Ask A Genius 392 – Our Narratives and The Future
September 24, 2018
[Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, we were talking off-tape about our stories and the future, and the way the future will be talked about regarding our stories. That needs unpacking.
Rick Rosner: I think there are certain eras that tend to be more attractive to writers and producers. People who do projects and books. Anytime there is a great change in society, not anytime because the 60s are terrible to try to capture.
Because it looks goofy often. Times of war, like WWII, get tons of projects. Anytime you have a good author that captures an era. There is some storytelling set around 1800 because Jane Austen was writing around 1800.
I am thinking that the era that we are entering into, looking back 2 or 3 hundred years from now, will be a popular era to examine through stories, whatever the main entertainments are then – whether still books, movies, TV, or some advanced version of those.
I think there are a lot of themes and forces that will make for good storytelling. One theme is that we entering into an era when some people will die and others will keep on living for extended periods of time.
There will be struggling with that – the unfairness and politics and philosophy of that. Another theme is AI on a trivial level. We already have it. A lot of science fiction of people living in a more automated world, often with the robot butler and the robot girlfriend.
But in the future, looking back on near to mid future, we will have a lot of stories wrestling and conscious-thinking beings wrestling with their roles and what they want to be.
Whether or not they will acknowledge other conscious beings and that whole huge struggle as people and other conscious beings tries to straighten everything out, a third theme that will happen a little later is conscious beings struggling with the devaluation of consciousness.
Consciousness will always, I think, be, perhaps, the predominant – perhaps not – form of information processing, but I do not know of any form of information processing that is as versatile and powerful.
So, consciousness will continue to be a big deal, but it will also become more and more understood. People will have to confront the mechanicalness, the non-mysticalness, the non-magicness and the tragedy of what consciousness is.
It is a technical deal. While it is powerful and emotionally powerful, it is not necessarily this transcendent thing from the divine that has been plugged into us. As consciousness gets deconstructed, people will have to struggle with disillusionment and the loss of the last piece of magic in the world.
I think that is three big themes that will be moderately interesting to the residents of the future.
Jacobsen: The representations that they get from us will be stories. I mean stories in a broad sense. Stories from Twitter accounts, social media in general, correspondence that we’ve kept, or representations of objects that are digitized.
I mean, this before we get some hard math of what makes up a mind, so we can put that into a digital substrate. We are putting our stories into the future by making them now.
Rosner: One huge trend in storytelling is that they become more and more multimedia and embracing of more and more of the senses. We get closer and closer to putting ourselves in each others’ heads.
That is another big theme. The present tends to look back on the people of the past and feel sorry for them. I think that is a legitimate deal.
Because life keeps improving and people’s understanding of stuff keeps improving, then you look back on people back in 1850 trying to struggle to live and understand and look for clues as they fight against cholera and so on, e.g., of the five sisters and one brother of the Brontes only one makes it to 39.
These are among the most gifted family of their generation.
Jacobsen: This becomes a common story. Even with extended lifespans, even with some great productions of literary works, art and so on, those are really low fidelity. Any knowledge about what’s going on inside people’s heads.
That will be more or less low fidelity extrapolations of what’s produced, which won’t necessarily give that much of an insight.
Rosner: One tragedy will be people not being able to pass on what is inside their heads, except only through social media or through extended writing. There is loss via death but also loss through the very imperfect ways in which we can communicate our experiences to each other now.
Jacobsen: Nature is ruthless with us.
Roner: Yes. I said this before. In a way, we are living at the end of the world; the end of the unaugmented human world. People have lived in it for at least 5,000 years. Depending on what criteria you use to define civilization, you could take it as far back as 10,000-20,000 years.
There have been about 107 billion people who have lived so far. Those people are lost.
Jacobsen: Completely lost.
Rosner: If the future cares about them at all, they could replicate them with calculated guesses and simulation. If you have the choice between that and nothing, you would take that. Lincoln left a huge historical record, for the time.
Among the people of his generation, he is, probably, among the top 10 Americans in what he wrote and other people’s observations of him, in what’s known about him. He also left descendants. So, you could probably get at most of his genes.
It will be possible to resurrect Lincoln with some limited degree of fidelity. According to some index of the future, you will be able to come up with an 82% accurate representation of Lincoln.
Jacobsen: That makes the separation between stories, even in a broad context, and stories in the future, where a math of the mind or a mathematics of consciousness is slowly and inevitably produced – and humans become less central and important.
Rosner: The stories of the future will focus on individuals to an extent, as they always have, but they will become, to an extent, more distributive as the walls between people’s thoughts break down – as it becomes easier to transmit thoughts between people and the walls thinking come down.
The focus of stories will eventually move away from individuals, as long as you are dealing with eras in which the individual has become less important. That’s not exactly it. In that, the movers of the future, the power entities, may still be considered individuals to some extent, but they may be collective individuals or teams of linked thinkers.
It will be in a way that is not Borgish. You may get horrible Borg-like things in the future. But the future will still contain a lot of the emotional experiences that we have now, except conveyed via different aggregations of information processors.
The stories of how that will transpire are going to be huge. 150 years from now.
Jacobsen: The inevitable process will work as with every other generation. Woody Allen had a statement that every 100 years there is a flush and a whole new generation of people.
Maybe, every 20 or 30 years depending on the culture, sub-culture, or group, then you have a new generation of people who will be more willing to accept what is going on around them with more pervasive artificial consciousness and the decoupling of regular consciousness and the ease of acceptance of new technology, which, to prior generations, would devalue what they cherish and consider the norm.
Rosner: That seems valid.
Jacobsen: It seems a natural extension of the way nature treats us as a part of nature, and the way we deal with the sentiments and consideration of people centuries and centuries ago.
Rosner: Yes, we get impatient certain eras because they seem so uniformly benighted and miserable. Monty Python used to make comedies in the miserable Middle Ages, but the stories set in the Middle Ages – not everyone loves those stories because they are so grim and grubby.
I like near-future science fiction because that is where all the cool stuff is. I don’t necessarily want to see people being farmers in 1954. Because there is less fun there. I understand there are all sorts of human drama.
But I prefer my human drama to come with sky cars or some crap.
[End of recorded material]
American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
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