Traditionally, April 22—Earth Day—is a day devoted to making green accessible to all. It’s a day when each of us is invited to take small, individual steps toward reducing our carbon footprints, limiting our waste, or restoring the environment. See how easy it is—and how fun—to do your part to save the planet? Whether Earth Day does any good, however, is a subject of some real debate.
As a lover of majestic architecture, I am acutely conflicted, because many of the most amazing building projects on the planet are taking place in Dubai, a location where conditions for workers are uncomfortably close to those of ancient Egypt. Is it possible to foresee a time when a progressive egalitarian society might produce brilliant, stately, inspiring structures?
Doug Rushkoff talks with guests Steven Johnson and Bob White. The Media Squat is freeform, bottom-up, open source radio looking towards similarly open source, bottom-up solutions to some of the problems engendered by our relentlessly top-down society. Each show will initiate a series of discussions, which will themselves comprise part of an expanding wiki of resources, support material, and community-generated content. This isn’t pure ‘60s or Whole Earth radicalism and self-sufficiency (though it’s certainly related) but a 21st Century, cyberpunk reclamation of all technologies and social contracts as essentially open source, up for discussion, and open to modification. It’s an application of the hacker ethic and net collectivism to everything, done in the spirit of fun and adventure. (MP3)
When I was in the process of editing my new book Life Inc., my copyeditor pulled a paragraph out, in which I had explained that the so-called “Dark Ages” didn’t exist - that the ten centuries between the fall of Roman Empire and the beginning of the Renaissance had many good ones among them. And that, in fact, the Late Medieval Era - the 10th through 13th Centuries - were a great age of prosperity and economic development.
If the financial crisis has taught us anything, it is that brittle systems can fail catastrophically. With increasing fervor since the 1980s, sustainability has been the watchword of scientists, environmental activists, and indeed all those concerned about the complex, fragile systems on the sphere we inhabit. It has shaped debates about business, design, and our lifestyles.
I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why President Obama’s approach to the economic crisis upsets me so much, so regularly, and I think I figured it out. His impulse—perhaps as someone with more faith in the power of centralized, top-down decision-making than I have—is to fix our economic problems by supporting existing institutions.
Human beings are social animals; we devote a significant portion of our brain just to dealing with interactions with other humans. It should come as no surprise, then, that social Web technologies have a complex relationship with brain function. When these platforms work in concert with our social brains, they can enable persistent relationships or provide emotional/social augmentation. When social web technologies clash with brain function, however, the results can be surprising.
As previously noted in this series, our entire world may be simulated. For all we know we’re sitting on a powerful supercomputer somewhere, the mere playthings of posthuman intelligences. But this is not the only possibility. There’s another way that this kind of fully immersive ‘reality’ could be realized—one that doesn’t require the simulation of an entire world. Indeed, it’s quite possible that your life is not what it seems—that what you think of as reality is actually an illusion of the senses. You could be experiencing a completely immersive and totally convincing virtual reality right now and you don’t even know it.
While the United States and the world struggle through the worst economic times since the 1930s, advice is coming in from all sides on how to prevent a repeat of the current debacle. Neoliberal Chicago school economic ideas championed for decades by Milton Friedman and his followers—and brought to full bloom under George W. Bush—are now in well-deserved disrepute, but where do we go from here?
Does championing Enlightenment values require complete rejection of collaboration and dialogue with the religious? Could technoprogressives even learn something from Easter about how to design moral machines?
David Brooks on neurophilosophy. The mainstreaming of legal (albeit medical) marijuana in California. Jamais’s Five Laws of Robotics. The sudden discussion of geoengineering at highest levels of science policy-making. Younger Americans and U.S. Democrats are almost evenly divided on desirability of “socialism” vs. “capitalism,” and even some Republicans are beginning to wonder. (MP3)
No longer relegated to the domain of science fiction or the ravings of street corner lunatics, the “simulation argument” has increasingly become a serious theory amongst academics, one that has been best articulated by philosopher Nick Bostrom.
The story of transhumanist politics is part of the broader story of the three hundred year-old fight for the Enlightenment. Transhumanism has pre-Enlightenment roots of course, since our earliest ancestors sought to transcend the limitations of the human body, to delay death, and to achieve wisdom. But those aspirations became transhumanism when people began to use science and technology to achieve them instead of magic and spirituality.
The conclusion of the “Battlestar Galactica” television series a couple of weeks ago left viewers with a decidedly mixed message: a superficial gloss of “ooh, the scary robots are coming!”, coupled with a more subtle—and, for me, more important—story about the implications of how we treat that which we create.
In the movie Toy Story, did you think that the neighbor kid, Sid—the one that hacked different toys together, blew them up, and generally played with them “inappropriately”—was the bad guy? You’re wrong.
What trade-offs would we make between the quality and quantity of our lives? IEET Fellow Russell Blackford is hoping for some illumination in the way we think about these trade-offs, and how those intuitions will shape public support for age-retarding therapies and the Longevity Dividend they could create.
Brave New World is a lurid, satirical dystopia in which the hopes and fears of the 1930s are writ large and yet the book seems uncannily prescient about our own time. But why did Huxley feel the need to write it and is Brave New World really as dystopian as we are led to believe?
- David Bradshaw, Reader and Tutor in English Literature at Worcester College, University of Oxford
- Daniel Pick, Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London
- Michèle Barrett, Professor of Modern Literary and Cultural Theory at Queen Mary, University of London
Mindware is operating system software that (a) thinks and feels the way a human mind does, and (b) sets its thinking and feeling parameters to match those discernable from a mindfile. Mindware relies upon an underlying mindfile the way Microsoft Word relies upon a textfile. When appropriate parameters are set for mindware it becomes aware of itself and a cyberconscious entity is created.