All I Want For Christmas Is The Future

Dear Santa,

This year I want something for the world. I want to bring a bright future to the people of today so that our lives can be better and more fulfilling.  There are technologies and areas of science that just need a little help to flourish into the kinds of things that can revolutionize our daily lives.  I have two things I really want this year Santa.

My first wish is for a tomorrow where the human experience is truly enhanced.  I want a world where my best friend can be a sentient robot, where I can visualize my dreams and memories on my iPhone, where I can surf the web and learn new languages using just my thoughts and where I can enhance things like my ability to think critically or recover from ailments by altering the code of my existence.

We live at a time where if we dedicate the time and resources into areas of science like artificial intelligence, biotechnologies and neurotechnologies we can literally start to make our dreams become a reality. My hope is that these opportunities will free people from the limitations nature puts on us and bring the world together in a new way.

My second wish is that I want to live in a world where the laws and rules are rational and make sense.  I want a life where I can be a citizen of the world, not bound by the borders of nations.  I wish for a world where governance embraces the digital reality of our times and evolves as the technology does.

We are a digital society and we should govern ourselves like one.  We could and should be doing things like creating education policy that leverages customized software interfaces built on fifty thousand years of human evolution where we learned by mentorship and not classrooms.  We can use S&T to create a smarter world, a more rational world and a more stable world, but in order to do that we have to change, we have to embrace a future of digital governance and evolve it.

I know these are big wishes, but that is why I need your help.

If we do it right the world will come together and we will realize our future today.

Charlie

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Life isn’t Fair. Should it be?

by Rebecca McCauley Rench

In our culture, we do not dictate who and who cannot have children. We limit government or societal intervention in the way we raise our children short of laws against child abuse and negligence. We, as a society, have decided that these selections and choices are solely the responsibility of the parents as long as they want them. There is no regard for the future impact on society despite the fact that this child will eventually become a voter and member of that society. Even with this lack of intention, some people are smarter than others. Some people are better athletes, or musicians, or CEOs. Life isn’t fair because we do not share all the same experiences or innate attributes that allow us to succeed (or fail). As a society, sometimes we try to make things more fair by re-distributing wealth, providing opportunities for those that are disadvantaged. However, we do not expect those with skills that allow them to succeed to stop succeeding. We encourage them because it makes our society stronger and better as a whole.

However, what if we wanted to be intentional and selective of the genes we passed on to the next generation? What if we wanted to create new genes that might make our children faster, smarter, and more productive members of society? Parents, at least the good ones, want their children’s lives to be better and more fulfilling. This is why parents are willing to sacrifice for their children. We are at the edge of a time in which we will need to make a decision on how this might impact our society. We might not even get a choice in whether it happens unless we choose not to allow immigrants based on their genetic heritage. It seems to me that we should welcome these changes, done in a manner that is safe for the overall genetic pool of the human race. Advances in science that allow us to create a better version of ourselves in the next generation (or even our own if we can teach nanobots or viruses to do the work) is just an extension of the choices we already make in who we mate with and how we raise our children. The goal is to make the next generation better and brighter and we should embrace the opportunity to do so with intent and control. Why stumble blindly through a dark room when you can turn on a light?

Making Our Existence Better with S&T

By Charles Mueller

Imagine a world where there is no such thing as a genetic disease, a world where nobody dies of cancer, takes insulin shots for diabetes or loses their life’s memories from Alzheimer’s. Imagine a world where you can learn anything instantly. Imagine a world where you don’t have to worry about how many times you go to the gym per week because your cells work naturally to keep you in better shape. Imagine a world where we control our existence and anything is possible.

Let’s create that world.

Who we are today and the world we live in have only been made possible because of our continued belief in science & technology (S&T). As we have continued to invest our time and resources into S&T, we have continually been given better knowledge and tools to help us understand and navigate our world. S&T has helped us create a world that a few centuries ago would have been pure fantasy. A world where people can fly over oceans, communicate instantly with the touch of a button and prevent contracting a deadly disease by simply taking a shot. We live in a truly awesome time thanks to S&T and as long as we continue to invest and believe in it, it will only help us make the future better.

There are several areas of S&T today that are working day and night to figure out the next great way to enhance our existence, to make our lives better. Advancements in the development of neurotechnologies are making a future possible where people can communicate and access any information with just our thoughts. New developments and applications of biotechnologies are beginning to provide real solutions to things like world hunger and genetic disease. We have always had control of our existence, but today’s world of S&T has given us a level of control we’ve never had before, a level where anything is possible. In such a world, it becomes up to us to figure out what the next chapter in our existence will be.

We need to approach the next phase in our existence with the kind of wisdom that is required for the control we have. With tools that can help us create the world we envision, it is important we have a vision of what that world should be. Without a strategy we open up the real possibility of making things worse rather than better. We can strain out those bad realities and make only the good ones possible with if we elect leaders who understand this new reality and have a real strategy for creating a better future. The right leaders can ensure we have the right policies for investments into S&T and are using the right S&T to make policies that will create the world we want.

Imagine the world you want to be a part of. Imagine a future where that world is possible. Then remember we live at time when we can start making that happen.

Let’s create that world. Let’s make our existence better.

New Intelligence

by Paul Syers

Who’s ready to be a cyborg? I am! In discussions about the future of intelligence, most people think about A.I. or bioengineering. With both technologies, people worry about the dangerous consequences. I see promise, however, in a third option: human enhancement through electronics. In today’s society, we have already developed a symbiotic relationship with technology. Why not embrace that symbiosis and enhance it for the betterment of mankind?

Instead of worrying about developing an independent intelligence in a computer that could one day overpower humanity, why not develop ways to use computers like just another organ? I imagine a future where our brains can interact directly with multiple soft A.I. programs, allowing us to outsource many functions – like sensory systems, memory storage, and data mining – while still using the human brain to retain overall awareness and analytic control.

Unlike genetic engineering, this type of intelligence augmentation would have the advantage of not being permanent. Humans could plug into and unplug out of the added capabilities. This allows us to continue to answer the question of “what it means to be human” on an individual level. Those who reject augmentation can opt out at any time and we can build in ways to reasonably prevent people from forcing augmentation on others.

Some might argue that intelligence augmented in this way is not human intelligence They cannot deny, however, that at least some part of it is human, and at least in the earliest stages, the human part will have control. Eventually this path leads to the ability to fully download a human brain into a computer, but there is much more understanding we can gain along the way.

There will still tough questions to answer, such as how best to provide access, how to ensure some amount of fairness, and who owns the products of augmented intellects. I think these questions, however, will be much easier to reach a consensus on than the questions brought up by fully independent A.I. or radical genetic manipulation. I see this hybrid approach as containing the possibility to create something that is better than the sum of its parts, while at the same time lessening the consequences of failure.

We already have many of the tools and knowledge to move in this direction. Microelectronics are more than cheap, small, and light enough. Advancements in prosthetics and other R&D projects are discovering how to make electronics talk to neurons. The research being done through the BRAIN initiative could also be harnessed to help us reach this goal, but sadly it is not. Mapping the brain is a noble goal, but it won’t lead to the advancements in medical technologies that it promises. Similar promises about curing diseases and genetic defects were made at the outset of the Human Genome Project and they have not materialized. With just a minor shift in the goals and policy of the BRAIN initiative, we could reap so many more benefits. Let’s do it, so that in a few years I can read this blog post directly on my retina.

Leadership

by Paul Syers

Two nights ago, the President gave his third televised address from the Oval office.  Given the important location and format, the country took notice, expecting a bold plan of action, hoping for stirring words from a strong leader to stir a change of national or global scale. 

The President’s address wasn’t that — it certainly wasn’t anything memorable — which made me feel the pang of the absence of great leadership in this country right now. 

Can the role of a good leader really be appreciated enough? Some famous leaders happened to fall into leadership roles, riding the crest of a wave of change that was going to happen with or without their presence.  Some leaders create great change through their own will.  It is most evident in their absence.  The movement they built begins to falter and die off soon after their death.  Their mark on the world is mainly from the momentum they build while they are on this earth.  The empire that Alexander the Great built fell apart quickly after he passed. Apple changed a number of different industries (computers, phones, music, etc.) with Steve Jobs at the helm, and since his death it has slid to merely following the pack. Amazon is another singular giant in its industry, expanding from online commerce to microelectronics, and now they have overtaken SpaceX in the race to re-use launch rockets. 

Complex problems may end up being solved, but true leaders often act like catalysts to produce a solution far faster.  Everyone agrees that a solution to the fight against ISIS exists – for the survival of free thought, it must – but everyone also agrees that finding and implementing the solution is complex.  The solution will almost certainly involve a coordinated effort amongst the world’s major powers, but current circumstances make that unlikely. We need the catalyst of a true leader: someone with the will, gravitas, and mind to hold the coalition together and steer it with a singular purpose.

I hoped that Obama’s address would be an announcement to do just that.  With those hopes dashed, I’m looking for another way to do SOMETHING; I’m looking for a plan B.  In the absence of a truly great leader, here’s a radical idea, harness the talents of someone with a forceful will: Putin.  No one can deny that he has exerted his singular will in his own country and increasingly abroad as of late. 

Many may see him as just another tyrant, but France, Great Britain, and the U.S. allied with Stalin during WWII, so there is precedent.  Granted, the aftermath of that took us into the Cold War, so making such a similar choice today would have significant risks.  It’s not an ideal solution.  I’d much prefer a different leader, but in the absence of one, maybe we need to go with plan B.

Another Sad Day

By Charles Mueller

I woke up today to news that 14 people were shot dead at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.  Another tragedy on American soil, another morning waking up to terror.  Every time it happens I feel the same way; I become angry, sad, scared and confused.  This isn’t supposed to happen in America.  This isn’t supposed to be part of our narrative.  We are not supposed to live in a country where the risk of being shot or blown up is something real that we have to learn to manage our lives around.  Yet, this is our new reality.  This is becoming our new narrative.  And we have terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Daesh as well as domestic terrorists like Dylan Roof and these people in San Bernardino to thank for this.

When bombs go off in Beirut or people are gunned down in Egypt, we don’t respond the same as we do to the shootings that took place in Paris or any of the most recent mass shootings here at home.  We don’t respond the same because it is part of our narrative that regions in the Middle East are unstable and crazy things are supposed to happen there.  Those regions of the world have many people who don’t live by the code of rational thought, they live more by the code of the holy text.  It is “normal” for people in these regions to do crazy things due to their religious beliefs.  Crazy things aren’t supposed to happen here though, we are supposed to live in a stable country full of rational people who would never dream of killing the innocent.  That is what is supposed to make this country great.  The idea that we can put so many people, with so many different religions in the same place and nobody kills each other over their beliefs.  At one point in time that thought was revolutionary.  Now it seems we may be taking that world we’ve fought so hard to create for granted.  We have lost control over our narrative and now we are being forced to live in a world dictated by fear, a world controlled by terrorism.

Our narrative is tied to what we believe is possible. The greatest motivator to change one’s beliefs is fear inspired by real events.  This is the goal of terrorism.  To use fear to change our beliefs, to make us feel like we aren’t safe, to remind us that every day could be our last.  When we as a people begin to believe this myth, they have won, they have taken control of our narrative even if they aren’t ruling our lands.  There is only one way to get it back and that is to unite, to reignite our own myth that we can come together and make the world a safe, stable and free place full of opportunity for everyone.  Right now though, it is hard to find the leadership to unite us like this.  We have leaders arguing over the wrong things, forgetting who the real enemies are and taking us down a road that only leads to chaos.  If fear is the greatest motivator, then we need to be fearful not that we might die, but that our children’s children will not grow up in a world with free thought.

 

Tragedies like what took place yesterday in San Bernardino are becoming normal; they are becoming part of our narrative.  People are beginning to expect things like this and those in Paris to happen.  This is what groups like Daesh want, this is the world they want to create and when they have finally destroyed our world, they will continue the fight with each other to figure out which illogical, irrational form of governance should rule the world.  We have to unite, we have to come together around the world and take back the narrative.  The only thing terrorists fear is our unity because they know what that means. Free thought, opportunity, equality, these are all things worth fighting for.  We might not want to recognize it, but right now we are in a fight to keep these ideals alive.  The more we act like we aren’t, the more we act like these things will just “go away”, the more we adopt this new myth of terror and fear, the more we lose the dream of the free world.  We aren’t in a war with terrorism, if anything we are in a war for our freedom.

The Choice of the Governed

by Rebecca McCauley Rench

Government by Science propels us into the future. In a system driven by imagination and innovation, you create a society that is enlightened, educated, and full of potential. We can take in the knowledge of our current situation, think about how this can be used to create a better world, and see what happens when we try. This is the fundamental idea of the United States of America.

Government by Religion traps us in the past. Religion holds the thoughts and ideas of the past as truths to never be questioned. In the 7th century, after the Prophet Mohammed passed, a caliphate was established to rule. This is what Daesh is trying to re-create in the Middle East. A society dictated by the past without the ability to evolve and adapt.