In the pictures I am with George Carey, Ben Goertzel, and Vlad Bowen, the day before the Modern Cosmism conference last month in New York. Here I try to summarize some interrelated and compatible but slightly different viewpoints on modern Cosmism.
IEET Fellow David Brin has co-edited (with Matthew Woodring Stover) a book published on November 3, 2015, titled: Star Wars on Trial: The Force Awakens Edition: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Debate the Most Popular Science Fiction Films of All Time
What will the future look like? The further upwards one moves from the basement domain of physics, the harder it often gets to predict long-term trends. Nonetheless, we have some fairly good clues about what to expect moving forward.
Outer space is said to be “the final frontier,” yet that frontier may have closed while one other remains open: the human mind. In December 1972 I stood in the midnight darkness on a Florida beach to watch the launch of Apollo 17, the last voyage humans have ever taken beyond the confines of Earth orbit, pondering what it meant for our feeble but ambitious species.
“[Nikolai Fedorov]’s idea that space travel might be part of a larger transhuman evolution is a familiar one today, from both science fiction and science speculation,” notes an essay titled “Resurrecting Nikolai Fedorov,” by Nader Elhefnawy. “This means not only achieving immortality, but restoring all the people who have ever walked the Earth to life so that they may share the gift as well, making the heaven of the afterlife a physical reality.”
The Doomsday argument (DA) is controversial idea that humanity has a higher probability of extinction based purely on probabilistic arguments. The DA is based on the proposition that I will most likely find myself somewhere in the middle of humanity’s time in existence (but not in its early time based on the expectation that humanity may exist a very long time on Earth.)
The U.S. Department of Energy has green-lit the construction of a 3.2-gigapixel digital camera for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Once complete, the instrument will be used by astronomers to study everything from the Big Bang to the motions of nearby asteroids.
Is interstellar travel by bio-humanity even possible? Not according to my dear bro and esteemed colleague Kim Stanley Robinson. Whose new novel AURORA follows one of the first… and possibly last… efforts to send a generation starship to a neighboring star. Naturally, any KSR book is worth rushing out to purchase… though like many of his other works, there is a very strong sense that the author has a point to make.
Quantum physicists in the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK have confirmed in the lab that the weird instant correlations between remote “entangled” particles are real. The question that comes to mind is, can quantum weirdness be used to send instant message across space-time, faster than light?
Imagine the day when we finally receive a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence, only to find that there’s a message embedded within. Given that we don’t speak the same language, how could we ever hope to make sense of it? We spoke to the experts to find out.
Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence, aka “CETI”, is the branch of SETI concerned with both the transmission and reception of messages between ourselves and an alien civilization. Scientists have been trying to detect signals from an extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) since the 1960s, but haven’t found anything.
“The Three-Body Problem,” Ken Liu’s English translation of the first book of Liu Cixin’s best-selling Chinese science fiction trilogy, has won the Hugo Award for best novel.
The book is solid classic science fiction, like the best space operas of vintage science fiction that we loved and still fondly remember as our first introduction to space and science. See my review of “The Three-Body Problem.”
We’re looking outward… toward the vast, vast majority of all there is. And after decades of doldrums, it seems we truly are regaining some momentum in space exploration. Have any of you been keeping track on a scorecard?
Hang on till the end, to read the news from NASA NIAC!
With the launch of Sputnik in 1957, humankind extended its presence from the Earth’s surface towards outer space. Since that time, thousands of other objects have been sent into Earth orbit, including weather satellites, communications equipment and military hardware. Wherever people go, they tend to leave their mark, mostly harmful, on the natural environment, and space is no exception. There are many pieces of space junk – the remains of discarded, malfunctioning or obsolete devices – that now whiz around the earth and pose threats to current space projects.
We stand at the cusp of guaranteeing the survival of fundamental purpose in the universe, reality, and existence by insuring the continuation of consciousness. This is a far grander calling than merely enabling individual life extension. Existential metaphysical purpose is our foremost responsibility as conscious beings, and computer intelligence is the method of achieving it.
After several decades of relative obscurity Transhumanism as a philosophical and technological movement has finally begun to break out of its strange intellectual ghetto and make small inroads into the wider public consciousness. This is partly because some high profile people have either adopted it as their worldview or alternatively warned against its potential dangers. Indeed, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama named it “The world’s most dangerous idea” in a 2004 article in the US magazine Foreign Policy, and Transhumanism’s most outspoken publicist, Ray Kurzweil, was recently made director of engineering at Google, presumably to hasten Transhumanism’s goals.
Excitement is building for the New Horizons Mission and its hurried swing past Pluto on July 14. What a terrific way to celebrate Bastille Day! Watch this terrific video - Fast and Light to Pluto - about New Horizons, created by the NY Times.
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.
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.
On this day 245 years ago – July 1, 1770 – humanity had its closest known encounter with extinction (with the possible exception of the Cuban Missile Crisis).
Two weeks before that date the French astronomer Charles Messier had discovered a faint comet in the constellation Sagittarius, which thereafter rapidly brightened and began moving swiftly across the sky. At its peak it was naked-eye, and its coma, according to various observers, the apparent size of from 5 to 16 full moons across. Lexell’s Comet, so named after another astronomer who subsequently calculated its orbit, was then under one-and-a-half million miles from Earth, or less than six times the distance of the Moon, and thus the nearest a comet has ever approached us in recorded history. (Kronk n.d.)
There are three interlocking statistical arguments concerning the nature of the universe in which we live and which provide what I believe to be a strongly convincing indication that our view of reality is seriously flawed on a massive scale. Let’s begin by asking a simple question…
We all dream of journeying (or living) among the stars. But space is a spectacularly awful place for humans, and we’re not suited for life there at all. And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are all the ways we’ll need to re-engineer the human body, in order to make space our home.
Planetary Resources, founded by Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson, aims to pave the way to humanity mining asteroids for vast wealth… as the B612 Foundation hopes to detect and track asteroids that threaten civilization’s survival… a real case of synergy of purpose. (I’ve been helping both.)
In his Orthogonality Thesis, Nick Bostrom proposes that “intelligence and final goals are orthogonal: more or less any level of intelligence could in principle be combined with more or less any final goal.”
However, there’s a problem hinted at by the combination of “orthogonality” and “more or less”. Nick acknowledges that intelligent purpose actually does have some constraints. And arguably those constraints are actually quite strong, which would mean the Orthogonality Thesis is rather weak.
But the weakness may not be fatal. We can formulate a Semi-Orthogonality Thesis that actually accounts better for Nick’s own observations and reasoning without overstating their ramifications, which remain momentous.
“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.
As a child of the 60s I spent most of my life regretting that we didn’t build those cities on the Moon and the planets. Now I realize that the Apollo adventure was too far from our supply lines to be sustainable. But we are still doing space, and someday (not soon) we will go back to the Moon, and then to Mars, to the planets, and to the stars.
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