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Archive for the ‘strategy’ category

Jul 16, 2016

Beware the Rise of Gerontocracy: Some Hard Lessons for Transhumanism, Not Least from Brexit

Posted by in categories: aging, biological, ethics, futurism, governance, government, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, neuroscience, policy, strategy, thought controlled, transhumanism

Transhumanists will know that the science fiction author Zoltan Istvan has unilaterally leveraged the movement into a political party contesting the 2016 US presidential election. To be sure, many transhumanists have contested Istvan’s own legitimacy, but there is no denying that he has generated enormous publicity for many key transhumanist ideas. Interestingly, his lead idea is that the state should do everything possible to uphold people’s right to live forever. Of course, he means to live forever in a healthy state, fit of mind and body. Istvan cleverly couches this policy as simply an extension of what voters already expect from medical research and welfare provision. And while he may be correct, the policy is fraught with hazards – especially if, as many transhumanists believe, we are on the verge of revealing the secrets to biological immortality.

In June, Istvan and I debated this matter at Brain Bar Budapest. Let me say, for the record, that I think that we are sufficiently close to this prospect that it is not too early to discuss its political and economic implications.

Two months before my encounter with Istvan, I was on a panel at the Edinburgh Science Festival with the great theorist of radical life extension Aubrey de Grey, where he declared that people who live indefinitely will seem like renovated vintage cars. Whatever else, he is suggesting that they would be frozen in time. He may actually be right about this. But is such a state desirable, given that throughout history radical change has been facilitated generational change? Specifically, two simple facts make the young open to doing things differently: The young have no memory of past practices working to anyone else’s benefit, and they have not had the time to invest in those practices to reap their benefits. Whatever good is to be found in the past is hearsay, as far as the young are concerned, which they are being asked to trust as they enter a world that they know is bound to change.

Questions have been already raised about whether tomorrow’s Methuselahs will wish to procreate at all, given the time available to them to realize dreams that in the past would have been transferred to their offspring. After all, as human life expectancy has increased 50% over the past century, the birth rate has correspondingly dropped. One can only imagine what will happen once ageing can be arrested, if not outright reversed!

Continue reading “Beware the Rise of Gerontocracy: Some Hard Lessons for Transhumanism, Not Least from Brexit” »

Mar 18, 2016

Who’s Afraid of Existential Risk? Or, Why It’s Time to Bring the Cold War out of the Cold

Posted by in categories: defense, disruptive technology, economics, existential risks, governance, innovation, military, philosophy, policy, robotics/AI, strategy, theory, transhumanism

At least in public relations terms, transhumanism is a house divided against itself. On the one hand, there are the ingenious efforts of Zoltan Istvan – in the guise of an ongoing US presidential bid — to promote an upbeat image of the movement by focusing on human life extension and other tech-based forms of empowerment that might appeal to ordinary voters. On the other hand, there is transhumanism’s image in the ‘serious’ mainstream media, which is currently dominated by Nick Bostrom’s warnings of a superintelligence-based apocalypse. The smart machines will eat not only our jobs but eat us as well, if we don’t introduce enough security measures.

Of course, as a founder of contemporary transhumanism, Bostrom does not wish to stop artificial intelligence research, and he ultimately believes that we can prevent worst case scenarios if we act now. Thus, we see a growing trade in the management of ‘existential risks’, which focusses on how we might prevent if not predict any such tech-based species-annihilating prospects. Nevertheless, this turn of events has made some observers reasonably wonder whether indeed it might not be better simply to put a halt to artificial intelligence research altogether. As a result, the precautionary principle, previously invoked in the context of environmental and health policy, has been given a new lease on life as generalized world-view.

The idea of ‘existential risk’ capitalizes on the prospect of a very unlikely event that, were it to pass, would be extremely catastrophic for the human condition. Thus, the high value of the outcome psychologically counterbalances its low probability. It’s a bit like Pascal’s wager, whereby the potentially negative consequences of you not believing in God – to wit, eternal damnation — rationally compels you to believe in God, despite your instinctive doubts about the deity’s existence.

However, this line of reasoning underestimates both the weakness and the strength of human intelligence. On the one hand, we’re not so powerful as to create a ‘weapon of mass destruction’, however defined, that could annihilate all of humanity; on the other, we’re not so weak as to be unable to recover from whatever errors of design or judgement that might be committed in the normal advance of science and technology in the human life-world. I make this point not to counsel complacency but to question whether ‘existential risk’ is really the high concept that it is cracked up to be. I don’t believe it is.

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Feb 11, 2016

Defend Your Research: What Makes a Team Smarter? More Women — By Anita Woolley and Thomas W. Malone | Harvard Business Review

Posted by in categories: science, strategy

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“The finding: There’s little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. But if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises.”

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Dec 31, 2015

Lunar Leap: Europe Is Reaching for a Moon Base by the 2030s — By Leonard David | Space.com

Posted by in categories: space, space travel, strategy

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“There is growing interest in Europe to prioritize the moon as humanity’s next deep-space destination.”

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Dec 17, 2015

5 Steps Toward Gender Diversity Every Company Can Take Right Now — By Claudia Chan | Fast Company

Posted by in categories: business, governance, human trajectories, innovation, strategy

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“Plenty of forward-thinking companies have innovation divisions that try and predict the future, disrupt old models, and develop cutting-edge products. They don’t nest those divisions inside their human resources departments. So why shouldn’t gender diversity efforts be a part of corporate innovation?”

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Dec 16, 2015

Carlota Perez: In the midst of ICT revolution: next revolution 30 years out | vimeo.com

Posted by in categories: business, computing, economics, finance, governance, innovation, policy, robotics/AI, science, strategy

Economist Carlota Perez talk about the future of ICT.

Jun 2, 2015

The Arctic’s Internet Is So Expensive That People Mail the Web on USB Drives — Via Motherboard

Posted by in categories: business, computing, economics, finance, governance, hacking, policy, strategy

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“Canada’s domestic digital divide, with the North as its epicenter, has been a point of growing concern over the last several years. Much of the internet in the northernmost regions of the country is still beamed down by satellites, but a plan to link Europe and Asia with fiber optic cable via Nunavut is currently being negotiated by a Toronto-based company called Arctic Fibre.”

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May 27, 2015

MIT’s President: Op-ed on Innovation

Posted by in categories: business, disruptive technology, economics, education, finance, government, innovation, policy, science, strategy

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“[T]he United States needs a more systematic way to help its bottled-up new-science innovators deliver their ideas to the world.”

A better way to deliver innovation to the world

Apr 3, 2015

What If We Had Another Earth?

Posted by in categories: futurism, habitats, robotics/AI, space, space travel, strategy

A realistic and desirable human destination would produce a different space program than what we have today.

“We reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.” This is NASA’s Vision Statement. This is NASA’s reason for being, its purpose. This is a vision statement for science and knowledge. This vision statement was crafted in a solar system that has only one planet that is environmentally friendly to human life.

Thanks to the ongoing search for exoplanets, we’ve identified several planets in our galaxy that are Earth sized and in their star’s habitable zone. Based on statistics, potentially billions more are waiting to be found. We are just now developing the technology to detect them. But we’re nowhere near having the technology needed to get to visit them. They are simply too far away.

Now here is where I’d like to pose a what if question: What if there was another habitable planet just like Earth, right here in our own solar system? What would Earth’s space programs look like, if anyone with a good telescope could look up and see another world with oceans, and continents, and clouds, and green forests? I think that it is safe to say that space programs in this imaginary solar system would be vastly different than ours today. This is conjecture, but it seems likely that the vision statement above, would be more in line with making that new world available for humanity.

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Mar 27, 2015

The Robotic Double-Edged Sword

Posted by in categories: automation, disruptive technology, economics, futurism, governance, robotics/AI, space, space travel, strategy

One of the things that I’ve always liked about Star Trek, is the concept of a galaxy spanning civilization. I would expect that before we ever get to that point, we will have a civilization that spans our solar system. Having a solar system spanning civilization has many advantages. It would give us access to resources many times greater than what is found here on Earth. It also provides the opportunity for civilization to expand, and in a worst case scenario, help ensure the survival of humanity.

Millions of people living in spacious environmentally controlled cities on planetary surfaces and in rotating cylinders in free space, with industry that extends from Mercury to the comets is to me, a grand vision worthy of an ambitious civilization. But trying to make that vision a reality will be difficult. The International Space Station has the capacity to house just six people and cost approximately $100B to put in place. With a little simple division, that works out to about $17B per inhabitant! If we used that admittedly crude figure, it would cost $17 trillion to build a 1,000 person habitat in Earth orbit. Clearly, the approach we used to build the ISS will not work for building a solar system civilization!

The ISS model relies on building everything on Earth, and launching it into space. A different model championed by Dr. Philip Metzger, would develop industrial capacity in space, using resources close to home, such as from the Moon. This has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of building and maintaining systems in space. But how to develop that industrial capacity? Remember we can’t afford to launch and house thousands of workers from Earth. The answer it would seem, is with advanced robotics and advanced manufacturing.

But is even this possible? The good news is that advanced robotics and advanced manufacturing are already being rapidly developed here on Earth. The driver for this development is economics, not space. These new tools will still have to be modified to work in the harsh environment of space, and with resources that are different from what are commonly used here on Earth. While learning to adapt those technologies to the Moon and elsewhere in the solar system is not trivial, it is certainly better that having to develop them from scratch!

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