September 22, 2008

Anders Sandberg: Does the recent LHC breakdown prove quantum immortality?

Before you read this post you might want to brush up on the whole quantum immortality argument.

Okay, you know how the Large Hadron Collider had to be shut down because of of a helium leak? Well, what if this is evidence that we're about to witness a successive chain of events that will result in the LHC never having the opportunity to destroy the Earth as we know it?

It's a classic case of anthropic principle meets the Many World Hypothesis. We can't observe our non-existence; we can only observe our ongoing existence, no matter how improbable or absurd.

Given that the LHC was only recently ignited, can we already make this inference?

Well, leave it to Anders Sandberg to crunch the numbers and do an analysis: "Bayes, Moravec and the LHC: Quantum Suicide, Subjective Probability and Conspiracies."

And it looks like Eliezer Yudkowsky and friends are having a similar conversation at Overcoming Bias.

Quick summary of their opinions: We can't jump to this conclusion. Yet.

September 17, 2008

Cafe Scientifique: "Should Science Shape the Modern Athlete?"

I will be taking part in a Cafe Scientifique panel hosted by the Ontario Science Centre on Saturday September 20.

Should Science Shape the Modern Athlete?

Are today's athletes a delicate combination of nutritional supplements, steroids, sports psychologists, interval training routines and technological advances? Have we lost sight of the meaning of athletics, or are we finally focusing on our human potential for achievement by using technology, biology, materials science, and engineering to our advantage?

Join experts and other inquiring minds for drinks, discussion and debate.

Terry Graham, Ph D - Professor, Human Health & Nutritional Sciences Dept., Univ of Guelph
George Dvorsky - President, Toronto Transhumanist Association.
Sheldon Persad - Canadian Sport Centre Strength and Conditioning Service Provider, and Co-founder of Personal Best Health & Performance Inc.

Saturday Sept 20th 2008
4pm to 6pm
The Rivoli, 334 Queen St. W.(just east of Spadina on the North side of the street)


September 10, 2008

Could ET be sending messages by tweaking variable stars?

From the Nature article, 'Galactic internet' proposed:

Just by gazing at the stars, earthling astronomers might have unwittingly picked up broadcasts from extraterrestrial civilizations. So says a neutrino physicist, adding that it might take researchers just a few months of searching to find evidence of this alien internet.

John Learned at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and his colleagues think that signals could be sent by manipulating Cepheid variable stars. These rare stars can be seen in other galaxies more than 60 million light years from our own.

Cepheids dim and brighten regularly, in a pattern that depends on their brightness. This lets astronomers measure the distance to the stars, helping to resolve mysteries such as the Universe's age and how fast it is expanding. As such, any sufficiently advanced civilization would want to monitor such stars, the scientists reasoned.

To send messages using a Cepheid, Learned and his colleagues suggest that extraterrestrials might change the star's cycle. A Cepheid becomes dimmer as ionized helium builds up in its atmosphere. Eventually, the atmosphere expands and deionizes, restarting the cycle.


September 9, 2008

Transhumanism is not a form of social Darwinism

While funny and undoubtedly tongue-in-cheek, this comic gets it all wrong about human enhancement and its relation to social Darwinism:

Click for larger version.

Rather, transhumanism should be seen as a force for social justice, egalitarianism and a means to reduce human suffering. And of course, as a way for people to experience life at its maximum potential.

September 8, 2008

Guitar Hero 4 and unexpected technological convergence

Guitar Hero 4 provides an excellent example of unexpected technological convergence.

The upcoming video game features an entire suite of music production and editing tools that were developed during the past 40 years, including MIDI (both for triggering and recording data), tone generation, digital effects, sequencing, looping, arpegiation, and even a DAW-like interface a la Cubase or ProTools.

Check out the demo for GH4:

No one would have ever predicted that these music technologies would eventually be used in video games -- and that's what makes technological convergence so exciting and scary at the same time.

Stanley Schmidt, author of The Coming Convergence and editor of the science-fiction magazine Analog, has shown that convergence can lead to disaster. He claims that our ability to construct skyscrapers, along with the rise of mass air transport, arguably paved the way for the tragedies of 9/11. Again, an outcome that couldn't have been reasonably predicted.

More optimistically however, converging technologies could also improve things in a very dramatic way -- particularly in the sphere of human performance. This is the so-called NBIC convergence which would involve the synergistic effects of molecular nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive technology.

Read the NSF's NBIC 2003 report for more information.

September 7, 2008

New poll: Do you consume energy drinks?

I've posted a new poll about energy drinks (see right sidebar). Use this post to make comments.

September 4, 2008

What are the must-read transhumanist/futurist books of the past 5 years?

A question for my readers: In your opinion, what are the most important books about transhumanism (i.e. human enhancement) and/or futurism in general that have been written in the past 5 years?

Please use the comments section below to share your picks.