Blockchains as the new platform for technological innovation invite the creative imagining of applications at both the level of technology use and in the rethinking of economic principles. Some recent developments include optimism about rising Bitcoin prices and the rewards-halving milestone, trepidation about scalability, block size, and the latest hacking scandal of the Ethereum DAO, and fast-paced single ledger adoption by financial institutions.
Jupiter is often referred to as a “failed star,” leading some futurists to wonder if our descendants might set it ablaze in a process called planetary stellification. A new study suggests this is indeed theoretically possible—and that we should be on the hunt for galactic aliens who have already converted their gas giants into stellar objects.
In July, construction workers at the Astravets nuclear power plant in Belarus dropped a 330 ton reactor shell. Weeks went by before the government admitted an “abnormal situation” had occurred, prompting international concerns about safety at the Russian-built facility—and the Belarusian government’s unwillingness to disclose information in a timely manner.
Real estate database company Zillow is warning that nearly 1.9 million homes in the United States could be flooded by the end of the century. That’s about two percent of the nation’s total housing stock, amounting to $882 billion in value.
Imagine that someone points a gun to your head and threatens to pull the trigger. How would you assess the overall risk of your situation? One possibility is to examine the gun: to determine its various properties, how powerful it is, the speed at which bullets emerge from the barrel, and so on. This is what many existential risk scholars have focused on with respect to existential risks: the range of technologies that could be used for harmful ends.
Olympic organizers have made climate change a central theme at the current games—and for good reason. A sobering new study shows that by the 2084 Olympics, rising temperatures will make it practically impossible for most cities to host the summer games.
Lately I’ve been experiencing quite a bit of deja vu, and not in the least of a good kind. The recent bout was inspired by Ben Smith’s piece for BuzzFeed in which he struggled to understand how an Ayn Rand loving libertarian like the technologist Peter Thiel could end up supporting a statist demagogue like Donald Trump. Smith’s reasoning was that Trump represented perhaps the biggest disruption of them all and could use the power of the state to pursue the singularity and flying-cars Theil believed were one at our fingertips.
One of the more confusing characteristics of our age is how it trucks in contradiction. As a prime example: the internet is the most democratizing medium in the history of humankind giving each of us the capability to reach potentially billions with the mere stroke of a key. At the same time this communication landscape is one of unprecedented concentration dominated by a handful of companies such as Facebook Google, Twitter, and in China Baidu.
Volcanic super-eruptions are bad. Like really bad. Scientists warn of such a potentially civilization-ending catastrophe in our future, but as a new study shows, we’ll only have a year to prepare once the signs of an impending eruption become visible.
Give events of late I thought it relevant to re-post this piece from the summer of 2014 on the militarization of policing. Sadly, almost nothing has changed, except that my prediction that police would start using robots to kill people has come true, though in a way I certainly did not anticipate. I haven’t changed anything from the original post besides cleaning up the some of the shitty grammar and adding the mind-blowing photo by Jonathan Bachman, a freelancer for Reuters. If they have history books in 20 years time that photo will be in them.
On the 25 of September Marcelo Rinesi published his article ‘The Price for the Internet of Things will be a vague dread of a malicious world’. With this response, I want to take on the implicit challenge he poses. How can we build an internet of things that will not fill us with dread? This article will present my ideas on a ‘transparent smart chargepoint’. Let me explain what I mean by this. ‘Chargepoint’ refers to the device that is designed for charging for electric cars. ‘Smart’ refers to the fact that the chargepoint optimizes the charging process on various variables – such as the price of electricity, the congestion on the electricity grid. ‘Transparent’ means that it is designed to be open as open as possible about the algorithms that run it.
Le mois de décembre 2015 a vu la signature d’un accord dit « universel », par 195 pays, et qui marquera peut-être un tournant dans la manière dont les humains envisagent collectivement leur rapport à la Terre. Les technoprogressistes pourront s’en réjouir à double titre. D’une part il doit permettre de mieux affronter les immenses défis que nous imposent les crises climatiques, mais d’autre part, loin d’un écologisme fondamentaliste, il reconnaît, dans son article 10, « l’importance qu’il y a à donner pleinement effet à la mise au point et au transfert de technologies de façon à accroître la résilience … ».
While the idea may sound absurd, it happened just a few generations ago. The industrial north and the slave-holding, agrarian south couldn’t agree on, among other things, the extension of slavery into new states, as both sides didn’t want the other to gain a congressional voting advantage. A series of compromises over many years maintained the delicate balance, but gradually the two sides became more partisan, the rhetoric more divisive, and civil discourse eventually disappeared. Soon violence would be used to adjudicate their disputes, with the south firing the first shot. Within four years 700,000 Americans were dead, thousands more injured, homeless, widowed or orphaned. If that proportion of Americans were killed today, about 8 million Americans would die. The south thought that slavery and the lifestyle it provided were worth dying and killing for … and die and kill they did.
[This the text of a talk I’m delivering at the ICM Neuroethics Network in Paris this week]
Santiago Guerra Pineda was a 19-year old motorcycle enthusiast. In June 2014, he took his latest bike out for a ride. It was a Honda CBR 600, a sports motorcycle with some impressive capabilities. Little wonder then that he opened it up once he hit the road. But maybe he opened it up a little bit too much? He was clocked at over 150mph on the freeway near Miami Beach in Florida. He was going so fast that the local police decided it was too dangerous to chase him. They only caught up with him when he ran out of gas.
Discovered in an ancient shipwreck near Crete in 1901, the freakishly advanced Antikythera Mechanism has been called the world’s first computer. A decades-long investigation into the 2,000 year-old-device is shedding new light onto this mysterious device, including the revelation that it may have been used for more than just astronomy.
Seneca was a wealthy Roman stoic and advisor to the emperor Nero. In the third of his Letters from a Stoic, entitled ‘On True and False Friendship’, he makes the following observation:
As to yourself, although you should live in such a way that you trust your own self with nothing which you could not entrust even to your own enemy, yet, since certain matters occur which convention keeps secret, you should share with a friend at least all your worries and reflections.
Headlines this past week claimed that for the first time ever more than half of poll respondents around the world said they saw themselves more as a global citizen than as a citizen of a country. What did they mean in saying that?
En 2014 et 2015, de nombreuses personnalités ont exprimé leurs craintes quant aux dangers de l’intelligence artificielle (IA) : Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Bill Gates… Depuis, ce sujet est devenu très présent dans les médias.
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.
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