Over 150 readers have commented on previous drafts of this book. Here are very quick summaries of some of their most common criticisms. Most individual views are of course subtler than these summaries can be. If we include those who declined to read my draft, the most common complaint is probably “who cares?” Many just can’t see why they should want to know much detail about the lives of people who are not they, their children, or grandchildren. While many readers seem interested in the lives of past people who were not personally their ancestors, perhaps these readers make up only a small fraction of the population. Other readers doubt that one can ever estimate the social consequences of technologies decades in advance. It is not so much that these readers have specific complaints about my analyses. Instead, they have a general skepticism that makes them uninterested in considering such analyses. Many see human behavior as intrinsically inscrutable, and many doubt that social science exists as a source of reliable insight. A few are off ended by the very idea of estimating social outcomes, as they see this as denying our free will and ability to choose our futures. A more specific version of this sort of criticism accepts that it is often possible for us to foresee social consequences in worlds like ours, but then says that it is impossible to foresee the social behaviors of creatures substantially smarter than us. So, they reason, we today cannot see past the future point in time when typical descendants become smarter than we are today, and ems are effectively smarter than us in several ways. This view suggests that social scientists today are less able to predict the behavior of smarter people, or of people who are smarter than the typical social scientist. That seems incorrect to me. Still other readers accept my social analysis, but are disappointed that I consider only the next great era, and not the eras that may follow it. These readers mainly care about the long-term future. They reject my argument that understanding the em era is a good first step to understanding the eras that may follow it.
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