As part of the BBC Digital Cities week, I was delighted to take part and open the VR/AR Show and Tell event at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Digital Innovation hub last week. It brought together some really amazing pioneers in VR, demonstrating how it can be an interface for research, industry, art, and entertainment. It was a fantastic affirmation of England’s vibrant North West VR/AR network!
I argued in my 2015 paper “Why it matters that you realize you’re in a Computer Simulation” that if our universe is indeed a computer simulation, then that particular discovery should be commonplace among the intelligent lifeforms throughout the universe. The simple calculus of it all being (a) if intelligence is in part equivalent to detecting the environment (b) the environment is a computer simulation (c) eventually nearly all intelligent lifeforms should discover that their environment is a computer simulation. I called this the Savvy Inevitability. In simple terms, if we’re really in a Matrix, we’re supposed to eventually figure that out.
Fully-realized artificial intelligence has long been the holy grail for daydreamers and forward-thinking inventors alike. We aren’t quite there yet, but modern virtual assistants are making the case that we aren’t so very far off. Whether it’s a feature integrated into your smartphone or a standalone assistant like the Amazon Echo, digital assistants have shown great strides in the ability to recognize and parse your spoken commands and respond to them appropriately.
Sometimes it feels like the Internet of Things (or IoT) is a little bit overblown. Maddening commercials like this one try to make it seem like a spiritual revolution for humankind, and you may have seen our thoughts on the emergence of the term “smart” to define objects. Furthermore, the main IoT applications that people actually seem to care about at this point are pretty much FitBits and Nest thermostats-fun Christmas presents, but not exactly groundbreaking technological concepts.
Contrast these two scenarios. First, I’m in the supermarket. I want to remember what I need to buy but I’m not the kind of guy who write things down in lists. I just keep the information stored in my head and then jog my memory when I arrive at the store. If I’m lucky, the list of items immediately presents itself to my conscious mind. I remember what I need to buy. Second, I’m in the supermarket. I want to remember what I need to buy. But I’m hopelessly forgetful so I have to write things down in a list. I take the list from my pocket and look at the items. Now, I remember what I needed to buy.
Academic philosophy has been too timid, merely urging its students to read the works of long-dead philosophers. Rather, each student should temporarily but intensely adopt the personality as well as intellect of a specific bygone intellectual, and live in a challenging virtual environment with that identity. For my new book Virtual Sociocultural Convergence, just published by Springer, I did that for these social theorists of the past: Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Edward Jarvis (1803-1884), William James (1842-1910), Robert Michels (1876–1936), Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942), William F. Ogburn (1886-1959), Pitirim A. Sorokin (1889-1968), Jacob Moreno (1889-1974), George C. Homans (1910-1989), Angus McIntosh (1914-2005), Ernest Edward Kovacs (1919-1962), Daniel Bell (1919-2011), and Seymour Martin Lipset (1922-2006). You could do the same!
I don’t play No Man’s Sky (yet?), the pictures here were taken by my friend Extropia DaSilva who is busy exploring the simulated universe. Perhaps I will follow, but perhaps not: I am sure I would love No Man’s Sky and find it addictive, but I prefer to develop visions of hope for everyone to visit, one day, the big No Man’s Sky out there. However, No Man’s Sky is the richest simulation that we have developed so far, and an impressive technological feat.
Our smart phones, smart watches, and smart bands promise a lot. They promise to make our lives better, to increase our productivity, to improve our efficiency, to enhance our safety, to make us fitter, faster, stronger and more intelligent. They do this through a combination of methods. One of the most important is outsourcing,* i.e. by taking away the cognitive and emotional burden associated with certain activities. Consider the way in which Google maps allows us to outsource the cognitive labour of remembering directions. This removes a cognitive burden and potential source of anxiety, and enables us to get to our destinations more effectively. We can focus on more important things. It’s clearly a win-win.
Advancements in virtual reality are not only technology driven, but actions within virtual environments implicate numerous issues in policy and law. For example, are virtual images copyrightable? Is the speech produced by a virtual avatar afforded rights under the U.S. and other Constitutions? How does criminal law relate to actions performed within virtual environments, or contract law apply to the lease and sale of virtual objects? These and other questions form the theme for this special issue. Legal scholars and practitioners from the U.S. and other jurisdictions are encouraged to submit.
Here’s an interesting idea. It’s taken from Aaron Wright and Primavera de Filippi’s article ‘Decentralized Blockchain Technology and the Rise of Lex Cryptographia’. The article provides an excellent overview of blockchain technology and its potential impact on the law. It ends with an interesting historical reflection. It suggests that the growth of blockchain technology may give rise to a new type of legal order: a lex cryptographia. This is similar to how the growth in international trading networks gave rise to a lex mercatoria and how the growth in the internet gave rise to a lex informatica.
It took me two years to read the 216 pages in Eric Steinhart’s book, Your Digital Afterlives: Computational Theories of Life after Death. Friends know that’s because I’m the world’s slowest reader of philosophical texts that interest me—and just about any text that interests me seems to become philosophical as I read it.
The nature of what is truly real has been pondered by philosophers for centuries. Plato argued we were only seeing shadows of true reality. Descartes pointed out nothing could be proven by your own thoughts. And while we must assume a shared reality to function with other over the course of daily life, that assumption will come to be questioned in the future with the rise of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies.
A la fin du dix-huitième siècle, des bricoleurs ont fabriqué les premières boites à musique : de subtils petits mécanismes capables de jouer des harmonies et mélodies tout seuls. Quelques uns comptaient des cloches, percussions, orgues, et même des violons, tout cela coordonné par un cylindre rotatif. Les exemples les plus ambitieux étaient de véritables orchestres lilliputiens, comme le Panharmonicon, inventé à Vienne en 1805, ou l’Orchestrion, produit en série à Dresde en 1851.
Growing old, and having lost hope of finding love again, I read about
the Lifemates Co-op and was intrigued. “Mr or Ms Right doesn’t exist
in nature. If you want someone that was made for you, come to us.” I
made an appointment to visit their office and talk with a salesperson…
Tal Zarsky’s work has featured on this blog before. He is an expert in the legal aspects of big data and algorithmic decision-making. He recently published a paper entitled “The Trouble with Algorithmic Decision-Making” in which he tries to identify, categorise and respond to some of the leading objections to the use of algorithmic decision-making processes. This is a topic that interests me too, so I was eager to see what he had to say.
According to IEET readers, what were the most stimulating stories of 2015? This month we’re answering that question by posting a countdown of the top 30 articles published this year on our blog (out of more than 1,000), based on how many total hits each one received.
The following piece was first published here on August 30, 2015, and is the #24 most viewed of the year.
There is no doubt that blockchains are a reality-making technology, a mode and means of implementing as many flavors of our own crypto-enlightenments as we can imagine! This includes newer, flatter, more autonomous economic, political, ethical, scientific, and community systems. But not just in the familiar human social constructs like economics and politics, possibly in physical realities too like time. Blocktime’s temporal multiplicity and malleability suggest a reality feature we have never had access to before – making more time.
In the pictures I am with George Carey, Ben Goertzel, and Vlad Bowen, the day before the Modern Cosmism conference last month in New York. Here I try to summarize some interrelated and compatible but slightly different viewpoints on modern Cosmism.
There is a chance that we may be living in a computer simulation created by an AI or a future super-civilization. The goal of the simulations map is to depict an overview of all possible simulations. It will help us to estimate the distribution of other multiple simulations inside it along with their measure and probability. This will help us to estimate the probability that we are in a simulation and – if we are – the kind of simulation it is and how it could end.
Are we living in a simulated reality? Are we merely simulated quantum instances inside a holographic substrate? Is the cosmos an advanced computer simulation created by a future technologically mature human civilization? Who are the original simulators and what are they looking for? Could our reality be the product of a lonely quantum AI machine stranded on the outer edges of our galaxy in the distant future? If we are inside of a simulation, does it even need a creator or could the digital simulation be a naturally emergent phenomena, an infinite fractal, with no beginning and no end.
I remember seeing the children falling through the air, their limbs akimbo, grasping for land or any anchor that would save them from the fall. I remember the feelings of terror, panic, pity and helplessness as I watched, unable to intervene. And then I awoke – alone, scared and slowly came to the realization that it was simply a dream, though still I feared closing my eyes again too soon lest I return. That dream took place more than 30 years ago. Much of the detail has faded – how did they come to fall? Were they pushed or did they jump like lemmings? – still I remember the images, can recall the emotions. It was just a dream; it wasn’t real. But I recall the experience of the dream. The personal semiotics that the dream contained were real, telling me something about my own psyche, my own sense of self and so making it an experience with meaning.
By learning everything there is to know about you and your online habits, social network ETER9 promises a kind of digital immortality wherein an artificially intelligent agent continues to post on your behalf long after you’re dead. The future is creepier than we ever imagined.
We asked the IEET audience “In the coming century will face-to-face, in-body sex be more or less common?” given tech that will encourage virtualization such as brainjacks, porn, sexbots, and electronically-mediated sex. Or will we revel in our newly young, perpetually healthy, and hormonally tweaked bodies by having a lot more face-to-face sex. The 140 of you who responded were two-to-one convinced we are headed for more virtual sex.
25 years ago most people didn’t imagine that the Internet would reshape the way that they existed on a day-to-day basis. 25 years from now people will think about Virtual Reality the same way we think about the Internet today – we won’t even be able to imagine our global existence without it. One of the largest beneficiaries of this technological development could be the global church because VR is going to change the way that Christians participate in worship.
There are three interlocking statistical arguments concerning the nature of the universe in which we live and which provide what I believe to be a strongly convincing indication that our view of reality is seriously flawed on a massive scale. Let’s begin by asking a simple question…