In this third installment of the 2020 Visionaries series [Part1] [Part2], we look at the future of the global environment and of democracy — two areas of concern that will increasingly intertwine in the next 10 years.
This is my first attempt at video. It depicts my control (or lack thereof) of a variety of things, including india ink, watercolor, fire and water, and solid objects. Using the manipulation of digital film I create the ultimate illusion: the ability to control time itself!
Last month at Reason.com, libertarian Ronald Bailey published a hypothetical opinion piece from the year 2020 criticizing the effects of 2010’s health care reform effort in the United States. Allow us to retort.
As sea temperatures have risen in recent decades, enormous sheets of a mucus-like material have begun forming more often, oozing into new regions, and lasting longer, a new Mediterranean Sea study says. And the blobs may be more than just unpleasant.
A U.S. Federal District Court on April 15th struck down a statute providing for a “national day of prayer.” This case should have been a no-brainer—if a statute of this kind is not an unlawful establishment of religion, then I’m going to be the next pope.
Mike Magee is author of eight books, including Health Politics: Power, Populism and Health. He directs healthcommentary.org, and serves as a member of the National Commission for Quality Long Term Care. We discuss his latest book, Home-Centered Health Care, which argues that the quality of health care can be dramatically improved, and costs contained, by re-building health management around electronic patient records and home-based electronic medical monitoring. (First broadcast Dec 16, 2007)
Generally, I write about enhancement and cosmetic surgeries done to the upper portion of the body. A suggestion came in to turn my attention to the work done below the belt. Apparently, I have been neglecting that region and there were interesting things going on.
What is the relation between technology and human biological evolution? Most people, in my experience, have a quick retort, which they take to be obvious: “Artifacts evolve just like organisms do,” or “Technology is an extended phenotype of humans.” But it’s not clear to me that the answer to this question is so obvious.
Big Think's Top 10 Videos of the First 100 Days of 2010
Like many physicists, Michio Kaku thinks our universe will end in a “big freeze.” Unlike many physicists, he thinks we might be able to avoid this fate by slipping into a parallel universe “in the same way that Alice entered the looking glass to enter Wonderland.”
One of the charming peculiarities of modern Western culture—and especially American culture, which I’ve lived in most of my life, and which has played a pivotal role in the development of humanity’s advanced technologies—is its emphasis on the individual rather than the social group.
Big Think's Top 10 Videos of the First 100 Days of 2010
Villanova University astronomer and astrophysicist Edward Sion says a nearby star system may “go supernova” in 10 million years—far sooner than scientists once predicted. The resulting explosion would “outshine the galaxy,” not to mention kill life on Earth.
Personhood is everywhere. Netflix recently added Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends to their “instant play” repertoire, which means I may or may not have spent several hours watching a cartoon from the early sixties as part of my Saturday routine. As usual, there was a little bit of transhumanist propaganda hidden within it.
Vaccine-autism claims, “Frankenfood” bans, the herbal cure craze: All point to the public’s growing fear (and, often, outright denial) of science and reason, says Michael Specter. He warns the trend spells disaster for human progress.
One of the major differences between irregular warfare (IW) simulation and conventional warfare simulation is the differing data requirements. The data required by conventional warfare simulation is very narrow and well defined compared to that required by IW simulation. In fact, almost any data that is remotely related to social conditions on the Internet and beyond may be used in IW simulation. There is no problem with the existence of data for simulations in this information age. The problem is that this data is not expressed in a way that can be used for simulations. This paper is about a natural language processing program, Indra, which works towards solving this problem by making data available for multiple purposes other than those for which it was first intended.
The genome has turned out to be a much more complicated place than many people expected. Nevertheless, we are living through an astonishing revolution in science, and young biologists should be grabbing the opportunity to make some amazing discoveries about the evolution of life.
According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) plans to form a new interagency group on emerging technologies, including nanotechnology and synthetic biology.
New National Geographic Crittercam footage shows never before seen eating habits of the Australian sea lion—including video of a sea lion hunting a large octopus. The footage is from a project intended to help save the endangered sea lions, in part by uncovering where and how the animals eat.
Metaethics is one of those fields where the wheels grind very, very slowly. I do think it’s making glacial progess. But just as there has been huge resistance over the centuries to the idea that God does not exist, so there has been huge resistance to the idea that there are no objective moral oughts, in the strong sense of “objective” that ordinary folk and many philosphers seem to want.
Transhumanism has a lot of opponents. Some people think we’re insane Robot Cultists drooling as we watch science-fiction movies and cowering in fear every time some aspect of our frail biology rears its head. Others think we’re immoral or philosophically confused or a hoard of imbeciles and will not deign to argue with us.
Civilizations always think they’re immortal, Eagleman noted, but they nearly always perish, leaving “nothing but ruins and scattered genetics.” It takes luck and new technology to survive. We may be particularly lucky to have Internet technology to help manage the six requirements of a durable civilization:
1. “Try not to cough on one another.” More humans have died from epidemics than from all famines and wars. Disease precipitated the fall of Greece, Rome, and the civilizations of the Americas. People used to bunch up around the infected, which pushed local disease into universal plague. Now we can head that off with Net telepresence, telemedicine, and medical alert networks. All businesses should develop a work-from-home capability for their workforce.
2. “Don’t lose things.” As proved by the destruction of the Alexandria Library and of the literature of Mayans and Minoans, “knowledge is hard won but easily lost.” Plumbing disappeared for a thousand years when Rome fell. Inoculation was invented in China and India 700 years before Europeans rediscovered it. These days Michelangelo’s David has been safely digitized in detail. Eagleman has direct access to all the literature he needs via PubMed, JSTOR, and Google Books. “Distribute, don’t reinvent.”
3. “Tell each other faster.” Don’t let natural disasters cascade. The Minoans perished for lack of the kind of tsunami alert system we now have. Countless Haitians in the recent earthquake were saved by Ushahidi.com, which aggregated cellphone field reports in real time.
4. “Mitigate tyranny.” The USSR’s collapse was made inevitable by state-controlled media and state-mandated mistakes such as Lysenkoism, which forced a wrong theory of wheat farming on 13 time zones, and starved millions. Now crowd-sourced cellphone users can sleuth out vote tampering. We should reward companies that stand up against censorship, as Google has done in China.
5. “Get more brains involved in solving problems.” Undertapping human capital endangers the future. Open courseware from colleges is making higher education universally accessible. Crowd-sourced problem solving is being advanced by sites such as PatientsLikeMe, Foldit (protein folding), and Cstart (moon exploration). Perhaps the next step is “society sourcing.”
6. “Try not to run out of energy.” When energy expenditure outweighs energy return, collapse ensues. Email saves trees and trucking. Online shopping is a net energy gain, with UPS optimizing delivery routes and never turning left. We need to expand the ability to hold meetings and conferences online.
But if the Net is so crucial, what happens if the Net goes down? It may have to go down a few times before we learn how to defend it properly, before we catch on that civilization depends on it for survival.
Respondents to a recently concluded IEET reader poll chose Dolphin as the animal whose consciousness they would most like to briefly inhabit. Given a dozen animals to choose from, Fish ranked dead last.
It’s all very well to enunciate lovely-sounding values like Joy, Growth and Choice ... but in real life we’re faced with difficult decisions. We’re faced with choosing one being’s joy over another’s, or choosing joy versus growth in a given situation, and so forth.