Let’s build a Dyson sphere! By enveloping the sun with a massive array of solar panels, humanity would graduate to a Type 2 Kardashev civilization capable of utilizing nearly 100% of the sun’s energy output.
A tech company called Envia Systems has announced that it is able to produce rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (Li-ion, i.e., the standard kind of rechargeable batteries that go in everything from phones to electric cars) with a world-record energy density of 400 Watt-hours per kilogram! (Gigaom has lots of info, and useful background material.) Cool, right?
Sometimes, the creation is better than its creator. Robots today perform surgeries, shoot people, fly planes, drive cars, replace astronauts, baby-sit kids, build cars, fold laundry, have sex, and can even eat (but not human bodies, the manufacturer insists). They might not always do these tasks well, but they are improving rapidly. In exchange for such irresistible benefits, the Robotic Revolution also demands that we adapt to new risks and responsibilities.
“We are now armed by physics to face the nonentity which is theology.” Professor Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and author of the God Delusion, The Magic of Reality, the Selfish Gene and many other great books, addresses the 38th national convention of American Atheists. He encourages nonbelievers to ask the difficult questions of those claiming to be believers.
If global warming melts the Earth’s ice caps, New York City could be awash in water. WSJ’s Robert Lee Hotz reports how a possible rise in sea levels is putting New York at risk and what engineers are proposing to protect the populous city.
The notion of gun-propelled launch goes back to Jules Verne. Such Mass Drivers have been envisioned in numerous Sci Fi tales, including Earthlight, by Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and Heart of the Comet by Benford & Brin. We’ve also seen them portrayed in Buck Rogers, Babylon 5 and Halo. Now, two researchers propose that a space-capable mass driver may be feasible.
Our society has evolved in many aspects, except one ... our social system. We need to introduce matching solutions to our problems, but what’s happening at the moment is ignoring instead of solving. Our politicians have prostituted themselves in order to keep their positions. If we rely on them, we will still be waiting in 100 years time.
Along with researcher Agata Sagan, Princeton’s Peter Singer—perhaps the world’s most well-known bioethicist—recently wrote a NY Times article that asked readers to consider whether they’re ready to endorse a hypothetical “morality pill” —a drug that alters brain chemistry and prompts altruistic behavior. Singer and Sagan introduce this pharmacological idea to bring a new question to life: Will outdated conceptions of free will get in the way of sound moral reasoning? However interesting this question might at first sound, it is formulated in rhetorical terms that misrepresent medical science fiction as if it were a meditation on a provocative empirical scientific trajectory. Although Singer and Sagan might characterize their article as a classic thought experiment, their framing is so problematic that we introduce a new and deliberately provocative label called a thoughtless experiment.
“Empathy” is a word that props up quite frequently in IEET articles and comment threads, but it is also one of those words that people use quite a lot without necessarily having a very clear idea of what it means. I therefore thought it might be helpful to share some reflections about what empathy actually is, and why it might be important for the future of humanity.
Would a person whose immune system starts declining after puberty, and finally gives up before 123, be normal? This statement largely sums up my transhumanist view that “normal” is misunderstood. The physiological (cognitive and the somatic) state of human existence “normality” ought to be a state of enhancement.
In Orwell’s 1984, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by television cameras. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase “Big Brother is watching you”, which is the core “truth” of the propaganda system in this state. Since the publication of 1984, the term “Big Brother” has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance.
In a survey taken of over 4,000 scientists across the globe, 70% of whom were men, researchers found that people consider science a “family unfriendly” career. Over half of survey respondents said that work clashed with family responsibilities several days per week. While women in the sciences have long complained of problems with work/family life balance, this is one of the first studies to reflect widespread male dissatisfaction with the same issue.
I was checking out a facebook posting in which people were asked to suggest one additional verse to the Bible. What was interesting was the number that said directly or indirectly that we were expected to think for ourselves. One of Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples was that they were no longer slaves but heirs. Being an heir means responsibility. It means that we need to think about what we are doing.
We asked “Do you believe in a universal Basic Income Guarantee? What amount would be satisfactory?” More than half of respondents approved of a universal stipend of something between the poverty level and the median income, and another 9% approved of a universal stipend of something less than the poverty level.
First of all, I do not believe for a second that Iran ever had any intention of destroying Israel. I believe the Iranian regime is a very rational and pragmatic regime, one that has worked with Russia and China (both guilty of atrocities against Muslims) and whose closest ally is Syria (a Sunni country). We are always told that the enemy (whether the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein) is an irrational demon in order to justify our own irrational behavior, but later find out that the demon’s first priority was its own survival.
Two weeks ago we asked how pills that safely “make people nicer by increasing their patience and empathy” should be regulated. Of the more than 250 people who voted, two thirds endorsed wide access to such drugs. (We will be sponsoring a conference at NYU in two weeks to discuss the topic of moral enhancement.)
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