When I drive from home to work, none of the land I pass is wild. It’s lawns, or parks, or part of the city. On my drive in, I can see the Olympic Mountains as I crest the hill and head down toward the Kirkland waterfront. They are a mash up of native lands, national parks, and beach cities. Forks, the city of the Twilight books, is over there. The Olympics are largely wild, but they are managed carefully. I suspect there is no land in the whole mountain range that is not owned. Someone – a person, a government, a tribe, a company – someone manages everything I can see.
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.
In Khannea SunTzu remarkable new novel she’ll never write - The NeoProgressive’s New Deal - the leader character, Cassandra Assange (Daughter of Julian Assange, born in 2003), is the target of literal micro drone assassination attempts, a vicious media campaign and endless incapacitating litigation. She became a political activist like her father in the mid 2020s, and exemplified the new counter-cultural ideal. Militantly lesbian and technoprogressive she gave birth of a clone of her wife, and her wife gave birth to a clone of Cassandra in the late 2020s.
When I was a kid there was a series on Nostradamus narrated by an Orson Welles surrounded in cigar smoke and false gravitas. I had not seen The Man Who Saw Tomorrow for over 30 years, though thanks to the miracle of Youtube I was able to find it here. Amazingly enough, I still remember Part 9 of the series in which the blue- turbaned, Islamic, 3rd antichrist allied with the Soviet Union plunges the world into thermonuclear war. I also remember the ending- scenes of budding flowers and sunshine signaling the rebirth of nature and humanity, a period of peace and prosperity to last 1,000 years.
Amid fretful resignation, we learn of the likely loss of the magnificent Kepler mission...which discovered as many as three thousand planets beyond our solar system. (About 10% of them now confirmed.) Only two of the four gyro systems are still working, not enough for the probe to aim at more than a hundred thousand stars with uncanny accuracy, each day. While this will be a sad loss, the epoch introduced by the Kepler Mission bodes well for you understanding of the universe.
I have been doing public outreach for science since I originally moved to Tennessee in 1996. It has been a fun ride, and I’m sure it will continue to be that way for many years to come. But two of the first things I learned when debating creationists and giving talks about the nature of science were: a) nastiness doesn’t get you anywhere; and b) just because you have reason and evidence on your side doesn’t mean you are going to carry the day.
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.
In total, Africa’s growth rate has averaged well above 5% in the past decade, after 20 difficult years of flat and often negative growth in several countries. The challenge for the continent in the coming years is whether Africa will be able to maintain these impressive growth rates, and whether future growth will be built on the types of productivity enhancements that are associated with rising living standards.
In order to communicate with super intelligent beings (in this context, extraterrestrials that have figured out how travel many light years to reach our planet) we should first start with something we all share. A fundamental starting point – that is, pure consciousness.
It is hard to avoid getting swept up in the utopian optimism of Peter Diamandis. The world he presents in his Abundance: The Future is Better Than you Think is certainly the kind of future I would hope for all of us: the earth’s environment saved and its energy costless, public health diseases, global hunger and thirst eradicated, quality education and health care ubiquitous (not to mention cheap) and, above, all extreme poverty at long last conquered.
Organized by Oxfam, Chulalongkorn University (Thailand) and the Lew Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (Singapore), with support of the Rockefeller Foundation, these and other perspectives were suggested at a two-day forum in Bangkok on Visions of Democratic Governance in Asia 2030. While there were certainly key influence makers from around Asia – a minister from Pakistan - leadings civil society leaders from Thailand Cambodia – intellectuals from India and Singapore, the meeting in itself was not a typical conference highlighted by long speeches and irrelevant questions.
Vernor Vinge is consistently one of the most interesting and conceptually dense futurists I’ve had an opportunity to listen to. While watching this excellent talk of his at Singularity University, my ears perked up at the mention of technological unemployment, the primary focus of this blog.
Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) and I have both agreed and disagreed about transparency, for years. In his posting, Crime and Privacy, he has opined, for example, that “Ironically, the more the government clamps down on individual privacy, the more freedom the residents will have. When the government can detect every sort of crime, it will be forced by public opinion and by resource constraints to legalize anything it can detect but can’t stop.”
Anti-aging guru Aubrey de Grey's prediction that the first person to live 1,000-years has already been born got me thinking. What might life be like in this long-range future? Will boredom set in as we count the centuries; or will what promises to be an incredible technology-rich life keep the excitement alive?
Could someone without a business degree become a marketing consultant? Then how is it that people without philosophy degrees are becoming ethics consultants?  Is it that people don’t know that Ethics is a branch of Philosophy just as Marketing is a branch of Business? Doubtful. Is it just the typical male overstatement of one’s expertise?  Perhaps. Is it that people think they already know right from wrong, they learned it as children, there’s really no need for any formal training in ethics? Possible…
Sometimes Facebook mirrors our world a little too well. I go to Facebook to escape—from mounds of laundry waiting to be folded, weeds that are taking over the front yard, the ever burbling saga of minor crises in my extended family, or the frustration of not being able to find the right words for my next article. But lately, things have been reversed. The laundry and weeds have become welcome distractions from the news feed.
Warfare is no stranger to world history. It has become a byproduct of life itself, though is becoming less of a presence as greater activities emerge, i.e. new developing markets, scientific research, and exponentially growing technologies. For what’s left of warfare in our modern age is being coupled with the growing market of new advanced technologies, particularly that of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), aka: drones.
Because of a close friend with mysterious yet serious medical problems, I’ve spent more time in hospitals over the last few months than my entire earlier life. This experience has heightened my suspicions of sanguine visions that present indefinite lifespans as within our reach. While I find these dreams as appealing as ever, I recommend transhumanists pay greater attention to social rather than technological methods for ameliorating physical frailty. Against the U.S. government’s obsessive focus on preventing spectacular violence via organized coercion, I offer freedom, equality, and community as ways to cope with vulnerability. As Wesley Strong argues, improving the human condition starts right now and doesn’t require nanotech genies.
On the internet and in the media there has been growing discussion of technological unemployment. People are increasingly concerned that automation will displace more and more workers—that in fact there might be no turning back at this point. We may be reaching the end of work as we know it.
Abstract: Transhumanism is a modern expression of ancient and transcultural aspirations to radically transform human existence, socially and bodily. Before the Enlightenment these aspirations were only expressed in religious millennialism, magical medicine and spiritual practices. The Enlightenment channeled these desires into projects to use science and technology to improve health, longevity and human abilities, and to use reason to revolutionize society. Since the Enlightenment techno-utopian movements have dynamically interacted with supernaturalist millennialism, sometimes syncretically, and often in violent opposition.
Optimism is so out of fashion these days, on both the left and the right, that - ironically - a guarded optimism has become the natural state for any genuine contrarian. I could try to ignore that reflex and stay true to my natural dour cynicism. But facts are lining up with those who see light at the end of the tunnel. For example, I often cite Professor Steven Pinker's proof (The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined) that on average, per capita levels of violence have declined steeply (if unevenly) around the world every decade since 1945.
Of course, no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy, but by combining present day knowledge with anticipated advances, we can make plausible guesses about what life might be like in the 2040s. Over the coming decades, healthcare research will wield huge benefits for humankind. By 2040, stem cells, gene therapy, and 3-D bio printing promise to cure or make manageable most of today’s diseases. Regenerative medicine breakthroughs are appearing almost daily. Experts now predict that the rise in health discoveries will help us achieve our dreams of indefinite lifespan as we wind through the 2040s.
We are changing the way we build machines, so we may soon be able to build machines that are more like us. In the movie Prometheus, a work set in the future supposedly about our search for our own beginnings, one of the characters is an android named David. David is a lot more human in many ways than the human characters in the film.
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.