James Hughes @ Borderlands Cafe 11/30/2012 in San Francisco.
Politics and economics have yet to face the fact that an increasingly automated economy will mean the decline of human employment, and the establishment of a basic income guarantee. Instead we have hand-wringing about reining in “entitlements” and calls for austerity to facilitate private sector job growth. Expansions of longevity are greeted with calls for pushing up the retirement age, ignoring the shrinking availability of jobs. In order to avoid a neo-feudal future with a mass of unemployed poor dominated by a super-wealthy elite we partisans are a radically better future need to join the fight against austerity economics, and put forward a path to a world in which all share in the growth of wealth from technological innovation.
Our brains are slopping over full at this point at the end of the Humanity+ San Francisco 2012. Congratulations to Natasha and her team for putting on a great conference. Hopefully next time we’ll have control of the weather.
Its apoco-raining this weekend in San Francisco, proving that the transhumanists neither see the future clear enough to choose a nice weekend nor have magical evil powers over the natural world. But they do put on incredibly fascinating parties at wild warehouse-cum-commune spaces full of smart technophiles. We had to drag ourselves back in to the conference this morning so we wouldn’t miss Andrea Kuscewski, David Pearce, Ben Goertzel, Jamais Cascio, Ramez Naam and the others folks speaking today.
IEET’s Jamais Cascio’s chat with “Socrates” (Nikola Danaylov) covered a wide variety of topics such as: his personal story of becoming “an easily distracted generalist;” his undergraduate and graduate training in history, anthropology and political science; his views on the singularity community in general and the technological singularity and Singularity University in particular; his criticism that creators of new technology rarely consider the ethical and political implications of their inventions; what he means by saying “if I can’t dance, I don’t want to be a part of the singularity;” the benefits of irrationality and biology; mind uploading versus human augmentation; the lack of agency and assumed machine perfection as some of the most upsetting aspects of the singularity.
“His most recent book is The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present.
By probing the synaptic connections between nerve cells in the humble sea slug, Eric Kandel has uncovered some of the basic molecular mechanisms underlying learning and memory in animals ranging from snails to flies to mice and even in humans. His groundbreaking studies have demonstrated the fundamental ways that nerve cells alter their response to chemical signals to produce coordinated changes in behavior. This work is central to understanding not only normal memory but also dementia and other mental illnesses that affect memory.
Kandel’s research has shown that learning produces changes in behavior by modifying the strength of connections between nerve cells, rather than by altering the brain’s basic circuitry. He went on to determine the biochemical changes that accompany memory formation, showing that short-term memory involves a functional modulation of the synapses while long-term memory requires the activation of genes and the synthesis of proteins to grow new synaptic connections. For this work, the Austrian-born Kandel was awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.” - BigThink
“Dorothy E. Roberts - recently named Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor at the University of Pennsylvania—presenting “Fatal Invention: The New Biopolitics of Race” based on her latest book Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century.
An acclaimed scholar of race, gender, and the law, Roberts examines contemporary issues in health, bioethics, and social justice with a particular focus on how they affect the lives of women, children, and African-Americans. Synthesizing a range of disciplines, she sheds light on some of humanity’s most challenging issues to bring hope and awareness to under-served members our society.”
Last week, a young Indian man in Ireland went public about the death of his wife, Savita Halappanavar. A week later, her name, picture, and tragic story are known by millions. Now the husband, Praveen, has launched a fight to ensure that no woman ever again is refused a lifesaving abortion. Her parents have requested that the Indian government bring diplomatic pressure to bear.
“On cooperation vs. competition, I would check out the book, No Contest: The Case Against Competition. The author debunks the myth that competition is better than cooperation by going over 500 studies and showing that in almost every case, cooperation is much better.
One thing I didn’t cover was how to start a Workers Managed company. Obviously, there is no huge incentive to start one. In a Left-Libertarian society, communities and workplaces are highly linked to each other so starting a cooperative would be no problem. Of course, we dont live in this type of society. There are a number of ways to proceed. Anyone can start one of these companies which is a start but again, no incentive, except for humanitarian reasons. Some people have suggested anarcho-syndicalism. In a nutshell, anarco-syndicalism uses unions in a grass-roots fashion. Basically, unions connect with other unions and form a federation. At some point, the unions go on strike driving the companies out of business. After that, the workers start running the workplace on their own. This is pretty much what happened during the Spanish Civil War.”
On the wake of the Bangladesh fire that killed more than 100 people in the Tazreen Fashion sweatshop and injured many others, we need to re-think how the workplace is run - all over the world.
In a country where women are denied the right to vote, are not allowed to drive, and are basically treated like children, Saudi Arabia has taken its next giant leap backwards by rolling out an SMS electronic tracking system that alerts male “guardians” by text message whenever women under their protection leave the country. The development has been met with outrage by reformers, who have turned to Twitter to voice their concern.
Travis James Leland, a science and science fiction writer with ties to IEET, Humanity + and Transhumanity.net, is conducting a short survey. This is an informal survey to determine if there is a higher rate of autistic behaviors among the transhumanist/H+/Singularitarian/futurist community.
Will living in offworld space colonies ever be embraced by mainstream humanity? Of course, no one can accurately predict how the future will unfold, but by examining today’s knowledge, we can create plausible scenarios of how space development might take place during the 21st Century.
Crowd-based models are becoming so pervasive that almost no major segment of modern life is left untouched by them. The concept of digital crowd models refers to the coordination of large numbers of individuals (the crowd) through an open call on the Internet in the conduct of some sort of activity.
“DNA is a programming language for living cells. The cell’s basic operating system, or genome, directs functions like growth and reproduction, energy utilization, and the production of useful compounds like ethanol or penicillin. With genetic engineering, new functions can be added to cells or broken metabolic pathways repaired. Until recently, genetic engineering has required the DNA molecule itself to be physically manipulated, a tedious and expensive process. Now, automatic DNA synthesis permits virtually any DNA code to be made from scratch, opening up genetic engineering to anyone with a computer and a credit card. The capabilities of this new synthetic biology are growing explosively.” - GoogleTalks
West Africa burns rubber trees to make space for new trees. An interesting perspective on the private sector in West Africa tapping into the biomass material to create clean energy.
“Biomass, as a renewable energy source, is biological material from living, or recently living organisms. As an energy source, biomass can either be used directly, or converted into other energy products such as biofuel.
In the first sense, biomass is plant matter used to generate electricity with steam turbines & gasifiers or produce heat, usually by direct combustion. Examples include forest residues (such as dead trees, branches and tree stumps), yard clippings, wood chips and even municipal solid waste. In the second sense, biomass includes plant or animal matter that can be converted into fibers or other industrial chemicals, including biofuels. Industrial biomass can be grown from numerous types of plants, including miscanthus, switchgrass, hemp, corn, poplar, willow, sorghum, sugarcane, bamboo, and a variety of tree species, ranging from eucalyptus to oil palm (palm oil).
” - wikipedia
Countries in Africa face many challenges in their quest to improve the welfare of their populations, one of which is the lack of access to affordable and reliable modern energy. Africa has the lowest electrification rate of all regions. It is estimated that only 42 percent of the population has access to electricity, compared with 75 percent in the developing world.
In Going Dark vs. a Golden Age for Surveillance, Professors Peter Swire and Kenesa Ahmad, discuss the assertion made by some law enforcement agencies that their ability to see, surveil and protect us is “going dark” because of some new methods of encrypted communication that are widely available to non-government entities, including criminals and terrorists.
“Those who have been following this project for a while know that it started 6 years ago. If something surprised and pleased me in equal measure, it was the controversy brought by our latest video in which Qbo recognizes itself in the mirror. It was not due to the publicity generated around the project, but because, somehow, we’ve updated this debate that was lost long time ago: can a machine become intelligent or self-conscious? We went from being interested in creating artificial brains to just develop mechatronic systems sophisticated but less intelligent or already programmed.”
Is abortion a greater evil than child abuse? Of course it isn’t! Indeed, I don’t generally regard abortion as an evil at all. We could doubtless get into hypothetical cases of late-term abortions carried out on a mere whim, but are there many, or any, such cases in the real world? In the real world I think you must either suffer from a distorted moral sense or be in the grip of a theory if you regard abortion as the real evil (as opposed, say, to denying an abortion to a desperate woman or teenage girl).
The anti-Social Security propagandists should’ve thought this one through a little more carefully: On the same day that Goldman Sach’s CEO issued his “balanced” demand for Social Security and Medicare cuts, the Wall Street-funded group called “Third Way” published the results of a poll which precisely reflected the wishes of Goldman Sach’s CEO.
Over at the Edge there’s a fascinating article by Thomas W. Malone about the work he and others are doing to understand the rise of collective human intelligence — an emergent phenomenon that’s being primarily driven by our information technologies. We may be on an evolutionary trajectory, he argues, that could someday give rise to the global brain. And amazingly, he’s developing an entirely new scientific discipline to back his case.
“Former Vice President Al Gore is co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management, a partnership that is focused on a new approach to sustainable investing. He is also co-founder and chairman of Current TV, an Emmy Award-winning, independent cable and satellite television news and information network based on viewer-created content and citizen journalism. In addition, Gore is a senior partner with the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a member of the board of directors of Apple and senior adviser to Google.
Gore spends the majority of his time as chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a non-profit focused on solutions to the climate crisis.” - algore.com
One day, we may be able to make ourselves superintelligent with futuristic biotechnology. We’re not there yet, but for the impatient among us there are still some things we can do to give us that little extra bit of brain power. By supplementing with so-called ‘nootropics,’ you may not become the next Stephen Hawking, but you may experience some noticeable improvements to your learning abilities, memory, mental clarity, and mood. Here are ten supplements you can take today to boost your intelligence.