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Eternal life or war with AI: what awaits humanity in 30 years

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What awaits humanity by 2050 and what trends are already affecting society?  economist and forecaster Alexander Chulok told TS Trends about fantasy that is becoming reality

About the author: Alexander Chulok is a Russian forecaster, international foresight expert of the United Nations Development Program, Doctor of Economics, Director of the HSE ISSEK Center for Science and Technology Forecasting. Specialist in technology trends, forecasts and foresight.

Forecasting. Specialist in technology trends, forecasts and foresight.

Long term play into the future

For many developed countries, the forecast for 30–40 years is not futurology, but practically investment plans. The horizon of 2050 is increasingly appearing in global foresights and forecasts.

Economists are increasingly referring to the big Kondratiev cycles, discussing the beginning of a new wave until 2060-2070. When we build long-term strategies, we usually start from the life cycle of the forecasting object, that is, from how quickly processes in the economy, society, science and technology change. In the last 10–15 years, the main horizon has been 2030. Now the assemblage point is 2045-2050.

Many processes that need to be controlled now have a long-term effect. These are climate change, city design, increasing society’s readiness for various risks – from natural to man-made, restructuring of industry and the economy on a new technological base. Therefore, countries that are building such a long-term game into the future want to understand the contours of what can happen.

The speed of technology diffusion, decision-making and the emergence of new markets has increased dramatically. If earlier technology could be integrated into our lives for decades, now it can be days – take at least ChatGPT, neural networks, or the victorious march of Pokémon GO a few years ago.

To be successful and competitive in the time period of 2030-2050, decisions need to be made literally in the coming years. That is, laying the foundation for a place under the sun in 2053 will take place over the next three to five years. It is not surprising that many countries, including China, the USA, France, Germany, organize entire ministries and departments to manage the technologies of the future – AI, quantum computers, cloud research systems, new types of energy, biotechnology, terraforming technologies, ocean and space exploration. .

We want to understand what is happening and what will happen. Humanity is indeed entering an era of intense turbulence where factors are changing rapidly and decision makers need a one-touch game. It will not be possible to process materials for a long time, conduct research for years, wait for results. Decisions will have to be made almost in real time. And, of course, the demand for a new type of analytics dictates the emergence of new concepts of how to work with the future.

Over the past six months, we have seen a rapid growth in demand for knowledge about long-term trends among Russian businesses. It is available to private companies, and to state-owned, and large, and small, from completely different areas. Companies, without saying a word, say: “With a real increase in efficiency, cost management, time management, team building, we have already somehow learned how to work.

But, investing in current tasks, we forgot to look to the future.” And this is recognized not only by state players who are obliged to develop innovative development programs – this is also a request from private business. They ask not to tell them about today and even about tomorrow, but ask them to tell them about the day after tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

It seems to me that this is a historical, turning point, because it is commonly believed that Russian business is not interested in innovation and science, and does not invest in the future. However, this reversal is supported by empirical data.

Last year, together with the Association of Managers, we conducted a survey with the participation of more than 240 companies and found out what the main threats to business development they see on the horizon of five years.

About 69% say that the innovation gap and the loss of understanding of what is happening on the global scientific agenda is a serious threat to their development. That is, companies understand that they need an investment in the future.

What other countries are planning

China plans to become a “modern socialist country” by 2050 and sets ambitious goals, including building an ecological civilization and a climate-resistant society. He declares that he strives to develop green innovations and become the world’s largest investor, producer, consumer and exporter of green energy.

For the consistent implementation of these ambitious plans, the country’s leadership has identified five areas: the economy, innovation, green development, knowledge and culture. The latter is assigned a special role – to ensure the growth of China’s “soft power” to promote the principles of looking at the world as “harmonious, but different” and to involve more and more people on the Earth who share China’s values ​​about the life of “different nations in harmony”.

And for the government of the country, one of the key tasks is to ensure economic growth without burdening nature and the environment, which is significantly different from the old approach, which allowed progress to be achieved at any cost.

According to the US long-term strategy, they plan to become carbon neutral in terms of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Much of this must be done through the development of renewable energy, electrification, increased operational efficiency, the development of clean fuels, including hydrogen, and the development of carbon capture systems. The ambitions of the country are not limited to this.

In the public domain there is a document of the US National Intelligence Council, indicating global trends until 2040. It examines different scenarios of world development: from the renaissance of democracy to a climate catastrophe. The key actors are typically the US, China, Russia and the EU.

Germany aims to provide sustainable and climate-neutral technologies by 2045 while remaining globally competitive. Another task is to intensify space exploration and protect the use of outer and sea space. They did not bypass society either. It, according to German experts, should be safe, equal in capabilities and able to withstand hybrid threats.

South Korea has a 4.0. On the way to the technological revolution. They see one of the tasks not just technological development and digitalization, like many other countries, but also increasing the resilience of society to emerging risks. Investments in the development of modern technologies will amount to $ 53 billion. Moreover, South Korea has already appointed a responsible company – Samsung, which has demonstrated its success to the whole world.

It’s a smart decision – it’s much more efficient to entrust the implementation of the plan to a successful company with a huge history of innovation and large budgets for research and development. South Korea has also set a goal to have at least ten carbon-neutral cities by 2030. And put flying taxis on a commercial stream.

Japan has a science and technology foresight until 2050, which talks about building a society 5.0, where one of the key characteristics is an increase in average life expectancy to 120 years.

In total, Japanese scientists have identified more than 800 different technologies, the development of which is distributed over time and eight key areas of scientific and technological development, including biomonitoring and bioengineering of a new generation for precision medicine, analysis at the atomic and molecular levels using advanced information technologies, advanced electronic and quantum devices that are revolutionary for ICT, technologies for monitoring, assessing and predicting nature management.

Cities of the future: smart, clean, creative and inclusive

Cities may well be the rallying point for the technologies of the future. In 30 years, many of them may indeed become carbon neutral. There will also be cities with “smart” energy and transport systems, advanced agricultural technologies. Creating spaces and opportunities for revealing the creative potential of a person.

Created on new technologies and construction principles, including buildings with low energy consumption. But designing such megacities, perhaps, will no longer be human architects, but neural networks, immediately creating a digital projection of the city in the virtual world.

Technologies in the field of bioelectronic interfaces will be developed, which allow connecting the human brain and a computer. It may very well be that after some time we will pay, for example, to travel through the iris of the eye, and by the power of thought to call an elevator or open doors.

Although with the development of such technologies, the risks of cyber attacks and hacking will also increase. If neural interfaces are in use, then it is likely that there will also be hackers capable of hacking thoughts, from which it will be necessary to install an antivirus in the neurochip. The current success of neural networks in “guessing” human thoughts makes such predictions quite real.

I hope that the city of the future will be with clean, safe and free energy. So, now the question of cold thermonuclear fusion has again arisen. In China, for example, the number of publications on the subject of “artificial sun” has increased.

Perhaps quantum computers in 2030 will become commonplace for everyone. But they can also bring big risks associated with the same cybersecurity, because it will be a doomsday for encryption in its current form. This means that new ways of protecting information will be invented.

Therefore, it is safe to say that the citizens of 2053 will also observe digital hygiene, related to the control of their digital footprints – or what is called the protection of their personal data. Maybe every citizen will have several different digital avatars for all occasions.

Eternal life, or movement towards a happy man

I hope that there will still be a breakthrough in medical technology on the horizon of 2053. For example, a futurist, a member of the expert panel for forecasting the scientific and technological development of Russia until 2030, José Luis Cordeiro, in his book Death Must Die, says that by 2050 humanity will gain immortality. And Elon Musk promised to take 1 million people to Mars by 2050. I think that by 2053 we will see if these two outstanding visionaries of our time have succeeded in delivering on their promises.

In any case, there are several important trends in medicine now. Firstly, it is the use of artificial intelligence and big data to model various types of drugs (the so-called drug design). Mankind has mostly been spying on nature, from Petri dishes, when penicillin was invented, to biomimic technologies.

Perhaps artificial intelligence will prompt us with some non-standard interesting solutions in the fight against key socially significant diseases. Nature itself can also be digitized: starting from mathematical models that accurately predict the onset of cataclysms (this is one of Japan’s priorities until 2050), and ending with a digital label for each plant, which will allow not only to take a different look at the world around us,

A very interesting area is genetic and cellular technologies, biodegradable materials. With their help, it will be possible to treat many diseases, and rehabilitation with the help of neural interfaces will allow a person to control prostheses with the power of thought in the same way as his limbs.

The doctor of the future will have artificial intelligence and robots as assistants by 2053. The decision will still be made by a human, but according to our survey , 35% of respondents (a representative sample of 18 to 65 years old) would be ready to trust a robotic surgeon.

Since the best treatment is prevention, new technologies will help catch the disease faster. Medical services can be built into a refrigerator, laptop, bathroom or other elements of a smart home. In the automotive industry, you can find developments that monitor driver fatigue, heart rate and avoid car accidents if something happens to him.

There are technologies that, using computer vision, help track whether a person is moving or not, what his pulse is – this makes life easier for people caring for elderly or seriously ill relatives. In 30 years, these technologies will become as familiar as a blood pressure monitor and a glucometer. In general, by 2053 the concept of “older person” should be transformed.

Thanks to neurointerfaces that prevent neurodegenerative diseases – Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, the rehabilitation industry and hormone therapy, an 80-year-old person may well be cheerful in spirit and body and remain an active member of society.

And this is a big challenge, because for young people the main advantage is age, and it may not be so important by 2053 against the backdrop of experienced and energetic adults. In such a society, perhaps the role of psychologists will increase dramatically, helping to find meaning for a long life and answering the age-old question “What to do?”.

It is possible that the key indicator for such a society will be the level of human happiness, which, as you know, is only to a certain extent determined by money.

Digital Society: Towards an Ecosystem

Nothing but the truth, the truth, and the truth. Fact-checking and the fight against hallucinating neural networks and deepfakes can reach their zenith in the next three to five years. And on the horizon of 2050-2053, perhaps, digital models of a person will begin to live an independent life.

Whether the programmer will remain a promising profession or machines will design machines is a big question. However, the current demand for such skills is enormous. Soon, applicants will write “confident user of neural networks” in their resumes.

There is evidence that the salary of a top specialist can now reach $ 20 million a year, and by 2030 this skill will become as natural as typing text on a computer or searching for information on the Internet now.

The development of virtual universes, worlds and avatars could bring about unprecedented changes in society. The human psyche has hardly changed over the past 100 years, and from the point of view of anthropology, 30 years is one second.

However, technology is quite capable of transforming communication, relationships between people. We all know that on the Internet, many people say things that they would not say in person, so it is quite possible that widespread digitalization by 2053 will lead to the fact that we will see the manifestations of human qualities brighter and more polarized.

Today, many people are afraid of the digital divide, but we must not forget that there has always been inequality, and the digital divide is likely to be easier to overcome than, for example, the economic one.

Digital social elevators may be more accessible than real life elevators. In my opinion, it is the “figure” that can make it possible to reduce the level of inequality and entry barriers in society. It is possible that digital technologies will be able to greatly replace traditional means of exchange, replacing, for example, money with social and ethical ratings or completed levels in computer games.

Continuous learning and flexible careers: how neural networks will change the labor market

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become a familiar tool for any person, says Alexander Krainov, director for the development of artificial intelligence technologies at Yandex.

Generative neural networks have been developing rapidly over the past few years and are already acting as a full-fledged human assistant in everyday and professional tasks. This process can be compared to how the Internet was born and developed. In those years, it was impossible to imagine that social networks, search engines, marketplaces, video streaming and personal assistants would appear.

Now in the field of text generative neural networks, humanity is at the same point. Therefore, it is impossible to predict what will happen next. Nevertheless, several trends are already visible today.

Neural networks are more than IT

Even 20-30 years ago, people added a line to their resumes – “confident PC skills”. It was a talent that not everybody possessed.. Today, this skill is basic and obvious; no one lists it as a competitive advantage. It seems that in the very near future we will see how people will start adding the phrase “confident use of neural networks” to their profiles. Interestingly, the skill of prompt engineering (the ability to write the correct neural network query) can really be useful for people right now. But, most likely, this stage will pass quickly and almost all people will learn how to work with neural networks.

Until recently, neural networks were trained exclusively by data scientists, ML developers, and analysts. They select the correct architecture, or, more simply, the type of formula for the model, collect data, train the neural network, that is, using mathematical methods, they obtain formulas that are as close as possible to the optimal parameters, and measure the quality of the resulting model. But now we see that people of different professions are needed to train neural networks: those who know natural language well, who can carefully check the accuracy of facts, quickly dive into any topic, or are a professional in some subject area.

Today, professionals, having reached a high level of qualification and recognition, are committed to passing on their experience to students and colleagues. In this case, they are less busy with practice and devote more time to enlightenment. It is likely that another important type of their activity will be the training of neural networks: specialists will transfer their knowledge and train the neural network to answer reliably and completely the most complex questions from their subject area. Thanks to artificial intelligence, their knowledge can be applied an unlimited number of times.

AI and new career opportunities

Society has gone through similar changes in the past. When computers appeared, many feared that they would leave millions of people without work. But time has shown that the development of technology, on the contrary, has created many new professions and jobs. A similar situation is developing with neural networks: they will become not only a tool that will help reduce the routine part of the work of many specialists, but also the cause of the emergence of new professions and jobs.

This process is already underway: a new specialty has emerged – an AI trainer. AI trainers write examples of texts on which the neural network learns to give complete, reliable and accurate answers. They must be able to quickly dive into any complex topic, be it astronomy or phonetics, in order to be able to write a reference example for a neural network. This is a new career opportunity for editors, art historians, linguists, teachers, translators and many other professionals who are good at language, can check facts and love working with texts. Yandex is already hiring hundreds of such employees.

Most likely, in the future, neural network trainers will have a specialization and professionals in certain areas will be responsible for training various models. For example, doctors, engineers, and lawyers will appear among AI trainers. And when a specialist reaches high qualifications, he will teach neural networks what he himself can do. First of all, this will affect people who solve the most complex and atypical tasks in their fields.

Neural networks and expansion of professional competencies

Technology development has accelerated dramatically over the past ten years. Previously, a person could get one profession and work in it all his life, his activity could change very slightly. Now, thanks also to AI, we can expect accelerating progress. Transformation and the constant emergence of new professions provide an opportunity to repeatedly change their field of activity, learn how to use new tools and expand their competencies.

Even 30 years ago, for example, there were no professions of a web developer, blogger or SMM manager. At the early stage of the Internet’s birth, it was impossible to imagine that such specialties would appear. It’s the same with neural networks. This is a young and very fast-growing technology, so even forecasts for five years ahead look naive, just as forecasts for the development of the Internet looked 30 years ago.

How to interact with neural networks now
Today we are at a very important point in the development of neural networks. Until now, AI technologies have worked inside products, and the average person could not “feel them with their hands”. Artificial intelligence algorithms have long been built into search and recommendation systems, machine translation, weather forecasts, and voice assistants.

Now users have the opportunity to interact with artificial intelligence directly. For example, a new generation generative neural network YandexGPT is built into Alice and is available to millions of users right in a smartphone, search engine or smart speaker. Thanks to this, people will begin to better understand the capabilities and limitations of neural networks, many fears, prejudices and false expectations will go away, and there will be much more ideas where and how neural networks can be used.

Over time, artificial intelligence will become an indispensable tool that helps reduce the time spent on routine tasks. A well-trained neural network will be able to provide a person with access to a huge amount of information in various fields of knowledge and structure it.

The most important skill is the ability not only to receive information from a huge number of different sources, but also to evaluate its reliability, think critically and systematize your knowledge. This skill is especially relevant when training and using neural networks.

And, perhaps, most importantly, people need not lose the ability to interact with each other, think, communicate and negotiate, because the neural network will not replace us in this.

What will society consider scientific knowledge in 30 years?

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The role of science in the history of mankind has changed more than once – and will continue to change. Andrey Konyaev, a scientist and popularizer of science, discusses how scientific knowledge will change

A couple of words to start

In the fall of 1993, I studied in the 3rd “B” class of secondary school No. 18 in the city of Tambov. Among the skills that we definitely needed, according to the school, at that time was the ability to add, multiply and even divide in a column. This knowledge seemed absolutely necessary, and those who doubted, mathematics teachers sealed with a rhetorical question “Are you going to always carry a calculator with you?”

Little did the teachers know that just 30 years later, the answer to their seemingly rhetorical question would be “Yes, of course. And a TV, and a telephone, and a tape recorder. And everything will fit in your pocket. And by the way, there will be no buttons there.

The meaning of this story is quite transparent: it is almost impossible to guess exactly what will happen in 30 years. This is in terms of details. However, it is possible to identify trends that will lead to radical changes in 30 years. In this case, it is the development of semiconductor electronics and the commercialization of lithium-ion batteries that began around this time.

That is why we will focus on the trends that are visible now and that will determine the future in 30 years. Guessing and fantasizing in detail what exactly these trends will result in, I will not even try.

In addition, science is a huge concept that includes poetry, archeology, and quantum mechanics. Since, among other things, I am a practicing mathematician, that is, I am engaged in this science as a scientist, we will talk about the natural sciences. This is in case the reader has an irresistible desire to write that the author is a fool and does not understand anything in the humanities. Of course, this will not stop the reader, but at least my conscience will be clear.

And finally, we will talk exclusively about Western science, and in general, the presentation will be Eurocentric. In the East, the relations between science, religion and the state were and remain completely different from what we know from Europe. Unfortunately, I do not know enough material to formulate trends outside the “golden billion”. And this, for a moment, is the majority of humanity. This is perhaps the weakest point of my reasoning – some of the collisions and trends may be completely inapplicable to Asia or Latin America.

Another social practice

Science in Europe has been banned for a long time. In the Middle Ages, scientists were burned out of harm’s way, banned, oppressed – in general, they did everything to make them idols of youth. Desperate rebels who oppose the status quo of the Church – this is how the American writer and journalist Dan Brown describes them in his books.

The Age of Enlightenment brought science into the mainstream. The main idea here was that the laws of the universe exist regardless of man. If all people disappear tomorrow, then the states will disappear, all the songs of Nadezhda Babkina, but the acceleration of free fall will still be 9.8 m / s in 1 second.

The development of technology in the 19th century and the technological revolutions of the 20th century have shown that this idea is extremely productive. Knowledge about the world was converted into steam engines, and then into nuclear icebreakers. The triumph of progress, the triumph of knowledge – science has finally proved its worth.

But science exists inseparably from people, and people were not ready to live in the scientific paradigm. Postmodernism, which replaced modernity, reduced the world to a text, canceled the author and expressed itself in a total rejection of large projects and metanarratives.

One of these dead narratives was the idea of ​​rational knowledge of the world as a natural human aspiration. In the postmodern world, science is just a text that offers an interpretation of phenomena, no better or worse than others.

At the beginning of the 21st century, postmodernity and its ideas penetrated into the practice of ordinary people. A typical user of social networks has not read Baudrillard, but, sending out memes or reposting something from his favorite Telegram channel, he is engaged in purely postmodern practices.

Postmodernity is not taught at school, but practice determines consciousness. Nothing and no one is immune to this global change – neither culture, nor art, nor politics. Not even science.

Now science does not have a monopoly on the description of the world. Science is just a variant of reading phenomena, a kind of opinion of some people. By inertia, scientists continue to command respect, but the covid has clearly demonstrated that the position of science has degraded and continues to degrade.

They don’t believe in science. Science is just another social practice, like tarot cards. And not because people are stupid, just scientific knowledge is just one of the options for telling about the world around us.

This is perhaps the main trend, which will only intensify in the near future.

Explain with fingers

The rational approach implied that people are able to understand the laws of this world, write them down in the form of formulas. Knowing the speed of the body and the initial position, we can find the position of the body at any time.

Quantum theory in this sense was an extremely unpleasant discovery – it took probability as a basis for describing the microcosm.

Even the great Einstein had a hard time accepting this reality. He believed that probability is a mathematical artifact of describing the world. That there must be a more perfect and completely deterministic theory out there somewhere, because God does not play dice. But the years have shown – no, he still plays.

The complexity of the answers that science gives was, until recently, a purely internal methodological problem. But the degradation of the authority of science has led to the fact that this problem has become not only internal, but also external.

Science requires simple answers and understandable results. Moreover, the answers should not only be understandable, they should be convincing. And with this, science is bad: it is convincing only within the framework of its own paradigm. That is, the end user is not convinced – too complicated and incomprehensible.

And if so, then the scientific result is not in itself a valuable achievement.

As a result, the only clear measure of scientific knowledge is practice. How can the new protein be used in the national economy? What profit will the new theorems bring? How will your collider help in creating a new – exclusively domestic – smartphone?

Therefore, the next trend is very simple: fundamental science in the form in which it was understood before is dying.

Scientific knowledge is not interesting for scientific knowledge, is not in demand and will not be funded. It is possible that some foundations, reserves of fundamental science will be created, but it will be a completely different science and a different scale.

synthetic natural science

Poetry is a rather specific field of knowledge. The object of its study is the body of texts created by man. This body is constantly changing and expanding. In particular, each new poem has the potential to influence existing theories in the field.

In this sense, physics differs from poetry because it deals with an objectively existing reality over which a person has no power. Atoms and molecules exist regardless of our attitude towards them.

Synthetic natural science is a natural science approach to the study of man-made objects. Perhaps the most well-known object of this kind now is neural networks, the same ChatGTP.

This natural science has clear applications. There is a big and serious applied task – standardization and certification of neural network tools. It sounds a little funny, but it’s a serious task.

If an engineer designs a bridge, he can guarantee its understandable characteristics: operating temperature, maximum load, and so on. Nothing like that can be said about neural networks. Is it possible, for example, to entrust a neural network with checking a student’s homework? Or is it possible for an ambulance driver to use a navigator, is there any hidden errors or restrictions in building a route?

In order to be able to seriously answer such questions, neural networks should be studied precisely as phenomena given to us objectively. Yes, in fact, a neural network is a multilevel recurrent approximating function, but this is not enough. We have yet to find out what it is.

The same ChatGPT will be studied, doctoral dissertations will be written on it. They, in turn, will immediately become obsolete with the release of a new version.

mimicry for science

The complex answers that science provides, as well as the degradation of its authority, create space for new types of practices that claim the laurels of the “new” science. The idea here is clear: now we will make everything clear without this absurdity.

Some time ago, there was a column in Wired announcing the death of the theory. It was about the fact that big data allows us to analyze the most complex processes without understanding how they actually work. We just find trends and immediately put them into practice.

Roughly speaking, the author proposed removing the formulation of a hypothesis and the construction of a theory from the scientific method. It is as if, instead of studying how climate or weather works, we rely on omens. Why do you need to know something about atmospheric pressure if the kettle always boils noisily on the eve of a cold snap or sparrows always bathe in dust before the rain?

It quickly became clear that life is much more diverse, and blind faith in big data disappeared somewhere. But the idea that science will work if something unnecessary is thrown out of it has not gone away. By the way, the recent story with the Titan submersible is exactly from this series: why complicate everything if you can dive in a barrel with a joystick as the main control tool?

It is important to understand that this is not pseudoscience in the usual sense. New practitioners are not trying to pretend to be science, they are trying to replace it. This is their essential difference from, for example, homeopathy or the theory of torsion fields.

It’s hard to say what will happen next. Perhaps a sect of believers in the omnipotence of neural networks or quantum cryptoastrology. But I have no doubt that people will manage and come up with game, next to which the history of Titan will seem childish.