Geoengineering has an image problem. Some proposed geoengineering projects, such as space mirrors or cloud seeding, seem like they come from the pages of a science fiction novel. Those who propose these projects are treated with belittling rhetoric. Other projects face a different type of imaging problem; the project’s proponents are accused of having vague or unspecified goals and timelines. Such projects are summarily dismissed as being idealistic, out of touch or nebulous.
By around mid-century, many future followers predict the pace of technological progression in genetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will become so fast that humans will undergo radical evolution. Advances that provide a forever youthful and healthy state of being could be realized.
It’s not enough to point out that our political system is completely corrupted by money, including money from coal and oil and nukes and gas. Of course it is. And if we had direct democracy, polls suggest we would be investing in green energy. But saying the right thing to a pollster on a phone or in a focus group is hardly the extent of what one ought sensibly to do when the fate of the world is at stake.
Thanks to genetic research, we may soon see people with the money to do so making sure their kids are born-to-succeed – parents paying to guarantee their kids have the right stuff. I’m not talking about a straightened spine or a functional optic nerve. I’m talking about designer kids: those made with healthy bodies, intelligent minds, and perhaps a certain specific ability to boot.
University of Wisconsin anthropologist John Hawks recently discovered that Earth's rapid population growth played a key role in human development by supercharging our evolutionary progress. The researcher identified 1,800 gene changes that were made in ancient times when we shared our world with the Neanderthals, which was an unusually large amount for such a brief period. The new genes, many that protect us from disease, emerged as our ancestors evolved into today's humans.
It might be said that some contemporary futurists tend to use technological innovation and scientific discovery in the same way God was said to use the whirlwind against defiant Job, or Donald Rumsfeld treated the poor citizens of Iraq a decade ago. It’s all about the “shock and awe”. One glance at something like KurzweilAI.Net leaves a reader with the impression that brand new discoveries are flying off the shelf by the nanosecond and that of all our deepest sci-fi dreams are about to come true. No similar effort is made, at least that I know of, to show all the scientific and technological paths that have led into cul-de-sac, or chart all the projects packed up and put away like our childhood chemistry sets to gather dust in the attic of the human might-have- been. In exact converse to the world of political news, in technological news it’s the jetpacks that do fly we read about not the ones that never get off the ground.
I haven’t said much political in a while. Moreover, amid all the talk of budget balancing and sequesters, I’d like to shift attention to a topic that may - at first sight - seem a bit wonkish and detached: farm subsidies. In fact, they are an area where Blue America remains frightfully ignorant and where the flood of entitlement spending merits closer attention, in times of near bankruptcy.
In 2002, 26 percent of Norwegian contraceptive users relied on a long acting method that they could simply fit and forget, the IUD. In the United States, that rate was 2 percent. Long acting reversible contraceptives (aka LARCs) such as IUDs and implants are rapidly growing in popularity, but the US and Canada lag behind many other countries in making these top tier methods widely available.
On Monday, the National Institute for Occupational Safety released new data on the potential role multi-walled carbon nanotubes play as a cancer-promoter – a substance that promotes the development of cancer in the presence of a carcinogen.
Positive futurists believe we will see more progress during the next 37 years than was experienced in 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 represents a decade-by-decade look at how we may evolve.
The “Darwinian” theory of evolution is here to stay. I used the scare quotes to refer to it in the previous sentence because the current incarnation, known as the Modern Synthesis (and incorrectly referred to as “neo-Darwinism,” which actually was an even earlier version) is significantly more sophisticated and encompassing than the original insight by Darwin. Indeed, my opinion — which is certainly not universally shared — is that evolutionary biology is currently undergoing another gradual but significant change, referred to as the Extended Synthesis, that will expand its domain of application and explanatory tools even further.
One of the unfortunate truths of the climate crisis we’re in is that when we finally stop making things worse, it won’t suddenly make things better. The carbon dioxide we’ve put into the atmosphere and the oceans will persist for hundreds, even thousands of years; temperatures will remain high; many ecosystems will be permanently disrupted; and species driven to extinction—well, they’ll still be extinct. The eventual return to a planetary equilibrium won’t happen on anything approaching a human timescale.
This past December I was at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Society for Risk Analysis. Several sessions focused on emerging technologies governance. Each presentation nominally focused on one technology, mainly synthetic biology and nanotechnology. But most of the ideas discussed applied equally well to any emerging technology.
In 2012, superstorm Sandy pummeled the East Coast to the tune of $50 to $60 billion in damage. A record-breaking drought wiped out almost a third of the nation’s corn crop,resulting in roughly $18 billion in losses. The Arctic ice cap shrank to a record minimum, decades ahead of the projections made by climate scientists as recently as 2007. In short, 2012 was the year that climate change made its impact, more than any other year in modern history. Worse, it’s just the beginning — a small taste of what’s to come.
Albert Einstein famously asserted that “we will not solve present problems with the same thinking that created them”, so pointing out that the problems we now face—problems like climate change, rising income inequality, financial crises, resource depletion, and so on—are the product of old ways of thinking. The problems remain unsolved, in other words, only because our thinking hasn’t yet caught up. So it’s our thinking that needs to change.
For several months now, I’ve wanted to put together a post talking about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and particularly in the context of food. I’ve had several debates with my friends – I tend toward the pro-GMO camp and several of my friends are anti-GMO. I maintained that if they simply looked at the science, reviewed the research, and avoided sources with an agenda that often post incorrect information that they would come around to my way of thinking.
In Western cultures, nature is a cosmological, primal ordering force and a terrestrial condition that exists in the absence of human beings. Both meanings are freely implied in everyday conversation. We distinguish ourselves from the natural world by manipulating our environment through technology. In What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly proposes that technology behaves as a form of meta-nature, which has greater potential for cultural change than the evolutionary powers of the organic world alone.
In the first two parts of this series I explored the idea that a self-modifying singular intelligence may be doomed to self-destruction because of motivational interference . The idea is at least as old as Epicurus, who advised: “If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.”
Let’s build a Dyson sphere! By enveloping the sun with a massive array of solar panels, humanity would graduate to a Type 2 Kardashev civilization capable of utilizing nearly 100% of the sun’s energy output.
Does your vote really count? Is your bio-region dominated by a far-away demographic? Is your community powerless? Is progress in your city halted by small-brained conservative dinosaurs hundreds of miles away?
Hurricane Sandy fizzled out over Quebec Wednesday morning, leaving a trail of devastation along the US East Coast and into southern Ontario. As I write this, Sandy’s death toll stands at 132 people – 71 in the Caribbean and 61 in the United States. Since making landfall in the US, it flooded the New York City subway system, left 8 million people without electricity (6.5 million of whom still lack it), destroyed the Atlantic City boardwalk, and shut down the New York Stock Exchange for 2 days. Estimates of its economic damage are up to $50 billion, making it the 2nd most expensive storm in US history, after Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans.
What happens when you mix Sartre’s Existentialism with Existential Risks? Human responsibility and being true to oneself (not lying to oneself) becomes a center point for experts, “leaders”, intellectuals, and all of rational humanity.