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futurism

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

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

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

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

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

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

…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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