They say that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and one Politico story certainly doesn’t make a campaign season. But if a recent article there is correct – if the Democratic Party’s strategy this year really is “Running as a Dem (while) sounding like a Republican” – then the party may be headed for a disaster of epic but eminently predictable proportions.
Debate about the merits of enhancement tends to pretty binary. There are some — generally called bioconservatives — who are opposed to it; and others — transhumanists, libertarians and the like — who embrace it wholeheartedly. Is there any hope for an intermediate approach? One that doesn’t fall into the extremes of reactionary reject or uncritical endorsement?
We’d all like to live in a better future, and for ages men have imagined what a theoretical best future might be like. What would a utopian society truly look like? Does the answer lie in external approaches like abundance, decentralization and transparency, or internal approaches like drugs, wireheading and genetic engineering? Is it even possible to formulate a Theory of Fun for human beings, that would define the contours of a world that could exist in perfect equilibrium where the people living in that world never die or get bored?
Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why the space program is in such turmoil, and suggests that people do not need war to create an amazing dreamlike future.
WRITE TO CONGRESS:
The intention of this project is to stress the importance of advancing the space frontier and is focused on igniting scientific curiosity in the general public.
Facebook cover: (not sure who made this but thank you!)
What Does NASA Do?
NASA's vision: To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.
To do that, thousands of people have been working around the world—and off of it—for more than 50 years, trying to answer some basic questions. What's out there in space? How do we get there? What will we find? What can we learn there, or learn just by trying to get there, that will make life better here on Earth?
A Little History
President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958, partially in response to the Soviet Union's launch of the first artificial satellite the previous year. NASA grew out of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), which had been researching flight technology for more than 40 years.
President John F. Kennedy focused NASA and the nation on sending astronauts to the moon by the end of the 1960s. Through the Mercury and Gemini projects, NASA developed the technology and skills it needed for the journey. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first of 12 men to walk on the moon, meeting Kennedy's challenge.
Meanwhile, NASA was continuing the aeronautics research pioneered by NACA. It also conducted purely scientific research and worked on developing applications for space technology, combining both pursuits in developing the first weather and communications satellites.
After Apollo, NASA focused on creating a reusable ship to provide regular access to space: the space shuttle. First launched in 1981, the space shuttle flew more than 130 successful missions before being retired in 2011. In 2000, the United States and Russia established permanent human presence in space aboard the International Space Station, a multinational project representing the work of 15 nations.
NASA also has continued its scientific research. In 1997, Mars Pathfinder became the first in a fleet of spacecraft that will explore Mars in the next decade, as we try to determine whether life ever existed there. The Terra, Aqua and Aura Earth Observing System satellites are flagships of a different fleet, this one in Earth orbit, designed to help us understand how our home world is changing. NASA's aeronautics teams are focused on improving aviation, so it meets the explosive growth in global demand for air services.
NASA Headquarters, in Washington, provides overall guidance and direction to the agency, under the leadership of the administrator. Ten field centers and a variety of installations conduct the day-to-day work, in laboratories, on air fields, in wind tunnels and in control rooms.
NASA conducts its work in four principal organizations, called mission directorates:
Aeronautics: manages research focused on meeting global demand for air mobility in ways that are more environmentally friendly and sustainable, while also embracing revolutionary technology from outside aviation.
Human Exploration and Operations: focuses on International Space Station operations, development of commercial spaceflight capabilities and human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.
Science: explores the Earth, solar system and universe beyond; charts the best route of discovery; and reaps the benefits of Earth and space exploration for society.
Space Technology: rapidly develops, innovates, demonstrates, and infuses revolutionary, high-payoff technologies that enable NASA's future missions while providing economic benefit to the nation.
In the early 21st century, NASA's reach spans the universe. The Mars rover Curiosity met its major science objective—finding evidence of a past environment suitable for microbial life—in the first eight months of a planned 23-month mission, and now is continuing to look for more information about the habitability of the Martian environment. Cassini remains studying the Saturn system, as Juno makes its way to Jupiter. The restored Hubble Space Telescope continues to explore the deepest reaches of the cosmos as NASA develops the James Webb Space Telescope.
Closer to home, the crews of the International Space Station are extending the permanent human presence in space and performing research that will help us understand how humans can live and work off Earth for long periods. Working with U.S. commercial companies to develop spacecraft capable of carrying humans and cargo to the International Space Station, NASA is helping to foster the development of private-sector aerospace while also building the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket to send humans into deep space.
Earth science satellites are sending back unprecedented data on Earth's oceans, climate and other features. NASA's aeronautics team is working with other government organizations, universities, and industry to fundamentally improve the air transportation experience and retain our nation's leadership in global aviation.
Even with the retirement of the agency's space shuttles in 2011, NASA has a robust program of exploration, technology development and scientific research that will last for years to come. Here is what's next for NASA:
NASA is designing and building the capabilities to send humans to explore beyond Earth orbit, including the development of the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket, working toward a goal of sending astronauts to an asteroid in the coming decade and then to Mars by the 2030s.
The International Space Station is fully staffed with a crew of six, and American astronauts will continue to live and work there in space 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Part of the U.S. portion of the station has been designated as a national laboratory, and NASA is committed to using this unique resource for wide-ranging scientific research.
U.S. commercial companies have begun delivering cargo to the space station, and commercial industry partners are working with NASA to develop new spacecraft and rockets to transport astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit, allowing NASA to focus its attention on the next steps into our solar system.
NASA is researching ways to design and build aircraft that are safer, more fuel-efficient, quieter, and environmentally responsible. NASA also is part of the government team that is working to develop the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, to be in place by the year 2025.
NASA is conducting an unprecedented array of science missions that will seek new knowledge and understanding of Earth, the solar system and the universe.
Should animals be permitted to hunt and kill other animals? Some futurists believe that humans should intervene, and solve the “problem” of predator vs. prey once and for all. We talked to the man who wants to use radical ecoengineering to put an end to the carnage. A world without predators certainly sounds extreme, and it is. But British philosopher David Pearce can’t imagine a future in which animals continue to be trapped in the never-ending cycle of blind Darwinian processes.
A well known and atheist-minded Transhumanist, Zoltan Istvan blames religion for an anti-cryonics law in Canada. Basically, Transhumanism is the ethical use of technology to extend human abilities, and cryonics is low-temperature preservation of a legally-dead body for resuscitation when new technology might cure the cause of death. Zoltan’s concern is that the religious views of Canadian lawmakers may have informed the law, and that this may influence other lawmakers around the world to inhibit access to cryonics likewise.
George Slusser is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the University of California in Riverside (UCR, CA, U.S.A.), Ph.D., Comparative Literature (Harvard University),the first Curator (Emeritus) of the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction &Fantasy Utopian and Horror Literature (UCR, CA, U.S.A. – the world’s biggest SF collection), Harvard Traveling Fellow, Fulbright Lecturer, Coordinator of twenty three Eaton SF Conferences, Author of numerous books, studies and articles in the science fiction studies domain.
Adam Ford records IEET Fellow David Pearce talking about desire and suffering in relation to Buddhism and Jainism. Published on August 09, 2014.
“May all that have life be delivered from suffering”, said Gautama Buddha. The vision of a happy biosphere isn’t new. Jains, for instance, aim never to hurt another sentient being by word or deed. But all projects of secular and religious utopianism have foundered on the rock of human nature. Evolution didn’t design us to be happy.
Yet the living world is poised for a major evolutionary transition. Natural selection has thrown up a species able to self-edit its own genetic source code; phase out experience below “hedonic zero”; and engineer the well-being of all sentience in our forward light-cone. Intelligent agents will shortly be able to pre-select their own hedonic range: its upper and lower bounds, and hedonic set-points. Posthuman life can be animated by gradients of intelligent bliss - a default hedonic tone orders of magnitude richer than today’s peak experiences.
Why Does Suffering Exist?
No one knows why suffering exists at all. To the best of our knowledge, unpleasant experience doesn’t play any irreplaceable or computationally unique role in intelligent agents. Inorganic robots can be programmed or trained up to avoid and respond to noxious stimuli without undergoing subjective distress. Likewise, nonbiological machines can functionally replicate the role of our nastier core emotions without their “raw feels” - the ugly implementation detail that blights so many lives today.
Fortunately, solving the problem of suffering doesn’t depend on our first solving the Hard Problem of consciousness. Neuroscanning and the tools of molecular biology are deciphering the “neural correlates of consciousness”. If we use biotechnology to eradicate the molecular signature of experience below “hedonic zero”, then on some fairly modest assumptions, phenomenal suffering becomes physically impossible.
So a practical question arises. Which existing psychological functions should we enrich, replicate or scrap? What kinds of function are best offloaded onto smart prostheses rather than biologically tweaked? Ideally, adaptations such as a predisposition to jealous behaviour might be abolished along with their nasty subjective textures. Such Darwinian traits have few defenders, even among bioconservatives. Other roles, notably nociception, will presumably be functionally essential for sentient beings to flourish for the foreseeable future - and perhaps indefinitely. Initially, preimplantation genetic screening of prospective children can ensure tomorrow’s humans are endowed with benign, “low-pain” alleles of e.g. the SCN9A(1) gene to modulate pain-sensitivity. People blessed with high pain tolerance aren’t vulnerable to the life-threatening information-processing deficits of congenital analgesia. Eventually, the avoidance of noxious stimuli can be offloaded onto smart inorganic prostheses, allowing life based entirely on information-sensitive gradients of bliss.
IEET Fellow David Pearce and PETA scientist who was interviewed by the IEET, Nicholas Genovese, talk about transhumanism, cultured meat, and the future of animal protection.
A future with cheap lab meat could be drastically different – for humans and animals. How would it work? And is the development of this technology good for animals?
Ian talks to Nicholas Genovese, a PETA-funded scientist working on the stem cells that could make up what he calls cultured meat. I ask two vegans, transhuman philosopher David Pearce and activist Jordi Casamitjana, why they are for or against in vitro meat; and I reveal the results of my survey. Will vegans and meat eaters ever be able to get beyond the “ick” factor of cultured meat?
How Disgust Sensitivity relates to Meat Consumption
Disgust seems to be one of the major themes in reactions against in vitro meat and is one of my primary research interests. I spoke a little in the episode about disgust sensitivity, vegetarianism and attitudes towards meat. Here are the references:
Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook are winning the war for talent and Silicon Valley office space, encouraging start-ups to go on a global hunt for a new heartland. In Asia, Singapore wants to be the answer. The government has established numerous schemes and initiatives to encourage entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to set up shop there.
Twenty years ago, while in college and wondering why everyone else in the world wasn't hell-bent on trying to live indefinitely via the promising fields of transhumanist science, I began working on the idea of what mass culture is and if it was holding back people from wanting to maximize their lifespans and human potential. I came up with the concept baggage culture, which is explored in detail in my novel The Transhumanist Wager and its philosophy Teleological Egocentric Functionalism (TEF).
In this more conversational episode, we discuss the abstract dichotomy of wielding technology rather than yielding to it. We discuss this wielding/yielding metaphor with regard to form factors, for example how is using a smart phone different from augmented reality glasses, or what’s the fundamental difference between a high functioning AI assistant that can act for you versus an Intelligence Augmentation technology such as nanobots in the brain that can do your thinking for you. Ultimately we discuss how yielding feels creepier than wielding and how product and societal design can influence whether someone feels more like they are yielding or wielding.
In this week’s podcast we list the top ten living futurists. These are people who are highly influential in the area of futurology, either for being skillful popularizers or originators of major new ideas. Listen and find out if you agree with our choices. And if you think we made any major mistakes (either misguided inclusions or omissions) please let us know via an email or a comment. We may not agree, but if you make a good case we’ll mention you in next week’s podcast.
Public health officials, educators, and parents of teens have reason to party! According to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, American teen pregnancy rates are lower currently than they were back in 1975 when top 40 dance music included “Kung Fu Fighting” and “The Hustle.”
Thomas Friedman recently filed an editorial from, and about, Madagascar. In a new piece for Salon, we point out the flaws in his thinking – flaws that mirror his shortsighted and trend-infatuated view of the domestic economy.
Is strange behavior due to witchcraft or is it a natural occurrence? Is uncanny attitude a diseased manifestation that can be processed through prayers or an occurrence that can be explained without reference to magic and mysticism? British historian, Ronald Hutton, identified uncanniness as one the characteristics of witchcraft that cuts across all cultures. Witchcraft is an uncanny craft. Witches exhibit strange behavior in course of their occult operations. They employ means that are beyond the ordinary, the normal and the natural to cause misfortune and injury. In Namibia, ‘‘uncanny behavior’’ in a school is causing confusion and fueling accusations of witchcraft. Parents are panicking and are asking the authorities to close down the school.
IEET Contributor Adam Ford and IEET Fellow David Pearce talk about the difference between Materialism, Physicalism and Strawsonian Physicalism. Does reductive physicalism entail monistic idealism? A testable conjecture about the nature of the physical world?
Natural science promises a complete story of the world. No “element of reality” should be missing from the mathematical formalism of physics, i.e. relativistic quantum field theory or its more speculative extensions. The Standard Model is extraordinarily well tested. Within its conceptual framework, consciousness would seem not only causally impotent but physically impossible. Hence the “Explanatory Gap” and the Hard Problem of consciousness.
In recent years, a minority of researchers have proposed that the Hard Problem may be an artefact of materialist metaphysics. Contra Kant, but following Schopenhauer, Russell, Lockwood, Strawson, et al., the new idealists conjecture that the phenomenology of one’s mind reveals the intrinsic nature of the physical - the elusive “fire” in the equations about which physics is silent. Our ordinary presupposition that the intrinsic character of the physical is devoid of phenomenal properties is an additional metaphysical assumption. This is hugely plausible, for sure, but not a scientific discovery. Perhaps most tellingly, the only part of the “fire” in the equations to which one ever enjoys direct access, i.e. one’s own consciousness, discloses phenomenal properties that are inconsistent with a materialist ontology.
Untestability cuts both ways. Any conjecture that the world’s fundamental quantum fields - and, presumably, fundamental macroscopic quantum phenomena such as superconductors or superfluid helium - are intrinsically experiential would seem unfalsifiable too: just speculative metaphysics.
Rather surprisingly, we shall see this isn’t the case.
Movement for indefinite life extension (MILE) activist contest II: How would you spend $5,000 to spread information and raise awareness about people, projects &organizations working toward indefinite life extension?
The World Health Organization has released a statement (in full, bottom of blog post) that they are going to convene, early next week, a panel of medical ethicists to “explore the use of experimental treatment in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.” The statement goes on to say that “the recent treatment of two health workers from Samaritan’s Purse with experimental medicine has raised questions about whether medicine that has never been tested and shown to be safe in people should be used in the outbreak.”
Machine ethics is a term used in different ways. The basic use is in the sense of people attempting to instill some sort of human-centric ethics or morality in the machines we build like robots, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence (Wallach 2010) so that machines do not harm humans either maliciously or unintentionally.
The jobless economy: a fully automated, engineered, robotic system that doesn’t need you, or me either. Anything we can do, machines can do better — surgery, warfare, farming, finance. What’s to do? Shall we smash the machines, or go to the beach, or finally learn to play the piano?
Source: Radio Open Source — July 27, 2014 | Christopher Lydon
Economists predict that 50% of US jobs could be automated in a decade or two. Big fun show with tech wizard Ray Kurzweil and the economist Andrew McAfee. We need to hear the worker’s voice, too. Will a machine take your job someday? And in a world without work, what would you do?
Ray Kurzweil: Director of Engineering at Google, futurist, inventor, and author of The Age of Spiritual Machinesand The Singularity Is Near.
Andrew McAfee: Director of the Initiative on the Digital Economy at MIT, author of The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.
Charles Derber: sociologist and author of The Surplus American
Sarah Jaffe: journalist and host of Dissent’s labor podcast “Belabored”
Radio Open Source | There’s a trend in the economy that came up in our show on Thomas Piketty’s inequality tome. Between 2000 and 2014, the median U.S. income has actually dropped: from $55,986 to $51,017.
Over the same period corporate profits have more than doubled. The workforce participation rate in May of this year was 62.8%, the lowest since 1978. The level of investment in equipment and software bounced back to 95% of its historical peak just two years after the same recession that trashed all the jobs that have been so slow to come back.
One of the questions about big gains at the top, stagnation (or worse) at the middle and bottom — is how much is owed to the technology part of the capital, and really the automation of jobs formerly held by human beings.
We know that the number of American routine jobs dropped by 11 percent between 2001 and 2011. And a new study by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne at Oxford University suggest that 47% of U.S. jobs might be vulnerable to loss by automation.
We start the conversation with what McAfee and Brynjolfsson call the “Great Decoupling,” the possibility that machines are beginning to destroy more jobs than they can create.
A public evening lecture held by the Australian philosopher David Chalmers on May 2nd, 2014 in Göttingen.
The Wave Function: In classical physics, systems are described by definite values | A particle’s position is specified by a definite location | In quantum mechanics, systems are described by wave functions | A particle’s position is specified by a wave function, with different amplitudes for different locations.
I have often felt that being located in Toronto, Canada puts me at a bit of a disadvantage with respect to having a futuristic high-tech blog and podcast. Living in Silicon Valley or New York [or a number of cities in Asia and Europe] appears to make it easier to stay at the cutting edge of technology and meet the amazing people pushing it forward. However, after visiting Decentral, I am convinced that there you can meet people who are making things happen and changing the world as we know it. And so I have come to believe that things are changing for the better – not only for Toronto and Canada but also for the world in general.
One of the people behind this change is Arthur Traviss Corry. And so I was very excited to visit Arthur aboard his sail-boat – The Dialectic, and interview him about his work, his passion and the future. During our 40 min conversation with Corry we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: Decentral as start up accelerator, investment fund and mentorship space; exciting ventures in residence such as Buttercoin and Ethereum; the pros and cons of decentralized apps; 51% attack and other vulnerabilities; bitcoin and its potential for good and bad; anarchy and the role of the state; regulation and the potential for backlash; AI and transhumanism…
My favorite quote that I will take away from this conversation with Arthur Traviss Corry is:
“Software development is an art and these are the artists creating it… It is probably the most important art of our time.”
[Help produce more high-quality episodes by sending bitcoin 1gnjsmU3TzWF1LXNFrm3egYYuh3ZJrJ7F or old-fashioned money! Also, don't miss the secret bonus footage after the credits ;-]
Who is Arthur Traviss Corry?
Arthur T. Corry has been helping tech companies structure, raise capital, and launch since the beginning of internet commerce. His experience comes from Canada’s West coast and Silicon Valley. Three years ago, Arthur founded Toronto’s first true Startup Accelerator, building a thriving portfolio of 18 tech startups. Arthur’s tech accelerator program was listed by government studies as one of Canada’s top 6 such programs in 2013, which led to Arthur’s nomination by the Toronto Board of Trade for the Business Excellence Award, as one of the region’s top 30 most influential entrepreneurs. Arthur’s company Rockcorry Venture Partners now creates acceleration programs and curriculums of due diligence for organizations, such as investment firms and angel groups. Arthur is also a managing director and partner in an entirely new kind of venture capital fund, called Decentral. It’s focus is on financial technology and the new paradigm of decentralized tech, such as peer-to-peer apps, and bitcoin services.
I just finished a thrilling little book about the first machine war. The author writes of a war set off by a terrorist attack where the very speed of machines being put into action,and the near light speed of telecommunications whipping up public opinion to do something now, drives countries into a world war. In his vision whole new theaters of war, amounting to fourth and fifth dimensions, have been invented. Amid a storm of steel huge hulking machines roam across the landscape and literally shred human beings in their path to pieces. Low flying avions fill the sky taking out individual targets or help calibrate precision attacks from incredible distances beyond. Wireless communications connect soldiers and machine together in a kind of world-net…
I consider myself to be pretty self-aware. It’s an illusion of course, but one I am usually blissfully ignorant of. Until some insightful reporter shatters it! This was me a few days ago. I was talking with a journalist about science communication and the perils and pitfalls faced by young scientists. As I got into my groove talking about scientists and communication, she interrupted me and asked, “do you think there many scientists that hold such unusual views?” (or words to that effect).