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Archive for the ‘complex systems’ category: Page 15

Sep 1, 2012

Christian Astronomers

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, open source, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

“The more anxiety one produces, the more the discussion there would be about how real and how possible actual existential threats are.”

John Hunt recently queried me on what steps I might take to form an organization to advocate for survival colonies and planetary defense. His comment on anxiety is quite succinct. In truth the landing on the moon was the product of fear- of the former Soviet Union’s lead in rocket technology. As we as a nation quelled that anxiety the budget for human space flight dwindled. But the fear of a nuclear winter continued to grow along with the size of our arsenals.

Interestingly, at the height of the cold war, evidence of yet another threat to human existence was uncovered in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico in 1981; Chicxulub. But even before the dinosaur killer was discovered, perhaps the greatest threat of all to humanity was born in 1973 when Herb Boyer and Stanley Cohen created the first genetically modified organism. The money to answer both of these threats by going into space continues to be expended by the military industrial complex.

Mile wide rocks in space and microscopic organisms on earth are both threats to our existence, but the third and undoubtedly greatest threat is our own apathy. Why do we expend the tremendous resources of our race on everything BUT keeping it from going extinct?

Continue reading “Christian Astronomers” »

Aug 28, 2012

The Truth about Space Travel is Stranger than Fiction

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, cosmology, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, neuroscience, nuclear weapons, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency, treaties

I have been corresponding with John Hunt and have decided that perhaps it is time to start moving toward forming a group that can accomplish something.

The recent death of Neil Armstrong has people thinking about space. The explosion of a meteor over Britain and the curiosity rover on Mars are also in the news. But there is really nothing new under the sun. There is nothing that will hold people’s attention for very long outside of their own immediate comfort and basic needs. Money is the central idea of our civilization and everything else is soon forgotten. But this idea of money as the center of all activity is a death sentence. Human beings die and species eventually become extinct just as worlds and suns also are destroyed or burn out. Each of us is in the position of a circus freak on death row. Bizarre, self centered, doomed; a cosmic joke. Of all the creatures on this planet, we are the freaks the other creatures would come to mock- if they were like us. If they were supposedly intelligent like us. But are we actually the intelligent ones? The argument can be made that we lack a necessary characteristic to be considered truly intelligent life forms.

Truly intelligent creatures would be struggling with three problems if they found themselves in our situation as human beings on Earth in the first decades of this 21st century;

1. Mortality. With technology possible to delay death and eventually reverse the aging process, intelligent beings would be directing the balance of planetary resources towards conquering “natural” death.

Continue reading “The Truth about Space Travel is Stranger than Fiction” »

Aug 19, 2012

Artilects Soon to Come

Posted by in categories: complex systems, counterterrorism, cybercrime/malcode, defense, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, information science, military, neuroscience, supercomputing

Whether via spintronics or some quantum breakthrough, artificial intelligence and the bizarre idea of intellects far greater than ours will soon have to be faced.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120819153743.htm

Aug 15, 2012

Approaching the Great Rescue

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, complex systems, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, media & arts, neuroscience, philosophy, policy, singularity, sustainability, transparency

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120815131137.htm

One more step has been taken toward making whole body cryopreservation a practical reality. An understanding of the properties of water allows the temperature of the human body to be lowered without damaging cell structures.

Just as the microchip revolution was unforeseen the societal effects of suspending death have been overlooked completely.

The first successful procedure to freeze a human being and then revive that person without damage at a later date will be the most important single event in human history. When that person is revived he or she will awaken to a completely different world.

Continue reading “Approaching the Great Rescue” »

Aug 14, 2012

Complex new world: Translating new economic thinking into public policy

Posted by in categories: complex systems, economics, policy

Over the years some of the themes I’ve touched upon in this blog have been about the outdated paradigms shaping public policy. The realisation came to our acute attention with the ongoing economic crisis since 2008. The crisis has precipitated and energised new thinking in economics, as evidenced by the creation of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. The Institute is a place to explore cutting edge ideas, and challenge calcified theories that have prevented the field from keeping pace with the intellectual advances in the natural sciences. However in the coming years the social sciences and humanities will also see great leaps forward in thinking that can potentially transform our political and socio-economic systems.

A book to be published by IPPR, the Institute for Public Policy Research contributes to bringing about this transformation. The book, ‘Complex new world: Translating new economic thinking into public policy’, explores various economic complexities that challenge traditional economic theory.

We live in uncertain economic times. The financial crash and subsequent downturn have shaken the global economic system to its core. If one thing is certain, it is that the events of recent years have thrown mainstream economic thinking into disrepute. In the aftermath of the crash, scholars and commentators are turning to new, heterodox economic theories as a way of better understanding how the economy really works and how the economic system might be managed more effectively. Yet although new economic thinking offers a far better account of how the economic system functions, we don’t yet have a clear idea of its implications for policymaking. In economic policymaking, orthodox economics remains the only game in town.

The shaking of disciplines is also evident in history as the field of cliodynamics attempts to apply scientific methods to understand human history. There are some historians who are deeply sceptical, which a Nature article highlighted earlier this month,

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Aug 13, 2012

The Electric Septic Spintronic Artilect

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, homo sapiens, human trajectories, information science, military, neuroscience, nuclear weapons, policy, robotics/AI, scientific freedom, singularity, space, supercomputing, sustainability, transparency

AI scientist Hugo de Garis has prophesied the next great historical conflict will be between those who would build gods and those who would stop them.

It seems to be happening before our eyes as the incredible pace of scientific discovery leaves our imaginations behind.

We need only flush the toilet to power the artificial mega mind coming into existence within the next few decades. I am actually not intentionally trying to write anything bizarre- it is just this strange planet we are living on.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120813155525.htm

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120813123034.htm

Aug 7, 2012

Party Like It’s 1912…

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, complex systems, economics, ethics, existential risks, fun, lifeboat, media & arts, rants

It’s the centennial year of the Titanic disaster, and that tragedy remains a touchstone.

The lifeboat angle is obvious. So is the ice hazard: then it was icebergs, now it’s comets.

But 100 years of expanding awareness has revealed the other threats we’re now aware of. We have to think about asteroids, nano- and genotech accidents, ill-considered high-energy experiments, economic and social collapse into oligarchy and debt peonage, and all the many others.

What a great subject for a Movie Night! Here are some great old movies about lifeboats and their discontents.

Continue reading “Party Like It's 1912...” »

Jul 12, 2012

A Resilient Logic for Hazardous Times

Posted by in categories: complex systems, economics, engineering, ethics, existential risks, nuclear weapons, policy, sustainability
“If the rate of change on the outside
exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near”
- Jack Welch

Complex societies are heavily addicted to expensive, vulnerable and potentially hazardous infrastructure. We rely on a healthy environment for production of food and access to clean water. We depend on technological infrastructure for energy supplies and communications. We are deeply addicted to economic growth to support growing populations and consumption. If one of these pillars of modern society crumbles our existence will collapse like a house of cards.

The interdependencies and complexities of the system we call modern society has become so intertangled that finding a robust and simple solution to our problems has become close to impossible. Historically the cold war gave us the logic of a “balance of terror”. This logic, originally concerned with a balance of U.S. vs. Soviet military capacities, has lead to an increasingly expensive way of reducing risk and ever expanding bureaucracies to keep us “virtually safe”.

With the onset of a global economic recession, drastic climate change, deadly natural disasters, raging civil wars and diminishing natural resources we need a new logic. A set of moral laws for reducing risk and mitigating consequences applicable at a low cost from the bottom up of entire societies.

The concept of resilience is based on the idea that disasters are inevitable and a natural part of existence. Our best defense is preparedness and engineering systems that not only can withstand heavy strains but also absorb damage. The Institute for Resilient Infrastructure at the University of Leeds gives this definition of “Resilience”;

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May 31, 2012

Médecins Sans Frontières Scientific Day 2012

Posted by in categories: complex systems, geopolitics, policy, sustainability

Every year Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hold a conference to present scientific research carried out by their teams from different parts of the world. This year’s conference highlighted some of the strategic challenges facing MSF, and challenged some of our conceptions of medical humanitarian aid, and international development in light of groundbreaking digital technologies. We are as Paul Conneally passionately articulated in his keynote speech – Digital Humanitarian – ‘on the cusp of a global health revolution’.

Some of the groundbreaking technologies touched upon included crisis mapping, a technology that is still in its infancy, and the era of big data. The possibilities of how healthcare and humanitarian aid will be transformed by the convergence of ideas and technologies were evident in the poster session; humanitarian technology applications showed refugee camps in Kenya being monitored using satellite imagery and a humanitarian field software kit called joekit. Of the talks demonstrating real world examples, a talk by Isabella Panunzi on teleradiology proved to be immensely inspiring.

Isabella’s talk on her experience of applying teleradiology to improve diagnosis of tuberculosis in Thyolo District Hospital, Malawi showcased humanitarian innovation at its best. X-rays are taken at the Malawi hospital and the images are then sent to radiologists in the USA to interpret the images. As a result teleradiology has reduced critical delays and missed diagnosis of TB. This example of digital humanitarianism symbolises a small fraction of what can be potentially achieved in transforming our world. It opens up new possibilities in the transfer of technology and knowledge to the developing world. It also highlights the need for a different approach to modelling the strategic challenges of medical humanitarian aid and international development, and this is where complexity thinking and science can bring together different parts of problems and solutions to construct true holistic solutions.

A talk by Jonathan Smith, lecturer in Global Health and Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at Yale University, brought together the disciplines of the arts and sciences as he gave an inventive take on using research in the digital age. Visually documenting disease and connecting the ‘emotional component to epidemiological data’ is extremely powerful to create change in global health observed Jonathon, as he showed part of a documentary film he is directing, ‘They Go to Die’, a film about,

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May 25, 2012

OpenOffice / LibreOffice & A Warning For Futurists

Posted by in categories: complex systems, futurism, human trajectories, information science, open access, open source

I spend most of my time thinking about software, and occasionally I come across issues that are relevant to futurists. I wrote my book about the future of software in OpenOffice, and needed many of its features. It might not be the only writing / spreadsheet / diagramming / presentation, etc. tool in your toolbox, but it is a worthy one. OpenDocument Format (ODF) is the best open standard for these sorts of scenarios and LibreOffice is currently the premier tool to handle that format. I suspect many of the readers of Lifeboat have a variant installed, but don’t know much of the details of what is going on.

The OpenOffice situation has been a mess for many years. Sun didn’t foster a community of developers around their work. In fact, they didn’t listen to the community when it told them what to do. So about 18 months ago, after Oracle purchased Sun and made the situation worse, the LibreOffice fork was created with most of the best outside developers. LibreOffice quickly became the version embraced by the Linux community as many of the outside developers were funded by the Linux distros themselves. After realizing their mess and watching LibreOffice take off within the free software community, Oracle decided to fire all their engineers (50) and hand the trademark and a copy of the code over to IBM / Apache.

Now it would be natural to imagine that this should be handed over to LibreOffice, and have all interested parties join up with this effort. But that is not what is happening. There are employees out there whose job it is to help Linux, but they are actually hurting it. You can read more details on a Linux blog article I wrote here. I also post this message as a reminder about how working together efficiently is critical to have faster progress on complicated things.

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