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R.U. Sirius explains "Why Chicks Don’t Dig the Singularity." (Apparently it's because they haven't dropped enough acid at Burning Man. Also because they enjoy, like, social interaction, and don't enjoy science fiction or computers.)

Read more... )
Then again, maybe the future is just not a girl thing.
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1) The chapter is almost done. I have my 6000 words, and I put them in the right order and revised them. I'll probably add in a couple of references tomorrow and I'm good to go. It's not the chapter I was originally intending on writing, mostly because that would have been too rude to people I'm probably going to have to work with. Also because that chapter would have been way over word count. Hopefully the book editors will be sympathetic.

2) The spare spare bedroom (used to be the cat room, for those who've been to the house) is rapidly becoming yellow. I feel so butch.

3) There's something very wrong with a species that can do this before it can cure disease or build antigravity belts. I can't help feeling that universe creation ought to be harder.
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"If everyone's adding 30 IQ points, then having an IQ of 150 won't get you any closer to Stanford than you were at the outset."

Well, no. But it will get you a population that is, on average, 30 IQ points smarter (positing, for the moment, a single measurable intelligence, which is a separate debate in itself). These would be people better able to solve the problems of everyday life, and better able to solve the problems of the world. True, the competition for the Nobel Prize would be stiffer. This would be bad for the species how?

McKibben's book continually comes back to this obsession with competition. If everyone is improving their kids, how will it be meaningful to say who's best? If you're valedictorian because your parents spent the most on germ-line engineering, who cares? (If you're valedictorian because your parents spent the most on tutoring and prep courses, who cares?) Apparently, transhumanism threatens the very nature of humanity, but will never change our need to make petty comparisons with each other's accomplishments.
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This is sheer, unadulterated procrastination, but possibly it will help. Because I have a pile of transhumanist and anti-transhumanist books on my desk, and I want to smack the authors of all of them.

Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near.

Posited: "Evolution" can be charted on a graph of state changes, starting with the emergence of life and including major technological developments. Humans are a step above non-sapient animals. Strong AI will be a step above us.

Conclusion: The AIs we create will be intensely grateful to us and devoted to our well-being.

Unstated assumption required for this chain of logic to work: Humans have been utterly devoted to the well-being of our evolutionary predecessors.

SMACK!


Michael Crichton, Prey. (Skip to the next SMACK, if you don't want the whole plot spoiled.)

Set-up: A new military camera is created, using a swarm of flying nanobots. Their movements are based on an artificial life program, in turn based on the movements, but not the actual motivations or hunting behavior, of a population of generic predators. An evolutionary programming algorithm, not entirely in control of the programmers, is used to produce swarms that don't blow apart in a strong wind.

Result: The swarms develop A) the ability to not blow apart in a strong wind, B) a method of drawing energy by eating meat (note, need not be human--they just happen to be carnivores), C) sapience (strong AI), and D) the ability to create utility fog (highly advanced nanotech, capable of eliminating poverty and reliance on non-renewable resources forever).

Conclusion: The only possible way to deal with a fellow sapient that speaks English, has already demonstrated a capacity for becoming fond of humans, and knows that you basically have a gun to its head... is to destroy it entirely, without getting records of how it developed technologies that could save millions of lives.

Bonus Assumption: A developmental psychologist, given the opportunity for first contact with a non-human intelligence, would have to be out of her mind to want to test its mental capacities.

SMACK!


Bill McKibben, Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age.

Posited: "Just because I'm writing an anti-technological screed doesn't mean I'm a luddite."

In Support: Overview of several upcoming genetic technologies, described in such a way as to get the maximum possible kneejerk negative reaction. Use of rhetorical questions about "Is this a good idea?" to which the reader is obviously supposed to answer "No," but to which my answer is, "Well, maybe."

SMACK!


Martin Rees, Our Final Hour.

I haven't picked this one up yet, but it came out in 2003. Perhaps he ought to change the title.

Good Stuff

Feb. 4th, 2006 03:33 am
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I am trying to make Brigid's Fire truffles for the Imbolc ritual tomorrow, with chile powder and cinnamon and paprika. I will see in the morning if I can make them into discrete entities. And it was a good day for stories.

Two new poems by Neil Gaiman. What should women have beneath their clothes? Discuss.

Prince Charming's father complains.

Sometimes science fiction authors are too timid in their predictions. Jules Verne predicts electrical transmission by 2889, along with doubling the human lifespan to 68.
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Well, this has been an excessively long time without a post, even for me. In expiation, I've been teaching a double-length summer class, and my folks are up, and I am really good at procrastination. So here are some musings about my current reading, and random music stuff, and way at the end of the post some fun mad neuroscience.

Reading... )

Music... )

Mad Neuroscience... )

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