The tattoo on your face tells me all I need to know about your unemployment issues


Science-fiction writers once imagined a galactic currency that would grease the wheels of commerce from here to Alpha Centauri. In fact, however, we are tending in precisely the other direction, toward a burgeoning number of ever more specialized currencies. These will circulate electronically, by means of the mobile phones that are increasingly part of the dress of every person on the planet.

Seemingly everywhere you look, you can see the emergence of this pattern in what futurologists call the weak signals [PDF] of change. These are the changes that will be seen, a generation from now, to have foreshadowed a technological revolution. […]

In Japan and Korea, mobile phones have been used for payments for a decade, and the technology is now a standard feature there in handsets. In March, one out of six Japanese users bought something in a shop using a mobile. People also use the system to pay bills and transit fares; businesses use it to funnel loyalty rewards to customers. At first, the number of retailers accepting the new technology remained flat; once about a third of consumers were using it, though, things started to take off, producing the “hockey stick” adoption curve that we technologists love.

What’s happening in Africa is even more astonishing. Kenya is now home to the world’s most expansive mobile payments scheme, M-Pesa. […] A third of Kenya’s gross domestic product now flows through M-Pesa. […]

The rest of the world is starting to move. […] In France, mobile phone operators and banks have gotten together to launch a system for mobile proximity payments, which lets a chip-­bearing platform transfer money when held close to the reader. In Germany, meanwhile, the mobile phone operators have decided to ignore the banks and go it alone. In the United States, Google is working with Sprint and MasterCard to launch Google Wallet. […]

Cash’s indirect costs are huge. […] In the United States 18 to 19 percent of total reportable income is hidden from federal tax men, a shortfall of about US $500 billion. […]

In the Netherlands, there are commercial streets that are cash free. […] In Sweden the labor unions want to remove cash from shops and banks because it is their members who get beaten and shot in robberies; the government wants to reduce the burden of police work.

{ IEEE | Continue reading }

photo { Marc Chaumeil }

‘Fuck postmodernism! Give me modernism.’ — Greil Marcus


One of the more interesting aspects of social psychology is the way different orientations can cause people to interpret the same thing in different ways. For example, you judge something differently if it were to happen in the past rather than the future. More specifically, according to a new study by Zachary Burns, Eugene Caruso, and Daniel Bartels, we tend to view future actions as more intentional than past actions, and as a result we prefer to punish future transgressions more harshly.

{ peer reviewed by my neurons | Continue reading }

photo { Jaimie Warren }

Three metamorphoses of the spirit do I designate to you


{ Anything, including liquid water, can be a touch-screen thanks to a new sensory system designed by a scientist from Disney Research | TPM | full story }

Rose: How cold? Jack: Freezing. Maybe a couple degrees over. You ever, uh, you ever been to Wisconsin?


In the mind of cryonicists, it would be entirely inappropriate to refer to a frozen corpse as a corpsicle. In their lingo, after all, a patient is not dead, but rather, “deanimated.” (…)

However appealing the notion of a second life may be, the number of people who’ve actually been frozen is miniscule: about 250, according to the Cryonics Institute. But far more people appear interested in being frozen. Membership in the two biggest cryonics providers in the United States — the Cryonics Institute and the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona — is close to 2000.

{ CMAJ | Continue reading }

I smoked his baccy. Green twinkling stone.


Commercial airline passengers will routinely fly in pilotless planes by 2030.
The Stake: $1,000


In 2108, an independent, sentient artificial intelligence will exist as a corporation, both providing its services as well as making all financial and strategic decisions.
The Stake: $400


Large Hadron Collider will destroy Earth.
The Stake: $1,000

{ Longbets.org | Wired }

related { How to Spot the Future }

‘The needy animal knows how much it needs, but the needy man does not.’ –Democritus


Universal mind uploading is the concept (…) that the technology of mind uploading will eventually become universally adopted by all who can afford it, similar to the adoption of modern agriculture, hygiene, and permanent dwellings. The concept is rather infrequently discussed, due to a combination of 1) its supposedly speculative nature and 2) its “far future” time frame. Yet some futurists, such as myself, see the eventuality as plausible by as early as 2050. (…)

Mind uploading would involve simulating a human brain in a computer in enough detail that the “simulation” becomes, for all practical purposes, a perfect copy and experiences consciousness, just like protein-based human minds. If functionalism is true, as many cognitive scientists and philosophers believe, then all the features of human consciousness that we know and love — including all our memories, personality, and sexual quirks — would be preserved through the transition. By simultaneously disassembling the protein brain as the computer brain is constructed, only one implementation of the person in question would exist at any one time, eliminating any unnecessary philosophical confusion. Whether the computer upload is “the same person” is up for the person and his/her family and friends to decide. (…)

An upload of you with all your memories and personality intact is no different from you than the person you are today is different than the person you were yesterday when you went to sleep, or the person you were 10-30 seconds ago when quantum fluctuations momentarily destroyed and recreated all the particles in your brain.

{ h+ | Continue reading }

A husky fifenote blew. Blew.


I write as I await the birth of my second son. If trends about fatherhood continue as they have over the last several decades, the chances are that he will have children in his 40s, and (some of) my grandchildren will be in their 40s or 50s in the year 2112. What sort of world will they inhabit? (…)

The last century has been the age of political rights. Never in our history have so many people taken part in choosing their leaders and having a say in how their societies are governed. To be sure, this unparalleled expansion of civil and political rights remains incomplete. Yet it is profoundly significant, not only due to its transformative impact on the lives of billions, but also because so many other phenomena in recent history are connected to it. The rights revolution is intertwined with diverse trends such as the development of technology; sustained yet uneven economic growth; a general decline in war within recent decades; and a population explosion placing new pressures on our resources and environment.

In this essay I will first outline the 10 most important trends, starting with the rights revolution itself, that have defined our economic, social, and political lives over the last 100 years. Then I will discuss how the rights revolution has helped shape the other nine trends.

{ Daron Acemoglu/MIT | PDF }

You’ll find me a different character down there


Tessa Price, a 22-year-old college senior, is gazing into a mirror in a virtual-reality laboratory at Stanford University. Looking back at her is Tessa Price—at the age of 68.

Staring into a mirror today and seeing yourself as you will look in the year 2057 is unnerving. But that may be just what it takes to shock Americans into saving more. At Stanford and other universities, computer scientists, economists, neuroscientists and psychologists are teaming up to find innovative ways of turning impulsive spenders into patient savers. (…)

It isn’t surprising that the young typically don’t want to save for their retirement, since that stage of life feels as if it will be lived by someone else. (…)

These researchers are tapping into what is called the Proteus effect, behavioral alterations in the real world that are triggered by changes in how our bodies appear to us in a virtual world.

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

‘Of pleasures, those which occur most rarely give the most delight.’ –Epictetus


In 50-200 million years all of Earth’s continents will meet again to form a single massive supercontinent around the North Pole. Move over Pangaea, meet our next supercontinent: Amasia.

{ Smaller Questions | full story }

photo { Robert Adams }

Dollar marks another six-week high, conviction questionable


{ Future Timeline }

‘One must have a good memory to be able to keep the promises one makes.’ –Nietzsche


If sometime in the future, we learn to travel in time, why hasn’t someone come back from the future, to tell us how to do it.

{ Stephen Hawking | Continue reading | via Overcoming Bias }

The stars are real. The future is that mountain.


When tracked against the admittedly lofty hopes of the 1950s and 1960s, technological progress has fallen short in many domains. Consider the most literal instance of non-acceleration: We are no longer moving faster. The centuries-long acceleration of travel speeds — from ever-faster sailing ships in the 16th through 18th centuries, to the advent of ever-faster railroads in the 19th century, and ever-faster cars and airplanes in the 20th century — reversed with the decommissioning of the Concorde in 2003, to say nothing of the nightmarish delays caused by strikingly low-tech post-9/11 airport-security systems. Today’s advocates of space jets, lunar vacations, and the manned exploration of the solar system appear to hail from another planet. A faded 1964 Popular Science cover story — “Who’ll Fly You at 2,000 m.p.h.?” — barely recalls the dreams of a bygone age.

The official explanation for the slowdown in travel centers on the high cost of fuel, which points to the much larger failure in energy innovation. (…)

By default, computers have become the single great hope for the technological future. The speedup in information technology contrasts dramatically with the slowdown everywhere else. Moore’s Law, which predicted a doubling of the number of transistors that can be packed onto a computer chip every 18 to 24 months, has remained broadly true for much longer than anyone (including Moore) would have imagined back in 1965. We have moved without rest from mainframes to home computers to the Internet. Cellphones in 2011 contain more computing power than the entire Apollo space program in 1969.

{ National Review | Continue reading }

eXistenZ. Written like this. One word. Small E, capital X, capital Z.


Every day we make thousands of tiny predictions — when the bus will arrive, who is knocking on the door, whether the dropped glass will break. Now, in one of the first studies of its kind, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are beginning to unravel the process by which the brain makes these everyday prognostications. (…)

The researchers focused on the mid-brain dopamine system (MDS), an evolutionarily ancient system that provides signals to the rest of the brain when unexpected events occur. (…)

Zacks and his colleagues are building a theory of how predictive perception works. At the core of the theory is the belief that a good part of predicting the future is the maintenance of a mental model of what is happening now. Now and then, this model needs updating, especially when the environment changes unpredictably.

“When we watch everyday activity unfold around us, we make predictions about what will happen a few seconds out,” Zacks says. “Most of the time, our predictions are right.

“Successfull predictions are associated with the subjective experience of a smooth stream of consciousness. But a few times a minute, our predictions come out wrong and then we perceive a break in the stream of consciousness, accompanied by an uptick in activity of primitive parts of the brain involved with the MDS that regulate attention and adaptation to unpredicted changes.”

{ ScienceDaily | Continue reading }

(He looks up. Beside her mirage of datepalms a handsome woman in Turkish costume stands before him. Opulent curves fill out her scarlet trousers and jacket slashed with gold. A wide yells cummerbund girdles her. A white yashmak violet in the night, covers her face, leaving free only her lace dark eyes and raven hair.)


Although it might be called a form of lying, most societies have highly valued storytelling. (…)

If “magic” is the creation of subjective realities in the minds of other peoples, then we moderns have learned how to perform magical incantations on a vast, industrial scale.

And now comes an era when we live immersed in computer-generated “virtual” realities, rendered through lavish games where ersatz selves get to do countless things that our mundane, fleshy selves cannot. Is it any wonder that some people have been talking about a near future when this process may reach its ultimate conclusion? When the denizens of Reality will not be able to verify, by any clear-cut means, that they aren’t living in—or even existing because of—a simulation?

{ David Brin/IEET | Continue reading }

‘For it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be.’ –Parmenides


With the steep decline in populations of many animal species, scientists have warned that Earth is on the brink of a mass extinction like those that have occurred just five times during the past 540 million years.

Each of these “Big Five” saw three-quarters or more of all animal species go extinct. (…)

Biologists estimate that within the past 500 years, at least 80 mammal species have gone extinct–from a starting total of 5,570 species. The team’s estimate for the average extinction rate for mammals is less than two extinctions every million years, far lower than the current extinction rate for mammals. (…)

If currently threatened species–those officially classed as critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable–actually went extinct, and that rate of extinction continued, the sixth mass extinction could arrive in as little as 3 to 22 centuries.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

It has been estimated that the earth alone could accommodate twenty million times its present population, living at 120 per square meter in a 2000-story building covering the entire earth. It would take us 890 years, at our present rate of growth, to get to that point.

{ via EconLib | Continue reading }

painting { Eric Thor Sandberg }

Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement


In this article we provide a number of reasons for thinking that it is both wrong and unwise to procreate.

Humans are the most destructive creatures on the planet. We cause vast numbers of animal deaths (both directly and indirectly). We destroy habitats. We damage the environment. We are currently heating up the world’s climate in a way that is likely to be detrimental to countless numbers of animals (ourselves included). And we have the means, nuclear weapons, to destroy everything at the push of a button. (…)

The best way to stop the destruction is to remove the destructive force; to remove humans by refraining from procreation. In short, the colossal amount of harm caused by humans gives us a moral reason to boycott the human species. (…)

To procreate is to take an unjustifiable gamble that future generations will behave responsibly (more responsibly than us).

{ Gerald Harrison and Julia Tanner/Cambridge Journal | Continue reading }

related { Having children helped my depression }

‘Injustice governs the universe. All that is made and all that is unmade therein carries the imprint of a corrupt fragility, as if matter were the fruit of an outrage in the womb of nothingness.’ –Cioran


Piracy is the Future of Television

The convergence of television and the Internet is in its early stages, and the two media will increasingly interconnect over the coming years. A number of services are currently competing to become the dominant protocol for consumption of TV content via the Internet. This paper examines the major services that are currently available for downloading or streaming television programs online, both legal and illegal. We propose that, of the options now available to media users, illegal downloading is the most usable and feature-rich, and bears the greatest potential for pioneering new modes of audience engagement, as well as new global revenue streams, related to television products.

{ Abigail De Kosnik, University of California, Berkeley | PDF | Continue reading }

photo { William Eggleston }

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings


Computers are getting faster. Everybody knows that. Also, computers are getting faster faster — that is, the rate at which they’re getting faster is increasing.

True? True.

So if computers are getting so much faster, so incredibly fast, there might conceivably come a moment when they are capable of something comparable to human intelligence. Artificial intelligence. All that horsepower could be put in the service of emulating whatever it is our brains are doing when they create consciousness — not just doing arithmetic very quickly or composing piano music but also driving cars, writing books, making ethical decisions, appreciating fancy paintings, making witty observations at cocktail parties.

If you can swallow that idea, and Kurzweil and a lot of other very smart people can, then all bets are off. From that point on, there’s no reason to think computers would stop getting more powerful. They would keep on developing until they were far more intelligent than we are. Their rate of development would also continue to increase, because they would take over their own development from their slower-thinking human creator. (…)

We will successfully reverse-engineer the human brain by the mid-2020s. By the end of that decade, computers will be capable of human-level intelligence. Kurzweil puts the date of the Singularity at 2045. In that year, he estimates, given the vast increases in computing power and the vast reductions in the cost of same, the quantity of artificial intelligence created will be about a billion times the sum of all the human intelligence that exists today.

{ Time | Continue reading }

When you’ll next have the mind to retire to be wicked this is as dainty a way as any


The debate over the demographic trends in the United States and other wealthy countries can be described a debate between those who care about our children and those who want more of them.  This is apparent once a little bit of logic is applied to the tales of demographic disaster being hawked by those concerned about declining birth rates and greater longevity.

The basic story is that we are seeing a declining ratio of workers to retirees.  This is supposed to mean that our children and our grandchildren will have an unbearable burden supporting us in our old age.  In the United States the story is that we now have about three workers for each retiree.  In 20 years this ratio is supposed to drop to two.

In countries like Germany and Japan the decline is somewhat greater, since they have lower birth rates and, in the case of Japan, less immigration.  They also have somewhat more rapid gains in longevity.

This basic story has managed to make otherwise sane people seriously fearful about the country and the world’s future.  A quick statistic that should alleviate the fears is that the ratio of workers to retirees in the United States was 5 to 1 back in the 60s, far higher than the current 3 to 1 ratio.

{ Monthly Review | Continue reading }

photo { Gary Lee Boas }

Your leather-12 box one day with P.C.Q.