From the brains behind Iran’s Green Revolution to the economic Cassandra who actually did have a crystal ball, they had the big ideas that shaped our world in 2009. Read on to see the 100 minds that mattered most in the year that was.
At #72 on the list is IEET Senior Fellow Jamais Cascio, selected “for being our moral guide to the future.”
Climate change is coming, and geoengineering—the prospect of artificially manipulating the world’s climate—may seem like an easy save. But in fact it’s threatening and ethically complex, putting a literally earth-shaking power in the hands of a few, says Cascio in his new book, Hacking the Earth, the most subtle analysis so far on the subject. This year, Cascio, guru of all things on the horizon and founder of the website Open the Future, agitated to strengthen the global financial system through decentralization; argued passionately that resilience, not sustainability, must be the new goal of environmentalists; and has become a leading thinker on robot ethics.
And #73 is the IEET’s Chairman and co-founder, Nick Bostrom, chosen “for accepting no limits on human potential.”
Bostrom, director of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, thinks that one day, technology could allow us to upload human minds onto computers, preserving our every memory for posterity and allowing people to speed up their thoughts by installing faster software. He’s a transhumanist, a leader in a broad movement that believes humans should improve themselves through technology, eventually reaching a point that can be defined as “posthuman.” As scientific advances continue to upend our ethical views and technological enhancements challenge our ideas of equality, Bostrom has emerged as a leading voice on the changes humankind will experience in the generations to come, which, he believes, will be many. “If we survive intact for 500 years, then we might well survive for billions of years,” he says.
Each of them were asked to name the worst ideas of 2009. Bostrom responded, “Somebody suggested that we guilt-trip artificial intelligence to respect us as its parents. That’s bad on so many different levels.” And Cascio said, “2009 seems to have been the year that global warming deniers shifted from claiming that climate disruption is a hoax to claiming that climate disruption is too big and too far along to stop, so there’s no point in doing anything about it. Wrong on both counts!”