Born in 1945 in Kenfig Hill, a small Welsh coal-mining village near Bridgend, Howard Marks attended Oxford University where he earned a degree in nuclear physics and post graduate qualifications in philosophy.
Described by the Daily Mail (UK Tabloid) as ‘the most sophisticated drugs baron of all time’, Howard Marks has worked with the British Secret Service and has been connected with the Mafia, the IRA, MI6 and the CIA.
One integral part of the design we in the Earth Organisation for Sustainability envision is that humanity needs to utilize information technology in order to establish a better overview of the resource flows that we use on the planet, as well as the planet’s own capacity. More of this can be read in the article “The Three Criteria” on this blog.
Once again this year, the clear winner, in not just women’s soccer and incarceration, but also in militarism, is the United States of America, sweeping nearly every category of military insanity with seemingly effortless ease. Find all of last year’s and this year’s maps here:
The halcyon days of the mid-20th century, when researchers at the (in?)famous Dartmouth summer school on AI dreamed of creating the first intelligent machine, seem so far away. Worries about the societal impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) are on the rise. Recent pronouncements from tech gurus like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have taken on a dramatically dystopian edge. They suggest that the proliferation and advance of AI could pose a existential threat to the human race.
Setting aside differences of metaphysic, how closely do the core values of utilitarians/abolitionists and Buddhists coincide? If suffering and its abolition are central to life on Earth, can differences between the two traditions be resolved to questions of means, not ends?
Steven Kotler explains that a new device and its imitators can trigger “mystical” experiences in the brain. His latest book is Tomorrowland: Our Journey from Science Fiction to Science Fact (http://goo.gl/eLjsSX).
Is there intelligent life out there in the universe? That question is more complicated than you might imagine. What constitutes intelligent life? How does it come to be? How many totally random happenstances occurred just so we could exist, and could those happenstances occur again elsewhere out there? Why, as Fermi so astutely asked, haven’t intelligent beings communicated with us yet? Theoretical physicist Brian Greene, a Columbia University professor and Chairman of the World Science Festival, shoots from the hip and says “yeah, I think there’s probably alien life out there. Probably intelligent life too.”
One can’t help be positive about the future. Even obstacles have a bright side. For example - humans at some point will be limited by space and time; we can’t expect to go far in space exploration without the development of strong artificial intelligence and robots.
If you’re lucky enough to live without want, it’s a natural impulse to help others in need. But, asks philosopher Peter Singer, what’s the most effective way to give charitably? He talks through some surprising thought experiments to help you balance emotion and practicality—and make the biggest impact with whatever you can share.
I have recently been working my through David Roden’s book Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human. It is a unique and fascinating work. I am not sure that I have ever read anything quite like it. In the book, Roden defends a position which he refers to as speculative posthumanism. This holds, roughly, that the future we are creating through technological change could give rise to truly weird and alien forms of posthuman life.
We are living in a world with many challenges and even existential risks. Yet only a relatively small number of people seem to be concerned about this, while others apparently oblivious behave adversely towards these challenges, e.g. through an environmentally unfriendly lifestyle, in developing as well as developed countries. Very often the reason for this behaviour is not lack of education, but wrong education. In many places children are neither educated properly in sciences, nor are their rationality skills trained. Instead in many parts of the world, the curriculum is linked to unscientific ideologies, which pupils are prone to believe forever if indoctrinated in early childhood.
Happy two hundred and thirty ninth birthday, America! Although it’s more accurate to claim the country is younger and date the current republic’s birth from the adoption of the constitution in 1787. Amazingly, it’s a constitution that in most respects remains essentially the same despite all the enormous changes that have happened in the centuries since it was written.
In his painting, Saturn Devouring His Son, Francisco Goya depicts the Titan, Cronus, devouring one of his children. The painting represents the Greek myth wherein Cronus devoured his children out of fear of being overthrown. In the end, Cronus was defeated by his children. In an other archetypal parent child relationship, the Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex, King Laius attempts to murder his infant child, Oedipus, when an oracle predicts that Laius will be slain by his son. As the oracle predicted, Oedipus, though unwittingly, fulfilled the prophecy. Such tales of parents fearing their supplantation at the hands of their children are prevalent throughout history; perhaps they can serve as useful metaphors for the friendly artificial intelligence (AI) conundrum we are faced with today.
Political leanings are frequently associated with attitudes toward science and technology in the U.S. Yet as the most recent poll from the Pew Research Center on Americans, Politics and Science Issues shows, public attitudes toward science and technology depend on a far more diverse and complex set of factors.
The traditional model of our mental function is that first our senses provide data to our brain, which then translates those senses into the appropriate mental phenomena: light into visual images, air vibrations into auditory experiences, etc. But what if that process is actually occurring simultaneously? Danko Nikolić describes the theory of ideasthesia.
At some point technology will allow us to live forever. With billionaires spending millions on research  and huge corporations such as Google getting in on the act, very soon we are likely to see rapid advances in life expectancy – with the ultimate aim of radical life extension. All diseases will be cured, and the cellular aging that leads to the deterioration in body and mind will be slowed and eventually reversed so that everybody can choose how long they want to live for.
By creating any form of AI we must copy from biology. The argument goes as follows. A brain is a biological product. And so must be then its products such as perception, insight, inference, logic, mathematics, etc. By creating AI we inevitably tap into something that biology has already invented on its own. It follows thus that the more we want the AI system to be similar to a human—e.g., to get a better grade on the Turing test—the more we need to copy the biology.
The cradle of life on Earth can be said to be found in the blue. For many hundreds of millions of years, the ascending continents of the young planet were as dead and barren as the wastelands of Mars, while the oceans and lakes were teeming with life. Water was the solvent in which the first life-bearing cells emerged during the chaotic epochs after the birth of the Moon.
There is a certain mythology that seems to have attached itself to the practice of mediation. There are also a few myths that keep people from enjoying this ancient and life-enhancing daily ritual. Watkins will debunk the 5 most common myths and show you how you can benefit from very simple mediation in just 10 minutes a day.
Light Watkins is one of the world’s leading experts in meditation and creator of The Inner Gym book series. He has taught meditation in several countries, festivals, corporations, community centers and schools. His diverse list of clients include everyone from Oscar-nominated actors to stand-up comedians, dentists and lawyers.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx
Birth control options for men and women are a century apart. Men deserve better.
The best birth control options for women today have qualities our grandmothers could only have dreamed of. They toggle the fertility switch to off until a woman wants it on, making pregnancy “opt in” rather than “opt out.” They are easily reversed when a woman wants a baby and have bonus health benefits like lighter periods and protection against some cancers. They last from three to twelve years, depending on the method and can simply be forgotten once in place, yet have an annual failure rate below 1 in 500.
Several months ago, the UK approved a groundbreaking reproductive technique in which babies are created from the genetic material of three people. The US is now considering the procedure, but Congress’s new spending bill will require religious experts to review a forthcoming report.
Futurists like Ray Kurzweil believe that advancements in the field of artificial intelligence will culminate to a point in the near future to allow humans to transcend their biological form. This is what he calls the Singularity and he describes it as follows:
TMS involves using a computer controlled array of electromagnetic coils placed on or close to the scalp and then activated in such a manner that magnetic “waves” stimulate neural activity in selected areas of the brain. There are essentially two types of TMS technology largely defined by the power levels used. A lot of contemporary research (circa 2005CE) uses extremely high power levels, in many cases involving peak powers flowing in the coils in the megawatt region, to directly “kick” the brain in selected locations.
You don’t have to become a monk to learn from one, says Dr. Wendy Suzuki, professor of neural science and psychology at New York University. Research into how meditation affects the brain is conclusive: Meditating immediately changes the frequency of your brain waves and, after five years, increases the size of white matter bundles in the prefrontal cortex.
But Suzuki’s best advice is to start small. In her book, Healthy Brain, Happy Life: A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain and Do Everything Better (http://goo.gl/udV8ST), she explains that 20 minutes of daily meditation was too large a commitment. So instead of reordering your life, she recommends practicing basic mindfulness exercises like concentrating on your breathing patterns. This technique will help you build your meditation muscle, and start you down a more peaceful and purposeful path.
My plan below needs to be perceived with irony because it is almost irrelevant: we have only a very small chance of surviving the next 1000 years. If we do survive, we have numerous tasks to accomplish before my plan can become a reality.
Additionally, there’s the possibility that the “end of the universe” will arrive sooner, if our collider experiments lead to a vacuum phase transition, which begins at one point and spreads across the visible universe.