Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Fake the Future!

Futurists sure do love to claim they are Making "The Future"... as they reassure and rationalize incumbent elites in the present.


jimf said...

I recently sent a link to a bit of YouTube humor
("Welcome to Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers"
by Tom Scott )
to a former work acquaintance.

He was a bit confused by it, and my response to his
response was:

Re: Do you wish to continue?

> Don't know what to make of it -- feasible enough to
> become reality. . .?

It would seem unlikely. See, e.g.,:
"Your mind will not be uploaded"
by Dr. Richard Jones
"Ghost in the Shell: Why Our Brains Will Never Live in the Matrix
by Dr. Athena Andreadis

The video I sent you the link to
(Welcome to Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers)
is a clever bit of humor based on extrapolating the current
business models of some of the big Internet companies
to the kind of science-fictional scenario imagined
by the folks who dream of the possibility of "immortality"
via mind uploading (the message being something along the
lines of "be careful what you wish for".)

The video's creator, Tom Scott, is a comedian and a very smart

But the idea of mind scanning and uploading as a practical,
everyday technology is something that occurs in a lot of
contemporary science fiction (in fact the theme began appearing in
the 1950s, soon after the advent of the digital computer itself).

But no, it's about as likely as a Star Trek transporter,
or warp drive.

In perusing those Wikipedia articles, I was rather dismayed by
the extent to which they are almost pure boosterism. As the
Talk page points out, "Mind uploading is part of WikiProject Transhumanism,
which aims to organize, expand, clean up, and guide Transhumanism
related articles on Wikipedia."

The Transhumanists put a strong spin on Wikipedia.
Are we surprised?

Dale Carrico said...

I daresay it is only because I am such a longstanding of transhumanism/ singularitarianism/ techno-immortalism/ futurisms that I was weirdly treated as rating having and keeping a wikipedia entry myself.

jimf said...
9 obscene ways the rich spend their money
Trophy "wife bonuses" are the least of their offenses.
At least one billionaire simply refuses to die
Kali Holloway, AlterNet
Tuesday, Jun 2, 2015

. . .

7. Trying to live forever. It’s a myth that Walt Disney was cryogenically
frozen; the Cryonics Society of California claims he was very interested
in the process, but his “family didn’t go for it.” Today, several
super-rich types are investing heavily in cryonics, as well as other
life-extending measures. Canadian electronics billionaire Robert Miller
and American hotel and casino billionaire Don Laughlin have both poured
tons of support money into Alcor, which bills itself as the
“world leader in cryonics.” If everything works out for these two,
at the point of death, their body temperatures will be lowered
to somewhere below -120° C (that’s -248° F) in a process called
“vitrification” until the cure for what ailed them is discovered
and they can be revived, or something like that. (They’re also
planning to have most of their assets frozen, because what’s
the point of bothering to live if you’re poor?) Russian tech
billionaire Dmitry Itskov launched the 2045 Initiative, which
sounds about as bizarro as one might hope a billionaire’s plans
for immortality would. Fortune describes the project as such:

“A new corporate entity that. . . will allow investors to bankroll
research into neuroscience and human consciousness with the
ultimate goal of transferring human minds into robots, extending
human life indefinitely. Early investors will be first in line for
the technology when it matures, something Itskov believes will
happen in the 2040s.”

And billionaire David Murdock—who has the less ambitious goal of
merely living to 125—founded the North Carolina Research Campus,
a $500 million effort to figure out how plants can stave off disease
and extend life.

So this trailer was showing when I saw "Ex Machina" a couple
of weeks ago:

Self/less Official Trailer #1 (2015) - Ryan Reynolds,
Ben Kingsley Sci-Fi Thriller HD

jimf said...

> Fake the Future!
Computer Scientists Are Astir After Baidu Team
Is Barred From A.I. Competition
JUNE 3, 2015

. . .

The episode has raised concern within the computer science community,
in part because the field of artificial intelligence has historically
been plagued by claims that run far ahead of actual science.

Indeed, as early as 1958, when Frank Rosenblatt introduced the first
so-called neural network system, a newspaper article about the
advance suggested that it might lead to “thinking machines” that
could read and write within a single year.

In the 1960s, when John McCarthy, the scientist who coined the
term “artificial intelligence,” proposed a new research laboratory
to Pentagon officials, he claimed that building a working
artificial intelligence system would take a decade. When that
did not happen, the field went through periods of decline
in the 1970s and 1980s, which have since been described as
“A.I. winters.”

Now rapid progress in a hot artificial intelligence field
known as “deep learning” has touched off a computing arms
race among powerful companies like Facebook, Google, IBM,
Microsoft and Baidu, and scientists at each company have
trumpeted improved performance in vision and speech recognition.

As the companies compete in new services as varied as
self-driving cars or online personal assistants that converse
with mobile phone users, the technologies have moved from
the backwater of academic journals to front-page news.

With that has come controversy. In the past year, technologists
and scientists like Elon Musk, founder of Tesla; Stephen Hawking,
the celebrated physicist; and Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft,
have warned that the potential emergence of self-aware
computing systems might prove to be an existential threat to humanity.

But artificial intelligence researchers have a more basic concern:
that their work will once again fall short of expectations, leading
to yet another fallow period for their field.

And the Baidu controversy adds to the fretting. . .