essays collection By Author | A-Z

Is the business cycle in your DNA?

July 4, 2010 by Howard Bloom

From The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism by Howard Bloom, Prometheus Books, 2009. Reprinted with permission.

Why bankers are like bacteria

What has tumbled you and me into the pit of the Great Recession of 2008-2010? What causes boom and bust? Does economic catastrophe come from a perverse monetary system, from capitalism, speculators, overpaid CEO’s and greed? Does it come from conspiracies of… read more

Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios and Related Hazards

May 29, 2001 by Nick Bostrom

Nick Bostrom defines a new category of risks that could threaten humanity and intelligent life with extinction: existential risks. The future could be a dangerous place indeed.… read more

How Long Before Superintelligence?

April 30, 2001 by Nick Bostrom

This paper outlines the case for believing that we will have superhuman artificial intelligence within this century. It looks at different estimates of the processing power of the human brain; how long it will take until computer hardware achieve a similar performance; ways of creating the software through bottom-up approaches like the one used by biological brains; how difficult it will be neuroscience figure out enough about how brains work to make this approach work; and how fast we can expect superintelligence to be developed once there is human-level artificial intelligence.… read more

Nanoethics and Technological Revolutions: A Precis.

May 5, 2006 by Nick Bostrom

If we believe that nanotechnology will eventually amount to a technological revolution, and if we are going to attempt nanoethics, we should consider some of the earlier technological revolutions that humanity has undergone and how our moral principles and technology impact assessment exercises would have fared.… read more

The Transhumanist FAQ

April 30, 2001 by Nick Bostrom

This FAQ, written by Nick Bostrom (with the help of others—see endnote), outlines the principles of transhumanism and provides definitions of transhumanist terms and resources. This is one of many versions of the “Transhumanist FAQ” that can be found on many websites, per organization or individual.… read more

When Machines Outsmart Humans

April 30, 2001 by Nick Bostrom

Artificial intelligence is a possibility that should not be ignored in any serious thinking about the world in 2050. This article outlines the case for thinking that human-level machine intelligence might well be appear in that time frame. It then explains four immediate consequences of such a development, and argues that machine intelligence would have a revolutionary impact on a wide range of the social, political, economic, commercial, technological, scientific and environmental issues that humanity will face in the next century.… read more

The 10,000-Year Library

April 11, 2001 by Stewart Brand

Much of the information of the past–as well as the present–is endangered or lost forever. Underground rock vaults, “time mail,” and a museum built around a 10,000 year clock are some of the ideas for assuring that vital information survives future crashes of civilizations.… read more

Singularities and Nightmares

March 28, 2006 by David Brin

Options for a coming singularity include self-destruction of civilization, a positive singularity, a negative singularity (machines take over), and retreat into tradition. Our urgent goal: find (and avoid) failure modes, using anticipation (thought experiments) and resiliency — establishing robust systems that can deal with almost any problem as it arises.… read more

Beyond Computation: A Talk with Rodney Brooks

June 7, 2002 by John Brockman

Rodney Brooks is trying to build robots with properties of living systems. These include self-reproducing and self-assembling robots and one inspired by Bill Joy that wanders around the corridors, finds electrical outlets, and plugs itself in. His students’ edgy projects include real-time MRI imagery, virtual colonoscopies, programs that create DNA for E. coli molecules that act as computers, and eventually, self-organizing smart biomaterials that grow into objects, such as a table.… read more

The New Humanist

May 14, 2002 by John Brockman

“Something radically new is in the air: new ways of understanding physical systems, new ways of thinking about thinking that call into question many of our basic assumptions. A realistic biology of the mind, advances in physics, electricity, genetics, neurobiology, engineering, the chemistry of materials—all are challenging basic assumptions of who and what we are, of what it means to be human. The arts and the sciences are again joining together as one culture, the third culture. Those involved in this effort—scientists, science-based humanities scholars, writers—are at the center of today’s intellectual action. They are the new humanists.”… read more

Cultural Dominants and Differential MNT Uptake

March 30, 2006 by Damien Broderick

The impacts of radical and disruptive technologies such as molecular nanotechnology on societies deserve serious study by economists, sociologists and anthropologists. Would civil societies degenerate almost instantly into Hobbesian micro states, where the principal currency is direct power over other humans, expressed at the worst in sadistic or careless infliction of pain and consequent brutalization of spirit in slaves and masters alike?… read more

Excerpts from The Spike: How Our Lives Are Being Transformed By Rapidly Advancing Technologies

July 26, 2001 by Damien Broderick

Damien Broderick takes us to the edge of a technological Singularity, where the Internet reaches critical mass of interconnectivity and “wakes up,” and mountain ranges may mysteriously appear out of nowhere. Then again, is the rampant techno-optimism surrounding the imminent Singularity just exponential bogosity?… read more

Nanofactories, Gang Wars, and “Feelies”

February 3, 2006 by Damien Broderick

In 30 years, a new intelligent species might share the planet with us and
dirt-cheap molecular manufacturing may end poverty and strife. But there exists a risk that a world of lotus-eaters will degenerate into gang wars among those for whom life
retains no discipline or meaning.… read more

Tearing Toward the Spike

May 7, 2001 by Damien Broderick

We will live forever; or we will all perish most horribly; our minds will emigrate to cyberspace, and start the most ferocious overpopulation race ever seen on the planet; or our machines will transcend and take us with them, or leave us in some peaceful backwater where the meek shall inherit the Earth. Or something else, something far weirder and… unimaginable.… read more

Gelernter, Kurzweil debate machine consciousness

December 6, 2006 by Rodney Brooks, Ray Kurzweil, David Gelernter

Are we limited to building super-intelligent robotic “zombies” or will it be possible and desirable for us to build conscious, creative, volitional, perhaps even “spiritual” machines? David Gelernter and Ray Kurzweil debated this key question at MIT on Nov. 30.… read more

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