“I think it very likely—in fact, inevitable—that biological intelligence is only a transitoryphenomenon… If we ever encounter extraterrestrial intelligence, I believe it is very likely to be postbiological in nature …” Paul Davies
A few days ago I was glued to the screen to watch the launch of Orion, just like I used to do when I was a kid in the 60s and watched everything Apollo on TV. In a very good article on Gizmodo, Jesus Diaz argues that Orion’s launch is the best news for humanity in a long time. “We should rejoice,” he says. “[W]e are going back to the stars.”
One of the weirder things about human being’s perception of time is that our subjective clocks are so off. A day spent in our dreary cubicles can seem to crawl like an Amazonian sloth, while our weekends pass by as fast as a chameleon’s tongue . Most dreadful of all, once we pass into middle age, time seems to transform itself from a lumbering steam train heaving us through clearly delineated seasons and years to a Japanese bullet unstoppably hurdling us towards death with decades passing us by in a blurr.
The pace of technological change is governed by many factors — including public demand. Which is why we need to be demanding more. Here are 12 transformative technologies whose development should be expedited right now. To make this list meaningful, I only included those items that are within reasonable technological reach. Sure, it would be nice to have molecular assemblers, warp drives, and the recipe for safe artificial intelligence, but it’ll be decades before we can reasonably embark upon such projects.
Are we on the verge of the new Golden Age of science fiction cinema, in which it becomes about matters more interesting than explosions? Let’s start as Ray Kurzweil and company give us a sneak peak at the forthcoming movie Autómata: “Starring Antonio Banderas, here we have a believable future (2044, thirty years from now) in which desertification is threatening society, and a single company is leading the way in intelligent robotics.” says one George Mason university blogger. Indeed, it appears to be part of the new crop of films that treat AI with some attempts at subtlety.
Reproducing in space, lifeboat problems, and other ethical quandaries that could arise if we travel to Mars. Disaster can happen at any moment in space exploration. “A good rule for rocket experimenters to follow is this: always assume that it will explode,” the editors of the journal Astronautics wrote in 1937, and nothing has changed: This August, SpaceX’s rocket blew up on a test flight.
Robert Frost’s famous imagery—fire or ice, take your pick—pretty much sums it up. But lately, largely unnoticed, a revolution has unwound in the thinking about such matters, in the hands of that most rarefied of tribes, the theoretical physicists. Maybe, just maybe, ice isn’t going to be the whole story. Of course, linking the human prospect to cosmology itself is not at all new. The endings of stories are important, because we believe that how things turn out implies what they ultimately mean. This comes from being pointed toward the future, as any ambitious species must be.
The paper tries to fuse traditional concerns about the problem of evil with recent work in population ethics. The result is an interesting, and somewhat novel, atheological argument. As is the case with every journal club, I will try to kick start the discussion by providing an overview of the paper’s main arguments, along with some questions you might like to ponder about its effectiveness.
So I finally got around to reading Max Tegmark’s book Our Mathematical Universe, and while the book answered the question that had led me to read it, namely, how one might reconcile Plato’s idea of eternal mathematical forms with the concept of multiple universes, it also threw up a whole host of new questions. This beautifully written and thought provoking book made me wonder about the future of science and the scientific method, the limits to human knowledge, and the scientific, philosophical and moral meaning of various ideas of the multiverse.
Imagine if you could take an exotic vacation billions of light years from Earth, peek in on the dinosaurs’ first-hand, or jump into a parallel universe where another you is living a more exciting life than yours; and you could swap places if you like.
Most transhumanists are already familiar with digitalism, even if they haven’t heard the name. Digitalism uses ideas from computer science to develop new ways of thinking about old topics. Writers like Ed Fredkin, Hans Moravec, Frank Tipler, Nick Bostrom, and Ray Kurzweil are digitalists. Typically, digitalists are scientists, rationalists, naturalists, and atheists. Nevertheless, they have worked out novel and deeply meaningful ways of thinking about things like ghosts, souls, gods, resurrection, and reincarnation.
Positive future watchers believe we will see more progress in the next three decades than was experienced over the last 200 years. In The Singularity is Near, author Ray Kurzweil reveals how science will change the ways we live, work, and play. The following timeline looks at some amazing possibilities as we venture ahead in what promises to become an incredible future…
The year is 2035 and the world is about to receive news from NASA researchers that an intelligent alien species has been detected on an Earth-like twin, 600 light years away:
"Good morning everyone. Last night we detected irrefutable, proof that the atmosphere surrounding the planet known as Kepler 22-B revealed signs of a technology-enabled society. Utilizing our best super-computers and artificial intelligence, we have created simulations of how technologically advanced these aliens might be, andwhat they could look like today, after factoring in the light-years distance from Earth.”
The Smith family, Randolph, 50; his wife, Alicia, 45; son Mike, 11; daughter Sandy, 15; and Bradley, the life-like family robot, arrived on Mars via Virgin Galactic faster-than-light-speed hyper-drive, making the trip from New Mexico's Spaceport America to The Ratan Colony, Clarke Field in less than 3 hours.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, there’s no question that humankind has made tremendous strides in developing new technologies. While machines can replicate many movements and actions of humans, the next challenge lies in teaching them to think for themselves and react to changing conditions.
After rising from the primordial soup 3.5 billion years ago, Earth life began an evolutionary trip that has produced today’s amazing human. Futurists now ponder what’s next. Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Thomas Frey, Ray Kurzweil, and other forward-thinkers believe technologies will advance exponentially in the centuries ahead, creating sweeping changes in how we view life, our planet, and the cosmos.
I just attended the NASA Innovative and Advance Concepts group (NIAC) symposium at Stanford —(I am on NIAC's Council of External Advisors)—watching and appraising and questioning terrific presentations about future-potential "game-changing" space technologies. In four days the recipients of NIAC seed grants, showed us how NASA's small but strategic investments in exceptional… even risky… technologies might prove valuable—even vital—if given a chance.
At a UCLA workshop attended by yours truly and other future watchers, the late physicist Dr. Robert Forward told the group that further understanding of the cosmos would one day enable man to travel through time. “Given the money and mandate,” Forward said, “in the not-too-distant future, a time machine will be built.” This workshop convened in 1983; now, 31 years later, scientists are edging ever closer towards realizing this bold prediction.
The ‘Big Bang’ theory, widely regarded as the leading explanation for the origin of the universe, goes something like this: space and time instantly appeared about 14 billion years ago in a hot, expanding fireball of nearly infinite density.
So the other day Julia Galef and I had the pleasure of interviewing mathematical cosmologist Max Tegmark for the Rationally Speaking podcast. The episode will come out in late January, close to the release of Max’s book, presenting his Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH). We had a lively and interesting conversation, but in the end, I’m not convinced (and I doubt Julia was either).
Set in the hot, Tuscany-like rolling hills of Comfort, Texas, northwest of San Antonio, is a project that is one of sciences’ best kept secrets, although it really isn’t a secret. On a 646 acre property, formerly known as the Bildarth Estate, lays the hopes and dreams of the creators of Timeship.
Is there another you reading this article at this exact moment in a parallel universe? Dr. Brian Greene, author of The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, believes that this freakish quirk of nature may exist; and he discusses its amazing possibilities in this 3-minute TV interview.
The movie Gravity has been widely reviewed at other venues, so I will try and mention a few “new” angles. First, the screen action seems preposterous and unrealistic, but the visuals are stunning and very realistic. Second, the two actors–Sandra Bullock and George Clooney–do a good job. Clooney’s flippant cowboy style works.
A recent UN State of the Future Report projects that by 2100, world population will total 9 billion, just 2 billion more than today. But the report did not account for radically increased life spans. Many forward thinkers, including this writer, believe that today’s biotech efforts with stem cell therapies and genetic engineering techniques, combined with molecular nanotech breakthroughs (the much hyped nanorobots whizzing through our veins), will provide a radical extension of human life.
“In a not-too-distant future, adventurers prepare for a cosmic journey at Spaceport America, but they will not be boarding any rocket-driven spacecraft. Instead, they simply walk through a Star Gate-like archway and instantly step onto a planet millions of light years from Earth.”
First: Sad News - Though expected, the passing of author Iain Banks came as a shock and a blow. I first met Iain in London, where I lived in the mid-1980s, when we were both brash young newcomers. I've always respected his literary fiction, but even more deeply admired his science fiction, especially the last two decades. His Culture Universe was among the few to confront straight-on the myriad hopes, dangers and raw possibilities that might be faced by a humanity-that-succeeds….
What kind of future might we expect as we approach the 22nd century? Of course, no one can track the future this far in advance with 100% accuracy, but if we consider technology advances predicted for the years ahead; then add a touch of imagination, we see a plausible picture of what may lie in store for us.