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Archive for the ‘futurism’ category: Page 659

Aug 27, 2008

Vote online for American Express support for life extension

Posted by in categories: biological, futurism

Something to post to your websites and to vote online.

Aubrey de Grey can get $1.5 million for the Methuselah Foundation if enough people vote.

Voting ends September 1st, take a second to vote now.
Any US Amex cardmember or US resident (who makes a guest account) can vote.

Here is the page where you can vote “nominate”

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Aug 21, 2008

Religion, Radicalization and the future of Terrorism

Posted by in categories: cybercrime/malcode, defense, futurism, military

The UK’s Guardian today published details of a report produced by Britain’s Security Service (MI5) entitled, ‘Understanding radicalization and violent extremism in the UK’. The report is from MI5’s internal behavioral analysis unit and contains within it some interesting and surprising conclusions. The Guardian report covers many of these in depth (so no need to go over here) but one point, which is worth highlighting is the claim made within the report that religion is and was not a contributory factor in the radicalization of the home-grown terrorist threat that the UK faces. In fact, the report goes on to state that a strong religious faith protects individuals from the effects of extremism.This viewpoint is one that is gathering strength and coincides with an article written by Martin Amis in the Wall Street Journal, which also argues that ‘terrorism’s new structure’ is about the quest for fame and thirst for power, with religion simply acting as a “means of mobilization”.

All of this also tends to agree with the assertion made by Philip Bobbit in ‘Terror and Consent’, that al-Qaeda is simply version 1.0 of a new type of terrorism for the 21st century. This type of terrorism is attuned to the advantages and pressures of a market based world and acts more like a Silicon Valley start-up company than the Red Brigades — being flexible, fast moving and wired — taking advantage of globalization to pursue a violent agenda.

This all somewhat begs the question of, what next? If al-Qaeda is version 1.0 what is 2.0? This of course is hard to discern but looking at the two certain trends, which will shape humanity over the next 20 years — urbanization and virtualization — throws up some interesting potential opponents who are operating today. The road to mass urbanization is currently being highlighted by the 192021 project (19 cities, 20 million people in the 21st century) and amongst other things, points to the large use of slum areas to grow the cities of the 21st century. Slum areas are today being globally exploited from Delhi to Sao Paulo by Nigerian drug organizations that are able to recruit the indigenous people to build their own cities within cities. This kind of highly profitable criminal activity in areas beyond the vision of government is a disturbing incubator.

150px-anonymousdemotivator.jpg
Increased global virtualization complements urbanization as well as standing alone. Virtual environments provide a useful platform for any kind of real-life extremist (as is now widely accepted) but it is the formation of groups within virtual spaces that then spill-out into real-space that could become a significant feature of the 21st century security picture. This is happening with, ‘Project Chanology’ a group that was formed virtually with some elements of the Anonymous movement in order to disrupt the Church of Scientology. While Project Chanology (WhyWeProtest Website)began as a series of cyber actions directed at Scientology’s website, it is now organizing legal protests of Scientology buildings. A shift from the virtual to the real. A more sinister take on this is the alleged actions of the Patriotic Nigras — a group dedicated to the disruption of Second Life, which has reportedly taken to using the tactic of ‘swatting’ — which is the misdirection of armed police officers to a victim’s home address. A disturbing spill-over into real-space. Therefore, whatever pattern future terrorist movements follow, there are signs that religion will play a peripheral rather than central role.

Originally posted on the Counterterrorism blog.

Aug 17, 2008

23 Things Science Can Tell Us about Life, the Universe, and Everything

Posted by in categories: cosmology, futurism

Read our new report 23 Things Science Can Tell Us about Life, the Universe, and Everything and post your comments here!

Jul 30, 2008

Preventing flu fatalities by stopping immune system overreaction

Posted by in categories: biological, defense, existential risks, futurism, lifeboat

Researchers from Imperial College in London, England, isolated the receptor in the lungs that triggers the immune overreaction to flu.

With the receptor identified, a therapy can be developed that will bind to the receptor, preventing the deadly immune response. Also, by targeting a receptor in humans rather than a particular strain of flu, therapies developed to exploit this discovery would work regardless of the rapid mutations that beguile flu vaccine producers every year.

The flu kills 250,000 to 500,000 people in an average year with epidemics reaching 1 to 2 million deaths (other than the spanish flu which was more severe

This discovery could lead to treatments which turn off the inflammation in the lungs caused by influenza and other infections, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Immunology. The virus is often cleared from the body by the time symptoms appear and yet symptoms can last for many days, because the immune system continues to fight the damaged lung. The immune system is essential for clearing the virus, but it can damage the body when it overreacts if it is not quickly contained.

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Apr 8, 2008

Disruptions from small recessions to extinctions

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, business, defense, existential risks, futurism, habitats, lifeboat, nanotechnology, space, sustainability

Cross posted from Next big future by Brian Wang, Lifeboat foundation director of Research

I am presenting disruption events for humans and also for biospheres and planets and where I can correlating them with historical frequency and scale.

There has been previous work on categorizing and classifying extinction events. There is Bostroms paper and there is also the work by Jamais Cascio and Michael Anissimov on classification and identifying risks (presented below).

A recent article discusses the inevtiable “end of societies” (it refers to civilizations but it seems to be referring more to things like the end of the roman empire, which still ends up later with Italy, Austria Hungary etc… emerging)

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Mar 14, 2008

Dreamers of a Better Future, Unite!

Posted by in categories: biological, futurism, geopolitics, space

[Crossposted from the blog of Starship Reckless]

Views of space travel have grown increasingly pessimistic in the last decade. This is not surprising: SETI still has received no unambiguous requests for more Chuck Berry from its listening posts, NASA is busy re-inventing flywheels and citizens even of first-world countries feel beleaguered in a world that seems increasingly hostile to any but the extraordinarily privileged. Always a weathervane of the present, speculative fiction has been gazing more and more inwardly – either to a hazy gold-tinted past (fantasy, both literally and metaphorically) or to a smoggy rust-colored earthbound future (cyberpunk).

The philosophically inclined are slightly more optimistic. Transhumanists, the new utopians, extol the pleasures of a future when our bodies, particularly our brains/minds, will be optimized (or at least not mind that they’re not optimized) by a combination of bioengineering, neurocognitive manipulation, nanotech and AI. Most transhumanists, especially those with a socially progressive agenda, are as decisively earthbound as cyberpunk authors. They consider space exploration a misguided waste of resources, a potentially dangerous distraction from here-and-now problems – ecological collapse, inequality and poverty, incurable diseases among which transhumanists routinely count aging, not to mention variants of gray goo.

And yet, despite the uncoolness of space exploration, despite NASA’s disastrous holding pattern, there are those of us who still stubbornly dream of going to the stars. We are not starry-eyed romantics. We recognize that the problems associated with spacefaring are formidable (as examined briefly in Making Aliens 1, 2 and 3). But I, at least, think that improving circumstances on earth and exploring space are not mutually exclusive, either philosophically or – perhaps just as importantly – financially. In fact, I consider this a false dilemma. I believe that both sides have a much greater likelihood to implement their plans if they coordinate their efforts, for a very simple reason: the attributes required for successful space exploration are also primary goals of transhumanism.

Continue reading “Dreamers of a Better Future, Unite!” »

Feb 16, 2008

Safeguarding Humanity

Posted by in categories: existential risks, futurism

I was born into a world in which no individual or group claimed to own the mission embodied in the Lifeboat Foundation’s two-word motto. Government agencies, charitable organizations, universities, hospitals, religious institutions — all might have laid claim to some peace of the puzzle. But safeguarding humanity? That was out of everyone’s scope. It would have been a plausible motto only for comic-book organizations such as the Justice League or the Guardians of the Universe.

Take the United Nations, conceived in the midst of the Second World War and brought into its own after the war’s conclusion. The UN Charter states that the United Nations exists:

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom

All of these are noble, and incredibly important, aims. But even the United Nations manages to name only one existential risk, warfare, which it is pledged to help prevent. Anyone reading this can probably cite a half dozen more.

It is both exciting and daunting to live in an age in which a group like the Lifeboat Foundation can exist outside of the realm of fantasy. It’s exciting because our awareness of possibility is so much greater than it was even a generation or two ago. And it is daunting for exactly the same reason. We can envision plausible triumphs for humanity that really do transcend our wildest dreams, or at least our most glorious fantasies as articulated a few decades ago. Likewise, that worst of all possible outcomes — the sudden and utter disappearance of our civilization, or of our species, or of life itself — now presents itself as the end result of not just one possible calamity, but of many.

Continue reading “Safeguarding Humanity” »

Feb 3, 2008

Spending Effectively

Posted by in categories: finance, futurism, lifeboat

Last year, the Singularity Institute raised over $500,000. The World Transhumanist Association raised $50,000. The Lifeboat Foundation set a new record for the single largest donation. The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology’s finances are combined with those of World Care, a related organization, so the public can’t get precise figures. But overall, it’s safe to say, we’ve been doing fairly well. Most not-for-profit organizations aren’t funded adequately; it’s rare for charities, even internationally famous ones, to have a large full-time staff, a physical headquarters, etc.

The important question is, now that we’ve accumulated all of this money, what are we going to spend it on? It’s possible, theoretically, to put it all into Treasury bonds and forget about it for thirty years, but that would be an enormous waste of expected utility. In technology development, the earlier the money is spent (in general), the larger the effect will be. Spending $1M on a technology in the formative stages has a huge impact, probably doubling the overall budget or more. Spending $1M on a technology in the mature stages won’t even be noticed. We have plenty of case studies: Radios. TVs. Computers. Internet. Telephones. Cars. Startups.

The opposite danger is overfunding the project, commonly called “throwing money at the problem”. Hiring a lot of new people without thinking about how they will help is one common symptom. Having bloated layers of middle management is another. To an outside observer, it probably seems like we’re reaching this stage already. Hiring a Vice President In Charge Of Being In Charge doesn’t just waste money; it causes the entire organization to lose focus and distracts everyone from the ultimate goal.

I would suggest a top-down approach: start with the goal, figure out what you need, and get it. The opposite approach is to look for things that might be useful, get them, then see how you can complete a project with the stuff you’ve acquired. NASA is an interesting case study, as they followed the first strategy for a number of years, then switched to the second one.

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Jan 29, 2008

Cheap (tens of dollars) genetic lab on a chip systems could help with pandemic control

Posted by in categories: biological, defense, existential risks, futurism, lifeboat

Cross posted from Next big future

Since a journal article was submitted to the Royal Society of Chemistry, the U of Alberta researchers have already made the processor and unit smaller and have brought the cost of building a portable unit for genetic testing down to about $100 Cdn. In addition, these systems are also portable and even faster (they take only minutes). Backhouse, Elliott and McMullin are now demonstrating prototypes of a USB key-like system that may ultimately be as inexpensive as standard USB memory keys that are in common use – only tens of dollars. It can help with pandemic control and detecting and control tainted water supplies.

This development fits in with my belief that there should be widespread inexpensive blood, biomarker and genetic tests to help catch disease early and to develop an understanding of biomarker changes to track disease and aging development. We can also create adaptive clinical trials to shorten the development and approval process for new medical procedures


The device is now much smaller than size of a shoe-box (USB stick size) with the optics and supporting electronics filling the space around the microchip

Continue reading “Cheap (tens of dollars) genetic lab on a chip systems could help with pandemic control” »

Jan 25, 2008

On the brink of Synthetic Life: DNA synthesis has increased twenty times to full bacteria size

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, defense, existential risks, futurism, lifeboat, military, nanotechnology

Reposted from Next Big Future which was advancednano.

A 582,970 base pair sequence of DNA has been synthesized.

It’s the first time a genome the size of a bacterium has chemically been synthesized that’s about 20 times longer than [any DNA molecule] synthesized before.

This is a huge increase in capability. It has broad implications for DNA nanotechnology and synthetic biology.

Continue reading “On the brink of Synthetic Life: DNA synthesis has increased twenty times to full bacteria size” »