Tag Archives | Futurism

Wang Zi Won’s Mechanical Buddhas

South Korean artist Wang Zi Won creates enlightened robots, including the Buddha and an idealized mechanical doll based upon himself, as a guidepost for a future in which technology lead to self-actualization:

Humans will evolve and adapt themselves to enhanced science and technology just as men and animals in the past evolved to adapt themselves to their natural circumstances. The artist sees this as our destiny, not as a negative, gloomy dystopia.

The artist considers it important to escape from human bondage in order to achieve harmony between men and machines. He thinks this harmony can be achieved through the process of religious practices and spiritual enlightenment.

The machine man was based on the artist, but this “I” is not a past “I” any more. His own existence vanishes, and a new being-as-machine man emerges. Z is thus a process of becoming the perfect “I”.

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Using Smart Gadgets As Tools Of Social Control

How devices will soon begin pressuring us to “fix” our behavior. Via the Wall Street Journal, Evgeny Morozov writes:

Many smart technologies are heading in a disturbing direction. A number of thinkers in Silicon Valley see these technologies as a way not just to give consumers new products that they want but to push them to behave better. The central idea is clear: social engineering disguised as product engineering.

Last week in Singapore, Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette restated Google’s notion that the world is a “broken” place whose problems, from traffic jams to inconvenient shopping experiences to excessive energy use, can be solved by technology. The futurist and game designer Jane McGonigal, a favorite of the TED crowd, also likes to talk about how “reality is broken” but can be fixed by making the real world more like a videogame, with points for doing good.

Insurance companies already offer significant discounts to drivers who agree to install smart sensors in order to monitor their driving habits.

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Has The Dystopian Singularity Already Occurred, In The Form Of Corporations?

The prime futurist fear is that humanity will create some advanced technology with an ostensibly positive purpose, but it will buck our control and undo the world as it pursues some twisted version of the ends it was programmed to achieve. Quiet Babylon writes that this artificially-sentient oppressor has already arrived:

One of my favorite recurring tropes of AI speculation/singulatarian deep time thinking is meditations on how an evil AI might destroy us.

Here’s an example: The scenario imagined is where there is a button that humans push if the AI gets an answer right and the AI wants to get a lot of button presses, and eventually it realizes that the best way to get button presses is to kill all the humans and institute a rapid fire button-pressing regime.

You would have this thing that behaves really well, until it has enough power to create a technology that gives it a decisive advantage — and then it would take that advantage and start doing what it wants to in the world.

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Libra The 21st Century Libertarian Space Colony

Dreaming of planned libertarian communities seems to be all the rage. But perhaps the only place they can succeed is in outer space. Via Smithsonian Magazine, Matt Novak on the 1978 think-tank-produced movie Libra:

Produced and distributed by a free-market group based in San Diego called World Research, Inc., the 40-minute film is set in the year 2003 and gives viewers a look at two vastly different worlds. On Earth, a world government has formed and everything is micromanaged to death, killing private enterprise. But in space, there’s true hope for freedom. Viewers get an interesting peek into what daily life is like when a Libra resident shows off her Abacus computer,  which is a bit like Siri.

The film’s vision for 2003 isn’t very pleasant — at least for those left on Earth. The people of Libra seem happy, while those on Earth cope with the world government’s dystopian top-down management of resources.

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China’s Massive Eugenics Project To Choose High-IQ Embryos

Via Edge.org, NYU evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller on how the biggest eugenics push in history is just unfolding, which he feels will dramatically shape the future:

China has been running the world’s largest and most successful eugenics program for more than thirty years, driving China’s ever-faster rise as the global superpower. When I learned about Chinese eugenics this summer, I was astonished that its population policies had received so little attention. China makes no secret of its eugenic ambitions, in either its cultural history or its government policies.

The BGI-Shenzhen Cognitive Genomics Project is currently doing whole-genome sequencing of 1,000 very-high-IQ people around the world, hunting for sets of sets of IQ-predicting alleles. I know because I recently contributed my DNA to the project, not fully understanding the implications. These IQ gene-sets will be found eventually—but will probably be used mostly in China, for China.

Potentially, the results would allow all Chinese couples to maximize the intelligence of their offspring by selecting among their own fertilized eggs for the one or two that include the highest likelihood of the highest intelligence.

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The U.S. Military Is Developing Deadly Robotic Insect Drones

Want to know something horrifying? The Air Force has a “drone birdhouse” filled with tiny, lethal, buzzing robotic creatures. In a few years, the doors will open and the drone bugs will be released upon the world. Via National Geographic, John Horgan reveals:

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has challenged researchers to build drones that mimic the size and behavior of bugs and birds. Cobb’s answer is a robotic hawk moth, with wings made of carbon fiber and Mylar. Piezoelectric motors flap the wings 30 times a second, so rapidly they vanish in a blur.

The Air Force has nonetheless already constructed a “micro-aviary” for flight-testing small drones. In an animated demonstration video, the drones swarm through alleys, crawl across windowsills, and perch on power lines. One of them sneaks up on a scowling man holding a gun and shoots him in the head.

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Bruce Sterling On Technology, Our Fate, And Eternity

Publisher 40kBooks has fresh answers from key science fiction and futurism writer Bruce Sterling, in response to questions from Cory Doctorow and others:

[Is the world] improved by technology? From the point of view of almost anything in this world that’s not a human being like you and me, the answer’s almost certainly No. You might get a few Yea votes from albino rabbits and gene-spliced tobacco plants. Ask any living thing that’s been around in the world since before the Greeks made up the word “technology,” like say a bristlecone pine or a coral reef.

It’s mostly the past’s things that will outlive us. Things that have already successfully lived a long time, such as the Pyramids, are likely to stay around longer than 99.9% of our things. It’s a bit startling to realize that it’s mostly our paper that will survive us as data, while our electronics will succumb to erasure, loss, and bit rot.

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A Nature Book From The Distant Future

Via Monster Brains, a glimpse at the breathtaking illustrations inside scientist/author/artist Dougal Dixon’s rare and much sought-after Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future, a book exploring the many possible disturbing changes which humanity may undergo in the far future:

The book begins with the impact of genetic engineering. For 200 years modern humans morphed the genetics of other humans to create genetically-altered creatures. The aquamorphs and aquatics are marine humans with gills instead of lungs. One species – the vacuumorph – has been engineered for life in the vacuum of space. Its skin and eyes carry shields of skin to keep its body stable even without pressure. Civilization eventually collapses, with a few select humans escaping to colonize space. Other humans, the Hitek, become almost totally dependent on cybernetic technology.

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In A Few Years, Will A Love Drug Cure Divorce?

Via the Guardian, Will Storr on chemically strengthening the bond between two people by huffing from an inhaler:

According to scientists at the University of Oxford, at some point in the life of my marriage (rough estimate of about 10 years), a new breed of “love drug” might become available – a medication that could heal wounded relationships. It will likely be delivered as an inhaler and prescribed by a relationship counsellor. You’d sniff up a dose in the presence of your loved one and, as the chemical entered your bloodstream, it would strengthen your bond.

Such a drug would likely contain doses of two structurally similar hormones: oxytocin and vasopressin. Of the two, oxytocin is the more famous–sometimes known as the “cuddle chemical”, its positive role in experiences such as orgasm and childbirth seems to have led some to imagine it as an inhalable happy drug. Vasopressin has been implicated in an animal defending its babies.

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