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296: A Dynamic Mirror

KMO continues his conversation on technology, transhumanism, and the technological singularity with Nikki Olson and Nikola Danaylov of the Singularity Weblog. Does death help clear the board and relieve human civilization of the weight of outmoded ideological commitments, or is it an unmitigated evil which must be overcome? Nikola talks about hard and soft takeoff singularity scenarios and Nikki muses over whether a hard takeoff might seem smooth to sufficiently augmented human minds. KMO voices skepticism at the idea that nanotechnology, even if it really does deliver us into an age of post-scarcity, will eliminate exploitation of the Third World by economic elites.

Music by Hobo Kings (Jon Margulies and Sub Swara) re-mixed by April White.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Seegar Mason
Feb. 9th, 2012 11:01 pm (UTC)
Collapse vs. Singularity
I really enjoyed these episodes. They really challenge the dominant thread of the podcast and I'm not all that surprised at the venomous backlash of some of your listeners. Personally, I'm not in denial about the realities of collapse NOR am I in denial of the incredible advancements in computer technology, most of which lately are breakthroughs in efficiency. While I'm not a Transhumanist as such - I think that much of this movement is grandiose and fails to see that the introduction of new technologies always brings grave, unforeseen consequences, I feel that if humanity fails to transhumanize, the alternative is decline and extinction.

The adoption of new technology is neither a total boon or an abject failure. It is simply change - a transition to a new age, when new things are being tried. This is good. I think, where technology fails is that it is grasped too wholeheartedly, with too much zeal. Humanity does this every time. We rush in with something new, apply it everywhere even when it isn't appropriate, then down the line we reap a bitter harvest when the downsides start showing. Our technology cycle is too fast. It would behoove us to launch new technologies slower, with a longer testing phase, and in relative isolation until it has been vetted. Then, and only then begin to integrate it into mainstream use. The Green Revolution is a perfect example: rapid deployment of a new system into the ecosystem with the promise of feeding the world, and here we are 60 years later with people still unfed, and others crippled from obesity and other dietary ailments.

On the flip side, I think that there is a lot of fantasy from the collapse crowd that technology is just going to stop progressing and we will all live in Mayberry for the rest of time. Energy scarcity is DRIVING innovation, not stopping it. Every new generation of computer devices (especially portable ones) delivers more performance while consuming less power. We are already seeing energy hungry desktop and laptop computers being replaced with netbooks, tablets and phones for general computing. Hard drives are slowly being superceded by quiet, fast and efficient Solid State Drives. And every generation of microprocessors have a smaller die size, more cores and more scalability. I see a future where yeah, we live closer to the land, do manual labor and travel less (or not at all) but information technology isn't going anywhere. It will have a bigger part than ever in tightly managing our limited resources. Gladly, we will have a proliferation of tools to make the best use of everything.

One last thing. I hope the singularity comes, but not until we're ready and I don't think we are. I feel that humanity has not yet saturated its potential, not remotely. When it becomes standard that everyone in the world becomes a fully functional and enlightened adult, that's when they should be imbued with the godlike powers of the singularity. Not much is scarier than that power in the hands of the selfish, petty, domineering people we are now.

Andrew Ramponi
Feb. 14th, 2012 12:26 pm (UTC)
Good comment from Seegar.

A man with a hammer will not likely solve the problems created through having unlocked the one time inheritance of fossil fuel. Techno-optimism seems to be a barrier stopping us from even agreeing we actually have a very serious problem.

Then, we are still faced with the challenges of being petty, domineering and seriously selfish.

Oh to see the world as a grain of sand..
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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