AlFin's Blog Posts

Can the Singularity Save Us From Ourselves?

May 22 2008 / by AlFin / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 13 Hot

Cross-posted from Al Fin’s blog.

The abstract concept of a Technological Singularity (TS) was made most famous in the recent past by inventor Ray Kurzweil. The concept has several overlapping meanings, but I like George Dvorsky’s definition best: The Singularity is a blindspot in our predictive thinking.

Humans are only evolved primates-monkeys and apes-with a limited conceptual vocabulary. We are easily impressed by our technological accomplishments. In networked opportunity societies, creative and inventive persons are able to feed off each others’ ideas so that during periods of economic surplus, the pace of innovation will take off. In dark ages, totalitarian societies where information is compartmentalized and otherwise restricted, innovation slows.

The Singularity is most often seen as a threshold into ever-accelerating change precipitated by the development of a machine intelligence with the ability to design its own cognitive enhancement -something of a runaway positive feedback cognitive entity. This development is often referred to as the “tipping point,” the point of no return.

The more sanguine examiners of the tech singularity concept are less likely to see The Singularity as inevitable. Many developments within society and government could short-circuit The Singularity, sending into terminal mode. Imagine a world government ruled by a Vladimir Putin, Josef Stalin, or Mao. Imagine world science, academia, media, and governance being taken over by dysfunctional post-modernist irrationality. Imagine the default human society-stratification by wealth, knowledge, power, and a profound inertial resistance to change. (cont.)

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$100 Billion for Every Person on Earth

April 05 2008 / by AlFin / In association with Future
Category: Space   Year: 2020   Rating: 10 Hot

Earth is not alone in its perpetual voyage around the sun. Besides the moon and the planets, our planet is closely accompanied by large numbers of smaller fellow space-dancers, called asteroids. Some asteroids actually cross Earth’s orbit, occasionally passing quite close to Earth itself. That can be both bad and good. Bad, if the asteroid actually strikes the Earth. But good, if we can get to it first, and mine it for its mineral value. How much is an asteroid worth? Some are worth trillions of dollars. Some even more. In fact, all the asteroids in the main asteroid belt contain enough wealth to provide every Earthling with $100 Billion-more wealth than is possessed by the current richest person on Earth.

We are involved in-an Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) gold rush-although not many people are aware of it yet. We do occasionally hear that we are in “The Next Space Race”, being driven by hungry young billionaires and entrepreneurs. But few people really understand what is involved.


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Brain Rejuvenation Using Stem Cells From Cord Blood

April 03 2008 / by AlFin / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 8

Aging brains lose much of the ability to make new nerves and learn new information, since they lose most of the ability to maintain their stem cell supply, with aging. It may be possible to reverse that decline, and rejuvenate an aging brain’s flagging ability to repair itself and learn new things, by introducing cells from cord blood into the person’s peripheral veins.

US researchers in Florida have demonstrated, using aged mice, that a single injection of human umbilical cord blood mononuclear cells (HUCBMCs) can rejuvenate a mouse’s hippocampus and supply of neural stem cell progenitors. The aged mouse brains also began producing new nerves.


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Radical Ultra-Hot Plasma Reactor Converts Toxic and Radioactive Waste to Clean Energy

March 25 2008 / by AlFin / In association with Future
Category: Environment   Year: 2008   Rating: 13 Hot

By Al Fin

Garbage and hazardous waste are becoming valuable energy feedstocks, thanks to researchers from Ukraine, Russia, and Israel. Even low level radioactive wastes, medical wastes, and toxic wastes can be converted to useful products and energy, using a new high temperature plasma reactor.

There is no need for the world to drown in a sea of garbage and toxic waste. We do not need to pollute the oceans, groundwater, or air. Being smart about toxic waste is just another way of using our most valuable resource-our brains!

Environmental Energy Resources Ltd. (EER) of Israel, is working with researchers in Russia, the Ukraine, the US, and other nations, to make sure that the future environment of Earth will be as pristine as the pre-industrial Earth.

The new reactor uses a process called “Plasma Gasification Melting Technology” (PGM) which was developed by scientists at two Russian research institutes (Kurchatov and Radon Institutes) and at Israel’s Technion Institute.

PGM Technology is suitable for the treatment of a variety of waste types:


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Reading Minds, Making Brains

March 06 2008 / by AlFin / In association with Future
Category: Other   Year: 2008   Rating: 11

Cognitive Science has embarked upon the epic quest to understand – and recreate – a functioning “human-equivalent” brain. With such a daunting task of unprecedented magnitude, different teams of scientists are approaching the problem from different directions. A UC Berkeley team used an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanner to learn how the visual cortex (occipital lobe) of the brain decodes visual images.

Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists, led by Dr Jack Gallant from the University of California at Berkeley, said: “Our results suggest that it may soon be possible to reconstruct a picture of a person’s visual experience from measurements of brain activity alone. Imagine a general brain-reading device that could reconstruct a picture of a person’s visual experience at any moment in time.”

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