Have you ever played the game series Civilization, created by designer Sid Meier? Through the years, much has changed, but one of the unchanging hallmarks of the series has been the technology tree. Why has it been such a stable component of this game? Because it allows you, on one look, to get a bird’s-eye view of the technological capabilities necessary to make progress on your audacious civilizational goals.
Compare this with our real civilization. If we wanted to, we could probably map the many technological capability paths that got us to where we are today. After all, our current tech stack is what the Civilization tech tree is modeled after. What if we could build a tech tree that was future-facing, starting now? Reality is, arguably, more complex than a computer game. So, rather than mapping civilization at large, perhaps we could start with individual technology areas and map those out, one by one. Within technology domains, one could break down the main goals for the field into future capabilities required to get there and recursively work ourselves backward to the present capability stack.
Allison Duettmann is the president of Foresight Institute, a 38-year-strong institute supporting the beneficial development of high-impact technology to make great futures more likely. She leads the Intelligent Cooperation, Molecular Machines, Health Extension, Neurotech and Space programs. She co-edited the book Superintelligence: Coordination & Strategy and co-authored Gaming the Future: Intelligent Voluntary Cooperation. She holds a Master of Science in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics, focusing on AI safety, and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from York University.
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