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Archive for the ‘events’ category: Page 6

Jan 20, 2012

Old UNIX/IBM control systems: Potential time bombs in Industry

Posted by in categories: cybercrime/malcode, defense, events, existential risks, military, nuclear energy

It may be a point of little attention, as the millennium bug came with a lot of hoo-ha and went out with a whimper, but the impact it had on business was small because of all the hoo-ha, not in spite of it. And so it is with some concern that I consider operating system rollover dates as a potential hazard by software malfunction at major industrial operations such as nuclear power stations and warhead controls, which in worst case scenario, could of course have disastrous implications due to out-dated control systems.

The main dates of interest are 19 January 2038 by when all 32-bit Unix operating systems need to have been replaced by at least their 64-bit equivalents, and 17 Sept 2042 when IBM mainframes that use a 64-bit count need to be phased out.

Scare mongering? Perhaps not. While all modern facilities will have the superior time representation, I question if facilities built in the 70s and 80s, in particular those behind the old iron curtain were or ever will be upgraded. This raises a concern that for example the old soviet nuclear arsenal could become a major global threat within a few decades by malfunction if not decommissioned or control systems upgraded. It is one thing for a bank statement to print the date wrong on your latest bill due to millennium bug type issues, but if automated fault tolerance procedures have coding such as ‘if(time1 > time2+N) then initiate counter-measures’ then that is quite a different matter entirely.

I believe this is a topic which warrants higher profile lest it be forgot. Fortunately the global community has a few decades on its hands to handle this particular issue, though all it takes is just one un-cooperative facility to take such a risk rather than perform the upgrades necessary to ensure no such ‘meltdowns’ occur. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…

Jan 13, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 2

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biotech/medical, business, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, space

I am taking the advice of a reader of this blog and devoting part 2 to examples of old school and modern movies and the visionary science they portray.

Things to Come 1936 — Event Horizon 1997
Things to Come was a disappointment to Wells and Event Horizon was no less a disappointment to audiences. I found them both very interesting as a showcase for some technology and social challenges.… to come- but a little off the mark in regards to the exact technology and explicit social issues. In the final scene of Things to Come, Raymond Massey asks if mankind will choose the stars. What will we choose? I find this moment very powerful- perhaps the example; the most eloguent expression of the whole genre of science fiction. Event Horizon was a complete counterpoint; a horror movie set in space with a starship modeled after a gothic cathedral. Event Horizon had a rescue crew put in stasis for a high G several month journey to Neptune on a fusion powered spaceship. High accelleration and fusion brings H-bombs to mind, and though not portrayed, this propulsion system is in fact a most probable future. Fusion “engines” are old hat in sci-fi despite the near certainty the only places fusion will ever work as advertised are in a bomb or a star. The Event Horizon, haunted and consigned to hell, used a “gravity drive” to achieve star travel by “folding space.” Interestingly, a recent concept for a black hole powered starship is probably the most accurate forecast of the technology that will be used for interstellar travel in the next century. While ripping a hole in the fabric of space time may be strictly science fantasy, for the next thousand years at least, small singularity propulsion using Hawking radiation to achieve a high fraction of the speed of light is mathematically sound and the most obvious future.

https://lifeboat.com/blog/2012/09/only-one-star-drive-can-work-so-far

That is, if humanity avoids an outbreak of engineered pathogens or any one of several other threats to our existence in that time frame.

Continue reading “Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 2” »

Jan 10, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 1

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, business, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, fun, futurism, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, robotics/AI, space, transparency

Steamships, locomotives, electricity; these marvels of the industrial age sparked the imagination of futurists such as Jules Verne. Perhaps no other writer or work inspired so many to reach the stars as did this Frenchman’s famous tale of space travel. Later developments in microbiology, chemistry, and astronomy would inspire H.G. Wells and the notable science fiction authors of the early 20th century.

The submarine, aircraft, the spaceship, time travel, nuclear weapons, and even stealth technology were all predicted in some form by science fiction writers many decades before they were realized. The writers were not simply making up such wonders from fanciful thought or childrens ryhmes. As science advanced in the mid 19th and early 20th century, the probable future developments this new knowledge would bring about were in some cases quite obvious. Though powered flight seems a recent miracle, it was long expected as hydrogen balloons and parachutes had been around for over a century and steam propulsion went through a long gestation before ships and trains were driven by the new engines. Solid rockets were ancient and even multiple stages to increase altitude had been in use by fireworks makers for a very long time before the space age.

Some predictions were seen to come about in ways far removed yet still connected to their fictional counterparts. The U.S. Navy flagged steam driven Nautilus swam the ocean blue under nuclear power not long before rockets took men to the moon. While Verne predicted an electric submarine, his notional Florida space gun never did take three men into space. However there was a Canadian weapons designer named Gerald Bull who met his end while trying to build such a gun for Saddam Hussien. The insane Invisible Man of Wells took the form of invisible aircraft playing a less than human role in the insane game of mutually assured destruction. And a true time machine was found easily enough in the mathematics of Einstein. Simply going fast enough through space will take a human being millions of years into the future. However, traveling back in time is still as much an impossibillity as the anti-gravity Cavorite from the First Men in the Moon. Wells missed on occasion but was not far off with his story of alien invaders defeated by germs- except we are the aliens invading the natural world’s ecosystem with our genetically modified creations and could very well soon meet our end as a result.

While Verne’s Captain Nemo made war on the death merchants of his world with a submarine ram, our own more modern anti-war device was found in the hydrogen bomb. So destructive an agent that no new world war has been possible since nuclear weapons were stockpiled in the second half of the last century. Neither Verne or Wells imagined the destructive power of a single missile submarine able to incinerate all the major cities of earth. The dozens of such superdreadnoughts even now cruising in the icy darkness of the deep ocean proves that truth is more often stranger than fiction. It may seem the golden age of predictive fiction has passed as exceptions to the laws of physics prove impossible despite advertisments to the contrary. Science fiction has given way to science fantasy and the suspension of disbelief possible in the last century has turned to disappointment and the distractions of whimsical technological fairy tales. “Beam me up” was simply a way to cut production costs for special effects and warp drive the only trick that would make a one hour episode work. Unobtainium and wishalloy, handwavium and technobabble- it has watered down what our future could be into childish wish fulfillment and escapism.

Continue reading “Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 1” »

Jan 9, 2012

LHC Safety Conference Requests / Cologne Administrative Court

Posted by in categories: environmental, events, existential risks, lifeboat, particle physics

If I can intervene on the polarized opinions posted by some individuals on Lifeboat regarding CERN and particle physics safety debate, wherein I was name dropped recently — the person in question, Mr Church, may find my email address on page one of the dissertation linked in my bio. Regarding the safety conference asked for by the Cologne Administrative Court cited by Prof Rossler, I would suggest that with its ample funds, The Lifeboat Foundation should host a public conference on the subject and invite CERN delegates, critics and journalists alike to attend. In the spirit of the Lifeboat Foundation, however, I would suggest that the focus of such conference should be on discussion of how particle physics can be used to solve problems in the future — and the matter of fringe concerns on MBH accretion rates and so on could be dealt with as a subtext. I think it would be a good opportunity to ‘clear the air’ and could be good for the profile not just of the Lifeboat Foundation, but for particle physics research in general. I would like to hear others thoughts on this, and how Lifeboat manages its funds for such events and conferences…

Apr 1, 2011

Are Current Nuclear Power Plants an Existential Risk?

Posted by in categories: events, existential risks, nuclear weapons

If nothing else, Japan’s recent tragedy has brought the risk of current nuclear power plants back into focus. While it’s far to early to tell just how grave the Fukushima situation truly is, it is obvious that our best laid plans are inadequate as they relate to engineering facilities to withstand cataclysmic scale events.

Few places on the globe are as well prepared as Japan for earthquakes and the possibility of subsequent tsunamis. However, in spite of their preparedness — which was evidenced by the remarkably small number of casualties given the nature of the events that took place (can you imagine how many people would have perished had this same disaster struck somewhere else in the world?) — Japan’s ability to manage a damaged nuclear power plant was severely compromised.

As frightening as Japan’s situation is, what ought to frighten us even more is that there are many more nuclear power plants in equally vulnerable locations all over the globe. In California, for example, both the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon facilities are right on the coast (they both use ocean water for cooling) and the Diablo Canyon facility in particular is perilously close to a major fault.

Given what we’ve seen in Japan, the widely varying degrees of preparedness around the world, the age of many of the existing power plants and the consequences for even a single catastrophic containment failure, shouldn’t we be taking a long, hard look at nuclear power as a viable means of providing energy for the planet? Have we learned so little from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now Fukushima? Just how capable are we [really] of dealing with a second, a third or a fourth disaster of this type? (and what if they were to happen simultaneously?) With so many existential risks completely beyond our control, does it make sense to add another one when there are other, lower risk alternatives to nuclear energy within our reach?

Continue reading “Are Current Nuclear Power Plants an Existential Risk?” »

Feb 9, 2011

Mixed Messages: Tantrums of an Angry Sun

Posted by in categories: business, events, geopolitics, particle physics, policy, space

When examining the delicate balance that life on Earth hangs within, it is impossible not to consider the ongoing love/hate connection between our parent star, the sun, and our uniquely terraqueous home planet.

On one hand, Earth is situated so perfectly, so ideally, inside the sun’s habitable zone, that it is impossible not to esteem our parent star with a sense of ongoing gratitude. It is, after all, the onslaught of spectral rain, the sun’s seemingly limitless output of charged particles, which provide the initial spark to all terrestrial life.

Yet on another hand, during those brief moments of solar upheaval, when highly energetic Earth-directed ejecta threaten with destruction our precipitously perched technological infrastructure, one cannot help but eye with caution the potentially calamitous distance of only 93 million miles that our entire human population resides from this unpredictable stellar inferno.

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Nov 11, 2010

What’s Your Dream for the Future of California?

Posted by in categories: education, events, existential risks, futurism, habitats, human trajectories, open access, policy, sustainability


California Dreams Video 1 from IFTF on Vimeo.

INSTITUTE FOR THE FUTURE ANNOUNCES CALIFORNIA DREAMS:
A CALL FOR ENTRIES ON IMAGINING LIFE IN CALIFORNIA IN 2020

Put yourself in the future and show us what a day in your life looks like. Will California keep growing, start conserving, reinvent itself, or collapse? How are you living in this new world? Anyone can enter,anyone can vote; anyone can change the future of California!

California has always been a frontier—a place of change and innovation, reinventing itself time and again. The question is, can California do it again? Today the state is facing some of its toughest challenges. Launching today, IFTF’s California Dreams is a competition with an urgent challenge to recruit citizen visions of the future of California—ideas for what it will be like to live in the state in the next decade—to start creating a new California dream.

Continue reading “What's Your Dream for the Future of California?” »

Apr 18, 2010

Ray Kurzweil to keynote “H+ Summit @ Harvard — The Rise Of The Citizen Scientist”

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, complex systems, education, events, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, human trajectories, information science, media & arts, neuroscience, robotics/AI

With our growing resources, the Lifeboat Foundation has teamed with the Singularity Hub as Media Sponsors for the 2010 Humanity+ Summit. If you have suggestions on future events that we should sponsor, please contact [email protected].

The summer 2010 “Humanity+ @ Harvard — The Rise Of The Citizen Scientist” conference is being held, after the inaugural conference in Los Angeles in December 2009, on the East Coast, at Harvard University’s prestigious Science Hall on June 12–13. Futurist, inventor, and author of the NYT bestselling book “The Singularity Is Near”, Ray Kurzweil is going to be keynote speaker of the conference.

Also speaking at the H+ Summit @ Harvard is Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist based in Cambridge, UK, and is the Chief Science Officer of SENS Foundation, a California-based charity dedicated to combating the aging process. His talk, “Hype and anti-hype in academic biogerontology research: a call to action”, will analyze the interplay of over-pessimistic and over-optimistic positions with regards of research and development of cures, and propose solutions to alleviate the negative effects of both.

Continue reading “Ray Kurzweil to keynote "H+ Summit @ Harvard — The Rise Of The Citizen Scientist"” »

Mar 23, 2010

Risk intelligence

Posted by in categories: education, events, futurism, geopolitics, policy, polls

A few months ago, my friend Benjamin Jakobus and I created an online “risk intelligence” test at http://www.projectionpoint.com/. It consists of fifty statements about science, history, geography, and so on, and your task is to say how likely you think it is that each of these statements is true. We calculate your risk intelligence quotient (RQ) on the basis of your estimates. So far, over 30,000 people have taken our test, and we’re currently writing up the results for some peer-reviewed journals.

Now we want to take things a step further, and see whether our measure correlates with the ability to make accurate estimates of future events. To this end we’ve created a “prediction game” at http://www.projectionpoint.com/prediction_game.php. The basic idea is the same; we provide you with a bunch of statements, and your task is to say how likely you think it is that each one is true. The difference is that these statements refer not to known facts, but to future events. Unlike the first test, nobody knows whether these statements are true or false yet. For most of them, we won’t know until the end of the year 2010.

For example, how likely do you think it is that this year will be the hottest on record? If you think this is very unlikely you might select the 10% category. If you think it is quite likely, but not very likely, you might put the chances at 60% or 70%. Selecting the 50% category would mean that you had no idea how likely it is.

This is ongoing research, so please feel free to comment, criticise or make suggestions.

Jul 17, 2009

Ray Kurzweil and David Chalmers to Headline Singularity Summit 2009 in New York

Posted by in category: events

The Singularity Institute will be holding the fourth annual Singularity Summit in New York in October, featuring talks by Ray Kurzweil, David Chalmers, and Peter Thiel.

New York, NY (PRWEB) July 17, 2009 — The fourth annual Singularity Summit, a conference devoted to the better understanding of increasing intelligence and accelerating change, will be held in New York on October 3–4 in Kaufmann Hall at the historic 92nd St Y. The Summit brings together a visionary community to further dialogue and action on complex, long-term issues that are transforming the world.

Participants will hear talks from cutting-edge researchers and network with strategic business leaders. The world’s most eminent experts on forecasting, venture capital, emerging technologies, consciousness and life extension will present their unique perspectives on the future and how to get there. “The Singularity Summit is the premier conference on the Singularity,” says Ray Kurzweil, inventor of the CCD flatbed scanner and author of The Singularity is Near. “As we get closer to the Singularity, each year’s conference is better than the last.”

The Singularity Summit has previously been held in the San Francisco Bay Area, where it has been featured in numerous publications including the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle. It is hosted by the Singularity Institute, a 501©(3) nonprofit devoted to studying the benefits and risks of advanced technologies.

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