', 'plausiblefutures.com'); ga('send', 'pageview');

IBM offers glimpse into the future

Air-powered batteries, 3-D cellphones that project holographs and personalized commutes are among the predictions of IBM scientists gazing into their crystal balls.

Source: Physorg.

How US strategic antimissile defense could be made to work

The authors show that the United States has the ability to defend itself from long-range nuclear armed ballistic missiles if it builds the right systems defenses based on stealthy drones that could shoot down ballistic missiles in powered flight after they have been launched from fixed known sites.This same system could defend Northern and Western Europe, and Northern Russia from large and cumbersome long-range ballistic missiles that Iran might build in the future.

Source: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (PDF).

Synthetic biology: Harbinger of an uncertain future?

However, a split in the industry appeared when two of the leading firms — DNA2.0 in the U.S. and Geneart in Germany — proposed to minimize the second phase of security screening, i.e. using a human expert, and to rely almost entirely on the first phase of screening, i.e. using only computers. Because a mainly computerized system would not require the time consuming and expensive work of an expert, it could be implemented quickly and cheaply. However, removing the detailed human expert examination obviously increases the possibility that dangerous orders could get through the screening, as the computer screening process is only as good as the databases it calls upon. Debates and divisions continue within the industry as to the best approach.

Source: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

Debating Space Deterrence

Kinetic Energy Anti-Satellite [KE ASAT]

Lessons from the Schriever X space wargame, which took place at Nellis AFB in May, are driving some hard thinking among deterrence strategists. In the second US Strategic Command Deterrence Symposium in Omaha this week, panel speakers explored what turns out to be a nightmarishly complex issue.

One big lesson from Schriever X, which simulated the world of 2022, is that “it’s hard to do attribution”, according to Lt Gen Larry James, boss of Stratcom’s Joing Functional Component Command for Space. “It’s easy with an ASAT” (anti-satellite weapon) “but it is not easy with an object that has been there for years.”

Source: Avation Week.

Wikileaks: War Diary of Afghanistan

Daniel Ellsberg, a former US military analyst, has described the disclosure of the Afghan war logs as on the scale of his leaking of the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971 revealing how the US public was misled about the Vietnam war.

“An outrageous escalation of the war is taking place,” he said. “Look at these cables and see if they give anybody the occasion to say the answer is ‘resources”. He added: “After $300bn and 10 years, the Taliban is stronger than they have ever been … We are recruiting for them.”

However, the equivalent of the Pentagon Papers on Afghanistan – top secret papers relating to policy – had yet to be leaked, he said.

Source: The Guardian. View the Kabul War Diary from Wikileaks. Also see “Hypnotic illusions at the Wikileaks Show” from The Register.

From the perspective of a futurist this story tells everything about the future of the news media. The giants of news distribution are loosing their relevance to independent meta-sources like Wikileaks. The recent introduction of “pay-walls” by Murdoch on several general news services is a strategy of making themselves obsolete. Adding to the demise of mainstream news media comes the ereader.

Also read “Data, diffusion, impact: Five big questions the Wikileaks story raises about the future of journalism” from Niemanlab.

Conspiracy theories and Transhumanism

The conspiracy theory crowd is looking at the transhumanist movement for evidence of a planned eugenic robotic utopia for the elite. Unfortunately this means a robotic hell for you. I actually enjoy sites like “The Labyrinth of the Psychonaut” and “Red Ice Creations” – not for it’s quality of content but as pure entertainment. In the same way I find many conspiracy sites interesting.

Trying to tie transhumanism up with eugenics and elite population control is not new. The transhumanists are well aware of the history of eugenics and do their best to promote the idea that transhumanism is the best for humankind, and not just for the few with bionic implants. Even though the liberal transhumanist like to think of themselves as the true transhumanists there are other factions taking a much more reactionary approach. This faction is also active in Italy, see “The Complicated Politics of Italian Transhumanism” from IEET.

Read more about conspiracy theories and the transhumanist movement at Vigilant Citizen (Transhumanism, PsyWar and B.E.P.’s “Imma Be”) and Euromed (Increasing Propaganda For March Towards Posthuman Robot Hell). Also see R.U. Sirius (Welcome to the Home of Satanic Transhumanist Elite Conspiracy) and Michael Anissmiov‘s comments. The most comprehensive analysis of this paranoia is on Khannea Suntzu‘s Blog (“Demonization for dummies”).

Cyborgs in Space

In 1960, Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline published an essay in Astronautics titled “Cyborgs in Space.” Comparing man in space to a fish out of water, they noted that even if you could bring everything you need on your space explorations, “the bubble all too easily bursts.”

However, if the human body were altered to adapt to the conditions of space, astronauts would be free to explore the universe without limitation.

“Solving the many technical problems involved in manned space flight by adapting man to his environment, rather than vice versa, will not only mark a significant step forward in man’s scientific progress, but may well provide a new and larger dimension for man’s spirit as well,” the authors write.

The Clynes & Kline paper coined the term “cyborg,” and NASA followed up on their suggestions, commissioning a study on the topic. “The Cyborg Study: Engineering Man for Space” was released in 1963, and it reviewed the possibility of organ replacement, as well as how drugs and hibernation could be used to make space travel less stressful. The report concluded that replacing the heart, lungs and kidneys – the organs most stressed by space travel – was not feasible with the technology available at the time.

Source: Astrobiology Magazine. Also see “Where are the Cyborgs in Cybernetics?” by Ronald Kline.

James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change

James Lovelock

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is “modern democracy”, he added.

“Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.”

Lovelock, 90, believes the world’s best hope is to invest in adaptation measures, such as building sea defences around the cities that are most vulnerable to sea-level rises. He thinks only a catastrophic event would now persuade humanity to take the threat of climate change seriously enough, such as the collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica, such as the Pine Island glacier, which would immediately push up sea level.

Source: The Guardian. This is one of my main arguments for pursuing artificial intelligence. The planet is such a complex system that human intelligence (even in collaboration) is insufficient to solve global problems.

UPDATE: Raymond B. Cattell’s “A New Morality from Science: Beyondism” (1972).

(c) Copyright Plausible Futures Newsletter 2013