Foreign Policy Lists Cascio, Kurzweil, and Bostrom Among Their List of “Top 100 Global Thinkers”

Wow! Congratulations to Nick Bostrom, Ray Kurzweil, and Jamais Cascio for being selected for Foreign Policy‘s first annual list of Top 100 Global Thinkers. Their associated writeups can be found here.

Ray Kurzweil: “for advancing the technology of eternal life”. Jamais Cascio: “for being our moral guide to the future.” Nick Bostrom: “for accepting no limits on human potential.”

Two transhumanists and one “non-transhumanist transhumanist” on the list!

Scanning the list, another notable names are Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Steven Chu, Henry Kissinger, Peter Singer, Linus Torvalds, and Larry Summers.

#19 is Gladwell. He has been keeping his igon values well calibrated, I see. Here’s a quote from his associated write-up:

By making surprising arguments seem obvious, Gladwell has added a serious dose of empiricism to long-form journalism and changed how we think about thought itself.

This sentence causes pain in my mind. I am shocked at how Gladwell is perceived as a scientific writer by the broader public, even intellectuals. His arguments contradict science. This gives me a …

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Robin Hanson on SETI in USA Today

Robin Hanson, economist and author of Overcoming Bias, recently appeared in USA Today talking about SETI. He appears as a counterpoint to Seth Shostak, a guy who I believe is totally out of it. Here’s the relevant section:

But researchers such as Robin Hanson of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., wonder whether the big picture really looks so promising when it comes to advanced life. Hanson supports SETI but finds it telling that humans haven’t come across anything yet. “It has been remarkable and somewhat discouraging,” Hanson says, “that the universe is so damn big and so damn dead.”

Great quote, love it. To quote Marshall T. Savage, author of that superlative masterpiece, The Millennial Project:

There is a program to actively search for signals from other civilizations in the galaxy: SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). This is a noble cause, but it seems slightly absurd. Scientists huddle around radio telescopes listening intently to one star at a time for the sound of dripping water, when what they are seeking would sound like …

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Attack vs. Defense

In futurist circles and think tanks, sometimes the question comes up, “in the long run, which will be more effective, offense or defense?” The answer to this question has serious implications for which direction we should move in as a civilization — if defense is easier, then many autonomous, independent, largely unaccountable communities might be possible, but if offense is easier, then there may need to be a global police force to put down rogue states before they start invading their neighbors. A more acceptable version of a global police force would be an impartial singleton.

The first, and obvious point, is that this question is entirely technical, a matter of military and physical reality, unconnected to political or ideological beliefs. Political beliefs should flow from the technical assessment, not influence it. So, if it turns out that offense is easier, those that strongly support the existence of many autonomous unaccountable geopolitical units will be forced, whether they like it or not, to adjust their beliefs slightly to the other end of the spectrum, depending on how much better offense …

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