A thoughtful review on the website of the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies (IEET) considers a recently published book by Phil Torres: “The End: What Science and Religion Tell Us About the Apocalypse”. A useful distinction is made between religious and secular eschatology. The latter considers these threats to the planet and to humanity from a rational and evidence-based perspective, seeing phenomena such as nuclear war, bio-engineered pandemics, and any malign Superintelligence as things to be avoided.
Religious eschatology, on the other hand, might involve all, some or none of these risks, whether or not in common with other large and lesser threats. But the key lies not in the actual risks, which are seen only as means to a greater end. It is the End Times itself that is the point of “God’s coming judgement and destruction”. Evidence-based rationality features somewhat less in deliberations on this side of the nut-house wall. What is made clear here is that, facing the prospect of humanity’s extinction, the cry of those in anticipation of their delivery into Eternal Life is “Bring it On”. These are not the people we want anywhere close to the nuclear codes, or indeed to any seats of influence.
Responsible citizens of Spaceship Earth will want to keep in touch with what Torres calls the secular eschatologists, working at places like the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge; Nick Bostrom’s Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford; the Future of Life Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the geographically decentralized Global Catastrophic Risk Institute. Their mission is to safeguard the prospect that a second, non-cataclysmic Big Bang might enable a benign Superintelligence, and not a stellar void of wasted talent, lost opportunities, and silence.
Lively Stuff from Planet BAM!
- Can Facebook eat the world? One key to the evolution of intelligence: distribution
This feature in the Columbia Journalism Review looks at how, and how quickly, the business of journalism and the dissemination of news and commentary is changing. A shifting landscape is forcing keener thinking on the merits of scale versus influence, along with a possible revision of our definition of what constitutes a “free” press.
- Russian neuroprocessor is designed to “breathe life” into robots
This Lobachevsky University initiative is supported by the Russian Science Foundation so clearly has a pedigree, but the story may suffer in translation. “A human-like brain can be created on a single chip” poses more questions than it answers, but the potential for the evolution of robotics is clear, and is clearly exciting.
- This is your brain on music: an accessible spin through its many proven effects
Anyone looking for something far more substantive than a website listicle is encouraged to get hold of a copy of the 2007 publication by Daniel J Levitin.