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Archive for the ‘existential risks’ category

Mar 13, 2017

The future looks too grim to wish for a longer life

Posted by in categories: existential risks, life extension

Is the future going to be so bad that longer, healthier lives will be undesirable? No, probably not.


The future looks grim? That’s quite an interesting claim, and I wonder whether there is any evidence to support it. In fact, I think there’s plenty of evidence to believe the opposite, i.e. that the future will be bright indeed. However, I can’t promise the future will certainly be bright. I am no madame clearvoyant, but neither are doomsday prophets. We can all only speculate, no matter how ‘sure’ pessimists may say they are about the horrible dystopian future that allegedly awaits us. I’m soon going to present the evidence of the bright future I believe in, but before I do, I would like to point out a few problems in the reasoning of the professional catastrophists who say that life won’t be worth living and there’s thus no point in extending it anyway.

First, we need to take into account that the quality of human life has been improving, not worsening, throughout history. Granted, there still are things that are not optimal, but there used to be many more. Sure, it sucks that your pet-peeve politician has been appointed president of your country (any reference to recent historical events is entirely coincidental), and it sucks that poverty and famine haven’t yet been entirely eradicated, but none of these implies that things will get worse. There’s a limit to how long a president can be such, and poverty and famine are disappearing all over the world. It takes time for changes to take place, and the fact the world isn’t perfect yet doesn’t mean it will never be. Especially people who are still chronologically young should appreciate the fact that by the time they’re 80 or 90, a long time will have passed, and the world will certainly have changed in the meanwhile.

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Mar 5, 2017

‘Who’s in control?’ Scientists gather to discuss AI doomsday scenarios

Posted by in categories: existential risks, robotics/AI

Artificial intelligence has the capability to transform the world — but not necessarily for the better. A group of scientists gathered to discuss doomsday scenarios, addressing the possibility that AI could become a serious threat.

The event, ‘Great Debate: The Future of Artificial Intelligence — Who’s in Control?’, took place at Arizona State University (ASU) over the weekend.

“Like any new technology, artificial intelligence holds great promise to help humans shape their future, and it also holds great danger in that it could eventually lead to the rise of machines over humanity, according to some futurists. So which course will it be for AI and what can be done now to help shape its trajectory?” ASU wrote in a press release.

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Mar 5, 2017

AI Scientists Gather to Plot Doomsday Scenarios (and Solutions)

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, cybercrime/malcode, Elon Musk, existential risks, military, policy, robotics/AI

Artificial intelligence boosters predict a brave new world of flying cars and cancer cures. Detractors worry about a future where humans are enslaved to an evil race of robot overlords. Veteran AI scientist Eric Horvitz and Doomsday Clock guru Lawrence Krauss, seeking a middle ground, gathered a group of experts in the Arizona desert to discuss the worst that could possibly happen — and how to stop it.

Their workshop took place last weekend at Arizona State University with funding from Tesla Inc. co-founder Elon Musk and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn. Officially dubbed “Envisioning and Addressing Adverse AI Outcomes,” it was a kind of AI doomsday games that organized some 40 scientists, cyber-security experts and policy wonks into groups of attackers — the red team — and defenders — blue team — playing out AI-gone-very-wrong scenarios, ranging from stock-market manipulation to global warfare.

Horvitz is optimistic — a good thing because machine intelligence is his life’s work — but some other, more dystopian-minded backers of the project seemed to find his outlook too positive when plans for this event started about two years ago, said Krauss, a theoretical physicist who directs ASU’s Origins Project, the program running the workshop. Yet Horvitz said that for these technologies to move forward successfully and to earn broad public confidence, all concerns must be fully aired and addressed.

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Jan 20, 2017

The UN Okays Synthetic Biology

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biological, ethics, existential risks, genetics

That’s a relief.


Of all the potentially apocalyptic technologies scientists have come up with in recent years, the gene drive is easily one of the most terrifying. A gene drive is a tool that allows scientists to use genetic engineering to override natural selection during reproduction. In theory, scientists could use it to alter the genetic makeup of an entire species—or even wipe that species out. It’s not hard to imagine how a slip-up in the lab could lead to things going very, very wrong.

But like most great risks, the gene drive also offers incredible reward. Scientists are, for example, exploring how gene drive might be used to wipe out malaria and kill off Hawaii’s invasive species to save endangered native birds. Its perils may be horrifying, but its promise is limitless. And environmental groups have been campaigning hard to prevent that promise from ever being realized.

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Jan 9, 2017

Sneaky asteroid spotted whizzing between Earth and moon

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

A space rock large enough to do damage gives us a near miss just two days after being discovered.

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Jan 7, 2017

The Lifeboat Foundation and LEAF join Forces

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, education, existential risks, life extension, lifeboat, nanotechnology, robotics/AI

I figured they would post it themselves but I got too excited and decided to spread it around.


The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit organization devoted to encouraging the promotion and advancement of science while helping develop strategies to survive existential risks and the possible abuse of technology. They are interested in biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics and AI and fostering the safe and responsible use of these powerful new technologies. The Life Preserver program is aligned with our mission to promote and develop rejuvenation biotechnology capable of combating age-related diseases.

We believe that a bright future awaits mankind and support the ethical and safe use of new medical technologies being developed today, thus we consider the goals of the Lifeboat Foundation to be compatible with ours and are pleased to move forward with them in official collaboration. As part of our commitment to the ethical progress of medical science LEAF promotes scientific research and learning via our crowdfunding website Lifespan.io and our educational hub at the LEAF website. A number of LEAF board members are already on the Scientific Advisory board for the Lifeboat Foundation and we look forward to working closely with them in the coming year.

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Jan 4, 2017

Why live longer when the future looks so grim?

Posted by in categories: existential risks, life extension

Is the future really going to be so bad that you wouldn’t want to live longer? Hardly!

#aging


The future looks grim? That’s quite an interesting claim, and I wonder whether there is any evidence to support it. In fact, I think there’s plenty of evidence to believe the opposite, i.e. that the future will be bright indeed. However, I can’t promise the future will certainly be bright. I am no madame clearvoyant, but neither are doomsday prophets. We can all only speculate, no matter how ‘sure’ pessimists may say they are about the horrible dystopian future that allegedly awaits us. I’m soon going to present the evidence of the bright future I believe in, but before I do, I would like to point out a few problems in the reasoning of the professional catastrophists who say that life won’t be worth living and there’s thus no point in extending it anyway.

Continue reading “Why live longer when the future looks so grim?” »

Dec 27, 2016

Does the Unabomber Have a More Realistic Sense of Today’s Existential Risks?

Posted by in categories: existential risks, security, terrorism

A version of this piece appears on the Sociological Imagination website

Twenty years ago Theodore Kaczynski, a Harvard-trained maths prodigy obsessed with technology’s destruction of nature, was given eight consecutive life sentences for sending letter bombs in the US post which killed three people and injured 23 others. Generally known as the ‘Unabomber’, he remains in a supermax prison in Colorado to this day.

It is perhaps easy to forget the sway that the Unabomber held on American society in the mid-1990s. Kaczynski managed to get a 35,000 word manifesto called ‘Industrial Society and Its Future’ published in both The New York Times and The Washington Post. It is arguably the most famous and influential statement of neo-Luddite philosophy and politics to this day. Now he is back with a new book, Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How.

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Dec 23, 2016

What humans will look like in 100 years’ time

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, existential risks, genetics

What humans will look like in 100 years: Expert reveals the genetically modified bodies we’ll need to survive

  • Harvard researchers says to survive the next extinction we must leave the Earth
  • But to live on other planets we will need to genetically modify our organs
  • Experts have previously speculated how humanity will look in 1,000 years’ time
  • Video describes scenario in which bodies are part-human part-machine

By Harry Pettit For Mailonline

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Dec 22, 2016

One of World’s Most Dangerous Supervolcanoes Is Rumbling

Posted by in category: existential risks

Italy’s Campi Flegrei may be awakening from a long slumber, scientists warn.

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