Economic rights are fundamental human rights. European social democracies are the best at providing for basic economic security. Some of the evidence for Euro-socialist superiority comes from comparative studies of happiness. We can start providing more economic security here by expanding public options and universal access to healthcare. (MP3)
We are on the brink of technological breakthroughs that could augment our mental powers beyond recognition. It will soon be possible to boost human brainpower with electronic “plug-ins” or even by genetic enhancement. What will this mean for the future of humanity?
Given the accumulating effects of global warming and the increasing potential for disastrous climate change, some form of geoengineering likely will be attempted within the next decade or two. As advanced nanotechnology moves ahead, it could enable—for better or for worse—truly epic planet-scale (re)terraforming projects.
“The convergences of the past, like small streams flowing together to form a great river, have created stronger currents that carry the potential for even faster and more dramatic changes as they converge in the near future. These include information technology, genetic engineering and biotechnology, nanotechnology (the manipulation of matter at the molecular level, which may allow manufacturing without factories as we know them), and cognitive science (how we know and learn).”
[May contain spoilers for various movies or TV shows.] It is important to understand how issues such as cryonics are presented in the popular media, so as to gauge public perception of them and understand how to correct common misconceptions and appeal to popular values as much as possible. Unfortunately, in the case of cryonics a large portion of the portrayals in television and movies are negative and are rife with those misconceptions.
“The world will someday end with fire or ice, but we await clarification as to the proximate causes. The menu of looming catastrophes is a long one, growing with our advancing knowledge of the universe and powers of self-immolation.”
For a generation of science fiction fans who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) was a book that changed lives: a huge, bizarre, magical, loosely-knit satire of nearly everything. It recounts the adventures of Valentine Michael Smith (or Mike), a young man who is born on Mars and raised by the Martians, before being brought to a wacky near-future Earth. He is befriended by wise old Jubal Harshaw, the novel’s authorial spokesman or ‘Heinlein figure’ (though he is presented as much older than Heinlein actually was at the time). Jubal becomes Mike’s mentor and protector, then eventually something more like a disciple.
In Life Inc., award-winning writer, documentary filmmaker, and scholar Douglas Rushkoff traces how corporations went from a convenient legal fiction to the dominant fact of contemporary life. Indeed as Rushkoff shows, most Americans have so willingly adopted the values of corporations that they’re no longer even aware of it.
This fascinating journey reveals the roots of our debacle, from the late Middle Ages to today. From the founding of the chartered monopoly to the branding of the self; from the invention of central currency to the privatization of banking; from the birth of the modern, self-interested individual to his exploitation through the false ideal of the single-family home; from the Victorian Great Exhibition to the solipsism of MySpace; the corporation has infiltrated all aspects of our daily lives. Life Inc. exposes why we see our homes as investments rather than places to live, our 401k plans as the ultimate measure of success, and the Internet as just another place to do business.
Most of all, Life Inc. shows how the current financial crisis is actually an opportunity to reverse this 600-year-old trend, and to begin to create, invest and transact directly rather than outsourcing all this activity to institutions that exist solely for their own sakes.
Corporatism didn’t evolve naturally. The landscape on which we are living - the operating system on which we are now running our social software - was invented by people, sold to us as a better way of life, supported by myths, and ultimately allowed to develop into a self-sustaining reality. It is a map that has replaced the territory.
Rushkoff illuminates both how we’ve become disconnected from our world, and how we can reconnect to our towns, to the value we can create, and mostly, to one another. As the speculative economy collapses under its own weight, Life Inc. shows us how to build a real and human-scaled society to take its place.
In Life Inc, Douglas Rushkoff presents the unnerving, unbelievable, but ultimately undeniable proof that our world has been overtaken by an absolutely artificial economy.
He shows how our most fundamental assumptions about money and commerce are actually false ones - artifacts of a 400-year-old plan by a waning aristocracy to maintain control of Western Europe. Although the architects of this corporatism have long since passed on, we still live in a landscape defined by their plans and have internalized their values as our own.
Taking on some of the biggest assumptions of our age, this is a book filled with dangerous ideas and rather unspeakable heresies:
# Money is not a part of nature, to be studied by a science like economics, but an invention with a specific purpose.
# Centralized currency is just one kind of money - one not intended to promote transactions but to promote the accumulation of capital by the wealthy.
# Banking is our society’s biggest industry, and debt is our biggest product.
# Corporations were never intended to promote commerce, but to prevent it.
# The development of chartered corporations and centralized currency caused the plague; the economic devastation ended Europe’s most prosperous centuries, and led to the deaths of half of its population.
# The more money we make, the more debt we have actually created.
Most importantly, Rushkoff shows how this moment of financial crisis is actually an opportunity to reinstate commerce and communities based in creating value for one another, rather than continuing to extract it for the benefit of institutions that no longer exist.
The current IEET reader poll asks: If you could be any age you desired, for as long as you chose, would you opt for it? To answer, we may have to consider whether we most value quantity, quality, or meaning in life.
Dr. Susan Schneider, IEET fellow and assistant professor of philosophy and an affiliated faculty member with Penns Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, speaks at a UPenn Media Seminar on Neuroscience and Society on philosophical controversies surrounding cognitive enhancement.
(Hat tip to Blogging the Singularity and a big thanks to Jeriaska for filming and posting the debate) Utopia or Artilect War? A debate between J. Storrs Hall and Hugo de Garis. J. Storrs Hall, president of the Foresight Institute, takes the position in this debate that the rise of artificial intelligence levels will create a utopia for humanity. Hugo de Garis, Wuhan University, China, takes the opposite position, namely that the rise of godlike massively intelligent machines will be catastrophic for humanity, leading to the worst, most passionate war humanity has ever known, using late 21st century weapons, killing billions of people.
This debate between J. Storrs Hall and Hugo de Garis took place at the 2nd AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) conference, 2009
The new Wolverine movie is dividing opinions even as it rakes in tens of millions of dollars day by day, and obviously makes the fans happy. The critical reviews may be bad to mixed, but the word-of-mouth is very different. Go out into the wilds of the blogosphere and you’ll find plenty of over-the-top glorying and raving (much of this from female science fiction fans expressing their admiration for Hugh Jackman’s muscled and much-revealed body).
The video of the talk Jamais Cascio gave at the Art Center Summit on Sustainable Mobility a couple of months ago is now available. It runs about 40 minutes, and plays only through their site (which is why there isn’t an embedded version here). They don’t make a point of showing every slide in his presentation, so if you’re interested, you can follow along at home with the slideshare version.
The talk weaves together several themes that run through much of my work—resilience, intelligence as adaptation, scenaric thinking, and, above all, agency:
I want you to think through these three scenarios as lenses, to understand the choices you’ll be making in your own designs, in your own businesses, in your own communities over the course of the next decade or so. Understand how the choices and the actions that you take fit with the choices and actions of others.
Because one of the critical things I want you to walk away with is the recognition that the future is not a destination, it’s not some place we go to, it’s a process, and we enter the future minute by minute. The worst thing you can do is to give up your power to create that future, to leave it to somebody else and say, “well, it’s out of my hands.” When you give up that kind of agency, when you give up your capacity to shape and recreate and transform your own future, you’ve really given up your role in civilization.
This is ultimately the most important thing you can do: to think through what you want to do, what you can do, to create the future you want.
In 1959 the prominent British scientist and novelist C.P. Snow gave a pivotal lecture before a crowd of his colleagues in Cambridge. The lecture focused on what he saw as a serious divide between the sciences and the humanities. As a researcher and creative writer he had a unique perspective on the problem and its impact on society at large. Now, 50 years after that famous lecture, a wide array of experts are gathered together to discuss whether or not the divide still exists and how it affects contemporary society.
Transcendent Man introduces the life and ideas of Ray Kurzweil, the renowned futurist who journeys the world offering his vision of a future in which we will merge with our machines, can live forever, and are billions of times more intelligent ... all within the next thirty years.
I noticed that a post of mine was linked via the Wikipedia article on post-scarcity — my post about nanofactory regulation. In it, I proposed a DRM-like system to prevent any old nanofactory from manufacturing things like bombs. Radical and Luddite, I know.
A stone age hunter-gatherer, coming upon a conflict where danger was present, didn’t have time to carefully analyze the situation, look for nuances, or seek points of commonality between combatants. Instead, driven by adrenalin, heart pumping, thoughts racing, pupils dilated—within seconds a choice was made: pick a side and join the fray, or turn and run away.
A mindclone is a software version of your mind. He or she is all of your thoughts, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values, and is experiencing reality from the standpoint of whatever machine their mindware is running on. Mindclones are mindfiles being used and updated by mindware that has been set to be a functionally equivalent replica of one’s mind. A mindclone is your software-based alter ego, doppelganger, or mental twin. If your body died, but you had a mindclone, you would not feel that you personally died, although the body would be missed more sorely than amputees miss their limbs.
Eleven years ago, Random House published my book To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek. With the occasion of the premiere of the Star Trek reboot film and with my mind still bruised from the turgid awfulness of Battlestar Galactica, I decided to post the epilogue of my book, very lightly updated — as an antidote to blasé pseudo-sophistication and a reminder that Prometheus is humanity’s best embodiment. My major hope for the new film is that Uhura does more than answer phones.
We live in a time when more scientists are being trained than ever before, yet scientists find themselves frustrated by inaccurate media coverage, poor science education, public science illiteracy, a resurgence of anti-evolutionism, and challenges to scientific expertise on issues like climate change. On May 9, 2009, visionaries, scientists, authors, and the media will join together in New York to explore the persistence of the “two cultures” gap—a serious divide between science and the humanities—and how it can be overcome.