Assorted Links 2/1/2010

Neuroscientists making computers smart enough to see connections between brain’s neurons At Davos, MIT faculty discuss the nature of intelligence Rotifers avoid sex for millions of years by blowing away Insectlike ‘microids’ might walk, run, work in colonies The Physical Basis of High-Throughput Atomically Precise Manufacturing Chris Phoenix: Basic Survival Package Air Force to use artificial intelligence and other advanced data processing to hit the enemy where it hurts Robin Hanson: AI In Far And Near View The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting MIT’s Mind-Machine Project: Student Position Paper Law of probabilities backs hopes for E.T., conference hears (what a banal claim.) NEC’s Facial Recognition Technology Achieves First Place in the Still-Face Dataset Cube Spawn — Open Source, Flexible Manufacturing System Mondo 1995: Up and Down With the Next Millennium’s First Magazine Dale Carrico: Futurological Brickbats The Onion: God’s Wrath According to Pat Robinson

Thanks to everyone who …

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Quick Links

Here are some quick links I’ve been meaning to post.

Video: Julian Savulescu: “Genetically Enhance Humanity or Face Extinction” Nanowerk: A nanocomposite for electronic skin Nanowerk: Bacteria make the artificial blood vessels of the future LiveScience: New Device Prints Human Tissue Alan Darwst: The Importance of Wild Animal Suffering Science Daily: CR: Scientists Take Important Step Toward ‘Fountain of Youth’ Call for Papers: Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference on Consciousness UK Telegraph: Alcohol substitute that avoids hangovers in development UK Telegraph: Toby Ord’s philosophy is one we all could learn from Technology Review: The Year in Biomedicine Michael Crichton: Complexity Theory and Environmental Management Mark Gubrud: Nanotechnology in Warfare Fabbaloo: O’Reilly Names 3D Printing Best Tech of The Decade, Sorta Weird Things: Taking Brain Mapping to the Next Level East Bay Express: Berkeley High May Cut Science Labs The New Republic takes apart Malcolm Gladwell: Mr. Lucky Eliezer …

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Hanson: Make More Than GPA

Robin Hanson on how students are too obsessed with GPA and should instead focus on original, independent research:

Students seem overly obsessed with grades and organized activities, both relative to standardized tests and to what I’d most recommend: doing something original. You don’t have to step very far outside scheduled classes and clubs to start to see how very different the world is when you have to organize it yourself.

For example, if you try to study a subject in depth without following a textbook or review, you’ll have to decide for yourself which sources seem how relevant to your topic. If you try to add something to the subject you’ll have to decide what changes are how feasible and interesting. Doing these may feel awkward at first, but they will be very useful skills later in life. Similar skills come from writing your own game or starting your own business or composing your own album.

Along with many other things that Professor Hanson says, this sort of thing should be obvious, but neglecting it is nearly universal. …

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Joe Forgas: “When Sad is Better than Happy: Negative Affect Can Improve the Quality and Effectiveness of Persuasive Messages and Social Influence Strategies”

When popular science writers actually reference scientific literature, good things can happen, like this article by Mark Peters: “A Happy Writer Is a Lousy Writer?”

Transhumanists tremendously shocked and dissatisfied with the current state of the world relative to other possibilities can tap into this to improve their writing. Twinkly-eyed techno-utopian transhumanists can continue to produce poor writing.

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Thiel Foundation Website Online

Check out the website for the brand-new Thiel Foundation:

The spotlight effort right now is the Oslo Freedom Forum, which looks interesting. Here’s a quote from the 33-year old founder, Thor Halvorssen:

“We all should want freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom from torture, freedom to travel, due process and freedom to keep what belongs to you.” Unfortunately, he explains, “the human-rights establishment at the United Nations is limited to pretty words because so many member countries kill or imprison or torture their opponents.”

Ambient pressure like this can help encourage the UN to better advance human rights.

The projects of the Thiel Foundation can be broken down into 3 general areas — anti-violence, freedom, and science and technology. Anti-violence projects include Imitatio and the Oslo Freedom Forum. Freedom projects include the Committee to Protect Journalists, The Human Rights Foundation, and the Seasteading Institute. The science and technology projects include funding Cynthia Kenyon (who studies the biology of aging), Aubrey de Grey (SENS Foundation), and the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Looks …

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Kurzweil in a Professorial Gown, TSIN Trailer, UMass Students Levying Semantic Abuse Upon the Word “Singularity”

Kurzweil got another honorary degree, this time from Clarkson University. I am mainly linking this for the novelty value of Ray in one of those professorial gowns. He’s got that thoughtfully gazing into the future look down pat.

According to this web page, it looks like Kurzweil will be revealing the first trailer for The Singularity is Near tonight, in the midst of much anticipation.

Also, UMass students are pushing the envelope, abusing the word “singularity” in new and silly ways:

Invoking a bit of Ray Kurzweil-futurist talk (for which I am a sucker, by the way), Bercovich noted further miniaturization is necessary.

“We are right on the singularity of not being able to do it (miniaturize personal HUDs) and being able to do it,” he said.

I am right on the singularity of being proven right that the word singularity has lost all meaning. We may be stuck with it, …

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Finally

Major history tonight. Obama has acquired enough delegates to clinch the Democratic nomation, becoming the first African-American to head the ticket of a major political party in the United States.

He said, “Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.”

Next stop: the White House.

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Hanson Podcast on Econtalk

Robin Hanson is one of those people you just have to follow, or you aren’t cool.

Check out his Memorial Day podcast with Econtalk on the topic of signaling.

Signaling is one of those amazing concepts, that, when you start to get it, you see everywhere, and witness how it directs huge quadrants of human behavior. As Marshall McLuhan said, the medium is the message. That was him trying to say that signaling matters a shitload.

We automatically signal all the time without even knowing it. Below the threshold of active consciousness our subconscious is making calculations about our signaling all the time. In our active consciousness too, of course. Some people are consumed by the whole thing 24 hours a day. It’s human nature.

Back to Hanson, here’s his tenure statement (pdf). Yes, the man is clearly a genius, but as I like to say, “how genius?” It’s difficult to say, because all human “geniuses” are a lot dumber than what I can vaguely imagine as being just to the right of the Gaussian, …

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Dragonball Live Action Movie — Coming April 10, 2009

Normally, I don’t give a damn about movies. The last movie I saw in theaters that I really liked was Borat, and before that, it was Episode III. But, for this one, I am totally stoked, and it isn’t even coming out for 10 months.

If you’re over the age of 25, you may have never heard of the sci-fi/action series Dragonball. But for an entire generation, it’s a household word. They may love it or hate it, but most of Generation Y knows about the franchise. It has been highly successful for two decades — at first in Japan, then in the US and Europe.

Dragonball began as a manga, a freewheeling adaptation of a Chinese legend, mainly meant for children. As its popularity grew, so did the subtlety of the storyline, until it became a full-fledged sci-fi epic with the anime Dragonball Z. This show was my primary introduction to science fiction.

Dragonball Z was one of the first shows to portray cyborgs as socially competent entities with superhuman …

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Have an Unspeakably Evil Lovecraft Day

Oh hell yes! Today is the 71st anniversary of the death of H.P. Lovecraft. This genius is one of my favorite authors. He even had his own literary movement, Cosmicism:

“The philosophy of cosmicism states that there is no recognizable divine presence, such as God, in the universe, and that humans are particularly insignificant in the larger scheme of intergalactic existence, and perhaps are just a small species projecting their own mental idolatries onto the vast cosmos, ever susceptible to being wiped from existence at any moment. This also suggested that the majority of undiscerning humanity are creatures with the same significance as insects in a much greater struggle between greater forces which, due to humanity’s small, visionless and unimportant nature, it does not recognize.”

I don’t necessarily agree with Cosmicism, but find it fascinating. Sometimes I see it as a metaphor for human civilization playing with immensely powerful emerging technologies beyond our ability to control, like nanotech and AI. 67 Lovecraft stories are available at the Gutenberg Project. Some of my favorites …

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