Jamais is featured on the CBC radio show “Spark,” talking robots—in particular the empathetic and emotional interaction we increasingly have with robots. You can play the streaming version on this page, or download the MP3 for the show; my part starts around 11 minutes in, and lasts about five minutes. But check out the Spark page anyway—the picture of the kitten and the Roomba is sure a sign that the kitty singularity is upon us.
There are good reasons for healthcare to be an attractive business. The demographics are fantastic, with aging populations practically everywhere, and specially so in higher-income countries. Unlike other fields, technology doesn’t necessarily lowers margins. For reasons that have more to do with market incentives than scientific limitations, most research is focused on profitable high-complexity, high-cost interventions, and for every cost-saving development there’s a new procedure that requires sophisticated equipment and highly trained specialists. A large and growing percentage of GDP is dedicated to healthcare, both by individuals and governments. And to top it all, the market is full of inefficiencies and complex barriers of entry.
Author and social critic Aldous Huxley spoke with Mike Wallace in a remarkable 1958 interview. Huxley had just written Enemies of Freedom and it became the focus of the discussion. Wallace and Huxley discussed such topics as overpopulation, the growing impersonalization of human affairs, propaganda, mind-controlling drugs, and various prescriptions for these problems.
A mindfile is the sum of saved digital reflections about you. All of the stored emails, chats, texts, IMs and blogs that you write are part of your mindfile. All of the uploaded photos, slide shows and movies that involve you are part of your mindfile. Your search histories, clicked selections and online purchases, if saved, are part of your mindfile. Your digital life is your mindfile.
In today’s modern society, is a 16 or 17 year-old person still a child? Legally, yes, and most of us would still regard such high school age kids as just that—kids, not adults or “grownups.” So, I was amazed yesterday and today to learn about the highly advanced scientific research being performed by an elite group of “children” in high schools throughout New Jersey, USA.
Department of Philosophy at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz
Thomas Metzinger is the Director of the Philosophy Group at the Department of Philosophy at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz. His research focuses on philosophy of mind, especially on consciousness and the nature of the self. In this lecture he develops a representationalist theory of phenomenal self-consciousness.
Most everyone agrees that humanity needs to get rid of its nuclear weapons. There’s no question that complete relinquishment will all but eliminate the threat of deliberate and accidental nuclear war and the ongoing problem of proliferation.
One plank of a technoprogressive platform is “Ensuring Universal Access to Enabling Technologies.” Ultimately, we want all responsible sentient beings (excluding children, criminals, the insane, etc.) to have equal and uninhibited access to advanced tech that might enable radical life extension, brain augmentation, sensory expansion, and other “wonders” not yet even contemplated.
It’s not often that we get to see an historical catalyst in action. This is no mere “bad recession.” All of the assumptions we have about fundamental elements of the economy, from finance to trade to efficiency, are increasingly coming under scrutiny. The shape of the global economy at the end of this period of economic transformation will likely be unrecognizable to those stuck in the previous paradigm.
[Warning: Spoiler alert.] Many things have been said about the recent film adaptation of the Watchmen graphic novel series, particularly the ways in which it has come to redefine the superhero genre. While it’s certainly a brave film that’s succeeded in pushing a number of boundaries, I believe its true strength lies in its various philosophical themes and social commentary. In particular, I was drawn to the discussions of technological power and the innovative ways in which this commentary was represented on the screen.
The rational, and quite reasonable, skepticism regarding religious belief is also in its way discouraging. As we try to imagine a human culture that is devoid of religion, we are also envisioning a human culture that is devoid of something essential to the preservation of the very culture we hope to prolong. That essential something is the irrational.
Humans have evolved a built-in sense of morality that gives most of us a feeling of what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” without the need for external input, whether from religious texts and teachings, or from a new humanist moral construct. We are on safe ground trusting in the general goodness of humanity and allowing secular democratic societies to determine norms without any guidance from supernatural sources nor even from a secular canon.
The elite capitalist class has undergone numerous makeovers in the past century. From the Organization Man of the 50s, to the Yuppies of the 80s, to the Bobos of the dot-com era. A combination of structural changes and cultural pendulum swings have produced these makeovers.
For instance, as those who were immersed in the counterculture of the 70s made their way into the corporate ranks, they brought with them many of the anti-establishment values, and became the bourgeois bohemians, or Bobos, as David Brooks calls them. People like Richard Branson or Steve Jobs.
Military robots already have been deployed by the United States in the occupation of Iraq, and in growing numbers; not only are the quantities of robots increasing, but the varieties of their usage and capabilities are also expanding. Although the concept of full-scale robotic war still strikes some people as unrealistically futuristic or even science fictional, it’s clear that in fact the future is now.
I have my doubts about Google’s new plan to better target advertising to meet our transient interests. As yet another manifestation of the idea of only showing us the ads we want to see, when we want to see them, it will inevitably stumble over the reality that we often don’t use the Internet in ways that fit advertisers’ assumptions. Machines get shared, people use multiple browsers, and, increasingly, web users are savvy about being able to block ads, regardless of how targeted they may claim to be.
Can religion and science co-exist peacefully? Many wish they could. But alas, it isn’t so, for science and religion are not actually two sides of the same coin—as many desperately wish to believe—but they’re entirely different currencies. Where science limits its trade to the natural world, religion traffics in the supernatural, and the two just don’t mix.
How long would it take you to count from 1 to 2^256, and how much energy would it require? The answer, which might surprise you, also may put a damper on the expectations of a Technological Singularity occurring any time soon.
As previously noted, David Brin will be guest blogging on Sentient Developments this week. The first topic that David will be addressing is one that is near and dear to both of our hearts: biological uplift. To get you primed for this discussion I can recommend a number of articles, books and resources.
One of the great criticisms of the transhumanist movement is that it will only benefit wealthy, First World citizens and that the ones who need the most help, the impoverished and marginalized - including their children - will be forgotten. This is already a partial problem with current science and technology. Worse, some of those who try to help end up coming up with absurd solutions that aren’t really what the poorest and majority of disenfranchised need. Then again, some solutions, like Dean Kamen’s slingshot (if it actually does what he says) are exactly what is needed.
Assuming we reach the middle of this century without destroying civilization in nano wars, bio wars, nuclear wars, or something else, and assuming that global climate chaos has not reduced us to a nasty, brutish remnant of what we are today, then how and where will we choose to live? In floating ocean cities, in space, undersea, or on land in towering mega-structures?
Find it hard to motivate yourself to exercise or read Joyce’s Ulysses? What if you could toggle your brain chip to get more pleasure from virtuous, good-for-you activities than you do from watching television and goofing off on Facebook? IEET contributor Chris Harris points out that we need to start asking that question already.
In the latter part of this episode of the NPR program To The Best of Our Knowledge the IEET’s J. Hughes talks with Steve Paulson about the Cyborg Buddha vision and transhumanism. The first parts of the show feature Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of One Laptop Per Child; musicians DJ Spooky and Gregg Gillis; open source theorist Lawrence Lessig; video game designer Jason Rohrer; psychologist of human-computer interaction Sherry Turkle. (MP3)
On the final episode of NPR’s Day to Day Joel Kotkin, who studies metropolitan development and urban planning, talks with Madeleine Brand about how people might be arranging their lives in the coming five years. And author Jamais Cascio talks with Alex Cohen about where technology might take us. (MP3) (Stream)