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Jun 9, 2010

Have Corporations Become a Global Existential Threat?

Posted by in categories: business, ethics, existential risks

Perhaps you think I’m crazy or naive to pose this question. But more and more the past few months I’ve begun to wonder if there is a possibility here that this idea may not be too far off the mark.

Not because of some half-baked theory about a global conspiracy or anything of the sort but simply based upon the behavior of many multinational corporations recently and the effects this behavior is having upon people everywhere.

Again, you may disagree but my perspective on these financial giants is that they are essentially predatory in nature and that their prey is any dollar in commerce that they can possibly absorb. The problem is that for anyone in the modern or even quasi-modern world money is nearly as essential as plasma when it comes to our well-being.

It has been clearly demonstrated again and again — all over the world — that when a population has become sufficiently destitute that the survival of the individual is actually threatened violence inevitably occurs. On a large enough scale this sort of violence can erupt into civil war and wars, as we all know too well can spread like a virus across borders, even oceans.

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Jun 8, 2010

Transitions

Posted by in category: futurism

King Louis XVI’s entry in his personal diary for that fateful day of July 14, 1789 suggests that nothing important had happened. He did not know that the events of the day-the attack upon the Bastille-meant that the revolution was under way, and that the world as he knew it was essentially over. Fast forward to June, 2010: a self-replicating biological organism (mycoplasma mycoides bacterium transformed) has been created in a laboratory by J. Craig Venter and his team. Yes, the revolution has begun. Indeed, the preliminaries have been going on for several years; it’s just that … um, well, have we been wide awake?

Ray Kurzweil’s singularity might be 25 years into the future, but sooner, a few years from now, we’ll have an interactive global network that some refer to as ‘global brain.’ Web3. I imagine no one knows exactly what will come out of all this, but I expect that we’ll find that the whole will be more than and different from the sum of the parts. Remember Complexity Theory. How about the ‘butterfly effect?’ Chaos Theory. And much more not explainable by theories presently known. I expect surprises, to say the least.

I am a retired psychiatrist, not a scientist. We each have a role to enact in this drama/comedy that we call life, and yes, our lives have meaning. Meaning! For me life is not a series of random events or events brought about by ‘them,’ but rather an unfolding drama/comedy with an infinite number of possible outcomes. We don’t know its origins or its drivers. Do we even know where our visions comes from?

So, what is my vision and what do I want? How clearly do I visualize what I want? Am I passionate about what I want or simply lukewarm? How much am I prepared to risk in pursuit of what I want? Do I reach out for what I want directly or do I get what I want indirectly by trying to serve two masters, so to speak? If the former I practice psychological responsibility, if the latter I do not. An important distinction. The latter situation suggests unresolved dilemma, common enough. Who among us can claim to be without?

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Jun 7, 2010

Gizmodo: Are Cameras the New Guns?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, media & arts, policy

Wendy McElroy brings an important issue to our attention — the increasing criminalization of filming / recording on-duty police officers.

The techno-progressive angle on this would have to take sousveillance into consideration. If our only response to a surveillance state is to observe “from the bottom” (as, for example, Steve Mann would have it), and if that response is made illegal, it seems that the next set of possible steps forward could include more entrenched recording of all personal interaction.

Already we have a cyborg model for this — “eyeborgs” Rob Spence and Neil Harbisson. So where next?

Resources:

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Jun 7, 2010

Cell Phones in Timbuktu

Posted by in categories: economics, finance, geopolitics, human trajectories

well-in-an-oasisIt’s easy to think of people from the underdeveloped world as quite different from ourselves. After all, there’s little to convince us otherwise. National Geographic Specials, video clips on the Nightly News, photos in every major newspaper – all depicting a culture and lifestyle that’s hard for us to imagine let alone relate to. Yes – they seem very different; or perhaps not. Consider this story related to me by a friend.

Ray was a pioneer in software. He sold his company some time ago for a considerable amount of money. After this – during his quasi-retirement he got involved in coordinating medical relief missions to some of the most impoverished places on the planet, places such as Timbuktu in Africa.

The missions were simple – come to a place like Timbuktu and set up medical clinics, provide basic medicines and health care training and generally try and improve the health prospects of native peoples wherever he went.

Upon arriving in Timbuktu, Ray observed that their system of commerce was incredibly simple. Basically they had two items that were in commerce – goats and charcoal.

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Jun 5, 2010

Space Education

Posted by in categories: education, space

Kepler Space University was a participant in the ISDC-2010 at Chicago, May 27–30, 2010 with a PhD Commencement and nine presentations.

Read KSC Scores at ISDC.

Bob Krone, Ph.D., Provost
www.keplerspaceuniversity.org

Jun 5, 2010

Friendly AI: What is it, and how can we foster it?

Posted by in categories: complex systems, ethics, existential risks, futurism, information science, policy, robotics/AI

Friendly AI: What is it, and how can we foster it?
By Frank W. Sudia [1]

Originally written July 20, 2008
Edited and web published June 6, 2009
Copyright © 2008-09, All Rights Reserved.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, artificial intellect, friendly AI, human-robot ethics, science policy.

1. Introduction

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Jun 2, 2010

New Terrorism: Five days in Manhattan

Posted by in categories: counterterrorism, cybercrime/malcode, defense, finance

Originally posted @ Perspective Intelligence

Two events centered on New York City separated by five days demonstrated the end of one phase of terrorism and the pending arrival of the next. The failed car-bombing in Times square and the dizzying stock market crash less than a week later mark the book ends of terrorist eras.

The attempt by Faisal Shahzad to detonate a car bomb in Times Square was notable not just for its failure but also the severely limited systemic impact a car-bomb could have, even when exploding in crowded urban center. Car-bombs or Vehicle-Borne IED’s have a long history (incidentally one of the first was the 1920 ‘cart and horse bomb’ in Wall Street, which killed 38 people). VBIED’s remain deadly as a tactic within an insurgency or warfare setting but with regard to modern urban terrorism the world has moved on. We are now living within a highly virtualized system and the dizzying stock-market crash on the 6th May 2010 shows how vulnerable this system is to digital failure. While the NYSE building probably remains a symbolic target for some terrorists a deadly and capable adversary would ignore this physical manifestation of the financial system and disrupt the data-centers, software and routers that make the global financial system tick. Shahzad’s attempted car-bomb was from another age and posed no overarching risk to western societies. The same cannot be said of the vulnerable and highly unstable financial system.

Computer aided crash (proof of concept for future cyber-attack)

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May 31, 2010

A Space Elevator in 7

Posted by in categories: nanotechnology, space

I am a former Microsoft programmer who wrote a book (for a general audience) about the future of software called After the Software Wars. Eric Klien has invited me to post on this blog (Software and the Singularity, AI and Driverless cars) Here are the sections on the Space Elevator. I hope you find these pages food for thought and I appreciate any feedback.


A Space Elevator in 7

Midnight, July 20, 1969; a chiaroscuro of harsh contrasts appears on the television screen. One of the shadows moves. It is the leg of astronaut Edwin Aldrin, photographed by Neil Armstrong. Men are walking on the moon. We watch spellbound. The earth watches. Seven hundred million people are riveted to their radios and television screens on that July night in 1969. What can you do with the moon? No one knew. Still, a feeling in the gut told us that this was the greatest moment in the history of life. We were leaving the planet. Our feet had stirred the dust of an alien world.

—Robert Jastrow, Journey to the Stars

Management is doing things right, Leadership is doing the right things!

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May 27, 2010

AI and Driverless cars

Posted by in categories: human trajectories, open source, robotics/AI

I am a former Microsoft programmer who wrote a book (for a general audience) about the future of software called After the Software Wars. Eric Klien has invited me to post on this blog. Here are several more sections on AI topics. I hope you find these pages food for thought and I appreciate any feedback.


The future is open source everything.

—Linus Torvalds

That knowledge has become the resource, rather than a resource, is what makes our society post-capitalist.

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May 2, 2010

Nuclear Winter and Fire and Reducing Fire Risks to Cities

Posted by in categories: defense, existential risks, lifeboat, military, nuclear weapons

This is a crosspost from Nextbigfuture

I looked at nuclear winter and city firestorms a few months ago I will summarize the case I made then in the next section. There is significant additions based on my further research and email exchanges that I had with Prof Alan Robock and Brian Toon who wrote the nuclear winter research.

The Steps needed to prove nuclear winter:
1. Prove that enough cities will have firestorms or big enough fires (the claim here is that does not happen)
2. Prove that when enough cities in a suffient area have big fire that enough smoke and soot gets into the stratosphere (trouble with this claim because of the Kuwait fires)
3. Prove that condition persists and effects climate as per models (others have questioned that but this issue is not addressed here

The nuclear winter case is predictated on getting 150 million tons (150 teragram case) of soot, smoke into the stratosphere and having it stay there. The assumption seemed to be that the cities will be targeted and the cities will burn in massive firestorms. Alan Robock indicated that they only included a fire based on the radius of ignition from the atmospheric blasts. However, in the scientific american article and in their 2007 paper the stated assumptions are:

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