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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Singularity
Posted: March 31, 2020 at 6:28 am
In a new paper published in The International Journal of Astrobiology, Joseph Gale from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and co-authors make the point that recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI)particularly in pattern recognition and self-learningwill likely result in a paradigm shift in the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life.
While futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted 15 years ago that the singularitythe time when the abilities of a computer overtake the abilities of the human brainwill occur in about 2045, Gale and his co-authors believe this event may be much more imminent, especially with the advent of quantum computing. Its already been four years since the program AlphaGO, fortified with neural networks and learning modes, defeated Lee Sedol, the Go world champion. The strategy game StarCraft II may be the next to have a machine as reigning champion.
If we look at the calculating capacity of computers and compare it to the number of neurons in the human brain, the singularity could be reached as soon as the early 2020s. However, a human brain is wired differently than a computer, and that may be the reason why certain tasks that are simple for us are still quite challenging for todays AI. Also, the size of the brain or the number of neurons dont equate to intelligence. For example, whales and elephants have more than double the number of neurons in their brain, but are not more intelligent than humans.
The authors dont know when the singularity will come, but come it will. When this occurs, the end of the human race might very well be upon us, they say, citing a 2014 prediction by the late Stephen Hawking. According to Kurzweil, humans may then be fully replaced by AI, or by some hybrid of humans and machines.
What will this mean for astrobiology? Not much, if were searching only for microbial extraterrestrial life. But it might have a drastic impact on the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life (SETI). If other civilizations are similar to ours but older, we would expect that they already moved beyond the singularity. So they wouldnt necessarily be located on a planet in the so-called habitable zone. As the authors point out, such civilizations might prefer locations with little electronic noise in a dry and cold environment, perhaps in space, where they could use superconductivity for computing and quantum entanglement as a means of communication.
We are just beginning to understand quantum entanglement, and it is not yet clear whether it can be used to transfer information. If it can, however, that might explain the apparent lack of evidence for extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations. Why would they use primitive radio waves to send messages?
I think it also is still unclear whether there is something special enough about the human brains ability to process information that casts doubt on whether AI can surpass our abilities in all relevant areas, especially in achieving consciousness. Might there be something unique to biological brains after millions and millions of years of evolution that computers cannot achieve? If not, the authors are correct that reaching the singularity could be humanitys greatest and last advance.
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Posted: at 6:28 am
In anticipation of her upcoming keynote at SB'20 Long Beach, we revisit this groundbreaking blog series from renowned author and regenerative business expert Carol Sanford. This is part 4 of 6.
This is the fourth blog in a series on the seven First Principles of regeneration, drawing from living systems sciences. Read parts one, two and three.
A current, prevailing worldview is that everything and everyone can be categorized as a particular type. Each of us plant, animal, or human can be classified within a system of limited possibilities. Based on this belief, all of us humans are hungry to know who we are and how we fit into our time and place. We so eagerly want to know what types of lovers, wives, parents, or people we are that when magazines promise us quizzes to sort ourselves out they quickly disappear from newsstands. This helps us identify ourselves, and it may seem to help us understand nature and other beings. But despite its allure, by itself it cannot give us real knowledge.
On the other hand, we hate it when we are compared to a specific other person or when our situation is described as a generic example of things as they are. We love the idea that no two snowflakes are alike. We know from genetic science that there are no combinations that repeat. Nature does not create exact duplicates. From microbe to baby deer to human brain, every particular example of each life form is unique.
To overcome confusion about the degree or quality of likeness and difference among living beings requires discernment developed over time. It is true that based on surface characteristics, a person, a tiger, or a watershed is not unique and can be identified and categorized according to rating scales similar to the ones we enjoy reading about in magazines. Personality characteristics and personal strengths are easily organized into typologies. Nevertheless, at our cores each of us is singular, and every whole, living being has an essence that is permanent not an accident of birth, and not the result of socialization. This irreducible reality is captured in the root meaning of essence, which is not to become something, but to be something.
Hear more from Dr. Robert Eccles and Jennifer Motles on the rising importance of end-to-end product sustainability at SB'20 Long Beach.
In the business world, we have a firm grasp of differentiation, which is often the basis of branding. A truly great business one with a long and consistently creative life goes beyond differentiation to essence or singularity. It becomes aware of its unique identity early on and adheres tenaciously to it over the long term; it hires to preserve it, develops products and services that express it, and makes it the basis for orientation and development. Singularity is the source of disruptive innovation, and a wise business jealously guards it. Yet even so, a great business often does not express equal understanding of singularity with regard to people and natural systems.
In a living system, the only lasting and precise way to augment health and wellbeing is to work with the essence of a particular whole the same way we work when were raising a child, governing a city, or growing a brand. For example, when we mistakenly set out to make a child more like an idealized someone else, she quickly loses her identity, which is the source of her intelligence and vitality. The best way to set a child on the wrong track is to tell her to be more like your father or more like your sister.
Advocating or advising from ideals of any kind interrupts essence expression. Ideals arise from societal or cultural aggregations of assumed truths. We form them in order to corral people who seem to be wandering beyond the bounds of accepted society. In other words, we use them to standardize norms, to make people all alike so that we can predict and control their behaviors. The imposition of ideals for the purpose of dominating is not only characteristic of our relationships with children, we extend it to everything alive. John Mohawk, a tribal elder and a professor at New York University, has said ideals are how one culture eradicates another, as the Europeans have come close to doing with the Native Peoples of North America. Within the context of standardized identity, people learn to normalize themselves by mimicking others.
In the business world, this can show up as the imitation of products or approaches that belong to other brands, a symptom of the failure to identify and adhere to singularity. And because we have spent so much time collecting and organizing ideals, standards, best practices, competencies, and categories, most of us havent learned to recognize and value singularity in any aspect of our own businesses.
In a regenerative process, we look for singularity not in existence, but in potential. I love to suggest that the essence of the IRS is not collecting taxes - that is only the surface. At its founding, the IRS was intended to increase the wealth-producing capacity of citizens and fund the agreed-upon costs of existing as a nation. How would our relationship with the IRS change if we were able to see through to that essence? How would the IRS work with us if they were able to hold in mind their unique identity? Would the nation ever experience a shortage of revenue? I suggest that every one of us living in the United States would be wealthier and probably happier.
It isnt easy to see the essences of people around us because they are often obscured by the challenges of family, school, and work life. When people are persuaded to conform, their essences are overtaken by personality traits, and the characters they play take center stage, nudging out their true selves. In order to develop the capability to recognize and engage with essence our own and others we must hold it in mind and pursue its living expression in all of our efforts.
Every watershed, community, and business has an essence. No two businesses are alike, although at a functional or object level (as with personality in humans), they may share many traits. We may classify types of employee, natures of raw material, categories of business plan, but until we take the time to know people, materials, and systems as their singular selves, we are failing to know and nurture them in the same way we fail to know and nurture a child when we exhort her to be like her father.
A regenerative view of the world sees phenomena not only as dynamic, but as singular.
That is, instead of categorizing, identifying, and grouping according to what things have in common, a regenerative business always seeks to discern the essence that makes each thing distinctly itself. It accepts and welcomes the realization that each expression of being is one of a kind.
This ability to appreciate singularity becomes the basis for deep creativity and motivation, a diametric opposite of the deflating belief that everything has already been seen and done by others before us. It requires constant resistance of the tendency to categorize and pigeonhole. Instead it seeks to see each phenomenon, each customer or retail location or product, as unique and new and deserving of our full presence and attention.
Looking to existence, writing down our observations or collecting facts, will not reveal singularity. In order to sniff out essence, we must become trackers and look for it in the same way that native peoples follow the traces of animals who have passed by. Essence becomes apparent in the patterns that are specific to a person, those that reveal how they engage with the world, their purpose in life, the unique value they create as the result of their endeavors. The same is true for the essence of any natural system, community, or organization.
Published Mar 23, 2020 10am EDT / 7am PDT / 2pm GMT / 3pm CET
Carol Sanford has four decades of experience working side by side with Fortune 500 and new economy executives, in designing and leading systemic business change and design. Through her university and in-house educational offerings, global speaking platforms, award-winning books and human development work, Carol works with executive leaders who see the possibility to change the nature of work through developing people and work systems that ignite motivation everywhere.
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Posted: at 6:28 am
My view, and that of the majority of my colleagues in AI, is that itll be at least half a century before we see computers matching humans. Given that various breakthroughs are needed, and its very hard to predict when breakthroughs will happen, it might even be a century or more. If thats the case, you dont need to lose too much sleep tonight.
One reason for believing that machines will get to human-level or even superhuman-level intelligence quickly is the dangerously seductive idea of the technological singularity. This idea can be traced back to a number of people over fifty years ago: John von Neumann, one of the fathers of computing, and the mathematician and Bletchley Park cryptographer IJ Good. More recently, its an idea that has been popularised by the science-fiction author Vernor Vinge and the futurist Ray Kurzweil.
The singularity is the anticipated point in humankinds history when we have developed a machine so intelligent that it can recursively redesign itself to be even more intelligent. The idea is that this would be a tipping point, and machine intelligence would suddenly start to improve exponentially, quickly exceeding human intelligence by orders of magnitude.
Once we reach the technological singularity, we will no longer be the most intelligent species on the planet. It will certainly be an interesting moment in our history. One fear is that it will happen so quickly that we wont have time to monitor and control the development of this super-intelligence, and that this super-intelligence might lead intentionally or unintentionally to the end of the human race.
Proponents of the technological singularity who, tellingly, are usually not AI researchers but futurists or philosophers behave as if the singularity is inevitable. To them, it is a logical certainty; the only question mark is when. However, like many other AI researchers, I have considerable doubt about its inevitability.
We have learned, over half a century of work, how difficult it is to build computer systems with even modest intelligence. And we have never built a single computer system that can recursively self-improve. Indeed, even the most intelligent system we know of on the planet the human brain has made only modest improvements in its cognitive abilities. It is, for example, still as painfully slow today for most of us to learn a second language as it always was. Little of our understanding of the human brain has made the task easier.
Since 1930, there has been a significant and gradual increase in intelligence test scores in many parts of the world. This is called the Flynn effect, after the New Zealand researcher James Flynn, who has done much to identify the phenomenon. However, explanations for this have tended to focus on improvements in nutrition, healthcare and access to school, rather than on how we educate our young people.
There are multiple technical reasons why the technological singularity might never happen. I discussed many of these in my last book. Nevertheless, the meme that the singularity is inevitable doesnt seem to be getting any less popular. Given the importance of the topic it may decide the fate of the human race I will return again to these arguments, in greater detail, and in light of recent developments in the debates. I will also introduce some new arguments against the inevitability of the technological singularity.
My first objection to the supposed inevitability of the singularity is an idea that has been called the faster-thinking dog argument. It considers the consequences of being able to think faster. While computer speeds may have plateaued, computers nonetheless still process data faster and faster. They achieve this by exploiting more and more parallelism, doing multiple tasks at the same time, a little like the brain.
Theres an expectation that by being able to think longer and harder about problems, machines will eventually become smarter than us. And we certainly have benefited from ever-increasing computer power; the smartphone in your pocket is evidence of that. But processing speed alone probably wont get us to the singularity.
Suppose that you could increase the speed of the brain of your dog. Such a faster-thinking dog would still not be able to talk to you, play chess or compose a sonnet. For one thing, it doesnt possess complex language. A faster-thinking dog will likely still be a dog. It will still dream of chasing squirrels and sticks. It may think these thoughts more quickly, but they will likely not be much deeper. Similarly, faster computers alone will not yield higher intelligence.
Intelligence is a product of many things. It takes us years of experience to train our intuitions. And during those years of learning we also refine our ability to abstract: to take ideas from old situations and apply them to new, novel situations. We add to our common sense knowledge, which helps us adapt to new circumstances. Our intelligence is thus much more than thinking faster about a problem.
My second argument against the inevitability of the technological singularity is anthropocentricity. Proponents of the singularity place a special importance on human intelligence. Surpassing human intelligence, they argue, is a tipping point. Computers will then recursively be able to redesign and improve themselves. But why is human intelligence such a special point to pass?
Human intelligence cannot be measured on some single, linear scale. And even if it could be, human intelligence would not be a single point, but a spectrum of different intelligences. In a room full of people, some people are smarter than others. So what metric of human intelligence are computers supposed to pass? That of the smartest person in the room? The smartest person on the planet today? The smartest person who ever lived? The smartest person who might ever live in the future? The idea of passing human intelligence is already starting to sound a bit shaky.
But lets put these objections aside for a second. Why is human intelligence, whatever it is, the tipping point to pass, after which machine intelligence will inevitably snowball? The assumption appears to be that if we are smart enough to build a machine smarter than us, then this smarter machine must also be smart enough to build an even smarter machine. And so on. But there is no logical reason that this would be the case. We might be able to build a smarter machine than ourselves. But that smarter machine might not necessarily be able to improve on itself.
There could be some level of intelligence that is a tipping point. But it could be any level of intelligence. It seems unlikely that the tipping point is less than human intelligence. If it were less than human intelligence, we humans could likely simulate such a machine today, use this simulation to build a smarter machine, and thereby already start the process of recursive self-improvement.
So it seems that any tipping point is at, or above, the level of human intelligence. Indeed, it could be well above human intelligence. But if we need to build machines with much greater intelligence than our own, this throws up the possibility that we might not be smart enough to build such machines.
My third argument against the inevitability of the technological singularity concerns meta-intelligence. Intelligence, as I said before, encompasses many different abilities. It includes the ability both to perceive the world and to reason about that perceived world. But it also includes many other abilities, such as creativity.
The argument for the inevitability of the singularity confuses two different abilities. It conflates the ability to do a task and the ability to improve your ability to do a task. We can build intelligent machines that improve their ability to do particular tasks, and do these tasks better than humans. Baidu, for instance, has built Deep Speech 2, a machine-learning algorithm that learned to transcribe Mandarin better than humans.
But Deep Speech 2 has not improved our ability to learn tasks. It takes Deep Speech 2 just as long now to learn to transcribe Mandarin as it always has. Its superhuman ability to transcribe Mandarin hasnt fed back into improvements of the basic deep-learning algorithm itself. Unlike humans, who get to be better learners as they learn new tasks, Deep Speech 2 doesnt learn faster as it learns more.
Improvements to deep-learning algorithms have come about the old-fashioned way: by humans thinking long and hard about the problem. We have not yet built any self-improving machines. Its not certain that we ever will.
Excerpted with permission from 2062: The World That AI Made, Toby Walsh, Speaking Tiger Books.
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Posted: at 6:28 am
In late December 2019 Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, sent a WeChat message to his medical school alumni group telling them that seven people with severe respiratory and flu-like symptoms had recently been admitted to the hospital. One thing they had in common, besides their symptoms, was that theyd all visited a local wet market at some point in the previous week.
The illness bore an uncanny resemblance to SARS, but with a novel aspect as well; could it be an outbreak of a new disease? If so, what should be done?
But before any of the doctors could take action or alert local media outlets, the chat thread was shut down by the Wuhan police and Li was accused of spreading rumors. Mind you, the chat wasnt in a public forum; it was a closed group exchange. But the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is able to monitor, intercept, and censor any and all activity on WeChat; for the Chinese people, theres no such thing as a private conversation.
The police gave Li an affidavit stating hed spread false information and disturbed public order. He was instructed to sign this document retracting his warning about the virus and to stop telling people it existed, otherwise hed be put in jail.
So he did. A little over a month later, on February 7, Li died of the novel coronavirus in the same hospital where hed workedhed been infected with the virus while trying to treat sick patients, whod continued pouring into the hospital throughout the month of January.
By this time the CCP had leapt into action, unable to deny the existence of the virus as hundreds then thousands of people started getting sick. Travel restrictions and quarantines went into effectbut it was already far too late. As of this writing, the virus has spread to 168 countries and killed almost 21,000 people. Schools and businesses are closed. Were in lockdown mode in our homes. And the economy is taking a massive hit that could lead to a depression.
How different might our current situation be if the CCP had heeded Lis warning instead of silencing itor if the virus had first been discovered in a country with a free press?
People are arguing that China has done a good job of handling the virus. I disagree, said Alex Gladstein, chief strategy officer at the Human Rights Foundation. The reason we have this global pandemic right now is because of Chinese censorship and the governments totalitarian nature.
Last week at Singularity Universitys virtual summit on COVID-19, Gladstein pointed out what we can learn from various governments responses to this pandemicand urged us to keep a close eye on our freedoms as this crisis continues to unfold.
The rate at which this disease has spread in different countries has varied wildly, as have the numbers of deaths vs. recoveries. Western Europe houses some of the wealthier and more powerful countries on Earth, but now isnt a great time to be living there (and were not doing so hot in the US, either). And though Singapore is known for its rigidity, it was a good place to be when the virus hit.
Given a half-century of research, the correlation is strong: democracies handle public health disasters much better than dictatorships, Gladstein said, citing a February 18th article in The Economist that examines deaths from epidemics compared to GDP per person in democracies and non-democracies.
Taiwan has also fared well, as has South Korea, though their systems of government function quite differently than Singapores. So what factors may have contributed to how fast the virus has spread and how hard the economys been hit in these nations?
There are two axes that are relevant, Gladstein said. One is the openness of a society and the other is its competency. An open but less competent government is likely to perform poorly in a public health crisis (or any crisis), as is a competent but closed government.
Long-term, some of the best-performing societies are open, competent democracies like Korea and Taiwan, Gladstein said. Taiwan is a somewhat striking example given its proximity to China and the amount of travel between the two.
With a population of 23 million people and the first case confirmed on January 21, as of this writing Taiwan has had 235 cases and 2 deaths. They immediately started screening people coming from China and halted almost all incoming travel from China within weeks of the outbreak, creating a risk-level alert system by integrating data from the national health insurance database with the immigration and customs databases (this did involve a degree of privacy infringement that we probably wouldnt be comfortable with in the US; more on that later). High-risk people were quarantined at home, and the government quickly requisitioned the manufacture of millions of masks. There was less panic and more belief in the government, and this paints a picture of what we should all aspire to, Gladstein said.
Iran is on the opposite end of the spectrum in both competency and openness; theyve recorded over 27,000 cases and over 2,000 deaths. Thousands have died in Iran, but well never know the truth because theres no free press there, said Gladstein.
Then theres China. In addition to lockdowns enforced by neighborhood leaders and police, the government upped its already-heavy citizen surveillance, tracking peoples locations with apps like AliPay and WeChat. A color-coding system indicating peoples health status and risk level was implemented, and their movement restricted accordingly.
Theyve now used the full power of the state to curtail the virus, and from what we know, theyve been relatively effective, Gladstein said. But, he added, this comes with two caveats: one, the measures China has taken would be unthinkable in a democracy; and two, we cant take their data at face value due to the countrys lack of a free press or independent watchdogs (in fact, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post were expelled from China on March 17; this may have been a sort of retaliation for the US State Departments recent move to cap the number of Chinese journalists allowed to work in the US for a handful of Chinese state media outlets).
South Korea and Singapore, the worlds other two containment success stories, both used some form of surveillance to fight the virus. In Korea, the 2015 MERS outbreak resulted in a law that lets the government use smartphone and credit card data to see where people have been then share that information (stripped of identifying details) on apps so that people they may have infected know to go get tested.
In Singapore, besides launching a contact tracing app called TraceTogether, the government sent text messages to people whod been ordered to stay at home and required them to respond with their live GPS location. As of this writing, Singapore had reported 631 cases and 2 deaths.
Does the success of these countries and their use of surveillance mean we need to give up some of our privacy to fight this disease? Would Americans and Europeans be willing to do so if it meant this terrible ordeal would be over sooner? And how do we know where to draw the line?
To Gladstein, the answer is simple. We dont need a police state to fight public health disasters, he said. We should be very wary about governments telling us they need to take our liberties away to keep us safe, and that theyll only take those liberties away for a limited amount of time.
A lot of personal data is already being collected about each of us, every day: which ads we click on, how long we spend on different websites, which terms we search for, and even where we go and how long were there for. Would it be so terrible to apply all that data to stemming the spread of a disease thats caused our economy to grind to a halt?
One significant issue with security measures adopted during trying times is that those measures are often not scaled back when society returns to normal. During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the government said the new security measures were temporary, but they turned out to be permanent, Gladstein said.
Similarly, writes Yuval Noah Harari in a Financial Times piece (which you should read immediately in its entirety if you havent already), Temporary measures have a nasty habit of outlasting emergencies, especially as there is always a new emergency lurking on the horizon. Many of the emergency measures enacted during Israels War of Independence in 1948, he adds, were never lifted.
This is key: though surveillance was a critical part of Taiwan, Korea, and Singapores success, widespread testing, consistent messaging, transparency, and trust were all equally critical. In an excellent piece in Wired, Andrew Leonard writes, In the United States, the Trump administration ordered federal health authorities to treat high-level discussions on the coronavirus as classified material. In Taiwan, the government has gone to great lengths to keep citizens well informed on every aspect of the outbreak.
In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in minimized his own communications with the public, ceding the sharing of information to those who actually knew it: health officials updated the public on the state of the pandemic twice a day. Singapores government provided consistent, clear updates on the number and source of cases in the country.
Gladstein re-emphasized that democracies are better suited than dictatorships at handling public health crises because people need to be able to innovate and collaborate without fear.
But despite a high level of openness that includes democratic elections, some of the heaviest emphasis on individual rights and freedoms in the world, and a free press, the US response to coronavirus has been dismal. As of this writing, more than 25 US states have ordered residents to be on lockdown. But testing, trust, and transparency are all sorely lacking. As more people start to fall seriously ill in the coming days and weeks, what will the US do to stem Covid-19s spread?
Secrecy, lies, and censorship only help the virus, Gladstein said. We want open societies. This open society is about to be put to the testbig-time.
For more from Gladstein on this topic, read his recent opinion piece in Wired.
Image Credit: Brian McGowanonUnsplash
Posted: at 6:28 am
Devs wants to be the TV series that reflects our 21st century disaffections back to us. The writer and director of the show, Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation), easily conjures up alienation as a mood. The camera cooly tracks the San Francisco skyline in the same way that it tracks the numbed-out expressions of the characters. But its the soundtrack that carries most of the emotional weight. Pounding forward, it suggests the presence of a juggernaut, one thats made of silicon and steel. Technology is the alienating force in Devs, a rampaging machine thats gone AWOL, distancing us from our neighbors as well as from ourselves.
But after five of eight episodes (the finale airs on Thursday, April 16), Garland deepens the preternatural chill at a glacial pace. As a storyteller, hes as meticulous as a clockmaker with the internal machinery of his fictional universe. Its the overdetermined plot thats leaving little room for the characters to develop. Theyre frozen in place by the fate he wrote out for them on his laptop. They lack warmth, wit and human singularity. Its hard to imagine anyone on screen doing laundry, spilling crumbs on the carpet or, for that matter, vacuuming them up.
Lily (Sonoya Mizuno) and her boyfriend Sergei (Karl Glusman) work at Amaya, a Silicon Valley tech company thats meant to resemble a Google or Facebook campus. Most of the scenes set there were shot at UC Santa Cruz. The cinematography accentuates the Lynchian strangeness of towering redwoods casting shadows against sleek glass and concrete buildings. Outwardly, the physical resemblance to a sprawling Silicon Valley company also suggests the buttoned-up psychic life of the place. If youre as smart, hard-working and talented at coding as Lily and Sergei, youll find yourself set up to work inside Californias version of paradise. Unfortunately for them and for the rest of us who are addicted to the regions apps and products they failed to notice that Forest (Nick Offerman), Amayas CEO, has veered far away from Googles now-abandoned ethos: Dont be evil.
Amaya was the name of Forests daughter. She died before Devs begins and, just past the halfway point, we have a glimpse at the CEOs personal history. Garland builds the doleful narrative around his loss. The camera often lingers on Forest mourning his daughter. To drive home how aggrieved he is, theres also a Sphinx-sized statue of the girl that stands in the center of the campus. Its an eerie figure that silently watches over everyone with the qualities of an omniscient god and a blank-eyed childs doll.
But I may be misinterpreting Forests motivation and mistaking the obvious for a red herring. The teaser for Episode 6 reads, Lily and Jamie visit Forest looking for answers, and Katie reveals to Lily the true nature of the Devs system. I suspect that Forest will reveal more details about his lifes work to Lily and her helpful ex-boyfriend Jamie (Jin Ha). For now, weve seen that the Devs system is a mystical portal that reveals a multiverse engineered by Amayas quantum physics geniuses. Lily and Sergeis troubles begin when hes promoted to this inner sanctum. To get there, he gives a winning presentation to Forest and his second in command Katie (a dour Alison Pill).
The Devs department is housed in a golden mausoleum with a floating elevator. Its such an enlightened space that the developers work endless shifts, not knowing how many days or nights are passing. They contribute their knowledge to this centrifuge of power and are rewarded with breathtaking salaries. What that looks like for a viewer is a group of actors getting paid to stare at and be entranced by computer screens. These scenes are meant to be hypnotic. And they are for the first hour. After that, a monochromatic haze stifles the pacing and the characters. When a U.S. Senator visits Forest to request a campaign donation and to suggest the possibility of Congressional oversight, we know that hes lying to her. From the top down, Amayas corporate culture demands that all employees master the art of reticence and dissimulation.
The exemplar of villainy in this world is Kenton, the head of security at Amaya. Garland has cast Zach Grenier to play the part. In his seven seasons on The Good Wife, Greniers character never evolved into anything more than a greedy and manipulative lawyer. Here, as the muscle in Devs, hes more self-contained than he was on that CBS melodrama. But hes not much more than a brute and a faithful servant of Amayas dark heart. Unlikely as it is, my hope is that, when the big reveal drops, Kenton turns out to be a really nice guy.
Garland also pays tribute to Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcocks fogged-in vision of San Francisco. Lily meets an associate of Sergeis at Fort Point, the Golden Gate Bridge rendez-vous where Jimmy Stewart dives into the bay to rescue Kim Novak. Like Stewarts character, Lilys playing detective but shes in over her head. The city scenery is mostly observed from above. And thats how close it feels to an accurate depiction of San Franciscos cultural life. The depiction of a homeless man who lives on Lily and Sergeis Dolores Park doorstep prompted a friend of mine to ask, Is it me, or is no one getting San Francisco right? I suggested that he may turn out to be a plant or another red herring.
Devs expands the depiction of techs cultural aggression and annexation that David Fincher established in The Social Network. Garland tells us that, though warned, were now all servile creatures, beholden to the great gods who rule over us, however remotely, from their Silicon Valley headquarters. But when compared with the HBO series The Leftovers (2014-2017), Devs suggests a mood whereas Damon Lindelofs series sustains a primal emotion.
When 2 percent of the population suddenly disappears in The Leftovers, the world seizes up and contracts a universal feeling of loss. Despite a shared sense of grief, the show demonstrates the need for connection within one specific family (theyre stand-ins for the rest of humanity). Devs tells us that we can correct that feeling of loss by digitally engineering a response, since we no longer have the capacity to do so in real life. Being deprived of human contact as we are today, I prefer the now idealized conclusion that The Leftovers eventually reaches.
At the end of Devs fourth episode, The Beacon Sound Choir sings, We are the fortunate ones who get to be born again. Perhaps thats the secret Katies about to reveal.
Devs airs on FX on Hulu Thursdays.
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Posted: at 6:28 am
The classic hockey stick curveits what investors and entrepreneurs desire but what medics despise. In the past week, Italy has seen that kind of curve in its coronavirus case numbers, leaving people and systems overwhelmed. German chancellor Angela Merkel has described coronavirus as Germanys greatest challenge since World War II.
This pandemic is the biggest black swan" event we have witnessed in our lives so far. A black swan event is characterized by a very low probability but extremely high impact. The last one was 9/11 in the US, which some still saw coming. But Covid-19 has taken us all by surprise.
Cases and deaths have had a geometric rise, which defeats understanding, because our minds tend to think in terms of linear progression. Were not programmed to fathom something that multiplies. India hasnt yet seen the ugly tipping point, and I hope we dont. This piece is not about hope against hope, but an earnest call for widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) to counter such unpredictable events.
The initial, and by far most successful, application of AI is on the warfront. Thanks to the deployment of drones, unmanned craft, intelligent machines, humanoid robots and the like, the US has managed to drastically cut its casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq compared to the Vietnam and the Gulf wars. AI has not only lowered collateral damage but also radically increased the accuracy of assault.
But AIs applications can be far greater and more useful in humanitarian and disaster relief, conservation, disease control and waste management, among others. Machines have been shown to outperform humans in terms of labour, memory, intelligence and, in some cases even creativity.
At a time when citizens have been advised to practise social distancing, and we are fearfully confined to our homes, who will run the essentials? Someone will have to weather the storm, or perhaps something? We already have so much power offered by the brute force of machines that its up to us to tame it in meaningful ways, and Covid-19 could offer a precise opportunity.
At the time of writing this piece, Summit, the worlds most powerful supercomputer, housed at the US Department of Energys Oak Ridge National Laboratory, had identified 77 drug compounds that might stop coronavirus from infecting cells, a significant step in vaccine development. We are getting to know more about the spread of disease, hotspots and mortality rates on an almost real-time basis, thanks to affordable computing and communication networks. Can we up the ante further by relinquishing more control to machines?
Winston Churchill famously said, Never let a good crisis go to waste", and I think we have a great opportunity at hand. We can make machines take on the more hazardous tasks, while we watch and survive from the sidelines. This is the time for tech startups to leverage the power of general purpose technologies and conceive radical new solutions to address pandemics.
Private Kit: Safe Paths is an app developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. With help from Facebook and Uber, it lets you know if you have crossed paths with someone who is infected while protecting privacy. Its a first step, and like most technologies, it will improve with adoption. OneBreath, a Palo Alto-based medtech startup, has been working on an affordable, reliable ventilator for over a decade now, and should be ready to meet Covid-19.
As geography becomes history, we have become one large family. Our more robust, fast-learning cousins, the machines, must be deployed on the frontlines faster. We are truly at the inflection point towards singularity, and its a choice between speed and accuracy. A useful ethos for the times could be from Mark Twain who reminded us, Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection."
Pavan Soni is the founder of Inflexion Point, an innovation and strategy consultancy.
‘Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045’: Release date, plot, cast, music, trailer and all you need to know about anime – MEAWW
Posted: at 6:28 am
'Ghost in the Shell' and 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex' are both fan-favorite properties with massive followings and now a new installment to the saga is on the way. Netflix is all set to debut 'Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045', a 3-D CGI animated original net anime sequel to 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex'.
The title is believed to be a reference to Ray Kurzweil's 'The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology', which predicts that human and machine intelligence would merge into a Singularity by the year 2045.
Heres everything you need to know about the project:
'Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045' will be dropping on Netflix on April 23.
Picking up fifteen years after the beginning of 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex', the new series looks at a world where Artificial Intelligence is beginning to threaten humanity's continuation as a species. However, the public at large hasn't realized this threat yet. But when mysterious beings called "post-humans" begin to appear, the former members of Public Security Section 9, the protagonists of 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex', are called back into action to protect humanity from its impending doom.
Here's the official synopsis for the new ONA series: "In 2045, the world has been thrown into a state of systematic 'sustainable war', but the threat of human extinction at the hands of AI hasn't yet pervaded the public consciousness. Former members of Public Security Section 9, including full-body cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi, are working as hired mercenaries when mysterious beings known as 'post-humans' begin to emerge. The worlds superpowers are trying to come to grips with the threat, and so Section 9 is reorganized."
Atsuko Tanaka has been the voice of Major Motoko Kusanagi in all anime adaptations of the 'Ghost in the Shell' manga except 'Ghost in the Shell: Arise'. The voice actor will be reprising her role as Major for the upcoming Netflix anime alongside other returning cast members Akio Ohtsuka as Batou, Kichi Yamadera as Togusa, Yutaka Nakano as Ishikawa, Toru Ohkawa as Saito, Takashi Onozuka as Paz, Tar Yamaguchi as Borma, and Sakiko Tamagawa as Tachikoma. Osamu Saka will also be returning from the 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex' anime as Daisuke Aramaki.
The music for the series is being composed by Nobuko Toda ('Sweetness & Lightning') and Kazuma Jinnouchi ('Busou Shinki: Moon Angel). Toda was also the composer for the 'Metal Gear Solid' series alongside Harry Gregson-Williams. The duo has previously collaborated on the 'Ultraman' anime, as well as the soundtracks for the 'Halo 4' and 'Halo 5' games.
The show's opening song is titled 'Fly With Me' and it is performed by Millennium Parade, a creative team led by King Gnu member Daiki Tsuneta. According to Anime News Network, other vocalists on the track include ermhoi, HIMI, Cota Mori, and Kento Nagatsuka (WONK)
Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama
The project is being directed by Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama for Sola Digital Arts and Production I.G. Kenji Kamiyama has previously worked on all the 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex' projects.
'Ghost in the Shell' is based on the highly successful manga series by Masamune Shirow. The character designs for 'Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045' were completed by Russian illustrator Ilya Kuvshinov. According to Production I.G. USA president Maki Terashima-Furuta, the first 12-episode season will be directed by Kamiyama and the second by Aramaki.
The first teaser for the new series was released on October 22, 2019. The short clip showcases the photorealistic artwork of the show and introduces Major's new look as a mercenary.
The first proper trailer for the series was released on January 27 and it features the rest of Major's team. The clip also gives us our first look at a post-human, a being with massive physical and technological abilities which threatens humanity as a whole.
The series' final trailer was dropped on March 20 and it builds on the previous trailer by revealing that post-humans are a direct result of the "Sustainable Wars" that countries have been fighting with each other in the aftermath of the fall of global capitalism. The clip also reveals that the purpose of post-humans is to overthrow the existing social structure and bring about the age of post-humanity.
'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex'
'Mobile Suit Gundam SEED'
'Neon Genesis Evangelion'
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Posted: at 6:28 am
Most Jon Hopkins fans already know what an incredibly talented producer he is and that reflects in a lifelong career and an impressive discography of emotive and substantive electronica.
His last album Singularity, released in 2018 was one of his best in many peoples eyes and earned a solid year-plus of touring that led him around the world and coincidently, to the stage of The Sydney Opera House.
From all reports, it was a spectacular not be missed with towering visuals coupled with Hopkins consistent blows and breaks of electronica that shook the place and included unreleased music that looks to be paving the way for a new album.
While the public was treated to that, he also recorded a special, intimate performance for a tiny audience of videographers which captured a piano rendition of one of his latest singles Scene Suspended.
The performance was filmed on the 28th March, which for those not in the know was global Piano Day and who better to flex it than talented player Jon Hopkins himself?
Bask in the exclusive video below, hint; Nils Frahm makes a cameo as well.
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Posted: at 6:28 am
With Canadians spending most of their time indoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, its fortunate that streaming services were already rampingup a busy month of programming for April.
Netflix is set to feed reality-series buffsanother conversation starter on April 17 withToo Hot to Handle, whichgathers a group of beautiful people at a resort before revealing they could win a pot of$100,000 by holding off on sex for the duration of their stay. Spoiler: things get complicated very quickly.
And on Disney Plus, two wildlife docs debut on April 3: Elephant, narrated by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and Dolphin Reef with Natalie Portman.
Meanwhile, newcomer streaming service Quibi gets off the ground on April 6 with a selection of 50 short-form programsthat can only be watched on mobile devices. Among the highlights are a refresh onprank series Punkd with Chance the Rapper, home renovationshow Murder House Flip andReese Witherspoons animal doc series Fierce Queens. The platform offersa 90-day free trial for viewers who sign up before the launch date.
Heres a roundup of whats worth streamingin April:
An assistant district attorney, played by Chris Evans,confronts the ultimate moral and ethical dilemma when his son is accused of murdering one of his schoolmates and leaving his body in a forest. First assigned to investigate the case, hes pulled offitwhen details emerge of his sons potential involvement. But that onlypushes his resolve to prove his sons innocence. Based on the 2012 novel,this eight-episode limited seriesgives Evans the sort of meaty role that could land him in contention at the Emmy Awards. Hes backed up by a stellar supporting cast that includes Michelle Dockery as his shell-shocked wife. (Apple TV Plus, April 24)
Scene-stealing Merritt Wever, who played Scarlett Johanssons kooky sister in last years Oscar-nominated Marriage Story,has thespotlightin thiseight-episode dramedy on HBO. Wever plays Ruby, a suburban mother who drops her comfortable life the instant she gets a text from her old college flame that simply reads: Run. She meets up with Billy (played by Domhnall Gleeson from Ex Machina) at Grand Central Stationand together they embark on a cross-country train ride that spirals fast. Co-created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag)and Vicky Jones (Killing Eve), theseries takes a few episodes to really find its footing, but once it does, the twists are delicious. (Crave/HBO, April 12, weekly episodes)
Cooked with Cannabis
R&B singer Kelis brought all the boys to the yard with her hit Milkshake, but these days shes doubling as a professional chef serving up cannabis dishes. This new competition series pairs her withPortland chef Leather Storrs as they oversee experienced culinary artists who are racing against the clockto make the best tasting cannabis-infused dishes. A rotating lineup ofcelebrity judges stop by, including Ricki Lake, Elle King and NBA player John Salley. But what makes Cooked with Cannabis stand out from other cannabis cooking shows is its spirited effort to explain theintricacies of cooking with marijuana to newcomers.(Netflix, April 17)
After a hurricane sweeps through their town, agroup of mischievous teenagers discover a sunken ship filled with a boatload of secrets one of whichcould answerwhat happened to the ringleaders missing father.Set against the backdrop of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, this modern pulp mystery is packed with chiselled bodies and steamy locales, and should finda strong following withfans of Riverdale who like their drama with a side of youthful angst.(Netflix, April 15)
High school can be so dramatic, and especially so within the upper ranks of the Roslyn School District where Long Island superintendent Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) is doubling as mentor and embezzler alongside his colleague Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney). But when he encourages a young student reporter to start looking deeper into a story, he winds up sending her on a path that winds all the way back to his own shady dealings. Acquired by HBO at last years Toronto International Film Festival, this sharp-witted comedy is based ona real scandal that rocked aNew York school district.(Crave/HBO, April 25)
In Case You Missed It (titles already streaming):
The Other Two
When their little brother rockets to fame as a teenage pop star on social media, two adult siblings ride his coattails in hopes of reigniting their own failedshowbiz aspirations. Thats the starting point for this sometimes cringeworthy but often hilarious take on the power struggle of a family hypnotized by celebrity culture. Molly Shannon plays the single mom whos turned her sons popularity into her own road to success, one shes dubbed her Year of Yes. Created by Saturday Night Live writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, this underappreciated episodic seriessets a fire underneath the YouTube era. (Crave)
Scoresby Quincy Jones
Unmistakable in his singularity, 28-time Grammy winner Quincy Jones is often described as a purveyor of popular music production but hesan influential film composer in his own right, too. Criterion Channel has brought together many of his best works in this collection that pays tribute to his unique cinematic sound, a blend of blues, funk, bossa nova and pop. Start with a Sidney Poitier double bill of In the Heat of the Night and They Call Me Mister Tibbs! before moving along to Truman CapotesIn Cold Blood, and then round it out with the decidedly lighter psychedelic flair of Cactus Flower and 1970 comedy-adventure The Out-of-Towners. (Criterion Channel)
A young Brooklyn woman flees the world shes known in a strict Hasidic community to start anew in Berlin, splitting from an arranged marriage with the help of a friend. But her disappearance doesnt go unnoticed, with her husband trailing closely behind her as she attempts to escape a past of limitations and find her own identity. Inspired by Deborah Feldmans memoir of the same name, this four-part series could position Israeli actress Shira Haas as one to watch for her nuanced turn as the lead character. (Netflix)
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David Friend, The Canadian Press
Posted: at 6:28 am
Unbeknown to most of us, the rate of extinction today is 500-1,000 times faster than previously experienced. It is safe to say that extinctions are happening significantly faster than ever before. An estimated 200 unique species go extinct everyday. A species lost, on average, every 7 minutes, day and night. A rhino is shot for its horns every 6 hours. An elephant for its tusks every 15 minutes. Apangolin, the worlds most traded wild mammal, is killed every 2 minutes for its scales and flesh. The doomsday clock is ticking. Wildlife is dying in wet markets and starving to death in degraded habitat. This COVID-19 pandemic came from our wasteful and destructive interaction with wildlife and ecosystems across the globe.
There is no doubt.Our world is in crisis.Our planet is burning and polluted. As shared oceans acidify and choke on plastics every year sets a new heat record. We are experiencingcatastrophic and irreversible losses every day. Extinction is forever, and whatever was going to happen with that unique species during millions of years of evolution and natural selection will never be realised. Is this the shared doom of our iteration of complex life. Life on Earth will go on, but, like the dinosaurs and their peers, all large-bodied animals die off. The next iteration of complex life is in the works right now. Maybe in a deep ocean trench, the edge of a volcanoe, or on top of Mount Everest? During mass extinctions like the one we are definitey experiencing right now, the species in our position does not survive. T-Rex did not make it out of the Cretaceous, neither did any other dinosaurs.
Before 1950, there were estimated to have been 1 million lions roaming the African continent. Today, there are less than 20,000 wild lions remaining in Africa. This, however, is still more than double the fewer than 7,000 wild cheetah, our fastest land animal, remaining on the planet. Alarmingly, there are estimated to be about half as many great white sharks (made famous by the film Jaws) remaining in our oceans with an estimated 3,500 still swimming. We all know that pandas are anEndangeredspecies, but a wild population of around 1,700 is terrifyingly close to extinction. Ring-fenced by people and agriculture, and threatened by disease and climate change, just 1,000 mountain gorillas survive in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As an example, there are just 75 Sumatran rhino remaining in the wild. Grand species of folklore and legend are being lost under our watch.
To put this into perspective, there are twice as many Van Goghartworks known to be in circulation, over 2100, than there are living mountain gorillas. Just a few years ago, the Portrait of Joseph Roulin sold for $115 million. Joseph worked for a railway company in the south of France and was a friend to Van Gogh. A masterful portrait now considered to be of great value. A single similar investment in mountain gorillas, as a species, would go a long way towards securing their future in the wild. An endowment of this size could give them the equivalent of human rights.
Imagine being able to make an investment in a species, and then sit on the board that represents their interests to the world, buying up land, advocating for their rights, working with local human communities, and protecting them from disaster. Just imagine that for a second. There are obviously more questions than there are answers, but it has become clear that we need to rethink what we consider to be valuable. Is one living mountain gorilla more valuable than a Van Gogh painting? Are all of Van Goghs paintings together more valuable than all of the remaining mountain gorillas? We need to decide these answers.
By 2050, machines and androids will most likely be able to do everything better, more efficiently, and more reliably than us. Theserobots will not need the biological world of plants and animals to survive, and would probably prefer it if insects didnt nest in their air vents, and it never rained. As technology advances beyond current imagination, just being in nature could become one of the only thing human beings are the best at. We are resilient, naturally waterproof, dont rust or require insulation, and we can be fuelled with just water and raw vegetables.
When robots or just sequences of code become our lawyers, accountants, administrators, artists, musicians, managers, mechanics, machinists, architects, designers, authors, reporters, politicians, and doctors, which is inevitable, we will be left as the stewards and custodians of the natural world that we evolved in. That will be our most important job in the future. So, dont tell your children to be lawyers or doctors, rather tell them to become organic farmers, explorers, divers, foresters, or conservationists. To me, the alternate future in which we surrender to being entirely dependent on machines to sustain life on Earth seems more sinister.Our freedom and security on this planet is rooted in our relationship with the natural world.
In the United States, the 1964 Wilderness Act defined wilderness as an area wherethe earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man. Land that retains its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvement or human habitation.Wilderness has been described as an unsettled, uncultivated region, a barren or desolate area, a wasteland, a state of neglect, powerlessness, or disfavour, and something characterized by bewildering vastness, perilousness, or unchecked profusion. In these definitions we seem to intentionally exclude ourselves and make wilderness seem more barren and dangerous than spiritual and fulfilling.
These very exclusive definitions for wilderness demonstrate our gradual disassociation, our unconscious divorce, from nature, and our own innate wildness. When in the wild, modernised people often say things like, You know, nature is so cruel! when a predator kills its prey, before looking back down at their iPad. My guests on safari say things like, Nature is just amazing when a zebra walks past, or Nature will always find a way when an animal, or plant, survives a catastrophe against all odds. We say these things unconsciously as if we are somehow alien and not part of the natural world.We are not aliens from another planet. We are certainly not gods. We are, however, arrogant and vengeful. We love, yet we also hate. We judge each other to isolate ourselves. We divorced from nature to justify and ignore the atrocities we commit against nature.
Are we really man the killer that walked out of the wilderness into the city? Are we great because we left the wild or because we came from it? Why are we burning down the house we live in? Is it our destiny to destroy this interaction of complex life on Earth to make way for something new?Since 1990, we have continued our systematic destruction of the biosphere, wiping out another 10% of our remaining wilderness. Over 30% of the Amazon Basin gone in 25 years. A total area twice the size of Alaska no longer considered to be ecologically-intact no longer wild. Over3.3 million square kilometres that could have been saved, but is now lost, forever.
Natural disasters are becoming more intense, and more frequent. Mass human migration, incredible violence and conflict, terror and extremism, nuclear threat, water shortages and famine, viral pandemics, and xenophobic attacks across the developed world, are all very bad signs. We are living in unprecedented times.Ecosystems are ceasing to function properly everyday as they reach their own tipping points. We know how to fix this. We know how to save ourselves and this planet. It starts with conserving what we have left and living better where we are already.
As a scientist, conservationist, forester, explorer and mammal, I know that we cannot compute or even fully-understand the actual functioning of the complex, connected ecosystems that support life as we know it.We depend on them, yet we do not fully understand their functioning. These losses are happening on an unimaginable scale oceans and rivers, not bays and streams. EO Wilson agrees that there is no existing definition that clearly defines what an ecosystem really is. Where does an ecosystem begin, and, more importantly, where does it end? We have most likely developed the computational power, but still do not have the baseline data to even start mapping out the millions of connections and co-dependences between ecosystems, species, cycles, processes, niches, and even isolated dead ends of creativity. Hopefully one day the mystery of what we really will be revealed.
The surviving wildlife in our cities is being shocked, caught, shot at, run over, and poisoned. Raccoons, squirrels, pigeons, possums, polar bears and tigers have no space to live. Insects, most importantly bees, are disappearing in a fog of poison and pollution, as the bacterial communities that populate our bodies shift and change due to self-imposed isolation using deadly chemicals and antibiotics. Apart from us, and in conflict with us, nature is adapting, shifting and adjusting with outbreaks of Ebola, the plague, and novel coronaviruses becoming more severe and more common. HIV/AIDS continues to spread through communities around the globe. These are all very bad signs for us. We may be the last to go extinct, but we will go extinct if we continue this toxic interaction with the biodiversity surrounding us and inside us.
Elon Musk famously said that he wanted to die on Mars, but not on impact. My hope is that he will be looking back, from the safety of his leafy habitat, at a shining, biodiverse, self-sustaining blue-green planet with 10 billionHomo sapiensliving longer and better, readying themselves, some of them, for space travel. I hope that, by the time Musk goes to live on Mars, having intact wildernesses is more important than having libraries, museums and national archives. Having wild places preserves our ability to leverage the option value of the infinite power of the natural world, billions of years of iteration towards perfect balance. This is a very important time to be alive.
There is no doubt. We are approaching a moment of significant change before 2050. A radically-different future that few of us have taken the time to imagine. Over the next decade, we all need to be present, woke and proactive during one of the most important times in human history.Gen X, Xennials, Millenials, Boomers The human beings alive today face the greatest gamble of all time. It is simple. Either we protect half of the Earths landscapes and seascapes to accommodate the millions of species driving the vast ecosystems that create the air we breathe and clean the water we drink, or we can choose to depend solely on new technologies to do this for us.
Most people worry about and care for their cars, their motor vehicles, working hard to keep them fuelled, well maintained, clean and safe. In return, they give us freedom, a sense of power, and make our modern lives easier and more efficient. Now, imagine how you, or anyone else, would feel about your vehicle if you could speak to it and you depended on it for clean air, atmosphere, food, and water.It would be very interesting to unpack how astronauts on long stays in the International Space Station feel that about their daily maintenance routines. Is the space station working for them or are they working for it? How will we react when AI in our devices starts talking to us in text and voice? Where are we going in this relationship with our machines?A new religion based on bits, qubits, and the day of the singularity? Are there ghosts in the machine? Only time can answer these questions.
We need to think very carefully before gambling on new technologies manipulating the natural world to support life on Earth.Can technology maintain our atmosphere, feed us, clean our water, or protect us from unnatural disaster? Will blockchain manifest the shared ownership, accountability and connectivity achieved already by nature? Can we replicate billions of years of natural selection and evolution using CRISPR? Will the first application of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics be in environmental stewardship, farming, or in the military? We need to decide these answers.
We are one experiment away from AI. Self-powered, self-aware and self-replicating code, drones and machines are an inevitability, the same as universal translators, light sabres, private space travel, augmented human cyborgs, digestible knowledge, settlement on the Moon, and our great grandchildren being raised and augmented by robots. Inevitable? We really do not know what is going to happen. What is science fiction or future fact? Are we going to see anewHomospecies evolve out of technology? Will the first trillionaire be anasteroid miner? Is it inevitable that we settle on Mars and go to Alpha Centauri?Our exploration must continue into space, but all human beings exploring space must come from Earth.Any investment in space travel must be matched by investments in the protection and restoration of our natural world, our home. This is imperative.
Blood, soil and water, our connection to the Earth, will forever be our superpower. Billions of years of natural selection and creative iteration, from trilobites to us, built a vast global ecosystem of animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and viruses, which, if undisturbed by a cataclysm like an asteroid (or us), will remain self-sustaining, adapting and evolving for millions of years, in balance.The technological singularity is the hypothesis that beyond a certain point AI or artificial superintelligence (ASI) coupled with new technologies, like quantum computing, will manifest an exponential technological expansion, making discovery and invention instantaneous. It is hard to believe that this human engineered event could replicate the level of complexity and interconnectedness through time, space and dimension achieved by nature already.
Before it is too late, we will value nature more than anything else.Decades exploring Africas wildest, remotest wildernesses have shown me that the human experience in the wilderness, represented in our innate wildness,is the formative power that created all of us. These last wild places and our shared human experience in them explainthe origin of religion, of science, and of the laws that govern our modern society. Observing the inter-web of life connects us to self-realization, balance and a sense of purpose working for our children and the planet. This connection also helps us celebrate our ancestors like we used to, and preserve valuable traditional knowledge systems and indigenous languages.
We are part of the awesome, unstoppable power of the ocean, the almighty ebb and flow of life, the life tide pulling and pushing our life force. This connects us to our fates, fears, failures and fortunes. There are laws of connection and attraction that we do not yet understand, described and explained as gravity, luck, superstition, religious belief, love, the Secret, greed, and fate. We have spent millennia trying to understand the basic metaphysical laws of the universe through prayer, meditation, hallucination, chanting, dance, substance abuse, and study. The unifying life force will never die, but does periodically flicker and collapse due to cataclysm, only to be reborn as a new age and visualisation of the original spark of life at the Big Bang.
The humanoids portrayed in Star Trek and Star Wars represent the different versions of us evolved during hundreds of years of space exploration. They were human beings that adapted, evolved and engineered themselves to live on other planets in other solar systems. Human beings from this Planet Earth cannot become multi-planetary as Elon Musk suggests we should. Human beings living sustainably on Mars will cease to beHomo sapiens. They will become a new species living on a new planet, adapting and augmenting themselves to survive off Earth. Rapid adaption and even evolution will occur and they will very quickly cease to be us, if they are to survive sustainably. They will, of course, consider themselves different, perhaps consider themselves to be Martians.
There is no doubt our world is in crisis with two-thirds of all wildlife and almost 80% of all seabirds estimated to have disappeared around the world since 1975. From this point forward, we really cannot afford to making any mistakes. We tend to appease or ignore the things we fear most until they are upon us. Now is the time for large-scale coordinated action. Hope is not gone. There is still so much to secure, protect and restore this decade. When it comes down to it there is a lot left to save. We are still a living, breathing, spinning blue-green planet orbiting the sun where it was possible to film the astonishing new Netflix series,Our Planet, narrated by Sir David Attenborough. We need to act to save these places now.
The awe and wonder of the natural world is not gone, but it is dying. In the words of David Attenborough: The Garden of Eden is no more. The call-to-action is clear and the time for change is now. We will never get to experience the world our grandparents took for granted, but maybe our grandchildren could? We need a sparkling vision of a planet in balance that we must all subscribe to. An Earth with a stable population of 10 billion people living longer, happier and better in a world filled with the abundance of life, with elephants, rhinos, lions, jaguars, polar bears and pandas, all enriched, not controlled, by technology. As explorers, this leafy paradise will be our home as we launch out the atmosphere to explore the galaxy always wanting to return.