The Syrian civil war has already caused over 100,000 deaths. As tragic as this is, it is miniscule compared to the massive and potentially permanent global destruction that could come from the gigaton gorilla lurking in the background: nuclear war between the United States and Russia. While the U.S. and Russia find themselves on opposite sides in Syria, their diplomacy over Syria's chemical weapons could help build the trust and confidence needed to reduce the risk of nuclear war.
I finally had the chance to see Elysium this week. As films go, the picture is certainly visually gripping and the fight scenes awesome, if you are into that sort of thing. But, in terms of a film about ideas the picture left me scratching my head, and I could only get a clue as to the film’s meaning as intended by Neill Blomkamp, Elysium’s screenwriter and director, by looking elsewhere.
Our front yard is different than our back yard. The front is sunny and bright and grows flowers and moss-free grass. The back is partly shaded and often five degrees cooler. The two spaces have different micro-climates. This isn’t new science. Thomas Jefferson understood it. When he gardened at Monticello, he planted grapes on a sunny hillside that saw significant warmth for two months longer than many of his other lands.
I’ve heard you are interested in the topics of aging and longevity. This is very cool, because fighting for radical life extension is the wisest and most humanitarian strategy. I would like to tell you what needs to be done, but, unfortunately, I haven’t got your email address, or any other way to be heard.
I cannot recommend too highly an excellent article that appeared in The Guardian— Technology as Our Last Best Hope —about the concept of ecological modernism, which sees technology as key to solving big environmental problems.
Human beings have a very limited attention span, a fact amplified a thousand fold by modern media. It seems the “news” can consist of a only handful of widely followed stories at a time, and only one truly complex narrative. This is a shame because the recent breaking of one substantial news story was followed by the breaking of another one which knocked it out of the field of our electronic tunnel vision. Without some narrative connecting the two only one can really hold our attention at a time. Neither of these stories have to do with Kate Middleton and the birth of Prince George.
Submissions are invited for a special issue of the Journal of Evolution and Technology on the topic of the Ethics of Geoengineering. Deforestation, animal husbandry, the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities have resulted in the rise of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. The rapid rise in temperature is having dramatic impacts from massive storms to droughts near the equator, and it is vital to nearly all species on Earth that we actively reduce greenhouse gases. Geoengineering – a variety of massive projects to deflect sunlight or sequester carbon - is one possible way to slow and mitigate this environmental crisis, although the various methods being proposed all have attendant risks and ethical concerns.
The climate crisis demands our immediate attention. Climate change could devastate thousands of at-risk communities beyond repair and leave the face of the earth scarred. We cannot be alarmist enough about continued climate change and the threat it poses to life on this planet. This is the first time in the history of this planet that a species altered global climate to such a degree. The future of life on this planet is entering a period of extreme risk and few are offering rational solutions.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to understand the science behind human violence; and then find ways to alter an enemy's thoughts by implanting false, but believable stories in their brains. The goal is to create a more peaceful scenario: We're your friend, not your enemy.
Roger Howard presents plausible scenarios regarding the geopolitical dangers of peak oil. Equally plausible scenarios could envision some positive impacts, because countries dependent on natural resources are often poor and undemocratic, while countries dependent on human resources are often rich and democratic.
Geoengineering has an image problem. Some proposed geoengineering projects, such as space mirrors or cloud seeding, seem like they come from the pages of a science fiction novel. Those who propose these projects are treated with belittling rhetoric. Other projects face a different type of imaging problem; the project’s proponents are accused of having vague or unspecified goals and timelines. Such projects are summarily dismissed as being idealistic, out of touch or nebulous.
It’s not enough to point out that our political system is completely corrupted by money, including money from coal and oil and nukes and gas. Of course it is. And if we had direct democracy, polls suggest we would be investing in green energy. But saying the right thing to a pollster on a phone or in a focus group is hardly the extent of what one ought sensibly to do when the fate of the world is at stake.
Because of a close friend with mysterious yet serious medical problems, I’ve spent more time in hospitals over the last few months than my entire earlier life. This experience has heightened my suspicions of sanguine visions that present indefinite lifespans as within our reach. While I find these dreams as appealing as ever, I recommend transhumanists pay greater attention to social rather than technological methods for ameliorating physical frailty. Against the U.S. government’s obsessive focus on preventing spectacular violence via organized coercion, I offer freedom, equality, and community as ways to cope with vulnerability. As Wesley Strong argues, improving the human condition starts right now and doesn’t require nanotech genies.
University of Wisconsin anthropologist John Hawks recently discovered that Earth's rapid population growth played a key role in human development by supercharging our evolutionary progress. The researcher identified 1,800 gene changes that were made in ancient times when we shared our world with the Neanderthals, which was an unusually large amount for such a brief period. The new genes, many that protect us from disease, emerged as our ancestors evolved into today's humans.
All seems to indicate that the next decade, the 20s, will be the magic decade of the brain, with amazing science but also amazing applications. With the development of nanoscale neural probes and high speed, two-way Brain-Computer interfaces (BCI), by the end of the next decade we may have our iPhones implanted in our brains and become a telepathic species. Ramez Naam’s great sci-fi novel NEXUS is a fascinating preview.
The “Darwinian” theory of evolution is here to stay. I used the scare quotes to refer to it in the previous sentence because the current incarnation, known as the Modern Synthesis (and incorrectly referred to as “neo-Darwinism,” which actually was an even earlier version) is significantly more sophisticated and encompassing than the original insight by Darwin. Indeed, my opinion — which is certainly not universally shared — is that evolutionary biology is currently undergoing another gradual but significant change, referred to as the Extended Synthesis, that will expand its domain of application and explanatory tools even further.
In 2012, superstorm Sandy pummeled the East Coast to the tune of $50 to $60 billion in damage. A record-breaking drought wiped out almost a third of the nation’s corn crop,resulting in roughly $18 billion in losses. The Arctic ice cap shrank to a record minimum, decades ahead of the projections made by climate scientists as recently as 2007. In short, 2012 was the year that climate change made its impact, more than any other year in modern history. Worse, it’s just the beginning — a small taste of what’s to come.
This paper develops a mathematical modeling framework using fault trees and Poisson processes for analyzing the risks of inadvertent nuclear war from U.S. or Russian misinterpretation of false alarms in early warning systems, and for assessing the potential value of inadvertence risk reduction options. The model also uses publicly available information on early-warning systems, near-miss incidents, and other factors to estimate probabilities of a U.S.-Russia crisis, the rates of false alarms, and the probabilities that leaders will launch missiles in response to a false alarm. The paper discusses results, uncertainties, limitations, and policy implications.
How ‘bout life in a body that can never age or get sick: Imagine living in a body fashioned from ‘designer genes’ that can never age or get sick. Now picture yourself thinking with a mind that processes data millions of times faster than today’s brains; and finally, consider a world with virtual reality indiscernible from reality and a technology that would enable you to change body size and skin color by simply using thoughts or voice commands.
Perceived failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has prompted interest in avoiding the harms of climate change via geoengineering, that is, the intentional manipulation of Earth system processes. Perhaps, the most promising geoengineering technique is stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI), which reflects incoming solar radiation, thereby lowering surface temperatures.
Now that well-known eco-extremist orgainzation PricewaterhouseCoopers has issued a report indicating that, as things stand now, their best guess is for 6C of warming across the world by the end of the century, it’s a good time to reconsider our global to-do list for the century.
As of this morning millions of people in the Northeast of the United States are still without power, and many are stranded in homes damaged by flooding with transportation blocked by fallen trees. We hope you are all safe and restored as soon as possible.
Eric Packer (played by Robert Pattison) — reigning master of the universe of unencumbered digital financial trading — spends most of his disastrous day in the back of a limo in David Cronenberg’s new film.
Why are we drawn to blood and suffering? Do we lack the courage to believe in dramatically-positive visions of the future? If we had this courage, would it give us the visceral, emotional drama that we crave?
The same way Einstein assumes the speed of light to be a constant of reference for his Theory of Relativity , the philosophy of biomimicry assumes Nature as a constant of reference to a performance-based beauty for design.