Short Attention Span Blogging; Thursday, August 12, 2010

By | August 12, 2010

…where science, futurism, and anything else Stephen finds interesting are

thrown together in an informational stew for your consumption.


Follow Stephen on Twitter: @stephentgo

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  • Michael Annisimov points us to two essential Nick Bostrom essays: “When Machines Outsmart Humans” and “Taking Intelligent Machines Seriously.”

    Artificial intelligence is a possibility that should not be ignored in any serious thinking about the future, and it raises many profound issues for ethics and public policy that philosophers ought to start thinking about. This article outlines the case for thinking that human-level machine intelligence might well appear within the next half century. It then explains four immediate consequences of such a development, and argues that machine intelligence would have a revolutionary impact on a wide range of the social, political, economic, commercial, technological, scientific and environmental issues that humanity will face over the coming decades.

  • New Scientist: Swallowing its pride, NASA says it wants to learn from commercial missions to the Moon.

    There’s a growing consensus that the Cold War Space Age was a false dawn – a brute force project necessitated by our conflict with the Soviet Union, and made possible by unsustainable spending.

    Now, we may finally be entering a true, sustainable, Space Age. This time we go to space to earn a living. NASA’s relationship to these entrepreneurs should be analogous to that of the FAA to Delta Airlines.

    As this transition happens, NASA can take a role encouraging others to make the necessary advances:

  • New Push Prize: Got a plan to get us back to the Moon? NASA’s got $30 million worth of motivation!
  • Negroponte thinks that the e-book will kill the physical book within five years.

    “Kill” may be a strong word. But Phil and I have a little wager going. We both think that by February 25, 2019, most reading will be done on electronic devices. The difference: I think the market for paper books will be diminished as a result of this competition. Phil thinks that the print market will be bigger than ever.

  • Richard MacManus asks: “What are your favorite eBook features? I like highlighting a word for its definition. Your faves & the eReader you use?”

    I bought a Kindle that I rarely use now. I read my Kindle books on the device I always have with me – my iPhone. An ebook feature I want: public note sharing. I want to be able to read what other readers think. And add my own thoughts.

  • Moderate exercise is good for longevity; “excessively strenuous” not so much.
  • Wil Wheaton: “DRM-Free Game Suffers 90% Piracy, Offers $5 Amnesty sale. Come on, Gamers, do the right thing.”

    Developers will probably see this as a failure of the DRM-free experiment. Perhaps there’s an alternative way to look at this – why not drop the price? The iPhone app market has shown that huge amounts of money can be made charging small prices to many people. Price it at $5 or less and it starts to become an impulse buy – something that’s purchased for just the chance that it may be useful or fun.

    Having a $5 amnesty sale is a smart response. With the price that low the incentive to pirate falls too.

  • Quite an exit: Flight attendant curses out passengers on the PA, grabs two beers, deploys emergency chute, and slides away…

    Funny from a distance. It was probably less funny for some of the passengers.

  • DIY bio-tech! This is the Lava Amp – a cheap and portable thermal cycler for performing rapid polymerase chain reaction in 30 minutes or less. Its powered by USB or AC. Coming soon to a garage near you


    But remember Eliezer Yudkowsky’s “Moore’s Law for Mad Scientists” – every 18 months, the IQ required to destroy the world drops one point.

  • Scientific American: Seniors face lower risk of getting dangerous prescriptions with computerized hospital Rx system

    Prescription foul-ups occur alarmingly often in busy hospitals. Taking the possibility of human error out of the system is a step in the right direction.

  • Bill Gates: In Five Years The Best Education Will Come From The Web.

    There’s a parallel to solar power. It makes sense for Arizona to adopt solar faster than Maine. The solar environments are different. The speed at which your community embraces online education will probably depend on your school district. The weaker the neighborhood school (or the more overpriced colleges become), the faster parents and students will embrace alternatives.

  • Mike Anissimov pointed us to the Jaron Lanier NYT op-ed, “The First Church of Robotics.”

    …and then commented on the article.

  • Filming starts again on my favorite show:

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  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells May Replace Embryonic Stem Cells – TechCombo (blog)

    Related: human embryonic stem cells and reprogrammed cells virtually identical – EurekAlert

  • Engadget: Cut-rate, webcam-based 3D scanner coming soon to a MakerBot store near you.

    3D printers will follow the same adoption path as home computers. The first 3D printers have been built for large industrial applications. Then high-priced units with limited functionality will be offered to hobbyists. The practical uses for these machines will grow as the price drops. Eventually we’ll all have one… or more.

  • Drudge Report: Physicist Stephen Hawking: Abandon the Earth!

    Actually, that headline is an overstatement. Hawking thinks we should disperse: some staying on Earth, but others moving on elsewhere. The more we move into space, the less chance that all of humanity would be wiped out in a common disaster.

  • Neanderthal bedroom:

    The late Pleistocene room, found in the Esquilleu Cave, included a hearth and grass beds that seems to have once been covered with animal fur.
    According to the report published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Neanderthals used the room between 53,000 to 39,000 years ago.

    Scientists say the residents changed the bedding material very often and used the old ones in the hearth.

  • Solar Roadways: Crackpot Idea or Ingenious Concept?

    According to the article, one mile of highway, if converted to solar cells, could provide enough power to run 428 homes – with just four hours of sunlight per day.

  • IGN: Favorite Video Games of 2010 (So Far)
  • “I haz Toxoplasma gondii!”

    Researchers explore link between schizophrenia, cat parasite.

  • Thoughtware.TV – Foldit: Biology for gamers – by Nature Video:

  • Scientific American: Harvesting Waste Heat Could Boost Photovoltaic Power

    Stanford University scientists may have developed a way to double the efficiency of solar power collectors by using heat as well as the light.

  • Engadget: Solar Motorcycle. Leave it in the sun while you’re working and its fully charged at the end of the day.

  • Check out the new site for Acceleration – a Singularity-themed documentary in production.
  • Mike Anissimov: Check out the Singularity Summit Facebook page, and click “like it” if you do.

    If you are attending Singularity Summit, get VIP treatment! For an extra $100 you can meet & mingle w/ our speakers.

  • TEDtalk: Stewart Brand – Why We Should All Think Like Engineers

  • Dish Network to offer live TV streaming on its free mobile apps next month
  • A very interesting new TED talk by Lawrence Lessig:

  • World War II photos overlaid on modern pictures.

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