A Warning to the Future

Learning goals

During A Warning to the Future, you are going to learn to read scientific articles, write academically and use sources in order to write an academic essay (~400-800 words). The main skills that you will improve are reading, adaptation, writing and discussing.

You will learn by reading, discussing predictions about the future, write reponses and specialise yourself within in a specific area. 

Successsful students will be able to:

Purpose, core contents, assessement for learning

"I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time - when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness."

- Carl Sagan, The Demon-haunted World (1995: p. 28)

The future of tomorrow, conceivable but unpredictable, fascinates. Man watches the skies and dreams of distant worlds, to travel the stars in hopes of grand adventure or encountering sentient species. What might we discover on alien planets? Similarly, how will we evolve on our own celestial body? Will we discover unfathomable technological powers or develop into more machines than man? The great unknown; full of danger or magnificient prosperity? 

Depicted in many works of fiction as either an enabler or a threat to mankind, the future of science stimulates our fantasy and awakens our curiosity. In science fiction, we gaze towards the stars and the purpose to “To boldly go where no one has gone before”.

A world of technological wonder, the utopian bright and sleek landscape, miraculously free of famine and disease. Concepts from Jules Verne’s 1870 Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea presented an underwater vehicle that eventually came true - the submarine is no longer a work of fiction. In George Orwell’s 1984, written in 1948, Big Brother was watching, portraying a bleak future in this classic dystopian novel. Today we are perpetually online; are we like his soulless people, experiencing thought control? In Bioware’s interactive medium Mass Effect from 2007, we take the controls and play a significant role in the future of the universe. Mankind fights side-to-side along alien races against the terrors of deep space.

Past concepts of the future might be closer than we think. Elon Musk tells us about AI that: “[Artificial intelligence] is just digital intelligence. And as the algorithms and the hardware improve, that digital intelligence will exceed biological intelligence by a substantial margin. 

"It's obvious. Ensuring that the advent of AI is good, or at least we try to make it good, seems like a smart move. 

We're not paying attention. We worry more about what name somebody called someone else, than whether AI will destroy humanity. That's insane. 

We're like children in a playground. ... The way in which a regulation is put in place is slow and linear. If you have a linear response to an exponential threat, it's quite likely the exponential threat will win. That, in a nutshell, is the issue."

- Elon Musk

Axios, season 1, episode 4 (25 November 2018)

We turn once again to the sky and ask ourselves; what can we possibly do? The answer: we research, we predict, we understand, search for ways to improve, to make life better for our fellow man, and ultimately share it with others.

You can make an impact. You will use your expertise to tell others what you have learned. What you will write and talk about might be found by future generations. You are going to create a Time capsule and within your contributions will be sealed. What will you share with the future?

Core contents:

Knowledge requirements

 (Skolverket, 2011)