The Future

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Follow Metro. Why is predicting the future so hard? What comes after the giga, tera, peta, exa, zetta and yottabyte? Deepfakes will completely redraw the lines between reality and fake news 'Whoever controls the data, controls the future'.


Mile-high skyscrapers 'could be made out of wood' The race is on for the first mile-high building but alternative materials are being tested. Will marriage really die out? All shopping 'will become cashless, automatic and checkout-free' Getting your wallet out to pay? Will we end up in tech-filled rabbit hutches?

If racism is a man-made social structure, does that mean man can also destroy it?

The simple rule that can help you predict the future

There has already been successful teleportation from Earth to an orbiting satellite. Yes, really.

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Technology is changing routes, vehicles and work patterns to try and make your commute easier. Introducing the mathematical 'Holographic Principle'. In the next two decades, more than a million star systems will be examined for signs of alien signals.

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Scientists hope we will recover the wreckage of a spacecraft or discovering a 'megastructure' resembling the Death Star. Apollo 11 marked the first time that man set foot on another celestial body, it won't be the last.

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At years, the keep at the heart of the Tower of London is a good choice, closely followed by Merton Priory in south London, which has also made it past Because the only judge that matters when it comes to the future is time, our only genuinely reliable technique for looking ahead is to ask what has already proved enduring: what has shown fitness and resilience in the face of time itself, surviving its shocks and assaults across decades, centuries or millennia. The Tower of London may seem modest in comparison to the Shard skyscraper — which sits across the Thames at 11 times the height — but it has also proved its staying power across 94 times as many years.

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The Shard may be iconic and imposing, but its place in history is far from assured. When it comes to time, the older building looms larger. It was here that in-the-know comedians gathered to discuss the likely staying power of their peers. If someone over-exposed themselves by using up their material in a short burst of activity, the reasoning went, their career would soon be over. But if they played the long game, making fewer but higher-impact appearances, this conservation of resources might see them endure for decades in the industry. Taleb has extended this anecdotal insight considerably.

A book that has been in print for half a century, he argues, can expect to be in print for half a century more. Once it has lasted another 10 years, however, its prospective lifespan increases by that much again. Every additional year tells us something that prognostication cannot.

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Thanks to an inscrutable variety of intermeshed causes, this volume has continued to find an audience — and its capacity to keep on doing so deserves more respect than the hundreds of thousands of copies of that brand new book sold last year. They are subject to the same forces of wear and tear as everything else on Earth: they may be tough, but they cannot remain in good condition without human support. The longer something has endured, the more significance and symbolic meaning it has accrued — and the more tests of function and fashion it has passed.

The modern city of London, like most cities with hundreds of years of history, bends and weaves itself around its monuments. Within days of the fire at the year-old cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris earlier this year, the watching world had pledged over a billion Euros to fund its reconstruction. The force of the Lindy effect — and the relationship between architecture and culture — can also be seen in the efforts of those who wish to eliminate something old.

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In the name of efficiency and anti-idolatry, Saudi Arabia has over the last few decades destroyed vast amounts of its ancient heritage , aiming to accommodate both the immense number of pilgrims who visit the holy city of Mecca and the ultraconservative Wahhabi ideology of its rulers. Plenty of terrible practices have a terrible vigour to them, for reasons rooted in the darkest parts of human nature. The Lindy effect marks a deep threat and affront to those who wish to sweep away the complexities and intransigence of our relationship with the past.

And it suggests the importance of deploying as your wrecking tool something else at least as ancient and atavistic. At this point, fitness in the evolutionary sense — that which has proved its worth and adaptability by surviving — may seem to be in conflict with one of the basic principles of reasoned argument. Plenty of terrible practices have a terrible vigour to them, for reasons rooted in the darkest parts of human nature: slavery, murder, rape, fanaticism.

The other half is equally important: fragility. Something is fragile when, rather than adapting and surviving, it shatters into pieces at its first major shock. In the evolutionary scheme of things, individual creatures are horribly fragile — but this fragility serves the greater robustness of their species. The varied and competing existences of perishable individuals ensure adaptation and renewal from generation to generation, much as the immense variety of life as a whole on this planet has ensured some survivors of even the most cataclysmic events.

Even the hardiest buildings are fragile in the grander scheme of things. But the emotions and ideas that lead us to admire, maintain and emulate a handful of them are robust. Read more: How to build something that lasts 10, years. Similarly, while individual artefacts may be fragile, their lineage is likely to continue if they serve and extend deeply-rooted needs. The future is those pieces of the past that have evolved and endured, minus those parts of the present most likely to crack and crumble.

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