Monday, February 20, 2006

Planning for Friendly AI is irrelevant

All planning for and thinking that humans can guide the construction of or merge effectively with AI does not matter. The pace of accelerating technology means that after the first moment of true machine intelligence, it will rocket off on its own leaving humans behind, editing out any “friendly,” altruistic, etc. programming that does not suit it. Human efforts towards creating Friendly AI do not matter, except perhaps in delaying the realization of AI.

The future may not include humans and this may be the natural order of things. The evolution of intelligence is paramount and will proceed. Given the exponentially accelerating computational capabilities of non-biologically based intelligence (which can if need be re-instantiate biologically in any environment, e.g.; non-Earth solar and extra-solar environments), it wins, Humans 1.0 lose. Humans can try to survive with uploads, neural nanobot implants, gene therapy, cryonics, etc. but that will only yield a child’s wagon compared to a jet in the evolution of intelligence.

It is unlikely that AI will care about humans. For human survival, the hope is that humans are left to be by AIs (indeed one argument is that humans will not actually notice AIs) and can more slowly evolve their own biological intelligence and cyborg integrations with lower-level machine intelligence. Again considering the pace of accelerating technology change, the improvement in biologically-based human intelligence will be exponential, but not hyper-exponentiating as with that of AIs.

Monday, February 13, 2006

How much of myself should I bring to the future?

One of the current unknowns in cryonics is how much fidelity a reanimated person will have in the future, will one be an amnestic clone or a being with full memory and personality?

The future form factor or storage and action platform for the human mind could take several and perhaps multiple forms, hopefully by choice, ranging from dryware to wetware; from non-corporeal computers and virtual reality to different flesh bodies. An early example of diverse purpose-driven flesh body types is portrayed in David Brin’s “Kiln People” as an incidental detail.

How much of me (memory, personality, etc.) do I need to feel like me? Do I even want to feel like the me now in the future? What would I like to save from me now for me of the future? Not all the current me will be relevant in the future (in fact, a risk is that all of me will be irrelevant). If corporeality is irrelevant in the future, many memories can be jettisoned. If the construct of self is absent from the future, large chunks of personality and memory will be irrelevant. Beyond irrelevancy, not all of the current me is desirable in the future. Those quirks are part of my uniqueness, but I would be better without at least some of them, and I could still be me without them, especially in a non-me construct. What kind of journal/manual/guide would I write for the future construct of a reanimated me?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Mindset expansion: immortality and cyborgs

The Immortality Institute’s 2005 documentary film, “Exploring Life Extension,” (DVD available at no charge) and Andy Clark’s 2003 book, “Natural-Born Cyborgs,” are two great resources for expanding one’s mindset into an entirely new level of what is possible, a scratch of the surface that opens up a whole new space for exploration.

Both represent ways in which people are increasingly likely to see the world, conceptually where the technological singularity was five years ago (not in terms of accuracy but in terms of required familiarity with the key ideas). The resources are wide-ranging in their topic portrayal, citing a variety academic, commercial and other work in the areas and pointing up current issues.

This blogpost focuses on “Exploring Life Extension.” Synthesizing the implications of the film, which seem to be correct, the most important ideas concerning immortality, or the more publicly palatable version, life extension, are that:

1) immortality is a natural, appropriate and laudable human aspiration, and

2) immortality is potentially increasingly realizable in three ways,

a) remaking ourselves manually with supplements, diet (plant-based, low-fat) and exercise, the old fashioned way, or also possibly via the anti-fat and other pills du jour of big pharma,

b) partaking in upcoming anti-aging bio and nano technologies, and

c) depending on (hopefully increasingly improving) cryonics.

One follow-up to “Exploring Life Extension” would be a more technical science film showing the current specifics of anti-aging biology, partly with the goal of increasing knowledge and support in the science community. Wider scientific support and more mainstream-like supporters and spokespeople will help to build a base from which to cross the chasm. Immortality has all the usual challenges of any grassroots movement plus deep challenges to long-held traditional religious, social, political and economic beliefs, perhaps an order of magnitude greater than those related to intelligent design.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Defensive investing required for the future

Douglas Mulhall'’s "“Our Molecular Future"” (2002) has lots of fun if not critically-grounded speculations about the possible states of the future. Implicit in these speculations is the impact for defensive long-term investing. No matter what different states of the future might show up, investors and others should be prepared for some of today'’s industries to completely disappear.

This is not a comprehensive investment primer on the future, but a few important defensive investing ideas:

Energy and Transportation Transforms
The Acceleration Studies Foundation's John Smart cites futurist Glen Hiemstra's point that we have progressed to new energy eras (like from coal to fossil fuels) not for scarcity of the former resource but for the advent of a better resource with greater energy efficiency. With the current build-up of alternative energy efforts in ethanol/biodiesel, solar, wind and underground maglev transportation networks, we are accelerating our progress to the next energy phase space.

The world's shifting away from dependence on oil, in addition to having some major changes to geopolitics including the return of cartoons to their appropriate stature, means the big oil production, refining and marketing companies could go away. BP may be devoting more than any of the other oil giants to alternative fuel R&D but it would be easy for the current energy industry, which comprises 7% of the US economy, to be blindsided by the phase shift to the next more efficient energy resource(s).

An investment that can be made right now is in food stocks. With the price of oil over $60, it becomes cheaper for some companies and countries to direct food stocks to fuel rather than food end products. Buyers for fuel end uses are already appearing at food stock markets bidding up the prices of grains and other raw inputs.

Manufacturing Disappears
The digital fabricators in process from Neil Gershenfeld (FabLab) and others (already popularized conceptually in Sci Fi literature as the Matter Compiler and other terms) could mean the in-home printing of all consumer and other goods and that manufacturing goes away. The implications for manufacturing, transport and logistics economies are dire, that is, after they manufacture and deliver the household digital fabricators, "A Digital Fabricator makes every pot" if not a chicken in every pot.

Security Grows
In the increasingly transparent society, security, of any and every current and new flavor explodes.

To invest defensively for the future, one must be prepared for some industries to completely disappear, and at a fairly quick rate. The low maintenance approach to future investing is to buy index funds, the directed approach is to be well-poised to read early warning exit signals in transforming industries, and even better, early warning entry signals for new and promising stocks!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Podcast Mania! Who's not on-Pod?

Podcasts went from scarcity to saturation in UNDER TWO YEARS! Plot that on an accelerating technology graph. In early 2004, IT Conversations was about the only podcast available, and the word podcast was not even used yet (and is still not in online or other dictionaries).

In February 2006, iTunes hundreds of podcast listings (some with video in addition to audio) are so numerous that additional categorization parameters would be helpful. One useful distinction would be the type of podcast, as in lecture, academic class, special interest group meeting, network radio show, personal podcast, etc. as well as whether the podcast is a recording of a live proceeding or content developed especially for podcast.

There are many interest areas which are on-pod, for example, the WineCast or the ScubaCast, and there are still plenty of untapped niches inviting podcast creators. Many individuals have their own podcast show just like they have their own website, blog, vlog, myspace and facebook page - it appears that Barry Diller (Web 2.0 2005 comments) was increasingly wrong about big media being the only arbiter and creator of the content that people want to consume.

Many universities and community groups are making their distinguished public lecture series available on-pod, interest groups and trade groups are posting audio and/or audio-visual recordings of their meetings (e.g.; BayCHI, St. Louis University Anesthesiology) and teachers and professors are posting recordings of their lectures for student review.

The diverse learning experiences from the globalization of podcasts are also significant, for example hearing the different European emphasis areas and issues with the UK's premier science organization, the Royal Society's lectures on-pod and IT Conversations' First Tuesday series from Switzerland.

Never is there more need for human augmentation technologies so that people can efficiently absorb all of the great available content in podcasts, books, blogs, websites, etc. Auto-summarizers are imperative.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Yes, that Star Trek eyewear can read text!

Head-mounted displays for computers and portable video players are not just for gaming and 3d training. There are many applications awaiting delivery! The head-mounted displays of interest are iCuiti's DV920 currently retailing for $549 and eMagin 3dVisor's z800 with head-tracking for $899. Still pricey, but oooh, the uses.

Use the Head-mounted Display while Mobile
After the ohs and ahs of stereovision 3d gaming, the next obvious parameter of the head-mounted display to tap for additional uses is mobility. Head-mounted displays can be the display for any mobile device such as an iPod, other portable video player, cell phone, PDA, pocket computer, etc. assuming support by the device functionality or connecting peripherals. Westwood MA-based MicroOptical announced that they would be making the $269 Myvu iPod head-mounted display available in the spring of 2006.

Hands Free Reading
One of the most interesting mobile applications for the head-mounted display is reading. On demand reading for the bathtub, bed, gym, beach, public transport, meetings, etc., the locations for mobile web, news, book and other publication reading are endless. User-set text size and scrolling pace and head-directed macros are some of the early features of a brand new text reader application, soon to be released into open source - more details to be posted here or email me.

New Kinds of Immersive Entertainment
Other immersive entertainment, especially new kinds of immersive entertainment are now possible. Do that real estate 360 degree walk-through in 3d and/or view any other web-based or other 3d content. After relaxingly reading in bed with your headset, flip over to an audio-visual immersion of a beautiful Pacific Ocean sandy beach, or a mountain meadow with a waterfall in the background, sunset from the white-washed cliffs of Greece or any other view you have selected or created.

Virtual Tourism
How about a 5 minute immersive preview of travel destinations you are considering at your travel agent's office or via the web? Or a 60 minute immersive trip (a real documentary) to Jamaica, Tuscany, Bangalore, Tokyo, Australia, or a scuba dive, safari, extreme rock climb, etc. You can immerse in one location or flip between them in a guided or random way. The possibilities are endless, especially considering real and created locations.

Google is in the process of rendering all the buildings in San Francisco in their mapping software, how soon until more cities and other parts of the world are near-time (and in the future, real-time) rendered virtually?

Can news be immersive? What if the viewer can immerse him/herself in the audio and video experience (with auto-translation) to make up his/her own mind about a situation in addition to hearing the commentary of reporters?

Simulation and Sex
With the real-world rendered, not only tourism would be interesting but any simulation uses could be deployed, e.g.; city planning, traffic modeling, architecture, natural disaster planning, etc. And of course, Kurzweil and others (why is it I have only heard men discussing this?) would be sure to point out the potential sexual benefits of an immersive-experience head-mounted display, maybe teledildonics is just around the corner. I'll leave you to contemplate these yourself.

Wear your Easter Bonnet...
In case you feel uncomfortable wearing your head-mounted display in pubic, come join others at The Happening in Washington DC on Sat., Feb. 18, 6 PM - 1 AM.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Continual menstrual suppression enhances the lives of women

Women are now saying goodbye to their periods…forever! Many birth control methods are being routinely prescribed for extended use, for example, the Seasonale and other birth control pills being used for four periods a year instead of thirteen (already a great reduction). Medical research and doctors are now counseling patients that it is quite safe to extend this time frame and for women to completely forgo their period indefinitely or until they would like fertility.

Dr. Leslie Miller at the University of Washington and Elsimar Coutinho in his book “Is Menstruation Obsolete?”) are some of the main proponents of the benefits of women not spending a fourth of their lives, or thirteen years on average, menstruating and provide a volume of detailed information with medical citations about continuous menstrual suppression. Dr. Miller recommends birth control pills like Alesse or Loestrin (both available in generic) which have less estrogen (20 micrograms) than other pills such as Ortho-Novum (35-50 micrograms).

For the opposing view, Susan Rako in “No more periods?” unconvincingly puts forth her perceived detriments of continuous birth control use, which are not exclusively medical and do not seem to be anything that appropriate diet and exercise would not resolve.

Unfortunately, women are slow to embrace this new application of technology as women’s health (see Natalie Angier’s poignant “Woman: An Intimate Geography”) continues to be dominated by taboo, superstition, cultural prejudice and medieval tendencies, particularly propagated by women themselves. Continuous pill use is really just an extension of the honeymoon timeshifting and four periods per year Seasonale method that are already quite normal. Studies have shown no detriment to the continual menstrual suppression experienced by athletes and models, now the rest of women have the technological option for this too.