The West African Ebola outbreak is finally starting to approach manageable levels, after nearly 18 excruciating months and over 11,000 lost lives. Here’s what the current situation on the ground looks like and how the battle against Ebola finally might be won.
This is the largest and longest Ebola outbreak in human history. At its peak, there were 950 confirmed cases each week, prompting fears of a global pandemic. Officials have reported 28,421 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Of these, some 11,300 people have died — a fatality rate of 40%. A total of 881 healthcare workers have been infected; of those, 513 died.
I suppose nearly everyone reading this blog post is already aware of the flurry of fear and excitement Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has recently stirred up with his book Superintelligence, and its theme that superintelligent AGI will quite possibly doom all humans and all human values. Bostrom and his colleagues at FHI and MIRI/SIAI have been promoting this view for a while, and my general perspective on their attitudes and arguments is also pretty well known.
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.
The news is a tough nut to crack in today’s over-stimulated and often sensational, media-driven world. This is true more than ever in the coverage of artificial intelligence (AI). Many of us are not sure if AI is going to wake up any moment and wreak insidious havoc, taking over or destroying society as we know it.
Dr. Andras Kornai is all about separating AI fact from fiction.
The future of nations is not written in the stars but in their demographics. In particular, a futurist can study national fertility rates, urbanisation trends and the age structure of population groups to get a picture of a country’s long-term future.
Remarkable polymath Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding fathers of America and, back in the 1770s, he enjoyed unbridled optimism about the future of his nation, which at the time was still overwhelmingly rural and comparatively “backward”. Why, then, was his prognosis so rosy?
The most recent mass-shooting tragedy sets into stark contrast two national misfortunes. At surface, they seem similar—crazed gunmen opening fire on citizens and lethal misbehavior by a minority of bad cops. But in several important ways, the trends are diametrically opposite.
Google’s robotic cars learn from each other when they are back in the garage, and train in simulated worlds at an accelerated pace. Our future will be inhabited by smart machines using their time much differently than we do.
Reading the continued, ongoing arguments about gun regulations (“reasonable” or otherwise) is frustrating. Not only for the usual reasons (absolutist positions, inability to recognize multi-causal phenomena, relentless hostility towards different opinions, etc.), but because of how incredibly irrelevant it is becoming. 3D-printable firearms are already here, and becoming increasingly reliable. Every gun control law in the world is obsolete.
England’s idea seems to be that the Second Law of Thermodynamics makes life inevitable. He has been quoted as saying that “You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant.”
When someone asks me what I do, and I tell them that I’m a futurist, the first thing they ask “what is a futurist?” The short answer that I give is “I use current scientific research in emerging technologies to imagine how we will live in the future.”
However, as you can imagine the art of futurology and foresight is much more complex. I spend my days thinking, speaking and writing about the future, and emerging technologies. On any given day I might be in Warsaw speaking at an Innovation Conference, in London speaking at a Global Leadership Summit, or being interviewed by the Discovery Channel. Whatever the situation, I have one singular mission. I want you to think about the future.
Traditional farming is taking a huge toll on the environment—a problem that’s set to worsen due to our ever-growing global population. Yet there are some high-tech solutions. Here’s what you need to know about the burgeoning practice of controlled-environment agriculture and how it’s set to change everything from the foods we eat to the communities we live in.
Pourquoi et comment est-il possible de concevoir une évolution transhumaniste dans un contexte de Décroissance?
Une opposition en apparence
À la lecture des publications proposées par le courant des “objecteurs de croissance”, on pourrait être amenés à penser que ce mouvement n’a strictement rien à échanger avec le Transhumanisme. Leur présentation relève de la critique la plus radicale, la plus hostile même, se confondant avec celle d’une organisation comme l’association Pièce et Main d’Oeuvre. Leurs rédacteurs n’hésitent pas à reprendre pour eux le qualificatif de “néoluddites”, à savoir, ceux qui se disent prêts à détruire les outils de la technologie, les machines.
Not only was “peak oil” off-base… it was way, way off base. Out in the shale fields, it appears that a new kind of Moore’s Law is at work, with incredible new technologies making wells up to 50% more efficient per year! You may not like carbon—and indeed over the span of a decade, neither do I. But it is in all of our interests that (1) coal be driven out of business by natural gas, (2) American manufacturing be spurred by cheap natural gas, (3) the Middle East lose its compulsory power over our attention, (4) that some powers in the Middle East, especially, come to realize they are not unlimited gods.
Transhumanists often disregard overpopulation as a serious problem; perhaps many just accept the relaxed viewpoint Max More expressed in his essay “Superlongevity Without Overpopulation” published in 2005. I am guilty of that mimicry — in 2009 I supported More’s analysis in my hplusmagazine.com essay “To Breed or Not To Breed?”
Dan Barker, echoing an idea expressed by many atheists, describes theology as “a subject without an object.” Since there’s little reason for thinking a God exists – much less the God of the Bible – the entire field is ultimately vacuous, despite the grandiloquent rigamarole of, as Jerry Coyne puts it, Sophisticated Theologians(TM). Theology studies nothing. Its heart and soul is a phenomenon that almost certainly doesn’t exist.
Within the Anglo-American, and then specifically American political discourse, the dominant paradigm for around two generations right now is that the main guarantor of liberty (defined as the absence of physical force) is the institution of private property, and the main threat against private property and thence liberty is the state. While the purest expression of these sentiments reside amongst Market Libertarian elements, these thoughts have come to dominate a lot of the thinking within political economics in the west, and thence in the world.
Among transhumanists, Nick Bostrom is well-known for promoting the idea of ‘existential risks’, potential harms which, were they come to pass, would annihilate the human condition altogether. Their probability may be relatively small, but the expected magnitude of their effects are so great, so Bostrom claims, that it is rational to devote some significant resources to safeguarding against them. (Indeed, there are now institutes for the study of existential risks on both sides of the Atlantic.) Moreover, because existential risks are intimately tied to the advancement of science and technology, their probability is likely to grow in the coming years.
NREL recently released data showing that next-generation wind turbines could reach an incredible capacity factor of 60% over 2 million square kilometers of the US, or enough to provide roughly 10x as much electricity as the US uses. If true, this would be a game-changer in wind power, as I explain below.
In June, the Vatican released Pope Francis’s much anticipated encyclical letter Laudato Si on the environment and humanity’s relationship with the natural world. The encyclical is worth exploring for those interested in global catastrophic and existential risks (GCE-risks) because the particular environmental problems the Pope discusses are placed in the general context of the many GCE-risks that humanity faces.
“Blue Gold.” Water is becoming dangerously rare and valuable in drought-stricken areas around the globe, including my home in California.
Today citizens in developed nations each wastefully splash away 100s of gallons per day. But what if fresh H2O continues to dwindle? Suppose humans were rationed a meager allotment, like 10, or 5, or even 2 gallons per day?
One integral part of the design we in the Earth Organisation for Sustainability envision is that humanity needs to utilize information technology in order to establish a better overview of the resource flows that we use on the planet, as well as the planet’s own capacity. More of this can be read in the article “The Three Criteria” on this blog.
We are living in a world with many challenges and even existential risks. Yet only a relatively small number of people seem to be concerned about this, while others apparently oblivious behave adversely towards these challenges, e.g. through an environmentally unfriendly lifestyle, in developing as well as developed countries. Very often the reason for this behaviour is not lack of education, but wrong education. In many places children are neither educated properly in sciences, nor are their rationality skills trained. Instead in many parts of the world, the curriculum is linked to unscientific ideologies, which pupils are prone to believe forever if indoctrinated in early childhood.
At some point technology will allow us to live forever. With billionaires spending millions on research  and huge corporations such as Google getting in on the act, very soon we are likely to see rapid advances in life expectancy – with the ultimate aim of radical life extension. All diseases will be cured, and the cellular aging that leads to the deterioration in body and mind will be slowed and eventually reversed so that everybody can choose how long they want to live for.
The cradle of life on Earth can be said to be found in the blue. For many hundreds of millions of years, the ascending continents of the young planet were as dead and barren as the wastelands of Mars, while the oceans and lakes were teeming with life. Water was the solvent in which the first life-bearing cells emerged during the chaotic epochs after the birth of the Moon.
The dangers that face Earth and its inhabitants are diverse and intricate. The solutions, if any exists per particular danger, are equally complex and nuanced. Below you will find a shortlist of threats that range from conventional to bizarre.
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