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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What seems absolutely reasonable is apparently true. Expose microbes to extreme environments and those that survive evolve and adapt more rapidly. A study appearing in Scientific Reports in August looked at six diverse natural environments and 40 meta-genomic samples to report on relative evolutionary rates in the microbial community. Environments included acid mine drainage, saline lakes, and hot springs. Evidence showed high mutation rates among microbes.
A labor of love is about to be carried out by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) involving Opportunity, the ten-year veteran Martian rover. It seems fitting to write about this on Labor Day as the rover continues to set new records for distance and longevity on the Martian surface.
As we waited for the gate to open for the Buffalo Bisons-Pawtucket Red Sox baseball game last week on the last evening of our vacation, I noticed a gentleman nearby wearing a Chincoteague Island t-shirt. It turns out he and his wife had just come back from there after spending two weeks on vacation renting a beach cottage. And that led to a further conversation about the changing nature of the American Atlantic coast as sea levels continue to rise, a fact attributed to climate change.
Canadian Provincial Premiers Decide on a National Energy Strategy that Includes Climate Change Action
Quebec as the representative of French Canada often goes its own way. But not this time. Couillard intends to host a climate change summit in Quebec in the spring of 2015, prior to the international conference on climate change planned for Paris. In a rare display of unanimity Canada's provincial leaders at their annual conference have outlined a national energy strategy.
Do you control your screens or do they control you? Advertisers dive into your brain for free (to you) from the minute you begin to gurgle. In tomorrow’s digital world you’ll decide and filter what’s on your screens. One control will be a personal paywall so you can be paid for your attention. When this makes your mind into your property, you will be able to sell it as often as you like.
It is an inspiration to see the technological marvels that have gotten us to where we are today. And a great place to see this is Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Containing more than 35,000 items on exhibit and covering 37,000+ square meters (400,000 square feet), the Museum has been around for more than 80 years.
While away on vacation, I read about LiftPort Group, a Kickstarter-funded space elevator project that received over $110,000 U.S. from more than 3,400 backers. The company, located in Tacoma, Washington, originally sought $8,000, so one would think this was largely fantasy, but with the amount of money that has come in it would seem it owes its investors something more than one it has delivered to-date.
Today, many voice long-familiar concerns about technological unemployment, where computers, robots, and machines are automating our jobs out of existence. In fact, some have gone so far as to call this the “robot jobs Armageddon.” So is this time truly different? Here are six overarching shifts in the world that are causing many to say, “Yes, this time may really be different!”