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Nov 12, 2007

Social Software Society for Safety

Posted by in category: futurism

Social Software Society for Safety.

Is there any scarcity? Perhaps friendship, because it requires time, shared history, and attention, is the ultimate scarcity—but must it always be the case?

A thoroughgoing naturalist, I stipulate that the value of all objects supervenes on their natural properties—rational evaluation of them is constrained by the facts. If I choose one car instead if its identical copy, simply because one has been stamped with a “brand,” this is the very definition of irrationality—if the 2 objects are exactly the same—you must be indifferent or violate the axioms of decision theory/identity theory. If I used a Replicator Ray to duplicate the Hope Diamond—which would you choose—the original—based on its history (was stolen, traveled around the world, etc) or the duplicate—they are identical!!

What happens to the value of the original? It is worth ½ because now there are 2? I make a 3rd copy so now it is worth 1/3? Nonsense—value has nothing to do with scarcity—a piece of feces may be totally unique in shape, just like a snowflake—but it has no value. Intrinsic value of objects depends on their properties. Instrumental value depends on what they can be used for (converted to intrinsic value).

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Nov 10, 2007

Yellowstone Caldera Rising

Posted by in category: existential risks

The Yellowstone caldera has moved upwards nine inches over the last three years, a record rate since geologists first began taking measurements in the 1920s. This is the result of a Los Angeles-sized blob of magma that recently rose up into the chamber only six miles below the surface. The Yellowstone caldera is an ancient supervolcano. Last time it erupted, 642,000 years ago, it ejected 1,000 cubic kilometers of magma into the air. If this happened in today’s world, it would kill millions and cover most of the United States in a layer of ash at least a centimeter thick. The lighter ash would rise up into the atmosphere, initiating a volcanic winter and ruining crops worldwide.

Calderas rise and fall worldwide all the time without erupting. But the activity in Yellowstone is still concerning. Like a reckless teenager in a sports car, it seems as if our civilization laughs off the possibility of its own demise like a complete joke. Yet the right sort of event, and we could be knocked flat. Instead of waiting for a disaster to happen, we should prepare in advance to minimize its probability.

I would like to see scientists do a study on the feasibility of using nuclear weapons to initiate a supervolcano eruption. If it looks feasible, then park security in Yellowstone should be increased.

Nov 3, 2007

Distraught Participants Riot at the Foresight Unconference

Posted by in category: humor


Rioting at the Foresight Unconference

AP, Nov. 3 — The Foresight Unconference announced today that scientists have discovered that there in no world below 1 nanometer. “It’s just space,” said noted scientist Eric Drexler. “We don’t know what to do!” Participants left dazed. Many decided to go back to philosophy, one attendee said.

“Like I said, It’s full of stars!” said novelist Arthur C. Clarke, reached in Sri Lanka. “There’s no there, there.”

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Oct 29, 2007

One shot Gene therapy protection from radiation

Posted by in categories: defense, existential risks, futurism, lifeboat, nuclear weapons

University of Pittsburgh researchers injected a therapy previously found to protect cells from radiation damage into the bone marrow of mice, then dosed them with some 950 roentgens of radiation — nearly twice the amount needed to kill a person in just five hours. Nine in 10 of the therapy-receiving mice survived, compared to 58 percent of the control group.

Between 30 and 330 days, there were no differences in survival rates between experiment and control group mice, indicating that systemic MnSOD-PL treatment was not harmful to survival.

The researchers will need to verify whether this treatment would work in humans.

This is part of the early development in the use of genetic modification to increase the biological defences (shields) of people against nuclear, biological and chemical threats. We may not be able to prevent all attacks, so we should improve our toughness and survivability. We should still try to stop the attacks and create the conditions for less attacks.

Oct 25, 2007

Overview: Biological Weapons Convention

Posted by in categories: biological, treaties

(Source: Wikipedia)

Full name: Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction

Short name: Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)
Open for signature: April 10, 1972
Entered into force: March 26, 1975
Member states: 158
Map of member states:

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Oct 18, 2007

ETC Group: Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

I’ve been taking a look at an “international civil society organization” called the ETC Group. The “ETC” group is also known as the “Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration”. To be honest, I can’t figure them out. Here is a summary:

“ETC Group is an international civil society organization based in Canada. We are dedicated to the conservation and sustainable advancement of cultural and ecological diversity and human rights. ETC Group supports socially responsible development of technologies useful to the poor and marginalized and we address international governance issues affecting the international community. We also monitor the ownership and control of technologies and the consolidation of corporate power.”

So they look like a somewhat standard leftist environmentalist technology oversight group. Alright.

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Oct 16, 2007

Lifeboat Foundation Fellow wins Feynman Prize

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, lifeboat, nanotechnology

Robert Freitas, Jr., Lifeboat Foundation Fellow and head of the Lifeboat Foundation’s Nanomedicine Division has won the 2007 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize in Communication.

Dr. Pearl Chin, President of the Foresight Nanotech Institute, said Freitas received the award for “pioneering the study and communication of the benefits to be obtained from an advanced nanomedicine that will be made possible by molecular manufacturing [and for having] worked to develop and communicate a path from our current technology base to a future technology base that will enable advanced nanomedicine.”

Prior to his Feynman Prize win Robert shared the Lifeboat Foundation’s 2006 Guardian Award with technology legend Bill Joy. Freitas and Joy shared the Guardian award for their many years of work on mitigating risks posed by advanced technologies.

Oct 15, 2007

Structure of influenza B virus protein gives clues to next pandemic

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

Determining the structure of a protein called hemagglutinin on the surface of influenza B is giving researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University in Houston clues as to what kinds of mutations could spark the next flu pandemic.

This is interesting research and progress in understanding and possibly blocking changes that would lead to pandemics.

In a report that goes online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Drs. Qinghua Wang, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at BCM, and Jianpeng Ma, associate professor in the same department and their colleagues describe the actual structure of influenza B virus hemagglutinin and compare it to a similar protein on influenza A virus. That comparison may be key to understanding the changes that will have to occur before avian flu (which is a form of influenza A virus) mutates to a form that can easily infect humans, said Ma, who holds a joint appointment at Rice. He and Wang have identified a particular residue or portion of the protein that may play a role in how different types of hemagglutinin bind to human cells.

“What would it take for the bird flu to mutate and start killing people” That’s the next part of our work,” said Ma. Understanding that change may give scientists a handle on how to stymie it.

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Oct 9, 2007

Inflatable Mirrors on spacecraft would move asteroids fastest

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

New Scientist reports on a new study by researchers led by Massimiliano Vasile of the University of Glasgow in Scotland have compared nine of the many methods proposed to ward off such objects, including blasting them with nuclear explosions.

The team assessed the methods according to three performance criteria: the amount of change each method would make to the asteroid’s orbit, the amount of warning time needed and the mass of the spacecraft needed for the mission.

The method that came out on top was a swarm of mirror-carrying spacecraft. The spacecraft would be launched from Earth to hover near the asteroid and concentrate sunlight onto a point on the asteroid’s surface.

In this way, they would heat the asteroid’s surface to more than 2100° C, enough to start vaporising it. As the gases spewed from the asteroid, they would create a small thrust in the opposite direction, altering the asteroid’s orbit.

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Oct 2, 2007

Geoengineering: A Cure for Global Warming

Posted by in categories: engineering, sustainability



Two of Britain’s leading environmental thinkers say it is time to develop a quick technical fix for climate change. Writing in the journal Nature, Science Museum head Chris Rapley and Gaia theorist James Lovelock suggest looking at boosting ocean take-up of CO2.

Floating pipes reaching down from the top of the ocean into colder water below move up and down with the swell.

As the pipe moves down, cold water flows up and out onto the ocean surface. A simple valve blocks any downward flow when the pipe is moving upwards.

Colder water is more “productive” — it contains more life, and so in principle can absorb more carbon.

Finally some practical solutions are being introduced to mitigate global warming. The BBC article mention the US company, Atmocean, that is already testing such a system.

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