There’s a new “viral” video making the rounds. It’s a 15-minute pro gay-marriage film that interviews children about the concepts of prejudice, fairness and gay marriage. All the children in the video except one seem to think that basic principles of fairness should apply to men marrying men and women marrying women. However, throughout the video, one kid insists gay marriage “is just wrong.” When pressed for why this is so, the boy (who appears to be a five- or six-year-old) can provide no reason for his assertion.
As we learn more and more details regarding government spying, it seems more and more foolhardy to trust our security to third party businesses.The state requires information on its subjects to be effective. From the first census in Egypt more than 5000 years ago, states have sought personal information on their citizens, especially in tyrannical states, where informants and secret police gather information on any and all potentially subversive activities.
Big data generates big myths. To help society set realistic expectations, the right kind of skepticism is needed. Kate Crawford, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and Visiting Professor at MIT’s Center for Civic Media, does a fantastic job of explaining why folks are too optimistic about the promise of what big data can offer. She rightly argues that too much faith in it inclines us to misunderstand what data reflects, overestimate the political efficacy of information, and become insensitive to civil rights concerns.
For Google* there was Innocence of Muslims. For Twitter, there were, and still are, rape threats. For Facebook, now there are decapitations. Facebook’s controversy is the newest in a long line of quagmires that make companies—or at least their customers—question American platitudes about free speech. It comes after Facebook briefly decided not to ban one video of the brutal decapitation of a woman in Mexico to go viral.
The current level of general surveillance in society is incompatible with human rights. To recover our freedom and restore democracy, we must reduce surveillance to the point where it is possible for whistleblowers of all kinds to talk with journalists without being spotted. To do this reliably, we must reduce the surveillance capacity of the systems we use.
Humanity is on the threshold of technologies so great; we may not be mature enough to handle them. The converging technologies predicted by Kurzweil’s Singularity offer technological paradigm-shifts. More interestingly to me, Artificial Intelligence (AI) may become more self-aware than humans. The imperatives for creating smarter-than-human AI sheds light on a possible solution to our blind drive for more technology without consideration.
It’s no secret that Hollywood is known for its anti-technology films, stirring fear of a supposed robot-led apocalypse – ranging from The Matrix, the Terminator series, I Robot, THX 1138, Metropolis, etc. etc. So little number of films have been done with an opposite direction in the storyline, i.e. Robot & Frank, A.I., Short Circuit.
“Big data” can be defined as a problem-solving philosophy that leverages massive datasets and algorithmic analysis to extract “hidden information and surprising correlations.” Not only does big data pose a threat to traditional notions of privacy, but it also compromises socially shared information. This point remains underappreciated because our so-called public disclosures are not nearly as public as courts and policymakers have argued—at least, not yet. That is subject to change once big data becomes user friendly.
The computational theory of mind is a view often tacitly held by some of the world’s most preeminent thinkers, especially in neuroscience and artificial intelligence. Much of the hope that technology will one day allow for mind uploading and conscious artificial intelligence is based on the unfounded assumption that computationalism is true; that if we have a system that behaves as if it is conscious then that is good enough reason to attribute consciousness to it.
Major Ashlend Fein, US Army prosecutor in Bradley Manning’s court martial, caught my attention when he referred to Manning as an “anarchist” in closing arguments. As an anarchist, I’d be proud to share that label with Manning. But I’ve never heard from any reliable source that he considers himself one.
In the recent IEET survey we asked about your support or opposition to a variety of movements including transhumanism and singularitarianism. Your answers allow us to tease apart some of the differences between these two movements.
Technological innovation and information communication technologies (ICTs) represent a way for developing world nations to foster economic growth and development, improve levels of education and training, as well as address gender issues within society.
Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution recently wrote a post called No One is Innocent: “I broke the law yesterday and again today and I will probably break the law tomorrow. Don’t mistake me, I have done nothing wrong. I don’t even know what laws I have broken. Nevertheless, I am reasonably confident that I have broken some laws, rules, or regulations recently because its hard for anyone to live today without breaking the law. Doubt me? Have you ever thrown out some junk mail that came to your house but was addressed to someone else? That’s a violation of federal law punishable by up to 5 years in prison…
When I was a kid, I remember a guy named Daniel Ellsberg leaking some classified documents to the New York Times about the Vietnam War called “the Pentagon Papers.” When the whistleblower finally stood trial for espionage, my parents weren’t quite sure how to feel. But when Richard Nixon’s crew was revealed to have been conducting illegal wiretaps in an effort to discredit the former intelligence contractor, well, they were outraged and decided Ellsberg was a hero. So did the judge and most of America.
After a former NSA contractor revealed extensive US government data mining operations, pundits, activists, and journalists proclaimed “I’m outraged the government would do this!” But there was also another type of response, though more muted. Some of us said “I sure as hell hope the government is doing this.”
A lot of people would like to live forever, or at least for much longer than they currently do. But there is one obvious impediment to this: our biological bodies break down over time and cannot (with current technologies) be sustained indefinitely. So what can be done to avoid our seemingly inevitable demise? For some, like Aubrey de Grey, the answer lies in tweaking and re-engineering our biological bodies. For others, the answer lies in the more radical solution of mind-uploading, or the technological replacement of our current biological bodies.
It should be self-evident that recent NSA revelations bring up some grave concerns about civil liberties. But they also raise other profound and troubling questions – about the privatization of our military, our inflated expectations for digital technology, and the increasingly cozy relationship between Big Corporations (including Wall Street) and Big Defense.
I was quick to tweet and post on Facebook about the Guardian and the Washington Post’s stories about the NSA’s PRISM program – a program described as giving the NSA access to the data of hundreds of millions of internet users via direct access to servers at Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, and other internet companies.
Submissions are invited for a special issue of the Journal of Evolution and Technology on the topic of the impending global decline of employment due to automation, disintermediation and other effects of emerging technologies, and the need for reform and expansion of state income support such as a universal basic income guarantee (BIG). Papers questioning the premises of technological unemployment or the desirability of a BIG are also welcome.
In Khannea SunTzu remarkable new novel she’ll never write - The NeoProgressive’s New Deal - the leader character, Cassandra Assange (Daughter of Julian Assange, born in 2003), is the target of literal micro drone assassination attempts, a vicious media campaign and endless incapacitating litigation. She became a political activist like her father in the mid 2020s, and exemplified the new counter-cultural ideal. Militantly lesbian and technoprogressive she gave birth of a clone of her wife, and her wife gave birth to a clone of Cassandra in the late 2020s.
We are changing the way we build machines, so we may soon be able to build machines that are more like us. In the movie Prometheus, a work set in the future supposedly about our search for our own beginnings, one of the characters is an android named David. David is a lot more human in many ways than the human characters in the film.
The US House of Representatives revitalized efforts to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which never got the approval of the Senate last year. Yesterday the bill passed by a margin of 288 to 127 after two days of debate, which included the potential of malicious cyber attacks raining down on American power grids and disrupting livelihoods.
‘Black Mirror’ purports to be one thing - “a hybrid of The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected that taps into our contemporary unease about the modern world”, and a single viewing of any episode will affirm this statement. Covering issues of privacy, mob justice, televisual spectacle, relationships in the modern age and the movement of communication, ‘Black Mirror’ ties all these strands together through our use of technology.
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.
“I guide you, I really help you along to get on board with the argument. But you don’t have to take that hook and believe it. It’s important to me that we think about these things, because ultimately every person in the world should come to terms with some of these notions and come up with their own ideas.” – Doug Wolens, on The Singularity
The loss of thousands of US jobs. $300 billion in trade secrets stolen from the United States last year. Doing nothing to combat other countries using this data to compete against America. “That’s just wrong,” Democratic Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger announced during a panel session at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) less than two weeks ago.