Are there trends in evolution — cosmic, biological, and cultural — that support the claim that life is meaningful, or is becoming meaningful, or is becoming increasingly meaningful? Perhaps there is a progressive direction to evolution, perhaps the meaningful eschatology of the universe will gradually unfold as we evolve, and perhaps we can articulate a cosmic vision to describe this unfolding — or perhaps not.
There is ample opportunity to explore blockchains as a new form of information technology, including what consensus models as a core feature might mean and enable. A key question is “What is consensus-derived information?” that is, what are its properties and benefits vis-à-vis other kinds of information? Is consensus-derived information a different kind or form of information?
In the fall of 2014, a young dying woman, Brittany Maynard, captured the hearts of millions around the world. Now her husband and mother have teamed up with a national advocacy group, Compassion & Choices to honor her final wish—that aid in dying be available to terminally ill Americans in every state.
Many futurists are fond of projecting historical trends into the future. Ray Kurzweil is perhaps the most prominent champion of making bold claims about what the future holds based on what the past has held, but he’s not the only one. Interestingly, though, few have applied this predictive methodology to the phenomenon of existential risks. For the purposes of this paper, I’ll define an existential risk as a catastrophe that’s terminal in intensity, transgenerational in temporal scope, and global in spatial scope, and which affects either our current population (Homo sapiens) or some future population that we value. (See this article for details and criticism of other definitions, such as Nick Bostrom’s.)
When I first learnt of the idea to genetically modify mosquitoes (GMMs) as a strategy for controlling the diseases transmitted by these much-maligned insects, I thought it was refreshingly innovative. Little did I know that scientists had been fiddling with mosquitoes, and other insects, for the same reason long before I was born.
History is littered with dead gods. The Greek and Roman gods, and thousands of others have perished. Yet Allah, Yahweh, Krishna and a few more survive. But will belief in the gods endure? It will not. Our descendents will be too advanced to share such primitive beliefs.
A general rule that rarely fails is: “Be wary of books written by multiple authors”. Multiple authors tend to amplify each other’s crap instead of edit it down, and the results are often embarrassing ideological pamphlets, no matter how smart the premise.The premise here is interesting. The digital age has changed the world in which we live in not only from the point of the consumers but also from the point of the producers. We live in the age of Web platforms that were not designed top-down but sprung up bottom-up. The future may be more of it, and faster.
Today’s American right is burdened with a highly specialized and hyper-amplified sense of outrage. That outrage was triggered during this week’s State of the Union speech, especially by the president’s off-the-cuff response to a group of Republicans who sarcastically applauded the line, “I have no more campaigns to run.”
Some of humanity’s technological innovations are things we would have been better off without: the medieval rack, the atomic bomb and powdered lead potions come to mind. Religions tend to invent ideas or concepts rather than technologies, but like every other creative human enterprise, they produce some really bad ones along with the good.
What is an existential risk? The general concept has been around for decades, but the term was coined by Nick Bostrom in his seminal 2002 paper, here. Like so many empirical concepts – from organism to gene to law of nature, all of which are still debated by philosophically-minded scientists and scientifically-minded philosophers – the notion of an existential risk turns out to be more difficult to define than one might at first think.
Cosmic evolution gave birth to our sun and planet; chemical evolution brought forth atoms, molecules and cells; biological evolution led to us. The process ran itself, there was no intelligent designer. But consciousness emerged, we are here, and within limits we are free. And yet we will die.
Midway through the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, one comment stands out. “A criminal case,” defense attorney Edward MacMahon told the jury at the outset, “is not a place where the CIA goes to get its reputation back.” But that’s where the CIA went with this trial in its first week — sending to the witness stand a procession of officials who attested to the agency’s virtues and fervently decried anyone who might provide a journalist with classified information.
Looked at in the longer historical perspective we have already achieved something our ancestors would consider superlongevity. In the UK life expectancy at birth averaged around 37 in 1700. It is roughly 81 today. The extent to which this is a reflection of decreased child mortality versus an increase in the survival rate of the elderly I’ll get to a little later, but for now, just try to get your head around the fact that we have managed to nearly double the life expectancy of human beings in a little over two centuries.
Here it was again. This holiday weekend we saw a lot of media coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr. But we heard very little about who he really was – a brave and visionary leader whose vision is as relevant today as ever. Dr. King’s life and legacy stand as a challenge to an entrenched society of privilege and injustice. Here are nine quotes that reflect that legacy.
The future world could be one of multi-species intelligence. The possibility space could include “classic” humans, enhanced humans, digital mindfile uploads, and many forms of artificial intelligence: deep learning neural nets, machine learning algorithms, blockchain-based DACs (distributed autonomous organizations), and whole-brain software emulations.
Religion is just one part of the lethal cocktail, but it is a powerful intoxicant. The year 2015 has opened to slaughter in the name of gods. In Paris, two Islamist brothers executed Charlie Hebdo cartoonists “in defense of the Prophet,” while an associate killed shoppers in a kosher grocery. In Nigeria, Islamist members of Boko Haram massacred a town to cries of Allahu Akbar—Allah is the greatest! Simultaneously, the United Nations released a report detailing the “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims in the Central African Republic by Christian militias, sometimes reciting Bible verses.
Consider your smartphone for a moment. It provides you with access to a cornucopia of information. Some of it is general, stored on publicly accessible internet sites, and capable of being called up to resolve any pub debate one might be having (how many U.S. presidents have been assassinated? or how many times have Brazil won the World Cup?). Some of it is more personal, and includes a comprehensive databank of all emails and text message conversations you have had, your calendar appointments, the number of steps you have taken on any given day, books read, films watched, calories consumed and so forth.
Transhumanism is: The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities … transhumanism is a way of thinking about the future that is based on the premise that the human species in its current form does not represent the end of our development but rather a comparatively early phase.1
If you attended CES 2015, you probably found it was stuffed with the excitement of connected devices, homes, cars, robots and even drones! While record numbers of attendees embarked on CES 2015, I observed every few seconds Twitter buzzing with enthusiasm and wonder for automating routines and tasks will improve our lives. This year’s conference let us in on what is and what will be our future, – at least our future for the next few years. My observations cause me to conclude:
The challenges of governing emerging technologies are highlighted by the World Economic Forum in the 2015 edition of its Global Risks Report. Focusing in particular on synthetic biology, gene drives and artificial intelligence, the report warns that these and other emerging technologies present hard-to-foresee risks, and that oversight mechanisms need to more effectively balance likely benefits and commercial demands with a deeper consideration of ethical questions and medium to long-term risks.
John Cottingham was born in London in 1943 and received his PhD from Oxford University. He is presently Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Reading and an Honorary Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford. He is a proponent today of the view that life is meaningless without a god.
Getting out of Earth’s gravity well is hard. Conventional rockets are expensive, wasteful, and as we’re frequently reminded, very dangerous. Thankfully, there are alternative ways of getting ourselves and all our stuff off this rock. Here’s how we’ll get from Earth to space in the future.
The Middle East has often been perceived as a constantly belligerent area, where human life has been held cheap, since the time of despots and tribal wars well to the present. Yet, in fact, the Middle East would be more appropriately seen as a cradle of civilization, where many ideas of human development had their roots, where many technological and scientific concepts were first formulated, and where the goals of preserving and extending human life, even ideas of radically extended longevity, have been pronounced among the earliest.
The advent of blockchain technology has prompted the questioning of many concepts that have been taken for granted for years such as money, currency, markets, economics, politics, citizenship, governance, authority, and self-determination.
Developments with the new Transhumanist Party (TP) in Europe have been very rapid in the last few days. A couple of days after Christmas, the only TP to exist was in the USA. Now, only two weeks later, there are groups working toward registered parties in seven European countries, an emerging umbrella organisation for the European parties, and another group in Australia for good measure. You can find details of all these groups at http://transhumanistparty.eu.
“Americans don’t want angry, defensive figures running for president,” Democratic operative Will Marshall told McClatchy’s David Lightman this week. But who, precisely, is angry and defensive? As the pushback to Wall Street’s influence on government grows stronger, it is the banking industry’s supporters who sound enraged. And as economic populism gains traction in Democratic circles, it is corporate Democrats like Marshall who find themselves increasingly on the defensive.
The increasing ability of people to exchange goods, services, and labor directly, via online platforms, is transforming how modern economies operate. But to ensure that the rise of the “sharing economy” works efficiently and improves conditions for all parties, some regulation is needed.