Pandora’s Brain is one of the most philosophical science fiction novels I have read recently. And since Calum Chace has been a valuable contributor to Singularity Weblog, as well as a great blogger with an interesting and diverse experience in his own right, I thought that he would make a great guest for my Singularity 1on1 podcast. And so I invited him for an interview which turned out to be a very enjoyable conversation indeed.
The civilized world has an ever-intensifying relationship to automated computer technology. It is involved in nearly everything we do, every day, from the time we wake to the time we go to sleep. Why, then, does so much of our entertainment reflect a deep-set fear of technology and its potential for failure?
One can rarely find four thinkers as distinct from one another as Gorbachev, Kissinger, Chomsky, and Ron Paul, and yet, for all of their differences, each of them is clearly guided by a systematic, thoroughly considered intellectual framework. All four of these thinkers have concluded, starting from different practical and moral premises, that further escalation of the Ukraine crisis by the United States would be a dangerous, deeply inadvisable behavior.
Looking back on my early experience as a young engineer, I am reminded how little my colleagues and I appreciated that what we did would change the world, for good and for bad. I am also reminded how Marcel Golay, one of my early mentors understood the duality of technology and how this feature plays large in its application for the right purpose.
As we head deeper into the 21st century, we’re starting to catch a glimpse of the fantastic technological possibilities that await. But we’re also starting to get a grim sense of the potential horrors. Here are 10 frightening technologies that should never, ever, come into existence.
An important question regarding human enhancement in the military is how the deployment of modified soldiers will redefine the ethical limitations on how combatants may be treated. The provisions of the Geneva Conventions and other bodies of international law prohibiting torture generally rest on certain assumptions about the human condition, such as pain thresholds, sleep requirements, and other forms of fragility.
Within the next few years, autonomous vehicles—alias robot cars—could be weaponized, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fears. In a recently disclosed report, FBI experts wrote that they believe that robot cars would be “game changing” for law enforcement. The self-driving machines could be professional getaway drivers, to name one possibility. Given the pace of developments on autonomous cars, this doesn’t seem implausible.
The transfer of used military equipment from the armed forces to police departments around the country has been accompanied, at least to a certain extent, by a shift in public thinking. The news media have played a critical part in that shift, both in its coverage and in what it chooses not to cover.
I just finished a thrilling little book about the first machine war. The author writes of a war set off by a terrorist attack where the very speed of machines being put into action,and the near light speed of telecommunications whipping up public opinion to do something now, drives countries into a world war. In his vision whole new theaters of war, amounting to fourth and fifth dimensions, have been invented. Amid a storm of steel huge hulking machines roam across the landscape and literally shred human beings in their path to pieces. Low flying avions fill the sky taking out individual targets or help calibrate precision attacks from incredible distances beyond. Wireless communications connect soldiers and machine together in a kind of world-net…
Transhumanists as a rule may prefer to contemplate implants and genetic engineering, but few if any violations of morphological freedom exceed being torn to pieces by shrapnel or dashed against concrete by an overpressure wave. In this piece I argue that the settler-colonial violence in occupied Palestine relates to core aspects of modernity and demands futurist attention both emotionally and intellectually.
World Beyond War has created a set of online interactive maps to help us all see where and how war and preparations for war exist in the world today. You can find the maps we’ve created thus far at http://bit.ly/mappingmilitarism and send us your ideas for more maps here. We’ll be updating some of these maps with new data every year and displaying animation of the progress away from war or the regress toward more war as the case may be.
After the reprint at the ClubOfINFO webzine of Franco Cortese’s excellent IEET article about how advanced technology clashes with the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, I am interested enough that I have decided to put together this response. Changes in technology do eventually force changes in the law, and some laws ultimately have to be scrapped. However there is an argument to be made that the Second Amendment’s deterrent against tyranny should not be dismissed too easily.
The three laws of robotics, according to science fiction author Isaac Asimov, are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
When we start talking about ending war, one common reaction—not as common as “You’re a lunatic,” but fairly common—is to propose that if we want to get rid of war we’ll have to get rid of something else first, or sometimes it’s a series of something elses.
Has human evolution and progress been propelled by war? The question is not an easy one to ask, not least because war is not merely one of the worst but arguably the worst thing human beings inflict on one another comprising murder, collective theft, and, almost everywhere but in the professional militaries of Western powers, and only quite recently, mass, and sometimes systematic rape.
World economics seer Louis-Vincent Gave, of the Gavekal Partnership, has explained the pivotal meaning of the Crimea Incident in a larger context which he calls a looming "World War IV" —the conflict between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam, in which Sunnis control larger reserves of oil, but Shia populations are restive in the very places where that oil is pumped. If a rising axis of Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq takes hold - (the latter three Shia-ruled, currently) - then fear will tighten across the Sunni belt.
Everyone alive today owes their life to a man most of us have never heard of, and that I didn’t even know existed until last week. On September, 26 1983, just past mid-night, Soviet lieutenant colonel Stanislav Petrov was alerted by his satellite early warning system that an attack from an American ICBM was underway. Normal protocol should have resulted in Petrov giving the order to fire Russian missiles at the US in response.
So now we (or at least the 0.03% of us who care to hunt for it) discover that U.S. military spending is not actually being cut at all, but increasing. Also going up: U.S. nuclear weapons spending. Some of the new nukes will violate treaties, but the entire program violates the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which requires disarmament, not increased armament.
A senior American spy chief has released his assessment of the most troubling threats facing the US — a list that includes terrorism, hackers, WMD proliferation, pandemics, extreme weather events — and the militarization of space.
Throughout the transhumanist movement there is a strong belief, that transhuman technology will eventually end all wars and poverty. On the other hand there is a very large military interest in transhuman technology, like DARPA. There is an old saying, that war stimulates progress, but like with every stimulant, one must care not to overdose.
Carl Gibson and Steve Horn have done an important service in writing their article outlining Srdja Popovic’s inexcusable collaboration with the global intelligence company STRATFOR and his disclosure of the activities of movements and activists with whom he has worked. Unfortunately, as will be spelled out below, the article falls into a rather simplistic and reductionist analysis of Popovic’s motivations and, more critically, misrepresents the nature of the popular uprisings in Serbia and other countries. The article also contains a number of factual errors and misleading statements.
In The American Way of War, historian Russell Weigley describes a grinding strategy of destruction employed by the U.S. military over the last 150 years. To end the Civil War, Grant felt he had to destroy lee’s soldiers; in World War I, Pershing relentlessly bombarded and wore down Germany’s proud fighting machine; and the Army Air Corps pulverized major German and Japanese cities to win World War II.
There is an overwhelming trend in the world of warfare today, which is to move combat to remote operated systems first, and then to autonomous platforms, in the very near future. We are told that the precision of these tools is without comparisons in the world and their implementation will reduce casualties (both military and civilians), as well as collateral damage, resulting in a more humane battlefield.
The Syrian civil war has already caused over 100,000 deaths. As tragic as this is, it is miniscule compared to the massive and potentially permanent global destruction that could come from the gigaton gorilla lurking in the background: nuclear war between the United States and Russia. While the U.S. and Russia find themselves on opposite sides in Syria, their diplomacy over Syria's chemical weapons could help build the trust and confidence needed to reduce the risk of nuclear war.
As President Obama has continuously sound off the war drums against Syria, and as the people anxiously wait for a response by Congress as to whether or not another U.S. war against a sovereign Middle Eastern country is ethically desirable, the technoprogressive left of the Transhumanist movement has all but declared a voice in this debate.
Once again our nation is contemplating an act of war, entering into one of the most solemn debates a society can have. It’s worth restating some fundamental principles as that debate begins, especially for those of us who support economic justice, progressive ideals, and the reinvigoration of American democracy.
If we take what amounts to the very long view of the matter it’s quite easy to see how both the tradition of human rights and transhumanism emerge from what are in effect two different Christian emphasises on the life of Christ. Of course, this is to look at things from the perspective of the West alone. One can easily find harbingers of both human rights and transhumanism outside of Christianity and the West in Non-Western societies and religious/philosophical traditions in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or Taoism among others.
Back in 1992, Francis Fukuyama famously argued that the advent of Western liberal democracy spelled nothing less than the endpoint of sociocultural evolution: we have finally discovered the best way to govern people and organize society, and that’s gonna be it.
Singularity, or something far short of it, the very real revolution in artificial intelligence and robotics is already encroaching on the existential nature of aspects of the human condition that have existed for as long as our history.