiles and trucks
allowed will be those which drive themselves. Central computers will be able to track such vehicles for
security reasons lest a truck bomb be sent by some radical. Computers are beneficial to the world and
society. Some humans generate viruses which can be very harmful. The tendency will be to look on
computers and robots as beneficial and to look on humans as something not to be fully trusted.
Dell Computers currently manufactures 140,000 computers per day. Once you have a single robot that
can perform the duties of a nurse, such a robot can be duplicated by a manufacturing process similar to
the manufacturing of a Dell Computer and any nursing shortage will be alleviated. Training human
nurses will be much more expensive and have a greater time lag. Having a human nurse will be a luxury
that only a few can afford just like a hand sewn suit costs more than one made using a sewing machine.
The high cost of taking care of the elderly now appears to be situated to bankrupt the economies of North
America and Europe over the next few decades. In actuality, this problem will be solved by the use of
relatively inexpensive robotic nurses and doctors.
One should consider the future carefully before giving birth to any more humans. In time, the use of
robots will be less expensive than Chinese labor and manufacturing will come back to the United States.
People will direct robots and robots will do most of the labor. People will provide intentions and robots
will carry out orders. We will only need people to direct the robots and perhaps we will need human
entertainers. Leisure time will become the rule and I suggest that you invest in theme parks,
entertainment centers, resorts, etc. Humans are going to have a lot of spare time on their hands.