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.
‘Intimate Surveillance’ is the title of an article by Karen Levy - a legal and sociological scholar currently-based at NYU. It shines light on an interesting and under-explored aspect of surveillance in the digital era. The forms of surveillance that capture most attention are those undertaken by governments in the interests of national security or corporations in the interests of profit.
I’m going to start with a few brief opening remarks about what I think is the habit of thought that has made the United States #1 in the world in prisons and wars. And then I’ll be glad to try to answer as many questions as you think of. These remarks will be published online at American Herald Tribune.
Does predictability provide an overriding concept and perhaps a metric for evaluating when LAWS are acceptable or when they might be unacceptable under international humanitarian law? Arguably, if the behavior of an autonomous weapon is predictable, deploying it might be considered no different from, for example, launching a ballistic missile. This, of course, presumes that we can know how predictable the behavior of a specific autonomous weapon will be.
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.
Deadly environmental pollution has become an existential risk that threatens the prospect for the long-term survival of our species and a great many others. Here we will focus on the nuclear waste aspect of the problem and ways to mitigate it before there is a critical tipping point in our global ecosystem.
As philosopher Nick Bostrom said in his 2001 paper titled “Existential Risks,” published in the Journal of Evolution and Technology, “Our future, and whether we will have a future at all, may well be determined by how we deal with these challenges.”1
A l’aube de l’histoire de l’humanité, l’intelligence de ceux qui nous ont précédés n’était probablement guère inférieure à celle du lecteur de ces lignes. Certains paléontologues pensent même que les capacités de raisonnement de nos ancêtres étaient supérieures aux nôtres.
Phil Torres’ new book The End: What Science and Religion Tell Us about the Apocalypse, is one of the most important books recently published. It offers a fascinating study of the many real threats to our existence, provides multiple insights as to how we might avoid extinction, and it is carefully and conscientiously crafted.
I’ve long maintained that humanity’s greatest gift and greatest curse are one and the same - our prodigious talent for delusion. For believing things - passionately - that are belied by both logic and evidence. This is the wellspring of great art. Indeed, as a novelist* I cater to the desire of my own customers to - temporarily and knowingly - believe they are experiencing other realities and the thoughts of credible characters, engaged in barely plausible adventures.
Some things in life cannot be offset by a mere net gain in intelligence.
The last few years have seen the widespread recognition that sophisticated AI is under development. Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and others warn of the rise of “superintelligent” machines: AIs that outthink the smartest humans in every domain, including common sense reasoning and social skills. Superintelligence could destroy us, they caution. In contrast, Ray Kurzweil, a Google director of engineering, depicts a technological utopia bringing about the end of disease, poverty and resource scarcity.
At least in public relations terms, transhumanism is a house divided against itself. On the one hand, there are the efforts of Zoltan Istvan – in the guise of an ongoing US presidential bid — to promote an upbeat image of the movement by focusing on human life extension and other tech-based forms of empowerment that might appeal to ordinary voters. On the other hand, there is transhumanism’s image in the ‘serious’ mainstream media, which is currently dominated by Nick Bostrom’s warnings of a superintelligence-based apocalypse. The smart machines will eat not only our jobs but eat us as well, if we don’t introduce enough security measures.
AI has come a long way since 2010. If you were to travel back in time six years and ask an artificial intelligence researcher about the future of AI, it’s likely he or she would have predicted that it would never reach its full potential as originally envisioned by its founders.
If the recent spate of anti-drone movies and plays was making you feel warm thoughts about U.S. culture, you’ll want to avoid seeing “Eye in the Sky,” starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul. This is what “Zero Dark Thirty” was for torture lies. This is what “The Interview” was for hatred of North Korea. The Director of “Eye in the Sky,” Gavin Hood, openly brags about having had military advisors on this film, just as those films had their government advisors. And it shows.
They’re big-eyed and slight of build. They’re the grim, greenish beings that every moviegoer recognizes as aliens—the inscrutable inhabitants of a distant world. Playing supporting roles in countless films and TV shows, these hairless homunculi have become iconic.<
But we've never seen a real alien. Indeed, we don't even know if real aliens exist.
The trend is clearly visible: sensors, and actuators, together with computation, memory and communication capabilities, are making all the objects around us smarter and smarter. Too many times, wether we call them robots, or AIs, the trend is depicted in menacing tones, represented in the dystopian futures preferred by Hollywood movies, and shape the gut reactions of policymakers eager to please the reactionary impulses of their electorates.
The field of Existential Risk Studies has, to date, focused largely on risk scenarios involving natural phenomena, anthropogenic phenomena, and a specific type of anthropogenic phenomenon that one could term “technogenic.” The first category includes asteroid/comet impacts, supervolcanoes, and pandemics. The second encompasses climate change and biodiversity loss. And the third deals with risks that arise from the misuse and abuse of advanced technologies, such as nuclear weapons, biotechnology, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence.
A decade ago AI research wasn’t as hot as it is now. But right now, in 2016 AI is very much a profitable endeavor. Many now argue that with regards to AI there is a risk for: (a) mass unemployment, (b) mass political destabilization (for instance mass-abuse of intelligent drones by terrorists), or even (c) a hard take-off of self-improving AI triggering a so-called “singularity”, which (in very short) is something we might simplified describe as “a point beyond we don’t have a clue what happens next”.
In his well-known piece, “Why the future doesn’t need us,” Bill Joy argues that 21st century technologies—genetic engineering, robotics, and nanotechnology (GNR)—will extinguish human beings as we now know them, a prospect he finds deeply disturbing. I find his arguments deeply flawed and critique each of them in turn.
Michio Kaku (1947 – ) is the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of New York of City University of New York. He is the co-founder of string field theory and a popularizer of science. He earned his PhD in physics from the University of California-Berkeley in 1972.
I want to elaborate briefly on an issue that I mentioned in a previous article for the IEET, in which I argue (among other things) that we may be systematically underestimating the overall probability of annihilation. The line of reasoning goes as follows:
Marshall Brain (1961 – ) is an author, public speaker, and entrepreneur. He earned an MS in computer science from North Carolina State University where he taught for many years, and is the founder of the website HowStuffWorks, which was sold in 2007 to Discovery Communications for $250,000,000.
In February, 1996, John Perry Barlow (of Grateful Dead, Electronic Frontier Foundation, etc.) declared cyberspace to be independent of states and their industries, economies, and politics. He was wrong. “Cyberspace” (and we’ll use the same term here, for what it’s worth) is an expression of fleshly and natural and mechanical processes; it is derived from human politics and industry, and it cannot be independent of it.
In the 1980s, the movies Terminator and Robocop introduced the world to the concept of the killer robot. While those films and others represented the peak of science fiction for many in the 80s and 90s, in reality, the militarization of robots and development of automated weapons systems has been going on for more than 15 years, according to Researcher and Activist Noel Sharkey. That buildup of weapons, he believes, poses a great danger to society.
This post is the first substantive entry in my series about effective altruism. In a previous post, I offered a general introduction to the topic of effective altruism (EA) and sketched out a taxonomy of the main objections to the practice. In that post, I adopted a ‘thick’ definition of EA, which holds that one ought to do the most good one can do, assuming a welfarist and consequentialist approach to ethics, and favouring evidentially robust policy interventions.
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