Topics covered: Attitudes to the future, Prediction Markets, SciCast, Blockchain currency, Quadratic Voting, Artificial Intelligence Development etc. People are engaged in extreme futures - heaven or hell scenarios - are people's attraction towards, or engagement with certain futures informed by evolved biases?
Prediction Markets in contrast to narratives about the future informed by Moralising Tales - whatever is likely to happen is probably a muddled up mix, a mixture of heaven and hell, not just one or the other - Moralising Tale, ignores statistics - it will all be terrible or fantastic, nothing in between…
Could the world do with futurists in industry? Hard to tell. Sometimes firms (i.e. google) are tied to a particular image - google have the image of innovation - google gets attention for projects like calico - pie in the sky moonshot projects are a compliment to their image. Employees are more likely to want to work for google because of its sexiness…
Justin Rattner (former CTO of Intel) spoke about the singularity quite a bit.. but not many CEOs/CTOs bring it up - with the exception of a few… though this could change.
Futurists are often eager for big change - enthusiastic - people who are itching for big change often focus on scenarios for the future where there is big change.
Why is there little interest in quadratic voting compared to small iterations in gadgetry (which seems to get a lot of press)?
There is a lot of new and inventive gadgets, and ideas in physics that have huge communities of interest - but social technologies, ways we organise meetings, for instance Quadratic Voting… Many voting systems don't do a good job at weighing different votes based on how much you care about the issue. QV pays for votes in proportion to the square of the number of votes - can produce outcomes that weigh votes based on how much the voters care about the issue. People can be given votes as a point system, and they can choose to distribute their points based on how much they care about certain issues.
AI Dev - what are the big improvements? Whole new trend? Or progress in existing ideas?
Omens! There was always the new thing, the omen that promised this and that, cries in the wilderness - what kinds of omens should we be listening to? well… don't follow individual news events, listen to aggregates - for instance there was a whole data series of terrorist attacks - don't make a decision on one terrorist event.
Last week the nation was treated to the sad and embarrassing spectacle of Jeb Bush, mollycoddled scion to an empire of failure, proclaiming that “I’m my own man.” Here’s a simple rule of thumb: Anyone who has to say he’s his own man, or woman, isn’t. The 62-year-old Mr. Bush has been coasting on his family’s power and privilege since he was a weed-smoking, Steppenwolf-listening prep school student in the sixties.
Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, England, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master's degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest in 1945, then left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.
One of my first encounters with philosophy came when I was about 15 years old and was watching a PBS video featuring Alan Watts (1915 – 1973). I wasn’t philosophically sophisticated enough then to understand much of what he was saying, but I do remembering thinking he was cool. He had a beard, drank tea and seemed so … philosophical.
Alan Watts was a British born philosopher, and one of the first writers to popularize Eastern thought, particularly Zen Buddhism, for a Western audience. One of the first philosophy books I ever read as a teenager The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Watts. It asked one of the most fundamental questions we can ask: who am I? .
Now we may think we know the answer to this question. For example, we may believe that our individuality ends with our bodies. But Watts asked, why do we end where our bodies do? After all, our skin is porous and interacts with the environment. We can’t survive for more than a few minutes without the air, so why isn’t the air as much a part of us as our legs or arms? And there is no breathable air without plants, so why aren’t they a part of us? In fact, our existence depends on the earth’s ecosystem and the sun. Following this line of thinking, we ultimately depend on the entire universe for our existence.
So perhaps we aren’t egos inside bags of skin, or even separate egos at all. Maybe we are like windows or apertures or vortexes through which the universe is conscious of itself for a brief moment. While we are fond of saying things like “I came into this world,” isn’t it more accurate to say, “I came out of the universe?” Don’t people come out of the universe like leaves come out of trees or waves come out of oceans? Or as Watts asks, doesn’t the universe just “people?”
And such questions are not merely academic. If we think we are separate from the world, then it is more likely to feel like something alien to us that we must confront. But if we see that we came out of the universe, then we are more likely to treat the universe as our home. We will see that the environment that surrounds our bodies is as much a part of us as our heart or lungs. If we despoil the environment, we despoil ourselves; if we destroy the environment, we destroy ourselves. So perhaps we are the universe looking at itself from billions of perspectives. In fact, couldn’t we say that, in some sense, we are the universe?
Last time I looked at the state of online dating. Among the figures was mentioned was Christian Rudder, one of the founders of the dating site OkCupid and the author of a book on big data called Dataclysm: Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking that somehow manages to be both laugh-out-loud funny and deeply disturbing at the same time.
The right question is not whether Bitcoin is over or under-valued, or over or under-hyped, but what the biggest potential money-making applications might be. While we wait for consumer-ready cryptocurrency applications to be presented to us by the financial services industry and other trusted providers, in the progression of ATMs, online billpay, eStatements, and Apple Pay, there are many other opportunities to be explored.
I’m trying to wrap my head around the extended mind hypothesis (EMH). I’m doing so because I’m interested in its implications for the debate about enhancement and technology. If the mind extends into the environment outside the brain/bone barrier, then we are arguably enhancing our minds all the time by developing new technologies, be they books and abacuses or smartphones and wearable tech. Consequently, we should have no serious principled objection to technologies that try to enhance directly inside the brain/bone barrier.
We asked “Should income from virtual currencies like Bitcoin be taxed like regular income?” More than half of the 350 of you who responded were skeptical that such income could be tracked, and another 18% were opposed to taxing it if it could be.
A genre that science fiction writers have been attempting to colonize with some regularity is that of the suspense thriller. Here the dissolution of genre boundaries is more subtle, since the imaginative material and narrative conventions of science fiction may be retained, while the plot, structure, and tone are borrowed from a mode of paranoid pursuit melodrama pioneered in espionage novels from John Buchan to Robert Ludlum. Initially, those novelists who seemed most successful—at least commercially—in effecting this merger were novelists whose starting point was the thriller rather than the science fiction tale: Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, and Peter Benchley are among the most prominent examples, with Crichton having based nearly his entire career on science fiction conceits.
Opposition to IUD’s, like opposition to vaccines, is putting American families at risk—and a Colorado controversy shows that misguided faith and scientific ignorance are to blame. When a pilot program in Colorado offered teens state-of-the-art long acting contraceptives—IUD’s and implants—teen births plummeted by 40%, along with a drop in abortions. The program saved the state 42.5 million dollars in a single year, over five times what it cost. But rather than extending or expanding the program, some Colorado Republicans are trying to kill it—even if this stacks the odds against Colorado families.
Fareed Zakaria's thesis is that the USA is moving towards an excessively democratic system in which polls are having a perverse influence on a system that was designed to be less about democracy and more about liberty. He doesn't quite offer a crisp definition of "liberty" but roughly it means individual freedom and protection from abuses of authority by the state. "Freedom" is a vague term, that has been used throughout history in different contexts (for most nations it meant "freedom" from foreign oppression). "Liberty" is about personal freedom.
New York Times food expert and op-ed columnist Mark Bittman wrote a recent piece, What Is the Purpose of Society? Obviously the title captured my interest. But what could an expert on healthy food have to say about the purpose of society? A lot it turns out.
On January 20, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced the Apollo 1201 project, an effort to eradicate digital rights management (DRM) schemes from the world of Internet commerce. Led by well-known activist Cory Doctorow, the project aims to “accelerate the movement to repeal laws protecting DRM” and “kick-start a vibrant market in viable, legal alternatives to digital locks.” According to EFF, DRM technologies “threaten users’ security and privacy, distort markets, undermine innovation,” and don’t effectively protect so-called “intellectual property.”
One can rarely find four thinkers as distinct from one another as Gorbachev, Kissinger, Chomsky, and Ron Paul, and yet, for all of their differences, each of them is clearly guided by a systematic, thoroughly considered intellectual framework. All four of these thinkers have concluded, starting from different practical and moral premises, that further escalation of the Ukraine crisis by the United States would be a dangerous, deeply inadvisable behavior.
I’ve long been a fan of the YouTube channel SciShow, despite them having nearly a million times more subscribers than my own channel Risk Bites! Hank Green and his team have produced some extremely accessible and smart videos on public health since the channel started three years ago, and these should be at the top of any list of educational resources on the science of public health.
Yesterday, the team posted a particularly good video on the anti-vaccination movement. Unlike many commentators from within the science community, instead of vilifying parents who don’t get their kids vaccinated – or are hesitant about doing so – Green takes a science-grounded look at why people reject vaccines.
Green leaves no doubt from the get-go that there is no link between vaccines and autism. But he is sympathetic to why people may come to this conclusion, based on how our minds work and the inbuilt biases we all have. This reflexiveness is not only refreshing – it’s also critical if we are to address major public health issues like measles that depend on trust, empathy and partnerships, as well as the science that underpins the decisions we collectively make.
To push this home, Green concludes:
“Next time you find yourself frustrated about the decline in vaccinations in America, remember that it’s only because of the dramatic success of vaccines that we could even think of having this debate, and that those anti-vaccine activists are being driven by the exact same logic traps and cognitive biases that every one of us suffers from. Only by understanding and accepting these psychological pitfalls that we’re all so susceptible to will we be able to solve this problem. And that’s what science is all about.”
Watch the full video above – I’d highly recommend it
Hollywood has provided some vivid images of what might happen when AI gains superhuman powers. This includes the various disasters depicted in Terminator and Transcendence. These films are science fiction, but appear to have some of their plot lines rooted in potential near-future real-world developments. Should we be worried about real-world near-equivalents of Dr Will Caster? If so, what sort of evasive action should we be taking?
This London Futurists Hangout On Air assembles an international panel of analysts who have thought long and hard about the potential of superhuman AI: Calum Chace, Stuart Armstong, and Nikola Danaylov.
The panellists will be debating a number of far-reaching questions raised by recent Hollywood AI extravaganzas:
• Which elements of Transcendence are the least credible? Which elements are the most credible?
• How soon will we see the first human-level AI? Haven’t computer scientists been wrong about their predictions of timing many times before? Why should we take their latest predictions any more seriously than previous ones?
• Aren’t human minds just too complex and mysterious to be replicated?
• If human society can’t even take effective action to address climate change, what chance do we have to take effective action against malignant AI development?
• If we had Hollywood-level budgets at our disposal, what kind of film about AI would we most like to make?
We talk a good game about opportunity in this country, but here are three signs that we’re failing to provide young people a fair shot at prosperity. Sign #1: People typically achieve most of their earnings gain in the first 10 years of employment. A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that “the bulk of earnings growth happens during the first decade” of a person’s employment. (The study actually focused on men, for methodological reasons.)
Creative thought is surely among our most precious and mysterious capabilities. But can powerful computers rival the human brain? As thinking, remembering, and innovating become increasingly interwoven with technological advances, what are we capable of? What do we lose? Join Luciano Floridi, John Donoghue, Gary Small and Rosalind Picard for a thought-provoking consideration of thinking.
Let us now consider the view that morality rests upon religion. Assuming that a relationship between some God and morality exists, how do we characterize it? A classic formulation of this relationship is the divine command theory which states that “morally right” means commanded by God, and “morally wrong” means forbidden by God.
Stephen Lewandowsky from the University of Western Australia introduces himself and the concept of the cognition of climate change (0.10). He begins by asking why public opinion lags behind public consensus (1.30). In the US there has been a decline in public acceptance of climate change (2.20). He explains that even people who claim to believe that climate change is natural, when asked who is causing it will name polluting countries and multinational corporations (4.50) and defines the “false consensus effect” (6.00).
He provides an example from the Heartland Institute of misinformation (8.05) and offers evidence that once people understand data “cherry picking” they disagree with it (9.50). Lewandowsky conducted his own study in Perth by showing people the same graph, one labelled share prices and one labelled global temperatures and asked them what they thought would happen in the future (15.00). The results showed that even people who did not believe in climate change thought that temperatures were going to continue to rise once they were shown the data (16.19). He concludes by explaining the concept of perception of consensus on climate science (19.00) and the link between belief in the free market and climate denial (20.15) and that education is not the answer (21.00).
Stephan Lewandowsky is a psychologist and is currently based at the University of Bristol. There he is the chair in cognitive psychology at the School of Experimental Psychology. His recent research focusses on the public’s understanding of science and why people reject well established scientific facts. In this clip Lewandowsky talks a bit on the causes of science denial.
I recently responded to a rather nice blog post by Herb Silverman as follows: The average lifespan of a Drosophila fruit fly is about 30 days. Imagine what it observes from its perspective: young humans, old humans, middle-aged humans, wandering through the world. No single fruit fly observes a human of one sort turning into another. From its "pre-theoretic" point of view, it only sees "types" of humans that are more or less "fixed" across time (the 30 days of its life). There's no direct evidence of human aging in any single fruit fly generation…
As you’ll know if you follow this blog, a lot has happened with the Transhumanist Party since Christmas week, with it exploding from a single new political party in the US to a nascent world-wide movement. As I have mentioned in a previous post, some of the Party groups are now on the verge of moving to formal status and making their decisions via constitutionally-mandated processes. Also, my workload has increased to the extent that I will no longer be able to personally and directly support the Facebook side of the movement.
Berkeley Lab Earth Scientist Ken Williams explains the watershed research within the Sustainable Systems SFA 2.0 project—including identification and monitoring of primary factors that control watershed biogeochemical functioning. Read more about this project on the Sustainable Systems SFA2.0 website: http://esd.lbl.gov/research/projects/...
This online video conference meeting looked at online voting, responsive democracy and - more generally - at the potential for better technology to enable better political decison-making. What are the opportunities and the risks these technologies bring to the democratic process?
The event featured a moderated Q&A with a number of political thinkers, transhumanists, and futurists.
This online video conference meeting looked at the case for Anarchist Transhumanism. It featured a moderated Q&A with Kris Notaro and Benjamin Abbott Summerspeaker, lead authors of the document "An Anarchist Transhumanist Manifesto".To quote from the start of that document: "Anarchist-Transhumanism is a branch of anarchism that takes seriously the values of traditional and modern anarchism and combines it with transhumanism and posthumanism…
"Note to anyone who is unfamiliar with the term 'Anarchism': It may turn you off from the start but be assured that 'anarchism' is the evolution of radical democracy, consensus decision making, freedom, and equality."
Kris Notaro, Managing Director, IEET
Benjamin Abbott Summerspeaker, IEET Affiliate Scholar
Waldemar Ingdhahl, director and founder of the Swedish policy think tank Eudoxa
Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms which from time to time we have tried. Granting this, we might be inclined to wonder what sorts of democratic decision-making procedures are possible? This is a question that Christian List sets out to answer in his paper “The Logical Space of Democracy”. In this post, I want to share the logical space alluded to in his title.
Blockchain technology is a new concept in large-scale coordination due to a number of key features. First, a blockchain is an open universal transaction system. Every transaction worldwide is processed the same way and posted and made available for viewing on the blockchain. The transaction ledger is publicly-inspectable on-demand at any future moment.
Will superintelligences be troubled by philosophical conundrums?1 Consider classic philosophical questions such as: 1) What is real? 2) What is valuable? 3) Are we free? We currently don’t know the answer to such questions. We might not think much about them, or we may accept common answers—this world is real; happiness is valuable; we are free.