Eating Wheaties for breakfast? Keeping Fluffy’s litter box clean? Gulping down cholesterol-lowering medication? If you think these activities are healthy, sorry… reports suggest all these habits contain the potential to poison your brain.
The combination of longer lives, lower fertility, relatively low economic mobility, and high correlation between economic and political power, has left the United States in the novel situation of being (at least partially) a sort of partially gerontocratic democracy in which the 1940’s and 1950’s excert a degree of political influence over 2012 which the 1910’s and 1920’s did not have over the 1980’s.
One of the catastrophic risks that technoprogressives take more seriously than most policy analysts is the emergence of self-willed artificial intelligence and robotics. We are skeptical of the focus on “hard take-off” scenarios, which tend to lead to fatalistic or magical thinking approaches to risk mitigation, and we emphasize instead the importance of incremental steps such as regulation of computing to avoid the creation of self-willed machine minds until we have a better handle on how to safely integrate them. In this short story Alex imagines one way that the tension between human control and the self-awareness of machine minds might play out.
Science and meditation are two things that one might initially regard as having no more in common with each other as Chinese calligraphy and Italian pasta. Science, however, has recently examined the eastern tradition to answer the longstanding question: how does meditation work? Is anything actually happening or is it “all in the head?”
For the past few months, the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies has been working on identifying some of the most significant trends in technology innovation. Published in early February, 2012 by WEF, these represent ten areas that we as a council felt are likely to shake things up over the next few years in terms of their economic and social impact.
On a long drive to my mom’s house earlier this weekend, my son Zar and I got into a long conversation about the nature of causality, which got me thinking about the old puzzle of where the feeling of the directionality of time comes from…
I was honored to be included in the 200th episode of The Future and You: “Over a hundred never before heard predictions about the future from dozens of past guests, a few possible future guests, several listeners and an assortment of people actively building the future we are all going to live in.”
A current trend in AI research involves attempts to replicate a human learning system at the neuronal level—beginning with a single functioning synapse, then an entire neuron, the ultimate goal being a complete replication of the human brain.
Both the funniest and the most scientific of cyberpunk SF’s fab four, Rudy Rucker’s autobiography Nested Scrolls is a laid back groove, in the best sense. It’s funny, real, a bit off center… yet friendly and so thoroughly engaging that I was sorry that it ended. Maybe Rudy could live another life so that he could take us along, once again.
The United States has lost 28% of its jobs in high tech since its peak in 2000, claims a study released recently by the National Science Board. This means 687,000 positions have been lost. Why has this happened?
I hate what I’ve learned about Apple’s outsourcing to China. I hate hearing Professor William Black explain why he believes that Steve Jobs, who I admired very much in some ways, must have ignored repeated reports that employees were being cheated and endangered.
Reality is big. So our optimism must be confined to sentient beings in our forward light-cone. But I tentatively predict that the last experience below “hedonic zero” will be a precisely dateable event several hundred years hence. Here are five grounds for cautious optimism:
The practice of ritual killing  and human sacrifice  continues to take place in several African countries in contravention of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and other human rights instruments. In this 21st century, human beings are still being hunted down, mutilated, murdered or sacrificed for ritual purposes across the region. Several cases of kidnapping and disappearance of persons  are traced to the vicious schemes and activities of ritualists. In most cases, those targeted for ritual sacrifice are vulnerable members of the population — the poor, women, children, the aged and people with disabilities.
A space-based solar power (SSP) system capable of meeting the energy needs of millions of people could be “deployed within a decade using technologies that are today in the laboratory,” says John C. Mankins, a former manager of the Advanced Concepts Studies Office of Space Flight for NASA and widely considered one of the world’s leading experts on space-based solar power.
Existence is the most fundamental thing which is taken for granted. When we actually think about it, we all find it pretty mysterious, but I wonder if you realize just how mysterious it really is. Here’s a few things to consider.
The first is Occam’s Razor. A simple logic tool, right?
Zombies are a strange source of ethical inspiration, but as I mentioned to io9′s Lauren Davis, if academic ethicists get to spend all day talking about trolleys, I see no reason we can’t banter about the ethics of the undead.
In an earlier political posting I pointed out that the top federal income tax rate - for earned income - has seldom been lower than it is right now.. and the rate that Mitt Romney pays on dividends is half of that. Federal taxes, in general, are at one of the lowest points since 1912… suggesting that our current national argument about taxes ought to at least feature commensurately lower rates of anger.
Last month we asked “Is it ethical for an advanced military to use drones or robots to attack enemy soldiers?” A third of you want military drones and robots banned, and a quarter believed they were unproblematic. But the center of opinion was that they should be under human control or used by both sides.
Nikolai Fedorov - the Russian proto-transhumanist philosopher — believed that the “Common Task” of humanity was to technologically conquer death. This means… Immortality for those who are presently living… right? No, think bigger, his vision was immensely more ambitious. Federov believed that the evil horror of death would not be fully conquered until everyone who had ever died… was brought back to Life.
The Syrian regime of Bashir Assad is the last remaining of the secular despots of the Arab world after the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. The rest of the Arab world is in the hands of “enlightened” kings/sheiks/sultans that somehow have better weathered the “Arab Spring” or is in the process of becoming democratic (Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria).
The third criterion of life, Transcendence, requires a potential life form to demonstrate that it can extend itself beyond its information processing capability to serve the purpose of life. A fair test for Transcendence is compliance with the Second and Third Principles of Geoethics – the Principles of Equilibria and Assurance. (Part 4 of Hybriduality and Geoethics)