The universe is not only strange but stranger than we can imagine

What next?

Will such things be?

 

 

What’s coming our way?

 

What happens when smart machines do 90% of the work, or if science discovers the secret of extreme longevity?

And how will we react the day we receive the alien signal we have been longing for and dreading?

These questions and more explored in a halting way

 

The Robopocalypse cometh, but it will be OK. (Maybe)

Robots are evolving at an ever-increasing rate. What does it mean for carbon-based technopeasants like yours truly?

 

From the Temple of Technology comes yet another doom-laden prophecy: robots, animated by artificial intelligence, are coming to take our jobs in a big, BIG way. According to  IT high priest and celebrity Kai-Fu Lee, robots are poised to take 50 per cent — yes, that is half — of all jobs in the next decade.

Most of us are so numbed by predictions like this that we merely shrug and pass on. But if Lee is even in the ballpark, the world economy is standing at the edge of a very high cliff. What happens when a quarter, or a half of the work force finds itself unemployed and pretty much unemployable? How do families survive? When demand plummets because half the population suddenly has no income, what then? Are we not looking at a domino effect, where even more jobs disappear as consumer spending power evaporates?

Where’s the robot repair guy?
Humble technopeasants like myself do not know the answers to these questions, but even so I venture to predict one thing — if these scenarios are anywhere close to correct, it will not be pretty. Apologists for the coming Robopocalypse point out that, while many jobs will disappear, new ones will be created, notably in the areas of robot manufacture and maintenance.  The snag, of course, is that not everyone will be able to make a smooth transition from, say, driving a forklift to doing robot repair or AI programming.

Not to worry, according to Lee — the coming robolution will “create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty.” (Yeah, right.)  The other soothing news — apparently the human touch will still be required.  Says Lee, “Touching one’s heart with your heart is something that machines, I believe, will never be good at.”

Will plutocrats dream of electric kittens?
Seriously? If AI-directed robots can do everything else, it is hard to see why they can’t be designed to be ultra-warm and fuzzy as well as super-efficient. Would there not be, for example, a market for kindly robo-nurses? For electronic versions of Mary Poppins or even hypoallergenic robo-kittens designed to charm and entertain? (Ooops, there goes the litterbox industry.)  To say nothing of the possibilities inherent in the sex trades.

Truly, truly, we do live in interesting times. Stay tuned…

 

 

Robotic boy helps treatment of Alzheimer’s patients

Truly, we are living in a science-fiction world. And this is only the start. This robot has crude AI capabilities — imagine what the fourth or fifth generation of “Ludwig” may be like. At the same time, consider that many Ludwigs will take the place of flesh-and-blood people. We already see this with the advent of such widespread technology as the humble ATM.

This tech-driven displacement is going to continue and widen. Where will the displaced men and women go, how will they make a living? Not everyone can be an AI developer or robot repair expert. So? The question should be carefully pondered by those who care about society a decade or two, or three down the road. This proviso automatically excluded most career politicians and corporate leaders — fresh reason for concern.

The 60-cm-high mechanical boy can talk and move to keep patients socially engage.

Ludwig has a mission — to help patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Ludwig is also a robot.

The 60-cm-high mechanical boy can talk and move to keep patients socially engage.

His real job is to monitor the patient’s speech and cognitive patterns, and report on any declining conditions.

Read more: Robotic boy helps treatment of Alzheimer’s patients | Toronto & GTA | News | Tor

Space exploration is our destiny

 

Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.

William S. Burroughs

 

2016-04-20 18.00.15

Ready for launch

It’s hard to understand why anyone would turn away from the ultimate adventure that is space exploration. Sure, there are (rather unconvincing) economic arguments about how money could be better spent elsewhere, and sure it will be hard and expensive to get out there. And yes, many people will die in the attempt. So what? The same can be said for every risky voyage of exploration that our race has ever undertaken — and yet those voyages were undertaken, to our immense gain.

It won’t be easy
Critics of space travel point to the huge difficulties in getting to the high frontier from Earth, and surviving once there. Space, they point out, is an incredibly harsh, unforgiving environment: no food, no water, no air. We would have to build vessels or shelters which reproduce our natural environments, at least sufficiently to support life.  

Our ancestors faced similar challenges
True — and yet much the same thing could be said of, for example, the people who set out in outrigger canoes or flimsy sailing vessels across the wide oceans, sometimes with no clear idea of what – if anything — lay beyond the vast expanse of water. To do so, our bold ancestors prepared themselves as best they could, sometimes showing extraordinary ingenuity. They designed vessels that could carry them and their goods for weeks and months at a time. They preserved food using salt and smoke. They carried extra water in jars, gourds or skins. They even brought domestic animals and seeds to feed themselves in transit and to farm with, should they reach their unknown destination.

An island of safety
How are their ventures so very different from the challenges facing us in space? Like them, we must create a little island of safety in the middle of a hostile ocean. Like them, we must carry our food and water with us. Like them, if our craft fails, we die. You can’t breathe underwater, any more than in the hard vacuum of space.

Just preparing for these challenges teaches us much. The original space program brought a wealth of new technology and know-how in its wake. What leaps in knowledge might we make if we made a serious effort to colonize The Moon and the planets, to mine the asteroids for the incredible mineral riches? There would be an initial investment, certainly, but an investment that would almost certainly pay huge dividends long term — something that presumably has not escaped the first generation of space-bound entrepreneurs, who are already among us.

It`s not about the cash
But money, ROI, payback, is not ultimately what space exploration is about. The desire to explore is a fundamental aspect of being human. Wanderlust is built into our very genes, and to deny its attraction is to deny our heritage and our own humanity.  For all these reasons, and more to be explored in greater depth here in future posts — we must take a step further out. We must move into space.

 

Arctic Mammoth Killed By Humans 45,000 Years Ago

This find pushed the date for human exploration of the Arctic back by 10,000 years. Apparently our distant ancestors were both clever and hardy enough to survive in the high Arctic as much as 45,000 years ago –long, long before Canada Goose coats and long underwear.

Mammoth specimens have been found in such good condition, thanks to the deep freeze that preserved their bodies, that some scientists speculate it may one day be possible to “resurrect” the species using preserved DNA.

“Analysis of the remains of a mammoth discovered in 2012 just 1,250 miles from the North Pole has revealed it was slain by human hands 45,000 years in the past. The extreme age of the remains – and the fact that they bear the telltale marks of being killed by human hunters using crude spears  – has turned the archaeological community on its ear.”

Source: Arctic Mammoth Killed By Humans 45,000 Years Ago

Plastic grass could cover buildings to produce energy from wind

Bendy plastic strips generate power as they flail in the wind, harvesting energy for the home where wind turbines are impractical

 

“The answer , my friend, is blowing in the wind.” Well, maybe not quite the way Bob Dylan had in mind, but still…

Right now we apparently have “too much oil,” at least in the short term. But in the long run, and for many reasons (pollution, finite supplies, political considerations), we need to get away from fossil fuels. What better solution than harnessing the energy of the wind? But acres and acres of huge eggbeaters flailing against the sky and whacking any birds unfortunate enough to come into range, are not an ideal answer. How about if wind power could be harvested unobtrusively? Enter this great idea — tiny strips of artificial grass, each harnessing a tiny amount of the wind’s energy as they bend and sway in the breeze.

It’s a lovely solution — neat, localized, wildlife friendly, non-polluting… As long as your goats don’t try grazing, you’re energy self sufficient. Too cool

Source: Plastic grass could cover buildings to produce energy from wind | New Scientist

Europe to build base on MOON by 2030 using 3D printer

The futuristic settlement would most likely be located on the rim of Shackelton crater, with robots laying the groundwork for humans to move in

Oh please, make it so! We so desperately need to take that next “step further out.” It is hard to believe that no human has been back to the Moon in nearly half a century. We were there, the future was in our grasp — and we let it go. Yes, there are troubles and things that need to be done on Earth, yes, there is no sure guarantee of short-term payback for space exploration. And yes, we absolutely have to explore space if we are to survive and prosper as a race. Maybe the time and the technology are finally right for a return to the “High Frontier.” Outward ho!

Source: Europe to build base on MOON by 2030 using 3D printer – Mirror Online

 

 

Seven reasons to settle The Moon

Moon 3

The Moon — the stepping stone to the planets and our next destination if our species wants to survive.

Why waste resources and precious time going to The Moon when there are so many problems here on Earth? Why bother to even try and build settlements on a barren, airless, cratered wasteland?  Here are seven excellent reasons why we need not only to explore The Moon, but to settle there, as a preliminary to moving even further out.

 

  1. Human nature. We need to explore The Moon because it’s there. As Neil Armstrong said, it’s human nature to face and overcome challenges, to explore, to find new frontiers. The Moon is the obvious next frontier.
  2. Insurance. As a one-planet race, we are at risk of extinction from an asteroid strike, a major pandemic, massive climate change, etc. etc. Unlikely? Maybe, but it happens. Despite the many horrific shortcoming of the human race, we do have potential for good. It would be a pity to join the trilobites and pterodactyls in the Hall of Failed Species.
  3. Scientific knowledge. In-depth exploration of The Moon would yield a wealth of knowledge in fields ranging from geology to planetary science.
  4. Accelerated technical achievement. To explore and colonize The Moon, we will need to improve technologies in a whole range of areas, from rocket propulsion to chemical engineering to environmental management. As with the space program, these advances in technology would certainly spin off a variety of amazing new products, materials and processes.
  5. A stepping stone to space. It is far easier to explore the Solar System and to mine the huge mineral wealth of the asteroids from The Moon or Lunar orbit than from Earth.
  6. Perspective. Virtually everyone who has ventured into space returns with a new appreciation for the beauty and uniqueness of Earth. So far, only a handful of people have attained this cosmic perspective. Settlements on The Moon and the associated increase in space travel will product tens of thousands of individuals with an awareness of the special space our planet occupies in the universe. With luck, this increased awareness may promote the development of a more compassionate, generous-spirited global culture.
  7. Serendipity. Who knows what we may find on The Moon or in near-space? So often in science, the major breakthroughs come out of left field, from a totally unexpected and unlooked-for discovery. Colonizing The Moon may bring benefits and discoveries we cannot now imagine.

    We have the basic technology. We have the spirit. Soon, very soon, we must take the next step on the path which leads, ultimately, to the stars. The alternative is unthinkable.

Tylenol can ease existential uncertainty, fear of death (really!)

tylenol2-300x225And you thought Tylenol was just for headaches! A very weird but apparently valid study has found that good old Tylenol can actually (somehow) make the idea of death more acceptable, by dulling the “pain” that usually accompanies thoughts of one’s own demise.

Interesting question department — if someone  had a hangover so bad that she/he wanted to die, what effect would taking a Tylenol have? By removing the hangover pain, it would bias the person away from death, but by removing the fear of death, it would presumably move the needle in favor of self-slaughter.  Something to try out next January 1 perhaps

Waxed to extinction (and nobody cares!)

"Crabs" -- one species whose passing few people will regret.

“Crabs” — one species whose passing few people will regret.

We’re pretty well used to reports of species walking the gangplank towards extinction as humans destroy their natural habitats.  In most cases, the loss is tragic — but this story of environmental disaster has a comical sort of twist.

The creatures in question are  pubic lice (also known as “crabs”). The threat to their environment is known variously as Brazilian waxing or bikini waxing, a practice so common that  the little crablike vermin are threatened with extinction. Although exact numbers are (for obvious reasons) hard to come by, sexual health clinics report dramatic drops in crab infestations, presumably thanks to this new grooming trend.

In the grand scheme of things, no doubt crab lice are as much a miracle of nature as, say, leopards or dolphins. But it will be hard for most people to shed a tear at the passing of these little beasties, should they be waxed into oblivion.

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