Tuesday, March 25, 2014

a 1000 years in 8 hours

the future of punishment, make the prisoners feel like they have served an eternity.  from the telegraph UK

Friday, March 21, 2014

an Introduction to Memetics

Memetics is the fascinating study of the spread of patterns of information between humans.  A meme can be a song, tradition, slogan, religion, etc that spreads like a virus.  Principia Cybernetica Web has a great introduction, and a hoard of interesting information. The website in ancient, but don't be turned off.  TURN ONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN

Monday, March 17, 2014

we are not alive

"Likewise, “life” is an idea. We find it useful to think of some things as alive and others as inanimate, but this division exists only in our heads."

From the New York Times

Synthetic Biology Concerns

This was written in response to "Prepared Statement before the U.S House of Representatives Committee on energy and Commerce" By Gregory E. Kaebnick printed in "Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Bioethical Issues"

Kaebnick outlines three intrinsic concerns about the development and creation of synthetic organisms: religious or metaphysical concerns, concerns that synthetic biology will undermine morally significant concepts, and concerns about the human relationship with nature.  The first concern is also known as the “playing God concern”.  It is a categorical imperative to the religious person that we do not create synthetic life, regardless of the possible positive benefits.  In creating artificial life, the idea of “natural” life’s sacredness is thrown into question.  The concern about undermining morally significant concepts is a way to express the first idea without the religious aspect.  Instead of “playing God”, humans are becoming too powerful, and the creation of new life undermines the idea of uniqueness that we all cling to as humans.  The third concern is environmental.  Humans have been altering their environment since the beginning of our existence.  Creating new life is simply the evolution of the mastery of nature.

Three concerns about consequences are also brought forth by Kaebnick: concerns about social justice, biosafety, and misuse.  The arrival of new technologies always herald new social concerns.  Will the new technology be available to all people, regardless of social class?  Who will be in control of the new technology?  Will poorer nations continue to be exploited?  All these questions are important, but could just as easily be asked of large pharmaceutical or oil companies.  Our lack of far-reaching social justice is not a scientific issue, and should not be used as an excuse to limit research into synthetic biology.  Biosafety is a major concern.  How safe are these life forms?  Will they be easily contained in a lab, or will they escape into the wild?  If they do escape, how will that affect ecosystems that have naturally evolved together for millions of years?  Scientist claim that the new “helper” life forms that they create will be simple; they will only be able to perform assigned tasks, and pose no harm if they were to escape because they wouldn't be able to survive.  The creation of life simply to serve us brings up a new set of ethical concerns, but we have been utilizing animals the same way for millennia, so I don’t feel it is an important issue.  Deliberate misuse is an important issue.  All technology is powerful and could be used to do harm in the right hands.  That being said, the fear of misuse should not be a scare tactic used to dissuade research and development.  All of these concerns need addressing, and as SynBio progresses, I am confident they will be.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2045 Initiative

From their website

"The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimal conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies."

This initiative aims to transfer human consciousness to an artificial brain and carrier (a so called "robotic avatar") by the year 2045.  This is the first organization of its kind that I have stumbled upon that adds spirituality into the mix.  While it is an interesting concept, I feel we are much further away from this sort of technology.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

the danger of the past

R.W Emerson saw the danger of relying on the past to judge the future, writing in "Self-Reliance" "the other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them."

We should no longer be a slave to our pasts.  We have learned, and we have grown; the past can no longer be of any help.  In fact, all that past-worship and tradition-slavery can do is to stop us from going forward.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Earth's finite bounty

Sorry about the link to a Huffington Post article (I know, I know), but Zoltan Istvan has some interesting things to say about how transhumanism can help relax global climate change by evolving humans so they no longer need to consume many natural resources.  "Some Futurists Aren't Worried About Global Warming or Overpopulation"

His ideas basically sum up the H+ philosophy of the future.  I am a novice to this philosophy, but the more I study, the more I believe that this optimistic future-view is important.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

the singularity

when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence, will we still have the ability to "turn it (the machine) off" or will its superior intellect prevent that from happening?  how far will AI have to advance before it is the subject of ethics, for example will we ever have the responsibility to treat AI in an ethical manner?  does the singularity mean that AI will gain sentience, or just advanced intelligence?  can you have one without the other?  is there even such a thing yet as artificial intelligence, or is it just programmed intelligence? will its sentience be comparable to ours, or something beyond our scope of understanding? 

Friday, February 21, 2014

there is no "conservative"

"We live in revolutionary times and therefore everyone (and every society), willingly or unwillingly, is continually propelled forward. Today’s conservatives flaunt ideas and technologies dismissed as futuristic hardly five years ago."

the Only Real Trend is Fast Forward

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

a visionary new thrust

the Upwinger's Manifesto by FM-2030

"We are still too programmed by the oldworld psychology of failure, too hobbled by guilt and shame and self-doubt, too scarred by eons of suffering and privation - to fully appreciate the meaning of our New Age" 

intro to FM-2030 & more advanced

from Humanity+

Sir Arthur C. Clarke's 3 Laws of the Future

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

from World Future Society

"enjoy life while you can"

James Lovelock does not mince words.  Read the article here.

The British climate scientist argues that civilization is basically doomed, and everything we're doing about it (green/ethical living, carbon offsetting) is a joke.

It is a dim prediction of the future, but one we seriously need to consider.  Nuclear energy may be key.  But I disagree about Quorn, however; that faux chicken is not too bad.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

the future of religion

"Religions, especially the hide-bound religions that fight for supremacy at terrible cost in human lives and suffering, are clearly negative influences"

Read the whole article here

Do we need to "kill God" in the Neitzschian sense before we can continue to evolve as a species?  Is there room in the future for the belief in God?  Is God necessary to our continuing survival?  Is there a difference between spirituality and religion besides semantics?  These are all important questions. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

the past's future, man

our age of unprecedented growth and technical advancement, is impressive.  we are on the threshold of an untold future; the next several years are immensely important to the evolution of our species.  meaningless distractions such as hair and skin color, ethnicity, sexual preference, gender, and nationality need to be overcome before we can begin to make the steps necessary to ensure our survival.  

But do we live up to the past’s expectations?  I do not think so.  The past’s future was a glorious thing, the problems of the world had been solved, and fairness and reason ruled.  we need to look to the past, their hopes and dreams for the future, and start putting aside petty bickering to make things happen.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

fear is just a question to be answered

Modern Fears For Modern Times

the argument against synthetic biology

The basis of Christopher Preston’s argument against synthetic biology is formed by Charles Darwin’s theory of historic, natural selection led evolution, and Aristotle’s idea of natural versus artefactual life.  Preston argues there would be no way to determine the outcome of releasing a synthetically created life form into a fragile ecosystem that has naturally evolved together for millennia.  The unforeseeable consequences of this action are plentiful enough to postpone this sort of technical advancement until further research is done.

Preston states “the naturalness of wild nature carries moral weight”.  While I agree with this, I do not believe that the opposite is also true; that the unnaturalness of artefactual life does not carry moral weight.  I posit that wild nature is morally significant, but no more so than human intention and innovation.  Utilitarian ethics tells us that some action is righteous if it causes more good than harm to the greatest amount of people.  The idea that synthetic biology may create organisms that cure disease, create fuel with little to no environmental impact, clean up oil spills and other human caused ecological disasters, and further the advancement of the human species itself seems to cause more good than harm, and at least should be given the chance to prove itself.

Rather than sidestepping the evolutionary process, I believe that the current trends in synthetic biology are the product of advanced human evolution.  Our curiosity and need to understand and control our surroundings has led to these new scientific breakthroughs, and may eventually allow us to transcend the human condition and eliminate poverty, disease, suffering, even death.  While this transhumanist theory is mostly just philosophy for now, synthetic biology is an important step forward in human evolution and I do not think that Christopher Preston made a compelling argument against it.

Preston, Christopher J. Synthetic Biology: Drawing a Line in Darwin's Sand.  Environmental Values.  Vol 17  No. 1 February 2008