Worried the world is changing too fast? Here’s a thought. You’ve seen nothing.
In 1973, former BBC tech writer James Burke had imagined what 1993 would look like. He came up with what looked like wildly futuristic. Databanks, personal data storage and computers in schools. Older people would be confused, he said.
In 2013, he spoke on BBC Radio 4’s PM. It’s an interview that fried my brain at the time and it’s rattled around in my head off and on for a while.
Fear change? Brother, sister you’ve seen nothing, as Burke says:
“Something is going to happen in 40 years time, if my guess is right that will change things more than since we left the caves. The next 20 years are going to move so fast and in so many directions at once that we’re going to have a job just keeping up.
“The problem is, as we try and solve problems like privacy, feedimng the poor ovf the world and solving the ozone layer we spend months and years of committee time trying to solve these short term problems while in the background in 14,000 laboratories around the world nanotechnology is creeping along very quietly.
“A nano metre is about 1/70,000th of a human hair so one nano metre is the size of about three atoms. There are systems that allow you to manipulate atoms to use them to build molecules to build stuff.
“In about 40 years, and this is not me speaking this is a Nobel prize winner called Richard Feynman who said this all 50 years ago who said there are no physical laws that mean we can’t produce a physical nano-factory.”
Your personal nano-factory, Burke explained, could work as a desktop 3D printer using air, water and dirt and ascetelene gas and you can make anything you like. Anything.
“We will in about 40-years time become entirely autonomous. In other words, be able to produce everything they need for virtually nothing. That will destroy the present social economic and political system because they will come pointless.
There will be no need for nations or governments, he argues. They are there to regulate shortage, protect you and re-distribute wealth and if there is no shortage there is no need for them.
“We have spent the last 150,000 talkative years dealing with the problem of scarcity. Every institution, every value system everfy aspevct of our life has been determined by the need to share out. After the nano factory does its thing we will then be faced with the problem of abundance and in a society where there is no need what’s the point of government.”
There will be no need for social institutions or even cities, Burke says.
So, really, dear reader, you not getting Snapchat may be looked at, if it is looked at all, with mirth far greater than the Smash TV ad robots. Of course, this is all prediction.
You can listen to the audio clip here: