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Apr 7, 2012

GadgetBridge — Taming dangerous technologies by pushing them into consumer gadgets

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, ethics, futurism, geopolitics, human trajectories, neuroscience

GatgetBridge is currently just a concept. It might start its life as a discussion forum, later turn into a network or an organisation and hopefully inspire a range of similar activities.

We will soon be able to use technology to make ourselves more intelligent, feel happier or change what motivates us. When the use of such technologies is banned, the nations or individuals who manage to cheat will soon lord it over their more obedient but unfortunately much dimmer fellows. When these technologies are made freely available, a few terrorists and psychopaths will use them to cause major disasters. Societies will have to find ways to spread these mind enhancement treatments quickly among the majority of their citizens, while keeping them from the few who are likely to cause harm. After a few enhancement cycles, the most capable members of such societies will all be “trustworthy” and use their skills to stabilise the system (see “All In The Mind”).

But how can we manage the transition period, the time in which these technologies are powerful enough to be abused but no social structures are yet in place to handle them? It might help to use these technologies for entertainment purposes, so that many people learn about their risks and societies can adapt (see “Should we build a trustworthiness tester for fun”). But ideally, a large, critical and well-connected group of technology users should be part of the development from the start and remain involved in every step.

To do that, these users would have to spend large amounts of money and dedicate considerable manpower. Fortunately, the basic spending and working patterns are in place: People already use a considerable part of their income to buy consumer devices such as mobile phones, tablet computers and PCs and increasingly also accessories such as blood glucose meters, EEG recorders and many others; they also spend a considerable part of their time to get familiar with these devices. Manufacturers and software developers are keen to turn any promising technology into a product and over time this will surely include most mind measuring and mind enhancement technologies. But for some critical technologies this time might be too long. GadgetBridge is there to shorten it as follows:

- GadgetBridge spreads its philosophy — that mind-enhancing technologies are only dangerous when they are allowed to develop in isolation — that spreading these technologies makes a freer world more likely — and that playing with innovative consumer gadgets is therefore not just fun but also serves a good cause.

- Contributors make suggestions for new consumer devices based on the latest brain research and their personal experiences. Many people have innovative ideas but few are in a position to exploit them. Contributors rather donate their ideas that see them wither away or claimed by somebody else.

- All ideas are immediately published and offered free of charge to anyone who wants to use them. Companies select and implement the best options. Users buy their products and gain hands-on experience with the latest mind measurement and mind enhancement technologies. When risks become obvious, concerned users and governments look for ways to cope with them before they get out of hand.

- Once GadgetBridge produces results, it might attract funding from the companies that have benefited or hope to benefit from its services. GadgetBridge might then organise competitions, commission feasibility studies or develop a structure that provides modest rewards to successful contributors.

Your feedback is needed! Please be honest rather than polite: Could GadgetBridge make a difference?

6

Comments — comments are now closed.

  • Paulius on April 8, 2012 2:57 pm

    a penopticon in the adult playground is hard to ignore

  • LHC Kritik on April 14, 2012 5:16 am

    Respect Mr Schiefer for articulating this severe problem hopefully early enough in history.

    Though, regarding the handling with the risks at CERN, an open source policy is obviously not enough. Only very few CERN experts got closer involved in the complex risk question. And the vast majority of their colleagues worldwide are simply believing them that their estimations are sufficient. In this concern, famous philosopher Humberto Maturana said: “Certainty is an emotion. I am sure means I do not know.”

    Mankind needs much more institutes in research on long term risks.

    Do you see possibilities that your concept can moderate or balance long term safety interests with short time profit interests and socio-psychological group think?

  • John Cassel on April 15, 2012 11:38 am

    GadgetBridge has some great ideas, but I have a concern. Sometimes I wonder if we are too quick to put potential gadgets into production, instead of thinking of them speculatively, as specifications, and then think through the various ways those gadgets might be deployed and what risks that entails. I think we could learn a lot about how we might want to treat these devices if we have some scenarios that think through their consequences. Although the results of preliminary design activities are far from definitive, I don’t think we have to build and market everything we come up immediately with to understand how we might want to engage its risks. Proceeding directly from science to production misses an important stage for risk mitigation.

  • Michael Campbell on April 20, 2012 8:41 pm

    I absolutely agree that original ideas need a common public forum in which to compete. A reddit-style community upvoting system would cull the idea chaff.

  • Roland Schiefer on April 25, 2012 4:21 pm

    Thanks for the feed back so far. Here is what I made of it:

    Paulius seems to think that GadgetBridge will just be one of the many places where the irrelevant can make each other feel important. Unfortunately, that is a likely outcome when the project is started on a shoestring. A badly advertised, obscure site has to be welcoming to all visitors who happen to stumble across it. Soon, it will be full of personal gripe and far-out stuff that drives more promising contributors away. But I still think that GadgetBridge could be made to work after a successful start — with solid financing, a clear business plan, effective PR and corporate backing.

    John Cassel proposes an additional impact assessment step between design teams and retail shops that acts like a filter and takes out the most dangerous designs. GadgetBridge, on the other hand, is not a filter but a turbo-charger. It encourages people to feed their product ideas to design teams so that they can create more advanced consumer devices. That might require some explanation. I do not think that the main risks of future mind enhancement relate to accidents or personal abuse — the kind of problems that are likely to increase with a higher speed of product innovation. The main risks will rather relate to authoritarian regimes and terrorism, and these risks are best reduced by stimulating the “political immune systems” of societies with state-of-the-art consumer devices. That said, we obviously need better filters as well.

    Michael Campbell wrote that a public voting system would not be the right way to select promising ideas. I fully agree. GadgetBridge would not even require an internal selection procedure, because it would be part of a social system that has such functions already. The first selectors would be the designers and engineers who pick promising ideas — followed by corporate lawyers who check whether their company could be sued — followed by supervisory authorities who need to approve the safety of the product — followed by critical consumers, consumer organisations, litigative groups of all kinds and many others. GadgetBridge users could therefore just focus on inventing without feeling bad about it.

  • Griffin on August 3, 2012 3:40 pm

    Although I’ve learned that we are all rlealy connected in this sense, I still don’t think about it rlealy when I meet other people or come in contact with someone new Peter. But I’ve always found this interesting I must admit. It just doesn’t stay in the forefront of my mind. Thanks for sharing and reminding me once again what is..~AdrienneAdrienne recently posted: