I was 13, and a freshman in high school (that would make it, um, 1979). A local community college, Mt. San Antonio College (“Mount Sac”—funny that I didn’t realize at the time how dirty that sounds), announced a science fiction writing contest, to be judged by special guest Ray Bradbury.
In my last column, I mentioned that the Turing Test is an important part of determining personhood. The Turing Test determines not necessarily the consciousness of a technological agent, but whether that agent does a good enough simulation of a human being’s consciousness when communicating with a human being to fool that human being into believing that ze is communicating with another human being.
In the first two parts of this series I explored the idea that a self-modifying singular intelligence may be doomed to self-destruction because of motivational interference . The idea is at least as old as Epicurus, who advised: “If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.”
Some scientists view geoengineering, the concept of manipulating the Earth’s climate, as our last line of defense against climate change. But geoengineering is controversial and it’s unclear whether it could work.
It’s starting to get pretty warm outside. And it’s also starting to get increasingly obvious that human-made global warming is not going away anytime soon. As our environment continues to degrade and collapse, we may be headed into some fairly desperate times — and with them, the inevitable call for desperate measures.
In the third part of this series from The Nature of Things, meet scientists who believe that nanotech may be the key to overcoming our environmental problems. Nano solar cells could make green energy cheaper. Nano additives to traditional fuels could make them cleaner. Nanotech could remediate contaminated water and soil. But are we creating pollutants more dangerous than the ones we already have? What happens when nano-structured materials decay?
During the recent Seasteading Conference reports highlighted the benefits of different regions for proposed seasteads. Where some factors were favorable others were not - off the coast of East Africa is environmentally a very favorable location but the issue of piracy makes it forlorn.
Yuri van Geest believes we are approaching a singularity where we will switch from a local, linear, world of scarce resources to a global, exponential world of abundance. We can already measure many aspects of ourselves from our heart rate to our DNA profile. This quantified self is the interface between the external world and our internal self and could lead to everything from personalized services based on our genomes to the end of healthcare as we know it.
A rat with a spinal cord injury walks and climbs stairs after researchers use robot rehabilitation to wake up its ‘spinal brain’ and restore voluntary movement. A study that began five years ago at the University of Zurich found that a severed section of the spinal cord can begin to work again when its own innate intelligence and regenerative capacity is awakened. It is still unclear if similar techniques could work for humans, but the observed nerve growth hints at new methods for treating paralysis.
It’s time to get serious about the moral questions resulting from our new class of weapons. In the last week or so, cyberwarfare has made front-page news: the United States may have been behind the Stuxnet cyberattack on Iran; Iran may have suffered another digital attack with the Flame virus; and our military and industrial computer chips may or may not be compromised by backdoor switches implanted by China. These revelations suggest that the way we fight wars is changing, and so are the rules.
Flash news: The U.S. government’s secret space program has decided to give NASA two new telescopes for orbital use, as big as, and even more powerful than, the Hubble Space Telescope. Designed for surveillance, the telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office were no longer needed for spy missions and can now be sent with missions aimed outward, instead of inward, to study the heavens. They have 2.4-meter (7.9 feet) mirrors, just like the Hubble.
Transhumanism is often accused of being a religion. It is rarely clear if this is meant as an insult, a compliment, or merely an observation. Probably all of the above have been used at different points in time, from different perspectives, which only adds to the hysteria.
A highly publicized Journal of Personality and Social Psychologystudy depicts Millennials as more egoistic than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. The research is flawed. The psychologists fail to see that kids today face new problems that previously weren’t imaginable and are responding to them in ways that older generations misunderstand.
I happened to leave the country on the day that President Obama made his historic statement that he was in favor of same-sex marriage. I had expected his statement to ruffle feathers from those who found such partnerships difficult to reconcile with their religious beliefs, but I arrived back to find that the resulting outcry was completely counter-intuitive.
Throughout human evolution, multiple versions of humans co-existed. Could we be mid-upgrade now? At TEDxSummit, Juan Enriquez sweeps across time and space to bring us to the present moment—and shows how technology is revealing evidence that suggests rapid evolution may be under way.
The University of Michigan School of Public Health
Talk and slides by Laura Rozek, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental health sciences at University of Michigan School of Public Health, and a specialist in population based-studies focusing on the epigenetic, environmental and genetic risk factors that contribute to the development of human cancer; specifically head and neck and colorectal cancers.
I support the space program, and I hope to see people walking on the Moon again, and then Mars. We need to see people in space to reboot our dreaming engine. At the same time I am persuaded that, ultimately, space will be colonized by our post-biological mind children, who will leave their flesh and blood bodies behind and become cyber angels living as pure software in robotic or virtual bodies. Many astronomers and space enthusiasts share this view.
Mao Sugiyama - asexual artist/activist/entrepreneur - had his sex glands electively surgically removed in a Tokyo hospital on March 31 (his 22nd birthday). Post-op, he asked for and received his severed genitalia - frozen and double-bagged - that he stashed in his freezer. April 8, he tweeted a shocking invitation to watch the disposal of his defunct erotic parts. April 13, he cooked, seasoned, and served bite-sized morsels of his testicles, scrotal sack, and penis to five gourmands who dished out $250 apiece for the rarities, at a public banquet at Asagaya Loft A event space.
Heather Knight introduces Data, a robotic stand-up comedian that does much more than rattle off one-liners—it gathers audience feedback through advanced sensors and tunes its act as the crowd responds.
Paper presented at the 39th annual Bertrand Russell Society’s Conference. Russell was famous for writing about the future of humanity dealing with science, society, and politics. If he was alive today, he would surely be concerned about existential and catastrophic risks, but would put a negative and positive attitude towards emerging technologies in his classic Agnostic writing. He would also be very serious about the issues that lie ahead of us with strong philosophical and scientific arguments.
A group of self-identified terrorists has sent several mail bombs to nanotechnology labs and researchers in Latin America, injuring two people earlier this month in the engineering department at the Monterrey Institute of Technology outside Mexico City. In an online manifesto, the group calls itself Individualists With Savage Tendencies (this a translation from the Spanish, Individualidades tendiendo a lo salvage, or ITS), and writes about how they are trying to stop a “gray goo” scenario where self-replicating nanobots destroy the world.
Mr. Stolyarov begins his explanation of why death is the greatest enemy of humankind. Death forever robs us of the minds, experiences, and contributions of billions of individuals, who are often not even remembered after they die.
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