2009 saw a lot of mainstreaming of "transhumanist" ideas, foci, and emphases. As I recently pointed out, Foreign Policy magazine gave this phenomenon a nod by including two transhumanists on their list of 100 global thinkers.
I am particularly interested in any possible mainstreaming of AGI and Friendly AI ideas, for obvious reasons. These ideas are not mainstreaming as fast as "wow-tech" like life-extension or cybernetics, so watching for it is even more challenging and interesting. That's why this ad on the ScienceBlogs network caught my eye:
It links to Collective Imagination, a relatively new blog on the ScienceBlogs network with an about page that doesn't mention AI at all. But, click the ad and you go to their front page, which currently is all about AI. On November 19th, their head blogger, Greg Laden, bought into the IBM "cat brain" deliberately deceptive news item, but then did a double-take a week later. What is interesting about his double-take is that he takes the time to point out some ignorant phrasing by IEEE Spectrum blogger Sally Adee in her coverage of the controversy. She said "There are as many theories of mind as there are researchers working on it, and in some cases there is a real grudge match between the theorists." Greg Laden commented:
I would like to point out that the term "Theory of Mind" is used incorrectly in the above quote. To me, this misuse of the term indicates a degree in pop psychology, as one might be exposed to the phrase but not know what it is, as has apparently happened here.
This is a little embarrassing. It would be like a psychologist writing about computer programming and noting that a "hash table" is a good place to put your chopped up corned beef.
It is embarrassing. Kudos to Greg for catching that. Watch out for those Igon Values.
Another, unrelated place where I read about IEEE in the last few days concerned an IEEE blogger having trouble understanding why the molecular nanotechnology community laughs in derision at the word "nanotechnology" being applied to stain-resistant pants. Josh Hall explained why. The same blogger, Dexter Johnson, also recently relayed that the American Chemical Society "touts nanobots as nanotechnology's big impact" in a new promotional video, which is another way of saying that they've been won over by the arguments for the feasibility of MNT. He writes:
The video is fascinating because it manages to move from nanobots and nanofactories to discussions of nanomaterials and buckyballs so seamlessly you would almost think there was no distinction between the two.
From what I gather this Bytesize Science is supposed to be targeting the future chemists of the world by making science fun. I am not sure that incomprehensible goop is really the way to do it, but Iâ€™ve never tried to teach children about nanotechnology.
In the post about nanopants, he writes:
I will not argue here (or likely anywhere else) about the feasibility of nanofactories in the visions of the MNT community.
Why not? Maybe because the idea of nanofactories is sometimes considered unscientific?