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Archive for the ‘policy’ category

Sep 24, 2016

HOIP’s ~ Columbia Chemists Find Key to Manufacturing More Efficient Solar Cells ~ Is this the Future of Solar?

Posted by in categories: nanotechnology, policy, solar power, sustainability

In a discovery that could have profound implications for future energy policy, Columbia scientists have demonstrated it is possible to manufacture solar cells that are far more efficient than existing silicon energy cells by using a new kind of material, a development that could help reduce fossil fuel consumption.

The team, led by Xiaoyang Zhu, a professor of Chemistry at Columbia University, focused its efforts on a new class of solar cell ingredients known as Hybrid Organic Inorganic Perovskites (HOIPs).

Their results, reported in the prestigious journal Science, also explain why these new materials are so much more efficient than traditional solar cells—solving a mystery that will likely prompt scientists and engineers to begin inventing new solar materials with similar properties in the years ahead.

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Sep 24, 2016

US Launches International Brain Initiative to Coordinate Brain Mapping Efforts

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience, policy

The U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State along with the Kavli Foundation; the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Global Partnerships Forum hosted the event that launched the brain initiative during the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly to elevate brain science as a foreign policy priority.

The International Brain Initiative aims to foster coordination of large-scale brain projects around the world in partnership with governments, research institutions, private sector, foundations, advocacy groups, and social innovators.

Toward this end, the United States with Japan, Germany, Argentina and the UN Conference on Trade and Development announced the launch of the International Brain Initiative, part of which is a virtual International Brain Station to enhance and facilitate global collaboration on both basic and disease-focused brain science research.

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Sep 21, 2016

A Free Education for all the World’s People: Why is this Not yet a Thing?

Posted by in categories: education, ethics, internet, open access, open source, philosophy, policy, theory

When we as a global community confront the truly difficult question of considering what is really worth devoting our limited time and resources to in an era marked by such global catastrophe, I always find my mind returning to what the Internet hasn’t really been used for yet—and what was rumored from its inception that it should ultimately provide—an utterly and entirely free education for all the world’s people.

In regard to such a concept, Bill Gates said in 2010, “On the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world […] It will be better than any single university […] No matter how you came about your knowledge, you should get credit for it. Whether it’s an MIT degree or if you got everything you know from lectures on the web, there needs to be a way to highlight that.”

That may sound like an idealistic stretch to the uninitiated, but the fact of the matter is universities like MIT, Harvard, Yale, Oxford, The European Graduate School, Caltech, Stanford, Berkeley, and other international institutions have been regularly uploading entire courses onto YouTube and iTunes U for years. All of them are entirely free. Open Culture, Khan Academy, Wikiversity, and many other centers for online learning also exist. Other online resources have small fees attached to some courses, as you’ll find on edX and Coursea. In fact, here is a list of over 100 places online where you can receive high quality educational material. The 2015 Survey of Online Learning revealed a “Multi-year trend [that] shows growth in online enrollments continues to outpace overall higher ed enrollments.” I. Elaine Allen, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group points out that “The study’s findings highlight a thirteenth consecutive year of growth in the number of students taking courses at a distance.” Furthermore, “More than one in four students (28%) now take at least one distance education course (a total of 5,828,826 students, a year‐to‐year increase of 217,275).” There are so many online courses, libraries of recorded courses, pirate libraries, Massive Open Online Courses, and online centers for learning with no complete database thereof that in 2010 I found myself dumping all the websites and master lists I could find onto a simple Tumblr archive I put together called Educating Earth. I then quickly opened a Facebook Group to try and encourage others to share and discuss courses too.

The volume of high quality educational material already available online is staggering. Despite this, there has yet to be a central search hub for all this wonderful and unique content. No robust community has been built around it with major success. Furthermore, the social and philosophical meaning of this new practice has not been strongly advocated enough yet in a popular forum.

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Sep 13, 2016

Fear Of Russia Drives Sweden Closer To NATO

Posted by in categories: government, policy

Wow; Europe is growing more nervous.


WASHINGTON: The Russian threat has driven Sweden so close to NATO that the once-neutral nation is becoming an ally in all but name. While the current Swedish government won’t apply for NATO membership — a position it just reiterated Friday — every other kind of collaboration is not only on the table, but actually happening more and more.

Recent agreements are bringing Sweden into NATO policy councils and wargame planning in unprecedented ways. Sweden is building up its forces to keep an ever closer watch on Russia both in the Arctic and the Baltic. A Host Nation Agreement — signed just months after Russia’s annexation of Crimea — makes it easier for NATO to operate in Swedish territory (if invited). Sweden has even sent troops to Afghanistan. With friends like these, who needs formal allies?

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Sep 10, 2016

The Familiarity of the Future: A Look Back from 1999

Posted by in categories: counterterrorism, disruptive technology, futurism, governance, hacking, innovation, internet, law, policy

In preparation for writing a review of the Unabomber’s new book, I have gone through my files to find all the things I and others had said about this iconic figure when he struck terror in the hearts of technophiles in the 1990s. Along the way, I found this letter written to a UK Channel 4 producer on 26 November 1999 by way of providing material for a television show in which I participated called ‘The Trial of the 21st Century’, which aired on 2 January 2000. I was part of the team which said things were going to get worse in the 21st century.

What is interesting about this letter is just how similar ‘The Future’ still looks, even though the examples and perhaps some of the wording are now dated. It suggests that there is a way of living in the present that is indeed ‘future-forward’ in the sense of amplifying certain aspects of today’s world beyond the significance normally given to them. In this respect, the science fiction writer William Gibson quipped that the future is already here, only unevenly distributed. Indeed, it seems to have been here for quite a while.

Dear Matt,

Here are the sum of my ideas for the Trial of the 21st Century programme, stressing the downbeat:

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Sep 5, 2016

Artificial intelligence wants to be your bro, not your foe

Posted by in categories: computing, economics, education, employment, policy, robotics/AI, surveillance, transportation

The odds that artificial intelligence will enslave or eliminate humankind within the next decade or so are thankfully slim. So concludes a major report from Stanford University on the social and economic implications of artificial intelligence.

At the same time, however, the report concludes that AI looks certain to upend huge aspects of everyday life, from employment and education to transportation and entertainment. More than 20 leaders in the fields of AI, computer science, and robotics coauthored the report. The analysis is significant because the public alarm over the impact of AI threatens to shape public policy and corporate decisions.

It predicts that automated trucks, flying vehicles, and personal robots will be commonplace by 2030, but cautions that remaining technical obstacles will limit such technologies to certain niches. It also warns that the social and ethical implications of advances in AI, such as the potential for unemployment in certain areas and likely erosions of privacy driven by new forms of surveillance and data mining, will need to be open to discussion and debate.

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Sep 4, 2016

‘Abolish artificial scarcity’: @KevinCarson1

Posted by in categories: disruptive technology, economics, futurism, government, hacking, hardware, policy, transhumanism

Predicting an economic “singularity” approaching, Kevin Carson from the Center for a Stateless Society writes in The Homebrew Industrial Revolution (2010) we can look forward to a vibrant “alternative economy” driven less and less by corporate and state leviathans.

According to Carson, “the more technical advances lower the capital outlays and overhead for production in the informal economy, the more the economic calculus is shifted” (p. 357). While this sums up the message of the book and its relevance to advocates of open existing and emerging technologies, the analysis Carson offers to reach his conclusions is extensive and sophisticated.

With the technology of individual creativity expanding constantly, the analysis goes, “increasing competition, easy diffusion of new technology and technique, and increasing transparency of cost structure will – between them – arbitrage the rate of profit to virtually zero and squeeze artificial scarcity rents” (p. 346).

An unrivalled champion of arguments against “intellectual property”, the author believes IP to be nothing more than a last-ditch attempt by talentless corporations to continue making profit at the expensive of true creators and scientists (p. 114–129). The view has significant merit.

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Aug 24, 2016

Steve Fuller’s Review of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Posted by in categories: big data, bioengineering, biological, bionic, cyborgs, disruptive technology, energy, evolution, existential risks, futurism, homo sapiens, innovation, moore's law, neuroscience, philosophy, policy, posthumanism, robotics/AI, science, singularity, theory, transhumanism

My sociology of knowledge students read Yuval Harari’s bestselling first book, Sapiens, to think about the right frame of reference for understanding the overall trajectory of the human condition. Homo Deus follows the example of Sapiens, using contemporary events to launch into what nowadays is called ‘big history’ but has been also called ‘deep history’ and ‘long history’. Whatever you call it, the orientation sees the human condition as subject to multiple overlapping rhythms of change which generate the sorts of ‘events’ that are the stuff of history lessons. But Harari’s history is nothing like the version you half remember from school.

In school historical events were explained in terms more or less recognizable to the agents involved. In contrast, Harari reaches for accounts that scientifically update the idea of ‘perennial philosophy’. Aldous Huxley popularized this phrase in his quest to seek common patterns of thought in the great world religions which could be leveraged as a global ethic in the aftermath of the Second World War. Harari similarly leverages bits of genetics, ecology, neuroscience and cognitive science to advance a broadly evolutionary narrative. But unlike Darwin’s version, Harari’s points towards the incipient apotheosis of our species; hence, the book’s title.

This invariably means that events are treated as symptoms if not omens of the shape of things to come. Harari’s central thesis is that whereas in the past we cowered in the face of impersonal natural forces beyond our control, nowadays our biggest enemy is the one that faces us in the mirror, which may or may not be able within our control. Thus, the sort of deity into which we are evolving is one whose superhuman powers may well result in self-destruction. Harari’s attitude towards this prospect is one of slightly awestruck bemusement.

Here Harari equivocates where his predecessors dared to distinguish. Writing with the bracing clarity afforded by the Existentialist horizons of the Cold War, cybernetics founder Norbert Wiener declared that humanity’s survival depends on knowing whether what we don’t know is actually trying to hurt us. If so, then any apparent advance in knowledge will always be illusory. As for Harari, he does not seem to see humanity in some never-ending diabolical chess match against an implacable foe, as in The Seventh Seal. Instead he takes refuge in the so-called law of unintended consequences. So while the shape of our ignorance does indeed shift as our knowledge advances, it does so in ways that keep Harari at a comfortable distance from passing judgement on our long term prognosis.

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Aug 23, 2016

Brain Malware — Here’s How Hackers Can Get Inside Your Head

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, computing, mobile phones, neuroscience, policy

I have share my own risks on BMI a while back especially that which is connected (net, cloud, etc.)


brain malware 1Short Bytes: For a moment, forget computer and smartphone malware. There’s even a bigger danger in town in the form of brain malware. By exploiting brain-computer interfaces (BCI) being used in medical and gaming applications, hackers can read your private and sensitive data. Recently, a team of researchers from the University of Washington shed more light on the subject, demanding a policy-oriented regulation on BCIs.

Aug 18, 2016

NASA just made all the scientific research it funds available for free

Posted by in categories: policy, space

NASA just announced that any published research funded by the space agency will now be available at no cost, launching a new public web portal that anybody can access.

The free online archive comes in response to a new NASA policy, which requires that any NASA-funded research articles in peer-reviewed journals be publicly accessible within one year of publication.

“At NASA, we are celebrating this opportunity to extend access to our extensive portfolio of scientific and technical publications,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman. “Through open access and innovation we invite the global community to join us in exploring Earth, air, and space.”

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