I think metaphors are important. They can help to organise the way we think about something, highlighting its unappreciated features, and allowing us to identify possibilities that were previously hidden from view. They can also be problematic, biasing our thought in unproductive ways, and obscuring things that should be in plain view. Good metaphors are key.
The most recent mass-shooting tragedy sets into stark contrast two national misfortunes. At surface, they seem similar—crazed gunmen opening fire on citizens and lethal misbehavior by a minority of bad cops. But in several important ways, the trends are diametrically opposite.
In a world that has decided to turn away from the experiment of planned economies, Cuba’s loyalty to the failed model kept its society in a state of suspended animation.
Millions of people live lives that can’t fulfill their full potential. The lifting of the US embargo is not only going to bring Cuba into the world stage of trade and commerce. This vibrant Caribbean culture has the opportunity to allow it to leapfrog into the 21st century by embracing new generations of technologies that are better performing and create a sustainable socio-economic model.
Dan Barker, echoing an idea expressed by many atheists, describes theology as “a subject without an object.” Since there’s little reason for thinking a God exists – much less the God of the Bible – the entire field is ultimately vacuous, despite the grandiloquent rigamarole of, as Jerry Coyne puts it, Sophisticated Theologians(TM). Theology studies nothing. Its heart and soul is a phenomenon that almost certainly doesn’t exist.
Authors Peter H. Diamandis and Steve Kotler have created just about the perfect handbook when it comes to envisioning a technically advanced, democratic and thriving society. Written in 2012, this book is still an important read for anyone who’s interested in a technical future where humanity finally rises above the mire it has been tethered to for millennia.
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.
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.
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.
Our struggling economy. Our struggling democracy. The income gap. Technology and artificial intelligence. At first glance, these things might not seem connected, but upon closer inspection, I find they’re all part of one impulse, and together they create the web of humanity—and our future.
This article examines the risks posed by “unknown unknowns,” which I call monsters. It then introduces a taxonomy of the unknowable, and argues that one category of this taxonomy in particular should lead us to inflate our prior probability estimates of annihilation, whatever they happen to be. The lesson here is ultimately the same as the Doomsday Argument, except the reasoning is far more robust.
From Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning by Martin Rees, Royal Society Professor at Cambridge and England’s Royal Astronomer. “Twenty-first century science may alter human beings themselves - not just how they live.” (9) Rees accepts the common wisdom that the next hundred years will see changes that dwarf those of the past thousand years, but he is skeptical about specific predictions.
In a previous article, I critiqued the two primary definitions of “existential risk” found in the literature, and then hinted at a new definition to replace them. Part of my critique centered on how the relevant group affected by an existential catastrophe is demarcated, e.g., as “our entire species,” “Earth-originating intelligent life,” or “either our current population or some future population of descendants that we value.” (I prefer the latter because it solves the problems of “good” and “bad” extinction that the first two encounter.) I want to put aside the issue of demarcation in this article and focus exclusively on the nature of existential risks themselves (that is, independent of who exactly they impact).
The onset of transhumanism, political or not may rally many people against technological innovations such as the integration of the human species with computers and re-designing of our specie’s DNA for enhancement purposes. The people of the world need to cooperate and value education so that we never see any of the dystopian posthumanist scenarios play out the way many think they might.
Back in 2012, I was invited to spend a few weeks visiting at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN), a federally funded Japanese research institute based in the beautiful city of Kyoto. I was invited by my colleague Itsuki Handoh of RIHN. During my visit, Handoh and I came up with an idea for how to fuse two important lines of research on major global threats.
As we head deeper into the 21st century, we’re starting to catch a glimpse of the fantastic technological possibilities that await. But we’re also starting to get a grim sense of the potential horrors. Here are 10 frightening technologies that should never, ever, come into existence.
Transhumanists as a rule may prefer to contemplate implants and genetic engineering, but few if any violations of morphological freedom exceed being torn to pieces by shrapnel or dashed against concrete by an overpressure wave. In this piece I argue that the settler-colonial violence in occupied Palestine relates to core aspects of modernity and demands futurist attention both emotionally and intellectually.
It could be difficult for human civilization to survive a global catastrophe like rapid climate change, nuclear war, or a pandemic disease outbreak. But imagine if two catastrophes strike at the same time. The damages could be even worse. Unfortunately, most research only looks at one catastrophe at a time, so we have little understanding of how they interact.
World Beyond War has created a set of online interactive maps to help us all see where and how war and preparations for war exist in the world today. You can find the maps we’ve created thus far at http://bit.ly/mappingmilitarism and send us your ideas for more maps here. We’ll be updating some of these maps with new data every year and displaying animation of the progress away from war or the regress toward more war as the case may be.
Somewhere around a dozen years ago, I was sitting in a bar in Eastern Washington. It could have been Lake Chelan or Yakima. I really don’t remember. But I do remember meeting two cowboys. Real cowboys (we still have them in the west). They weren’t talking about herds of cows over their beers. They were talking about fires.
Although a study from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology suggests that nearly half of U.S. jobs could be at risk of computerization over the next two decades, this does not necessarily need to be bad news, says futurist Thomas Frey in a recent Futurist Magazine essay.
Some futurists and science fiction writers predict that we’re on the cusp of a world-changing “Technological Singularity.” Skeptics say there will be no such thing. Today, I’ll be debating author Ramez Naam about which side is right.
For anyone thinking about the future relationship between nature-man-machines I’d like to make the case for the inclusion of an insightful piece of fiction to the canon. All of us have heard of H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke. And many, though perhaps fewer, of us have likely heard of fiction authors from the other side of the nature/technology fence, writers like Mary Shelley, or Ursula Le Guin, or nowadays, Paolo Bacigalupi, but certainly almost none of us have heard of Samuel Butler, or better, read his most famous novel Erewhon (pronounced with 3 short syllables E-re-Whon.)
Anyone who thinks ‘dystopian future’ first conjures the image of a sprawling mega metropolis where some version of a decadent elite, which lives in luxury, is surrounded by legions of the destitute, existing in harsh condition near or at the breaking point. Probable as such a future may be, what no one considers (almost no one) is how things got to that point?
The best thing about Occupy Wall St. wasn’t what it argued politically or accomplished legislatively, but what it modeled for us: a new way of engaging with issues, resolving conflict, and reaching consensus. It was a style of engagement that seemed like it could only happen in person, between young people willing to sit in a cold park all night until they could come to an agreement over an issue.
The last decade or so has seen a renaissance is the idea that human beings are something far short of rational creatures. Here are just a few prominent examples: there was Nassim Taleb with his The Black Swan, published before the onset of the financial crisis, which presented Wall Street traders caught in the grip of their optimistic narrative fallacies, that led them to “dance” their way right over a cliff. There was the work of Philip Tetlock which proved that the advice of most so-called experts was about as accurate as chimps throwing darts. There were explorations into how hard-wired our ideological biases are with work such as that of Jonathan Haidt in his The Righteous Mind.
IEET Blog |
email list |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.
East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA
Email: director @ ieet.org phone:
West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
425 Moraga Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
Email: hank @ ieet.org