From the editor's desk: About the May-June 2013 issue of THE FUTURIST
As artificial intelligence technology advances, the event horizon known as the Technological Singularity draws near. Does that mean we must begin preparing for the inevitable domination of our robotic overlords?
Not exactly. While such science-fiction scenarios inspire us to imagine a variety of outcomes of our endeavors, there is much that the artificial—or, more accurately, nonbiological—intelligence needs to know. And so do we. As visionary inventor Ray Kurzweil argues in this issue, we need to build synthetic minds that enhance our own capabilities, and he explains just how we can do that. (See “How to Make a Mind.”)
Science fiction indeed has entertained us with both visions and cautionary tales of such technological advances. In “Asimov’s Embarrassing Robot: A Futurist Fable,” scholar Irving H. Buchen outlines the odyssey of “Andrew,” the android hero in Isaac Asimov’s seminal tale, “The Bicentennial Man.” As his ability to learn and to create made him more like his human creators, Andrew’s “fatal” flaw was his immortality. What Asimov failed to foresee in this story was the symbiosis of man and machine that Kurzweil envisions.
Another aspect of technological innovation considered in this issue is its role in tackling some of the critical problems of our time, including resource depletion and climate change. Computer scientist Ramez Naam argues that our innovations and new ideas can help us expand our existing resources, reduce waste, and build wealth. (See “How Innovation Could Save the Planet.”)
And how do we advance our own innovativeness? One place to start would be to do away with mediocre education, which may happen on its own, suggests economic futurist Rob Bencini. He argues that the soaring cost of higher education, which puts people into debt rather than jobs, is just one of the trends working against colleges that are not delivering the futures they once promised. (See “Educating the Future: The End of Mediocrity.”)
As the sluggish recovery from the most-recent global recession has illustrated, governments, too, are failing to deliver futures they once promised. However, several economic success stories in unexpected places, like Uruguay and Israel, offer hope for the rest of us. Associate editor Rick Docksai explains how, in “Five Economies That Work: Global Success Stories.”
Cynthia G. Wagner is Editor of THE FUTURIST. We encourage you to comment on the articles here at wfs.org or send an e-mail (cwagner 'at' wfs.org) with your feedback.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
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NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is using 3-D printing with multiple materials, proving that additive manufacturing is not just the future of manufacturing, but also the present.
The purpose of the Global Calculator website is to gather evidence about our impact on global climate. An open source tool, its developers are seeking public feedback to ensure that its modelling improves in accuracy over time. They are providing it to the world community under open license.
What happens in the Middle East reverberates across the world. There lie the roots and holiest historical places of the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There lies the frontier between East and West. And much of the world’s remaining oil is found in this prized and disputed region.
When we look into space we are actually looking back in time. This is because we are looking at old light traveling towards us at 186,000 miles/second. We already know that if someone is watching us through a large telescope on the Moon, they’re seeing events that happened 1.3 seconds earlier because that’s how long it takes light to reach Earth. Using this as a very crude proof, we already know that information does indeed transcend the here and now, but can we ever access it and reassemble it into a useful form?
The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has implications for world health that cannot be ignored. The disease has killed more than 660 and infected almost 1,100 in four countries since March of this year and new cases are cropping up every day.
The images that Curiosity is sending back from Gale Crateris showing soil profiles similar to the ancient soil found in the dry valleys of Antarctica and in the alto-Plano of the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile. The soil images and data indicate chemical weathering and accumulations of clay just as one would find them here on Earth. Phosphorus depletion, associated with microbial activity here on Earth, is evident from the information Curiosity has gathered.
Nikolai Kardashev, a Soviet astrophysicist born in 1932, devised a method of rating advanced civilizations. Technological advances, according to Kardashev, could theoretically create conditions where a society could maximize use of energy. He categorized each of these stages as Type 1 through Type 4. Based on Kardashev's speculations where does our civilization sit today?
Powdery mildew-resistant wheat has been created using a pair of DNA-clipping and insertion tools. These are tools developed by Editas Medicine for editing defective DNA and are being used in the fight against a number of genetic diseases. And with wheat they are proving to be useful in overcoming the devastating impact of mildew.