Magazine article The Futurist


Magazine article The Futurist


Article excerpt

* Revisiting Global Governance

In Maurice Strong's article, "Reforming the United Nations" (September-October 2001), the author states that, because "even the strongest of national governments are experiencing difficulties and constraints on their capacity to perform the duties already entrusted to them, establishing a central world government would compound the problem, not solve it." But Strong makes no effort to justify that statement: We are supposed to accept it without any supportive rationale.

In my view, the very fact that individual governments face serious problems in functioning results in great measure from the tensions inherent in their separate and conflicting needs, which deplete both their material and psychological resources.

A lack of universally accepted standards covering human and international behaviors is an area that cries out for global governance, able to set such standards for people and member states worldwide, and enforce them. Without a world government, I fear we cannot escape a future in which separate nations pillage our global resources, develop unchecked nuclear weaponry, war on their rivals, and ultimately destroy us all.

Pessimistic? Yes. Also realistic? Yes!

Gerald Albert

Hicksville, New York

* Fancy Adding Machines?

I have read Graham T.T. Molitor's "Five Forces Transforming Communications" (September-October 2001) and the pictorial timeline, "Past and Future of Computing and Communications." I take exception to the item at year 2029 that said, "Computers surpass human brain in computational abilities, begin to assert their own rights."

We all know Moore's Law, that processing power doubles every 18 months. I expect that to continue. However, computers are fancy adding machines. It takes more than speed of adding numbers to impart understanding and meaning.

I am willing to bet the author good money that in 2029 computers will not be able to demonstrate human understanding of the phrase "we demand equal rights" with the underlying emotions of desire or need that would be required to realize such a revolt.

Such assertions as made in the timeline only bring fear and unrealistic expectations to the field of AI and prevent informed discussions on the future of Bayesian networks, neural nets, and the like.

Matthew Csordas

Vanconver, Canada

Editor's note: The idea that computer capabilities might surpass the computational abilities of human brains by 2029 is controversial and elicits wide views. Matthew Csordas is entitled to his opinion. For more on this topic, we recommend Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines (Penguin Books, 2000), where this projection is made.

* Keeping Up with Communications

I greatly enjoyed Graham T.T. Molitor's article, "Five Forces Transforming Communications." It covered a lot of ground and was quite informative, even for someone like me who tries to keep up in that area.

Bob Floran

Sandia National Labs

Albuquerque, New Mexico

* Debating Dualmode Transportation

Inventor Francis D. Reynolds has a good grasp of the dualmode future of highway transportation in "The Transportation System of the Future" (September-October 2001). But I respectfully take issue with certain particulars.

The U.S. federal government has been notoriously inconsistent in responding to innovative concepts. While Reynolds advocates a grand national scheme, one colossal effort, to introduce dualmode nationwide, the feds have disputed the efficacy of such a megaproject, and here I agree with them. …

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