Within the next few years, autonomous vehicles—alias robot cars—could be weaponized, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fears. In a recently disclosed report, FBI experts wrote that they believe that robot cars would be “game changing” for law enforcement. The self-driving machines could be professional getaway drivers, to name one possibility. Given the pace of developments on autonomous cars, this doesn’t seem implausible.
I had the opportunity to see Wally Pfister’s Transcendence, with Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, and Morgan Freeman, only last week, more than three months after the film’s release in theaters. Before seeing the film I satisfied my Transcendence cravings with an old, still unnamed copy of Jack Paglen’s script that can be found online (it appears that Paglen’s screenplay was part of what is known as the Black List, a list of popular but unproduced screenplays in Hollywood).
The transfer of used military equipment from the armed forces to police departments around the country has been accompanied, at least to a certain extent, by a shift in public thinking. The news media have played a critical part in that shift, both in its coverage and in what it chooses not to cover.
The recent sci-fi movie Lucy includes questionable science, laugh-out-loud dialogue, strange psychedelic graphics, a well-worn plot, an idiotic chase scene, and ridiculous violence, but I liked it a lot. It is a guilty pleasure on a par with G.I. Jane and T2.
Dr. Rachel Armstrong, Senior TED Fellow and Living Architect, is a Black Sky Thinker, whose ambition and work pushes the boundaries of thought far beyond the blue sky. In this video she discusses ideas for organic like living environments and buildings that integrate themselves with nature.
One example of Rachel’s Black Sky work is as Project Leader for Persephone. Persephone is a crewed interstellar craft, to be assembled in Earth’s orbit, within a hundred years. Rachel is responsible for designing and implementing a giant natural computer that will form the interior of a space ship. The craft or ‘Worldship’ will feature a new approach to building materials called ‘living architecture’. Pioneered by Dr. Armstrong, it suggests it is possible for our buildings to share some of the properties of living systems.
Rachel has a diverse and exciting portfolio of internationally recognised, multi-disciplinary inpossible work and projects. These are characterized by their audacity and visionary long-term goals, with ever changing outcomes that have presented new discoveries within their development. A selection of which can be explored here.
On August 9, at around 12 in the afternoon, Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were attacked by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. With his hands in the air, telling Officer Wilson that he was unarmed, the officer shot Brown several times, killing him as a result. This was the eyewitness account told by Brown’s friend Dorian.
Nikola Danaylov (a.k.a Socrates) talks with Jonathan Mugan about his book The Curiosity Cycle and how to teach children about important concepts related to the world of science and technology. They also discuss the importance of the future of learning and methods on how mind’s will evolve.
During our 30 min conversation with Mugan we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: his journey from the “soft” half of knowledge – arts, into the “hard” half – science; his book The Curiosity Cycle; building smart robots and educating children; why he focused on “curiosity” rather than “intelligence” and “cycle” rather than a “score”; tips for teaching your kids in the most effective manner, dealing with automation and technological unemployment…
(You can listen to/download the audio file above or watch the video interview in full. If you want to help me produce more episodes like this one please make a donation!)
Who is Jonathan Mugan?
Dr. Jonathan Mugan is a computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning. He is the author of The Curiosity Cycle: Preparing Your Child for the Ongoing Technological Explosion. Dr. Mugan received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin. His thesis was centered in developmental robotics, which is an area of research that seeks to understand how robots can learn about the world in the same way that human children do. Dr. Mugan also held a post-doctoral position at Carnegie Mellon University, where he worked at the intersection of machine learning and human-computer interaction (HCI) as a member of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory. His work focused on enabling devices such as smart phones to learn a user’s privacy preferences. He received his B.A. in Psychology and his M.B.A. from Texas A&M University. He has three children.
Positive moods are a virtue, both in enabling enjoyment of life and in supporting prosocial behavior. But it is not the only kind of happiness, and in excess can be quite excessive. Along with positive moods we also want to cultivate flourishing, a sense that overall our lives are meaningful and going well. What are the public policies and life behaviors that support positive moods and flourishing lives? As we enter a “hedonistic imperative” future in which we are able to tweak our moods with “happy-people-pills-for-all” how will we find the right balance of positive mood to achieve flourishing lives?
The WHO medical ethics panel convened Monday to discuss the ethics of using experimental treatments for Ebola in West African nations affected by the disease. I am relieved to note that this morning they released their unanimous recommendation: “it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.”
MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte discusses what it means for the atomic world to turn digital.
Nicholas Negroponte, founder and Chairman Emeritus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, as well as the founder of the One Laptop per Child Association, seems to think so. Negroponte spoke to Big Think about the transformative power of technology and how it can help feed the world in a sustainable way. Grazing livestock, for instance, puts stress on the environment; since the 1970s, the Amazon rainforest lost an area the size of California to deforestation, driven in large part by making room for cattle. We need these trees to absorb the excess CO2 warming up our atmosphere.
Human beings seem to have an innate need to predict the future. We’ve read the entrails of animals, thrown bones, tried to use the regularity or lack of it in the night sky as a projection of the future and omen of things to come, along with a thousand others kinds of divination few of us have ever heard of. This need to predict the future makes perfect sense for a creature whose knowledge bias is towards the present and the past. Survival means seeing enough ahead to avoid dangers, so that an animal that could successfully predict what was around the next corner could avoid being eaten or suffering famine.
The resilience of our entire civilization is increasingly reliant on a fragile network of cell phone towers, which are the first things to fail in any crisis, e.g. a hurricane or other natural disaster… or else deliberate (e.g. EMP or hacker) sabotage.
Everyone knows by now that self driving cars are coming soon. Somewhere in the next 3-20 years, the human driver will become a thing of the past. What will happen when these capabilities come online? We talk through the obvious and not so obvious consequences of self driving car technology, from unemployment of taxi drivers to reclaiming parking spaces from idle vehicles — and ultimately theorize that the ownership model will change drastically.
Adam Ford records Philosopher of Science, John Wilkins, about philosophy, sociology, science, and pseudoscience. What is science, what is not science? What makes something good science?
Published on Aug 12, 2014
See this post by John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts: http://evolvingthoughts.net/2011/07/w…
Every so often, somebody will attack the worth, role or relevance of philosophy on the internets, as I have discussed before. Occasionally it will be a scientist, who usually conflates philosophy with theology. This is as bad as someone assuming that because I do some philosophy I must have the Meaning of Life (the answer is, variously, 12 year old Scotch, good chocolate, or dental hygiene).
But it raises an interesting question or two: what is the reason to do philosophy in relation to science? being the most obvious (and thus set up the context in which you can answer questions like: are there other ways to find truth than science?). So I thought I would briefly give my reasons for that.
When philosophy began around 500BCE, there was no distinction between science and philosophy, nor, for that matter, between religion and philosophy. Arguably, science began when the pre-Socratics started to ask what the natures of things were that made them behave as they did, and equally arguably the first actual empirical scientist was Aristotle (and, I suspect, his graduate students).
But a distinction between science and philosophy began with the separation between natural philosophy (roughly what we now call science) and moral philosophy, which dealt with things to do with human life and included what we should believe about the world, including moral, theological and metaphysical beliefs. The natural kind was involved in considering the natures or things. A lot gets packed into that simple word, nature: it literally means “in-born” (natus) and the Greek physikos means much the same. Of course, something can be in-born only if it is born that way (yes, folks, she’s playing on some old tropes here!), and most physical things aren’t born at all, but the idea was passed from living to nonliving things, and so natural philosophy was born. That way.
In the period after Francis Bacon, natural philosophy was something that depended crucially on observation, and so the Empiricists arose: Locke, Berkeley, Hobbes, and later Hume. That these names are famous in philosophy suggests something: philosophy does best when it is trying to elucidate science itself. And when William Whewell in 1833 coined the term scientist to denote those who sought scientia or knowledge, science had begun its separation from the rest of philosophy.
Or imperfectly, anyway. For a start the very best scientists of the day, including Babbage, Buckland and Whewell himself wrote philosophical tomes alongside theologians and philosophers. And the tradition continues until now, such as the recent book by Stephen Hawking in which he declares the philosophical enterprise is dead, a decidedly philosophical claim to make. Many scientists seem to find the doing of philosophy inevitable.
So why do I do philosophy of science? Simply because it is where the epistemic action is: science is where we do get knowledge, and I wish to understand how and why, and the limitations. All else flows from this for me. Others I know (and respect) do straight metaphysics and philosophy of language, but I do not. It only has a bite if it gives some clarity to science. I think this is also true of metaphysics, ethics and such matters as philosophy of religion.
Now there are those who think that science effectively exhausts our knowledge-gathering. This, too, is a philosophical position, which has to be defended, and elaborated (thus causing more philosophy to be done). I don’t object to that view, but for me, it is better to be positive (say that science gives us knowledge even if other activities may do) than to be negative (deny that anything but science gives us knowledge). It may be that we get to the latter position after considering the former; if so, that would be a philosophical result.
I am fascinated by science. It allows us to do things no ancient Greek (or West Semitic) thinker would have been even able to conceive of. It means we make fewer mistakes. Philosophy is, and ought only to be, in the service of knowledge (I’m sure somebody has said that before). Science is a good first approximation of that.
But scientists who reject philosophy, as if that very rejection is not a philosophical stance (probably taken unreflectively or on the basis of half-digested emotive appeals), them I have no time for as philosophers. They should perhaps stick to their last and not make fools of themselves.
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See: http://scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoug… - The issue is (raised, as always, by the existence of woo science, antiscience, and pseudoscience) how do we know when something is, or isn’t, science? This is often called the “demarcation problem” (DP hereafter). I’m going to offer a couple of ways to do this, based on the notion that science, like every other historical entity, evolves.
Janet discusses Popper’s “solution” – something is science if it is potentially falsifiable. Leaving aside the problems with the notion of falsifiability, and indeed the problems with the whole Popperian view of science (which I happen to think is fundamentally incomplete and deeply flawed, in that it excludes around three quarters of what scientists actually do), let’s consider if there might not be other ways to determine if something is science or not.
There are three classes, broadly speaking, of claims that vie for science status. One are those that are simply not at issue; they just are science by almost universal consent. These include the tenets of relativity theory, atomism, germ theory, immunology, genetics, the expanding universe, and yes, evolution. Anyone who denies that these are scientific theories or precepts is simply outside the pale of viable hypotheses.
The second class is that of obviously unscientific claims. Now these are not defined purely in terms of being the denial of established scientific views, as they are also inclusive of ethical claims, aesthetic claims, and other normative or fact-insensitive propositions, as well as those things that are just wrong. So, being nonscientific is not in itself a Bad Thing. Being nonscience that claims to be science is, and being nonscience that claims to be science but has been shown to be false is the Worst Thing.
But there is a third “class”, if we can call it that: the Grey Area. Things that might be science or might not, we just don’t know. And this, you may be surprised to know, is by far the largest class, because there are indefinitely many things we do not know if they are right or wrong, empirically decideable or not. How much of that very large class shall we allow to be included in the “might-be science” category? When is it woo and when is it reasonable?
They say that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and one Politico story certainly doesn’t make a campaign season. But if a recent article there is correct – if the Democratic Party’s strategy this year really is “Running as a Dem (while) sounding like a Republican” – then the party may be headed for a disaster of epic but eminently predictable proportions.
Debate about the merits of enhancement tends to pretty binary. There are some — generally called bioconservatives — who are opposed to it; and others — transhumanists, libertarians and the like — who embrace it wholeheartedly. Is there any hope for an intermediate approach? One that doesn’t fall into the extremes of reactionary reject or uncritical endorsement?
We’d all like to live in a better future, and for ages men have imagined what a theoretical best future might be like. What would a utopian society truly look like? Does the answer lie in external approaches like abundance, decentralization and transparency, or internal approaches like drugs, wireheading and genetic engineering? Is it even possible to formulate a Theory of Fun for human beings, that would define the contours of a world that could exist in perfect equilibrium where the people living in that world never die or get bored?
Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why the space program is in such turmoil, and suggests that people do not need war to create an amazing dreamlike future.
WRITE TO CONGRESS:
The intention of this project is to stress the importance of advancing the space frontier and is focused on igniting scientific curiosity in the general public.
Facebook cover: (not sure who made this but thank you!)
What Does NASA Do?
NASA's vision: To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.
To do that, thousands of people have been working around the world—and off of it—for more than 50 years, trying to answer some basic questions. What's out there in space? How do we get there? What will we find? What can we learn there, or learn just by trying to get there, that will make life better here on Earth?
A Little History
President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958, partially in response to the Soviet Union's launch of the first artificial satellite the previous year. NASA grew out of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), which had been researching flight technology for more than 40 years.
President John F. Kennedy focused NASA and the nation on sending astronauts to the moon by the end of the 1960s. Through the Mercury and Gemini projects, NASA developed the technology and skills it needed for the journey. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first of 12 men to walk on the moon, meeting Kennedy's challenge.
Meanwhile, NASA was continuing the aeronautics research pioneered by NACA. It also conducted purely scientific research and worked on developing applications for space technology, combining both pursuits in developing the first weather and communications satellites.
After Apollo, NASA focused on creating a reusable ship to provide regular access to space: the space shuttle. First launched in 1981, the space shuttle flew more than 130 successful missions before being retired in 2011. In 2000, the United States and Russia established permanent human presence in space aboard the International Space Station, a multinational project representing the work of 15 nations.
NASA also has continued its scientific research. In 1997, Mars Pathfinder became the first in a fleet of spacecraft that will explore Mars in the next decade, as we try to determine whether life ever existed there. The Terra, Aqua and Aura Earth Observing System satellites are flagships of a different fleet, this one in Earth orbit, designed to help us understand how our home world is changing. NASA's aeronautics teams are focused on improving aviation, so it meets the explosive growth in global demand for air services.
NASA Headquarters, in Washington, provides overall guidance and direction to the agency, under the leadership of the administrator. Ten field centers and a variety of installations conduct the day-to-day work, in laboratories, on air fields, in wind tunnels and in control rooms.
NASA conducts its work in four principal organizations, called mission directorates:
Aeronautics: manages research focused on meeting global demand for air mobility in ways that are more environmentally friendly and sustainable, while also embracing revolutionary technology from outside aviation.
Human Exploration and Operations: focuses on International Space Station operations, development of commercial spaceflight capabilities and human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.
Science: explores the Earth, solar system and universe beyond; charts the best route of discovery; and reaps the benefits of Earth and space exploration for society.
Space Technology: rapidly develops, innovates, demonstrates, and infuses revolutionary, high-payoff technologies that enable NASA's future missions while providing economic benefit to the nation.
In the early 21st century, NASA's reach spans the universe. The Mars rover Curiosity met its major science objective—finding evidence of a past environment suitable for microbial life—in the first eight months of a planned 23-month mission, and now is continuing to look for more information about the habitability of the Martian environment. Cassini remains studying the Saturn system, as Juno makes its way to Jupiter. The restored Hubble Space Telescope continues to explore the deepest reaches of the cosmos as NASA develops the James Webb Space Telescope.
Closer to home, the crews of the International Space Station are extending the permanent human presence in space and performing research that will help us understand how humans can live and work off Earth for long periods. Working with U.S. commercial companies to develop spacecraft capable of carrying humans and cargo to the International Space Station, NASA is helping to foster the development of private-sector aerospace while also building the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket to send humans into deep space.
Earth science satellites are sending back unprecedented data on Earth's oceans, climate and other features. NASA's aeronautics team is working with other government organizations, universities, and industry to fundamentally improve the air transportation experience and retain our nation's leadership in global aviation.
Even with the retirement of the agency's space shuttles in 2011, NASA has a robust program of exploration, technology development and scientific research that will last for years to come. Here is what's next for NASA:
NASA is designing and building the capabilities to send humans to explore beyond Earth orbit, including the development of the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket, working toward a goal of sending astronauts to an asteroid in the coming decade and then to Mars by the 2030s.
The International Space Station is fully staffed with a crew of six, and American astronauts will continue to live and work there in space 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Part of the U.S. portion of the station has been designated as a national laboratory, and NASA is committed to using this unique resource for wide-ranging scientific research.
U.S. commercial companies have begun delivering cargo to the space station, and commercial industry partners are working with NASA to develop new spacecraft and rockets to transport astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit, allowing NASA to focus its attention on the next steps into our solar system.
NASA is researching ways to design and build aircraft that are safer, more fuel-efficient, quieter, and environmentally responsible. NASA also is part of the government team that is working to develop the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, to be in place by the year 2025.
NASA is conducting an unprecedented array of science missions that will seek new knowledge and understanding of Earth, the solar system and the universe.
Should animals be permitted to hunt and kill other animals? Some futurists believe that humans should intervene, and solve the “problem” of predator vs. prey once and for all. We talked to the man who wants to use radical ecoengineering to put an end to the carnage. A world without predators certainly sounds extreme, and it is. But British philosopher David Pearce can’t imagine a future in which animals continue to be trapped in the never-ending cycle of blind Darwinian processes.
A well known and atheist-minded Transhumanist, Zoltan Istvan blames religion for an anti-cryonics law in Canada. Basically, Transhumanism is the ethical use of technology to extend human abilities, and cryonics is low-temperature preservation of a legally-dead body for resuscitation when new technology might cure the cause of death. Zoltan’s concern is that the religious views of Canadian lawmakers may have informed the law, and that this may influence other lawmakers around the world to inhibit access to cryonics likewise.
George Slusser is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the University of California in Riverside (UCR, CA, U.S.A.), Ph.D., Comparative Literature (Harvard University),the first Curator (Emeritus) of the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction &Fantasy Utopian and Horror Literature (UCR, CA, U.S.A. – the world’s biggest SF collection), Harvard Traveling Fellow, Fulbright Lecturer, Coordinator of twenty three Eaton SF Conferences, Author of numerous books, studies and articles in the science fiction studies domain.
Adam Ford records IEET Fellow David Pearce talking about desire and suffering in relation to Buddhism and Jainism. Published on August 09, 2014.
“May all that have life be delivered from suffering”, said Gautama Buddha. The vision of a happy biosphere isn’t new. Jains, for instance, aim never to hurt another sentient being by word or deed. But all projects of secular and religious utopianism have foundered on the rock of human nature. Evolution didn’t design us to be happy.
Yet the living world is poised for a major evolutionary transition. Natural selection has thrown up a species able to self-edit its own genetic source code; phase out experience below “hedonic zero”; and engineer the well-being of all sentience in our forward light-cone. Intelligent agents will shortly be able to pre-select their own hedonic range: its upper and lower bounds, and hedonic set-points. Posthuman life can be animated by gradients of intelligent bliss - a default hedonic tone orders of magnitude richer than today’s peak experiences.
Why Does Suffering Exist?
No one knows why suffering exists at all. To the best of our knowledge, unpleasant experience doesn’t play any irreplaceable or computationally unique role in intelligent agents. Inorganic robots can be programmed or trained up to avoid and respond to noxious stimuli without undergoing subjective distress. Likewise, nonbiological machines can functionally replicate the role of our nastier core emotions without their “raw feels” - the ugly implementation detail that blights so many lives today.
Fortunately, solving the problem of suffering doesn’t depend on our first solving the Hard Problem of consciousness. Neuroscanning and the tools of molecular biology are deciphering the “neural correlates of consciousness”. If we use biotechnology to eradicate the molecular signature of experience below “hedonic zero”, then on some fairly modest assumptions, phenomenal suffering becomes physically impossible.
So a practical question arises. Which existing psychological functions should we enrich, replicate or scrap? What kinds of function are best offloaded onto smart prostheses rather than biologically tweaked? Ideally, adaptations such as a predisposition to jealous behaviour might be abolished along with their nasty subjective textures. Such Darwinian traits have few defenders, even among bioconservatives. Other roles, notably nociception, will presumably be functionally essential for sentient beings to flourish for the foreseeable future - and perhaps indefinitely. Initially, preimplantation genetic screening of prospective children can ensure tomorrow’s humans are endowed with benign, “low-pain” alleles of e.g. the SCN9A(1) gene to modulate pain-sensitivity. People blessed with high pain tolerance aren’t vulnerable to the life-threatening information-processing deficits of congenital analgesia. Eventually, the avoidance of noxious stimuli can be offloaded onto smart inorganic prostheses, allowing life based entirely on information-sensitive gradients of bliss.