On the Pernicious De-Radicalization of the Radical Future

Over the past several years a good number of “futurists” and all-out naysayers have systematically worked to undermine and dismiss the potential for radical change to occur in the not-too-distant future. A number of commentators—including some of my colleagues at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies—have openly rejected the potential for paradigmatic changes to occur. While I’ve always been more a fan of concepts than time-lines, there is little doubt in my mind that a number of disruptive technologies that have been predicted over the past few decades will eventually come to fruition.

But it’s suddenly become very fashionable to pooh-pooh or sweep-aside the pending impacts of such things as the looming robotics and manufacturing revolutions, the rise of super AI, radical life extension, or the migration of humans to postbiological form. My best guesses as to why include the arrogance of the now (i.e. “we currently live at the most special of times and things will never change too significantly”), distraction (i.e. “there are other more important issues that require our attention”), fear of looking silly or losing credibility, denial, weak imaginations, and just plain ignorance.

As David Deutsch notes in his latest book, The Beginning of Infinity, humans are a remarkable species in that they serve as universal constructors. So long as the laws of physics are honoured and the requisite amounts of resources are provided, the space of all possible inventions remains massively large and profound. As for the denialism that has suddenly crept into futurist circles, the burden of proof is shifting increasingly to them; the naysayers need to explain exactly how it is that we’ll never come to develop these technologies—and how their presence won’t change the fabric of life and the human condition itself.

A number of scientists, engineers and futurists have dedicated their careers to predicting technological possibilities and their resultant social ramifications. With names like Eric Drexler, Robert Freitas, Aubrey de Grey, Gregory Stock, Ray Kurzweil, and Nick Bostrom, these predictions are coming from heavy-hitting thinkers; this ain’t your father’s Popular Science “flying car” style futurism. And in many cases, the further we progress into the future, the more credible these claims are appearing to be.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s been predicted—developments that will forever alter what we currently think of as normalcy and the human condition:

So, just keep on thinking that the future is going to be more of the same.

36 Comments

  1. Agreed, George. But let’s take it a step further. As disappointing as lack of imagination can be when it comes to the social ramifications of game-changing technologies, I’m even more persistently surprised by how even radicals like Ray Kurzweil ignore or dismiss the profound changes in selfhood that inevitably accompany these epochal transformations.

    While I laud futurists like Charles Stross for his unwavering look at a post-singularity technologies and social change, even visionary science fiction such as his assumes a relatively constant sense of the modern individual. It’s better than simply refusing to even ask the question, but it falls way short of those futures offered by oft-ridiculed mystics like Jose Arguelles and Sri Aurobindo, whose transpersonal visions of the future offer what seems to be a more realistic view of what we, in the biological sciences, call “evolutionary transitions in individuality.”

    While I agree we’re really talking about a world beyond our current comprehension, I’d love to hear more about the ways in which we can, looking back on the fractal self-similarity of evolutionary transformation, predict the contours of that incomprehensibility. We still talk, for example, as if posthuman intelligence is something that won’t be made of human cultures, in the same way that people are made of highly-organized eukaryotic cultures.

    Nor do I see many people asking what seems to be the obvious question: How do we know Google isn’t already communicating with alien superintelligences and finds it no more important to tell us than we find it important to explain Facebook to our lymphocytes?

    These are all ideas that pioneers of the transhumanism movement considered…a topic I discussed in my H+ article, “The Psychedelic Transhumanists.” Maybe I’m missing a thick stream of discussion on this…in which case, please let me know where the conversation is actually happening! But it seems pretty clear to me that the main reason we call it “The Singularity” is not because the technology is inconceivable, but because it requires a psychological transformation into a new order of selfhood to conceive it. And any part of a comprehensive discussion on the ethics of transhumanism needs to discuss post-rational psychological development.

  2. CNN had an article up yesterday that was talking about the dumbing down of politics. It said it wasn’t popular to believe in scientific fact. It said something like 60% of the US population still believes in creationism. If that’s true, how can a researcher possibly support futurist ideals without losing credibility?

    People will only believe in the singularity AFTER it arrives. They will do this, because anything less would be denying theological beliefs which have been passed down through the generations. They aren’t going to trade their faith for a “could happen” prediction of the future no matter how much evidence and reason there is support it.

  3. I won’t go off on a rant because it never really gets people anywhere. I have read a number of your articles/comments, Valkyrie, and usually find them very sound, so I wonder if you will afford me the same courtesy by following up on the links I provide here, in the hope that any misunderstandings on this issue may be eradicated.

    Firstly, on the issue of climate change, one of the foremost thing one must do is look at motivation. There is an enormous, outstanding motivation on the part of corpulently rich fossil fuel companies to deny that man is the primary cause of climate change: their profit margin. Indeed, when one checks up on climate scientists who deny climate change is caused by man, or that it even exists, one usually finds some ties to these vast multinational institutions. There is, on the other hand, no motivation whatsoever on the part of climate scientists who assert that humanity is responsible for it (other than the evidence they have discovered). This should set alarm bells ringing immediately (just like when the tobacco companies poured unfathomable resources into propagating the myth that smoking did not cause lung cancer in the 1950s).

    As for climate itself, we actually can predict and simulate weather with remarkable accuracy – if you would watch this video (part 1 of a programme entitled “Science Under Attack”) from 7:28 onwards, I feel it would help to illustrate the point more clearly than I can: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqyEkXzaXIQ&feature=related

    At 9:42, the Nasa scientist discusses the issue of the climate being warmer/colder in the dim and distant past, and what is the primary cause of global warming.

    In the next part, the issue of “consensus” is dealt with very nicely from 13:24 onwards: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab9EiJpCaR4&feature=related and is continued immediately in the next segment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ue1Qh3zLKd8&feature=related

    The younger man behind the desk makes the exact same point as you do about science never having been about consensus, and the presenter makes a wonderful analogy that consensus is actually extremely useful – he provides the example of the scientific community having a “consensus” on cancer treatment… and it would be most unusual and unwise for a cancer patient to disregard that consensus…

    • *sigh* and I can make the exact same claims about AGW scientists who stand to lose their funding Mammago. Attacking the source is not the same thing as invalidating the science. 30 years ago, the warnings were all about a “new ice age” Trust me, I have been following this for a LONG TIME.

      So, to reclarify yet again, I don’t buy into either the man ABSOLUTELY MUST BE THE CAUSE opinion of consensus or the politically motivated meme of “DISASTER IS LOOMING UNLESS YOU ELECT ME NOW!!!!”. You claim my thinking is generally sound, yet your first impulse is to dismiss this rather than asking yourself “What evidence has she seen that supports this conclusion?” You KNOW I base my thoughts in research and logic, yet you automatically assume I’m a dupe of the fossil fuel industry.

      Not the case. Four other planets in this solar system are experiencing climate change and warming. Even the moon, with no air, is recording higher temperatures from the Apollo packages. Ergo, MAN CANNOT BE THE SOLE FACTOR. If Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon are all experiencing warming, the cause MUST BE EXTRATERRESTRIAL.

      Next, most climatologists DO NOT take electrical coupling between the earths atmosphere and the solar wind into any sort of account, despite the evidence that lightning produces effects all the way from the ground into the ionosphere and that both cosmic radiation and ionization from the solar wind both cause cloud formation. The sun drives weather formation through ELECTRICAL STIMULATION, not simply “light”.

      Next, you also assumed I was a “denier” DESPITE having been told I neither deny climate change is occurring, or that there are numerous contributions man is making. I don’t deny man has an effect. I DO deny that he is SOLE CAUSE. See paragraph number three for why. Occam’s Razor. Man cannot be the cause of extraterrestrial warming, ergo, man cannot be sole cause for terrestrial warming.

      Then, you make the assumption that since I am a “denier” I can then be “converted” by being shown propaganda videos, and “saved” by being “brought into the fold” of “consensus”.

      And people wonder why I call AGW true believers cultists instead of rational thinkers.

      • Oh, and as the sun is apparently going into a “Maunder Minimum” I expect things to get COLDER for quite awhile, because that is what happened during the LAST Maunder Minimum.

        • I am replying to the comment you posted on 4th October 2011, 4:17pm (this will appear out of sync because the message down there did not have a “reply” button).

          1. I never showed contempt for the IEEE – I said that it didn’t matter if a large subsection of engineers within this research body believed things which were not supported by the majority of scientific data. Your infantile attempts to create a straw-man argument are as frail as they are transparent. This is also apparent in your wording here: “You HAVE FAITH that is UNSHAKABLE, and you don’t NEED to EXAMINE any data that isn’t on the APPROVED LIST, because you ALREADY KNOW THE ****TRUTH****” By the way – it doesn’t matter how many words you put in Caps lock, that does not make your arguments any more sound.

          2. You are not providing links to articles written by leaders in any field. This assertion was annihilated in my rebuttal of the reliability of your citations on September 29, 2011 at 11:44am.

          3. It is you, not I, that have buried your head in the sand when it comes to data. You have still yet to provide any meaningful data to support your outlandish views, let alone the level of evidence that would be required to overturn centuries of scientific knowledge. You also fail to acknowledge when you are bested, even when it is crystal clear, and carefully laid out for you step-by-step.

          That, my dear, is the hallmark of a mind mired in faith. Faith that you are right ad everybody else is wrong.
          You can kick and scream and say it’s a conspiracy by the establishment all you want, but the fact is, even extremely entrenched scientific consensus is overturned when the evidence is satisfactory (just look at Daniel Shechtman, who won this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry for creating “impossible” chemical structures).

          This example alone illustrates that consensus is flexible when sufficient data is presented, and is not immutable dogma that ignores all attempts at change. The simple fact is, the evidence on which you base your world-view *sucks* and you cannot bear to acknowledge that, after having invested so much time and effort into believing it.

      • Actually, I never used the word “denier”. Not once. And, as a scientist, my job is not to “convert” people or “bring them into the fold”, but to provide evidence which illustrates reality.

        Did you even glance at the video(s)? If you had, you would have seen that they were not propaganda, but calm, simple analyses of the evidence.

        Also, no climate scientists say that man is the sole cause of climate change. But the ones who look at the overall picture that the evidence paints, rather than cherry-picking, agree that man is predominantly (not solely) responsible.

        If I may be so bold, I feel that you have a lot of emotional investment in this issue, and as such this hinders your ability to be impartial: just look at how you automatically assumed I was saying certain things about you, when in fact I said nothing of the sort. This may colour your view of the facts, and lead you to disregard evidence that conflicts with the conclusions you have already drawn.

        Also, when you make radical claims such as these:

        “Four other planets in this solar system are experiencing climate change and warming. Even the moon, with no air, is recording higher temperatures from the Apollo packages.”

        it helps if you provide scientific references, so that I or my fellow readers may go and look them up ourselves, and make our own judgements about whether the conclusions the authors reach are reasonable ones.

        Same here:

        “Next, most climatologists DO NOT take electrical coupling between the earths atmosphere and the solar wind into any sort of account, despite the evidence that lightning produces effects all the way from the ground into the ionosphere and that both cosmic radiation and ionization from the solar wind both cause cloud formation.”

        We need to know where, exactly, it is being claimed that scientists do not take this into account in their calculations, and also why it is relevant to the conversation. Your points about lightning should also be backed up, since we are not all meteorologists.

        Final point: climate scientists don’t make a lot of money. They frequently receive hate mail and are denounced as liars and manipulators by many conservative news outlets. Your average climate scientist has no more power than your average palaeontologist.

        Petrochemical industries make a lot of money. A LOT of money. This means they have a lot of power. In fact, your average oil baron has the power to influence entire media outlets to disparage the good name of many honest scientists who are just doing their job. They didn’t just wake up one morning and go “Hey, you know what’d be hilarious? Let’s all club together in secret (cos your average scientist is SO well organised :/ trust me, I work in a lab) and make everyone think that the world’s heating up! C’mon let’s do it for shits ‘n’ giggles!”

        To accuse climate scientists of skewing data to pander to the wishes of those who provide funding is as unreasonable as accusing evolutionary biologists of doing it. The funding isn’t for themselves, you know – they, personally, don’t get the money.

        • Very well, I will apologize for overstating your post Mammago, but I would like to point out I’ve recently been involved in FAR too many arguments with AGW true believers who have gone into screaming fits for my daring to dispute man’s place as SOLE CAUSE, and cannot and will not accept any other factor could contribute or be the prime mover. Glad to see you are willing to admit to the simple existence of other factors, too many AGW people are not.

          I will also point out that I have seen mountains of evidence on all sides of this issue, and to top it off, I’ve seen the lengths that are gone through to prevent dissent to consensus. Look up Halton Arp, who has dared to state that perhaps red shift should be re-examined due to massive numbers of “red shift anomalies” he had found, such as “quasars” in front of galaxies that were MUCH closer according to red shift readings. He was a noble prize winning scientist who is now labeled a loon for daring to go against consensus. The same thing is being done now to Freeman Dyson for daring to admit he is not convinced by the AGW evidence. Defend your side all you wish, but I’ve seen too much good research dismissed solely because it flies in the face of consensus. Look up “Electric Universe Theory” sometime, and don’t bother to try and wiki it, because the “true believers in Consensus” managed to get the page erased. Then ask yourself why a bunch of down to earth electrical engineers in the IEEE accept this view as more probably accurate than a series of mathematical “figments of the imagination” like dark matter and black holes. Then ask yourself why astronomers cannot bring themselves to admit that the “solar wind” is an ionized plasma that interacts electrically with the earth, not via “light energy” but through electrical fields and charges, and that those charges play a MAJOR role in climate. And since such electrical effects are not even admitted to exist, and are not “modeled” either, how can I expect those models to be even passingly accurate?

          And yes, I am quite sure you probably will not even look at the evidence for electrical forces in space and their effects, because CONSENSUS has decided that ONLY GRAVITY has any importance and ignores any evidence that electrical forces operate across interstellar distances. I hope I am wrong, but experience tells me otherwise. You are a believer in consensus and it demands you not question.

          You will not convince me that consensus has any value in science Mammago. It’s a social tool designed to prevent the very thing science is supposed to do, QUESTION EVERYTHING.

          • Halton Arp NEVER won the Nobel Prize – do your research. And the anomalies he found were treated as relevant (in the 1960s, when he proposed his conjectures), but guess what – the resolution of telescopes has increased by several orders of magnitude since then – enough to conclusively disprove his claims about red shift and the like.

            Using horrendously outdated research as a template for attacking the concept of scientific consensus is not a good way to go.

            And Freeman Dyson, for all his brilliance, has actually admitted that his knowledge of the subject matter of global warming is poor: “my objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but it’s rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have.” You can read the full article here: http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2151

            This is worrying. It means that a very eminent scientist is succumbing to the same bias you are – not disagreeing with AGW (I hate that acronym, by the way) because of flaws in the data, but rather because of the people who propagate the data. There are arseholes in every field, climate change is no different. But that doesn’t mean that the data they wield is wrong. If a doctor called me fat, ugly and stupid and then prescribed me certain drugs to cure my pneumonia, I would still take the drugs (after punching the doctor on the nose, of course) because they are backed up by mountains of peer-reviewed evidence, and not dependent on the individuals who prescribe them.

            And peer-review, no matter what you say about it, is the single best method we have of making our models fit reality as closely as possible. It is what will resolve the current earth-shattering discovery at CERN that neutrinos go faster than light as either true or false. Because we can never trust in the results of just one, or even a handful, of scientists. It has to be verified by the overwhelming majority, who verify it by ensuring that when they copycat the experiment, it produces the same results for every test.

            THAT is what makes science work. And all this piffle about “electric universe theory” was evidently not robust enough to stand up to that level of rigour. It doesn’t matter if a thousand electrical engineers at IEEE stand up and vouch for it, if it disagrees with the experiments that everybody else carries out (provided they use the same equipment, conditions etc), it’s wrong.

            Final note: Black holes? Imaginary? You realise we’ve actually got photos of them, right?

            • You are missing the point I was making Mammago. These were people who spoke against the consensus, and treated rather shabbily considering the contributions that they have made. Why? My reading of their stories and ideas might be outdated, as I came across them years ago and freely admit I remembered some details incorrectly, but again, the means to deal with disagreements is discussion, why were most of the stories I’ve seen derisive and highly derogatory?

              And yes, I VIOLENTLY oppose the way I personally get treated by AGW true believers, and again, let me point out I agree that climate change is happening, I agree that man contributes, I agree that we need to end pollution, etc etc etc etc. In fact I think you are likely to find I agree with a good 90% of the goals of the AGW movement. BUT THAT ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE DEFENDERS OF CONSENSUS. I find the evidence very strong for mans making things WORSE, but I DO NOT see man as either the PRIME MOVER, nor the SOLE MOVER, nor do I find climate change to be a world catastrophe, but something we will simply have to deal with and the longer we delay taking steps to adjust, like ending pollution etc, the bigger the clean up job is going to be. And I HAVE read a LOT of the peer reviewed science, and I have ALSO read the evidence for the other side as well, and there are just as many carefully researched papers that point out either problems with the data used on other papers, or problems with the programs used to model, etc. But why is doubt not allowed? Why can you not simply accept that I am unconvinced? That after 20 some odd years of following this debate and having once been a true believer myself, I’ve seen enough evidence to know neither side is run by angels, that the evidence of man’s involvement are clear, but that I have seen sufficient evidence about other causes being the primary mover of climate change to no longer believe man is the sole cause or that climate change is catastrophic. Why is it not acceptable to say “we agree to disagree” without being labeled a “denier” an “idiot” or “uninformed”? Why is saying I have seen enough evidence to have reached different conclusions considered “irrational” and worthy of mockery? These are not reactions based on logic, these are reactions based on social instincts to suppress dissent and enforce the mentality of the herd. To silence questions and enforce obedience. They are as much the antithesis of science as they are the heart of a religion.

              And while I agree that peer review has value, it is just as subject to corruption and human stupidity as every other system created by man. You might discount the evidence presented by the CRU e-mails, but I personally read them, and one of my specialties is semantics. There is no doubt in my mind that Mann et al were using the “consensus” to force peer review journals to deny publication to any papers which did not support their claims. It might be our “best” tool right now, but that still does not make it immune to personality politics.

              And unless we’ve suddenly figured out how to send probes into a swartzchild radius, no we haven’t got any photos of “black holes”. We’ve got pictures of swirls of gas that are claimed to be following the patterns predicted to occur around a “black hole” but which have alternative explanations if you accept that electrical forces exist across interstellar distances and are vastly stronger than gravity. And again, you are going to have to accept that I was once a true believer in current astrophysics as well, and simply have seen enough evidence to make me think another theory explains the data better. I easily could be wrong. But I have to go with where the evidence I have seen has led me. Ask yourself again why someone who you have found to be rational would deliberately choose to go against “consensus” unless they believed sufficient evidence existed that “consensus” could be wrong? I didn’t wiki electric universe theory and then accept what someone else told me to think about it. I’ve been examining it for three years now and began as skeptical as they come. You spent three minutes finding out what “consensus” had to say about it. Can you accept that I saw enough evidence to convince me that it fits the observations better?

              You’ve seen different evidence, and therefore drawn different conclusions. As rational people, we should be able to agree that we don’t agree, and subject to further evidence and further analysis, either of us could change our conclusions at any time. Why is there such a vested interest in doing everything you can make me accept your conclusions as more valid than my own? To think my failure to comply with your worldview is evidence of insanity on my part?

              That is what “consensus” is Mammago. The inability to accept that differences of opinion need to exist in order to ensure advancement. The authoritarian urge to enforce “groupthink”. The pack animal instinct to go with the herd. And like I have said, THAT IS NOT SCIENCE, and has no place in science.

              • No, YOU are missing the point. It doesn’t matter one damn how much they contributed – if they propose ideas that do not fit the evidence, and stick to them one their ideas have been disproved then OF COURSE they will experience ridicule.

                We may use this thought experiment as an example: You and I are teleported into the same windowless room. I hypothesise that the outside of the building is painted white, whereas you hypothesise that it is painted black. We find the exit door and view the outside. It is painted black. However, if I doggedly stick to my initial conjecture, that it is painted white, even in the face of overwhelming observational evidence to the contrary, I’m sure you would most likely quickly become exasperated. After a long enough time-frame, you would likely be unable to contain yourself any longer, calling in other observers who would support your observations that the exterior is black, and so all of you would proceed to ridicule me for being so obviously wrong and refusing to admit it.

                This analogy mirrors what has happened to the scientists you support.

                You are also setting up a straw-man argument here: “Why can you not simply accept that I am unconvinced?” As I never once said that I did not accept that you were unconvinced by contemporary evidence, I just systematically highlight the holes your reasoning.

                In fact, the above statement is tantamount to the pleas often bleated by religious people when they say: “Why can’t you just accept that I think differently to you?” (As in, “Don’t point out uncomfortable facts to me! I have no sturdy counter-arguments against them!”)

                Later, you proceed to say almost exactly that: “Why is it not acceptable to say “we agree to disagree” without being labeled a “denier” an “idiot” or “uninformed”?”

                However, unlike religious beliefs which (in most people, at least) can be harmless (sometimes), your failure to examine evidence in an unbiased manner, and your proselytism against it, lend credence to the countless others out there who are also sceptical of the true extent of anthropogenic global warming.

                This has an extremely large net effect, which we ALL have to suffer, including the other 80-90% who do not bury our heads in the sand, or use flawed reasoning such as ad hominem attributions (some of them were mean to me, so ALL of them must be wrong!).

                “Why is there such a vested interest in doing everything you can make me accept your conclusions as more valid than my own?” – Because you are a blogger/writer and your words have impact. You can potentially skew the opinions of thousands of people (millions if you somehow became a famous figure) and make life very difficult for those of us who are actually trying to be constructive about climate change.

                Nonetheless, there is hope – readers may now view this thread and draw their own conclusions about the scientific expertise of an individual who does not believe in black holes and feels that vast and distant bodies in the universe interact via electricity instead of gravity…

                • I’m not proselytizing against anything except consensus being necessary to science Mammago.

                  The simple fact that you cannot accept dissent without feeling a need to “correct me” illustrated my point sufficiently. If it costs me you as a reader, oh well. I will continue to follow the evidence to the conclusions it’s lead me too. If I find sufficient evidence to change those conclusions I will, but it will not be because “consensus” told me too.

                • Oh, and here’s a little “peer reviewed” literature for you to read, if you can actually bring yourself to read something that’s not “Consensus Approved”

                  http://www.benthamscience.com/open/toaaj/openaccess2.htm

                • http://www.benthamscience.com/open/toaaj/articles/V004/SI0162TOAAJ/165TOAAJ.pdf

                  This one especially, as it contains a complete review of Plasma Cosmology and the problems with the “Standard Model” and includes a section on the interactions of the sun and earth and it’s role in climate.

                  It’s not my job to make your’s easier by not asking questions and blindly supporting the status quo. Like you, I do hope that people read this thread, and that some of them are actually curious enough to defy consensus and investigate things for themselves before just blindly accepting someone else’s opinion as fact.

                  Even mine.

                  • Your credibility just keeps on plummeting. You do realise that Bentham Science is NOTORIOUS for accepting articles… ANY articles… for cash?

                    In fact, here’s a wonderful article where the author, as a test, submits an actual “nonsense” paper to The Open Information Science Journal (a journal run by Bentham Science, of course – its articles dependent upon Bentham’s outstanding “peer-review” process). The author uses a computer program to make grammatically correct sentences in English, but which have absolute nonsense phrases spewed in among the flawless grammar and syntax (he provides both an example sentence and a link to his full fake “research paper” in the article): http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2009/06/10/nonsense-for-dollars/

                    My favourite one from his fake paper, however, was this little gem:

                    “The flaw of this type of solution, however, is that DHTs can be made empathic, large-scale, and extensible. Along these same lines, the drawback of this type of approach, however, is that active networks and SMPs can agree to fix this riddle. The construction of voice-over-IP would profoundly degrade Internet QoS.”

                    The article was accepted. And published. For a minor fee of… $800.

                    ………So much for “peer-reviewed” science, eh?

                    Hopefully this will encourage you to be a bit more picky about where you get your information from…

                    There is also a review of Bentham Open here, fro The Charleston Advisor: http://eprints.rclis.org/bitstream/10760/13538/1/s8.pdf Here is a nice excerpt:

                    “…The site is supported by fees charged to the author upon publication of an article, and the fees are high… Because [insert crackpot theory] is not accepted by mainstream cosmologists, it is likely that if this article were submitted to any mainstream journal it would be rejected, and the author sought to publish it here because of the less-rigorous or façade-like peer-review process. Alternatively, the author submitted the article to Bentham Open because he knew that merely by paying the fee he could get his work published. … In many cases, Bentham Open journals publish articles that no legitimate peer-review journal would accept, and unconventional and nonconformist ideas are being presented in some of them as legitimate science.”

                    Please stop embarrassing yourself… it’s actually becoming painful to behold.

                    • As I am providing information for the casual reader seeking more info, I am providing links to articles written by the leaders in the feild.. I really could care less you opinion of the sources. Especially since you displayed such contempt for the IEEE which just happens to be one of the largest professional organizations on the planet.

                      I really couldn’t care less what you opinion of me is Mammago. I will not accept your views that consensus has any value in science. It exists SOLELY to silence dissenting viewpoints.

                      Which you continue to prove over and over.

                      I freely admit that I might be wrong, and that the data has led me to a wrong conclusion, but at NO POINT in this conversation have you been willing to admit the same. You HAVE FAITH that is UNSHAKABLE, and you don’t NEED to EXAMINE any data that isn’t on the APPROVED LIST, because you ALREADY KNOW THE ****TRUTH****

                      And that Mammago, is a RELIGION. Not science.

  4. I believe technology is potentially radically transformative. But lets look at the last 10 years. I had thought lots of tech would change the world, but instead raw politics and greed caused the world economies to almost die. Further, tech caused the BP oil spill and Fukushima. These were Black swan events and so the radical futures that I may predict are Black Swans that I cannot predict.

    Perhaps the reasons for more conservative predictions is to not freak out humanity, which I thinkis a real concern.

  5. @mammago You need to understand that the downside to ANY consensus is that it SILENCES any DISSENT.

    Galileo did not follow CONSENSUS, nor did Newton, or even Einstein. Scientific CONSENSUS is little more than attempting to ENFORCE dogmatic rigidity upon science, at the expense of scientific evolution. Science lives or dies on EXPERIMENT, OBSERVATION, and EVIDENCE, but too much science these days are based on models of models of models of models based on assumptions that often times cannot be experimentally verified, yet are defended on the basis of CONSENSUS.

    Case in point, none of the models used in forecasting AGW can accurately predict historical weather patterns based on historical data. Got that? Feed them real data, and they don’t match real results. And yet it is DEMANDED that I accept them because CONSENSUS says so.

    Science is not now, and NEVER HAS BEEN about CONSENSUS. It is about VERIFIABLE Experimentation, Observable FACT, and WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE, not on the number of people agreeing on a theory. All it takes is ONE PERSON backed by EVIDENCE to overturn CONSENSUS.

    And before you go off on a rant about how I MUST believe in climate change, understand that I do, I simply do not see man as the SOLE CAUSE nor consider it to be a CATASTROPHE, because the Earth has been much warmer within recorded historical times, and man never even noticed, so I cannot accept the results of computer models predicting disaster that cannot even reproduce actual historical weather trends based on historical data.

    • Oh hey, you called forth Galileo too. I have hope for us, that we may strike out and search on our own, without looking at the answers of others as right and rote, written in stone, but instead to seek them anew and see what truth may come. Just because everyone knows something, doesn’t make it true. Everyone used to know the Earth was flat and the Sun and Stars and all of creation revolved around it as the center of the universe, remember? Everyone used to know the Moon is made of Cheese too. If you agree they’re right, you’ll never look to see if they’re wrong. Keep searching, my friends.

  6. @Valkyrie – while I agree with and approve of much of what you say (and also what the author says), I must insist that the concept of “scientific consensus” is most definitely the wrong thing to criticise in this particular instance. Scientific consensus allows us to separate fact from opinion, and if it were to be devalued we wouldn’t stand a chance against the onslaught of creationists, global warming denialists, homeopaths and a cornucopia of other imbeciles and charlatans who lean heavily on the public misunderstanding of science.

    We must make a distinction between “scientific consensus” and “how far out on a limb your average scientist is willing to go”. We must bear in mind that, were it not necessary to demonstrate obeisance to those comparatively short-sighted individuals who supply the funding, your average scientist might be more comfortable musing publicly and letting their imaginations wander…

    And @Mark Plus, Kurzweil actually was one of the tiny minority of individuals who still thought the genome project was going to work when it was 1% complete and half the time limit had elapsed. Because he understood exponential advancement. That project worked out fine – in fact I think it finished a little early.

    It also doesn’t help your credibility to assert that much of daily life looks as it did in the 1970s (over the INTERNET no less… which Kurzweil predicted too) when it so patently does not. Think mobile phones, the distinct lack of vinyls/cassettes/floppy disks, plasma TVs, keyhole surgery, xenotransplantation, even the layout of textbooks (which have accompanying CDs most of the time too – you wouldn’t have got that in the 70s).

    • @Mammago:

      The part of the real 21st Century any rational person should care about still looks like the remote past. People still die pretty much on schedule, and usually after horrific diseases have had their way with our bodies. Just go to the nearest nursing home, put the latest smart phone or tablet PC in the hands of someone with advanced Alzheimer’s, then tell me how “futuristic” the 21st Century looks.

      • @Mark Plus “The part of the real 21st Century any rational person should care about still looks like the remote past”

        Oh yeah – it’s not like we’ve eradicated smallpox from the globe or discovered the causes of cholera and dysentery and countless other common-or-garden diseases (which killed MILLIONS in the past), and greatly reduced their prevalence by introducing clean food and water supplies wherever we can.

        People still die on schedule huh? Yeah, it’s not like we’ve extended average lifespan from 30 to 80 years in developed countries via implementing decent sanitation, reducing environmental pollution (when was the last time you saw any smog?), or having outstanding medical facilities which are so far in advance of those even 100 years ago that to even compare them is bordering on absurdity.

        Just because we haven’t figured out the cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s yet does NOT mean that we haven’t advanced diddly-squat since “the remote past”. To claim so requires either ignorance or stupidity – take your pick. These are STAGGERINGLY hard problems which we are gradually working our way towards curing, and will do so in due time.

        And I KNOW you’re going to complain that most of this applies only to Western and/or developed countries. That’s true. It’s also not our fault. For example: we cannot control the Chinese government’s banishment of the lower echelons of its society to effective starvation and slave labour, because they don’t care one damn what we say.

        And in Africa, there are countless charities and organisations desperately trying to distribute clean food and water to the populace, but they don’t have the money or resources to get to everyone.

        And before you say we should divert money away from all the “radical fringe research” this website and its contributors advocate, and direct it towards the charities and so forth, let me tell you that without such outlandish researcher in the past, things like organ transplants would never have come about, nor antibiotics or countless other unexpected and unforeseen (by most people anyway) breakthroughs which helped millions.

    • BTW, people who know real biology tend to dismiss Ray Kurzweil as a crank and a charlatan when he talks about neuroscience, chemistry and medicine.

      • The church said the same about Galileo, before they tried him for heresy. I hope for better for Kurzweil, and I hope the Singularity will prove him right.

  7. A number of scientists, engineers and futurists have dedicated their careers to predicting technological possibilities and their resultant social ramifications. With names like Eric Drexler, Robert Freitas, Aubrey de Grey, Gregory Stock, Ray Kurzweil, and Nick Bostrom, these predictions are coming from heavy-hitting thinkers

    Or heavy-hitting bullshitters. If you want to look at tangible results, the people who went into genomics as a career a few years ago have a lot more to show for their efforts now than these hand-wavers with their forecasts of “nanoassemblers,” “mind uploading,” “anti-aging therapies,” AI’s (friendly or otherwise) and similar fantasies.

    Hell, Steve Jobs has these guys beaten to a bloody pulp when it comes to forecasting technological possibilities. The i-Somethings his company has produced and put on the market (I bought my iPad 2 from Sam’s Club) really look and function like science fictional tools I would have expected to see in the 21st Century, while much of the rest of daily life still looks like the 1970’s.

  8. although i have some issues with the transhumanists as far as what is desireable i think you are too conservative.

    the petaflop machines are already correlating date in massive chunks. these correlations are being used to predict and find basis for models and potential causalities. this is how the mind works on a much weaker scale.

    the mind accepts the most likely probabilities it can correlate. computers now are doing this better than human.

    the singularity is here. it just doesnt look like you expect it to look. it is happening before your eyes.

    molecular nanotechnology? vaccines, antibiotics, medicines, atoms are nano. chemistry is nano, herbs are nano. if you are waiting for fantastic voyages submarine with people the size of a blood cell you will be disapointed.

    robotics are marching in to human jobs daily. watsons in a cloud will be the doctors sensei in just a few years. it is here, doesnt look like swarzenager but the machines are doing an endrun around your dogma

    in a few years exaflop machines will correlate the function of dna and eliminate the apoptosis aging genes.

    the ability to control the weather is here now. the problem is there is not computers powerful enough to predict what will result from our actions. we are altering the weather accidently as i write. if weather is predictable we can manage it to some degree. you can search this sites data base for my post on the earth as an air conditioning project.

    we will stop evolving when we are extinct. we will direct our evolution beginning now.

    • The ability to change a thing is not the same as the ability to control a thing. Though I can light a fire does not mean I can control it.

  9. I too have been dismayed at this recent “failure of nerve” on the part of some who should know better, and I am very pleased that you have addressed this issue, and, as always, so elequently.

  10. Why yes, I do believe I said this recently: http://hplusmagazine.com/2011/09/12/a-peek-into-the-demonesss-mind-or-yes-i-actually-do-use-logic-to-make-predictions/

    “but it’s at this point that the overwhelming majority of futurists run into yet another bias, the “consensus” bias, the desire to make sure that your research will be acceptable to the “crowd”, to limit your evidence to the “center” and ignore the “fringe”, and discount any evidence that would be considered controversial. By limiting the data examined to “safe” data through the use of such filters, the “prediction” arrived at will generally not present a “threat” to the “reputation” of the predictor, even if it proves wrong.”

    The pernicious efforts of the “consensus” which does not allow the expression of any concept that is not overwhelmingly “approved” by the crowd.

    Science is not now, and never has been about “CONSENSUS” and every time I hear someone say “well consensus says” I want to shake them for being an idiot.

  11. Requisite resources includes sufficient time. Provided you allow sufficient time, I guess all on your list will come to fruittion eventually. In my experience, so-called nay-sayers do not deny the eventual success of AGI or molecular nanotech or negligible senesence, they merely doubt success can be achieved within timeframes set out by people like Kurzweil.

    • A great article from George. I’ve often encountered, and attempted to counter, the naysayers. There is almost a tone of hysteria emanating from the minds of naysayers. When I state there are very radical positive technological changes in the not too distant future, some Transhumanists seem to think awareness of a forthcoming technological utopia is tantamount to believing in Jesus Christ, which is utterly ridiculous. The Singularity is truly near. Ongoing evidential research presents countless undeniable breakthroughs in various sci-tech fields.

      Previously I have discussed the close proximity of the Singularity with Extropia DaSilva, but no amount of evidence seems to convince her the dramatic changes are near.

      I’ve provocatively compared Singularity-Deniers to Holocaust-Deniers, but one of my simpler more digestible comparisons is to The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Previous predictions of a technological utopia have caused people to be cynical regarding radical progress ever happening. Surprisingly for deniers the Singularity will soon pounce upon their unaware minds, ravenously exploding their brains in a utopian manner.

      In the interim-pre-Singularity period there are dangers from stupid minds, but all dangers can easily be avoided via incisive awareness, which is the purpose of my awareness. This is how I will create utopia. I am making people aware of how our world is changing, radically. For example everything will soon be free due to Post-Scarcity.

      Another comparison regarding the deniers concerns the novel “The Country of the Blind” where vision is deemed a mental illness: eyes cause people to be mentally disturbed. Maybe technological-blind-people feel disturbed when they look at our changing world thus this is the reason for their denial. There are clear attempts by some people to cut out our technologically-orientated-eyes so that we can live a mundane humdrum uneventful existence of banality where we are utterly unaware of our EXPLOSIVE future: a future which is very close, relatively, by 2045 at the latest.

      http://singularity-2045.org/

      • >Previously I have discussed the close proximity of the Singularity with Extropia DaSilva, but no amount of evidence seems to convince her the dramatic changes are near.<

        Oh, I would not say that. Possibly Affective computing, the so-called 'fourth paradigm' of data-intensive scientific discovery, cloud computing, 3d printing, lifebits, will lead to profound changes within a couple of decades, perhaps sooner. I just do not see Drexlerian nanobots or mind uploading being possible in so short a time

        • Consider the following recent developments/research regarding tangible progress, great achievement. Consider how things will have progressed within 10 or 20 years.

          “Ayusman Sen of Pennsylvania State University in University Park and his colleagues have created the self-propelling microspiders using spheres less than a micrometre wide. Each sphere is made up of two halves – one hemisphere is gold, the other silica – and looks like a gold-and-silver Christmas bauble.”

          “Next, Sen hopes to develop versions of these tiny aquatic spiders that run on chemicals readily available in the body, such as glucose. In the future, more sophisticated microspiders attached to nanobots that detect chemicals secreted by damaged tissue could swim through the bloodstream, weaving a medical glue to help heal tears in vessel walls. Decorated with other micromachines and enzymes, they could swim through the circulatory system scouting out tumours, scouring plaque from vessel walls and helping the immune system battle infections.”

          http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20867-selfdirected-microspider-could-repair-blood-vessels.html

          “At this stage, the idea of sentient metallic life remains a distant sci-fi dream, but researchers at the University of Glasgow have already birthed iChells — inorganic chemical cells.”

          http://www.engadget.com/2011/09/19/scientists-attempt-to-give-spark-of-life-to-all-synthetic-metal/

          “Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have now taken a major step toward creating artificial intelligence—not in a robot or a silicon chip, but in a test tube. The researchers are the first to have made an artificial neural network out of DNA, creating a circuit of interacting molecules that can recall memories based on incomplete patterns, just as a brain can.”

          http://media.caltech.edu/press_releases/13434

          The issue is that once powerful AI has been created, equal to human intellectual capability, the changes will begin happening VERY quickly, due to rapid AI evolution, therefore any minor stumbling blocks regarding Drexerian nanotech will be very easily overcome. I think Drexler’s vision of nanotech is very primitive compared to what will be possible sometime around 2040, 2045.

  12. I believe in most cases the author fears losing credibility by making unorthodox predictions. Let’s face it- the human brain is good at prediction but it could be a lot better, especially as pertains to exponential prediction.

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