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Better than human

Imagine that 7 out of 10 working Americans got fired tomorrow. What would they all do?
January 2, 2013


It’s hard to believe you’d have an economy at all if you gave pink slips to more than half the labor force. But that — in slow motion — is what the industrial revolution did to the workforce of the early 19th century, says Wired maverick Kevin Kelley.

Two hundred years ago, 70 percent of American workers lived on the farm. Today automation has eliminated all but 1 percent… read more

Global e-mail patterns reveal ‘clash of civilizations’

March 6, 2013

The mesh of civilizations in e-mail patterns (credit: Bogdan State et al.)

The global pattern of e-mail communication reflects the cultural fault lines thought to determine future conflict, say computational social scientists.

In 1992, the Harvard-based political scientist Samuel Huntington suggested that future conflicts would be driven largely by cultural differences. He went on to map out a new world order in which the people of the world are divided into nine culturally distinct civilizations.

His argument was that future… read more

The consequences of machine intelligence

October 28, 2012


In their 2011 book, Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argued that “technological progress is accelerating innovation even as it leaves many types of workers behind,” says Rice University professor of computational engineering Moshe Y. Vardi in The Atlantic.

“While the loss of millions of jobs over the past… read more

How would you like to invest in immortality?

March 22, 2013


With his 2045 Initiative, Russian Internet mogul Dmitry Itskov is looking for backers for the world’s first immortality research center.

The new venture sells itself: invest in his new research and development interest and the payoff could be immortality, reports Fortune.

A new corporate entity that the Russian multi-millionaire will formally announce at an event in June will allow investors to bankroll research into neuroscience… read more

How economic growth has become anti-life

November 3, 2013

"Economic growth begins when seeds are genetically modified and patented, leading to farmers having to buy seeds every season" (credit: Raminder Pal Singh/EPA)

“An obsession with growth has eclipsed our concern for sustainability, justice and human dignity. But people are not disposable — the value of life lies outside economic development,” writes philosopher, environmental activist, and author Vandana Shiva at The Guardian.

“Limitless growth is the fantasy of economists, businesses and politicians,” she says. “It is seen as a measure of progress. As a result, gross domestic product (GDP), which is supposed… read more

Iran warplane fired at US drone in early November

November 9, 2012

MQ-1 Predator drone (credit: USAF)

An Iranian warplane opened fire on an unarmed U.S. military drone conducting surveillance near Iranian airspace Nov. 1, the Pentagon said Thursday, the first such incident over the Persian Gulf and one that is all but certain to draw attention to Washington’s use of unmanned aircraft, The Washington Post reports.

The MQ-1 Predator drone returned to its base unscathed, even as theread more

Reality is a computer projection: physicists

What we call reality might actually be the output of a program running on a cosmos-sized quantum computer
October 4, 2012


Whatever kind of reality you think you’re living in, you’re probably wrong. The universe is a computer, and everything that goes on in it can be explained in terms of information processing, speculates New Scientist in a special issue on What is reality?

“Quantum physics is almost phrased in terms of information processing,” says Vlatko Vedral of the University of Oxford. “It’s suggestive that you will… read more

Do we live inside a mathematical equation?

February 18, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Reality is a mathematical structure, says MIT physicist Max Tegmark — his “mathematical universe hypothesis,” reports Science Now.

“If the mathematical universe hypothesis is false, that means that the future of physics is ultimately doomed,” says Tegmark. However, “if the mathematical universe hypothesis is true, we can actually learn things about the parts of our universe we can’t see or visit. … The road ahead… read more

Should we live to 1,000?

December 13, 2012


Aubrey de Grey, Chief Science Officer of SENS Foundation and the world’s most prominent advocate of anti-aging research, argues that it makes no sense to spend the vast majority of our medical resources on trying to combat the diseases of aging without tackling aging itself, writes ethicist Peter Singer on Project Syndicate.

De Grey believes that even modest progress in this area over the coming decade could… read more

METI: should we be shouting at the cosmos?

June 19, 2013


Science fiction writer and astrophysicist Dr. David Brin is not happy with the Lone Signal announcement of METI (Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) “beams” to the Gliese 526 solar system.

In his Brinstorming Science 2.0 blog, Brin updated his 2006 article on METI (aka active SETI), quoting Carl Sagan, who called it “deeply unwise and immature.”

He also cited Frank Drake, who famously sent the… read more

Superintelligence reading group

September 4, 2014


Nick Bostrom’s eagerly awaited Superintelligence is due to be published in the U.S. this week, and MIRI will be running an online reading group where you can join with others to ask questions, discuss ideas, and probe the arguments more deeply, according to MIRI research assistant Katja Grace.

As Oxford University Press notes, “Superintelligence asks the questions: What happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence? Will artificial… read more

‘Let’s create the OS of life’

October 22, 2014

OS Fund

On Monday, Bryan Johnson, the Braintree founder who bootstrapped and then sold the company to eBay for $800M, announced he used his own capital to launch a $100M “OS Fund.”

The fund’s charter is to invest in entrepreneurs, scientists, and inventors who aim to benefit humanity by rewriting the operating systems of life, Johnson says.

OS Fund

As Fortune reports,… read more

Fermi paradox resolved: near-universal early extinction?

The aliens are silent because they’re dead
January 22, 2016


The famous Fermi paradox raises the question: why haven’t we detected signs of alien life, despite high estimates of probability, such as observations of planets in the “habitable zone” around a Sun-like star by the Kepler telescope and calculations of hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy that might support life.

Now astrobiologists from Australian National University (ANU) Researchread more

IBM creating pocket-sized Watson in $16 billion sales push

August 28, 2012


IBM researchers are working on incorporating Watson  capabilities in smart phones, Bloomberg Business Week reports.

Bernie Meyerson, IBM’s vice president of innovation, envisions a voice-activated Watson that answers questions, like a supercharged version of Apple’s Siri personal assistant. A farmer could stand in a field and ask his phone, “When should I plant my corn?” He would get a reply in seconds, based on location data, historical… read more

Why artificial general intelligence has failed and how to fix it

October 4, 2012

(Credit: iStockphoto)

The field of “artificial general intelligence” or AGI has made no progress whatever during the entire six decades of its existence, says Oxford University physicist David Deutsch in this abridged version of an essay in aeon magazine. — Ed.

It is uncontroversial that the human brain has capabilities that are, in some respects, far superior to those of all other known objects in the cosmos. It is the… read more

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