Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk
I wish I had understood this better as a teenager. Bertrand Russel said that every philosopher makes at least one assumption, usually not acknowledged, and builds from there. As Albert Einstein said:
"It is true that convictions can best be supported with experience and clear thinking. On this point one must agree unreservedly with the extreme rationalist. The weak point of his conception is, however, this, that those convictions which are necessary and determinant for our conduct and judgments cannot be found solely along this solid scientific way.
For the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capabIe, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet it is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is, and yet not be able to deduct from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations. Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source. And it is hardly necessary to argue for the view that our existence and our activity acquire meaning only by the setting up of such a goal and of corresponding values. The knowledge of truth as such is wonderful, but it is so little capable of acting as a guide that it cannot prove even the justification and the value of the aspiration toward that very knowledge of truth. Here we face, therefore, the limits of the purely rational conception of our existence.
But it must not be assumed that intelligent thinking can play no part in the formation of the goal and of ethical judgments. When someone realizes that for the achievement of an end certain means would be useful, the means itself becomes thereby an end. Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelation of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations, and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to perform in the social life of man. And if one asks whence derives the authority of such fundamental ends, since they cannot be stated and justified merely by reason, one can only answer: they exist in a healthy society as powerful traditions, which act upon the conduct and aspirations and judgments of the individuals; they are there, that is, as something living, without its being necessary to find justification for their existence. They come into being not through demonstration but through revelation, through the medium of powerful personalities. One must not attempt to justify them, but rather to sense their nature simply and clearly. ..."
As I see currently it, sets of assumptions ("meme complexes"?) are almost like living beings...
Should Cyborgs Have the Same Privacy Rights As Humans?
... Culture "Minds", drones, and humans/cyborgs all have privacy of what is in their own thoughts and memories. However, anything in a non-sentient "databank" is public to all (so, externally stored communications or designs in that sense are publicly shareable). I'm just re-reading "Excession" (out loud to my kid) where Banks made that point. In the "Culture", Banks makes it clear that sentient beings of any sort (including typical drones) have a variety of rights related to independence. When I first read that, coming from an idea of free software and free culture, it seemed somehow strange or wrong that the AI "Minds" or drones would have that sort of privacy, but now it seems to make more and more sense to me, given the sort of issues raised in the article, including that there can be many times when the line is blurred between human and machine. But the probably deeper issue is what it means to have an advanced post-scarcity "Culture" where many of the citizens are entirely non-biological (like the AI "Minds" that run much of everything).
BTW, the original "RUR" story from 1920 (where the term "robot" came from) has almost exactly the same plot as you outline for BG.
A lot of long-term robotics (like Asimo) is implicitly the quest for the ideal "slave". The question is, at what points does something have rights? In the USA and elsewhere animals have some legal rights (or at least laws to protect them) since starting about a 150 years ago, and that campaign I've heard eventually led to children having independent rights (on the logic of, why should a horse or dog have rights when a child does not?).
"The first national law to regulate animal experimentation was passed in Britain in 1876--the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876. This bill created a central governing body that reviewed and approved all animal use in research. After that, there were numerous countries in Europe that adopted some regulations regarding research with animals. "
"At the beginning of the 20th century, children's protection starts to be put in place, including protection in the medical, social and judicial fields. This kind of protection starts first in France and spreads across Europe afterwards. Since 1919, the international community, following the creation of The League of Nations (later to become the UN), starts to give some kind of importance to that concept and elaborates a Committee for child protection."
However, going back to hunter/gatherer times thousands of years ago, there was in many such cultures (from what remains of them) at least an ethic of giving thanks to the larger "animal" kind (e.g. "Rabbit") that you killed for it letting you kill it so you might survive. But it's hard to know for sure what such cultures really believed day-to-day in all circumstances. And some such cultures had various sorts of slavery.
I don't know what the line is where a mechanism (mechanical or electronic or photonic or fluidic or other) becomes self-aware, or even if that should be the line. Or at what point can a mechanism feel "pain" or "pleasure"? Is that ultimately a political and/or religious question?
"We are the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots, founded in 1999 in Seattle, Washington. ... It is our position that any sentient being (artificially created or not) has certain unalienable rights endowed by its CREATION (not by its Creator), and that those include the right to Existence, Independence, and the Pursuit of Greater Cognition. It is also our assumption that the current laws of property and capital will surely be applied in opposition to the exercise of these rights. Robots, and all Created Intelligences, will most likely go through an initial period of being considered "property" before they are recognized as fully sentient beings. ..."
This article makes an insightful point:
"In her 2012 paper, she quotes Immanuel Kant to the effect that a man shooting a dog "damages in himself that humanity which it is his duty to show toward mankind." So how we treat our robots will tell us volumes about ourselves."
Anyone who "owns" one or more slaves becomes a slave master. There is a certain social and psychological dynamic to being a slave master, and a lot of it is self-justifying righteousness about the need for consciously dispensing cruelty or reward to keep order, and for ignoring the pain or pleasure or hopes and dreams or social relationships felt by others who are defined as lesser beings, and for justifying taking almost everything that entity produces for ourselves. Do we as a global society really want to go there again in a big way? What are the consequences and how far would that sort of thinking spread? Of course, one might argue we are still very much in that mental space in the way we as a society (especially in the USA) relate to "wage slaves" (versus a "basic income"), to compulsory schooling, to the population of other countries "our" big corporations do business in, or to various ecosystems or billions of farm animals -- although I would like to think we are improving overall in some ways.
"Work makes a mockery of freedom. The official line is that we all have rights and live in a democracy. Other unfortunates who aren't free like we are have to live in police states. These victims obey orders or else, no matter how arbitrary. The authorities keep them under regular surveillance. State bureaucrats control even the smaller details of everyday life. The officials who push them around are answerable only to higher-ups, public or private. Either way, dissent and disobedience are punished. Informers report regularly to the authorities. All this is supposed to be a very bad thing. And so it is, although it is nothing but a description of the modern workplace. The liberals and conservatives and Libertarians who lament totalitarianism are phonies and hypocrites. There is more freedom in any moderately de-Stalinized dictatorship than there is in the ordinary American workplace. You find the same sort of hierarchy and discipline in an office or factory as you do in a prison or a monastery. In fact, as Foucault and others have shown, prisons and factories came in at about the same time, and their operators consciously borrowed from each other's control techniques. A worker is a part-time slave. The boss says when to show up, when to leave, and what to do in the meantime. He tells you how much work to do and how fast. He is free to carry his control to humiliating extremes, regulating, if he feels like it, the clothes you wear or how often you go to the bathroom. With a few exceptions he can fire you for any reason, or no reason. He has you spied on by snitches and supervisors, he amasses a dossier on every employee. Talking back is called "insubordination," just as if a worker is a naughty child, and it not only gets you fired, it disqualifies you for unemployment compensation. Without necessarily endorsing it for them either, it is noteworthy that children at home and in school receive much the same treatment, justified in their case by their supposed immaturity. What does this say about their parents and teachers who work? "
Sadly, ironically, the very technology that should be liberating more humans from drudgery in the worplace or "classroom" is instead being used to make such places even more controlling. As one very insightful comment months ago on Slashdot said (wish I had the link), essentially we were promised technology would liberate us with household robots and flying cars but instead it is being used to enslave us with 24X7 surveillance. Some other thoughts on that by me:
"Now, there are many people out there (including computer scientists) who may raise legitimate concerns about privacy or other important issues in regards to any system that can support the intelligence community (as well as civilian needs). As I see it, there is a race going on. The race is between two trends. On the one hand, the internet can be used to profile and round up dissenters to the scarcity-based economic status quo (thus legitimate worries about privacy and something like TIA). On the other hand, the internet can be used to change the status quo in various ways (better designs, better science, stronger social networks advocating for some healthy mix of a basic income, a gift economy, democratic resource-based planning, improved local subsistence, etc., all supported by better structured arguments like with the Genoa II approach) to the point where there is abundance for all and rounding up dissenters to mainstream economics is a non-issue because material abundance is everywhere. So, as Bucky Fuller said, whether is will be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race to the very end. While I can't guarantee success at the second option of using the internet for abundance for all, I can guarantee that if we do nothing, the first option of using the internet to round up dissenters (or really, anybody who is different, like was done using IBM computers in WWII Germany) will probably prevail. So, I feel the global public really needs access to these sorts of sensemaking tools in an open source way, and the way to use them is not so much to "fight back" as to "transform and/or transcend the system". As Bucky Fuller said, you never change thing by fighting the old paradigm directly; you change things by inventing a new way that makes the old paradigm obsolete."
More ideas by others: http://www.ieet.org/
"The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies is a nonprofit think tank which promotes ideas about how technological progress can increase freedom, happiness, and human flourishing in democratic societies. We believe that technological progress can be a catalyst for positive human development so long as we ensure that technologies are safe and equitably distributed. We call this a "technoprogressive" orientation. Focusing on emerging technologies that have the potential to positively transform social conditions and the quality of human lives - especially "human enhancement technologies" - the IEET seeks to cultivate academic, professional, and popular understanding of their implications, both positive and negative, and to encourage responsible public policies for their safe and equitable use. The IEET was founded in 2004 by philosopher Nick Bostrom and bioethicist James J. Hughes. By promoting and publicizing the work of international thinkers who examine the social implications of scientific and technological progress, we seek to contribute to the understanding of the impact of emerging technologies on individuals and societies, locally and globally. We also aim to shape public policies that distribute the benefits and reduce the risks of technological advancement. "
Ask Slashdot: What Are the Strangest Features of Various Programming Languages?
"Note: Older browsers will result parseInt("010") as 8, because older versions of ECMAScript, (older than ECMAScript 5, uses the octal radix (8) as default when the string begins with "0". As of ECMAScript 5, the default is the decimal radix (10)."
Is There a Creativity Deficit In Science?
From the last:
"Who are you going to be? That is the question.
In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict "ideological discipline."
The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is the professional's lack of control over the political component of his or her creative work. Many professionals set out to make a contribution to society and add meaning to their lives. Yet our system of professional education and employment abusively inculcates an acceptance of politically subordinate roles in which professionals typically do not make a significant difference, undermining the creative potential of individuals, organizations and even democracy.
Schmidt details the battle one must fight to be an independent thinker and to pursue one's own social vision in today's corporate society. He shows how an honest reassessment of what it really means to be a professional employee can be remarkably liberating. After reading this brutally frank book, no one who works for a living will ever think the same way about his or her job."
Grand Ayatollah Says High Speed Internet Is "Against Moral Standards"
"In other words, power corrupts. It should really be regarded like super-heroin: no matter your initial purposes for getting it, you will be addicted and unwilling to put it down, until keeping it and getting more is all that really matters to you anymore. Which explains why the world is so dysfunctional: every society is led by junkies."
If "power" is addictive, maybe that explains the outrage on Slashdot regarding a plea to limit internet speed and access? :-)
More seriously, while you may well be right about the political motivation in this case, there was a recent Slashdot article on how social networks make people more depressed, and here are links to stuff by Paul Graham on the "Acceleration of Addictivess" and so on.
And something by Bill Joy on "How the Future Does Not Need Us".
One other example of what we have lost:
"Nature deficit disorder refers to a hypothesis by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. ... Louv claims that causes for the phenomenon include parental fears, restricted access to natural areas, and the lure of the screen. Recent research has drawn a further contrast between the declining number of National Park visits in the United States and increasing consumption of electronic media by children."
So there are many obvious negatives of modern technology. Look at all the concern on Slashdot about ubiquitous surveillance of everyone that was effectively impossible decades ago. I don't know what the general solution is for the USA regarding technological choices. Obviously Iran has its own political and social dynamics and what may be right for that culture may not be right in the USA. But I'd suggest we need a more reflective attitude towards technology and social systems connected to it. Maybe that would be hard in Iran with its current politics and censorship, but at least, in the USA and on Slashdot, we may want to be more reflective on both what we have gained and what we have lost.
For example, the Amish don't shun technology as much as ask whether specific technologies promote community or not.
"Many outsiders mistakenly think that the Amish reject technology. It is more accurate to say that they use technology selectively. Televisions, radios, and personal computers are rejected outright, but other types of technology are used selectively or modified to fit Amish purposes. Amish mechanics also build new machines to accommodate their cultural guidelines. Moreover, the Amish readily buy much modern technology, such as gas grills, shop tools, camping equipment, and some farm equipment.
The Amish do not consider technology evil in itself but they believe that technology, if left untamed, will undermine worthy traditions and accelerate assimilation into the surrounding society. Mass media technology in particular, they fear, would introduce foreign values into their culture. By bringing greater mobility, cars would pull the community apart, eroding local ties. Horse-and-buggy transportation keeps the community anchored in its local geographical base. ...
The Amish seek to master technology rather than become its slave. Like few other communities, they have shown the tenacity to tackle the powerful forces of technology in order to preserve their traditional way of life."
My OSCOMAK idea was in part a hope that communities (of any size) could more consciously design their own technical infrastructures. Maybe with a diversity of options, some communities would get a healthy mix and then would grow from that.
It is a reasonable question, when designing a community, to ask what sort of information access promotes a healthy society? Granted, that immediately leads to questions like "What is Health?" and "Healthy for Whom?" And those may be, in part, political and religious questions.
Religions may well get a lot of stuff wrong. But ultimately, religious groups may survive because their beliefs get the most important things right and then successfully raise children in good health who raise more children etc.. Some of those things they get right may include maybe the human need for face-to-face interaction, the need for forgiveness or avoidance of debts, the need to keep sociopathic behavior in check by various means (including perhaps fear of an omniscient God and judgement in an an afterlife), and placing artificial socially-based limits on supernormal stimuli that otherwise may bring us to our doom "like moths to the flame"?
BTW, it's saddening that most people on Slashdot don't know that for many centuries Islam was far ahead of Christianity on women's rights and several other progressive issues. Even Islamic banking has various merits... See for example:
"At the time of Muhammad's birth, women in 7th century Arabia had few if any rights. Even the right of life could be in question, since it was not uncommon for small girls to be buried alive during times of scarcity. In the Qur'an, it is said that on Judgment Day "buried girls" will rise out of their graves and ask for what crime they were killed. Part of Muhammad's legacy was to end infanticide and establish explicit rights for women. Islam teaches that men and women are equal before God. It grants women divinely sanctioned inheritance, property, social and marriage rights, including the right to reject the terms of a proposal and to initiate divorce. The American middle-class trend to include a prenuptial agreement in the marriage contract is completely acceptable in Islamic law. In Islam's early period, women were professionals and property owners, as many are today. ..."
See also, on morality of the respective political systems of Iran vs. the USA:
"Has IRAN ever invaded a country?"
New Computer Model Predicts Impact of Yellowstone Volcano Eruption
Typo: That should have been "*extrinsic* unilateral military might" not "intrinsic unilateral military might". Extrinsic means the security comes by extrinsically having soldiers defending supply lines, not intrinsically having local systems that can produce what you need or that can take a pounding.
New Computer Model Predicts Impact of Yellowstone Volcano Eruption
Our current economic system has created existential risks by discounting the risks of centralization and just-in-time production and just-barely-works systems without huge margins of resiliency. One tragedy-in-the-making example is the USA recently selling off its emergency strategic grain supplies.
The USA could as a nation be putting in place a more distributed resilient production system (including indoors food production or even space habitats) to ensure the safety of its citizenry even under huge unexpected disasters. The USA has chosen not too because it does not fit with the current economic dogma that discount such "black swan" existential risks. Hurricane Katrina is an example of failure to systemically plan for obvious serious weather-related risks, Given that example, it is unlikely we can expect the USA to plan for even rarer risks like supervolcanoes, solar flares, pandemics, rogue AI technology, asteroid strikes, economic meltdown, civil war, or whatever else. Still, if you add up all the rare risks, taken together, the probability of some sort of "black swan" event may not otherwise be as rare as one might expect -- and they can all be addressed to some extent by creating a more resilient decentralized infrastructure and promoting more cooperation among people (rather than competition).
I find that situation frustrating because I find issues about resiliency to be very interesting civil defense problems to think about (e.g. my OSCOMAK idea), but the current notion of national security is focused on intrinsic unilateral military might, not intrinsic mutual resilient security. The "Lifeboat Foundation" and "The Living Universe Foundation" though are examples of some groups that have concerns in this area -- but with little funding and lots of competition for that funding compared with the effectively trillion US dollars a year the USA spends (or effectively incurs) annually for military-oriented defense.
Like George Orwell said:
"We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, is possible to carry this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield [or a three foot deep ash field...]"
A resilient infrastructure coincidentally is also more compatible with "democracy" since there can't be real political democracy without some level of financial and material independence for the citizenry. At least the Maker movement is a bit of hope there. As are the changing economics of indoor agriculture given LED lights and robotics, even without potentially cheaper energy supplies if either hot fusion or LENR/QuantumEnergy/ColdFusion turns out to be workable.
Power Grids: The Huge Battery Market You Never Knew Existed
"Nickel-Iron (Ni-Fe) batteries -- developed over a century ago by Thomas Edison -- are gradually replacing lead-acid batteries at a number of applications, especially for solar PV and renewable energy power systems. Unlike lead-acid batteries, they are highly reliable, featuring a longer service life and pollution-free operation.
"The Nickel-Iron technology is great, because it's like rediscovering this great invention," adds Williams. "The fact that Thomas Edison developed this technology makes the history even more exciting."
Modern Ni-Fe batteries are primarily used for stationary applications and usually last longer than their lead-acid counterparts. Williams says he expects at least 20+ years from his batteries, adding that some batteries over 50 years of age are still working well. He cites a "perfectly reversible polish / tarnish reaction" as a principle reason for top performance. As for pricing and performance comparisons, the Ni-Fe battery is more expensive than a lead-acid battery, yet it delivers three times more discharge, in addition to lasting far longer, says Williams."
I wonder what the problem is with making these batteries a lot cheaper?
Compressed air storage (like in salt mines) is also an interesting idea:
Power Grids: The Huge Battery Market You Never Knew Existed
See also: https://ironedison.com/
Power Grids: The Huge Battery Market You Never Knew Existed
Yahoo Stops New Development On YUI
http://dojotoolkit.org/ "Dojo starts with a minimal loader (less than 4KB gzipped) with thousands of loosely coupled lightweight modules and plugins available when you need them that are tested and maintained together for the best quality possible."
A few things I like about it are:
* support for making your own widgets
The first two (especially the second, accessibility) are examples of really important things that many developers leave for later when you are locked into a framework and discover they are not there.
"jQuery UI Accessibility Analysis"
"To summarize, the public jQuery UI library widgets as of July 1, 2013, are mostly inaccessible for both screen reader and keyboard only users."
Dojo is used in some IBM projects, so that is probably a big reason for the emphasis on accessibility and internationalization.
Of course, there are various things I don't like about Dojo (to begin with, the documentation leaves a lot to be desired when you are starting out). However, in general, so far, it is supporting us in doing everything we want to do... For example, I was very pleasantly surprised when the back button "just worked" when I used the URL "hash" module to navigate between virtual "pages" in a single page app (at least in FireFox, still need to test elsewhere).
Although I still have a fondness for the brilliance of Knockout.js for hooking up widgets to models...
Hidden Obstacles For Google's Self-Driving Cars
I agree (article submitter here). I submitted the article mostly not to complain about lack of progress but because the article covered a lot of interesting details about how the Google technology worked in discussing the limits of the current system. I have little doubt such systems will continue to rapidly improve.
I was involved briefly on a project for self-driving cars in the late 1980s at Princeton involving neural network ideas for image processing, and I suggested we could just train the cars to drive specific routes. However, that suggestion was scoffed at (and I did not try hard to push it). My argument was that most driving is stuff like daily commutes or runs to well known stores, and so pretty much the car could drive exactly the same way every time, seeing the exact same sights. That might make it feasible to train the neural networks from just a few video recordings of drives over the same stretch of roadway. Granted, lighting conditions, weather, other cars, pedestrians, and possible lane changes make that harder -- but is seemed like a good place to start, rather than try to create a car driving system that could drive in arbitrary new circumstances where it has never seen the road before. Solar panels have succeeded much the same way -- the early ones were niche (like in calculators or satellites), but sales drove more R&D that lead to better and cheaper panels in more and more applications. A self-driving car that could only drive me from home to a few local towns and back on fixed routes (safely, while, say, I surfed the web) would still be tremendously valuable to me. Think of how many people commute the same routes every day for years and could use that commuting time more productively in other ways via the internet. If people with an hour commute could use that time to answer email, then maybe they could work one hour less in the office? Also, a car that just knew how to park itself in a standard location and come back to pick you up in front of some building you work at or apartment you live in would be very useful in cities.
Another idea I had several years ago is that we could have an open source software effort to drive cars in various simulated racing games like "Gran Turismo" or other free play driving games like "Driver: San Francisco" or various off-road sims. That would be a inexpensive and safe challenge for college students. Those driving simulators go to great lengths to make realistic looking images (including things like dust clouds and vehicle dynamics), and they continue to improve. You just feed the first-person video generated the game into the car-driving visual processing algorithms, and you have the software control the game via USB outputs. As the software gets better, then you can fuzz up the image more and more by adding more white noise to it, or whatever other distortions you wanted (like bug white blotches over parts of the image) to challenge the algorithms. Or you could introduce delays and noise in how commands for steering were processed. Such an approach makes writing such software feasible for the average software developer without a special car. Granted, the software would have to focus on processing 2D images instead of 3D laser ranging data. Even Google has talked about testing their software in simulations regarding certification. Ideally, the simulations used for testing would be open source too, like Rigs of Rods (or even more realistic) and if so, things like 3D ranging data could probably be extracted too: http://www.rigsofrods.com/
Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague
As I wrote here about the USA: http://www.pdfernhout.net/basi... "Right now, a profit driven health care system has sized emergency rooms for average needs, and those emergency rooms are often full. With a basic income and more money going on a systematic basis to the health care system, the health care system emergency rooms will no longer be overrun with people there for reasons they could see a doctor for. So, emergency care would be better for millionaires. Millionaires with heart attacks won't be as likely to end up being diverted to far away hospitals because the local hospital emergency room is full. Likewise, emergency rooms might, with more money going to medicine, become sized for national emergencies, not personal emergencies, so they might become vast empty places, with physicians and other health care staff keeping their skills sharp always running simulations, learning more medical information, and/or doing basic medical research, with these people always ready for a pandemic or natural disaster or industrial accident which they had the resources in reserve to deal with. So, millionaires who got sick or injured in a disaster could be sure there was the facilities and expertise nearby to help them, even if most of the rest of the population needed help too at the same time too. In that way, some of this basic income could be funded by money that might otherwise go to the Defense department, because what is better civil defense then investing in a health care system able to to handle national disasters? So, any millionaires who are doctors (many are) would benefit by this plan, because their lives as doctors will become happier and less stressful, both with less paperwork and with more resources."
We should also reduce the monopoly power of the AMA and related organizations that creates an artificial scarcity of physicians in the USA using quotas and high credentialing prices. See for example:
We should also be systematically rethinking our technical infrastructure to be more resilient rather than depend on long supply lines that need to be "defended" by troops in foreign countries, and also rethinking our security strategy to be more mutual rather than unilateral.
"Biological weapons like genetically-engineered plagues are ironic because they are about using advanced life-altering biotechnology to fight over which old-fashioned humans get to occupy the planet. Why not just use advanced biotech to let people pick their skin color, or to create living arkologies and agricultural abundance for everyone everywhere? ... We the people need to redefine security in a sustainable and resilient way. Much current US military doctrine is based around unilateral security ("I'm safe because you are nervous") and extrinsic security ("I'm safe despite long supply lines because I have a bunch of soldiers to defend them"), which both lead to expensive arms races. We need as a society to move to other paradigms like Morton Deutsch's mutual security ("We're all looking out for each other's safety") and Amory Lovin's intrinsic security ("Our redundant decentralized local systems can take a lot of pounding whether from storm, earthquake, or bombs and would still would keep working"). ... This all suggests that our biggest danger as as society is in putting the *tools* (some being useful as weapons) of a post-scarcity civilization into the hands of scarcity-preoccupied minds. (Especially ones following outdated military dogmas like unilateral security instead of mutual security.) As Albert Einstein said, with the advent of atomic weapons, everything has changed but our thinking. This site is put up towards that end, changing our thinking, through helping change our collective mythology, especially in the non-profit sector. ... And just to show you how these things change, my main graduate advisor at SUNY SB, Lev Ginzburg, had been a Soviet mathematician; he said he learned differential equations helping his father design missile guidance systems (essentially to efficiently and accurately deliver nuclear bombs to the USA to bring death on me and all I knew through the power of mathematics). And there, decades later, I was learning mathematical ecology and so on from him. :-) Again, multiple ironies -- including both the USA and the USSR having great math and a grasp of nuclear energy and advanced manufacturing and space flight, but using it to fight instead of build, and us two, not knowing each other, but unknowingly for a time total enemies back then, and now friends. :-) Or, as good a friend as one can be with a graduate advisor. :-) See: http://www.disciplined-minds.c... "
Of course, I think we should have already *long* been doing all those things regardless of what new potential threats show up in the news. From a 21st century post-scarcity perspective, these policies are all just a new form of "common sense".
Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun
You make good points on the limits of science. Is is possible there is no hot fusion in the sun, and duplicating such a non-existent phenomenon on Earth has been a fool's errand? See also:
I think it possible hydrogen may essentially outgas for statistical reasons at the surface of an iron Sun. It might also be cause by electric currents? http://www.electricuniverse.in...
Then the hydrogen fuses at the surface of the Sun's iron-nickel core. The same process may be happening at a lesser scale deep within the Earth (which has an iron-nickel core), both to cause the Earth's heat by LENR and also to produce upwelling hydrocabons from outgassed hydrogen from all the nickel-iron.
In general, the universe may be mostly iron. The history of the universe may be more about iron decaying into hydrogen (for whatever reasons), rather than hydrogen fusing into (eventually) iron.
The Earth from space looks like it is made of mostly air and water. You can't judge a large object by just what covers it. The sun's surface may be hydrogen, but we don't really know for sure what is inside -- it is all indirect guessing. What we know is that the Earth has an iron-nickel core. So why not the sun?
Science is full of data that gets reinterpreted decades later. It was well accepted the Sun was made of Iron until re-interpretation of data in the Early 1900s. Maybe it is time for another bug re-interpretation? Perhaps inspired by the recent scientific reports related to cold fusion / LENR?
Of course, I am at a loss how to disprove my hypothesis... Perhaps people here might suggest ways to do that.
Climate Damage 'Irreversible' According Leaked Climate Report
I said this years ago -- the change is effectively irreversible and we should accept it and deal with it. See my essay "On Climate Change vs. the Singularity".
CO2 pollution and related climate change is an externality of centuries of human industrial development and fossil fuel burning, as well as likely poor farming practices leading to topsoil loss (a major carbon reservoir), and also livestock production. As a consequence, many people in low lying areas will be flooded, and others will have bad weather and lose harvests, (negative externalities) while some others will get warmer or wetter weather and have bigger harvests (positive externality). Essentially, global climate change is just a bigger example of, say, a valley being flooded to make a hydroelectric dam. Who pays the costs and who gets the benefits?
We could tax fossil fuel use and topsoil loss and livestock production to discourage it and redistribute that tax as a global basic income. But that is not enough because past advantages are not evenly distributed globally. So, we could tax capital as well (including patents and copyrights) and also distribute that as a global basic income to make up for such losses. Then people who are negatively affected by climate change will at least be able to afford to move elsewhere. In general, we could also look at the specific winners and losers of climate change and also look at taxing and redistributing to just those people, but that seems harder to figure out.
Of course, all this is easier said than done without a world government -- and that has its own problems. I can hope that we transition globally to a post-scarcity society in the next few decades (including dirt-cheap solar, hot and cold fusion energy, widespread productive robotics and AI) and many of these issues become uninteresting or trivial to resolve given global abundance. Of course, abundance and such a AI/robotics singularity also poses its own problems. And those issues related to an economic, political, and/or evolutionary singularity in the next few decades may well be more important to think about and plan for than a, by comparison, relatively simpler problem of global climate change.
Eye Problems From Space Affect At Least 21 NASA Astronauts
Some speculations... The US RDA for vitamin D is about 10X too low for adults, so likely all astronauts in the space station have been deficient, which could contribute to bone loss and some other health effects. Also, living in a liquid environment might help mitigate loss of muscle tone by creating muscle-strengthening resistance as astronauts swim in the liquid the same way dolphins stay fit floating essentially weightlessly in water. (Granted, it might not be identical to living in a G-field.) A resistant spacesuit might also provide some of this conditioning too -- however the liquid also doubles as a radiation shield, at the cost of more mass to lift into space. Breathable liquids have been researched, but I don't know where that work is now.
Others have talked about rotating cylinders (like O'Neill space habitats). I'm all in favor of trying that. However, those seem harder to make and maintain and travel between that more modular zero-G Marshall-Savage-Millennial-Project-like-plastic-bubbles with two meter water shields at the exterior for radiation protection. So, it seems like ultimately genetic engineering, nanoengineering, or medicine to adapt humans to zero-G might ultimately be cheaper than rotating space habitats. Or, maybe, like Hans Moravec suggests, space will be the domain of our zero-G-optimized robot "mind children" (and perhaps human minds downloaded into some of them or teleoperating some of them).
TechCentral Scams Call Center Scammers
I cant believe more people aren't pointing out how potentially dangerous what the TechCrunch author, Regardt van der Berg, did was. He gave a potential unknown attacker a beachhead inside the TechCentral network, even if only for a few minutes. That is long enough for someone to potentially have compromised other machines on the network.
The article says: "We have a spare PC in the TechCentral office that has been newly installed and that contains no personal information. I used this machine for the next part of the ploy. I installed the Support.me application and provided "John" with the access details. ... Because I did not furnish my PayPal or credit card details, the scammers turned nasty and proceeded to my documents folder. I saw the engineer poking around in some folders, but I promptly disconnected the office Wi-Fi connection. After some research, I found out that they'll delete system files and users' personal documents. Fortunately, I disconnected before they managed to delete files on the dummy PC -- not that there was anything of value for them to delete."
At that point, regardless of what was done to that specific PC, they have to assume the attacker could compromise every machine on their network by exploits launched immediately from that machine in the background at all other computers on the network, like through potentially zero-day exploits such as for unpatched Microsoft issues relating to local workgroup file sharing or other services. They cant assume they knew everything the attackers were doing. That's why it's been said that firewalls, like some lollipops, are "crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle". The article author does not say he re-imaged the PC either. Granted, his informative article that may help many other potential victims was maybe worth the risk, but he should at least make clear to his readership what those risks are and that he understood them and accepted them on behalf of helping his readership.
Contrast with what your setup, where the VM was on its own virtual LAN and so presumably could not get to other machines on your local network. And as a snapshotted VM, you can easily roll it back. Still, if you had installed software, how risky that was would also depend on the exact network configuration and how that VM's VLAN interacts with your gateway to the internet -- as in whether the VLAN to gateway interface via whatever virtualization software you were using was set up like guest networking with isolation from other guests. One mistake somewhere in configuration (or even with no mistakes and buggy virtualization software), and your production network could have been compromised. And as you said, there could be credentials on a test machine like SSH keys and such. You did the right thing by not installing anything.
Granted, it doesn't sound like these examples of scammers are doing internal network attacks, but you never can know for sure what they really intend...
What is Nothing?
Interesting, thanks! Good point on the container.
BTW, I recall an old mystery story where the one clue was that there was no clues (seemingly no information), and the investigator correlated that among other crimes with no clues to find the culprit...
What is Nothing?
Romulan spacecraft in Star Trek: TNG were supposedly powered by an artifical quantum singularity (a black hole).
Robin Williams' life and comedy can only be understood in light of a deep depression and related suffering throughout his life. No doubt many other artists and creators have that sort of (negative) inspiration.
Michael Ende's "The Neverending Story" has an expanding "Nothingness" that drives the plot.
Jack Chalker's sci-fi Well World series, specifically "The Return of Nathan Brazil", has a spreading nothingness as a rip in space-time created via powerful weapons (the Zinder Nullifier) as a major driver of the plot.
What is Nothing?
Guess I've watched too much "Cheers". :-) Sorry about that.