These are possibly significant items with enormous potential impact upon our future, of which most people today remain unaware.
Most of these ideas are well supported by facts available today.
The elements are listed in reverse order below, with the perhaps least significant (in terms of imminence or day-to-day effect) first, and most important last.
#10: The chances we are alone or very nearly so in our galaxy-- in terms of intelligent life-- are very high. For it appears so-called intelligent civilizations usually destroy themselves before they get much of a foothold beyond their own home world or solar system.
Although this doesn't portend well for our own chances of successfully making it over coming decades or centuries, it does mean it's unlikely we have to worry about significant intervention by alien outsiders. As any such extraterrestrial survivors are likely much too few and distant and struggling themselves to pay much attention to us.
The reason it's so important we don't face alien intruders is that they'd likely possess technologies which basically made them real life Gods compared to us. Anybody who could zip across the awful distances involved would have exquisite wheels which almost rated as time traveling machines. Or else their lifespans would be immense, and their physical forms not vulnerable to anything we could throw at them.
Any meeting between us and them would be far more lop-sided negotiation-wise than that which occurred between firearm wielding Old World European colonists and bow and arrow wielding New World native Americans.
It could get bad enough to match the calamity of a technological singularity, as listed elsewhere on this page.
MORE regarding the existence of alien civilizations in our galaxy...
#9: A terrifying technological singularity such as envisioned by Vernor Vinge-- possibly posing a severe threat of rapid extinction upon the human race-- doesn't appear imminent. Or even likely in our own lifetimes (speaking from a middle-aged point of view). Despite what some folks-- including some brilliant personalities among them-- sometimes say and write.
Always keep in mind hype is essential in a capitalist economy to sell goods and services.
In a true technological singularity it appears anything like the humanity of the present wouldn't be kept around for any reason but possibly spare parts and experimentation. If that.
But there's indications that technological advancements are actually slowing rather than accelerating, due to excessive greed on the part of big corporations who wish to serve as toll gate keepers to virtually anything and everything which makes life worth living to the rest of us. So those entities have bought out the politicians of the developed world in order to push patent and copyright protections for themselves to absurd heights.
So it appears we're far more likely to experience stagnation in innovation rather than a singularity anytime soon. Which is bad news itself relating to some of the other items on this list.
But even if those corporate roadblocks were removed, there'd still be at least one more important impediment to a singularity. Namely, the supreme ambitions of humanity itself. Which basically tend to be no more complex or far reaching than a given individual seeking to impress the opposite sex.
It's difficult to see how such a goal would trigger a singularity-- even among uber geeks themselves. No matter how fast tech advances were moving overall.
MORE about why a singularity doesn't appear imminent...
#8: The burgeoning internet continues to defy the efforts of the powers that be to fully define and constrain it. This poses both good and bad connotations. But overall it makes for more unpredictability in media and communications and opportunity. And so maybe a few more cracks through which the little guy can squeeze through normal barriers to get at some of the pie.
Yeah, it basically just amounts to a small loophole of opportunity for individuals and small business against the mighty corporate and government machines. But it's a little better than nothing.
MORE about how you might personally make money (or a name for yourself) on the internet today...
#7: America truly is a land of opportunity: for rich heirs and audacious criminals, anyway. But you better be a very big criminal. American prisons are filled to over-flowing with poor folks who tried to escape poverty by breaking the law. Small fry had best stick to honest work if at all possible.
Indulging in single-shot mega-lottery tickets won't bust most poor folks' budgets, and will be all you need if you're meant to win. If you're not meant to win you could spend thousands of dollars on tickets and get back negligible rewards. Quantity buying is not cost-effective where the odds against you are so tremendous.
So anyway, what's the big money threshold for likely escape from legal punishment for criminal financial deeds? What does the net worth of the assets stolen, and/or the annual income derived from your nefarious activities have to be to likely protect you from investigations, audits, etc?
Basically it appears you better bring in at least a half million a year income-wise, or else steal all at once a sum larger than $30 million or so. Anything less than those numbers and you could have law enforcement all over you.
The good news is that once you reach those numbers the law will typically be on your side. Usually no matter how you made your money. Well, in America anyway. And many third world countries. This type of scheme may not carry over as well in places like western Europe and Japan.
MORE about how most wealthy Americans truly get there...
#6: Climbing sufficiently high on the political or corporate ladder in America represents the biggest real opportunities for major ill-gotten gains, circa 2005. Forget bank robberies, drug dealing, gambling, prostitution-- anything like that. Being a corporate or government insider is where the real money is to be had. And if you perform your theft with sufficient savvy, everyone will just throw their hands in the air and say there's no way to track it. Heck, it may even be replaced by draw downs from employee pensions and health benefits, or tax monies and government borrowing: thereby offering you or others up a fresh new treasure to be plundered.
In most cases there won't even be a real investigation, or credible audit.
One reason it's easier in America than many other places to get away with such things is the average American is already so burdened with complexities regarding their job, taxes, healthcare, education, and more that they have no capacity left for following the details of the massive theft going on inside their corporations and government. So even if and when news of such shenanigans makes it into the mainstream press, Americans either can't or won't pay much heed to it, leading to little or no pressure on politicians to do much about it. And everyone but the crooks lose.
No, unless the scandal involves clear and irrefutable admissions of guilt by the criminals (or they are caught in the act, preferably on video), or titillating sexual details, or celebrities, Americans don't seem to want to hear about it.
Plus, many Americans believe it's a crime itself to pursue criminal insiders within business or government. No matter how much they steal, or how much suffering or how many deaths they might cause directly or indirectly by their actions or lack thereof. For that might be decried as unpatriotic.
Note that for the type of financial crimes we're discussing here of millions and billions of dollars, most or all the details involved would be terribly boring and complex and difficult to compile, as well as subject to interpretation in many respects. Hence, the reason these types of crooks get away with so much.
It also helps of course that any new laws the executive and legislative branches pass usually inject still more slack into the system, making it ever easier for million and billion dollar thefts to take place. At the same time they're loosening the regulations, they're also cutting back on the number of independent audits and investigations and accountants relating to such matters. As well as firing, demoting, smearing, or simply ignoring any would-be whistleblowers along the way.
MORE on how America allows business and government insiders to loot it with impunity (including references)...
#5: We're learning more about past fatal mistakes by previous human civilizations all the time. Such as the Viking colonies in Greenland, the Mayans of South America, and others. So you never know: we might actually take a few lessons to heart from those cases and improve ourselves and our stewardship of the planet and our fellow human beings.
Hey! It could happen!
a - j r m o o n e y h a m . c o m - o r i g i n a l
#4: A large portion of the world's population is NOT composed of religious fanatics of the Christian, Jewish, or Islamic persuasions. And much of that non-fanatic bunch is reasonably well-educated as well. So we do have some relatively smart people around working against Armageddon, rather than for it.
MORE about America's own powerful (circa 2005) pro-Armageddon cult...
#3: There's a chance human civilization will figure out how to harness the real world mechanisms of luck for the common good and change life for the better for everyone. Parts of civilization have already done so, by way of things like universal health care, free education through college level, and robust employee safety and consumer protections. And look to advance further soon.
Sure, the world's only superpower actually devolved or went backwards in regards to such advances over past decades, but that will hopefully be turned around again pretty soon. After all, America just can't be that dumb.
The enormous hidden costs to society of 'right-wing' political governance
The astonishing decline of America
The super-rich, the 'plain' rich, the 'poorest' rich
...and everyone else
How to get rich in America
The nature of luck
#2: There still remain among us a few souls brave enough (or foolish enough) or sufficiently altruistic to stand up and become whistleblowers on wrong doing when they find it. Yeah, in many cases these folks qualify as true life modern heroes. For the powerful folks they're snitching on are usually plenty influential enough to have such whistleblowers snuffed out or harassed to such an extent they might prefer death.
Whistleblowers and investigative journalists tend to have the least legal protection and political support in the precise situations and regions they are most sorely needed. Like America, circa 2005.
The fewer and further between our whistleblowers become, the closer to the end we'll all be.
So by all means support whistleblowers and investigative journalists! Both local and national! They are vital parts of the business and political immune systems protecting us from corruption, waste, fraud, and worse!
Where whistleblowing is concerned, the more awful the truth, the more vital it is that it's fully and completely exposed as soon as possible.
A truly enlightened system would glorify such people, and offer them not only highly protected legal status but substantial rewards proportional to the benefits they deliver to society.
Sufficiently important acts of whistleblowing or investigative journalism should represent one real world path by which individuals could achieve independent wealth at least on the scale of a multi-million dollar lottery win. With the proper reward formula such a program would be far more than cost-effective for society: it'd actually be immensely profitable!
Of course for best results you'd not only want a bottom-up system of checks and balances like whistleblower rewards in place, but a top-down full accountability system for those in the highest positions of government and business as well. Such a system would include tests for mental illness or tendencies undesirable in general for such leaders. It would also include a robust and independent surveillance system which fully documented all insider behavior related to the actual circumstances of decisions or policies being created or changed by such folks.
MORE about such accountability systems....
#1: We haven't yet destroyed ourselves or suffered an irrevocable setback in terms of technology, energy, population, governance, or natural resources. Many nations have had their fingers on the nuclear button since 1945, and so far only ONE has used it to destroy entire cities of civilians in war (the USA), while the USA plus others have conducted thousands of more or less peaceful tests (I say more or less peaceful because in many cases tests are undertaken to intimidate other countries).
The information I have at present indicates all those thousands of nuclear tests were actual nuclear explosions, either in the open air or underground. As hard to believe as that sounds. Yikes!
Humanity's overall nuclear weapons development and use worldwide has only killed or injured or sickened something less than 100 million people up to now (that's much better than might otherwise have occurred ).
Yeah, nations like the USA keep playing around with stuff like biological weapons which could theoretically be still more devastating than global nuclear war. But so far even when such stuff has been seen in action it never killed more than roughly 80-90% of the native population of a couple continents at a time (germs inadvertently brought over by Europeans killed that many North and South American natives prior to the establishment of the USA). And most known historical instances of natural spread (such as the Black plague) killed somewhat smaller fractions of populations worldwide.
Humanity's immune systems are sufficiently diverse to preserve at least a nominal quantity of us from most likely contagions.
So even if worst came to worst and a bug escaped the labs of the USA or Al Qaeda or whoever-- or was purposely released-- it appears at minimum some 10% or so of humanity would survive, even if no countermeasures were put up at all, or such efforts proved ineffective.
Yes, a 90% die off of humanity would be awful, but not necessarily the end of us. Unless an equally calamitous and different event struck at around the same time.
Of course chances are overwhelming that YOU and I would be among the dead, in a 90% die off. Let's hope our passing doesn't involve too much agony, such as something like Ebola brings about, where our innards all slowly liquefy like we're being digested by a giant spider from a 1950s horror flick.
In regards to other but similarly wide-reaching global issues, mounting environmental damage is so far only outright killing quick a small fraction of our population: the most frail of the elderly and sick, and most vulnerable infants and small children. Of course it's making a far larger number of us ever sicker and dumber in the long term (and possibly making succeeding generations of young males of many species-- including humans-- more effeminate), but many of us figure on future medical advances to save us if and when a definite crisis is proclaimed.
(Let's all hope we haven't been so dumbed-down by environmental toxins by then that we're incapable of the advances required!)
There are troubling indications that humanity is nudging the planet towards "heat death" as more and more heat producing technology girds the planet, and our industries spew out ever more greenhouse gases to thwart natural cooling to space. But again, we're counting on future tech solutions to save us before it's too late.
Civilization's best defensive measures against war, terrorism, technological stagnation, and economic ruin
The enormous hidden costs to society of 'right-wing' political governance
The astonishing decline of America