Queen’s Brian May Will Rock You With 3-D book, Adam Lambert Tour, Astrophysics, Animal Rescue – Newsweek

Its a project that was in the back of my mind for a while because I had all these 3-D pictures that Id taken over the years, Queen guitarist Brian May tells me in a posh Manhattan hotel suite. He grabs a strawberry from the coffee table and continues. I was thinking, Does it constitute some kind of history, or is it just snaps?

The former is certainly the case in his new book, Queen in 3-D, which captures the thrilling history of his band with over 300 previously unseen stereoscopic photographs. (Stereoscopic, or 3-D, photography re-creates the illusion of depth by utilizing the binocularity of our vision.) The impressive book includes his own reflective narrative (May didnt need a ghostwriter), and comes with an OWL 3-D viewer, which brings out the full effect of these images.

The cover photo, and many of the images within, focuseson Queens iconic lead singer, Freddie Mercury, who died in 1991 after battling AIDS. Mercurys vocalssometimes operatic (Queens mix of rock and opera is groundbreaking), other times roaring with rock furyand his theatrical stage personamade him one of musics most beloved frontmen.

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He had a great vision for music of all kinds, but especially for harmonies, like you hear in Bohemian Rhapsody, May says.

British rock group Queen in concert. From left: Freddie Mercury, John Deacon and Brian May. Express Newspapers/Getty

Queens music blended elements of prog rock, heavy metal, pop, folk and classical in unique ways on albums like A Night at the Opera, News of the World,Jazz and The Game.

And Mays guitar work and songwriting often defined what was signature in Queen. Combining technical virtuosity with richly orchestrated multitracking, Mays playing, with its inventive harmonies,emotive melodies, soaring leads and clever rhythm work, has sometimes landed him on Greatest Guitarists of All Time lists. His unmistakeablesound is made possible by his Red Special, the guitar his father, Harold May, an electronics engineer, helped him build. He was very proud of the fact that wed done it together, as I still am, May tells me.

Young Man Blues: A pre-Queen Brian May. QPL

Following Mercurys death, Queen took an extended break. But in 2006, its surviving membersteamed up with former Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers and hit the road as Queen + Paul Rodgers. It wasnt exactly Queen, but it did rock.

And since 2011, former American Idol finalist Adam Lambert has been the guy in the frontman role. His powerful vocals and flamboyant stage presence work well with Queens music. The first tour billed as Queen + Adam Lambert was in June 2014, and a few weeks ago, the band wrapped up the U.S. leg of its latest tour, which will head to Europe in November before reachingNew Zealand and Australia in mid-February 2018. (Heres the full tour itinerary.)

Queen’s Brian May, left, and Roger Taylor perform in Barcelona in 2016. QPL

In concert, May is still very much a guitar hero. At the Queen + Adam Lambert show in Newark, New Jersey, last month, he launched into a lengthy solo, and I noticed some licks from Brighton Rock, the blistering leadoff track on 1974s Sheer Heart Attack. Theres a little bit of that in there, Mays tells me. Its always different. Its just what I feel, really. During thatportion of the show, visual effects made it seem as if May was soaring through outer space.

Theres a reason for that.

The man whom many call Dr. Mayand whose father built him not only a guitarbut a telescope as wellreceived his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Imperial College London in 2007. Eight years later, he became involved with NASA as a science team collaborator with the New Horizons Pluto mission, and he even used his stereoscopic photography skills on images of that planet.

May was also a co-founder of Asteroid Day, and one of those big rocks is actually named after him (Asteroid 52665 Brianmay). Same goes for Mercury (Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury). Now doesnt Queens Dont Stop Me Now seem all the more relevant (Im a shooting star leaping through the sky/Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity, Mercury sings)?

Guitarist Brian May, right, and lead singer Freddie Mercury, onstage in the ’70s. QPL

In his conversation with Newsweek, May also sheds light on his animal welfare work (when doesthis guysleep?), including his efforts to stop fox hunting in the U.K., and the significance of Frank, the robot on the cover of News of the World (and on the T-shirt May is wearing during our talk). Frank makes a number of appearances at each Queen + Adam Lambert gig, which makes sense since this year marks the 40th anniversary of that amazing album.

Drummer Roger Taylor, guitarist Brian May and singer Adam Lambert perform with Queen at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on July 26, while Frank looks on. Michael Loccisano/Getty

How did Adam get the job? Well, the funny thing is we didnt look for him. Then one day somebody rang me up and said, Theres this guy on American Idol, and hes just done Bohemian Rhapsody,and youve got to see him because hes the guy who should go out and sing for you.

What was your first reaction? As you do, I looked on YouTube and thought, Hmmm, yeah.And at the same time, somebody had told Roger [Taylor, Queens drummer/singer]. Then we got a phone call from American Idol people saying, Will you come over and play with the two finalists?And so we did. Adam was one, and Adam did not win [onAmerican Idol].

Queen + Adam Lambert perform in Brussels in 2016. QPL

What was so captivating about Adams singing and stage persona? Its kind of funny looking back on it. The other guy [Kris Allen] was great too. But I think it was obvious that Adam had that kind of special, indefinable thing going for him, something unique, and almost scary. Hes on the edge, a bit like Freddy was. Some people could take him, and some people [couldnt]. And everybody deifies Freddy now, but if wed been sitting here 40 years ago, people were all out to get him. They were all like, Who does he think he is?

So Adams a bit like that. A lot of people look at Adam and think, What the hell does he think he is? But when they see him in concert, they get it. They fall in love with him. I think because he has this insane confidence, but also a humility. Its like he has both ends of the spectrum. And its genuine, you know? Hes very respectful. But he also knows what he can do, and thats a powerful thing.

‘Queen in 3-D’ was published by the London Stereoscopic Company. Paul Harmer

How did the idea for Queen in 3-D come about? It was in the back of my mind for a while because I had all these 3-D pictures that Id taken over the years. What happened was, my team kind of caught hold of the idea and they said, Look, you should take this seriously. And I have an archivethis sounds very swank, doesnt itand an amazing guy looks after my stereoscopic collection [of photography], curates it and researches it. He said, Look, if you just let me go through your houseand well see what we have.

So he ransacked the entire place and found all kinds of stuff that I had no idea I still had, including some bits of film that were processed but not mounted. And in one of those rolls we found this portrait of Freddy [Mercury], which is on pageI cant remember. This lovely one of him. And we gradually found more and more stuff. Then we thought, Not only is there enough for a book, theres probably too much, so were going to have to get really selective.

What came up for you while putting it all together? Seeing these picturesthe essence of the 3-D picture is its much more than a snap, its almost like a tableau that you could walk into and see the things that you were seeing at the timeand all sorts of memories came out.

‘Queen in 3-D’ London Stereoscopic Company/Brian May

How did the process of creating the book go? You get to the hard part where you really have to shape the book, and I started scratching my head about which dates were which and what came in what order. And theres a great joyful process of discovery in writing a book. You have all this stuff and its like nearly a book, and then theres this very hard piece where its the journey from nearly a book to a book. Then I thought, Ah, Im done now.But actually no, because youve got to sell the thing.

I attended the Queen + Adam Lambert show in New Jersey recently. Tell me about the show.

The stage reminded me a little of Queens stage on the 1978 Jazz tour, which I attended at the Nassau Coliseum [in Uniondale, New York]. Wow, all right!It is an interesting little vehicle we built there. Im very proud of it. For the first time, we actually put nine months of preparation in before we set foot on the stage, and I think it shows. In the past, we would throw a couple of ideas at the set designers and then arrive in the rehearsal room with a look on our faces like, Oh, what should we do now?

Queen and Adam Lambert perform onstage during the North American Tour kickoff at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, on June 23. Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Miracle Productions LLP

This time, we thought it through more. You want to be conscious of the past, but you want to be conscious that its an organic thing, a new thing, and you have a new generation to play to. Theres so much new video and sound technology. Theyre all new toys. We were always a band that embraced every toy we could lay our hands on because its fun to do that.

What were some of the key elements that made Freddie such an amazing frontman? Well, the answer that comes to mind to me ishe was a self-made man. He had a vision of himself which was cast-iron. He knew where he wanted to be, he had a total focus on how he wanted to live, to create, to be perceived, to workand to play.

Singer Freddie Mercury during a Queen performance at London’s Earls Court in June 1977. Gary Merrin/Keystone/Getty

All of that was very much part of him, even when we first met him. He wasnt a star when we met him, but a guy working in a boot store, and he was also at art school doing graphic design. But he had an insane confidence and belief. He behaved like he was a rock star. Not in an arrogant way, but just in a very kind of innocent way. Of course Im going to be a rock star, that kind of thing. You know, we were all kids. The funny thing was, as Roger will tell you too, he had this belief in himself as a singer, but wasnt yet a singer because he hadnt had the chance to mold himself. And when we first…Im cutting to the chase.

Go for it. When we first played with him, he ran around like a whirling dervish and kind of screamed, and we were a bit taken aback. We thought, Oh, my God, the guy has talent, but hes very untamed. Is this ever going to work? What happened was, when we first got into a studio, Freddie started to hear himself coming back off the tape, and there was this enormous cataclysm, because he didnt like what he heard. Hes like, Thats not good enough. Let me try this.

Queen in concert in the 1970s. QPL

In the space of a few months, he had transformed himself into a guy who not only had a great instrumentbut actually knew how to use it. And that process went on for quite a few years, until hes in the studio doing things like the introduction to You Take My Breath Away[from 1976s A Day at the Races], which we play in the [Queen + Adam Lambert] show.

Whats particularly striking about that song? Its a priceless gem. Normally, its the four of us singing harmonies, because we did that; well, the three of us. John [Deacon, Queens bassist] was kind of not interested [in singing]. But this was just Freddie, and he was in there with Mike Stone, a very unsung hero engineer, and he would just do track after track, multitracking himself. You could hear that on this beautiful little intro. I dont know how many voices there are, probably 30 to 40, but its all Freddie, molding this beautiful sound sculpture. The harmonies were unusual.

What often occurred when you, the guitarist, combined forces with Freddie, the singer? Its hard to say. Its a four-way thing, not just two-way. But Freddie did have a sort of vision of me. In the very early days, he said, You are what I want. You are my Jimi Hendrix, and we will do this thing.I think he had more belief in me than I had. And I remember that once wed done a few albums, Freddie said, Ive got something for you, darling. Ive got this little cassette.He had spent hours and hours in the studio putting together all of the solos that Id done up to that time. He said, Just listen to this.And hed made it into a continuous sort of guitar solo thing.

Wow! That is wonderful. I lost it.

Oh no! I never lose things, but I cant find that.

Brian May hits the red zone in concert. QPL

But that was him. He would surprise you in all sorts of ways. And he did have a vision. And not just for the musicbut for the presentation as well. Freddie was very conscious. Well, I guess we were all conscious in different ways; Im the guitar player, and I have a different kind of consciousness, and Roger, whos very much the rock star drummer, has a different kind of awareness of where we sat in music in general. John [Deacon] has a consciousness of the technical stuff and business too, which is important, and he also became an amazing bass player and a songwriter.

We all turned into songwriters. I guess Id already started writing songs before I met Freddie. But the four of us were all very keen to create, and it was quite competitive. We were mutually supportive, but also quite combative, like John comes in with something and goes, I want to do this.And Roger goes, Thats crap, thats disco, we dont do disco. Thats rubbish. This kind of confrontation [led to] Another One Bites the Dust, and everybody loved it.

A Day at the Studio: Freddie Mercury, left, and Brian May. QPL

There was always support, but also conflict. I think that’s what made us what we were, what made us strong. It was a big rejection process of That isnt good enough.We can do that better.In the end, there was enough mutual respect that the guy who originally brought the song would have the final say.

And it was a process that did us proud all the way up to a certain point where we realized there was an element missing. We thought the thing thats missing is that we ought to be sharing everything, knowingly, with the creative process. So we made this big decision, which was every song that got used in the album would be credited to the four of us, as opposed to the guy who brought it in. And that was a big, big thing. It changed the way we worked.

When did that happen? It happened with things like I Want It All. I brought I Want It All [from 1989s The Miracle] in. It was a sort of recharging thing for us. The funny thing is, theres a price to pay. Because somebodys using I Want It All, they want to use it for a sports anthem at the moment. And people are bringing me these versions of it. And Im thinking, Oh, thats really nice, theyre using my song.Then Im thinking, Its not really my song, its Queens song, because its credited to the four of us.So theres a little bit of a price to pay, but thats OK.

Guitarist Brian May QPL

Some of Queens most thrilling music features operatic parts. Bohemian Rhapsody is a quintessential example. Theres a lot of elements. As kids, we were brought up in an environment which was so different from the way things are today. If youre a kid and youre into one kind of music, thats what you plug into. But in our day, there was nothing like that. There was only one radio station, to start. And what we heard on the radio was dictated by what just a few people would bring to it.

Youre speaking about the BBC? Yeah, and it was incredibly broad. We were brought up with everything from Mantovani, which is sort of light classical, to proper classicalTchaikovsky, Beethoven, whatever. And this kind of strange English kind of world which is music hall. Its got George Formby, a Lancaster boy with an amazing, kind of naughty sense of humor, but an incredible technique on banjo [May plays air banjo ukulele for a moment]. So I grew up listening to a lot of that because my dad played ukulele. But also there would be Uncle Macs Childrens Favourites[a BBC radio show] onSaturday morning. Uncle Mac was the guy who would play requests from children. And there was Lonnie Donegan.

How did the music of Lonnie Donegan influence Queen? He is a very interesting phenomenon. I mention him especially because hes part of the English development towards what we are. Hes singing songs like My Old Mans a Dustman and Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (on the Bedpost Over Night)? [May plays a bit of air uke that resembles his strumming on Good Company from A Night at the Opera.]Hes been to America, hes picked up all kinds of stuff, and hes basically bringing blues to England. It becomes this thing called skiffle. That was the first exposure England had to the American blues. I grew up with this amazing kind of saturation of all different styles.

Hollywood

Theres also plenty of terrific piano parts in Queens repertoire. Freddie and I had piano lessons, strangely enough. We didnt know each other in those days, but we both had four years of piano lessons. And of course you get exposed to a lot of classical stuff. No one would teach you pop in those days.

And no one would teach you guitar. The guitar was outlawed at my school. You were not allowed to bring a guitar to school, so we used to hide and play in our lunchtime. And thered be some guy on the lookout to make sure nobody discovered it. It was something sort of degenerate to play guitar. So its unthinkable that you would have guitar lessons, but you had piano lessons, and I had violin lessons. Its kind of an unimaginably different background from now, isnt it?

Queen’s Freddie Mercury, left, and Brian May are photographed onstage in the ’70s. QPL

Queen continued to progress on News of the World. In Queens recent concert, the robot on the cover of the album makes quite an appearance. Frank is named after his creator, Frank Kelly Freas. Were always on the lookout for connections. And Roger [Taylor] is particularly good at this stuff. Roger picked up a science fiction magazine called Astounding Science Fiction, from the 50s, and on the front of it is a picture of a robot, this guy, and in his hand, hes got blood on it, hes picked up a soldier. And this robot is a character who looks very fearsome and frightening because hes huge and hes mechanical, but actually what hes done is he picks up this soldier and hes injured him by accident or he was already injured, I dont know. But hes not picking him up because he wants to harm him, but because he wants to fix him.

It was a very appealing idea to us. It connected to some of the things we were into. So we got in touch with the artist, Frank Kelly Freas, and said, Will you re-create this robot for us and make a cover for us? And he did. Franks got me in his hands, strangely, enough, and Rogerhes dropping him.

Island

The audience was thrilled when Frank appears onstage. He picks you up in his hand. And Adam sits on his head, and says, This guy gives great head! Perfect! The Queen archivist was saying to me, Look, this is the 40th anniversary of News of the World. Then we picked up this album, and I went, You know what, it would be so great if we did theme [parts of the show] on this anniversary. And look at this guy, wouldnt it be great if he came to life? I thought, Wouldnt it be great if he picked me up? In his hand. And they were like, Yeah, we can make that happen.

Frank is there in peoples minds the whole time, and we love it. It gives the show a kind of theatrical overtone. And I know Freddy wouldve loved it. He loved all that theater stuff.

Sheer Ax Attack: Bassist John Deacon, left, Freddie Mercury and Brian May. QPL

Some of the most moving moments of Queens current live show occur when you perform Love of My Life on a 12-string acoustic guitar and sing. The song originally featured Freddies beautiful vocals. I love doing that. Its exactly the way I used to do it with Freddie, so its nice. And I get to sing. Im not the world’s greatest singer, but I enjoy that moment of communication. Then Freddie [via holographic effect] is the jewel in the crown. From certain angles, it looks like he is actually with me. I can sort of communicate with him because I know what hes going to do. I know when hes going to put his hand out.

Sometimes its very jolly, and I just think, Ah, this is great. Hey, Fred. And sometimes, it gets me and I think, Shit, hes not really there. Its funny the things that go through your mind…. Thats the moment when all the things come out of the box, and I think, Wow, were here 20 years after Freddys gone, and hes still there large as life. And hes still emotionally connecting with people.

Guitarist/songwriter Brian May performs with Queen + Adam Lambert in Barcelona in 2016. QPL

Your guitar work is very distinctive. And you play a guitar that you created with your father. Yeah, its very much part of me really. My dad was also a good musician. He was a great piano playeran instinctive piano player. All through the war, he played piano and ukulele as well. And when the war was over, he had a wife and a child on the way. It was me. I said to him, Why didnt you continue playing the piano? He said, I couldnt. I had to geta job, I had to make money to bring up my family and to get a mortgage and stuff.

But he was a great scientist and engineer, my dad, so thats the career he followed. It was like a proper job, if you like. He was in the civil service. He was an electronics draftsman. He worked on blind landing equipment for airplanes. Anyways, the reason Im telling you this is because he supported everything I did. He was a great father to me.

Thats wonderful. And he taught me about electronics. We couldnt afford a guitar, so we made a guitar together. It took us two years. And he was very proud of the fact that wed done it together, as I still am. And then I continued my schooling. Now the thing is, my father had given up his sort of artistic side so that I could go to school and I could have clothes to wear, you know, because we were poor.

So when I went through school, he was proud of the fact that I was good at science as well. I went on to get a degree in science at the Imperial College [London]. So hes really happy, he thinks things have turned out well. One day, I say, Dad, Im going to give all this up, and Im going to go out and play guitar.Hes so horrified because he feels like I have thrown away everything he fought to give me.

All that education. Yeah, everything that he gave up his artistic side to do. So I think he had a terrible time and I didnt realize how painful it was for him. We hardly spoke for about a year and a half. It was really hard while we went off and started Queen.

The idea that I would go off and be a pop star instead of becoming a scientist or an engineerit was just unthinkable to my dad. So we had this crazy situation where hes enabled me to make the guitar, but he doesnt want me to go out and become the guy that plays that guitar. It was a hard thing for me.

Rock Royalty: Guitarist Brian May with Queen in concert. QPL

And it only resolved itself when we played Madison Square Garden, and I flew my mom and dad out on the Concord, which is an airplane that hed worked onbut could never afford to fly on. So I put my mom and dad on it, and put them up in the Plaza Hotel and said order room service. He came to the show, and after, he came back and shook my hand. My dad was kind of formal. He said, OK, I get it now. Which was a big moment for me.

These days, you have so much going in your life. Theres an insane amount going on now.

Has your study of astrophysics blended with your role in Queen? I dont know if they blend, but I think they complement each other. I like cross-pollinating everything, you know? At school, there was this terrible divide between arts and science. Like if you were an artist, you could not take a scientific course, and vice versa. So I remember having this terrible argument with one of my teachers. I said, I want to do both. And he said, You cant. If youre a scientist, you have to do this, and you have to learn German so that you can read scientific papers.

They had it all mapped out. You cant take the art courses, and you have to give up music as a subject, which I did. SoI sort of rebelled against that all my life. And I had to make the choice at some point, and it was clear that I was a better musician than I was a scientist, in my mind.

Brian May during a sound check. QPL

Eventually, I did three years undergraduate physics, with astronomy as a part of it, and I did four years postgraduate research in zodiacal dust, at Imperial College. And thats the point where I had to decide, because Queen was already going. I was teaching math to make some money in a comprehensive school.

What was going through your mind at that point? I thought, If I dont do music now, Ill never do it, the opportunity will go. So we went off, and we did this insane Queen thing, which couldve completely disappeared down the plughole, but didnt.

But what about your science studies? I wrote up a couple of papers, which was good, and they were published, so at least the work was out there, but I didnt finish the [Ph.D.] thesis. And it was always in the back of my mind…. Theres an amazing man named Sir Patrick Moore, who is the father of English astronomy. And I was lucky enough to become friendly with him, and he became like an uncle to me. He said, Brian, youve never finished your Ph.D., why dont you go back and do it now? I said, Patrick, I cant. Its all gone from my head. Ive been a musician for 30 years, its not going to work. He said, Dont be ridiculous, of course you can do it.

Musician and author Brian May poses for a portrait at a signing of his astronomy book ‘Bang! The Complete History of the Universe’ in Los Angeles on at Book Soup on May 6, 2008. Charley Gallay/Getty

So I started talking about it in interviews, like we are, and somebody posted it. And the head of astrophysics at Imperial College at that time read the interview and phoned me up and said, If youre serious about wanting to finish up your Ph.D., I will be your supervisor.

Wow! No one can say no to that. So I ditched everything for a year, just absolutely cleared the decks, went inand did it. And it was tough, because he wasnt easy on me.

Was he a Queen fan? Not in the least. But he enjoyed what I did. Getting the Ph.D. opened all these doors. Suddenly I could go back to some of the places I had been when I was doing the astronomy, and I remet with all these guys. The funny thing is, so many of these scientists are very much like metheyre very much into music. So we have a lot in common.

Oh, thats interesting. Then I got to know a lot of these NASA guys who run these experiments, these things like Rosetta, where they rendezvous with a comet, and New Horizons, where they rendezvous with Pluto. And Im the luckiest man in the world because I got invited to go and see their operations. I was in the control room when New Horizons was passing Pluto. I saw those images come in. I was able to grab a couple and make a stereo pair of them. And the guy whos head of the project instigator for Rosetta is the biggest heavy metal freak Ive ever met in my life. His bodys covered in tattoos, half of which are, like, Einstein and scientists, but the other half is heavy metal, you know?

So now I find there isnt that dividing line. They all come to our shows. I love when the NASA guys come. And I was happy to show them what weve done in my guitar solo.

Brian May performs onstage during Queen + Adam Lambert for iHeartRadio Live at the iHeartRadio Theater on June 16, 2014 in Burbank, California. Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Clear Channel)

The space, celestial scenes that are projected… Yeah, its a little journey. Its nice that I dont feel alone anymore, because all of these people feel the same as me, that art and science should be mixed and a complete, rounded human being needs to have an appreciation of both.

Your animal welfare work is another big part of your life. When did your passion for it begin? When I got a message from this lady, where I live in the country, saying, Can I come on your property and build some runs to soft-release some foxes? I didnt know what it all was. She already ran this wonderful wildlife rescue, and all the animals that came in would be medically seen and restored to health, but then its like, What do you do? You dont want to keep them as pets, you want them to have a life back out there.

What did you learn from her? She explained that if you take an animal from its environment and then you fix it physically and then put it out in the middle of a forest, its probably not going to survive. So this soft-release thing is really important, and the run is a place where they can recover physically, but they also are in contact with the wildlife thats around. You gradually open the door and they will go out, and theyll keep coming back for food. But theyll be able to learn how to take care of themselves all over again. Finally comes the day when they dont come back. So thats what changed my life. I said, Yes, you can build anything you want, well do all these runs.

Queen’s Brian May holds a baby fox rescued by the Secret World Wildlife Rescue centre in Somerset in Midsomer Norton, England, on April 24, 2010. The guitarist is a passionate campaigner for animal welfare. Matt Cardy/Getty

You and Anne Brummer founded the organization Save Me, which campaigns against a repeal of the Hunting Act in the U.K. Fox hunting is still outlawed in Britain, yet Prime Minister Theresa May wants to bring it back. Anne had been involved in the political side of things. Shed been around when the Hunting Act was brought in, at great pain, in Britain. Under Tony Blairs government, the Hunting Act was brought in, which outlawed hunting foxes. The sad thing is, it still goes on undercover. And we have a prime minister whos in favor of fox huntingand would like to bring it back. But shes failed to do that. Shes failed at everything, basically.

I became involved with Anne on the political side. But we spent half of our time actually physically on the ground, rescuing animals. And we started going into the House of Parliament, and lobbying MPs, to support our cause.

Brian May leads an anti-fox hunting rally for PETA on July 14, 2015 in London. Stuart C. Wilson/Getty

Were the MPs surprised that Queens guitarist was lobbying in the House of Parliament? A lot of these MPs wouldnt be interested, except that theyre interested in talking to me because perhaps their kids were into Queen. So Queen is a fantastic way of opening doors…. So being a sort of well-known face in music has been very useful. What you do once the doors opened is a different matter, because theres plenty of celebrities who will just put their name to causes. But all these MPs discovered that I wasnt one of those people, that I was a person who wanted to work at it every day and was committed to changing the way animals are treated.

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Queen’s Brian May Will Rock You With 3-D book, Adam Lambert Tour, Astrophysics, Animal Rescue – Newsweek

On Being Krista Tippett: Why talking about spirituality is more important than ever – ABC Online

Posted August 24, 2017 10:06:34

In a media culture dominated by the 24-hour news cycle, carving out a space for the voices of poets, theologians and philosophers isn’t easy.

But that is Krista Tippett’s mission.

As the creator of the hugely popular podcast and radio show On Being distributed to 400 stations in the United States and heard globally through SoundCloud she interviews spiritually uplifting people who often go unnoticed by the media.

“Everyone I interview is someone who I believe is illuminating this question of what it means to be human and how we want to live in a 21st century way,” she says.

“I believe what they are doing, what they are learning, the questions they’re asking, the insights they have, deserve to be heard.”

Tippet has dedicated about 20 years of her life to this cause.

In the late 1990s, she would creep into the Minnesota Public Radio station at night, to experiment with a new program, which then was called Speaking of Faith.

Today, she has an audience of many thousands.

Tippett says the stories of people with deep faith and spirituality are just as real as what is more commonly in today’s newspapers.

“That is also the story of our time,” she says.

But she didn’t always believe this.

As a college graduate, far from her home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, in the Midwest US, she was headed for the world of politics and journalism, living and reporting from Germany.

In the mid-1980s, Tippett also worked for a senior diplomat in West Berlin and later as chief aide to the American Ambassador to West Germany.

Geopolitics seemed like the key to the future, but she was also becoming increasingly struck by the empty personal lives of those who wielded so much power.

Regularly travelling between East and West Berlin, however, Tippett witnessed quite the opposite amongst her German friends especially in the East.

With the barest material resources, they had meaningful and joyful lives.

This realisation turned her towards an inner quest, exploring a world of values that transcended material success.

Returning to US, she decided to study theology in her 30s and emerged from Yale University with a Master of Divinity degree in 1994.

It was the preparation she needed to start thinking about a radio program on religion.

Tippett admits it was an uphill battle to convince her colleagues that talking to people about their faith, and how it shaped their outlook and their lives, was an important form of journalism.

She makes the point that while journalists often believe that facts inherently carry the truth it is context that gives any fact meaning.

Tippett says this is why she is committed to illuminating the beliefs and values that surround the facts of any situation.

But it is a task that requires good questions and the willingness to be surprised.

“A lot of the questions and answers [posed by hard news reporters] it’s really not about understanding more,” she says.

“The questions themselves are statements the intentionality on the part of the person asking the question is often very fixed. They know what they want to get out of this person and where they want to take them.

“I think a real conversation has a willingness in it to be surprised.”

Tippett illustrated this in her recent interview with Glenn Beck, a right-wing talk show host in the US, who is regularly vilified by the left-leaning media.

Against the advice of many of her listeners, who registered alarm on her blog when she announced Beck as a future guest on the show, she was determined to give him the respect he had been denied.

She described her approach as avoiding the usual “knee-jerk opposition” that makes people defensive and sends them into their corners.

A true conversation, she says, doesn’t mean that you’re ready to be converted to another point of view.

“But it does mean that you’re ready to see them as a human being in all their complexity, curious about their questions as about their answers, and willing to be surprised,” she says.

Tippett says by approaching the interview with this in mind, she witnessed Beck as someone who was reflective, exhibited conscience, and was prepared to be a bridge between opposing positions.

He even sent her an email that thanked her for “allowing me to be human”.

Tippett calls people like Beck “bridge people” and she believes that we need to grow more of them in our societies, by asking the right questions of them.

At present, she says, there is a growing tendency towards polarisation of opinions, in which people refusing to talk to anyone who does not endorse their agenda.

And this put us all in perilous territory.

“We are in an existentially dangerous place,” she says.

Tippett says right now in the United States and also in the United Kingdom there’s a sense that if someone doesn’t buy into your entire checklist of beliefs, then “there’s nothing for us to talk about”.

And that is where poetry comes in.

The On Being podcast and website regularly features poets and they have proven to be popular.

Tippett believes poetry has a special mission at this moment in time, and she notes that it often surfaces in times of crisis and confusion.

According to Tippett, there was a deluge of poetry after the US election.

And when she asked the poet David White, how poetry works in us, he said: “Poetry is language against which we have no defence.”

Tippett says his words helped her to understand why poetry is so important in a moment like this.

“Where we are surrounded by language that is offensive and defensive and defended but we don’t know how to start the conversation about the deep things that really matter,” she says.

She admits that cherishing deep and meaningful conversations is a reaction to the absence of them growing up in the Bible Belt.

Her grandfather was a preacher, and the strong Southern Baptist faith of her family was big on answers but not on questions.

“There were many questions that just burned as we looked away,” she says.

In Australia, though, it appears she’s found an appetite for open and searching conversations about values and spirituality.

She’s attracted full houses to her events in Sydney and Melbourne, organised by Small Giants, the Australian branch of Alain de Botton’s School of Life.

Topics: religion-and-beliefs, spirituality, radio-broadcasting, broadcasting, information-and-communication, united-states, australia

Original post:

On Being Krista Tippett: Why talking about spirituality is more important than ever – ABC Online

My Liberty University Diploma and Me – The Chronicle of Higher Education

By Phillip E. Wagner August 23, 2017

AFP/Getty Images

Jerry Falwell Jr. looks on as President Trump speaks at Liberty U.’s commencement in May.

The first time I heard Jerry Falwell Jr. speak, I was a freshman sitting with thousands of other students in Liberty Universitys weekly convocation. Just months after the sudden passing of his father, many of us were eager to help solidify the universitys new leadership and new direction forward.

Where I came from, Liberty University was considered progressive. I couldnt help being a little excited at the prospect that Libertys new leadership could help us remedy some of our universitys previous errors and scandals. As Falwell Jr. addressed us all during that first week of class, it was clear that he lacked his fathers comfort with public speaking. But he had a lovable, goofy quality to him that captivated many of us.

I stayed at Liberty University after receiving my bachelors degree, even having the opportunity to teach while I worked toward an M.A. in communication studies. I dont have as many horror stories as you might think. Sure, Liberty was political. It always had been, and I knew it always would be. But I was always encouraged to think critically and be open to all sides of an issue.

As a graduate teaching assistant, I was given a lot of flexibility on how I approached my courses. My professors were intelligent, kind, and supportive. And despite what you may read, my degrees werent a joke. I worked hard for them, and they set me up for success. I went on to receive my Ph.D. at the University of Kansas and am now a faculty member at another good university.

But it hasnt always been easy to have “Liberty University” on my CV. I was fortunate to have several job prospects when completing my doctorate. Yet at every single on-campus interview, whether over dinner or in the interview itself, I was asked about my experience at Liberty. Sometimes it was posed as an innocent question, but more often it was framed as something that I needed to defend. And I couldnt help wondering: If I had to defend my credentials at every interview I landed, then what colleges werent even giving me a shot once they saw those credentials?

Recently Liberty has made the news again. President Falwell, a vocal Trump supporter, came out in support of the presidents comments on Charlottesville, in which he laid blame on “all sides” for the violence and chaos surrounding the planned removal of a Confederate statue.

Therein lies the problem. There are many of us who carry Liberty University with us wherever we go. Ive not tried to hide my Liberty credentials or degrees, partly because that time in my life brought so many great memories. Those memories arent political, nor are they controversial. I did grow there as a scholar and as a critical thinker. But this growth isnt what most see when they look at my degrees. They dont see an educational institution they see a political enterprise.

In a recent mass campaign, many alumni have rallied to make it known that President Falwells comments do not reflect their own beliefs. In response and protest, many alumni are planning to mail their diplomas back to the university.

I am not one of them. I wont be sending my diplomas back, because they werent something given to me I earned them. But I cant help acknowledging the ethical struggle I face as a scholar, teacher, and supporter of diversity, equity, and inclusion. How do I convey my support for students of color when the credentials behind my name might suggest otherwise? How meaningful and sincere are my gestures taken to be, considering that the very credentials that helped build the platform on which I express them are seen as invalidating them?

As Liberty once again gains attention, many of us are once again forced to be accountable for words that are not our own but still define us. Many of us knew we were signing on with a controversial institution. I accept the responsibility on my end. I wish that President Falwell would do the same accept responsibility for ill-spoken words and deeds and return to focusing on education, not politics.

As Liberty University gains attention, many of us are forced to be accountable for words that are not our own but still define us.

But racism shouldnt be addressed from all sides. Theres only one side, and Jerry Falwell Jr.s support of suggestions that there are others disappoints and saddens me as an alumnus. He is free to use his voice to support whatever and whomever he pleases. But I beg him to consider the consequences that his words have for many of us.

Phillip E. Wagner is a faculty member and chair of the Chancellors Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of South Florida at Sarasota-Manatee.

Originally posted here:

My Liberty University Diploma and Me – The Chronicle of Higher Education

EXCLUSIVE NSA Whistleblower: Russia ‘Hack’ of DNC Server an ‘Outright Lie’ – Breitbart News

Utilizing recently unlocked information from data that purportedly originated on the DNCs servers, Binney claimed that he is something like 99% sure that the DNC servers were not hacked from the outside. He urged the U.S. Intelligence Community to immediately release any evidence utilized to draw the conclusion that Russia may have been associated with the breach of the DNC servers.

Binney was an architect of the NSAs surveillance program. He is a former NSA technical director who helped to modernize the agencys worldwide eavesdropping network, co-founding a unit on automating NSA signals intelligence. He became a famed whistleblower when he resigned on October 31, 2001, after spending more than 30 years with the agency.

He is also a senior leader of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), a group of former officers of the United States Intelligence Community founded in 2003. During the interview, Binney repeatedly referred to a forensic analysis conducted by VIPS members on DNC files posted online by the hacker known as Guccifer 2.0. The VIPS analysis highlighted data that purportedly indicated the DNC server was most likely not hacked from the outside.

Binneys findings are not without detractors, however, with some experts saying the VIPS report is flawed and ignores other explanations for the metadata. Binney pushed back against the criticism, charging the detractors have no evidence for their claims. He squarely placed the onus on the U.S. government to prove any hack.

He was speaking on this reporters Sunday radio program, Aaron Klein Investigative Radio, broadcast on New Yorks AM 970 The Answer and Philadelphias NewsTalk 990 AM.

The VIPS analysis was made possible after an independent researcher who goes by the online name of Forensicator found a way to unlock metadata from Guccifer 2.0s files.

The unlocked metadata shows that on July 5, 2016 a total of 1,976 megabytes of data were quickly downloaded into a file. A key finding is that the file downloads took only 87 seconds in total, which suggests a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.

A hack of the DNC server would have most likely used an Internet service provider. However, the analysts noted, in mid-2016 U.S. Internet service providers for residential clients did not have speeds capable of downloading data at that rate. The data upload is consistent with a regular transfer to a flash device like a thumb drive.

Yet, the VIPS report seemingly overlooked the fact that some corporate and cloud networks do have upload rates technically capable of transferring at that speed. The DNC has not commented on its own network speeds.

Speaking to this reporter, Binney stated, It is almost absolutely not possible to do it from outside. I mean you have to have some access to the DNC network and some access from there that would allow you to take that rate in. That meant you had to be on the DNC network or some very high-speed network connected to it.

Binney stated that if the data were transferred via the Internet, outside entities would have recordings of the transfer. The network managers would monitor the network log for the Internet, for example, he said. Basically, the people who manage the fiber optic lines. Like AT&T. If they saw a bulge in traffic being passed down one line they could see that maybe we need to offload to another line and reroute. Its like load-leveling across the entire network to make sure that it functions and it doesnt go down for being overloaded on one line only.

Binney, who helped build the NSAs surveillance program, alleged that the NSA would have picked up on any outside hack of the DNC.

They would know exactly where the package went if it were transferred. I would also add that, on the other end, NSA and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), the British equivalent, are watching [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange in the embassy and all of the people who are related to him or are contacting him or having any kind of data transfer to or from him.

Theyre watching them all thats Wikileaks, basically they are watching them 24 hours a day cast iron. So, if anybody passed data to them across the network they would know. And be reporting it. Thats the whole problem. They didnt come out and say here is where the data came from that came to Wikileaks. And he is where it came from the DNC server to that point that is related to Wikileaks.

The Hill, however, quoted experts saying the VIP report overlooked other scenarios that could explain the quick transfer rate. This theory assumes that the hacker downloaded the files to a computer and then leaked it from that computer, Rich Barger, director of security research at Splunk, told the publication.

The Hill report continued:

But, said Barger and other experts, that overlooks the possibility the files were copied multiple times before being released, something that may be more probable than not in a bureaucracy like Russian intelligence.

A hacker might have downloaded it to one computer, then shared it by USB to an air gapped [off the internet] network for translation, then copied by a different person for analysis, then brought a new USB to an entirely different air gapped computer to determine a strategy all before it was packaged for Guccifer 2.0 to leak, said Barger.

Speaking to this reporter, Binney allowed that the files may have been copied multiple times before being posted by Guccifer 2.0. But he stated there is no proof that that was the case one way or the other. We should never infer anything without at least one fact to indicate its true, he replied.I would say again, if anything happened like these suggested events then NSA would have a trace on at least most of it. They have produced no information at all.

Besides the rate of transfer, here are some other findings from the unlock metadata included in the VIPS report:

The July date, however, is actually months after the DNC said they first registered a breach in April.Binney stated that it was possible the date and timestamp could have been changed.

The Nation related that possibility in a 4,500-word story on the VIPS analysis:

In addition, there is the adulteration of the documents Guccifer 2.0 posted on June 15, when he made his first appearance. This came to light when researchers penetrated what Folden calls Guccifers top layer of metadata and analyzed what was in the layers beneath. They found that the first five files Guccifer made public had each been run, via ordinary cut-and-paste, through a single template that effectively immersed them in what could plausibly be cast as Russian fingerprints. They were not: The Russian markings were artificially inserted prior to posting. Its clear, another forensics investigator self-identified as HET, wrote in a report on this question, that metadata was deliberately altered and documents were deliberately pasted into a Russianified Word document with Russian language settings and style headings.

The magazine points out that the CIAs cyber-tools would have allowed such an encoding. WikiLeaks began to release in March and labeled Vault 7 includes one called Marble that is capable of obfuscating the origin of documents in false-flag operations and leaving markings that point to whatever the CIA wants to point to.

The Nation story on the VIPS report is reportedly being reviewed by the publication. Were doing the review as we speak, and I dont want to rush to say anything, Katrina vanden Heuvel, the Nations editor and publisher, told the Washington Post earlier this month. The Post reported that the Nations review will include the technical feasibility of the article detailing the VIPS report.

The Gufficer 2.0 files are a key part of the Russia hacking narrative. AJanuary 6, 2017 U.S. Intelligence Communityreport alleging Russian government interference in the 2016 presidential campaign states this of the Gufficer 2.0 files:

We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.

The U.S. Intelligence Community has not publicly released any evidence to back up its charges. Despite false media characterizations of 17 intelligence agencies, the January 6 report was authored by three U.S. agencies the NSA, the FBI and the CIA.TheWashington Post,in its extensive June 23article, reported on details of the compartmentalized operation that indicates a high degree of secrecy involving top Obama administration officials.

A Bloomberg opinion piece by Leonid Bershidsky asserted that Binneys information should get more attention.

Bershidsky wrote:

Unlike the current and former intelligence officials anonymously quoted in stories about the Trump-Russia scandal, VIPS members actually have names. But their findings and doubts are only being aired bynon-mainstreampublicationsthat are easy to accuse of being channels for Russian disinformation. The Nation, Consortium News, ZeroHedge and other outlets have pointed totheir findings that at least some of the DNC files were taken by an insider rather than by hackers, Russian or otherwise.

In response to the Nation report, the DNC released the following statement:

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government hacked the DNC in an attempt to interfere in the election. Any suggestion otherwise is false and is just another conspiracy theory like those pushed by Trump and his administration. Its unfortunate that the Nation has decided to join the conspiracy theorists to push this narrative.

During the radio interview, Binney pushed back against the DNC conspiracy theory charge.

They are joining the lie, Binney stated. I mean, it is an outright lie. All they are saying is they are claiming something. Where is any substance from anybody to prove any of that? There isnt any. They havent given any proof whatsoever.

The intelligence community has said it is highly likely. Well, they should absolutely know with all of the taps they have on the fiber lines in the U.S. and around the world. They should have no question whatsoever. Saying high confidence that means that they dont know. Thats really what they are saying. If they have anything else to say, let them produce any evidence that they have so that we can all look at it. So far, they have produced nothing but opinion and speculation and a lie to keep this Cold War going.

In a move that has raised eyebrows, the DNC did not allow the FBI to inspect its servers.

In Januarytestimonybefore the Senate Intelligence Committee, then-FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the FBI registered multiple requests at different levels to review the DNCs hacked servers. Ultimately, the DNC and FBI came to an agreement in which a highly respected private company would carry out forensics on the servers and share any information that it discovered with the FBI, Comey testified.

A senior law enforcement officialstressedthe importance of the FBI gaining direct access to the servers, a request that was denied by the DNC.

The FBI repeatedly stressed to DNC officials the necessity of obtaining direct access to servers and data, only to be rebuffed until well after the initial compromise had been mitigated, the official was quoted by the news media as saying.

This left the FBI no choice but to rely upon a third party for information. These actions caused significant delays and inhibited the FBI from addressing the intrusion earlier.

Comeys statement about a highly respected private company gaining access to the DNC servers was a reference to CrowdStrike, the third-party company ultimately relied upon by the FBI to make its assessment about alleged Russian hacking into the DNC.

As this reporterdocumented, CrowdStrike was financed to the tune of $100 millionfrom a funding drive last year led by Google Capital.

Google Capital, which now goes by the name of CapitalG, is an arm of Alphabet Inc., Googles parent company. Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet, has been a staunch and active supporter of Hillary Clinton and is a longtime donor to the Democratic Party.

CrowdStrikeis a California-based cybersecurity technology company co-founded by experts George Kurtz and Dmitri Alperovitch.

Alperovitch is anonresident seniorfellow of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council. The Council takes a hawkish approach toward Russia and has releasednumerous reportsand briefs about Russian aggression.

The Council isfundedby the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Inc., the U.S. State Department and NATO ACT.

Another Councilfunderis the Ploughshares Fund, which in turn has received financing from billionaire George Soros Open Society Foundations.

Aaron Klein is Breitbarts Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, Aaron Klein Investigative Radio. Follow him onTwitter @AaronKleinShow.Follow him onFacebook.

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EXCLUSIVE NSA Whistleblower: Russia ‘Hack’ of DNC Server an ‘Outright Lie’ – Breitbart News

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Philosophy for Life: An Interview With Jules Evans – HuffPost

How did your to philosophy journey begin? What sparked your interest in Stoicism and philosophy as a way of lifeor as you put it for life? If we understand correctly, you discovered it after struggling with some issues on your own in your adolescence?

I think I read Marcus Aurelius at school. Then, when I was 21, I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety brought on by some bad drug experiences. I suffered from that from 17 to 21, five pretty rough years. I eventually went to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy support group for people suffering from social anxiety. It helped me a lot, and it also reminded me of Stoicism. A few years later, in 2007, I interviewed the two founders of CBT Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck -and discovered theyd both been directly influenced by Stoicism. It was around then that I became interested in the revival of Stoicism, and started to interview other people who use its philosophy today.

How do you explain Stoicism to people when they ask? Does it depend on the audience?

I usually explain it through the prism of CBT, because a lot of people are already familiar with that, or I compare it to Buddhism. I emphasise three ideas: firstly, that our thoughts affect our emotions. Secondly, the wisdom of focusing on what you can control. Third, the importance of habits. Those to me are the three best ideas in Stoicism.

Do you have a daily routine that incorporates any Stoic exercises? If so, has it always been the same? And which exercises do you practice? How has it benefited you?

Not really. It helped me a lot from 21 to 27, Id say when I was in a crisis and needed to change myself to get out of it. I might occasionally turn to it now if Im in a difficult stage of life, but luckily life has been a lot easier since then.

What books would you recommend that you think embody Stoic lessons or ideas but usually are not mentioned in discussions about Stoicism? Or maybe you could recommend a Stoic gem that most people havent read?

Ohhmmm well there are Christian mystic books that are quite influenced by Stoicism, Thomas Trahernes Centuries of Meditation for example. There are modern takes on Stoicism, like Bertrand Russells Conquest of Happiness. Then theres a lot of rich stuff in classical philosophy in general no one reads Cicero any more but he was the most popular author of the Renaissance.

What would be the one Stoic idea or exercise that you think anyone would benefit from? What would you recommend? Feel free to suggest more.

Well, the idea that business people and sports people find most useful is to accept whats beyond your control. Were all control freaks, so thats a really useful, simple idea that we need to keep reminding ourselves of.

Do you have a favorite stoic quote?

This one from Seneca inspired me when I was writing Philosophy for Life: you are retained as counsel for unhappy mankind. You have promised to help those in peril by sea, those in captivity, the sick and the needy, and those whose heads are under the poised axe. Whither are you straying? What are you doing? I think a lot of academics could do with a reminder of that.

From what weve read, you feel like there is something missing from Stoic philosophy that youve tried to find by studying other schools and are beginning to write about. Can you tell us about that? Does that mean you would identify as a Stoic?

Well, theres a lot missing from Stoicism. Humour, for one, a sense of the absurd. They didnt have much sense of the power of the arts, imagination, music, dance, poetry. There isnt much dancing in Greek philosophy as Jean Vanier said when I interviewed him. It can overemphasise self-reliance and under emphasise the importance of friendship. Stoics can be Puritans, which Im definitely not. In general it can overemphasise rationalism and miss out all the importance of non-rational ways of knowing like ecstatic states, which involve the body more. I dont think rationalism is the last word in consciousness. Stoics often seem quite prickly, cold, pedantic personalities which they hide behind a stiff veneer of rationalism. I think its too rule-based Massimo Pigliucci wrote the other day of the algorithm of Stoicism I dont see life as something best approached with an algorithm, though I think thats why Stoicism appeals to computer programmers. No, I dont identify as a Stoic anymore, but I think there are Stoic techniques that everyone could benefit from knowing and practicing.

This interview was originally published on DailyStoic.com

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Philosophy for Life: An Interview With Jules Evans – HuffPost

Technological singularity – Wikipedia

The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity)[1] is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.[2] According to this hypothesis, an upgradable intelligent agent (such as a computer running software-based artificial general intelligence) would enter a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an intelligence explosion and resulting in a powerful superintelligence that would, qualitatively, far surpass all human intelligence. John von Neumann first uses the term “singularity” (c. 1950s[3]), in the context of technological progress causing accelerating change: “The accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, give the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue”.[4] Subsequent authors have echoed this viewpoint.[2][5]I. J. Good’s “intelligence explosion” model predicts that a future superintelligence will trigger a singularity.[6] Emeritus professor of computer science at San Diego State University and Science fiction author Vernor Vinge said in his 1993 essay The Coming Technological Singularity that this would signal the end of the human era, as the new superintelligence would continue to upgrade itself and would advance technologically at an incomprehensible rate.[6]

At the 2012 Singularity Summit, Stuart Armstrong did a study of artificial general intelligence (AGI) predictions by experts and found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040.[7]

I. J. Good speculated in 1965 that artificial general intelligence might bring about an intelligence explosion. Good’s scenario runs as follows: as computers increase in power, it becomes possible for people to build a machine that is more intelligent than humanity; this superhuman intelligence possesses greater problem-solving and inventive skills than current humans are capable of. This superintelligent machine then designs an even more capable machine, or re-writes its own software to become even more intelligent; this (ever more capable) machine then goes on to design a machine of yet greater capability, and so on. These iterations of recursive self-improvement accelerate, allowing enormous qualitative change before any upper limits imposed by the laws of physics or theoretical computation set in.[8]

John von Neumann, Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil define the concept in terms of the technological creation of superintelligence. They argue that it is difficult or impossible for present-day humans to predict what human beings’ lives would be like in a post-singularity world.[6][9]

Some writers use “the singularity” in a broader way to refer to any radical changes in our society brought about by new technologies such as molecular nanotechnology,[10][11][12] although Vinge and other writers specifically state that without superintelligence, such changes would not qualify as a true singularity.[6] Many writers also tie the singularity to observations of exponential growth in various technologies (with Moore’s Law being the most prominent example), using such observations as a basis for predicting that the singularity is likely to happen sometime within the 21st century.[11][13]

Many prominent technologists and academics dispute the plausibility of a technological singularity, including Paul Allen, Jeff Hawkins, John Holland, Jaron Lanier, and Gordon Moore, whose Moore’s Law is often cited in support of the concept.[14][15][16]

The exponential growth in computing technology suggested by Moore’s Law is commonly cited as a reason to expect a singularity in the relatively near future, and a number of authors have proposed generalizations of Moore’s Law. Computer scientist and futurist Hans Moravec proposed in a 1998 book[17] that the exponential growth curve could be extended back through earlier computing technologies prior to the integrated circuit.

Ray Kurzweil postulates a law of accelerating returns in which the speed of technological change (and more generally, all evolutionary processes[18]) increases exponentially, generalizing Moore’s Law in the same manner as Moravec’s proposal, and also including material technology (especially as applied to nanotechnology), medical technology and others.[19] Between 1986 and 2007, machines’ application-specific capacity to compute information per capita roughly doubled every 14 months; the per capita capacity of the world’s general-purpose computers has doubled every 18 months; the global telecommunication capacity per capita doubled every 34 months; and the world’s storage capacity per capita doubled every 40 months.[20]

Mr. Kurzweil reserves the term “singularity” for a rapid increase in artificial intelligence (as opposed to other technologies), writing for example that “The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains … There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine”.[21] He also defines his predicted date of the singularity (2045) in terms of when he expects computer-based intelligences to significantly exceed the sum total of human brainpower, writing that advances in computing before that date “will not represent the Singularity” because they do “not yet correspond to a profound expansion of our intelligence.”[22]

Some singularity proponents argue its inevitability through extrapolation of past trends, especially those pertaining to shortening gaps between improvements to technology. In one of the first uses of the term “singularity” in the context of technological progress, Ulam tells of a conversation with John von Neumann about accelerating change:

One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.[4]

Kurzweil claims that technological progress follows a pattern of exponential growth, following what he calls the “Law of Accelerating Returns”. Whenever technology approaches a barrier, Kurzweil writes, new technologies will surmount it. He predicts paradigm shifts will become increasingly common, leading to “technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history”.[23] Kurzweil believes that the singularity will occur by approximately 2045.[24] His predictions differ from Vinge’s in that he predicts a gradual ascent to the singularity, rather than Vinge’s rapidly self-improving superhuman intelligence.

Oft-cited dangers include those commonly associated with molecular nanotechnology and genetic engineering. These threats are major issues for both singularity advocates and critics, and were the subject of Bill Joy’s Wired magazine article “Why the future doesn’t need us”.[5][25]

Some critics assert that no computer or machine will ever achieve human intelligence, while others hold that the definition of intelligence is irrelevant if the net result is the same.[26]

Steven Pinker stated in 2008:

(…) There is not the slightest reason to believe in a coming singularity. The fact that you can visualize a future in your imagination is not evidence that it is likely or even possible. Look at domed cities, jet-pack commuting, underwater cities, mile-high buildings, and nuclear-powered automobilesall staples of futuristic fantasies when I was a child that have never arrived. Sheer processing power is not a pixie dust that magically solves all your problems. (…)[14]

University of California, Berkeley, philosophy professor John Searle writes:

[Computers] have, literally [], no intelligence, no motivation, no autonomy, and no agency. We design them to behave as if they had certain sorts of psychology, but there is no psychological reality to the corresponding processes or behavior. [] [T]he machinery has no beliefs, desires, [or] motivations.[27]

Martin Ford in The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future[28] postulates a “technology paradox” in that before the singularity could occur most routine jobs in the economy would be automated, since this would require a level of technology inferior to that of the singularity. This would cause massive unemployment and plummeting consumer demand, which in turn would destroy the incentive to invest in the technologies that would be required to bring about the Singularity. Job displacement is increasingly no longer limited to work traditionally considered to be “routine”.[29]

Jared Diamond, in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, argues that cultures self-limit when they exceed the sustainable carrying capacity of their environment, and the consumption of strategic resources (frequently timber, soils or water) creates a deleterious positive feedback loop that leads eventually to social collapse and technological retrogression.[improper synthesis?]

Theodore Modis[30][31] and Jonathan Huebner[32] argue that the rate of technological innovation has not only ceased to rise, but is actually now declining. Evidence for this decline is that the rise in computer clock rates is slowing, even while Moore’s prediction of exponentially increasing circuit density continues to hold. This is due to excessive heat build-up from the chip, which cannot be dissipated quickly enough to prevent the chip from melting when operating at higher speeds. Advancements in speed may be possible in the future by virtue of more power-efficient CPU designs and multi-cell processors.[33] While Kurzweil used Modis’ resources, and Modis’ work was around accelerating change, Modis distanced himself from Kurzweil’s thesis of a “technological singularity”, claiming that it lacks scientific rigor.[31]

Others[who?] propose that other “singularities” can be found through analysis of trends in world population, world gross domestic product, and other indices. Andrey Korotayev and others argue that historical hyperbolic growth curves can be attributed to feedback loops that ceased to affect global trends in the 1970s, and thus hyperbolic growth should not be expected in the future.[34][improper synthesis?]

In a detailed empirical accounting, The Progress of Computing, William Nordhaus argued that, prior to 1940, computers followed the much slower growth of a traditional industrial economy, thus rejecting extrapolations of Moore’s law to 19th-century computers.[35]

In a 2007 paper, Schmidhuber stated that the frequency of subjectively “notable events” appears to be approaching a 21st-century singularity, but cautioned readers to take such plots of subjective events with a grain of salt: perhaps differences in memory of recent and distant events could create an illusion of accelerating change where none exists.[36]

Paul Allen argues the opposite of accelerating returns, the complexity brake;[16] the more progress science makes towards understanding intelligence, the more difficult it becomes to make additional progress. A study of the number of patents shows that human creativity does not show accelerating returns, but in fact, as suggested by Joseph Tainter in his The Collapse of Complex Societies,[37] a law of diminishing returns. The number of patents per thousand peaked in the period from 1850 to 1900, and has been declining since.[32] The growth of complexity eventually becomes self-limiting, and leads to a widespread “general systems collapse”.

Jaron Lanier refutes the idea that the Singularity is inevitable. He states: “I do not think the technology is creating itself. It’s not an autonomous process.”[38] He goes on to assert: “The reason to believe in human agency over technological determinism is that you can then have an economy where people earn their own way and invent their own lives. If you structure a society on not emphasizing individual human agency, it’s the same thing operationally as denying people clout, dignity, and self-determination … to embrace [the idea of the Singularity] would be a celebration of bad data and bad politics.”[38]

Economist Robert J. Gordon, in The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War (2016), points out that measured economic growth has slowed around 1970 and slowed even further since the financial crisis of 2008, and argues that the economic data show no trace of a coming Singularity as imagined by mathematician I.J. Good.[39]

In addition to general criticisms of the singularity concept, several critics have raised issues with Kurzweil’s iconic chart. One line of criticism is that a log-log chart of this nature is inherently biased toward a straight-line result. Others identify selection bias in the points that Kurzweil chooses to use. For example, biologist PZ Myers points out that many of the early evolutionary “events” were picked arbitrarily.[40] Kurzweil has rebutted this by charting evolutionary events from 15 neutral sources, and showing that they fit a straight line on a log-log chart. The Economist mocked the concept with a graph extrapolating that the number of blades on a razor, which has increased over the years from one to as many as five, will increase ever-faster to infinity.[41]

The term “technological singularity” reflects the idea that such change may happen suddenly, and that it is difficult to predict how the resulting new world would operate.[42][43] It is unclear whether an intelligence explosion of this kind would be beneficial or harmful, or even an existential threat,[44][45] as the issue has not been dealt with by most artificial general intelligence researchers, although the topic of friendly artificial intelligence is investigated by the Future of Humanity Institute and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute.[42]

While the technological singularity is usually seen as a sudden event, some scholars argue the current speed of change already fits this description. In addition, some argue that we are already in the midst of a major evolutionary transition that merges technology, biology, and society. Digital technology has infiltrated the fabric of human society to a degree of indisputable and often life-sustaining dependence. A 2016 article in Trends in Ecology & Evolution argues that “humans already embrace fusions of biology and technology. We spend most of our waking time communicating through digitally mediated channels… we trust artificial intelligence with our lives through antilock braking in cars and autopilots in planes… With one in three marriages in America beginning online, digital algorithms are also taking a role in human pair bonding and reproduction”. The article argues that from the perspective of the evolution, several previous Major Transitions in Evolution have transformed life through innovations in information storage and replication (RNA, DNA, multicellularity, and culture and language). In the current stage of life’s evolution, the carbon-based biosphere has generated a cognitive system (humans) capable of creating technology that will result in a comparable evolutionary transition. The digital information created by humans has reached a similar magnitude to biological information in the biosphere. Since the 1980s, “the quantity of digital information stored has doubled about every 2.5 years, reaching about 5 zettabytes in 2014 (5×10^21 bytes). In biological terms, there are 7.2 billion humans on the planet, each having a genome of 6.2 billion nucleotides. Since one byte can encode four nucleotide pairs, the individual genomes of every human on the planet could be encoded by approximately 1×10^19 bytes. The digital realm stored 500 times more information than this in 2014 (…see Figure)… The total amount of DNA contained in all of the cells on Earth is estimated to be about 5.3×10^37 base pairs, equivalent to 1.325×10^37 bytes of information. If growth in digital storage continues at its current rate of 3038% compound annual growth per year,[20] it will rival the total information content contained in all of the DNA in all of the cells on Earth in about 110 years. This would represent a doubling of the amount of information stored in the biosphere across a total time period of just 150 years”.[46]

In February 2009, under the auspices of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), Eric Horvitz chaired a meeting of leading computer scientists, artificial intelligence researchers and roboticists at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California. The goal was to discuss the potential impact of the hypothetical possibility that robots could become self-sufficient and able to make their own decisions. They discussed the extent to which computers and robots might be able to acquire autonomy, and to what degree they could use such abilities to pose threats or hazards.[47]

Some machines are programmed with various forms of semi-autonomy, including the ability to locate their own power sources and choose targets to attack with weapons. Also, some computer viruses can evade elimination and, according to scientists in attendance, could therefore be said to have reached a “cockroach” stage of machine intelligence. The conference attendees noted that self-awareness as depicted in science-fiction is probably unlikely, but that other potential hazards and pitfalls exist.[47]

Some experts and academics have questioned the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions.[48][improper synthesis?]

In his 2005 book, The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil suggests that medical advances would allow people to protect their bodies from the effects of aging, making the life expectancy limitless. Kurzweil argues that the technological advances in medicine would allow us to continuously repair and replace defective components in our bodies, prolonging life to an undetermined age.[49] Kurzweil further buttresses his argument by discussing current bio-engineering advances. Kurzweil suggests somatic gene therapy; after synthetic viruses with specific genetic information, the next step would be to apply this technology to gene therapy, replacing human DNA with synthesized genes.[50]

Beyond merely extending the operational life of the physical body, Jaron Lanier argues for a form of immortality called “Digital Ascension” that involves “people dying in the flesh and being uploaded into a computer and remaining conscious”.[51]Singularitarianism has also been likened to a religion by John Horgan.[52]

In his obituary for John von Neumann, Ulam recalled a conversation with von Neumann about the “ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.”[4]

In 1965, Good wrote his essay postulating an “intelligence explosion” of recursive self-improvement of a machine intelligence. In 1985, in “The Time Scale of Artificial Intelligence”, artificial intelligence researcher Ray Solomonoff articulated mathematically the related notion of what he called an “infinity point”: if a research community of human-level self-improving AIs take four years to double their own speed, then two years, then one year and so on, their capabilities increase infinitely in finite time.[5][53]

In 1983, Vinge greatly popularized Good’s intelligence explosion in a number of writings, first addressing the topic in print in the January 1983 issue of Omni magazine. In this op-ed piece, Vinge seems to have been the first to use the term “singularity” in a way that was specifically tied to the creation of intelligent machines:[54][55] writing

We will soon create intelligences greater than our own. When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity, an intellectual transition as impenetrable as the knotted space-time at the center of a black hole, and the world will pass far beyond our understanding. This singularity, I believe, already haunts a number of science-fiction writers. It makes realistic extrapolation to an interstellar future impossible. To write a story set more than a century hence, one needs a nuclear war in between … so that the world remains intelligible.

Vinge’s 1993 article “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era”,[6] spread widely on the internet and helped to popularize the idea.[56] This article contains the statement, “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.” Vinge argues that science-fiction authors cannot write realistic post-singularity characters who surpass the human intellect, as the thoughts of such an intellect would be beyond the ability of humans to express.[6]

In 2000, Bill Joy, a prominent technologist and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, voiced concern over the potential dangers of the singularity.[25]

In 2005, Kurzweil published The Singularity is Near. Kurzweil’s publicity campaign included an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.[57]

In 2007, Eliezer Yudkowsky suggested that many of the varied definitions that have been assigned to “singularity” are mutually incompatible rather than mutually supporting.[11][58] For example, Kurzweil extrapolates current technological trajectories past the arrival of self-improving AI or superhuman intelligence, which Yudkowsky argues represents a tension with both I. J. Good’s proposed discontinuous upswing in intelligence and Vinge’s thesis on unpredictability.[11]

In 2009, Kurzweil and X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis announced the establishment of Singularity University, a nonaccredited private institute whose stated mission is “to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.”[59] Funded by Google, Autodesk, ePlanet Ventures, and a group of technology industry leaders, Singularity University is based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. The not-for-profit organization runs an annual ten-week graduate program during the northern-hemisphere summer that covers ten different technology and allied tracks, and a series of executive programs throughout the year.

In 2007, the joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress released a report about the future of nanotechnology. It predicts significant technological and political changes in the mid-term future, including possible technological singularity.[60][61][62]

Former President of the United States Barack Obama spoke about singularity in his interview to Wired in 2016:[63]

One thing that we havent talked about too much, and I just want to go back to, is we really have to think through the economic implications. Because most people arent spending a lot of time right now worrying about singularitythey are worrying about Well, is my job going to be replaced by a machine?

View post:

Technological singularity – Wikipedia

Technological singularity – Wikipedia

The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity)[1] is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.[2] According to this hypothesis, an upgradable intelligent agent (such as a computer running software-based artificial general intelligence) would enter a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an intelligence explosion and resulting in a powerful superintelligence that would, qualitatively, far surpass all human intelligence. John von Neumann first uses the term “singularity” (c. 1950s[3]), in the context of technological progress causing accelerating change: “The accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, give the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue”.[4] Subsequent authors have echoed this viewpoint.[2][5]I. J. Good’s “intelligence explosion” model predicts that a future superintelligence will trigger a singularity.[6] Emeritus professor of computer science at San Diego State University and Science fiction author Vernor Vinge said in his 1993 essay The Coming Technological Singularity that this would signal the end of the human era, as the new superintelligence would continue to upgrade itself and would advance technologically at an incomprehensible rate.[6]

At the 2012 Singularity Summit, Stuart Armstrong did a study of artificial general intelligence (AGI) predictions by experts and found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040.[7]

I. J. Good speculated in 1965 that artificial general intelligence might bring about an intelligence explosion. Good’s scenario runs as follows: as computers increase in power, it becomes possible for people to build a machine that is more intelligent than humanity; this superhuman intelligence possesses greater problem-solving and inventive skills than current humans are capable of. This superintelligent machine then designs an even more capable machine, or re-writes its own software to become even more intelligent; this (ever more capable) machine then goes on to design a machine of yet greater capability, and so on. These iterations of recursive self-improvement accelerate, allowing enormous qualitative change before any upper limits imposed by the laws of physics or theoretical computation set in.[8]

John von Neumann, Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil define the concept in terms of the technological creation of superintelligence. They argue that it is difficult or impossible for present-day humans to predict what human beings’ lives would be like in a post-singularity world.[6][9]

Some writers use “the singularity” in a broader way to refer to any radical changes in our society brought about by new technologies such as molecular nanotechnology,[10][11][12] although Vinge and other writers specifically state that without superintelligence, such changes would not qualify as a true singularity.[6] Many writers also tie the singularity to observations of exponential growth in various technologies (with Moore’s Law being the most prominent example), using such observations as a basis for predicting that the singularity is likely to happen sometime within the 21st century.[11][13]

Many prominent technologists and academics dispute the plausibility of a technological singularity, including Paul Allen, Jeff Hawkins, John Holland, Jaron Lanier, and Gordon Moore, whose Moore’s Law is often cited in support of the concept.[14][15][16]

The exponential growth in computing technology suggested by Moore’s Law is commonly cited as a reason to expect a singularity in the relatively near future, and a number of authors have proposed generalizations of Moore’s Law. Computer scientist and futurist Hans Moravec proposed in a 1998 book[17] that the exponential growth curve could be extended back through earlier computing technologies prior to the integrated circuit.

Ray Kurzweil postulates a law of accelerating returns in which the speed of technological change (and more generally, all evolutionary processes[18]) increases exponentially, generalizing Moore’s Law in the same manner as Moravec’s proposal, and also including material technology (especially as applied to nanotechnology), medical technology and others.[19] Between 1986 and 2007, machines’ application-specific capacity to compute information per capita roughly doubled every 14 months; the per capita capacity of the world’s general-purpose computers has doubled every 18 months; the global telecommunication capacity per capita doubled every 34 months; and the world’s storage capacity per capita doubled every 40 months.[20]

Mr. Kurzweil reserves the term “singularity” for a rapid increase in artificial intelligence (as opposed to other technologies), writing for example that “The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains … There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine”.[21] He also defines his predicted date of the singularity (2045) in terms of when he expects computer-based intelligences to significantly exceed the sum total of human brainpower, writing that advances in computing before that date “will not represent the Singularity” because they do “not yet correspond to a profound expansion of our intelligence.”[22]

Some singularity proponents argue its inevitability through extrapolation of past trends, especially those pertaining to shortening gaps between improvements to technology. In one of the first uses of the term “singularity” in the context of technological progress, Ulam tells of a conversation with John von Neumann about accelerating change:

One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.[4]

Kurzweil claims that technological progress follows a pattern of exponential growth, following what he calls the “Law of Accelerating Returns”. Whenever technology approaches a barrier, Kurzweil writes, new technologies will surmount it. He predicts paradigm shifts will become increasingly common, leading to “technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history”.[23] Kurzweil believes that the singularity will occur by approximately 2045.[24] His predictions differ from Vinge’s in that he predicts a gradual ascent to the singularity, rather than Vinge’s rapidly self-improving superhuman intelligence.

Oft-cited dangers include those commonly associated with molecular nanotechnology and genetic engineering. These threats are major issues for both singularity advocates and critics, and were the subject of Bill Joy’s Wired magazine article “Why the future doesn’t need us”.[5][25]

Some critics assert that no computer or machine will ever achieve human intelligence, while others hold that the definition of intelligence is irrelevant if the net result is the same.[26]

Steven Pinker stated in 2008:

(…) There is not the slightest reason to believe in a coming singularity. The fact that you can visualize a future in your imagination is not evidence that it is likely or even possible. Look at domed cities, jet-pack commuting, underwater cities, mile-high buildings, and nuclear-powered automobilesall staples of futuristic fantasies when I was a child that have never arrived. Sheer processing power is not a pixie dust that magically solves all your problems. (…)[14]

University of California, Berkeley, philosophy professor John Searle writes:

[Computers] have, literally [], no intelligence, no motivation, no autonomy, and no agency. We design them to behave as if they had certain sorts of psychology, but there is no psychological reality to the corresponding processes or behavior. [] [T]he machinery has no beliefs, desires, [or] motivations.[27]

Martin Ford in The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future[28] postulates a “technology paradox” in that before the singularity could occur most routine jobs in the economy would be automated, since this would require a level of technology inferior to that of the singularity. This would cause massive unemployment and plummeting consumer demand, which in turn would destroy the incentive to invest in the technologies that would be required to bring about the Singularity. Job displacement is increasingly no longer limited to work traditionally considered to be “routine”.[29]

Jared Diamond, in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, argues that cultures self-limit when they exceed the sustainable carrying capacity of their environment, and the consumption of strategic resources (frequently timber, soils or water) creates a deleterious positive feedback loop that leads eventually to social collapse and technological retrogression.[improper synthesis?]

Theodore Modis[30][31] and Jonathan Huebner[32] argue that the rate of technological innovation has not only ceased to rise, but is actually now declining. Evidence for this decline is that the rise in computer clock rates is slowing, even while Moore’s prediction of exponentially increasing circuit density continues to hold. This is due to excessive heat build-up from the chip, which cannot be dissipated quickly enough to prevent the chip from melting when operating at higher speeds. Advancements in speed may be possible in the future by virtue of more power-efficient CPU designs and multi-cell processors.[33] While Kurzweil used Modis’ resources, and Modis’ work was around accelerating change, Modis distanced himself from Kurzweil’s thesis of a “technological singularity”, claiming that it lacks scientific rigor.[31]

Others[who?] propose that other “singularities” can be found through analysis of trends in world population, world gross domestic product, and other indices. Andrey Korotayev and others argue that historical hyperbolic growth curves can be attributed to feedback loops that ceased to affect global trends in the 1970s, and thus hyperbolic growth should not be expected in the future.[34][improper synthesis?]

In a detailed empirical accounting, The Progress of Computing, William Nordhaus argued that, prior to 1940, computers followed the much slower growth of a traditional industrial economy, thus rejecting extrapolations of Moore’s law to 19th-century computers.[35]

In a 2007 paper, Schmidhuber stated that the frequency of subjectively “notable events” appears to be approaching a 21st-century singularity, but cautioned readers to take such plots of subjective events with a grain of salt: perhaps differences in memory of recent and distant events could create an illusion of accelerating change where none exists.[36]

Paul Allen argues the opposite of accelerating returns, the complexity brake;[16] the more progress science makes towards understanding intelligence, the more difficult it becomes to make additional progress. A study of the number of patents shows that human creativity does not show accelerating returns, but in fact, as suggested by Joseph Tainter in his The Collapse of Complex Societies,[37] a law of diminishing returns. The number of patents per thousand peaked in the period from 1850 to 1900, and has been declining since.[32] The growth of complexity eventually becomes self-limiting, and leads to a widespread “general systems collapse”.

Jaron Lanier refutes the idea that the Singularity is inevitable. He states: “I do not think the technology is creating itself. It’s not an autonomous process.”[38] He goes on to assert: “The reason to believe in human agency over technological determinism is that you can then have an economy where people earn their own way and invent their own lives. If you structure a society on not emphasizing individual human agency, it’s the same thing operationally as denying people clout, dignity, and self-determination … to embrace [the idea of the Singularity] would be a celebration of bad data and bad politics.”[38]

Economist Robert J. Gordon, in The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War (2016), points out that measured economic growth has slowed around 1970 and slowed even further since the financial crisis of 2008, and argues that the economic data show no trace of a coming Singularity as imagined by mathematician I.J. Good.[39]

In addition to general criticisms of the singularity concept, several critics have raised issues with Kurzweil’s iconic chart. One line of criticism is that a log-log chart of this nature is inherently biased toward a straight-line result. Others identify selection bias in the points that Kurzweil chooses to use. For example, biologist PZ Myers points out that many of the early evolutionary “events” were picked arbitrarily.[40] Kurzweil has rebutted this by charting evolutionary events from 15 neutral sources, and showing that they fit a straight line on a log-log chart. The Economist mocked the concept with a graph extrapolating that the number of blades on a razor, which has increased over the years from one to as many as five, will increase ever-faster to infinity.[41]

The term “technological singularity” reflects the idea that such change may happen suddenly, and that it is difficult to predict how the resulting new world would operate.[42][43] It is unclear whether an intelligence explosion of this kind would be beneficial or harmful, or even an existential threat,[44][45] as the issue has not been dealt with by most artificial general intelligence researchers, although the topic of friendly artificial intelligence is investigated by the Future of Humanity Institute and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute.[42]

While the technological singularity is usually seen as a sudden event, some scholars argue the current speed of change already fits this description. In addition, some argue that we are already in the midst of a major evolutionary transition that merges technology, biology, and society. Digital technology has infiltrated the fabric of human society to a degree of indisputable and often life-sustaining dependence. A 2016 article in Trends in Ecology & Evolution argues that “humans already embrace fusions of biology and technology. We spend most of our waking time communicating through digitally mediated channels… we trust artificial intelligence with our lives through antilock braking in cars and autopilots in planes… With one in three marriages in America beginning online, digital algorithms are also taking a role in human pair bonding and reproduction”. The article argues that from the perspective of the evolution, several previous Major Transitions in Evolution have transformed life through innovations in information storage and replication (RNA, DNA, multicellularity, and culture and language). In the current stage of life’s evolution, the carbon-based biosphere has generated a cognitive system (humans) capable of creating technology that will result in a comparable evolutionary transition. The digital information created by humans has reached a similar magnitude to biological information in the biosphere. Since the 1980s, “the quantity of digital information stored has doubled about every 2.5 years, reaching about 5 zettabytes in 2014 (5×10^21 bytes). In biological terms, there are 7.2 billion humans on the planet, each having a genome of 6.2 billion nucleotides. Since one byte can encode four nucleotide pairs, the individual genomes of every human on the planet could be encoded by approximately 1×10^19 bytes. The digital realm stored 500 times more information than this in 2014 (…see Figure)… The total amount of DNA contained in all of the cells on Earth is estimated to be about 5.3×10^37 base pairs, equivalent to 1.325×10^37 bytes of information. If growth in digital storage continues at its current rate of 3038% compound annual growth per year,[20] it will rival the total information content contained in all of the DNA in all of the cells on Earth in about 110 years. This would represent a doubling of the amount of information stored in the biosphere across a total time period of just 150 years”.[46]

In February 2009, under the auspices of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), Eric Horvitz chaired a meeting of leading computer scientists, artificial intelligence researchers and roboticists at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California. The goal was to discuss the potential impact of the hypothetical possibility that robots could become self-sufficient and able to make their own decisions. They discussed the extent to which computers and robots might be able to acquire autonomy, and to what degree they could use such abilities to pose threats or hazards.[47]

Some machines are programmed with various forms of semi-autonomy, including the ability to locate their own power sources and choose targets to attack with weapons. Also, some computer viruses can evade elimination and, according to scientists in attendance, could therefore be said to have reached a “cockroach” stage of machine intelligence. The conference attendees noted that self-awareness as depicted in science-fiction is probably unlikely, but that other potential hazards and pitfalls exist.[47]

Some experts and academics have questioned the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions.[48][improper synthesis?]

In his 2005 book, The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil suggests that medical advances would allow people to protect their bodies from the effects of aging, making the life expectancy limitless. Kurzweil argues that the technological advances in medicine would allow us to continuously repair and replace defective components in our bodies, prolonging life to an undetermined age.[49] Kurzweil further buttresses his argument by discussing current bio-engineering advances. Kurzweil suggests somatic gene therapy; after synthetic viruses with specific genetic information, the next step would be to apply this technology to gene therapy, replacing human DNA with synthesized genes.[50]

Beyond merely extending the operational life of the physical body, Jaron Lanier argues for a form of immortality called “Digital Ascension” that involves “people dying in the flesh and being uploaded into a computer and remaining conscious”.[51]Singularitarianism has also been likened to a religion by John Horgan.[52]

In his obituary for John von Neumann, Ulam recalled a conversation with von Neumann about the “ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.”[4]

In 1965, Good wrote his essay postulating an “intelligence explosion” of recursive self-improvement of a machine intelligence. In 1985, in “The Time Scale of Artificial Intelligence”, artificial intelligence researcher Ray Solomonoff articulated mathematically the related notion of what he called an “infinity point”: if a research community of human-level self-improving AIs take four years to double their own speed, then two years, then one year and so on, their capabilities increase infinitely in finite time.[5][53]

In 1983, Vinge greatly popularized Good’s intelligence explosion in a number of writings, first addressing the topic in print in the January 1983 issue of Omni magazine. In this op-ed piece, Vinge seems to have been the first to use the term “singularity” in a way that was specifically tied to the creation of intelligent machines:[54][55] writing

We will soon create intelligences greater than our own. When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity, an intellectual transition as impenetrable as the knotted space-time at the center of a black hole, and the world will pass far beyond our understanding. This singularity, I believe, already haunts a number of science-fiction writers. It makes realistic extrapolation to an interstellar future impossible. To write a story set more than a century hence, one needs a nuclear war in between … so that the world remains intelligible.

Vinge’s 1993 article “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era”,[6] spread widely on the internet and helped to popularize the idea.[56] This article contains the statement, “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.” Vinge argues that science-fiction authors cannot write realistic post-singularity characters who surpass the human intellect, as the thoughts of such an intellect would be beyond the ability of humans to express.[6]

In 2000, Bill Joy, a prominent technologist and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, voiced concern over the potential dangers of the singularity.[25]

In 2005, Kurzweil published The Singularity is Near. Kurzweil’s publicity campaign included an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.[57]

In 2007, Eliezer Yudkowsky suggested that many of the varied definitions that have been assigned to “singularity” are mutually incompatible rather than mutually supporting.[11][58] For example, Kurzweil extrapolates current technological trajectories past the arrival of self-improving AI or superhuman intelligence, which Yudkowsky argues represents a tension with both I. J. Good’s proposed discontinuous upswing in intelligence and Vinge’s thesis on unpredictability.[11]

In 2009, Kurzweil and X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis announced the establishment of Singularity University, a nonaccredited private institute whose stated mission is “to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.”[59] Funded by Google, Autodesk, ePlanet Ventures, and a group of technology industry leaders, Singularity University is based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. The not-for-profit organization runs an annual ten-week graduate program during the northern-hemisphere summer that covers ten different technology and allied tracks, and a series of executive programs throughout the year.

In 2007, the joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress released a report about the future of nanotechnology. It predicts significant technological and political changes in the mid-term future, including possible technological singularity.[60][61][62]

Former President of the United States Barack Obama spoke about singularity in his interview to Wired in 2016:[63]

One thing that we havent talked about too much, and I just want to go back to, is we really have to think through the economic implications. Because most people arent spending a lot of time right now worrying about singularitythey are worrying about Well, is my job going to be replaced by a machine?

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Designated Organizations List – Review the authorized list of designated International Organizations in the Foreign Affairs Manual (9 FAM 402.3-7(N)).

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

To receive a NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, or NATO-6 visa, you must be traveling to the United States under the applicable provision of the Agreement on the Status of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the Protocol on the Status of International Military Headquarters Set Up Pursuant to the North Atlantic Treaty. This includes national representatives, international staff, and immediate family members. Personal employees or domestic workers of a NATO-1 6 visa holder may be issued NATO-7 visas. SelectPersonal Employeesto learn more.

Passport and Visa Exemptions for NATO Forces -Many armed forces personnel are exempt from passport and visa requirements if they are:

When traveling in visa exempt status, such personnel generally enter the United States by military aircraft or naval vessel. You must present your official military identification card and NATO travel orders.Note:Immediate family members are not included in the passport and visa exemption. Therefore, when family members are traveling with you or who will join you at a later date, each person must have a passport and NATO-2 visa to enter the United States.

G and NATO Visas Required for Official Travel

International organization and NATO officials and employees traveling to the United States to engage in official duties or activities must enter the United States with a G-1 – 4 or NATO-1 – 6 visa. International organization and NATO officials and employees traveling for official purposes are not permitted to enter the United States on any other visa category or under the Visa Waiver Program. Please note that U.S. law requires international organization and NATO officials and employees and their qualified immediate family members to receive G-1 – 6 or NATO-1 – 7 visas, if entitled. Exceptions are extremely limited.

Travel Purposes Not Permitted on G or NATO Visas – Examples:

There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you will apply.

As part of the visa application process, an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate is required for most visa applicants applying abroad. Embassies and consulates generally do not require an interview for those applying for G-1 – 4 and NATO-1 – 6 visas, although a consular officer can request an interview.

Personal employees, domestic workers, and attendants of the above visa holders, applying for G-5 or NATO-7 visas, are required to be interviewed. Review information in the Personal Employees section below.

All applicants for G and NATO visas should complete the following:

All applicants for G and NATO visas should gather and deliver the following required documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country:

Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply. Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified.

Individuals who qualify for an official visa classification (A, G, C-3, NATO) are exempt from paying visa fees.

More About Visa Fees – Individuals holding diplomatic passports may be exempt from visa fees regardless of visa classification and purpose of travel, if they meet one of the qualifying categories. Possession of a diplomatic passport or the equivalent is not by itself sufficient to qualify for a no-fee diplomatic visa. The consular officer will make the determination whether the visa applicant qualifies for an exemption of fees under U.S. immigration laws. Official passport holders are not charged for official visas, but are required to pay visa application and reciprocal issuance fees, if applicable, for all non-official visas.

For A, G, and certain NATO visas, immediate family member is defined as:

1- Thespouseof the principal alien, who is not a member of some other household and who will reside regularly in the household of the principal alien, or

2-unmarried legal sons and daughtersof the principal alien, who are not members of some other household and who will reside regularly in the household of the principal alien, provided that such unmarried sons and daughters are:

If a son or daughter does not qualify as immediate family under this section, he or she may still qualify under section 3:

3- Immediate family member may also include any other person who:

Aliens who may qualify for immediate family status on this basis include: any other relative, by blood, marriage, or adoption, of the principal alien or his/her spouse; a same-sex domestic partner; and a relative by blood, marriage, or adoption of the same-sex domestic partner. The term “domestic partner” means a same-sex domestic partner. Domestic partners may be issued A or G visas if the sending country would provide reciprocal treatment to domestic partners of U.S. citizen government and international organization officials and employees.

For NATO visas, immediate family member means the spouse or child of a member depending on him or her for support.

Personal employees, attendants, domestic workers, or servants of individuals who hold a valid G-1 through G-4, or NATO-1 through NATO-6 visa, may be issued a G-5 or a NATO-7 visa, if they meet the requirements.

The employment contract must be in English and, if the employee does not understand English, also in a language the employee understands.

Employment Contractsigned by both the employer and the employee which must include each of the following items:

The contract must state that wages will be paid to the domestic employee either weekly or biweekly. As of March 2011, the Department determined that no deductions are allowed for lodging, medical care, medical insurance, or travel. As of April 2012, deductions taken for meals are also no longer allowed.

Important Notices:Employers and Personal Employees/Domestic Workersare advised to keep their passport and a copy of their contract in their possession. They should not surrender their contract and/or passport to their employer. Personal employees and domestic workers are advised that they will be subject to U.S. law while in the United States, and that their contracts provide working arrangements that theemployeris expected to respect.

There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. embassy or consulate where you apply. As part of the application process, an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States is required. The employer and/or recruitment agent does not attend the interview.

You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website.

Visa applicants for G-5 and NATO-7 visas must submit each of the items explained in this webpage and How to Apply sections including:

Learn about your rights in the United States and protection available to you by reading theLegal Rights and Protectionspamphlet, before applying for your visa.

During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa. You must establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive a G-5 or NATO-7 visa.

Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.

After your visa interview, your application may require further administrative processing. You will be informed by the consular officer if further processing is necessary for your application.

If the visa is approved, you will be informed how your passport with visa will be returned to you.

Personal employees should keep their passport and a copy of their contract in their possession. They should not surrender their contract and passport to their employer under any circumstances. Personal employees should understand that their contracts provide working arrangements that the employer is expected to respect.

Recent changes to U.S. law relate to the legal rights of certain employment-based nonimmigrants under Federal immigration, labor, and employment laws and the information to be provided about protections and available resources. Employers, as well as personal employees, should review the Nonimmigrant Rights, Protections and Resources pamphlet explained above.

Personal employees and domestic workers should understand that they must follow U.S. laws while in the United States.

Expand All

Change of Status Into, Within, Between, or Out of G or NATO Status in the U.S.

Select Change of Status to learn about:

Visa Denial and Ineligibility

Review Visa Denials for detailed information about visa ineligibilities, denials, and waivers.

Misrepresentation or Fraud

Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States.

Review Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws.

Read more:

Employee of International Organization & NATO Visa

Becky Lynch Calls Out Cyborg for a Summerslam Confrontation – 411mania.com

During an interview with Inside The Ropes at a Summerslam press event this week, Becky Lynch spoke about her recent ongoing issues with UFC womens featherweight champion Cris Cyborg Justino. She seemed to hint at some sort of possible confrontation with Cyborg this weekend at Summerslam.

You can check out the interview with Lynch where she talks about Summerslam and potentially confronting Cyborg in the player below. WWE Summerslam 2017 is set for tomorrow (August 20) at the Barclays Center.

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Becky Lynch Calls Out Cyborg for a Summerslam Confrontation – 411mania.com

‘Swedish police should prioritize crimes against freedom of speech’ – The Local Sweden

Sweden’s Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The Local speaks to Sweden’s Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke about the government’s plan to crack down on threats and hate against politicians, journalists and artists.

This interview is part of our Sweden in Focus article series. Read the main feature here:

The government has presented ‘Defence of the Free Word’, an action plan to combat threats and hate against journalists, elected representatives and artists. Could you explain the background?

Threats against journalists, elected representatives and artists have been highlighted in a series of studies, and also through reports from victims. Apart from the fact that the government has commissioned and financed surveys to ensure that the measures we invest in contribute to positive change, we have also learned from studies and intense roundtable discussions with everyone from editors-in-chief and journalists to artists and organizers because another thing that has been noted is that when a museum for example invites an artist to put together an exhibition they have received more and more threats in recent years linked both to the artist but also to the theme. There have been concerning signs and discussions about museums and organizers risking self-censorship because of security costs.

We have been talking about this and I have also travelled around the country to meet many of the various groups being targeted. That’s the background why we adopted this action plan against hate and threats.

Recommended interview:

Swedish artist Lars Vilks has been threatened on multiple occasions. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Many others have reported being threatened in their line of work in the past 12 months:one in five librarians, four out of ten police officers, and so on. Why does the action plan focus on these professions in particular?

Journalists, artists and elected representatives work on the basis of those freedoms and opportunities that free speech offers. So when they are threatened, free speech is also threatened. That’s the simple explanation, because there are other groups in society who are also exposed to a lot of threats, everything from social workers to environmental health inspectors in restaurants and so on, but this is for professionals working with free speech.

What does it mean for society if these voices are silenced?

It is extremely serious. The consequences of a journalist either being completely silenced or choosing not to investigate a tip because of threats directed at the journalist or their family is terrible, because that means that something risks not being investigated, that we as citizens lose the chance to gain knowledge and form an opinion. And parallel to this there is a development that more and more choose to form their perceptions of reality based on information that is not journalism, that is, does not follow those principles and guidelines that journalism does. Unfortunately it is also the case that many people believe that what you read on for example Facebook is journalism, and that is not always the case. It may very well be, it could be linked to journalistic articles where there is a publisher responsible for the articles, but unfortunately that is not always the case.

Many of those we’ve spoken to say that threats are not the only problem, but also hateful comments in e-mails and elsewhere online that may not necessarily be illegal in the eyes of the law. How do you tackle this?

That is also a big problem, and the action plan we’ve now got in place is by no means a cure-all. It is part of systematic work by the government, but in society as a whole we need very many different actors using our respective platforms to create a better climate for conversations, because just as you say, the tone of conversations and that hostile tone that is all too often used on social media is not always criminal as such, but can still contribute to people choosing not to participate.

That is also something we’re highlighting in the action plan, where some of the measures are targeted at support for, say, a blogger that’s also a group that’s extremely exposed to hate and threats or people in general who express opinions or thoughts and the more threats and the more hostilities they face, the narrower and smaller the space for public conversation becomes. And we all lose out when the climate is not inviting and generous even when we do not at all agree with people’s opinions it still benefits all of us in the end when they are given the space to express those opinions.

Recommended reading:

Alice Bah Kuhnke, right, taking part in a march for diversity in Visby, July 2017. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Surely people must be allowed to express negative opinions too, so where do you draw the line between limiting hate speech and protecting free speech?

Democracy is not a simple matter. Fortunately, we live in a state where the rule of law applies, and the line is drawn when the rule of law is threatened and when the justice system decides what is legal and what is not legal. But until you reach that external line our freedoms come with a great deal of responsibility.

Unfortunately those forces that do not want or do not protect our freedoms also use our freedoms. They take advantage of the fundamental rights we have for generating discussions and affecting the development of society, and they are advanced in how they use those freedoms to silence and limit other people’s freedoms. That’s incredibly saddening and provocative, and at the same time I remain convinced,convinced, that I want to fight to preserve and consolidate our freedoms and that that is also the best tool to fight those who want to limit them.

Politicians and journalists are not always innocent, and there have been cases in Sweden and elsewhere where individuals from both professions have been criticized for spreading hate, or indirectly spreading hate by posting something online that is then backed by trolls who stir things up even more. Do we also need to think more about how we express ourselves?

Yes. I as a politician very much have to raise my own awareness and pay attention to what tone I use in discussions with other politicians and other politicians’ opinions and political proposals. We should not throw stones in glass houses, and that is kind of what I was hinting at when I said that we need to be many different actors doing a lot to create a better environment for conversation and opinion formation, but also to build a better society because that is based on us having information that we can then break down and wrestle with.

Some of those targeted claim that the justice system is not doing enough. Why was this action plan put forward by yourself and the culture ministry rather than the interior ministry, which is responsible for the police and the justice system?

This is put forward by the government, and the police are part of the action plan, because as you say this is something that has been highlighted. All various actors describe the frustration of not feeling and not knowing that those reports to the police (are taken seriously). It should be said they are few, there is likely a large number of incidents that go unrecorded because many of the victims have normalized the hate and the threats, but they have clearly explained how it quite simply has not felt meaningful to go to the police.

So that’s why the Swedish police should now prioritize crimes against opinion-formation and freedom of speech and with the action plan we will now ask the police to report back how they’re working, how they’re prioritizing and show the government that they are doing this. And not least we are emphasizing the importance that local police forces prioritize relationship-building but also security work for local newspaper offices.

There has been talk in many parts of the world about threats against journalists from leaders themselves. Even in the US, President Donald Trump was accused of advocating violence against journalists when tweeting an edited video where he was beating a person whose head had been replaced with CNN’s logo. How did you react to that?

It is extremely distressing that we politicians who are trusted with governing our states spread or grow mistrust of journalists and journalism which is the fourth estate and whose main task is to investigate us. It makes me appalled and deeply saddened, but also inspires me to continue the work we’re doing in Sweden. The day we do not have investigative journalism, the day we do not have journalists investigating people like myself, then then well, that’s the downfall of our society.

This article is part of ourSweden in Focusseries, an in-depth look at what makes this country tick. Read more from the serieshere.

Edited for length and clarity.

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‘Swedish police should prioritize crimes against freedom of speech’ – The Local Sweden

Cris ‘Cyborg’ explains taking high road during Joe Rogan interview … – MMAjunkie.com

RIO DE JANEIRO UFC champ Cristiane Justino had been a target of Joe Rogans verbal jabs in the past. So, when he was the one with the microphone following her title-winning UFC 214 display, the symbolism was hard to miss.

Cyborg herself, at least, was quite aware of it.

I was thinking, I said Man, Joe Rogan is going to interview me,’ Justino told MMAjunkie during a media day in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday. Im going to make some ironic play with him. You know, make all (these) ideas before the fight.

Justinos issues with Rogango a while back.While he didpublicly apologize for jokes about the champ having male genitals, made during a podcast that also featured UFC president Dana White back in 2015, he recently landed back on the champs bad side because of a later-cleared issue with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stemming from a test for the banned diuretic spironolactone.

Before an investigation ended with Justino beinggranted a retroactive therapeutic use exemption (TUE)and cleared of any wrongdoing,Rogan expressed skepticism around her reasons to make use of the substance. Cyborg was quick to respond to him, who she called neither a friend or a fan.

Shes also been very public about how she feels her reputation was tarnished by the past remarks made by both Rogan and White whos also admitted to the UFCs share of blame when it comes to their dealings with the Brazilian featherweight.

But, at UFC 214, she preferred to take the high road.

It was my moment there, Justino said in her native Portuguese. I think him, at that moment, interviewing me, and Dana White putting the belt on my waist, that was a response in itself. I didnt need to say anything. I think they reflected at that moment. I didnt need to say anything and ruin a special moment for me.

We did the interview normally as if he was just any other person there. Im not saying that were going to become friends. But he was doing his job, and I was doing mine.

One can understand why Justino (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) wanted nothing more than to savor the moment. After all, the third-round knockoutover fellow former Invicta FC champ Tonya Evinger (19-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC)carried some meaning. After a long, turbulent road, Cyborg had not only beaten the odds in making it to the UFC she was conquering the belt of a division built around her.

Theres also the fact that Cyborg seems to have developed somewhat of a thick skin when it comes to doping accusations. In fact, that was the main argument used by inaugural womens 145-pound champ Germaine de Randamie to refuse fightingthe then obvious contender Justino following a title win over Holly Holm.

While Justino has, in fact, failed a doping test in the past she was stripped from her Strikeforce title after testing positive for an anabolic steroid in 2011 shes not only admitted to it, but has taken extra steps to prove herself a clean athlete.

Which is why the accusations, she says, look more like insurance than anything else.

Ronda (Rousey) started this, to not fight me, Justino said. And then everybody said that. But the fans are smart. The fans know. I take the same test everybody does. Its USADA. I do the same thing. If you call me a cheater, you think USADA is cheating. You think theyre doing wrong, their jobs, if you think Im a cheater. Because I do the same as everybody.

Im the first athlete (who) signed with USADA one year before I fought in the UFC. When I fought in Curitiba (at UFC 198), I (had already been working) with USADA for one year. When I fought in Invicta I fought girls who didnt have to take USADA tests. I did this to prove Im a clean athlete. I made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes, but everybody likes to judge you.

I think (De Randamie) wanted insurance to not fight me; she didnt have an excuse. First (it was) about the doping, after (it was) the hands, after (it was) the doctor, after the family. I dont know. Any day youd interview her, she had an excuse.

For more on the UFCs upcoming schedule, check out theUFC Rumorssection of the site.

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Cris ‘Cyborg’ explains taking high road during Joe Rogan interview … – MMAjunkie.com

Poet Imagines Life Inside A 1910 Institution That Eugenics Built – NPR

In her book The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics And Feebleminded, poet Molly McCully Brown explores themes of disability, eugenics and faith. Kristin Teston/Persea hide caption

In her book The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics And Feebleminded, poet Molly McCully Brown explores themes of disability, eugenics and faith.

Growing up in southwestern Virginia in recent decades, poet Molly McCully Brown often passed by a state institution in Amherst County that was once known as the “Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded.”

Since 1983 the facility, which was founded in 1910, has been called the Central Virginia Training Center, and it is now a residential home for people with various intellectual disabilities. But in the early 20th century, the place Brown now refers to as “the colony” was part of the eugenics movement taking hold in the U.S., and a variety of treatments now considered inhumane were practiced there including forced sterilization. Brown, who has cerebral palsy, notes that had she been born in an earlier era, she might have been sent to live at the institution herself.

“It is impossible to know that for sure,” she says. “I can look at my life and look at my family and look at my parents and think, No, never. That never would have happened. But I also understand that if I had been born 50 years earlier, the climate was very different.”

She hopes to give voice to those early generations of residents, in her book of poetry, The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics And Feebleminded.

For Brown, the themes of disability and poetry have been constant throughout her life: “In my life, there has always been my body in some state of falling apart or disrepair or attempting to be fixed, and there has always been poetry. And I couldn’t untwine those things if I tried.”

Interview Highlights

On seeing the buildings and grounds of the old facility

It was incredibly moving and incredibly powerful. The place is interesting because it is still an operational facility for adults with really serious disabilities, although it is in the process of closing. But like a lot of things in Virginia, it was initially built on an enormous amount of land. And, so, a really interesting thing happened, which is that as the buildings that were originally part of the colony fell into disrepair, they were largely just moved out of and new buildings were built on accompanying land, but those original buildings were not necessarily torn down. So the place itself is this really strange combination of functioning facility and ghost town of everything that it has been. I’ve never been in a place that felt more acutely haunted in my life.

On how some people assume her physical disability means she also has an intellectual disability

We do have a strange tendency in this country to equate any kind of disability with less intellectual capability and with even a less complete humanity. Certainly as a child and as a teenager and even now as an adult [I] encountered people who assumed that just because I used a wheelchair, maybe I couldn’t even speak to them. I often get questions directed at people I’m with, as opposed to me, and that’s a really interesting phenomenon.

On the connection between poetry and theology

Both poetry and theology for me are about paying attention to the world in a very intentional way, and about admitting a mystery that is bigger than anything that I rationally understand. … I think poetry has always been for me a kind of prayer. So those things feel very linked for me. And, again, poetry does feel like the first and in some ways best language I ever had for mystery and for my sense of what exists beyond the world we’re currently living in.

On how Catholicism has helped her accept her body

One of the things that I find so moving about Catholicism is that it never forgets that to be a person is inherently and inescapably and necessarily to be in a body a body that brings you pain, a body that brings you pleasure, a body that can be a barrier to thinking more completely about your life and your soul but [that it] can also be a vehicle to delivering you into better communion with the world, with other people and to whatever divinity it is that you believe in.

What Catholicism did for me, in part, is give me a framework in which to understand my body as not an accident or a punishment or a mistake, but as the body that I am meant to have and that is constitutive of so much of who I am and what I’ve done and what I hope I will do in the world.

More and more … I’ve come to see my body as a place of pride and potential, and as something that gives me a unique outlook onto the world. And I’d rather that, I guess, than be infuriated by it.

On her twin sister, who died shortly after birth

She lived about 36 hours after we were born. … It’s a phenomenon in my life that I have not a lot of rational explanation for, … but it is true that I miss my sister with a kind of intense specificity that has no rational explanation, and that I feel aware of her presence in this way that I can’t exactly explain or articulate, but which feels undeniable to me. …

I do think that that sort of gave me no other option than to believe in some kind of something beyond this current mortal life that we’re living. Because what is the explanation otherwise for the fact that I feel like I miss and I know this person who only lived a matter of hours? And for the fact as much as I know that she is dead and is gone in a real way, she doesn’t feel “disappeared” to me.

On how her physical disability and her poetry are intertwined

I think the easiest way I have of describing it is I have two [early] memories. … One of them is of sitting on a table in a hospital room in the children’s hospital in St. Louis, choosing the flavor of the anesthetic gas I was going to breathe when they put me under to do my first major surgery. I was picking between cherry and butterscotch and grape. And the second memory that I have is of my father reading a Robert Hayden poem called “Those Winter Sundays.”

Roberta Shorrock and Therese Madden produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Deborah Franklin adapted it for the Web.

Read more:

Poet Imagines Life Inside A 1910 Institution That Eugenics Built – NPR

An eclipse chaser explains why the rare celestial event shouldn’t be missed – The Verge

David Baron has been chasing eclipses for almost 20 years. His first total solar eclipse when the Moon fully blocks the Sun from sight, turning day into night was in 1998, in Aruba. The experience convinced him to travel the world to catch more eclipses. I really didnt know what a big deal it would be, says Baron, a science writer. It was so moving, almost psychedelic. I just decided I wanted to experience it again.

Since 1998, Baron has traveled to Europe, Australia, and Indonesia to witness five total solar eclipses. And on August 21st of this year, hell climb nearly 11,000 feet to the top of Rendezvous Peak in the Teton Mountains in Wyoming, to witness the first total solar eclipse crossing the US from coast to coast since 1918. Hes not alone: eclipse chasers all over the world travel wherever they can to get a fleeting glimpse of the celestial phenomenon. This months eclipse is expected to draw millions of people.

The experience can be addictive

The experience can be addictive, Baron says. A total solar eclipse lasts only a few minutes just a couple minutes on August 21st, depending where you are but those few minutes can give you a feeling of incredible connection to the universe, he says. During a total solar eclipse, the day turns into night, and all of a sudden you can see the planets appear in the sky. You can also see the Suns wispy outer atmosphere, called the corona, the jets of light and rays shot into the surrounding universe. Its just the most breathtakingly beautiful, I daresay, glorious sight in the heavens, Baron says.

Eclipse chasers have been around for a long time, and we have good records of who attempted to catch more recent eclipses. In 1860, a group of scientists traveled by train, stagecoach, wagon, steamboat, and canoe for 47 days to witness a total solar eclipse in todays central Manitoba, Canada. (Unfortunately, clouds covered the entire eclipse.) In 1870, Frenchman Jules Janssen escaped Paris by balloon during a Prussian siege to reach Algeria and witness a total solar eclipse there.

Baron writes about these, and other, eclipse-chasing adventures in a new book, called American Eclipse. The book focuses on the eclipse of 1878, which crossed the US from Montana to Texas. Among the eclipse chasers this time were astronomer Maria Mitchell, who wanted to show the world that women could be scientists; and a young Thomas Edison, who yearned to prove his scientific worth. (He spent eclipse day testing an improbable instrument called the tasimeter, which was designed to measure the heat emitted by the Suns corona.)

The 1878 eclipse proved to be an important one for the US: it allowed a young country to prove that its burgeoning scientific community was capable of doing serious scientific research. And it inspired thousands of regular Americans to become interested in science: many flocked to Denver, buying blue or smoked glass to stare at the Sun as the Moon hovered over it; on Pikes Peak, Colorado, dozens picnicked as they waited for the eclipse. Crowds cheered loudly once the Sun became completely covered. Baron says hes experienced the same collective cheering while watching a total solar eclipse in Munich in 1999.

Eclipses, I find, connect the present with the past like few other natural events, Baron writes at the end of American Eclipse. For me, personally, they are life milestones. Each forces me to reflect on who I was the last time I gazed at the corona. For us, collectively as a society, a nation, a civilization they can have the same indelible, life-affirming effect. They afford a chance not only to grasp the majesty and power of nature, but to wonder at ourselves who we are, and who were were when the same shadow long ago touched this finite orb in the boundless void.

Ahead of this months total solar eclipse, The Verge talked to Baron about eclipse chasing, his book, and whether this years total solar eclipse will be as important as the one in 1878.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

We know what drives scientists to chase eclipses. But what about regular people?

It is just the most jaw-droppingly beautiful and spectacularly moving experience Ive ever had, and certainly a lot of people feel the same way. Even though it is so brief, its like nothing else youve ever experienced and so for a lot of folks, it can become an addiction. You just want to have that experience again, that feeling of incredible connection to the universe.

Whos your typical eclipse chaser?

A number of eclipse chasers are kind of the traditional group of amateur astronomers, folks who go with their telescopes and their solar filters and really like the scientific aspects of it. Theyre not studying it, but theyre taking photos with their fancy cameras and stuff like that. But then youve got other folks and I would put myself in their camp who just find it exciting and moving and beautiful. And that can be anyone who may have seen their first solar eclipse by accident, or they were just going along with a friend who really wanted to see it and were unexpectedly moved by the experience. There is a wonderful, wonderful video that was produced by some Australian TV program about this mother-daughter pair who chase eclipses. It just captures what Im trying to say: it makes you feel alive and part of the universe and something you just want to share with people you love.

Have you bumped into the same eclipse chasers over and over?

I havent personally, but its hard often, because if a total eclipse goes over a large section of land, people will be spread out. But when I was in Indonesia last year, I was traveling around with a Canadian eclipse chaser whom Id met online and we intentionally hooked up on the island of Belitung, Indonesia, and rented a car together. As we were driving around the island, he happened upon an American eclipse chaser whom he hadnt seen in 15 years, who he had last seen in Ghana at a previous total eclipse. And he recognized that guy. So it definitely happens; it has yet to happen to me.

Where did you meet the Canadian guy?

It kind of reminds me of what birders do.

There are a couple of places where eclipse chasers can kind of hang out or meet up with each other. Theres this very active listserv called SEML, Solar Eclipse Mailing List. Whenever a total eclipse or even partial eclipse is coming up, folks will be talking about where theyll be going. It provides tips on hotels or travel or the best place for clear skies. Its a way for eclipse chasers to kind of fuel each others enthusiasm. Theres also eclipse-chasers.com. The most interesting aspect is theres an eclipse chaser log. So after youve seen a total eclipse, you can have your own log entry and you can update it, marking on Google Maps precisely where you were, counting whether you had clear skies, cloudy skies, and how many minutes, seconds, and tenths of seconds you were in the Moons shadow. And it all gets added to the running tally, so if you go to the eclipse chaser log, you can see whos in first [place] in terms of total eclipses, or total time in the shadow of the Moon. Im way down the list somewhere.

It kind of reminds me of what birders do with their life lists. Im not part of the birding community, but I think theres both an aspect of collegiality and also competition in terms of whos got the longer life list. Theres a bit of that in the eclipse chasing, too. Everyone really wants success for everyone else, but you also kind of like the fact that youve seen more total eclipses or you had better success than somebody else.

What drove you to see your first total eclipse?

That was May 1994, when there was a partial eclipse that was going to cross the US. In the course of reporting on that eclipse, I interviewed the astronomer Jay Pasachoff from Williams College, and he was emphasizing that even a very interesting partial eclipse is nothing compared to a solar eclipse. And he said to me, Before you die, you owe it to yourself to see a total eclipse. And I took it seriously. I took a book out of the library or I bought a book about total eclipses, and I noticed that, in a few years, there was going to be one crossing Aruba in February, and it just seemed like a no-brainer that I should go to Aruba and see what he was talking about. Thats what got me to see my first total eclipse.

During that trip to Aruba, you got the idea to write a book about total solar eclipses. Why did you decide to make Edison such a central character in the book?

Really, my excitement for this story began with Thomas Edison. I was looking at various eclipses that might be worth writing a book about, but when I discovered that Thomas Edison in the very year right after he invented the phonograph, and immediately before he invented the light bulb had gone to Wyoming to see a total eclipse, I thought, well, theres gotta be a story here. This is a key year in Edisons life, and here he is out in the Wild West. Its been written about so little. If you read any Edison biography, it will mention maybe in a paragraph that, oh and by the way, in the summer of 1878, Edison took a vacation, went out West, saw a total eclipse, and then he came back.

If Edison hadnt gone West in 1878 to see the eclipse, it is quite likely he would not have been the one to invent the first successful light bulb. In his time in the West, he was with these other academic scientists who were encouraging him to take on the problem of electric lightning. But more than that, when Edison went West for the eclipse of 1878, when he was going to do his own experiments during the eclipse, he was mastering his skills at public relations. He had the newspapermen wrapped around his little finger. And that was a key skill that was critical to his success with the light bulb, to be able to keep the press on his side, to get investors excited about what he was working on during those long, hard months when honestly he didn’t know what he was doing, but he was trying to tell the world that he had solved the problem of electric lighting. I just love Edison as a character. He was such a colorful, folksy genius.

I particularly love your descriptions of Maria Mitchell, and her struggle to be accepted in the scientific community. When did you first hear about her?

Im embarrassed to say frankly how little I knew of all of the characters in my book, except for Thomas Edison, prior to working on the book. Id heard of Maria Mitchell but I really knew very little of her. But as I discovered, she was very prominent back in the 19th century and even in the early part of the 20th century. When I learned that she had taken this all-female expedition to Denver in 1878, which obviously was quite remarkable for the time, I was immediately taken by her. I was able to find enough material, because a lot was written about her and her expedition. People were really impressed by what she did. And she gave lectures about that expedition. She brings a whole different context to the 1878 eclipse that this wasnt just a scientific event, it really was a cultural event, both in terms of America embracing science and deciding that science was something that this democratic nation should get behind, but also in terms of changing American culture in some way, about how we think about science and scientists. And Maria Mitchell showing what women could do was part of that.

Do you think this years total eclipse will be as important as the one in 1878?

Thats a good question. As important, I dont know. I do think it will be a bigger deal than anyone imagines right now. First of all, it will be a bigger deal in terms of just the press attention its going to get, and public attention and tourists going into the path of totality and the number of people who will find it a life-changing experience. I guarantee you, its going to be huge.

its going to be huge.

Its going to inspire some small but significant chunk of young people to want to become scientists. You reached me on my book tour. At one of my earlier stops in Philadelphia, I spoke at the library there, and after my talk, a young man in his 20s came up to me. In my talk, I had discussed my experience of the total eclipse in Aruba and what a dramatic, life-changing experience it was for me. He was five years old at the time of the eclipse, he lived in Venezuela and the same eclipse went over Venezuela. And the guy, he was wearing a T-shirt from the European Center for Nuclear Research CERN and he said, You know, that eclipse is what inspired me to become a physicist. He intentionally wanted to emphasize that the point I made in my talk, that this coming eclipse could really inspire kids to get into science, was absolutely true. Thats what happened to him in 1998.

Youve seen five total solar eclipses since 1998. Have you missed any?

Ive missed quite a few. Some I missed for very good reasons, because they just went over Antarctica. After I saw my first two in 98 and 99, I had other priorities for my life and I kind of put eclipse chasing on hold for a while. So for about 10 years, I was doing other things. And it was as I was getting older, as I was sort of coming to grips with my own mortality, that I decided to take it up again. My mother died very young, at age 48. Obviously that was very hard for me, I was in my early 20s at the time. But it was really surprising [that] as I reached my mid-40s, it really struck me hard. It just really put me in touch with how much of life she missed out and how I cant take for granted how many years I have left. And it was really because of that, I reflected on whats important to me. And looking back over the years on what was meaningful, I kept coming back to that experience in Aruba and how that really was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. And I decided, if Im going to every eclipse I reasonably can, Im still not going to see that many in the rest of my life. So I decided in my mid 40s that I was going to make eclipse chasing a priority. If I could reasonably get to a total eclipse with a reasonable chance of seeing it, that I would go. So I really picked it up again starting in 2012, when I went to Australia.

I cant take for granted how many years I have left.

Do you plan to keep doing this?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I definitely intend to go to South America in 2019 and 2020. Those total eclipses will both cross the middle of Chile and Argentina, one in the winter and one in the summer. And then, the next one after that I think its not a very convenient one, that one goes to Antarctica. But then after that, the one in 2024 will cross the US, so Ill definitely see that one. But the one Im really looking forward to so I hope Ill be around for it its August 12th, 2045. That one will cross Colorado. That will last over six minutes, and that would be just great. Thats a darn good one.

Its so far away in the future its hard to think about it.

Normally, in astronomical terms, we talk about next week, next month, next year, but total eclipses happen on a much more leisurely [time scale], and so when you think in terms of total solar eclipses you talk about many years into the future. Eclipse chasing makes you look at time in a whole different way.

Read more:

An eclipse chaser explains why the rare celestial event shouldn’t be missed – The Verge

Immortality: Silicon Valley’s latest obsession ushers in the transhumanist era – South China Morning Post

Zoltan Istvan is launching his campaign to become Libertarian governor of the American state of California with two signature policies. First, hell eliminate poverty with a universal basic income that will guarantee US$5,000 per month for every Californian household for ever. (Hell do this without raising taxes, he promises.)

The next item in his in-tray is eliminating death. He intends to divert trillions of dollars into life-extending technologies robotic hearts, artificial exoskeletons, genetic editing, bionic limbs and so on in the hope that each Californian man, woman and AI (artificial intelligence) will eventually be able to upload their consciousness to the Cloud and experience digital eternity.

What we can experience as a human being is going to be dramatically different within two decades, Istvan says, when we meet at his home in Mill Valley, California. We have five senses now. We might have thousands in 30 or 40 years. We might have very different bodies, too.

I have friends who are about a year away from cutting off their arm and replacing it with a prosthetic version. And sure, pretty soon the robotic arm really will be better than a biological one. Lets say you work in construction and your buddy can lift a thousand times what you can. The question is: do you get it?

For most people, the answer to this question is likely to be, Erm, maybe Ill pass for the moment. But to a transhumanist such as Istvan, 44, the answer is, Hell, yes! A former National Geographic reporter and property speculator, Istvan combines the enthusiasm of a child whos read a lot of Marvel comics with a parodically presidential demeanour. Hes a blond-haired, blue-eyed father of two with an athletic build, a firm handshake and the sort of charisma that goes down well in TED talks.

Like most transhumanists (there are a lot of them in California), Istvan believes our species can, and indeed should, strive to transcend our biological limitations. And he has taken it upon himself to push this idea out of the Google Docs of a few Silicon Valley dreamers and into the American political mainstream.

Twenty-five years ago, hardly anybody was recycling, he explains. Now, environmentalism has conditioned an entire generation. Im trying to put transhumanism on a similar trajectory, so that in 10, 15 years, everybody is going to know what it means and think about it in a very positive way.

What were saying is that over the next 30 years, the complexity of human experience is going to become so amazing, you ought to at least see it

Zoltan Istvan

I meet Istvan at the home he shares with his wife, Lisa an obstetrician and gynaecologist with Planned Parenthood and their two daughters, six-year-old Eva, and Isla, who is three. I had been expecting a gadget-laden cyber-home; in fact, he resides in a 100-year-old loggers house built from Californian redwood, with a converted stable on the ground floor and plastic childrens toys in the yard. If it werent for the hyper-inflated prices in the Bay Area (Its sort of Facebook yuppie-ville around here, says Istvan) youd say it was a humble Californian homestead.

Still, there are a few details that give him away, such as the forbidding security warnings on his picket fence. During his unsuccessful bid for the presidency last year he stood as the Transhumanist Party candidate and scored zero per cent a section of the religious right identified him as the Antichrist. This, combined with Lisas work providing abortions, means they get a couple of death threats a week and have had to report to the FBI.

Christians in America have made transhumanism as popular as its become, says Istvan. They really need something that they can point their finger at that fulfils Revelations.

Istvan also has a West Wing box set on his mantelpiece and a small Meccano cyborg by the fireplace. Its named Jethro, after the protagonist of his self-published novel, The Transhumanist Wager (2013). And there is an old Samsung phone attached to the front door, which enables him to unlock the house using the microchip in his finger.

A lot of the Christians consider my chip a mark of the beast, he says. Im like, No! Its so I dont have to carry my keys when I go out jogging.

Istvan hopes to chip his daughters before long for security purposes and recently argued with his wife about whether it was even worth saving for a university fund for them, since by the time they reach university age, advances in artificial intelligence will mean they can just upload all the learning they need. Lisa won that argument. But hes inclined not to freeze his sperm and Lisas eggs, since if they decide to have a third child, 10 or 20 or 30 years hence, theyll be able to combine their DNA.

Even if theres a mischievous, fake-it-till-you-make-it quality to Istvan, theres also a core of seriousness. He is genuinely troubled that we are on the verge of a technological dystopia that the mass inequalities that helped fuel US President Donald Trumps rise will only worsen when the digital revolution really gets under way. And he despairs of the retrogressive bent of the current administration: Trump talks all the time about immigrants taking jobs. Bulls**t. Its technology thats taking jobs. We have about four million truck drivers who are about to lose their jobs to automation. This is why capitalism needs a basic income to survive.

And hes not wrong in identifying that emerging technologies such as AI and bio-enhancement will bring with them policy implications, and its probably a good idea to start talking about them now.

Stephen Hawkings question to China: will AI help or destroy the human race?

Certainly, life extension is a hot investment in Silicon Valley, whose elites have a hard time with the idea that their billions will not protect them from an earthly death. Google was an early investor in the secretive biotech start-up Calico, the California Life Company, which aims to devise interventions that slow ageing and counteract age-related diseases. Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel has invested millions in parabiosis: the process of curing ageing with transfusions of young peoples blood.

Another biotech firm, United Therapeutics, has unveiled plans to grow fresh organs from DNA. Clearly, it is possible, through technology, to make death optional, the firms founder, Martine Rothblatt, told a recent gathering of the National Academy of Medicine in Los Angeles.

In attendance were Google co-founder Sergey Brin, vegan pop star Moby and numerous venture capitalists. Istvan fears that unless we develop policies to regulate this transition, the Thiels of this world will soon be hoarding all the young blood for themselves.

Clearly, it is possible, through technology, to make death optional

Martine Rothblatt

Istvan was born in Oregon in 1973, the son of Hungarian immigrants who fled Stalins tanks in 1968. He had a comfortable middle-class upbringing his mother was a devout Catholic and sent him to Catholic school and an eye for a story. After graduating from Columbia University, he embarked on a solo round-the-world yachting expedition, during which, he says, he read 500 works of classic literature. He spent his early career reporting for the National Geographic channel from more than 100 countries, many of them conflict zones, claiming to have invented the extreme sport of volcano boarding along the way.

One of the things he shares in common with Americas current president is a fortune accrued from real estate. While he was making films overseas in the noughties, his expenses were minimal, so he was able to invest all of his pay cheques in property.

AlphaGos China showdown: Why its time to embrace artificial intelligence

So many people in America were doing this flipping thing at the time, explains Istvan. I realised very quickly, Wow! I could make enough money to retire. It was just quite easy and lucrative to do that.

At his peak, he had a portfolio of 19 fixer-upper houses, most of which he managed to sell before the crash of 2008. He now retains nine as holiday rentals and uses the proceeds to fund his political campaigns (he is reluctant to name his other backers). Still, he insists hes not part of the 1 per cent; the most extravagant item of furniture is a piano, and his groceries are much the same as you find in many liberal, middle-class Californian households.

Istvan cant think of any particular incident that prompted his interest in eternal life, other than perhaps a rejection of Catholicism.

Fifty per cent of me thinks after we die we get eaten by worms, and our body matter and brain return unconsciously to the cosmos [] The other half subscribes to the idea that we live in a holographic universe where other alien artificial intelligences have reached the singularity, he says, referring to the idea, advanced by Google engineer Ray Kurzweil, that pretty soon we will all merge with AI in one transcendental consciousness.

However, when Istvan first encountered transhumanism, at university via an article on cryonics (the practice of deep-freezing the recently dead in the hope that they can be revived at some point), he was sold. Within 90 seconds, I realised thats what I wanted to do in my life.

After a near-death experience in Vietnam he came close to stepping on a landmine Istvan decided to return to America and make good on this vow. I was nearing 30 and Id done some great work, but after all that time Id spent in conflict zones, seeing dead bodies, stuff like that, I thought it would be a good time to dedicate myself to conquering death.

He spent four years writing his novel, which he proudly claims was rejected by more than 600 agents and publishers. Its a dystopian story that imagines a Christian nation outlawing transhumanism, prompting all the billionaires to retreat to an offshore sea-stead where they can work on their advances undisturbed (Thiel has often threatened to do something similar).

Istvan continued to promote transhumanism by writing free columns for Huffington Post and Vice, chosen because they have strong Alexa rankings (ie, they show up high in Google search results).

I wrote something like 200 articles, putting transhumanism through the Google algorithm again and again, he says. I found it a very effective way to spread the message. I covered every angle that I could think of: disability and transhumanism; LGBT issues and transhumanism; transhumanist parenting.

Hes proud to say hes the only mainstream journalist who is so devoted to the cause. A lot of people write about transhumanism, but I think Im the only one who says, This is the best thing thats ever happened!

Why your biological age may hold the key to reversing the ageing process

Istvans presidential campaign was an attempt to take all of this up a level. It sounds as if he had a lot of fun. He toured Rust Belt car parks and Deep South mega-churches in a coffin-shaped immortality bus inspired by the one driven by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters to promote LSD in the 1960s.

His platform Make America Immortal Again earned a fair amount of publicity, but Americans seemed ill-prepared for such concepts as the AI imperative (the idea that the first nation to create a true AI will basically win everything, so America had better be the first) and the singularity. At one point, he and his supporters were held at gunpoint by some Christians in Alabama.

The experience taught him a salutary lesson: unless you are a billionaire, it is simply impossible to make any kind of dent in the system. Hence his defection to the Libertarian Party, which vies with the Greens as the third party in American politics. Every town I go to, theres a Libertarian meet-up. With the Transhumanists, Id have to create the meet-up. So theres more to work with.

The Libertarian presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, received 3.27 per cent of the votes last year, including half a million votes in California. About seven or eight million are likely to vote in the California governor race, in which context, half a million starts to become a lot of votes, Istvan explains.

His own politics are somewhere between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, he admits, and he has a hard time converting the right wing of his new party to causes such as basic income. (The general spirit of libertarian America is, Hands off!) But he believes transhumanism shares enough in common with libertarianism for the alliance to be viable; the core precepts of being able to do what you like as long as you dont harm anyone else are the same. And the gubernatorial campaign serves as a primary for the 2020 presidential election, when he believes the Libertarian candidate will have a feasible chance of participating in the television debates.

But whats wrong with death? Dont we need old people to die to make space for new people? And by extension, we need old ideas and old regimes to die, too. Imagine if William Randolph Hearst or Genghis Khan were still calling the shots now. And imagine if Mark Zuckerberg and Vladimir Putin were doing so in 200 years. Innovation would cease, the species would atrophy, everyone would get terribly bored. Isnt it the ultimate narcissism to want to live forever?

Istvan does concede that transhumanism is a very selfish philosophy. However, he has an answer for most of the other stuff.

Im a believer in overpopulation Ive been to Delhi and its overcrowded, he says. But if we did a better job of governing, the planet could hold 15 billion people comfortably. Its really a question of better rules and regulations.

And when discussing the desirability of eternal life, he turns into a sort of holiday rep for the future.

What were saying is that over the next 30 years, the complexity of human experience is going to become so amazing, you ought to at least see it, Istvan says. A lot of people find that a lot more compelling than, say, dying of leukaemia.

Still, it comes as little surprise that hes finding live for ever an easier sell than give money to poor people in 21st-century America.

I cant imagine basic income not becoming a platform in the 2020 election, he insists. And if not then, at some point, someone is going to run and win on it. The Republicans should like it because it streamlines government. The Democrats should like it because it helps poor people. Right now, Americans dont like it because it sounds like socialism. But it just needs a little reframing.

Basic-income experiments are already under way in parts of Canada, Finland and the Netherlands, but how would he fund such an idea in the US? He cant raise taxes libertarians hate that. And he doesnt want to alienate Silicon Valley.

If we did a better job of governing, the planet could hold 15 billion people comfortably

Zoltan Istvan

How do you tell the 1 per cent youre going to take all this money from them? It wouldnt work, he says. They control too many things. But Istvan has calculated that 45 per cent of California is government-controlled land that the state could monetise.

A lot of environmentalists are upset at me for that, saying, Woah, Zolt, you want to put a shopping mall in Yosemite? Well, the reality is that the poor people in America will never be able to afford to go to Yosemite. Im trying to be a diplomat here.

And he insists that if Americans miss those national parks when theyve been turned into luxury condos and Taco Bells, theyll be able to replenish them some day if they want.

Theres nanotechnology coming through that would enable us to do that, Istvan argues. We have GMOs [genetically modified organisms] that can regrow plants twice as quick. In 50 or 100 years, were not even going to be worried about natural resources.

Such is his wager that exponential technological growth is around the corner and we may as well hurry it along, because its our best chance of clearing up the mess weve made of things thus far.

The safety of genetically-modified crops is backed by science

Didnt the political developments of 2016 persuade him that progress can be slow and sometimes go backwards? Actually, Istvan argues that what were witnessing are the death throes of conservatism, Christianity, even capitalism.

Everyone says the current pope is the best one weve had for ages, that hes so progressive and whatever. Actually, Catholicism is dying, says Istvan. Nobodys giving it any money any more, so the pope had better moderate its message. As for capitalism, all of this nationalism and populism are just the dying moments.

Its a system that goes against the very core of humanitarian urges. And while its brought us many wonderful material gains, at some point we can say, Thats enough. In the transhumanist age, we will reach utopia. Crime drops to zero. Poverty will end. Violence will drop. At some point, we become a race of individuals who are pretty nice to each other.

But now weve talked for so long that Istvan needs to go and pick up his daughters from childcare. He insists that I join him. What do his family make of all of this?

My wife is a bit sceptical of a lot of my timelines, he says. Lisa comes from practical Wisconsin farming stock, and its a fair bet that her work with Planned Parenthood keeps her pretty grounded. They met on dating website match.com. Does she believe in all this stuff?

I dont want to say shes not a transhumanist, he says, but I dont think shed cryogenically freeze herself tomorrow. I would. Im like, If you see me dying of a heart attack, please put me in a refrigerator. She thinks thats weird.

We arrive at the community centre where Istvans daughters are being looked after. They come running out in summer dresses, sweet and sunny and happy to be alive. Both of them want to be doctors when they grow up, like their mum.

The Times/The Interview People

Read more:

Immortality: Silicon Valley’s latest obsession ushers in the transhumanist era – South China Morning Post

How Google is making music with artificial intelligence – Science Magazine

A musician improvises alongside A.I. Duet, software developed in part by Googles Magenta

google

By Matthew HutsonAug. 8, 2017 , 3:40 PM

Can computers be creative? Thats a question bordering on the philosophical, but artificial intelligence (AI) can certainly make music and artwork that people find pleasing. Last year, Google launched Magenta, a research project aimed at pushing the limits of what AI can do in the arts. Science spoke with Douglas Eck, the teams lead in San Francisco, California, about the past, present, and future of creative AI. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: How does Magenta compose music?

A: Learning is the key. Were not spending any effort on classical AI approaches, which build intelligence using rules. Weve tried lots of different machine-learning techniques, including recurrent neural networks, convolutional neural networks, variational methods, adversarial training methods, and reinforcement learning. Explaining all of those buzzwords is too much for a short answer. What I can say is that theyre all different techniques for learning by example to generate something new.

Q: What examples does Magenta learn from?

A:We trained theNSynthalgorithm, which uses neural networks to synthesize new sounds, on notes generated by different instruments. TheSketchRNNalgorithm was trained onmillions of drawingsfrom ourQuick, Draw!game. Our most recent music algorithm,Performance RNNwas trained on classical piano performances captured on a modern player piano [listen below]. I’d like musicians to be able to easily train models on their own musical creations, then have fun with the resulting music, further improving it.

Q: How has computer composition changed over the years?

A:Currently the focus is on algorithms which learn by example, i.e., machine learning, instead of using hard-coded rules. I also think theres been increased focus on using computers as assistants for human creativity rather than as a replacement technology, such as our work and Sonys Daddys Car [a computer-composed song inspired by The Beatles and fleshed out by a human producer].

Q: Do the results of computer-generated music ever surprise you?

A:Yeah. All the time. I was really surprised at how expressive the short compositions were from Ian Simon and Sageev Oores recent Performance RNN algorithm. Because they trained on real performances captured in MIDI on Disklavier pianos, their model was able to generate sequences with realistic timing and dynamics.

Q: What else is Magenta doing?

A:We did a summer internship around joke telling, but we didnt generate any funny jokes. Were also working on image generation and drawing generation [seeexample below]. In the future, Id like to look more at areas related to design. Can we provide tools for architects or web page creators?

Magenta software can learn artistic styles from human paintings and apply them to new images.

Fred Bertsch

Q: How do you respond to art that you know comes from a computer?

A: When I was on the computer science faculty at University of Montreal [in Canada], I heard some computer music by a music faculty member, Jean Pich. Hed written a program that could generate music somewhat like that of the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. It wasnt nearly as engaging as the real Keith Jarrett! But I still really enjoyed it, because programming the algorithm is itself a creative act. I think knowing Jean and attributing this cool program to him made me much more responsive than I would have been otherwise.

Q: If abilities once thought to be uniquely human can be aped by an algorithm, should we think differently about them?

A: I think differently about chess now that machines can play it well. But I dont see that chess-playing computers have devalued the game. People still love to play! And computers have become great tools for learning chess.Furthermore, I think its interesting to compare and contrast how chess masters approach the game versus how computers solve the problemvisualization and experience versus brute-force search, for example.

Q: How might people and machines collaborate to be more creative?

A: I think its an iterative process. Every new technology that made a difference in art took some time to figure out. I love to think of Magenta like an electric guitar. Rickenbacker and Gibson electrified guitars with the purpose of being loud enough to compete with other instruments onstage.Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell and Marc Ribot and St. Vincent and a thousand other guitarists who pushed the envelope on how this instrument can be played were all using the instrument the wrong way, some saidretuning, distorting, bending strings, playing upside-down, using effects pedals, etc. No matter how fast machine learning advances in terms of generative models, artists will work faster to push the boundaries of whats possible there, too.

See original here:

How Google is making music with artificial intelligence – Science Magazine

The Path Toward Autonomy: Munster On Tesla’s Critical Evolution – Benzinga

As far as Gene Munster is concerned, Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) has no problem with appeal.

It isnt about demand, the managing partner of Loup Ventures told Benzinga Wednesday. They have plenty of demand. Theyve been underselling this vehicle, and as you know, they have about 500,000 pre-orders for it.

No, Teslas problem isnt demand. Its production. Its a relatively low economy of scale that Munster considers currently prohibitive to the companys success.

Tesla reports much lower yields than those of traditional automakers like General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) and Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F). In the last quarter, the company produced 30 Model 3s, and in the upcoming quarter, it plans to produce about 1,500. Ambitious CEO Elon Musk aims for 10,000 a week in 2018.

Tesla isnt there yet, but Munster sees potential in its processes.

If you want to just be blown away, look at how the manufacturing of a Model 3 is versus how even some of the automated manufacturing from some of the Big 3 is, he said. The level of efficiency and robotics used in building a Model 3 really changes the equation around the pace that they can manufacture.

But even with its futuristic mechanisms, its largest plant can only produce a million vehicles a year at full capacity compared to BMWs 2.5 million niche cars produced last year. Munster said Tesla needs to invest in a bigger plant to match pace with competitors.

Whether it takes the steps to scale is the critical question around the Tesla story, Munster said. But he has hope. I think that theyre going to get there.

If not, the firm risks vindicating skeptics concerned with high consumer costs.

The expense of a Model 3 is a potential deterrence for buyers.

With a $35,000 base price and an anticipated final cost closer to $50,000 after all features are added, the product is about 40 percent more than the average $32,000 Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE: TM) Camry, according to Munsters calculations.

But over time, that price gap diminishes.

If you look at total cost of ownership, which factors in lower insurance, the energy-saving cost with fuel, and the maintenance theres almost no maintenance on these cars, then that cost of ownership gap shrinks to about 14 percent, Munster said. I think that cost gap isnt as big as youd think when you think about total cost of ownership over a five-year period.

Musk has given a two-year timeline before hes ready to flip the switch on autonomy for existing Tesla models, but Munster extended the goal to 2020.

In fact, he said it will be another eight years before Teslas self-driving cars become mainstream, largely due to fear-driven legislative roadblocks.

I think its going to take a few years after [technology updates] to start to advance and get the legislation to loosen up to allow these, he said. I think this is probably 2025 before this is mainstream and you see a self-driving car and dont think twice about it.

Related Links:

Gene Munster: Traditional Car Manufacturers Face ‘Innovator’s Dilemma’

Tesla And The Auto Markets New Big Three

View More Analyst Ratings for TSLA View the Latest Analyst Ratings

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2017 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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The Path Toward Autonomy: Munster On Tesla’s Critical Evolution – Benzinga

Religion vs. state: Atheism and Al-Azhar – Egypt Independent – Egypt Independent

Typically, atheists in Muslim countries prefer to keep their beliefs secret, fearing their lack of faith will lead to their death.

In Egypt, the situation is different; young Egyptians have been touting atheist and agnostic ideologieson social media, which raisesquestions regarding thereal number of atheists in Egypt, and how the government and religious institutions are dealing with them.

Recently, massive controversy surfaced on social media outlets when Al-Azhar Egypts largest Muslim beacon released a statement that the countryhas the highest numberof atheists in the Arab world. The statement was issued bya member of Al-Azhars technical office Ahmed al-Malkai in aninterview onprivately-run news channel Al-Nahar.

It is not only the role of Al-Azhar and the government to combat atheism, but families are also responsible for thephenomenon, Malkai said during the interview.All questions that have been raised by atheists were met with proper answers from Al-Azhar.

Egypt Independent investigated the relations between the institution of Al-Azhar and atheists in Egypt, and how they are responding to clerics repeated calls for dialogue.

According to a report issued in 2014 by the state-run Dar al-Ifta, the number of Egyptian atheists reached 866.

Many Egyptians opposing the lack of religious faith are promoting a dialogue-based persuasion strategy to deal with the phenomenon, instead of marginalization.

There are, however, those whoconsider it a personal freedom that no one has the right tointerfere with, and argue that Egypt will only achieve progress if people focus theirattention on the workforce and production instead of citizens personal matters.

There is no clear acknowledgement of atheism in the Egyptian constitution, as only Islam, Christianity and Judaism are officially listed.

The undersecretary of the parliaments religious committee Amr Hamrowsh considers the recent declaration that Egypt is the Arab country with the highest rate of atheism to be incorrect information.

Atheism in Egypt is only present in individual cases, not a phenomenon as promoted through some media outlets, says Hamrowsh. The Egyptian constitution does not mention atheism as an official belief system, so it is hard for the parliament to issue legislation that will grant atheists freedom of belief, he explained.

In 2014, Endowments Minister Mohamed Mokhtar launched a national campaign in co-operation with the Youth Ministry to combat the spread of atheism, claiming it represents a danger to national security.

Similarly, Malkai believes that atheism is a phenomenon that should be combated, and said that Al-Azhar is holding seminars to discuss ways to eradicate it.

In any developed country, there is a principle that is followed citizenship; no one can ask you about your religion or beliefs, and all laws are applied without religious discrimination, Mohamed Ismail, an Egyptian atheist, told Egypt Independent on Thursday.

Ismailstated that the citizenship principle is not likely to be applied in Egypt, stressingthat Egyptians are obsessed with religion and refuse to acknowledge any faith that is not Abrahamic.

Ismail has adopted atheism as his personal ideology since 2012. He noted that it is not easy for an Egyptian to declare themselves atheist in front of others, as it could put them at fatal risk.

An Egyptian agnostic, who spoke to Egypt Independent on condition of anonymity, agreed that being open about dissident beliefs can incite danger.

I started to be agnostic after intensively studying science, which made me realize religion is a man-made concept, she said.

She rejects the call for dialogue with Al-Azhar and anystatesponsored religious institution, claimingthat engaging in dialogue with clerics would not be fruitful, as their ideology is different; she believes that Islam promotes terrorism.

However,Ismail says that the recent representation of Islam on the part of the clerics is a good step, as in the past there were only people from Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood political currents that acted as spokespersons of Islam, and they contributed to the religions distortion.

Nevertheless, Ismail also does not thinkthatengaging in discussion with them would be beneficial, saying, I can read what they have to say in books.

According to former undersecretary of Al-Azhar Mahmoud Ashour, there is no justification for reluctant refusal from atheists to engage in open dialogue with Al-Azhar, as it is not like IS or any extremist groups that kill atheists.

Ashournoted that it is important for all state institutions to encourage atheists in Egypt to engage in dialogue with Al-Azhar or churches, as he considers atheism a psychological disease that should be addressed.

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Religion vs. state: Atheism and Al-Azhar – Egypt Independent – Egypt Independent

9 questions about the Democratic Socialists of America you were too embarrassed to ask – Vox

This weekend, 697 delegates from 49 states are congregating in Chicago for the largest-ever convention of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Socialism is having a moment. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, nearly snagged the Democratic Party nomination last year and is the countrys most popular active politician; socialist Jeremy Corbyn came close to controlling the British government; and young people identify with the ideology at record rates. There is a new and unbridled optimism about socialisms potential.

In the last year alone, DSAs membership has ballooned from 8,000 to 25,000 dues-paying members. DSA boasts that it is now the biggest socialist organization in America since World War II.

Tempering this bubbling excitement around DSA are polls showing that socialism remains as unpopular with the general public as ever, the ongoing weakening of the American labor movement, and, of course, Republicans lock on the federal government. DSA may have a robust and growing social media presence, but its still just a tiny blip in the larger universe of left-leaning advocacy groups. (The National Education Association, for instance, has 3 million dues-paying members.)

After Trumps election, I thought the left would be on the defensive for a few years the way it was when Nixon was in power and when Reagan and George W. Bush were in power, said Michael Kazin, editor of the leftist magazine Dissent and a professor at Georgetown who is himself a DSA member. Some of that has happened. But its also been true that theres a renewed interest in the radical left a fresh possibility that DSA might be able, and will certainly try, to take advantage of.

Like most socialist organizations, DSA believes in the abolition of capitalism in favor of an economy run either by the workers or the state though the exact specifics of abolishing capitalism are fiercely debated by socialists.

The academic debates about socialisms meaning are huge and arcane and rife with disagreements, but what all definitions have in common is either the elimination of the market or its strict containment, said Frances Fox Piven, a scholar of the left at the City University of New York and a former DSA board member.

In practice, that means DSA believes in ending the private ownership of a wide range of industries whose products are viewed as necessities, which they say should not be left to those seeking to turn a profit. According to DSAs current mission statement, the government should ensure all citizens receive adequate food, housing, health care, child care, and education. DSA also believes that the government should democratize private businesses i.e., force owners to give workers control over them to the greatest extent possible.

But DSA members also say that overthrowing capitalism must include the eradication of hierarchical systems that lie beyond the market as well. As a result, DSA supports the missions of Black Lives Matter, gay and lesbian rights, and environmentalism as integral parts of this broader anti-capitalist program.

Socialism is about democratizing the family to get rid of patriarchal relations; democratizing the political sphere to get genuine participatory democracy; democratizing the schools by challenging the hierarchical relationship between the teachers of the school and the students of the school, said Jared Abbott, a member of DSAs national steering committee. Socialism is the democratization of all areas of life, including but not limited to the economy.

DSA does have a history of members who were more likely to consider themselves New Deal Democrats, more interested in creating a robust welfare state than in turning the means of production over to the workers. But David Duhalde, DSAs deputy director, says the overwhelming majority of its current members are committed to socialisms enactment through the outright abolition of capitalism.

DSA traces its ancestry back to the apex of American socialism Eugene Debss Socialist Party of America, which in 1912 received 6 percent of the popular vote in the presidential election.

The energy behind the Socialist Party would be depleted by FDRs New Deal, which incorporated many of its reformist demands, and the unpopularity of Soviet Russia in the US. By the late 1930s, most socialists basically became liberal Democrats, Kazin said. The party was never really a major or even minor factor after that, and then it imploded even further in the early 1970s.

The catalyst for that second implosion was the Vietnam War, which split the vestiges of the Socialist Party. Their rift mirrored that of the Democratic Party, which at the 1968 convention saw divisions between the civil rights movement and antiwar students who opposed Lyndon Johnsons war spill out into the open.

The history here is complicated and bitterly contested, but the upshot is that one faction of socialists in particular, supporters of Max Shachtman and Bayard Rustin opposed unilateral withdrawal of the American military from Vietnam. These leaders saw themselves as spokespeople for the American labor movement, which backed Lyndon Johnson and was generally supportive of the war. (In 1965, AFL-CIO president George Meany declared that the unions would support the Vietnam War “no matter what the academic do-gooders may say. Predominantly black unions were more skeptical of the war, Kazin notes.)

If you were a socialist and working with labor, it was difficult to oppose the Vietnam War, Kazin says.

Meanwhile, a separate faction of socialists associated with Michael Harrington wanted an end to the war and for the American left to align much more closely with the growing radical movements of the 1960s.

Harrington and Irving Howe, another socialist intellectual, realized they had to connect socialism to feminism and black liberation, and were skeptical of the labor movements support for the Vietnam War, Kazin said. They also didnt read Marx as quite the prophet that socialists of Debs’s generation had.

In 1973, Harrington made the break official and formed the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. Nine years after its forming, DSOC fused with the New American Movement which contained much of the (also diminished from the 1960s) remnants of the campus left and became DSA.

Still, DSA was little more than a group of people who got together and had a convention, Kazin said. I hadnt heard people talking much about it until Bernies campaign.

No.

DSAs ancestor, the Socialist Party of America, really was a political party that ran candidates like Debs and controlled the mayoralty of Milwaukee for years. But the idea that its a political party today is perhaps the biggest misconception about the DSA.

Unlike the Green Party or the Libertarian Party or even the new Moderate Whig Party, the DSA is not registered with the Federal Election Commission as a political party.

Instead, DSA is a 501(c)4 nonprofit. That frees it up to avoid cumbersome paperwork required of those organizations, and focus on what it calls its No. 1 objective building a broad-based anti-capitalist movement for democratic socialism.

Id say that our chapters spend less than 10 percent of their time on electoral politics, said DSAs Abbott. For 22 months of the two-year election cycle, we are almost entirely focused on non-electoral work.

Insofar as DSA has done electoral work, it has traditionally been to pull the Democratic Partys politicians toward its vision of social democracy. That was the original vision of its founder, the theorist and writer Michael Harrington, who saw the Democratic Party as the only realistic vehicle for achieving political change.

“If [Jimmy] Carter wins, he will do some horrendous things I guarantee it. … [But] the conditions of a Carter victory are the conditions for working-class militancy, and the militancy of minority groups, and the militancy of women, and the militancy of the democratic reform movement, Harrington said in a 1976 speech urging socialists to support the Democratic candidate over Republican Gerald Ford.

Instead, the DSA has served as a signaling device for some Democrats including black politicians from major American cities to distinguish themselves from the partys centrist wing. Brooklyns Rep. Major Owens (D-NY) and David Dinkins, who served as mayor of New York City in the early 1990s, were both DSA members. Current politicians affiliated with DSA include Khalid Kamau, a city council person in South Fulton, Georgia; Renitta Shannon, a Georgia state senator; and Ron Dellums, until recently Oaklands mayor. These candidates technically run either as independents or on the Green Party or Democratic Party ballot line.

Sanderss campaign and DSAs growth have some young socialists dreaming about a powerful third party, separate from Democrats but for now, these dreams remain just that. There are some people in DSA who think we should be a new political party, but the majority of membership believes its too early, Abbott said. Maybe if we keep up our fast growth, that will change. But for now, most think its better for us to focus on being flexible in order to advance our social movement work.

Once you get out of your head the idea that DSA is trying to operate like Jill Stein, its purpose is easier to understand.

But what does a movement for democratic socialism actually mean?

There are roughly three main planks. The first is building up local chapters to wage pressure campaigns that align with DSAs mission pushing officials to adopt single-payer health care, for instance. In Washington, DC, a DSA chapter has launched an education campaign to teach low-income tenants about the rights they have. The Los Angeles DSA has lobbied officials to adopt sanctuary city legislation.

Its direct protest actions, public events, door knocking, phone banking all of the above, Abbott said.

The second is to build up a power center for democratic socialism that can influence elections, often but not exclusively in Democratic primaries, even if DSA is not fielding its own candidates.

The labor movement in the 1930s and the black freedom movement in the 1960s is what made the Democratic Party a vehicle for social democracy, Piven said. If were going to have a new period of reformism, it will surely occur through the transformation of the Democratic Party; hopefully, DSA will be one of the instruments of that transformation.

The last major function of DSA is supporting union organizers, as in Nissan employees current feud with management. As Piven notes, these strategies are aimed at influencing the political system even if they dont take the form of a traditional American political party.

“I dont think working to strengthen labor organizing or creating new unions is a path divergent from electoral politics; in some ways, it’s the necessary precondition for successful electoral politics,” Piven said, citing the link between union strength and Democratic vote share. “Movement politics ultimately succeed through their interplay with electoral politics.”

Some of the economic policies favored by left-wing Democrats are also supported by DSA, and that can make the two occasionally difficult to disentangle.

For instance, DSA is currently planning a Summer for Progress campaign centered on advocating for a platform that calls for a single-payer health care system (which about 60 percent of House Democrats already support); free college tuition (which House Democrats also support); and new Wall Street taxes and criminal justice reforms (which … yes, dozens of congressional Democrats already support).

Further confusing matters is Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist but supports a policy program that would essentially leave capitalism intact. His candidacy spurred a dramatic growth in DSA membership, and DSA backed him, but the Vermont senator has also referred to himself a New Deal Democrat who views Lyndon Johnson and Franklin D. Roosevelt rather than Karl Marx or American socialist Norman Thomas as his true ideological predecessors.

Many DSA members would go further than any of these New Deal Democrats. One useful distinction is that while progressive Democrats and DSA both believe in welfare state programs as a way to improve capitalism, DSA sees them as just one step toward completely severing the link between human needs and market scarcity.

Examples may help clarify the difference. While both DSA and some left-wing Democrats agree that the government should provide universal health insurance, DSA ultimately wants to nationalize hospitals, providers, and the rest of the health care system as well. While both will work toward higher taxes on Wall Street, DSA ultimately wants to nationalize the entire financial sector. While left-wing Democrats believe in criminal justice reform, some DSA members are calling for the outright abolition of the police and prison systems. While both DSA and left-wing Democrats support reforms to get money out of politics, some in DSA see capitalism as fundamentally incompatible with genuinely free and fair elections. In practice, however, the two wind up ultimately taking the same positions.

“There’s a continuum between [Chuck] Schumer and [Nancy] Pelosi and liberal Democrats, who don’t want to go further than the expansion of the welfare state, and the center of DSA, who would want everything in a Bernie Sanders program as a starting point and then think about what to do next,” Kazin said.

If you spend enough time on Twitter, youll invariably notice that many DSA members have added a small red rose next to their avatars:

The rose traces its roots back to a speech in the early 1900s given by Rose Schneiderman, a socialist and womens rights organizer whom FDR would later appoint to the Labor Advisory Board.

“What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist the right to life as the rich woman has the right to life, and the sun and music and art. You have nothing that the humblest worker has not a right to have also. The worker must have bread, but she must have roses too. Help, you women of privilege, give her the ballot to fight with, Schneiderman said.

The call for bread and roses became famous in 1912, when more than 20,000 textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, went on strike to protest wage cuts that accompanied a shorter workweek. It comes from the rising of working people, and in this case, the rise of working women who were horrifically abused and underpaid, Piven said. I think its the perfect symbol.

Today, DSAs red rose symbolizes just what it did in 1912: the belief that workers deserve not just the necessities to sustain life but the luxuries that will permit them to enjoy it too.

As DSA has grown in stature, some members of the commentariat have argued that the organization is little different from the so-called Bernie Bro stereotype of a Sanders supporter that emerged from his presidential campaign young, white, male, and mad as hell about politics.

Consider the Bernie Bro (Wellus actuallius), an aggressive subgenus of Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters, the Huffington Post said. Herds of Bernie Bros … have staked out a far more hospitable environment: the Democratic Socialists of America.

In our interview, Abbott didnt deny that the organization has a diversity problem on its hands.

“DSA is still a heavily white and heavily cis male organization, as have been most socialist groups in the history of the United States. That has not really improved, he said.

Abbott said he couldnt provide exact statistics on DSAs racial or gender diversity until after the convention. The percentage of people of color has increased from a relatively low percentage to a somewhat higher percentage, he said.

Still, he noted that DSA has nine full-time staff members and six of them are women. Of those nine, he said, four are people of color. He also said that half of the elected national committee would be composed of women.

Additionally, four of the 10 delegates to DSAs national convention are women, and one out of five is a person of color, according to Duhalde, DSAs deputy director.

Were taking proactive steps to deal with it and do the kinds of work we need to to be strong partners and work in solidarity with all underrepresented and oppressed communities, Abbott said. But we have real challenges here.

Since the 2016 election, scores of profiles in national news outlets have charted DSAs growth. Reuters chronicled the surge in DSA chapters around the country. The Washington Post talked about DSAs war on liberalism, and the Huffington Post did much of the same.

With 25,000 dues-paying members, DSAs recent growth is certainly real. In Florida, DSA now has 10 chapters after only having a handful; in Texas, it has 13. Chapters have emerged this year in unlikely states like Montana, Kansas, and Idaho.

Still, its hard to know how much that growth should really impress us compared with historical trends. Kazin, for instance, notes that Students for a Democratic Society, a now-defunct left-wing campus movement in the 1960s, had upward of 100,000 members at its height.

The growth looks even smaller compared with the uptick in interest in other leftwing groups since Trumps election. UltraViolet, a group that advocates womens reproductive rights, currently has 300,000 members (though they dont pay dues). The group Indivisible didnt exist until after the 2016 election. It now has 3,800 local chapters to DSAs 177. (Though, again, Indivisible members dont have to pay dues.)

DSA members tend to point to the uptick of popularity for those who support their mission the socialist magazine Jacobin, which has about 1 million pageviews a month; the leftist podcast Chapo Trap House, which earns $72,000 a month from tens of thousands of paying subscribers; and politicians like Sanders and Corbyn.

And historians note that socialist movements can influence political parties, even if their electoral clout is diminished. Why socialists have mattered in American history is not because they had power themselves but because they were committed, intelligent activists in other movements, Kazin said. Thats where I would look for DSAs influence: In those movements, are people talking about democratic socialism?

Particularly in online circles, DSA is affiliated with a group of socialists collectively known as the dirtbag left. The dirtbag left is itself most associated with the Chapo Trap House podcast, which delights in sharpening the dividing line between socialists and liberals by ridiculing prominent politicians and journalists associated with the center left.

After the election, for instance, Chapo co-host Felix Biederman mockingly compared Hillary Clinton to Dale Earnhardt, joking that both had crashed because they couldnt turn left. (Earnhardt was killed in a 2001 racing accident.)

Rudeness can be extremely politically useful. There are arguments to be made over who constitutes a valid target, but when crude obscenity is directed at figures of power, their prestige can be tarnished, even in the eyes of the most reverent of subjects, wrote Amber A’Lee Frost, a co-host of Chapo Trap House, in an essay for Current Affairs. Caricature is designed to exaggerate, and therefore make more noticeable, peoples central defining qualities, and can thus be illuminating even at its most indelicate.

DSA has certainly been a beneficiary of the Dirtbag Left and its iconoclastic rage; Chapo Trap House frequently directs its guests to support the socialist organization, and its founders are in Chicago for the DSA convention. Mother Jones called the podcast a gateway drug for democratic socialism, and DSAs leaders recognize thats correct. Even if DSA wont adopt Chapos insult-humor shtick in its official platform, its hard to imagine that some of its beliefs wont seep in some way into the organization through new membership.

Chapos dirtbag politics have alarmed other left-leaning writers. In an essay for the New Republic, Jeet Heer warned against what he called its dominance politics as counterproductive to building a coalition with center-left Democrats.

But in an interview last year, Chapo Trap House co-host Matt Christman countered that Donald Trump had captured the transgressive thrill of defying the cultural expectations of the elite, and that the left would be wise to reclaim it. Incisive put-down humor, he suggested, isnt just useful for amassing a podcast following; it could also be helpful to an ascendant left-wing politics.

The gonad element of politics is now totally owned by the right. All the left has now is charts and data. You cannot motivate people with charts and data and lecturing, Christman said. If were going to win, we cannot allow [right-wing provocateur] Milo Yiannopoulos and all of these carnival-barking Nazis to have all of the fucking fun.

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9 questions about the Democratic Socialists of America you were too embarrassed to ask – Vox