Tuesday 28 August 2012
We are all saddened when we look at the world and see what few accomplishments we have made, compared to what we feel are the potentialities of human beings. People in the past, in the nightmare of their times, had dreams for the future. And now that the future has materialized we see that in many ways the dreams have been surpassed, but in still more ways many of our dreams of today are very much the dreams of people of the past.
Richard Feynman ☀
Monday 26 March 2012
Tacocopter Aims To Deliver Tacos Using Unmanned Drone Helicopters ☀
Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!
It’s an unmanned drone helicopter shooting a taco from space down at you and your colleagues during lunchtime!
The Internet is going wild for Tacocopter, perhaps the next great startup out of Silicon Valley, which boasts a business plan that combines four of the most prominent touchstones of modern America: tacos, helicopters, robots and laziness.
Indeed, the concept behind Tacocopter is very simple, and very American: You order tacos on your smartphone and also beam in your GPS location information. Your order — and your location — are transmitted to an unmanned drone helicopter (grounded, near the kitchen where the tacos are made), and the tacocopter is then sent out with your food to find you and deliver your tacos to wherever you’re standing.
Wednesday 29 February 2012
Immortal worms defy aging ☀
Researchers from The University of Nottingham have demonstrated how a species of flatworm overcomes the aging process to be potentially immortal.
The discovery, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is part of a project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC) and may shed light on the possibilities of alleviating aging and age-related characteristics in human cells. Planarian worms have amazed scientists with their apparently limitless ability to regenerate. Researchers have been studying their ability to replace aged or damaged tissues and cells in a bid to understand the mechanisms underlying their longevity.
Monday 13 February 2012
Why The Future Will Be Much Better Than You Think ☀
What does the world really look like? Turns out it’s not the nightmare most suspect. Violence is at an alltime low, personal freedom at a historic high. During the past century child mortality decreased by 90%, while average human life span increased by 100%. Food is cheaper and more plentiful than ever (groceries cost 13 times less today than in 1870). Poverty has declined more in the past 50 years than the previous 500. In fact, adjusted for inflation, incomes have tripled in the past 50 years. Even Americans living under the poverty line today have access to a telephone, toilet, television, running water, air-conditioning and a car. Go back 150 years and the richest robber barons could have never dreamed of such wealth.
Wednesday 1 February 2012
American Economy Will Roar Again ☀
One reason for optimism is that America’s entrepreneurs have been quietly making progress in regard to the “energy crisis.” Only now is President Obama noticing (and rushing to take credit). Since the 1970s the American economy was burdened by the need to import more and more foreign oil at ever increasing prices. Now we have so much natural gas, prices recently dropped to less than one-fifth the price of oil. Long term outlook has improved significantly even though gasoline remains high right now.
Another reason for optimism is that we all but won the war on terrorism. President Obama is re-directing resources and re-planning our defense strategy. The 10-year drain on our economy will be reduced. This will help reduce the deficit.
A third reason for optimism is that we are muddling through the recession. The Obama administration bailed out Detroit, which is now hiring. They bailed out the banks, which are now flush with cash. The main problem remaining is housing. We still have too many houses in places people don’t want to live. The good news is that the housing economy is no longer getting worse and is expected to improve in a year or two.
Tuesday 31 January 2012
Are We Ready for a 'Morality Pill'? ☀
If continuing brain research does in fact show biochemical differences between the brains of those who help others and the brains of those who do not, could this lead to a “morality pill” — a drug that makes us more likely to help? Given the many other studies linking biochemical conditions to mood and behavior, and the proliferation of drugs to modify them that have followed, the idea is not far-fetched. If so, would people choose to take it? Could criminals be given the option, as an alternative to prison, of a drug-releasing implant that would make them less likely to harm others? Might governments begin screening people to discover those most likely to commit crimes? Those who are at much greater risk of committing a crime might be offered the morality pill; if they refused, they might be required to wear a tracking device that would show where they had been at any given time, so that they would know that if they did commit a crime, they would be detected.
Saturday 28 May 2011
There’s a fancy word for the technological trend I was writing about in March: ephemeralization. Buckminster Fuller coined the term back in the 1930s to describe the general concept of “doing more with less” by building more human understanding into our machines and factories. Fuller had process innovations like Henry Ford’s assembly lines in mind; he wasn’t thinking about software, which didn’t really exist yet. But the idea still applies to devices like the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which replace dozens of other artifacts by recreating their functions on their stupendously versatile touchscreens. If you have a tablet computer and a broadband Internet connection, after all, you don’t really need a laptop, an alarm clock, a watch, a still or video camera, a television, a radio, a phone, an e-book reader, a digital picture frame, an MP3 player, a CD or DVD player, an external hard drive, a game console, a digital audio recorder, a music synthesizer, or a GPS navigation device, not to mention print books, newspapers, or magazines. And that’s just a partial list.
Wade Roush ☀
Sunday 15 May 2011
A mind is a brain that’s conscious. Consciousness is a synonym for subjectivity and there’s a conceptual gap between subjectivity and objective observation, which is what science is. I would actually maintain that there is no scientific way to demonstrate that an entity is conscious. It’s only apparent to itself. And my prediction is that we will—this is an objective prediction—we will come to accept entities that are not biological as conscious. But it’s not going to be, “Okay, machines on the right side of the room, humans on the left.” It’s going to be all mixed up. If you talk to a biological human, they will have lots of non-biological processes going on in their body and brain. Those computers will be out on the clouds, and the thinking of that “person” isn’t even just in their body and brain even in the non-biological portion, it’s out on the cloud. So it’s going to be all mixed up, there’s not going to be a clear distinction between human and machine. The bottom line is we are one human-machine civilization. This technology has already expanded who we are and is going to go into high gear when we get to the steep part of the exponential.
Ray Kurzweil ☀
Wednesday 9 March 2011
A simple exogenous growth model gives conservative estimates of the economic implications of machine intelligence. Machines complement human labor when they become more productive at the jobs they perform, but machines also substitute for human labor by taking over human jobs. At first, expensive hardware and software does only the few jobs where computers have the strongest advantage over humans. Eventually, computers do most jobs. At first, complementary effects dominate, and human wages rise with computer productivity. But eventually substitution can dominate, making wages fall as fast as computer prices now do. An intelligence population explosion makes per-intelligence consumption fall this fast, while economic growth rates rise by an order of magnitude or more. These results are robust to automating incrementally, and to distinguishing hardware, software, and human capital from other forms of capital.
Robin Hanson ☀
Saturday 5 March 2011
The consequences of a technology expand with its disruptive nature. Powerful technologies will be powerful in both directions—for good and bad. There is no powerfully constructive technology that is not also powerfully destructive in another direction, just as there is no great idea that cannot be greatly perverted for great harm. After all, the most beautiful human mind is still capable of murderous ideas. Indeed, an invention or idea is not really tremendous unless it can be tremendously abused. This should be the first law of technological expectation: The greater the promise of a new technology, the greater its potential for harm as well. That’s also true for new beloved technologies such the internet search engine, hypertext, and the web. These immensely powerful inventions have unleashed a level of creativity not seen since the Renaissance, but when (not if) they are abused, their ability to track and anticipate individual behavior will be awful.
What Technology Wants ☀
Thursday 3 March 2011
Is Facebook Changing the World? ☀
One of the most moving stories to emerge out of the Egyptian uprising is the role of the Facebook page called, We are all Khaled Said, named in memory of a young Egyptian who was beaten to death by the police. Set up by Wael Ghonim, a Google executive working in the Middle East, the Facebook site has been filled with newspaper articles and video clips of Egyptian police violence. As the fight against repressive dictatorships spread to Libya, followers began posting video and news articles of the mass killings of civilian protesters carried out by Gaddafi and his mercenaries. On February 23, someone had posted a very graphic YouTube video showing several rows of dead Libyan soldiers who were shot after refusing to fire on their own people. Whoever posted the videos enabled the world to look directly at Libyans as they are burying their dead. The page’s 93,982 friends who watched these amateur videos gained an immediate sense of the brutality and loss of human life occurring in a country that is largely closed to international journalists.
Through Facebook, we are not only engaging with the faces of our family and friends; we can now connect to complete strangers whose faces simultaneously evoke empathy and anger at the unnecessary suffering they are experiencing. Social media are effectively humanizing conflicts that in the past would have largely remained hidden from international audiences. Rather than being dependent on international journalists or western aid workers, Facebook now allows ordinary people across the globe who have internet access to share their own narratives. It effectively enables the global community to look into the faces of the other, which according to the Jewish philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, is the grounding of any authentic commitment to universal human rights. For Levinas, our encounter with the other’s face is the point at which God breaks into the worldly situation. Seeing her face creates bonds of solidarity that become the foundation of a commitment to universal human rights. Levinas’ understanding of other is analogous to the biblical depiction of the other in the form of the “widow, orphan, and stranger.”
Wednesday 2 March 2011
Emergent religions are primarily reflections of society. They are a collective attempt to understand and make meaning. In places like China where there is currently a vacuum of meaning — no scriptures, no constitution, just the little red book of Mao, and rampant Darwinian pressure to make money — it should be no surprise that vehicles of something larger to believe in will appear. In Russia, a belief in science mixes with a resident mysticism producing new religions. In Africa, the dire lack of health care summons all kinds of new faith healing churches. And in the west, the need to make sense of technology and our own mutating human identity will breed new religions.
The Technium ☀
Tuesday 1 March 2011
…today, somewhere in the world, there is a boy or girl already born, a Shakespeare of their generation, who is waiting for us to invent their technology. Until we create their tool they cannot discover and share their genius. So we have an obligation to increase the amount of technologies in the world. We benefit from people in the past who bestowed on us the possibilities inherent in the alphabet, in printing, the book and newspapers, so we too should be inventing as much technology as we can in the hope that in the future more people will have the option, the possibility of using their fullest talents for us all. We are involved in much more than just inventing novelty. When we create and use technology we’re actually involved in something that’s bigger than ourselves. We are extending the same forces that make life, accelerating evolution into the future, and we’re increasing the possibilities, both for us, our children, and for the world at large. That is what technology wants.
The Technium ☀
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