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Saturday, November 17, 2012

16:11:2012 -- Embracing Your Inner Robot: A Singular Vision Of The Future by Marcelo Gleiser

Dear Friends,

Be Well.

Embracing Your Inner Robot: A Singular Vision Of The Future

"Child-robot with Biomimetic Body" (or CB2) at Osaka University in Japan in 2009, where the android was slowly developing social skills by interacting with humans and watching their facial expressions, mimicking a mother-baby relationship.
Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

Last week I went to a lecture by the inventor and futurist author Ray Kurzweil, who was visiting Dartmouth College for a couple of days. Kurzweil became famous for his music synthesizers and his text-to-speech software, which are of great help to those who can't read or are blind. Stevie Wonder was one of his first customers. His main take, that the exponential advance in information and computer technology will deeply transform society and the meaning of being human, resonates with many people and scares a bunch more.

Using his exponential curve for processing-power-per-dollar increase, Kurzweil estimates that by 2045 we will reach the "Singularity," a point of no return where people and machine will reach a deep level of integration. You can watch Kurzweil walk through his ideas at Here's a sample posted to YouTube:


For those who can afford it — and that's a whole topic of discussion by itself: what will happen to those who can't? — life will be something very different. Lifespan will be enormously extended, death will become an affliction and not an inevitability. I guess only taxes will remain a certainty!
Are such scenarios sci-fi or the reality of the future?

Take synthetic biology, for example, the ability to reprogram the genes of existing creatures to make them do what we want them to do. We might have bacteria create electricity and clean water from waste, produce blood, vaccines, fuels or whatever we fancy. We could recreate specific bodily organs to replace those that are malfunctioning, using your own DNA; boost your immunity against effectively anything; enhance intelligence and memory.

Advances in the speed with which we read genomes have been so dramatic that we now talk about using DNA as a storage device. After all, DNA encodes information in very clear ways and we could manipulate it to encode any information we want. As George Church and Ed Regis write in their thought-provoking recent book Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature , in principle we could store the whole of Wikipedia (in all languages) on a chip the size of a cell, for a cost of $1 for 100,000 copies.

Human-machine integration, in fact, is already happening at many levels: most people feel lost without their cell phone, as if a part of their body or self is missing.

According to Kurzweil, by 2029 computers will be powerful enough to simulate the human brain. From his "Law of Accelerated Returns" he estimates that in 25 years we will have technologies billions of times more powerful than we have today. Just think that five years ago social media — today a transformative force in the world — was practically inexistent, or that the biggest computers in the 1970s were a million-times more expensive and a thousand-times less efficient than the chips we have in our smartphones, representing a billion-fold increase in computing efficiency per dollar.
Singularity, in the case of black hole physics (Kurzweil's inspiration for the term), represents a breakdown point, where the laws of physics as we currently understand them stop making sense. This doesn't mean that there is an a priori reason for us not to understand the physics near the singularity, but that we currently don't have the theoretical tools to do so.

In the case of artificial intelligence plus synthetic biology, the final alliance between humans and bio-informatics technology, it's much harder to predict what could happen.

Every new technology can be applied for good or for evil (or both). If, as Kurzweil, we take an optimistic view and see how humanity has benefited from technology as a harbinger of things to come (we live longer and better, and although we kill more efficiently, we kill less), the Singularity will bring a new stage in the history of evolution, prompted by one of its creations: us.

The body will be superfluous, since we are, in essence, coiled information, a blueprint, a sequence of instructions that can be duplicated at will. Will you then become a memory stick that can be inserted into a machine that can make copies of you? Or, perhaps, we will become a super-evolved character in a video game, an intelligent Sims person, convinced that the virtual reality surrounding us is real. After all, to simulate reality in ways identical to what we perceive is simply a matter of data gathering, advanced software, and processing power, all promises of this upcoming future.

If this is what's next, and odds are it is, we should start thinking of the consequences springing out of humanity's redefinition. For one thing, it'll be important to make sure copies of yourself are backed up in a safe location. You never know when an evil mind might decide to delete you from existence! That's right, in this new future we won't die anymore; we will be deleted.

You can keep up with more of what Marcelo is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser

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How to Digitally Record/Video a UFO sighting:

Como registar digitalmente ou gravar um vídeo de um avistamento de um UFO:

Stabilize the camera on a tripod. If there is no tripod, then set it on top of a stable, flat surface. If that is not possible lean against a wall to stabilize your body and prevent the camera from filming in a shaky, unsteady manner.

Estabilize a camera com um tripé. Se não tiver um tripé, então coloque-a em cima de uma superfície estável. Se não for possível, então encoste-se a uma parede para estabilizar o corpo e evitar que a camera registe de maneira tremida e instável.

Provide visual reference points for comparison. This includes the horizon, treetops, lampposts, houses, and geographical landmarks (i.e., Horsetooth Reservoir, Mt. Adams, etc.) Provide this in the video whenever is appropriate and doesn’t detract from what your focus is, the UFO.

Forneça pontos visuais de referência para comparação. Isso inclui o horizonte, cimo das árvores, postes de iluminação, pontos de referência geográficos (como o Reservatório de Horsetooth, Mone Adams, etc) Forneça esses pontos no vídeo sempre que for apropriado e não se distraia do que é o seu foco, o UFO/a Nave.

Narrate your videotape. Provide details of the date, time, location, and direction (N,S,E,W) you are looking in. Provide your observations on the weather, including approximate temperature, windspeed, any visible cloud cover or noticeable weather anomalies or events. Narrate on the shape, size, color, movements, approximate altitude of the UFO, etc and what it appears to be doing. Also include any unusual physical, psychological or emotional sensations you might have. Narrate any visual reference points on camera so they correlate with what the viewer will see, and thereby will be better able to understand.

Faça a narração do vídeo. Forneça pormenores sobre a data, hora, local e direcção (Norte, Sul, Este, Oeste) que está a observar. Faça observações sobre as condições atmosféricas, incluindo a temperatura aproximada, velocidade do vento, quantidade de nuvens, anomalias ou acontecimentos meteorológicos evidentes. Descreva a forma, o tamanho, a cor, os movimentos, a altitude aproximada onde se encontra o UFO/nave, etc e o que aparenta estar a fazer. Inclua também quaisquer aspectos pouco habituais de sensações físicas, psicológicas ou emocionais que possa ter. Faça a narração de todos os pontos de referência visual que o espectador irá ver e que, deste modo, será capaz de compreender melhor.

Be persistent and consistent. Return to the scene to videotape and record at this same location. If you have been successful once, the UFO sightings may be occurring in this region regularly, perhaps for specific reasons unknown, and you may be successful again. You may also wish to return to the same location at a different time of day (daylight hours) for better orientation and reference. Film just a minute or two under “normal” circumstances for comparison. Write down what you remember immediately after. As soon as you are done recording the experience/event, immediately write down your impressions, memories, thoughts, emotions, etc. so it is on the record in writing. If there were other witnesses, have them independently record their own impressions, thoughts, etc. Include in this exercise any drawings, sketches, or diagrams. Make sure you date and sign your documentation.

Seja persistente e não contraditório. Volte ao local da cena e registe o mesmo local. Se foi bem sucedido uma vez, pode ser que nessa região ocorram avistamentos de UFOs/naves com regularidade, talvez por razões específicas desconhecidas, e talvez possa ser novamente bem sucedido. Pode também desejar voltar ao mesmo lugar a horas diferentes do dia (durante as horas de luz)para ter uma orientação e referência melhor. Filme apenas um ,inuto ou dois em circunstâncias “normais” para ter um termo de comparação. Escreva tudo o que viu imediatamente após o acontecimento. Logo após ter feito o registo da experiência/acontecimento, escreva imediatamente as impressões, memórias, pensamentos, emoções, etc para que fiquem registadas por escrito. Se houver outras testemunhas, peça-lhes para registar independentemente as suas próprias impressões, pensamentos, etc. Inclua quaisquer desenhos, esbolos, diagramas. Certifique-se que data e assina o seu documento/testemunho.

Always be prepared. Have a digital camera or better yet a video camera with you, charged and ready to go, at all times. Make sure you know how to use your camera (and your cell phone video/photo camera) quickly and properly. These events can occur suddenly, unexpectedly, and often quite randomly, so you will need to be prepared.

Esteja sempre preparado, Tenha sempre uma camera digital, melhor ainda, uma camera vídeo consigo, carregada e pronta a usar sempre que necessário. Certifique-se que sabe como lidar com a sua camera (ou com o seu celular/camera fotográfica) rápida e adequadamente. Esses acontecimentos podem acontecer súbita e inesperadamente e, por vezes, acidentalmente, por isso, necessita estar preparado.

Look up. Be prepared. Report. Share.

Olhe para cima, Esteja preparado, Relate, Partilhe.



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