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Ed Webb

Cambridge University to open 'Terminator centre' to study threat to humans from artific... - 0 views

  • the four greatest threats to the human species - artificial intelligence, climate change, nuclear war and rogue biotechnology.
  • Huw Price, Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy and another of the centre's three founders, said such an 'ultra-intelligent machine, or artificial general intelligence (AGI)' could have very serious consequences.

    He said: 'Nature didn’t anticipate us, and we in our turn shouldn’t take AGI for granted.

    'We need to take seriously the possibility that there might be a ‘Pandora’s box’ moment with AGI that, if missed, could be disastrous.

Ed Webb

Google and Apple Digital Mapping | Data Collection - 0 views

  • There is a sense, in fact, in which mapping is the essence of what Google does. The company likes to talk about services such as Maps and Earth as if they were providing them for fun - a neat, free extra as a reward for using their primary offering, the search box. But a search engine, in some sense, is an attempt to map the world of information - and when you can combine that conceptual world with the geographical one, the commercial opportunities suddenly explode.
  • In a world of GPS-enabled smartphones, you're not just consulting Google's or Apple's data stores when you consult a map: you're adding to them.
  • There's no technical reason why, perhaps in return for a cheaper phone bill, you mightn't consent to be shown not the quickest route between two points, but the quickest route that passes at least one Starbucks. If you're looking at the world through Google glasses, who determines which aspects of "augmented reality" data you see - and did they pay for the privilege?
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  • "The map is mapping us," says Martin Dodge, a senior lecturer in human geography at Manchester University. "I'm not paranoid, but I am quite suspicious and cynical about products that appear to be innocent and neutral, but that are actually vacuuming up all kinds of behavioural and attitudinal data."
  • it's hard to interpret the occasional aerial snapshot of your garden as a big issue when the phone in your pocket is assembling a real-time picture of your movements, preferences and behaviour
  • "There's kind of a fine line that you run," said Ed Parsons, Google's chief geospatial technologist, in a session at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, "between this being really useful, and it being creepy."
  • "Google and Apple are saying that they want control over people's real and imagined space."
  • It can be easy to assume that maps are objective: that the world is out there, and that a good map is one that represents it accurately. But that's not true. Any square kilometre of the planet can be described in an infinite number of ways: in terms of its natural features, its weather, its socio-economic profile, or what you can buy in the shops there.

    Traditionally, the interests reflected in maps have been those of states and their armies, because they were the ones who did the map-making, and the primary use of many such maps was military. (If you had the better maps, you stood a good chance of winning the battle. The logo of Britain's Ordnance Survey still includes a visual reference to the 18th-century War Department.) Now, the power is shifting.

    "Every map," the cartography curator Lucy Fellowes once said, "is someone's way of getting you to look at the world his or her way."

  • The question cartographers are always being asked at cocktail parties, says Heyman, is whether there's really any map-making still left to do: we've mapped the whole planet already, haven't we? The question could hardly be more misconceived. We are just beginning to grasp what it means to live in a world in which maps are everywhere - and in which, by using maps, we are mapped ourselves.
Ed Webb

Look Closely, Doctor - See the Camera? - - 0 views

  • a delusion is just a delusion, psychosis is psychosis, and the scenery is incidental
  • Some experts studying conditions like Truman Show delusion and other culture-bound delusions, which are specific to a time or place, are questioning the premise that culture is only incidental to psychosis, even as a growing body of evidence has pointed to brain abnormalities and other biological causes for illnesses like schizophrenia.
  • Another patient traveled to New York City and showed up at a federal building in downtown Manhattan seeking asylum so he could get off his reality show, Dr. Gold said.

    The patient reported that he also came to New York to see if the Twin Towers were still standing, because he believed that seeing their destruction on Sept. 11 on television was part of his reality show. If they were still standing, he said, then he would know that the terrorist attack was all part of the script

Ed Webb

Programmed for Love: The Unsettling Future of Robotics - The Chronicle Review - The Chr... - 0 views

  • Her prediction: Companies will soon sell robots designed to baby-sit children, replace workers in nursing homes, and serve as companions for people with disabilities. All of which to Turkle is demeaning, "transgressive," and damaging to our collective sense of humanity. It's not that she's against robots as helpers—building cars, vacuuming floors, and helping to bathe the sick are one thing. She's concerned about robots that want to be buddies, implicitly promising an emotional connection they can never deliver.
  • y: We are already cyborgs, reliant on digital devices in ways that many of us could not have imagined just a few years ago
  • "We are hard-wired that if something meets extremely primitive standards, either eye contact or recognition or very primitive mutual signaling, to accept it as an Other because as animals that's how we're hard-wired—to recognize other creatures out there."
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  • "Can a broken robot break a child?" they asked. "We would not consider the ethics of having children play with a damaged copy of Microsoft Word or a torn Raggedy Ann doll. But sociable robots provoke enough emotion to make this ethical question feel very real."
  • "The concept of robots as baby sitters is, intellectually, one that ought to appeal to parents more than the idea of having a teenager or similarly inexperienced baby sitter responsible for the safety of their infants," he writes. "Their smoke-detection capabilities will be better than ours, and they will never be distracted for the brief moment it can take an infant to do itself some terrible damage or be snatched by a deranged stranger."
  • "What if we get used to relationships that are made to measure?" Turkle asks. "Is that teaching us that relationships can be just the way we want them?" After all, if a robotic partner were to become annoying, we could just switch it off.
  • We've reached a moment, she says, when we should make "corrections"—to develop social norms to help offset the feeling that we must check for messages even when that means ignoring the people around us.

    "Today's young people have a special vulnerability: Although always connected, they feel deprived of attention," she writes. "Some, as children, were pushed on swings while their parents spoke on cellphones. Now these same parents do their e-mail at the dinner table." One 17-year-old boy even told her that at least a robot would remember everything he said, contrary to his father, who often tapped at a BlackBerry during conversations.

Ed Webb

Paleo-Future - Paleo-Future Blog - What Happened to the Future? - 0 views

    Look - if you blog well, you can be a star in older media!
Ed Webb

The Vulture Transcript: Sci-Fi Author William Gibson on Why He Loves Twitter, Thinks Fa... - 0 views

  • If you’re born now, your native culture is global, to an increasing extent. There are things that are unknowable for futurists of any stripe, be they science-fiction writing charlatans like myself or anthropologists in the employ of large automobile companies who are paid to figure out what people might want in ten years. One of the things that’s unknowable is how humanity will use any new technology.

    No one imagines that we’d wind up with a world that looks like this on the basis of the technology that’s emerged in the last hundred years. Emergent technology is the most powerful single driver of change in the world, and it has been forever. Technology trumps politics. Technology trumps religion. It just does. And that’s why we are where we are now. It seems so self-evident to me that I can never go to that Technology: threat or menace? position. Okay, well, if we don’t do this, what are we going to do? This is not only what we do, it’s literally who we are as a species. We’ve become something other than what our ancestors were.

    I’m sitting here at age 52 with almost all of my own teeth. That didn’t used to happen. I’m a cyborg. I’m immune to any number of lethal diseases by virtue of technology. I’m sitting on top of this enormous pyramid of technology that starts with flint hand-axes and finds me in a hotel in Austin, Texas, talking to someone thousands of miles away on a telephone and that’s just what we do. At this point, we don’t have the option of not being technological creatures.

  • You’ve taken to Twitter (GreatDismal).
    I have indeed. I’ve taken to Twitter like a duck to water. Its simplicity allows the user to customize the experience with relatively little input from the Twitter entity itself. I hope they keep it simple. It works because it’s simple. I was never interested in Facebook or MySpace because the environment seemed too top-down mediated. They feel like malls to me. But Twitter actually feels like the street. You can bump into anybody on Twitter.
  • Twitter’s huge. There’s a whole culture of people on Twitter who do nothing but handicap racehorses. I’ll never go there. One commonality about people I follow is that they’re all doing what I’m doing: They’re all using it as novelty aggregation and out of that grows some sense of being part of a community. It’s a strange thing. There are countless millions of communities on Twitter. They occupy the same virtual space but they never see each other. They never interact. Really, the Twitter I’m always raving about is my Twitter.
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  • The Civil War was scarcely more than 150 years ago. It’s yesterday. Race in American hasn’t been sorted out. This used to be a country that was run exclusively by white guys in suits. It’s not going to be a country that’s run exclusively by white guys in suits, and that doesn’t have anything to do with politics, it’s just demographics. That makes some people very uncomfortable. The tea party is like the GOP’s Southern strategy coming back to exact the real cost of that strategy.
Ed Webb

Antimatter? Not such a big deal | Roz Kaveney | Comment is free | The Guardian - 0 views

  • One problem with being a long-term reader of science fiction and fantasy is that you get blase about science itself because you have seen it all before. My sense of wonder was overloaded by the time I was 16; I am never going to get that rush again. Even major breakthroughs make me go 'Whatever!'.

    Partly that's because, despite all our advances, we still haven't got time travel, reptilian visitors from the Galactic Federation, or telepathy. Instead, we get the depressing environmental disasters that JG Ballard described, and crazed grinning fundamentalist politicians straight out of Philip K Dick. (I'm sure that if I went through all his Ace doubles from the early 1960s, I would find Sarah Palin somewhere.) We don't get the stories where someone smart gets to fix the problem with a bent paperclip; we get the grim logical stories where we are all going to die.

  • One of the reasons why Dick and Ballard speak to our condition so well is that they saw the future and it was pretty rubbish.
  • It is almost a cliché that most sci fi is a way of looking sideways at the time in which it was written – the reason why William Gibson's Neuromancer felt so relevant in the 1980s was simply that it was a book whose imagined technology was mostly just around the corner, and whose doomed hipster technobandits were already walking down mean streets in cities near us. It's significant that Gibson has moved to writing contemporary fiction with hardly a change of register.
Ed Webb

The Japanese have done it. They've made an Idoru | Brain Release Valve - 1 views

    We live in sci-fi
Ed Webb

First 3D-Printed Car Hits The Road | KurzweilAI - 0 views

    As Bryan Alexander commented when he shared this on Twitter, we live in science fiction.
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