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January 23, 2008

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* The Great Firewall: China’s Misguided — and Futile — Attempt to Control What Happens Online

Today, anyone in China can send a sensitive message if they are minimally savvy, and that fact is transforming the political discourse. True, technology has not led to the overthrow of the Communist Party, as some had predicted — the party has even harnessed the Internet for its own purposes. But this does not mean that Beijing has insulated itself against political change driven by technology. Its critics have unfettered access to mass communications, and the Internet — not the Communist Party — is the main influence on public opinion. No shield, golden or otherwise, can protect them from the public. China’s leaders should know this.

* Swarm Intelligence

Swarm intelligence, not just as a way of coordinating street battles, is a rich field of study for anarchists. The notion that highly complex projects and behaviors can be coordinated without any centralized authority has been an article of faith for anarchists for a long time.

* Who Makes the Rules?

Which scenario is most likely? It depends a bit on how fast the truly disastrous manifestations of climate change hit. Climate catastrophe happening earlier than currently projected would push towards the more proactionary worlds. It also depends a bit on whether governments and corporate leaders continue to lag community and activist groups in terms of willingness to embrace big changes to fight environmental risks. Centralized responses may end up being too little, too late if wide-spread bottom-up models take root.

* I Spy With My Orbital Eye

One of my favorite early pieces for WorldChanging was the essay Greens In Space, arguing that space exploration, particularly robotic exploration, is ultimately in support of the Bright Green future. Of particular importance are the satellite systems used to observe changes on the Earth’s surface.

* CRN Task Force Scenarios

For the year 2007, the major project of the CRN Task Force was to begin producing a series of professional-quality scenarios of a near-future world in which exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing becomes a reality. The purpose is to offer plausible, logical, understandable “stories” that illustrate the challenge of contending with the implications of advanced nanotechnology. What will that future look like? What can we learn from picturing it now that might help us avoid the worst pitfalls and generate the greatest benefits?

* Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

The cobbling together of life from synthetic DNA, scientists and philosophers agree, will be a watershed event, blurring the line between biological and artificial — and forcing a rethinking of what it means for a thing to be alive.

* Biowar for Dummies

Brent is one of a growing number of researchers who believe that a bioterrorist wouldn’t need a team of virologists and state funding. He says advances in DNA-hacking technology have reached the point where an evil lab assistant with the right resources could do the job.

I decided to call him on it. I hadn’t set foot in a lab since high school. Could I learn to build a bioweapon? What would I need? What would it cost? Could I set up shop without raising suspicions? And, most important, would it work?

* The EDGE Annual Question -2008

This year’s question: What have you changed your mind about? I particularly like the responses by Sam Harris (Mother Nature Is Not Our Friend) and Stewart Brand (Good Stuff Sucks).

* Overcoming Gender

Your gender assignment and sense of sexual identity is an imposition. Like many of your other characteristics, you are largely the result of a genetic lottery that happened beyond your control. Consequently, you are in no small way predetermined. Your physical and psychological capabilities are very much constrained and dictated by your genetic constitution.

* DIY Guide to Rebuilding Civilization

A new zine project:

We’ve all wasted enough time reasoning with the primitivists. It’s time for less talk and more action. Say that the Collapse does come–just as hard as Derrick Jensen and John Zerzan have salivated–I don’t want us sitting around, ringing our hands and dumbly staring at suddenly useless anarcho-syndicalist union cards. I want us prepared.

* WTA Matching Grant Drive

The immediate objective is to upgrade our communications to give transhumanist opinions a stronger voice. The generous matching grant by the Life Extension Foundation and Cartmell Holdings means that if we raise $25,000 independently we will secure a total of $50,000 in funding for the WTA, enabling the organization to shift into a higher gear… Any gift you make to the WTA will be matched dollar-for-dollar until January 31, 2008.

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