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"C" stands for consciousness

Episode 92: Crack Town to Cosmic Internet



KMO talks with artist, urban innovator, and film-maker, Michael E.
Arth
about a project in which he turned a portion of a Florida town
known as "Crack Town" into an area the locals now call "the Garden
District." Later the conversation breaks the bonds of linear thought
and spirals into the recursive wonderland of the exponential function,
through a technological singularity, and into the ineffable realms beyond.

In our discussion of existential risks, Michael mentioned the Lifeboat Foundation and the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which you can find here:

http://lifeboat.com/ex/main

and here:

http://www.singinst.org/

In talking about the potential role of autonomous cars and virtual (or "augmented") reality I made reference to the novel Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge. Of course, you can buy it through the C-Realm Amazon store, or you can read it for free on-line.

Before the interview, in answer to a letter from a listener, I made reference to an Alex Jones "interview" with Noam Chomsky. Here is the first of four parts on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSXFX8bM6s8

The cover art for this episode is taken from a 1975 etching by Michael which I've tucked behind a

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
l33tminion
Dec. 10th, 2008 08:32 pm (UTC)
Like Kunstler, I'm annoyed by arguments about how we can preserve "business as usual" with a twist (like commuting to work in cars powered by fry oil or, in this case, driven by robots). More so if the arguments, in addition to "missing the point", are simply wrong.

Thus, I'm surprised that you didn't call Michael on his argument that we only need 10% of our vehicles because they sit idle 90% of the time (presuming that robots solve the problem of getting them to the right place). That would only be true if this idle time was evenly distributed, anyone who's experienced the phenomenon of "rush hour" knows that's not the case.

His argument about replacing commuting with telecommuting (of some sort) makes far more sense (though there's been little of that so far). It's a lot easier to imagine a society that adopts that on a widespread basis than one where people radically restructure their circadian travel patterns.
kmo
Dec. 11th, 2008 12:45 am (UTC)
computerized car swarm
Thus, I'm surprised that you didn't call Michael on his argument that we only need 10% of our vehicles because they sit idle 90% of the time (presuming that robots solve the problem of getting them to the right place). That would only be true if this idle time was evenly distributed, anyone who's experienced the phenomenon of "rush hour" knows that's not the case.

One frustrating thing about the glacial traffic of rush hour is that most of those cars are carrying a quarter of their passenger capacity. The roads are clogged with mostly empty vehicles. If everyone where to place bids for rides with a swarm of self-driving cars, we could get as many people around on the same schedule we now employ with a lot fewer cars on the road and a lot less waste.

I'm no fan of business as usual, but we could do what we do now with a lot less waste.

As for widespread telecommuting... I think most (or at least a hefty chunk) of the things that people are paid to do in the current economy are worse than useless and would be better left undone. Rather than see people jack into a passable simulacrum of a corporate cubicle from home, I would rather we collectively come to grips with the idea that the ideal allocation of resources and responsibilities could well leave a lot of people with minimal demands on their time and attention.

Edited at 2008-12-11 12:46 am (UTC)
l33tminion
Dec. 11th, 2008 06:11 am (UTC)
Re: computerized car swarm
Those arguments arrive at different, independent conclusions. One says we could have a factor 10 improvement because 90% of vehicles are idle (not actually the case). One says we could have a factor 5 improvement because most vehicles have 1 passenger and a capacity for 5 (more or less true). Accepting both would suggest a factor 50 improvement, approximately, without changing commuting travel patterns significantly (way off).

Even if the conclusions were identical, it's worth calling out bad arguments in general, since every bad argument tacitly accepted weakens people's defenses against getting hoodwinked (by other people or their own internal Provers).

Approaching the topic from a different direction, unrelated to my previous comment: People riding alone rather than carpooling is a social problem. Automated cars would not necessarily fix that problem, but you don't need anything nearly that complicated to solve that problem. Deal with the social problem, and the logistical problems are easily tackled with existing technology. There's probably something to be said about singularitarianism (or what have you) and the appeal of the unnecessarily overdesigned solutions to social problems, but no idea if I could do the topic justice (certainly not off the top of my head in this comment).

On how replacing the current situation with a virtual facsimile is a bad idea: Hear, hear!
kmo
Dec. 11th, 2008 06:31 am (UTC)
A clarification
One says we could have a factor 10 improvement because 90% of vehicles are idle (not actually the case). One says we could have a factor 5...

I just want to be clear on the specifics of my thinking when it comes to strictly quantifiable claims; I think we can get everybody to work at their current jobs using a lot fewer cars. In terms of minimizing waste while still getting everybody to work on time, I think we can do way better than we do now.

People riding alone rather than carpooling is a social problem. (...) Automated cars would not necessarily fix that problem... There's probably something to be said about... the appeal of the unnecessarily overdesigned solutions to social problems...

I like that phrase. Don't be surprised if you hear it on the podcast. And yes, I think many a Singularitarian fantasy boils down to the dream of using technology to avoid having to evaluate rigid but totally contingent sets of expectations and presuppositions. Superlative technology will allow us to radically re-engineer the world so we won't have to change our thinking.

l33tminion
Dec. 11th, 2008 06:44 am (UTC)
Re: A clarification
I just want to be clear on the specifics of my thinking when it comes to strictly quantifiable claims; I think we can get everybody to work at their current jobs using a lot fewer cars.

I assume we're just talking about car-based solutions currently, since it's obvious we could use far fewer cars with improvements in rail infrastructure, for example, and the discussion up to this point has been about cars.

Given that, does "current jobs" include same hours and same locations? If so, I'm perhaps not so optimistic, or maybe we're just thinking different things when we think "a lot". If not, than certainly I agree.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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