Our networked, gaslit future?


While up north, Michael and I spent a significant amount of time discussing peak oil, global warming, and related issues. Michael asked me, as someone professionally interested in The Shape Of Things To Come, what I thought our societal future held.

Hedging my bets by placing predictions far enough out that no one alive today could call me on them, I stated a prediction that, 100 years from now, our land use, transportation, and agricultural patterns would strongly resemble those of 100 years ago, but that we would maintain something like our current level of communications infrastructure. "So, steampunk, then?" stated Michael and Margaret simultaneously.

To follow this in one direction, I've not read much steampunk. Checking wikipedia, it looks like Stephenson's The Diamond Age, Mieville's The Scar, Pullman's His Dark Materials(? wikipedia thinks so...), and Resnick's The Other Teddy Roosevelts is more or less a comprehensive list of all the "steampunk" I've ever read. So I'm open to suggestions.

To follow in the other direction, yes, I'm serious. Michael asked, as I followed up on transportation, "You mean that we'll do significantly less air travel." "No," I said, "I mean that taking a ship to Europe will be more likely than flying there - for those who ever travel across an ocean at all." As someone who was once an aerospace engineering major, I find it quite ironic - and mildly sad - to note that not only do I currently think space colonization is absolutely out of the question for us as a society, but that I further think even air travel will be limited to top-level military and diplomatic uses.

The question, in my mind, is not the ending point, but what the intermediate period looks like. To paraphrase Jared Diamond's entirely too depressingly titled book, we as a society have a choice to make - do we deny the changes before us, and suffer unconscionable hardship and suffering? Or do we acknowledge them, and radically alter our behavior in order to roll with the punches and (relatively) gracefully adapt to changing circumstances?

I won't bore you now with predictions on that count, but I will note that this now is a very interesting now to live in, if you adopt a historian's-eye view of things.

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1. You should read more Jared Diamond, and not be scared off by the title.

2. You should give me things to read in return.

That is all.

Just so you can say you read

Just so you can say you read them:

1. The Steampunk Trilogy by Paul DiFilippo
2. The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

Further Reading...

Joseph Tainter's "The Collapse of Complex Societies"

And the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club looks promising:

post-apoc book club

Hmmm, I seem to have missed July. Good thing I've already read all those...and half the rest of that list...

Tainter I haven't, but do need to.