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Archive for the ‘policy’ category: Page 84

Jun 24, 2012

The Importance of NASA

Posted by in categories: business, economics, education, engineering, policy, space

America has been a spacefaring nation since 1958. Over the past fifty-three years, America overtook its first rival, the Soviet Union (spacefaring since 1957), and maintained its supremacy in the aerospace and aeronautical industries, having the most developed and successful space program, the strongest private aerospace/aeronautical industry, and the most intelligent engineers and scientists. During times where space exploration and advanced scientific research programs seem inappropriate to publicly fund and continue where economic difficulties, contested military actions, and other civil/financial issues seem to demand precedence, it needs to be promoted that NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is of immense importance to the security and welfare of the United States of America and must remain a national priority. NASA drives STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education as well as the development of commercial and defense technologies and works with private engineering and science companies across the country, employing thousands of brilliant engineers, scientists, and technicians to ensure the safety of the American people and maintain the technological and explorational prestige this country has always possessed.

NASA’s accomplishments are inspirational to students. It is capable of orbiting people around the planet in minutes, building a space station, and placing man on the moon, and in doing so powerfully inspires individuals to aspire for careers with the organization. In order to become involved with NASA, a student must study science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics, and by creating a strong incentive for people to study these topics, demand for STEM education increases. As demand increases, more STEM programs will develop and more people will become involved in STEM disciplines. Students studying STEM subjects develop critical thinking skills and strong senses of logic to overcome various problems and conflicts. New generations of engineers and scientists will rise to replace the retiring generations and surpass them in their accomplishments, but only will do so if opportunities to take such careers exist. Should NASA decay, it won’t only be NASA careers disappearing. Jobs at firms like Lockheed Martin, The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and SpaceX among others will be lost as well and some of these firms will face immense downsizing or possibly even be forced to shut down, severely harming motivation for younger American students to pursue a degree or career in STEM related fields.

One of the greatest positive externalities of NASA is the technology developed as ‘spin-off’ used in the commercial and defense industries. When NASA was tasked with putting man on the moon, NASA realized the Apollo capsule would need computing systems installed within it that were far greater in power and far smaller than those currently in use and therefore tasked private industry with the development of compact computing devices that later became the PC and laptop. Without NASA funding, heart rate monitors, thermal video imaging, light emitting diodes, and velcro among many other technologies would not have been developed. While current domestic debate surrounds whether or not NASA should be downsized, enlarged, or completely phased out over time, foreign countries and blocs such as China, India, and the European Space Agency are investing even more time and money into improving their programs, their educational efforts, and plan to surpass American capabilities within the near future. Technological innovation, though still very prevalent within the United States, is beginning to grow very rapidly in foreign countries and more new technologies are being imported rather than exported every day. Instead of questioning whether or not NASA is necessary, America should be questioning what seemingly impossible task NASA should be working on next. Originally, the Apollo project seemed insurmountably difficult. But when national security threats (Soviet technological capabilities during the Cold War) met technological challenges (the Apollo program), NASA proved to be an irreplaceable source of innovation and wonder that united a nation, inspired a generation with dreams of space exploration, and provided a feeling of security to millions of people who feared another devastating war.

Which is also why NASA is critically important in the defense industry as a customer. NASA helps improve private and public defense and communication technologies. The relationship between NASA and the private industry is very symbiotic. NASA develops a plan or project and administers/contracts production and testing tasks out to the private industry, challenging thousands of engineers and scientists to improve their designs and inspires technological and manufacturing developments, which in turn allow NASA to complete its mission in an efficient and effective manner. China has proven it is capable of destroying our satellites by destroying one of its own and has announced its desire to develop a space program separated from America’s influence and plans to land on the moon in 2020. India, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, Romania, Japan, and Ukraine among others have all had confirmed launches and are working to become space powers themselves, developing their own aerospace industries and programs. Iraq and North Korea have also both touted successful launches, though their success are unconfirmed. NASA helps to keep America competitive by constantly challenging private industry and by making sure its goals for space and technological development are always beyond those of other countries, which helps to prevent enemies from defeating our technologies, thus keeping us safe.

Continue reading “The Importance of NASA” »

May 31, 2012

Médecins Sans Frontières Scientific Day 2012

Posted by in categories: complex systems, geopolitics, policy, sustainability

Every year Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hold a conference to present scientific research carried out by their teams from different parts of the world. This year’s conference highlighted some of the strategic challenges facing MSF, and challenged some of our conceptions of medical humanitarian aid, and international development in light of groundbreaking digital technologies. We are as Paul Conneally passionately articulated in his keynote speech – Digital Humanitarian – ‘on the cusp of a global health revolution’.

Some of the groundbreaking technologies touched upon included crisis mapping, a technology that is still in its infancy, and the era of big data. The possibilities of how healthcare and humanitarian aid will be transformed by the convergence of ideas and technologies were evident in the poster session; humanitarian technology applications showed refugee camps in Kenya being monitored using satellite imagery and a humanitarian field software kit called joekit. Of the talks demonstrating real world examples, a talk by Isabella Panunzi on teleradiology proved to be immensely inspiring.

Isabella’s talk on her experience of applying teleradiology to improve diagnosis of tuberculosis in Thyolo District Hospital, Malawi showcased humanitarian innovation at its best. X-rays are taken at the Malawi hospital and the images are then sent to radiologists in the USA to interpret the images. As a result teleradiology has reduced critical delays and missed diagnosis of TB. This example of digital humanitarianism symbolises a small fraction of what can be potentially achieved in transforming our world. It opens up new possibilities in the transfer of technology and knowledge to the developing world. It also highlights the need for a different approach to modelling the strategic challenges of medical humanitarian aid and international development, and this is where complexity thinking and science can bring together different parts of problems and solutions to construct true holistic solutions.

A talk by Jonathan Smith, lecturer in Global Health and Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at Yale University, brought together the disciplines of the arts and sciences as he gave an inventive take on using research in the digital age. Visually documenting disease and connecting the ‘emotional component to epidemiological data’ is extremely powerful to create change in global health observed Jonathon, as he showed part of a documentary film he is directing, ‘They Go to Die’, a film about,

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May 14, 2012

From Global Crisis — A Planetary Defense?

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, defense, economics, ethics, events, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, lifeboat, military, nuclear weapons, policy, rants, space, treaties

Russia’s hastily convened international conference in St. Petersburg next month is being billed as a last-ditch effort at superpower cooperation in defense of Earth against dangers from space.

But it cannot be overlooked that this conference comes in response to the highly controversial NATO anti-ballistic missile deployments in Eastern Europe. These seriously destabilizing, nuclear defenses are pretexted as a defense against a non-nuclear Iran. In reality, the western moves of anti-missile systems into Poland and Romania create a de facto nuclear first-strike capability for NATO, and they vacate a series of Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaties with the Russians that go back forty years.

Deeply distrustful of these new US and NATO nuclear first-strike capabilities, the Russians announced they will not attend NATO’s planned deterrence summit in Chicago this month. Instead, they are testing Western intentions with a proposal for cooperative project for near-space mapping, surveillance, and defense against Earth-crossing asteroids and other dangerous space objects.

The Russians have invited NATO members as well as forward-thinking space powers to a conference in June in Petrograd. The agenda: Planetary defense against incursions by objects from space. It would be a way of making cooperative plowshares from the space technologies of hair-trigger nuclear terror (2 minutes warning, or less, in the case of the Eastern European ABMs).

It’s an offer the US and other space powers should accept.

Apr 15, 2012

Risk Assessment is Hard (computationally and otherwise)

Posted by in categories: existential risks, information science, policy

How hard is to assess which risks to mitigate? It turns out to be pretty hard.

Let’s start with a model of risk so simplified as to be completely unrealistic, yet will still retain a key feature. Suppose that we managed to translate every risk into some single normalized unit of “cost of expected harm”. Let us also suppose that we could bring together all of the payments that could be made to avoid risks. A mitigation policy given these simplifications must be pretty easy: just buy each of the “biggest for your dollar” risks.

Not so fast.

The problem with this is that many risk mitigation measures are discrete. Either you buy the air filter or you don’t. Either your town filters its water a certain way or it doesn’t. Either we have the infrastructure to divert the asteroid or we don’t. When risk mitigation measures become discrete, then allocating the costs becomes trickier. Given a budget of 80 “harms” to reduce, and risks of 50, 40, and 35, then buying the 50 leaves 15 “harms” that you were willing to pay to avoid left on the table.

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Apr 9, 2012

LHC-Critique Press Info: Instead of a neutral risk assessment of the LHC: New records and plans for costly upgrades at CERN

Posted by in categories: complex systems, cosmology, engineering, ethics, existential risks, futurism, media & arts, nuclear energy, particle physics, philosophy, physics, policy, scientific freedom, space, sustainability

High energy experiments like the LHC at the nuclear research centre CERN are extreme energy consumers (needing the power of a nuclear plant). Their construction is extremely costly (presently 7 Billion Euros) and practical benefits are not in sight. The experiments eventually pose existential risks and these risks have not been properly investigated.

It is not the first time that CERN announces record energies and news around April 1 – apparently hoping that some critique and concerns about the risks could be misinterpreted as an April joke. Additionally CERN regularly starts up the LHC at Easter celebrations and just before week ends, when news offices are empty and people prefer to have peaceful days with their friends and families.

CERN has just announced new records in collision energies at the LHC. And instead of conducting a neutral risk assessment, the nuclear research centre plans costly upgrades of its Big Bang machine. Facing an LHC upgrade in 2013 for up to CHF 1 Billion and the perspective of a Mega-LHC in 2022: How long will it take until risk researchers are finally integrated in a neutral safety assessment?

There are countless evidences for the necessity of an external and multidisciplinary safety assessment of the LHC. According to a pre-study in risk research, CERN fits less than a fifth of the criteria for a modern risk assessment (see the press release below). It is not acceptable that the clueless member states point at the operator CERN itself, while this regards its self-set security measures as sufficient, in spite of critique from risk researchers, continuous debates and the publication of further papers pointing at concrete dangers and even existential risks (black holes, strangelets) eventually arising from the experiments sooner or later. Presently science has to admit that the risk is disputed and basically unknown.

Continue reading “LHC-Critique Press Info: Instead of a neutral risk assessment of the LHC: New records and plans for costly upgrades at CERN” »

Jan 16, 2012

Post Einsteinian Language?

Posted by in categories: biological, complex systems, cosmology, economics, education, ethics, evolution, futurism, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, humor, media & arts, philosophy, policy, rants, scientific freedom, sustainability, transparency

Twenty years ago, way back in the primordial soup of the early Network in an out of the way electromagnetic watering hole called USENET, this correspondent entered the previous millennium’s virtual nexus of survival-of-the-weirdest via an accelerated learning process calculated to evolve a cybernetic avatar from the Corpus Digitalis. Now, as columnist, sci-fi writer and independent filmmaker, [Cognition Factor — 2009], with Terence Mckenna, I have filmed rocket launches and solar eclipses for South African Astronomical Observatories, and produced educational programs for South African Large Telescope (SALT). Latest efforts include videography for the International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town October 2011, and a completed, soon-to-be-released, autobiography draft-titled “Journey to Everywhere”.

Cognition Factor attempts to be the world’s first ‘smart movie’, digitally orchestrated for the fusion of Left and Right Cerebral Hemispheres in order to decode civilization into an articulate verbal and visual language structured from sequential logical hypothesis based upon the following ‘Big Five’ questions,

1.) Evolution Or Extinction?
2.) What Is Consciousness?
3.) Is God A Myth?
4.) Fusion Of Science & Spirit?
5.) What Happens When You Die?

Even if you believe that imagination is more important than knowledge, you’ll need a full deck to solve the ‘Arab Spring’ epidemic, which may be a logical step in the ‘Global Equalisation Process as more and more of our Planet’s Alumni fling their hats in the air and emit primal screams approximating;
“we don’t need to accumulate (so much) wealth anymore”, in a language comprising of ‘post Einsteinian’ mathematics…

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Jan 13, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 2

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biotech/medical, business, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, space

I am taking the advice of a reader of this blog and devoting part 2 to examples of old school and modern movies and the visionary science they portray.

Things to Come 1936 — Event Horizon 1997
Things to Come was a disappointment to Wells and Event Horizon was no less a disappointment to audiences. I found them both very interesting as a showcase for some technology and social challenges.… to come- but a little off the mark in regards to the exact technology and explicit social issues. In the final scene of Things to Come, Raymond Massey asks if mankind will choose the stars. What will we choose? I find this moment very powerful- perhaps the example; the most eloguent expression of the whole genre of science fiction. Event Horizon was a complete counterpoint; a horror movie set in space with a starship modeled after a gothic cathedral. Event Horizon had a rescue crew put in stasis for a high G several month journey to Neptune on a fusion powered spaceship. High accelleration and fusion brings H-bombs to mind, and though not portrayed, this propulsion system is in fact a most probable future. Fusion “engines” are old hat in sci-fi despite the near certainty the only places fusion will ever work as advertised are in a bomb or a star. The Event Horizon, haunted and consigned to hell, used a “gravity drive” to achieve star travel by “folding space.” Interestingly, a recent concept for a black hole powered starship is probably the most accurate forecast of the technology that will be used for interstellar travel in the next century. While ripping a hole in the fabric of space time may be strictly science fantasy, for the next thousand years at least, small singularity propulsion using Hawking radiation to achieve a high fraction of the speed of light is mathematically sound and the most obvious future.

https://lifeboat.com/blog/2012/09/only-one-star-drive-can-work-so-far

That is, if humanity avoids an outbreak of engineered pathogens or any one of several other threats to our existence in that time frame.

Continue reading “Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 2” »

Jan 10, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 1

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, business, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, fun, futurism, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, robotics/AI, space, transparency

Steamships, locomotives, electricity; these marvels of the industrial age sparked the imagination of futurists such as Jules Verne. Perhaps no other writer or work inspired so many to reach the stars as did this Frenchman’s famous tale of space travel. Later developments in microbiology, chemistry, and astronomy would inspire H.G. Wells and the notable science fiction authors of the early 20th century.

The submarine, aircraft, the spaceship, time travel, nuclear weapons, and even stealth technology were all predicted in some form by science fiction writers many decades before they were realized. The writers were not simply making up such wonders from fanciful thought or childrens ryhmes. As science advanced in the mid 19th and early 20th century, the probable future developments this new knowledge would bring about were in some cases quite obvious. Though powered flight seems a recent miracle, it was long expected as hydrogen balloons and parachutes had been around for over a century and steam propulsion went through a long gestation before ships and trains were driven by the new engines. Solid rockets were ancient and even multiple stages to increase altitude had been in use by fireworks makers for a very long time before the space age.

Some predictions were seen to come about in ways far removed yet still connected to their fictional counterparts. The U.S. Navy flagged steam driven Nautilus swam the ocean blue under nuclear power not long before rockets took men to the moon. While Verne predicted an electric submarine, his notional Florida space gun never did take three men into space. However there was a Canadian weapons designer named Gerald Bull who met his end while trying to build such a gun for Saddam Hussien. The insane Invisible Man of Wells took the form of invisible aircraft playing a less than human role in the insane game of mutually assured destruction. And a true time machine was found easily enough in the mathematics of Einstein. Simply going fast enough through space will take a human being millions of years into the future. However, traveling back in time is still as much an impossibillity as the anti-gravity Cavorite from the First Men in the Moon. Wells missed on occasion but was not far off with his story of alien invaders defeated by germs- except we are the aliens invading the natural world’s ecosystem with our genetically modified creations and could very well soon meet our end as a result.

While Verne’s Captain Nemo made war on the death merchants of his world with a submarine ram, our own more modern anti-war device was found in the hydrogen bomb. So destructive an agent that no new world war has been possible since nuclear weapons were stockpiled in the second half of the last century. Neither Verne or Wells imagined the destructive power of a single missile submarine able to incinerate all the major cities of earth. The dozens of such superdreadnoughts even now cruising in the icy darkness of the deep ocean proves that truth is more often stranger than fiction. It may seem the golden age of predictive fiction has passed as exceptions to the laws of physics prove impossible despite advertisments to the contrary. Science fiction has given way to science fantasy and the suspension of disbelief possible in the last century has turned to disappointment and the distractions of whimsical technological fairy tales. “Beam me up” was simply a way to cut production costs for special effects and warp drive the only trick that would make a one hour episode work. Unobtainium and wishalloy, handwavium and technobabble- it has watered down what our future could be into childish wish fulfillment and escapism.

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Jan 6, 2012

The Internet is a Human Right, VINTON G. CERF is Mistaken

Posted by in categories: business, ethics, philosophy, policy, rants

Wednesday on the Opinion Pages of the NY Times the renowned Vinton Cerf “father of the internet” published an article titles Internet Access Is Not A Human Right. It could be argued that the key word here is “access”, but before I address access again, I should start with the definition of the internet. I had this debate while at Michigan State in October of 2010 with the philosopher Andrew Feenberg. I’ll do my best not to be redundant while everything is still live via the links in this article.

Perhaps the internet requires much more definition, as the roots of the word can be confusing. Inter: situated within – Net: any network or reticulated system of filaments or the like. Its terminology is synonymous with the “web” or a web, which requires multiple linkages to points of initiation in order to exist well. If this is the internet that Feenberg is referring to then I’d think it accurate. However, the internet is not actually a web of ever connected points. Information destinations are not required.

The internet is analogous to space. Regardless of whether or not we access space, its potential exists – we can access or insert entities of sorts into the space regardless of, if another user were present to receive information of sorts from the distributed. Space is a dynamic system of expanding material potential as is the internet’s material potential. The potential of the internet expands as users (or rather, potential users) access to the internet expands – access could come in many forms including, user population(s) growth or by computing speed or by computing power… The internet, regardless of the constraints of the word, it cannot be identified as a specific technology.

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Nov 13, 2011

D’Nile aint just a river in Egypt…

Posted by in categories: business, complex systems, cosmology, economics, education, ethics, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, human trajectories, humor, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, neuroscience, open access, open source, philosophy, policy, rants, robotics/AI, space, sustainability

Greetings fellow travelers, please allow me to introduce myself; I’m Mike ‘Cyber Shaman’ Kawitzky, independent film maker and writer from Cape Town, South Africa, one of your media/art contributors/co-conspirators.

It’s a bit daunting posting to such an illustrious board, so let me try to imagine, with you; how to regard the present with nostalgia while looking look forward to the past, knowing that a millisecond away in the future exists thoughts to think; it’s the mode of neural text, reverse causality, non-locality and quantum entanglement, where the traveller is the journey into a world in transition; after 9/11, after the economic meltdown, after the oil spill, after the tsunami, after Fukushima, after 21st Century melancholia upholstered by anti-psychotic drugs help us forget ‘the good old days’; because it’s business as usual for the 1%; the rest continue downhill with no brakes. Can’t wait to see how it all works out.

Please excuse me, my time machine is waiting…
Post cyberpunk and into Transhumanism

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