Back in 2007, I wrote a science fiction novella called "The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrrow," about an immortal, transhuman survivor of an apocalypse whose father is obsessed with preserving artifacts from the fallen civilization, especially the Carousel of Progress, an exhibition that GE commissioned from Disney for the 1964 World's Fair in New York, which is still operating in Walt Disney World.
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Henry Kissinger -- the war-criminal who abetted Pinochet's coup in Chile, supported the genocide of Bangledeshis by Pakistan, and architected the US's secret bombing campaigns in Indochina -- is worried about AI.
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“What if we told you we could back up your mind?” asks start-up Netcome. According to MIT grad and co-founder Robert McIntyre, he has state-of-the-art technology to preserve your brain in a near-perfect state for scanning in the future once that technology is invented. Thing is, they have to start the preservation process while you're still alive. They're pitching the company at Y-Combinator's "demo daysnext week. Already 25 people have signed up on the waiting list. From Antonio Regalado's feature in Technology Review:
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The brain storage business is not new. In Arizona, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation holds more than 150 bodies and heads in liquid nitrogen, including those of baseball great Ted Williams. But there’s dispute over whether such cryonic techniques damage the brain, perhaps beyond repair.
So starting several years ago, McIntyre, then working with cryobiologist Greg Fahy at a company named 21st Century Medicine, developed a different method, which combines embalming with cryonics. It proved effective at preserving an entire brain to the nanometer level, including the connectome—the web of synapses that connect neurons.
A connectome map could be the basis for re-creating a particular person’s consciousness, believes Ken Hayworth, a neuroscientist who is president of the Brain Preservation Foundation—the organization that, on March 13, recognized McIntyre and Fahy’s work with the prize for preserving the pig brain.
There’s no expectation here that the preserved tissue can be actually brought back to life, as is the hope with Alcor-style cryonics. Instead, the idea is to retrieve information that’s present in the brain’s anatomical layout and molecular details.
Princeton's Ed Felten (previously) is one of America's preeminent computer scientists, having done turns as CTO of the FTC and deputy CTO of the White House.
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Joi Ito has published the "1.0" version of his October essay, Resisting Reduction, which makes major advances on the earlier draft. He's soliciting revisions and comments here. Here's what I wrote about it then:
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Joi Ito's Resisting Reduction manifesto rejects the idea of reducing the world to a series of computable relationships that will eventually be overtaken by our ability to manipulate them with computers ("the Singularity") and instead to view the world as full of irreducible complexities and "to design systems that participate as responsible, aware and robust elements of even more complex systems."
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CNet has started a new book-club podcast, and they honored me by picking my novel Walkaway as their second-ever title. Read the rest
Google's AI scored more than twice as high as Apple's Siri in a comparative analysis designed to assess AI threat. Read the rest
Maciej Cegłowski (previously) gave this talk, "Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People," at Web Camp Zagreb last October, spending 45 minutes delving into the origin of the idea that computers are going to become apocalyptic, self-programming, superintelligent basilisks that end all live on Earth (and variations on this theme) and then explaining why this fundamentally evidence-free, fuzzy idea has colonized so many otherwise brilliant people -- including people like Stephen Hawking -- and why it's an irrational and potentially harmful belief system. Read the rest
In SoundNet: Learning Sound Representations from Unlabeled Video, researchers from MIT's computer science department describe their success in using software image-recognition to automate sound recognition: once software can use video analysis to decide what's going on in a clip, it can then use that understanding to label the sounds in the clip, and thus accumulate a model for understanding sound, without a human having to label videos first for training purposes. Read the rest
A decade ago, I published the first Madeline Ashby story to see print, "In Which Joe and Laurie Save Rock n' Roll," in Tesseracts 11
; four years ago, I reviewed her outstanding debut novel, vN
, and then revelled in its sequel
a year later: but now, a decade later, Ashby is an overnight success, with a breakout novel about love, labor, shame, sex and Singularity cultists: Company Town
Philosopher John Danaher's new paper "Will life be worth living in a world without work?
Technological Unemployment and the Meaning of Life" assumes that after the robots take all our jobs, and after the economic justice of figuring out how to share the productivity games can be equitably shared among the robot-owning investor class and the robot-displaced 99%, there will still be a burning question: what will give our life meaning? Read the rest
Ben Hansford writes about his Kickstarter campaign for a short film called "Uprising - A Post-Apocalyptic Robot Comedy,"On the surface it's a comedy - but at its heart it's a story about me (an idiot man-child) becoming a responsible father. It's also a one-man show, with me doing all of the development, production, post, and visual effects on a shoe-string budget. But most importantly, Uprising is my chance to do my film, my way, with my friends and family by my side." Read the rest
In the EU and the USA, high-profile, high-budget programs are underway to simulate a human brain. While these produce some pretty pictures of simulations, they don't display much rigor or advancement of our understanding of how brains work. Read the rest
Maciej Cegłowski's "Web Design: The First 100 Years" is a characteristically provocative riff on the past and future of "progress" that asks the question, if aviation stopped producing faster, more powerful aircraft in the 1970s, will the IT industry do the same? Read the rest
Blackstone has produced a new audiobook edition of Rapture of the Nerds, the gonzo post-Singularity novel Charlie Stross and I published in 2012, read by John Lee -- as with all my Downpour audio titles, it's DRM-free and available without territorial restrictions (tell your friends!). Read the rest
As I've written
Karl Schroeder is one of the sharpest, canniest thinkers about
technology and science fiction I know. In the nearly 30 years I've
know him, he's introduced me to fractals, free software, Unix,
listservers, SGML, augmented reality, the Singularity, and a host of
other ideas -- generally 5-10 years before I heard about these ideas
from anyone else. What's more, he's a dynamite novelist with
a finely controlled sense of character and plot to go with all those
Now he's written his first young adult novel, Lockstep,
and it is a triumph. Read the rest