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Feb 8, 2011

GC Lingua Franca(s)

Posted by in categories: futurism, open source

This is an email to the Linux kernel mailing list, but it relates to futurism topics so I post a copy here as well.
———
Science doesn’t always proceed at the speed of thought. It often proceeds at sociological or even demographic speed. — John Tooby

Open Letter to the LKML;

If we were already talking to our computers, etc. as we should be, I wouldn’t feel a need to write this to you. Given current rates of adoption, Linux still seems a generation away from being the priceless piece of free software useful to every child and PhD. This army your kernel enables has millions of people, but they often lose to smaller proprietary armies, because they are working inefficiently. My mail one year ago (http://keithcu.com/wordpress/?p=272) listed the biggest workitems, but I realize now I should have focused on one. In a sentence, I have discovered that we need GC lingua franca(s). (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lingua%20franca)

Every Linux success builds momentum, but the desktop serves as a powerful daily reminder of the scientific tradition. Many software PhDs publish papers but not source, like Microsoft. I attended a human genomics conference and found that the biotech world is filled with proprietary software. IBM’s Jeopardy-playing Watson is proprietary, like Deep Blue was. This topic is not discussed in any of the news articles, as if the license does not matter. I find widespread fear of having ideas stolen in the software industry, and proprietary licenses encourage this. We need to get these paranoid programmers, hunched in the shadows, scribbled secrets clutched in their fists, working together, for any of them to succeed. Desktop world domination is not necessary, but it is sufficient to get robotic chaffeurs and butlers. Windows is not the biggest problem, it is the proprietary licensing model that has infected computing, and science.

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Feb 1, 2011

Human Biological Immortality in 50 years

Posted by in categories: biological, complex systems, futurism

I believe that death due to ageing is not an absolute necessity of human nature. From the evolutionary point of view, we age because nature withholds energy for somatic (bodily) repairs and diverts it to the germ-cells (in order to assure the survival and evolution of the DNA). This is necessary so that the DNA is able to develop and achieve higher complexity.

Although this was a valid scenario until recently, we have now evolved to such a degree that we can use our intellect to achieve further cognitive complexity by manipulating our environment. This makes it unnecessary for the DNA to evolve along the path of natural selection (which is a slow and cumbersome, ‘hit-and-miss’ process), and allows us to develop quickly and more efficiently by using our brain as a means for achieving higher complexity. As a consequence, death through ageing becomes an illogical and unnecessary process. Humans must live much longer than the current lifespan of 80–120 years, in order for a more efficient global evolutionary development to take place.

It is possible to estimate how long the above process will take to mature (see figure below). Consider that the creation of the DNA was approximately 2 billion years ago, the formation of a neuron (cell) several million years ago, that of an effective brain (Homo sapiens sapiens) 200 000 years ago, and the establishment of complex societies (Ancient Greece, Rome, China etc.) thousands of years ago. There is a logarithmic reduction of the time necessary to proceed to the next more complex step (a reduction by a factor of 100). This means that global integration (and thus indefinite lifespans) will be achieved in a matter of decades (and certainly less than a century), starting from the 1960s-1970s (when globalisation in communications, travel and science/technology started to became established). This leaves another maximum of 50 years before the full global integration becomes established.

Each step is associated with a higher level of complexity, and takes a fraction of the timein order to mature, compared to the previous one.

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Jan 30, 2011

Summary of My Scientific Results on the LHC-Induced Danger to the Planet

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics

- submitted to the District Attorney of Tubingen, to the Administrative Court of Cologne, to the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) of Germany, to the International Court for Crimes Against Humanity, and to the Security Council of the United Nations -

by Otto E. Rössler, Institute for Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, University of Tubingen, Auf der Morgenstelle A, 72076 Tubingen, Germany

The results of my group represent fundamental research in the fields of general relativity, quantum mechanics and chaos theory. Several independent findings obtained in these disciplines do jointly point to a danger — almost as if Nature had posed a trap for humankind if not watching out.

MAIN RESULT. It concerns BLACK HOLES and consists of 10 sub-results

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Jan 21, 2011

My Reaction to The Observer’s 20 predictions for the next 25 years

Posted by in category: futurism

The UK’s Observer just put out a set of predictions for the next 25 years (20 predictions for the next 25 years). I will react to each of them individually. More generally, however, these are the kinds of ideas that get headlines, but they don’t constitute good journalism. Scenario planning should be used in all predictive coverage. It is, to me, the most honest way to admit not knowing and documenting the uncertainties of the future—the best way to examine big issues through different lenses. Some of these predictions may well come to pass, but many will not. What this article fails to do, is inform the reader about the ways the predictions may vary from the best guess, and what the possible alternatives may be—and where they simply don’t know.

1. Geopolitics: ‘Rivals will take greater risks against the US’

This is a pretty non-predictive prediction. America’s rivals are already challenging its monetary policy, human rights stances, shipping channels and trade policies. The article states that the US will remain the world’s major power. It does not suggest that Globalization could fracture the world so much that regional powers huddle against the US in various places, essentially creating stagnation and a new localism that causes us to reinvent all economies. It also does not foresee anyone acting on the water rights, food, energy or nuclear proliferation. Any of those could set off major conflicts that completely disrupt our economic and political models, leading to major resets in assumptions about the future.

2. The UK economy: ‘The popular revolt against bankers will become impossible to resist’

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Jan 17, 2011

Stories We Tell

Posted by in categories: complex systems, existential risks, futurism, lifeboat, policy


What do Singularitarianism and popular Western religion have in common? More than you might imagine. A thumbnail evaluation of both ends of the American technocentric intelligence spectrum reveals both remarkable similarities in their respective narrative constructions and, naturally, amusing disparities. It would appear that all humans, regardless of our respective beliefs, seem to express goal-oriented hardwiring that demands a neatly constructed story to frame our experiences.

Be you a technophile, you are eagerly awaiting, with perhaps equal parts hope and fear, the moment when artificial general intelligence surpasses human intelligence. You don’t know exactly how this new, more cunning intelligence will react to humans, but you’re fairly certain that humanity might well be in a bit of trouble, or at very least, have some unique competition.

Be you a technophobe, you shun the trappings of in-depth science and technology involvement, save for a superficial interaction with the rudimentary elements of technology which likely do not extend much further than your home computer, cell phone, automobile, and/or microwave oven. As a technophobe, you might even consider yourself religious, and if you’re a Christian, you might well be waiting for the second-coming, the rapture.

Both scenarios lead humanity to ironically similar destinations, in which humankind becomes either marginalized or largely vestigial.

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Jan 13, 2011

8D Problem Solving for Transhumanists

Posted by in categories: business, complex systems, engineering, futurism

Transhumanists are into improvements, and many talk about specific problems, for instance Nick Bostrom. However, Bostrom’s problem statements have been criticized for not necessarily being problems, and I think largely this is why one must consider the problem definition (see step #2 below).

Sometimes people talk about their “solutions” for problems, for instance this one in H+ Magazine. But in many cases they are actually talking about their ideas of how to solve a problem, or making science-fictional predictions. So if you surf the web, you will find a lot of good ideas about possibly important problems—but a lot of what you find will be undefined (or not very well defined) problem ideas and solutions.

These proposed solutions often do not attempt to find root causes or assume the wrong root cause. And finding a realistic complete plan for solving a problem is rare.

8D (Eight Disciplines) is a process used in various industries for problem solving and process improvement. The 8D steps described below could be very useful for transhumanists, not just for talking about problems but for actually implementing solutions in real life.

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Jan 5, 2011

Deepest Desire as Destiny?

Posted by in category: philosophy

I want self knowledge. It’s part of what I do in life. For me it isn’t work, it’s love, but by the same token, it isn’t for everybody, nor should it be. There’s no money in it, not everyone feels passionate about it, not everyone has the aptitude, many are turned off by introspection, considering it a waste of time and many don’t believe in ‘that sort of thing.’ Well, I enjoy educating myself, and I get part of my ongoing education and a sense of satisfaction from ‘that sort of thing’ that also harmonizes with my supporting the work of the Lifeboat Foundation.

At the same time I’m aware of a certain ‘unconscious’ role that I forged in my early life crucible so as to get me what I wanted at a time when my thinking and my ‘worldview’ were primitive to say the least. What might anyone ‘want’ in such a situation? Imagine. Using whatever genetic and epigenetic equipment entered this life with me I interacted in complexity with the other participants in the crucible, emerging as … what? Here lie the origins of liberated or not,according to psychological dynamic thinking.

Notice how hard it is to get rid of that ‘I.’ I wish I knew more about my ‘I.’

Well, enough of that, so for now, in one way or another I resolved my early life core dilemma in a way that left a pattern. A role in a drama learned early on in life endures. It endures, firstly because certain psycho-biological infrastructure is embedded in various functions of ‘me’ and secondly because my drama serves a purpose for me. If I didn’t use it, it would fade away in disuse. I value it. Simplistically said, if I ‘succeed’ it’s because I’m superior, if I ‘fail’ it’s because I’m misunderstood. A hero in a world of fools. My drama is my treasure, I’ll resist if someone tries to persuade or coerce me to let go of my treasure, and if I imagine it’s the only tool I have, I can’t imagine life without it. Who said that life was rational?

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Dec 7, 2010

Top 10 lessons for becoming a successful entrepreneur — Naveen Jain

Posted by in categories: business, education, ethics

I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my adult life. Recently, on a long business flight, I began thinking about what it takes to become successful as an entrepreneur — and how I would even define the meaning “success” itself. The two ideas became more intertwined in my thinking: success as an entrepreneur, entrepreneurial success. I’ve given a lot of talks over the years on the subject of entrepreneurship. The first thing I find I have to do is to dispel the persistent myth that entrepreneurial success is all about innovative thinking and breakthrough ideas. I’ve found that entrepreneurial success usually comes through great execution, simply by doing a superior job of doing the blocking and tackling.

But what else does it take to succeed as an entrepreneur — and how should an entrepreneur define success?

Bored with the long flight, sinking deeper into my own thoughts, I wrote down my own answers.

Here’s what I came up with, a “Top Ten List” if you will:

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Dec 7, 2010

Rethinking Education to Build Better Learners — Naveen Jain

Posted by in categories: education, neuroscience

My generation was the last one to learn to use a slide rule in school. Today that skill is totally obsolete. So is the ability to identify the Soviet Socialist Republics on a map, the ability to write an operation in FORTAN, or how to drive a car with a standard transmission.

We live in a world of instant access to information and where technology is making exponential advances in synthetic biology, nanotechnology, genetics, robotics, neuroscience and artificial intelligence. In this world, we should not be focused on improving the classrooms but should be devoting resources to improving the brains that the students bring to that classroom.

To prepare students for this high-velocity, high-technology world the most valuable skill we can teach them is to be better learners so they can leap from one technological wave to the next. That means education should not be about modifying the core curricula of our schools but should be about building better learners by enhancing each student’s neural capacities and motivation for life-long learning.

Less than two decades ago this concept would have been inconceivable. We used to think that brain anatomy (and hence learning capacity) was fixed at birth. But recent breakthroughs in the neuroscience of learning have demonstrated that this view is fundamentally wrong.

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Nov 26, 2010

“Rogue states” as a source of global risk

Posted by in categories: existential risks, geopolitics

Some countries are a threat as possible sources of global risk. First of all we are talking about countries which have developed, but poorly controlled military programs, as well as the specific motivation that drives them to create a Doomsday weapon. Usually it is a country that is under threat of attack and total conquest, and in which the control system rests on a kind of irrational ideology.

The most striking example of such a global risk are the efforts of North Korea’s to weaponize Avian Influenza (North Korea trying to weaponize bird flu http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=50093), which may lead to the creation of the virus capable of destroying most of Earth’s population.

There is not really important, what is primary: an irrational ideology, increased secrecy, the excess of military research and the real threat of external aggression. Usually, all these causes go hand in hand.

The result is the appearance of conditions for creating the most exotic defenses. In addition, an excess of military scientists and equipment allows individual scientists to be, for example, bioterrorists. The high level of secrecy leads to the fact that the state as a whole does not know what they are doing in some labs.

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