Quick Links 2-11-09

February 11, 2009

Why the recently announced Singularity University falls short:

For an institution that claims to be “preparing humanity for accelerating technological change,” it sure seems to be spending a lot more time talking about nifty gadgets than about the connection between technology and society.

Also worth checking out is George Dvorsky’s roundup of the ensuing debate.

A look at the x-risk posed by human super-intelligence and abuses of power/authority:

If the first intelligence-enhanced human is smart enough to rise to power in a country with a large military and nuclear arsenal, then expansionism can begin under the guise of whatever rallying call of the week is expedient.

An interesting little rant …

Every health problem, mental or physical, will be treated in light of the person’s genome, which will be part of a person’s medical record. Drug doses will be determined genomically because different people can have greatly varying sensitivities to medicines. Almost any medical recommendation may be tailored to the sufferer’s genome.

His fear is that, when a citizenry has no sense of the horrors and true cost of war, they will choose to go to war like any other policy decision, “weighed by the same calculus used to determine whether to raise bridge tolls.”

If the early adopters don’t go crazy and/or use their newfound abilities to turn the world into a totalitarian dictatorship, then they will concisely and vividly communicate the benefits of the technology to their non-uploaded family and friends. If affordable, others will then follow, but the degree of adoption will necessarily depend on whether the process is easily reversible or not.

The purpose of the Seasteading Institute—and of this gathering—is to figure out how to make aquatic homesteads a reality. But Friedman doesn’t just want to create huge floating platforms that people can live on. He’s also hoping to create a platform in the sense that Linux is a platform: a base upon which people can build their own innovative forms of governance. The ultimate goal is to create standards and blueprints that can be easily adapted, allowing small communities to rapidly incubate and test new models of self-rule with the same ease that a programmer in his garage can whip up a Facebook app.

We are just now witnessing the beginning of what is surely going to be a huge wave of self-sufficient communities, enabled by the new modes of production made possible by the Internet and communications technologies. The prospects for this are enormous for everyone, but especially those in poorest and most dependent places on Earth.

Cowell says there is now “a self-imposed moratorium on ‘wetwork'”, or all synthetic biology experiments, until researchers can show that what they are doing is safe.

this makes it easy to build a complete UAV for less than $500, which is really kind of amazing. As exciting as that it is, it’s also sobering to know that a technology that was just a few years ago the sole domain of the military is now within the reach of amateurs…

In open source warfare, an insurgency’s strength grows through a proliferation of groups with a similar high level objective:  a weaker nation-state.  The question becomes:  how is this proliferation achieved?

“Our adversaries are constantly watching what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “They’re adapting and drawing insights and they’re going to make us fight this different kind of war. This manual is not a solution for Iraq or Afghanistan, but it will prepare Soldiers and Marines for where we are going in the future and the enemies we will face.”

As 2009 opens, our financial institutions are deep in massive, irrational panic. That’s bad, but it gets worse: Many other respected institutions have rational underpinnings at least as frail as derivatives or bundled real-estate loans. Like finance, these institutions are social constructions. They are games of confidence, underpinned by people’s solemn willingness to believe, to conform, to contribute. So why not panic over them, too?

Meet your Meat

April 26, 2008

Had a great time this past weekend at the FOR conference, even though we didn’t do the workshop we ended up getting to discuss most of the issues in another workshop. For anyone visiting from that workshop the links to the programs we talked about are over to the right under #6.

But that’s not why I’m here today. I want to discuss the announcement from PETA about the fake meat challenge. Admittedly I’m not huge fan of PETA, they often have confusing and damaging media campaigns and a bit too much of the wild eyed fanatic in most of their rank and file. But still this is a big step in the right direction.

Even though they are using the logic of capitalism to foster innovation I think in some ways it short-circuits the larger flows of global capital. This isn’t going to be a prize that is chased after by big ag companies, but by smaller inventors and innovators, and it also boosts interest in biosciences among the lay public. So in that sense it’s a multiple good. I’d love to see more of these small Ansari X prizes for more scientific fields to spur innovation among garage inventors and basement chemists.

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