The pace of technological change is governed by many factors — including public demand. Which is why we need to be demanding more. Here are 12 transformative technologies whose development should be expedited right now. To make this list meaningful, I only included those items that are within reasonable technological reach. Sure, it would be nice to have molecular assemblers, warp drives, and the recipe for safe artificial intelligence, but it’ll be decades before we can reasonably embark upon such projects.
The perfect merger of academic rigor and contemporary thinking has come together in the concept of iSchools, which give practical consideration and interesting learning opportunities to the most relevant issue of our time: information.
IEET contributor, Andrew Maynard: “I had a roller coaster of an interview with Seth Shostak (Director of the Center for SETI Research and host of Big Picture Science) last week on risk and black swan events. I was poised to talk about rare but high impact events like a mega-eruption at Yellowstone National Park, or a major asteroid hit.”
I was going to put these into context with more common risks – such as getting cancer, dying from excessive heat, or being killed by a dog bite (yes, it happens more than you’d think).
I was prepared to talk with authority about micromorts, and the relative risk of being killed in a fall versus a car crash (surprisingly similar as it turns out).
I’d done my homework.
Not that it mattered. Like all the best interviews, this one went off piste at frightening speed.
We talked about the risks of new technologies; the dangers (or not) of using cell phones; probability distributions and sparse risk-event data sets; insurance companies and premiums; to fear – and sharks; dread; emotional responses to perceived risks; getting your kids vaccinated (do); familiar risks; unfamiliar risks; ebola; confusing concern with fear; making sense of big numbers. We even talked about how extending our lifespans to centuries might change how we think about risk.
We didn’t talk about micromorts.
But with hindsight, that may have been the wafer thin mint that pushed us over the edge of risk-gluttony. A black swan event well-avoided.
(And, just in case you’re wondering, your chances of dying in a mega-eruption at Yellowstone during a one month vacation, are around a tenth of a micromort. Probably.)
We all have at least some musical talent. But very few of us can play the piano like Vladimir Horowitz. His talent was rarefied, and at the tail end of the bell curve of musical ability – that tiny sliver of the distribution where you find the true outliers. Outliers also exist with natural events: hurricane Katrina, for example, or the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. Such events are rare, but they often have outsized effects.
In this hour we imagine the unimaginable – including the unexpected events labeled “black swans” – and how we weigh the risk for any of them. Also, how a supervolcano explosion at Yellowstone National Park could obliterate the western U.S. but shouldn’t stop you from putting the park on your vacation itinerary.
In this week’s podcast, we discuss the future of education. We examine the advantages and disadvantages of MOOCs and other online courses, and in the process we identify four distinct educational challenges: communicating information, fostering motivation, certifying knowledge, and building community. We also stress the importance of returning to first principles and asking fundamental questions about what the purpose of education is. At the end of the episode we discuss the possibility of augmented reality to revolutionize the practice of “learning by doing.”
Back in 2012, I was invited to spend a few weeks visiting at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN), a federally funded Japanese research institute based in the beautiful city of Kyoto. I was invited by my colleague Itsuki Handoh of RIHN. During my visit, Handoh and I came up with an idea for how to fuse two important lines of research on major global threats.
Debate Topic: “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted”
Event Synopsis : In his novel the The Brothers Karamazov, Russian philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevsky asked the question: "how will man be after that? Without God and the future life? It means everything is permitted now, one can do anything?" This quote encapsulates an idea that seems to resonate with many people - if there is no God, there can be no ultimate, objective source for moral values. If there is no God, then everything is permitted.
In this debate, we will meticulously analyse this idea. Can there be an objective grounding for ethics without God? If Atheism is true, does that mean that all moral values are merely subjective opinion? Can there be a secular basis for ethics independent of God? What basis does a naturalist have for thinking one moral system superior to another?
The speakers will first present their arguments, and then each speaker will have an opportunity for rebuttal. There will then be a moderated discussion between the two speakers, promoted by questions from the audience. Join us for what we hope will be both an enlightening and a challenging evening of honest and friendly engagement with this important question.
John studied mathematics and computer science at RMIT, worked as a scientific programmer, studied theology at Moore College, and now pastors Melbourne Evangelical Church. John is married to Bek and they have three kids, with a fourth due in early January. John's area of interests include philosophy, ethics, free will and God's sovereignty.
Against: James Fodor, University of Melbourne Secular Society
James is studying a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Melbourne, with a focus on maths, physics, and computing. He is currently president of the University of Melbourne Secular Society, a student club which strives to promote rationality, skepticism, and secularism on campus. His other interests include interfaith dialogue, epistemology, effective altruism, science communication, emerging technologies, and history.
With its 100 million neurons per square inch, the brain is a pretty powerful processor, even if we can’t always beat computers at chess these days. But just how the circuits that make up that wondrous seat of consciousness form themselves has long been anybody’s guess.
Of all the bewildering diversity of new of consumer choices on offer before the middle of the century that would have stunned people from only a generation earlier, none was perhaps as shocking as the many ways there now were to be dead. As in all things of the 21st century what death looked like was dependent on the wealth question.
Statement by H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, on the occasion of the United Nations Day (24 October). UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter. 24 October has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948. In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly recommended that the day be observed by Member States as a public holiday.
The Pilot Episode of Digital Leaders TV, presented by BBC Click’s +Kate Russell will discuss the Internet of Things with a panel of industry experts including Nick Appleyard, Ewan Dalton and Martin Wright.
In 1971, the then president of the United States, Richard Nixon, declared ‘war’ on cancer. Since then, billions of dollars have been poured into cancer research worldwide, but a cure for the disease is still a long way off. In this Nature Video, reporter Lorna Stewart marks the scientific milestones of the past four decades. She explores cancer genetics with Nobel laureate Michael Bishop, vaccines with fellow laureate Harald zur Hausen, and two young researchers tell Lorna about some of cancer research’s greatest success stories.
With futurist thinkers supporting the notion of human upgrading through technological enhancement, what parameters are considered in respect to moral enhancement? What cross cultural barriers and variations in moral reasoning are we targeting for such upgrades? Moreover, is moral enhancement simply a term we fear delving into despite the association it arguably has to almost everything our culture produces?
What kind of society are we creating? With the advent of the internet-of-things, advanced data-mining and predictive analytics, and improvements in artificial intelligence and automation, we are the verge of creating a global “neural network”: a constantly-updated, massively interconnected, control system for the world. Imagine what it will be like when every “thing” in your home, place of work, school, city, state and country is connected to a smart device?
A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing is a book by physicist Lawrence M. Krauss, first published in 2012, discussing modern cosmogony and its implications for the debate about the existence of God.
By Nothing, Lawrence Krauss means a Quantum Vacuum - not the philosophical meaning of nothing, which is ‘not anything’ - he certainly does not mean no physics.
So, Why is there something rather than nothing?
Well, why not? Why expect nothing rather than something? No experiment could support the hypothesis ‘There is nothing’ because any observation obviously implies the existence of an observer.
Is there any a priori support for ‘There is nothing’? One might respond with a methodological principle that propels the empty world to the top of the agenda. For instance, many feel that whoever asserts the existence of something has the burden of proof. If an astronomer says there is water at the south pole of the Moon, then it is up to him to provide data in support of the lunar water. If we were not required to have evidence to back our existential claims, then a theorist who fully explained the phenomena with one set of things could gratuitously add an extra entity, say, a pebble outside our light cone. We recoil from such add-ons. To prevent the intrusion of superfluous entities, one might demand that metaphysicians start with the empty world and admit only those entities that have credentials. This is the entry requirement imposed by Rene Descartes. He clears everything out and then only lets back in what can be proved to exist.
Bio: Lawrence Maxwell Krauss (born May 27, 1954) is an American theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and director of its Origins Project. He is known as an advocate of the public understanding of science, of public policy based on sound empirical data, of scientific skepticism and of science education and works to reduce the impact of superstition and religious dogma in pop culture. He is also the author of several bestselling books, including The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing.
Red State conservatives may insist that the rest of us should keep aspirin between our knees and be forced to bear Divine Justice Babies when we don’t. They may refuse to provide cake or flowers for gay weddings, or even to attend. They may pretend that teens won’t do it if we just don’t tell them how.
When Martin Krzywinski took a systems administrator job at Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Center, he didn’t plan on becoming a pioneer of 21st century biological data visualization. In fact, he didn’t even have a biology background: He’d done his graduate studies in physics and math. But it was the late 1990s, and he could handle a computer.
Krzywinski built the Center’s first IT system, beefed up their security, designed optimized keyboard layouts, and generally geeked out. Along the way, he started helping researchers with their projects, getting to know their data and its possibilities. The rest is design history.
Falling DNA sequencing prices and a growing appreciation of cellular complexity soon unleashed a torrent of genetic data. The tools for gathering data, though, had outpaced those for portraying it. “I was frustrated, reading a lot of the scientific papers and not understanding what they were saying. I just wanted them to be simpler,” said Krzywinski. “There’s nothing I can do to make biology simpler, but I started telling people to make clearer figures.”
To do this, Krzywinski developed Circos, an open source visualization tool that arranges tabular data in circular form. It was a simple idea, but transformative: It’s since been used for thousands of visualizations, and its distinctive aesthetic is synonymous with the informational richness of our moment.
University of Michigan School of Public Health experts discuss the meaning of quarantine and isolation, and explain when such actions are appropriate to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like Ebola.
About the book:
“A frightening and fascinating masterpiece of science reporting that reads like a detective story.” —Walter Isaacson
In 1976 a deadly virus emerged from the Congo forest. As swiftly as it came, it disappeared, leaving no trace. Over the four decades since, Ebola has emerged sporadically, each time to devastating effect. It can kill up to 90 percent of its victims. In between these outbreaks, it is untraceable, hiding deep in the jungle. The search is on to find Ebola’s elusive host animal. And until we find it, Ebola will continue to strike. Acclaimed science writer and explorer David Quammen first came near the virus while he was traveling in the jungles of Gabon, accompanied by local men whose village had been devastated by a recent outbreak. Here he tells the story of Ebola—its past, present, and its unknowable future.
Extracted from Spillover by David Quammen, updated and with additional material. - Amazon
In the year 2014 A.D, the human species may have expanded completely out of bounds. To transcend boundaries is within and out of nature. That is what we do. It is ordained. It is written. We appear to have transcended many limits imposed upon us by nature. Nature imposes, not out of will, because because of the statistical qualities of what nature is. Humans transcend. Nature constrains. There is no free will involved. There is no intelligence or intelligent designer involved. There is no pre-ordained outcome. So we immediately see the arbitrariness of what is natural and what is unnatural. This makes it so strange why we as humans (especially in the western world) still venerate the “natural” and conversely we abhor what’s labeled “unnatural”.
Some spend a few decades meditating. Others spend an indeterminate amount of time inquiring after their true selves. Still others ingest ayahuasca or other intense psychoactive drugs. All are seeking the same thing: in a word, enlightenment. Now, a robotics engineer out of California is hoping to help seekers find it another way: with technology.
I keep seeing and hearing cynics sigh about how far we have “fallen.” The disease is rampant, on both right and left. The striking thing to me is the inanity of cliches, like: “Isn’t it a shame that our wisdom has not kept pace with technology?” This nonsense is spouted amid the greatest transformation of diversity, inclusion, acceptance, re-evaluation and tolerance in the history of our species! At no other time were so many hoary/awful assumptions - about race-gender and so on - pilloried by light and scrutiny!
Law generally falls into two incongruent categories: the natural law and the positive law. While the natural law encompasses universally accepted moral principles and social sense of justice, reflecting the zeitgeist or the spirit of time, the positive law ignores these premises, focusing instead on human-mad laws, such as statutory and common law.
The paper introduces a novel critique of the Kalam Cosmological argument. Or rather, a novel critique of a specific sub-component of the argument in favour of the Kalam. As you may be aware, the Kalam argument makes three key claims: (i) that the universe must have begun to exist; (ii) that anything that begins to exist must have a cause of its existence; and (iii) that in the case of the universe, the cause must be God.
This is a very cool crowdfunding campaign – you can help create a new cancer drug and at the same make it much cheaper. How? The researchers will not patent the drugs. Like polio vaccine, which was never patented, therefore it was widely available. Check out the website and the video. I loved it and made a donation of $50, because I find projects like this can change the existing paradigm in healthcare when the existing drugs are just deadly expensive. I encourage you to support the project and share it with your friends.
By the way, in aging there are also drugs that can never be patented like aspirin, metformin and rapamycin, but may well extend our lifespan. No pharmaceutical company will be interested in looking at substances that can’t be patented, but this could make our lives longer and healthier.
A small biotech company in San Francisco is using genetic engineering to develop plants that emit their own light.
Luminosity has a long and storied history in biology, in fact it's even been the subject of a Nobel Prize. Bioluminescence is used as a core tool of molecular biology as it allows scientists to understand the inner workings of the cell.
The first bioluminescent plant was made in 1986, with the addition of firefly luciferine. The plant was very dim, requiring 8 hours of exposure on photographic film. It also required the addition of luciferin to glow as researchers added just a single gene for the luciferase.
More recently researchers at SUNY added the full glowing construct to a gene resulting in the first auto-luminescent plant. This plant had the bacterial lux operon inserted into the chloroplasts (which are like mini-bacteria) and dimly glowed without the addition of any external reagents.
Bostrom writes that the reason A.I. scientists have failed so badly in predicting the future of their own field is that the technical difficulties have been greater than they expected. I don't think so. I think those scientists had a good understanding of what they were trying to build. The reason why "the expected arrival date [of Artificial Intelligence] has been receding at a rate of one year per year" (Nick Bostrom's estimate) is that we keep changing the definition. There never was a proper definition of what we mean by "Artificial Intelligence" and still there isn't.
As autumn descends on the America's capital, people are saying there’s a darkness on the edge of town. It’s born of the fear, pessimism and uncertainty that have become the Republican political brand. And if the polls are right, there’s every chance that its shadow will fall upon Capitol Hill and envelop both houses of Congress.