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Archive for the ‘existential risks’ category: Page 7

Sep 24, 2018

Asteroids and comets as space weapons

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biotech/medical, existential risks, robotics/AI

A dual use research of concern (DURC) refers to research in the life sciences that, while intended for public benefit, could also be repurposed to cause public harm. One prominent example is that of disease and contagion research (can improve disease control, but can also be used to spread disease more effectively, either accidentally or maliciously). I will argue here that DURC can and should be applicable to any technology that has a potential dual use such as this.


Approximately 66 million years ago, a 10 km sized body struck Earth, and was likely one of the main contributors to the extinction of many species at the time. Bodies the size of 5 km or larger impact Earth on average every 20 million years (one might say we are overdue for one, but then one wouldn’t understand statistics). Asteroids 1 km or larger impact Earth every 500,000 years on average. Smaller bodies which can still do considerable local damage occur much more frequently (10 m wide bodies impact Earth on average every 10 years). It seems reasonable to say that only the first category (~5 km) pose an existential threat, however many others pose major catastrophic threats*.

Given the likelihood of an asteroid impact (I use the word asteroid instead of asteroid and/or comet from here for sake of brevity), some argue that further improving detection and deflection technology are critical. Matheny (2007) estimates that, even if asteroid extinction events are improbable, due to the loss of future human generations if one were to occur, asteroid detection/deflection research and development could save a human life-year for $2.50 (US). Asteroid impact mitigation is not thought to be the most pressing existential threat (e.g. artificial intelligence or global pandemics), and yet it already seems to have better return on investment than the best now-centric human charities (though not non-human charities – I am largely ignoring non-humans here for simplicity and sake of argument).

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Sep 14, 2018

Notes from Nietzsche and some Correlations with Transhumanism

Posted by in categories: ethics, existential risks, futurism, government, health, life extension, philosophy, transhumanism

In the vicissitudes of life, our recent and living generations moved from the hard times of a hundred years ago to the exponential good times of today. Now a few hundred key pioneers have positioned the world in front of the opportunities of Transhumanism and its main tenet, indefinite life extension. Will we unite the world on these issues and capitalize or waste it and let the weeds reclaim our “wheel”, the magnum opus of our generations? I challenge all would-be leaders and followers to honor our ancestors’ long tradition of pioneering the next stages of our future. Everything about you was crafted and honed for this and there is no other time. Find the blazers of our emerging values and paths, your philosophers of the future, out there at the forefronts on this epic new transhuman voyage of freedoms and discoveries and follow them. All leaders who haven’t already, I implore you to fully embrace your roles, triple down and raise your flags even higher. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote a book preluding this philosophy of the future, which serves as the structure for this paper and is quoted here throughout.

“[Conditioning to hard times] is thus established, unaffected by the vicissitudes of generations; the constant struggle with uniform unfavourable conditions is, as already remarked, the cause of a type becoming stable and hard. Finally, however, a happy state of things results, the enormous tension is relaxed; there are perhaps no more enemies among the neighbouring peoples, and the means of life, even of the enjoyment of life, are present in superabundance. With one stroke the bond and constraint of the old discipline severs: it is no longer regarded as necessary, as a condition of existence—if it would continue, it can only do so as a form of luxury, as an archaizing taste. Variations, whether they be deviations (into the higher, finer, and rarer), or deteriorations and monstrosities, appear suddenly on the scene in the greatest exuberance and splendour; the individual dares to be individual and detach himself. At this turning-point of history there manifest themselves, side by side, and often mixed and entangled together, a magnificent, manifold, virgin-forest-like up-growth and up-striving, a kind of tropical tempo in the rivalry of growth, and an extraordinary decay and self-destruction, owing to the savagely opposing and seemingly exploding aptitudes, which strive with one another ‘for sun and light,’ and can no longer assign any limit, restraint, or forbearance for themselves by means of the hitherto existing morality. It was this morality itself which piled up the strength so enormously, which bent the bow in so threatening a manner:—it is now ‘out of date,’ it is getting ‘out of date.’ ” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future

Our elders came from the great depression and world war. Then they had to watch what they called “morals”, but which were actually just coping mechanisms particular to their vicissitude of time, as Nietzsche gets at in various places, become increasingly disregarded. That happened faster than ever because, little did they know, the bell curve of exponential advancements in fields across the board were upon them. The variations of excellence and monstrosities proliferated like no other time and were supercharged for an abundant harvest by the buds of enlightenment and technology that had been poking their heads out of the fertile intellectual fields of civilization from the smatterings of good times they were able to come upon throughout the century. A lot of it was stored as compounding action potential. It went off like rifles in the 50s and 60s, with so much force that the bullets are still flying today, and the shots of individual aptitude have been firing ever since. Like he is saying, it’s a jungle of individual morals competing in the survival of the fittest, so you must find ways, that hard times naturally make, to get all these independent construction workers of the best ideas behind the same projects in order to tap that energy for the big stages and human potentials.

This is our window in time here, as I often say, to get projects like life extension, transhumanism, space exploration, and some other things done. The people of the past didn’t have this opportunity and the chance here isn’t available forever because death will close us off from it or bad times will set back in. A great gate in Plato’s cave has opened, the eternal guard lions of death have left their posts and we don’t know how long until they come back or the gate closes. It is devastating watching those who have been hypnotized by the cave, by the death trance, sitting there with a wide-open door and the clock ticking down. The climb must be made, now is the time, there is no other. Team up and follow the leaders on these new emerging circumstances and moral imperatives or everyone will die as the marvels of space and boundless technology tumble from our hands. We rouse them to action slowly but surely, though all as one, more gets done.

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Aug 29, 2018

Inside the United Nations’ effort to regulate autonomous killer robots

Posted by in categories: drones, Elon Musk, existential risks, law, military, robotics/AI

Amandeep Gill has a difficult job, though he won’t admit it himself. As chair of the United Nations’ Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) meetings on lethal autonomous weapons, he has the task of shepherding 125 member states through discussions on the thorny technical and ethical issue of “killer robots” — military robots that could theoretically engage targets independently. It’s a subject that has attracted a glaring media spotlight and pressure from NGOs like Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which is backed by Tesla’s Elon Musk and Alphabet’s Mustafa Suleyman, to ban such machines outright.

Gill has to corral national delegations — diplomats, lawyers, and military personnel — as well as academics, AI entrepreneurs, industry associations, humanitarian organizations, and NGOs in order for member states to try to reach a consensus on this critical security issue.

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Aug 24, 2018

‘Potentially hazardous,’ 500-foot asteroid set to zoom past Earth at 20,000 mph

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

NASA — National Aeronautics and Space Administration has issued an alert that a “potentially hazardous asteroid” is on a “close approach” towards Earth.


NASA has issued an alert that a “potentially hazardous asteroid” is on a “close approach” toward Earth. However, it’s nothing to be alarmed at, as the asteroid is expected to zoom past the planet approximately 3 million miles away.

The enormous space rock, known as asteroid 2016 NF23 and estimated to be between 230 and 525 feet in diameter, will zip past Earth on Aug. 29 at a velocity of 9.04 kilometers per second, or approximately 20,000 miles per hour, the government space agency said on its Earth Close Approaches page.

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Aug 22, 2018

Massive asteroid bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza will make a close approach to Earth NEXT WEEK

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱


A massive asteroid estimated to be double the size of a Boeing 747 is headed toward a close approach with Earth next week.

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Aug 22, 2018

An Answer To Fermi’s Paradox

Posted by in category: existential risks

Look below the surface.

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Aug 19, 2018

Are We Alone?

Posted by in categories: biological, existential risks

The problem with the Fermi Paradox is our narrow assumption of life as being biological in form and time as being linear in direction. Chances are we are the sentient descendants of the civilizations we are looking for.

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Aug 15, 2018

Weird circles in the sky may be signs of a universe before ours

Posted by in categories: cosmology, existential risks, mathematics

By Chelsea Whyte

Swirling patterns in the sky may be signs of black holes that survived the destruction of a universe before the big bang.

“What we claim we’re seeing is the final remnant after a black hole has evaporated away in the previous aeon,” says Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist at the University of Oxford.

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Aug 15, 2018

How to conserve half the planet without going hungry

Posted by in categories: existential risks, food, habitats

‚Every day there are roughly 386,000 new mouths to feed, and in that same 24 hours, scientists estimate between one and 100 species will go extinct. That’s it. Lost forever.

To deal with the biodiversity crisis we need to find a way to give nature more space—habitat loss is a key factor driving these extinctions. But how would this affect our food supplies?

New research, published in Nature Sustainability, found it could mean we lose a lot of food —but exactly how much really depends on how we choose to give nature that space. Doing it right could mean rethinking how we do agriculture and altogether.

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Aug 10, 2018

Risks for Life on Habitable Planets from Superflares of Their Host Stars

Posted by in categories: alien life, economics, evolution, existential risks

We explore some of the ramifications arising from superflares on the evolutionary history of Earth, other planets in the solar system, and exoplanets. We propose that the most powerful superflares can serve as plausible drivers of extinction events, and that their periodicity corresponds to certain patterns in the terrestrial fossil diversity record. On the other hand, weaker superflares may play a positive role in enabling the origin of life through the formation of key organic compounds. Superflares could also prove to be quite detrimental to the evolution of complex life on present-day Mars and exoplanets in the habitable zone of M- and K-dwarfs. We conclude that the risk posed by superflares has not been sufficiently appreciated, and that humanity might potentially witness a superflare event in the next $\sim {10}^{3}$ years, leading to devastating economic and technological losses. In light of the many uncertainties and assumptions associated with our analysis, we recommend that these results should be viewed with due caution.

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