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Jul 6, 2010

What’s your idea to BodyShock the Future?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, futurism

I’m working on this project with Institute for the Future — calling on voices everywhere for ideas to improve the future of global health. It would be great to get some visionary Lifeboat ideas entered!


“What can YOU envision to improve and reinvent health and well-being for the future?” Anyone can enter, anyone can vote, anyone can change the future of global health.

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Jun 26, 2010

Existential Risk Reduction Career Network

Posted by in categories: existential risks, finance, lifeboat

The existential risk reduction career network is a career network for those interested in getting a relatively well-paid job and donating substantial amounts (relative to income) to non-profit organizations focused on the reduction of existential risks, in the vein of SIAI, FHI, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

The aim is to foster a community of donors, and to allow donors and potential donors to give each other advice, particularly regarding the pros and cons of various careers, and for networking with like-minded others within industries. For example, someone already working in a large corporation could give a prospective donor advice about how to apply for a job.

Over time, it is hoped that the network will grow to a relatively large size, and that donations to existential risk-reduction from the network will make up a substantial fraction of funding for the beneficiary organizations.

In isolation, individuals may feel like existential risk is too large a problem to make a dent in, but collectively, we can make a huge difference. If you are interested in helping us make a difference, then please check out the network and request an invitation.

Please feel free to contact the organizers at [email protected] with any comments or questions.

Jun 25, 2010

Lifeboat Foundation in Games

Posted by in categories: existential risks, fun

The RPG Eclipse Phase includes the “Singularity Foundation” and “Lifeboat Institute” as player factions. Learn more about this game!

P.S. In case you don’t know, there is a Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Eclipse Phase is a roleplaying game of post-apocalyptic transhuman conspiracy and horror.

An “eclipse phase” is the period between when a cell is infected by a virus and when the virus appears within the cell and transforms it. During this period, the cell does not appear to be infected, but it is.

Players take part in a cross-faction secret network dubbed Firewall that is dedicated to counteracting “existential risks” — threats to the existence of transhumanity, whether they be biowar plagues, self-replicating nanoswarms, nuclear proliferation, terrorists with WMDs, net-breaking computer attacks, rogue AIs, alien encounters, or anything else that could drive an already decimated transhumanity to extinction.

Jun 24, 2010

Singularity Summit 2010 in San Francisco to Explore Intelligence Augmentation

Posted by in category: robotics/AI
This year, the Singularity Summit 2010 (SS10) will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco, California, in a 1100-seat ballroom on August 14–15.

Our speakers will include Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near; James Randi, magician-skeptic and founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation; Terry Sejnowski, computational neuroscientist; Irene Pepperberg, pioneering researcher in animal intelligence; David Hanson, creator of the world’s most realistic human-like robots; and many more. In all, the conference will include over twenty speakers, including many scientists presenting on their latest cutting-edge research in topics like intelligence enhancement and regenerative medicine.

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Jun 12, 2010

My presentation on Humanity + summit

Posted by in categories: futurism, robotics/AI

In the lunch time I am existing virtually in the hall of the summit as a face on the Skype account — i didn’t get a visa and stay in Moscow. But ironically my situation is resembling what I an speaking about: about the risk of remote AI which is created by aliens million light years from Earth and sent via radio signals. The main difference is that they communicate one way, and I have duplex mode.

This is my video presentation on YouTube:
Risks of SETI, for Humanity+ 2010 summit

Jun 11, 2010

H+ Conference and the Singularity Faster

Posted by in categories: futurism, robotics/AI

We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.
—Alan Turing

As a programmer, I look at events like the H+ Conference this weekend in a particular way. I see all of their problems as software: not just the code for AI and friendly AI, but also that for DNA manipulation. It seems that the biggest challenge for the futurist movement is to focus less on writing English and more on getting the programmers working together productively.

I start the AI chapter of my book with the following question: Imagine 1,000 people, broken up into groups of five, working on two hundred separate encyclopedias, versus that same number of people working on one encyclopedia? Which one will be the best? This sounds like a silly analogy when described in the context of an encyclopedia, but it is exactly what is going on in artificial intelligence (AI) research today.

Today, the research community has not adopted free software and shared codebases sufficiently. For example, I believe there are more than enough PhDs today working on computer vision, but there are 200+ different codebases plus countless proprietary ones. Simply put, there is no computer vision codebase with critical mass.

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Jun 9, 2010

Have Corporations Become a Global Existential Threat?

Posted by in categories: business, ethics, existential risks

Perhaps you think I’m crazy or naive to pose this question. But more and more the past few months I’ve begun to wonder if there is a possibility here that this idea may not be too far off the mark.

Not because of some half-baked theory about a global conspiracy or anything of the sort but simply based upon the behavior of many multinational corporations recently and the effects this behavior is having upon people everywhere.

Again, you may disagree but my perspective on these financial giants is that they are essentially predatory in nature and that their prey is any dollar in commerce that they can possibly absorb. The problem is that for anyone in the modern or even quasi-modern world money is nearly as essential as plasma when it comes to our well-being.

It has been clearly demonstrated again and again — all over the world — that when a population has become sufficiently destitute that the survival of the individual is actually threatened violence inevitably occurs. On a large enough scale this sort of violence can erupt into civil war and wars, as we all know too well can spread like a virus across borders, even oceans.

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Jun 8, 2010


Posted by in category: futurism

King Louis XVI’s entry in his personal diary for that fateful day of July 14, 1789 suggests that nothing important had happened. He did not know that the events of the day-the attack upon the Bastille-meant that the revolution was under way, and that the world as he knew it was essentially over. Fast forward to June, 2010: a self-replicating biological organism (mycoplasma mycoides bacterium transformed) has been created in a laboratory by J. Craig Venter and his team. Yes, the revolution has begun. Indeed, the preliminaries have been going on for several years; it’s just that … um, well, have we been wide awake?

Ray Kurzweil’s singularity might be 25 years into the future, but sooner, a few years from now, we’ll have an interactive global network that some refer to as ‘global brain.’ Web3. I imagine no one knows exactly what will come out of all this, but I expect that we’ll find that the whole will be more than and different from the sum of the parts. Remember Complexity Theory. How about the ‘butterfly effect?’ Chaos Theory. And much more not explainable by theories presently known. I expect surprises, to say the least.

I am a retired psychiatrist, not a scientist. We each have a role to enact in this drama/comedy that we call life, and yes, our lives have meaning. Meaning! For me life is not a series of random events or events brought about by ‘them,’ but rather an unfolding drama/comedy with an infinite number of possible outcomes. We don’t know its origins or its drivers. Do we even know where our visions comes from?

So, what is my vision and what do I want? How clearly do I visualize what I want? Am I passionate about what I want or simply lukewarm? How much am I prepared to risk in pursuit of what I want? Do I reach out for what I want directly or do I get what I want indirectly by trying to serve two masters, so to speak? If the former I practice psychological responsibility, if the latter I do not. An important distinction. The latter situation suggests unresolved dilemma, common enough. Who among us can claim to be without?

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Jun 7, 2010

Gizmodo: Are Cameras the New Guns?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, media & arts, policy

Wendy McElroy brings an important issue to our attention — the increasing criminalization of filming / recording on-duty police officers.

The techno-progressive angle on this would have to take sousveillance into consideration. If our only response to a surveillance state is to observe “from the bottom” (as, for example, Steve Mann would have it), and if that response is made illegal, it seems that the next set of possible steps forward could include more entrenched recording of all personal interaction.

Already we have a cyborg model for this — “eyeborgs” Rob Spence and Neil Harbisson. So where next?


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Jun 7, 2010

Cell Phones in Timbuktu

Posted by in categories: economics, finance, geopolitics, human trajectories

well-in-an-oasisIt’s easy to think of people from the underdeveloped world as quite different from ourselves. After all, there’s little to convince us otherwise. National Geographic Specials, video clips on the Nightly News, photos in every major newspaper – all depicting a culture and lifestyle that’s hard for us to imagine let alone relate to. Yes – they seem very different; or perhaps not. Consider this story related to me by a friend.

Ray was a pioneer in software. He sold his company some time ago for a considerable amount of money. After this – during his quasi-retirement he got involved in coordinating medical relief missions to some of the most impoverished places on the planet, places such as Timbuktu in Africa.

The missions were simple – come to a place like Timbuktu and set up medical clinics, provide basic medicines and health care training and generally try and improve the health prospects of native peoples wherever he went.

Upon arriving in Timbuktu, Ray observed that their system of commerce was incredibly simple. Basically they had two items that were in commerce – goats and charcoal.

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