Here’s a quick selection of links from tonight’s websurfing, in vaguely chronological order:
*Seastead.org – This was the first step on my journey, which I reached from the Wikipedia article on the Free State Project. It’s the official website for a project to create floating habitats on the world’s oceans, where libertarians and others hope to create tiny, ad-hoc autonomous states. The sheer quantity of material on the site demonstrates that this is not just a pie in the sky project. These people have put a lot of time and research into their idea, and the writings on the website are extensive and interesting, with enough pictures to keep one from getting bored 🙂 I like the fact that their plan calls for an incremental, bottom-up approach… very free culture-y! This just might be cooler than the Free State Project…
*seasteading – This is the livejournal for Seastead.org. It is very good that these people are technologically advanced enough to understand LiveJournal 😉
*The Atlantis Project – This abandoned project to build a floating city named Oceania only has pretty pictures to show you, but they are so heartbreakingly pretty! What a shame it’s dead… unfortunately, it seems many grandiose Seasteading-style projects never make it past the pretty pictures stage. This is what sets Seastead.org apart, I think it’s actually going to survive and succeed.
*The Lifeboat Foundation – After abandoning the Atlantis Project, Eric Klien started the Lifeboat Foundation, which has the goal of ensuring the survival of humanity in the face of a cataclysmic global catastrophe. The anticipated mechanisms of our demise include the “grey goo” scenario where nanotechnology gets out of control and eats the world, antimatter bombs, and the accidental creation of a black hole on Earth. The Lifeboat Foundation is focused on building space arks. This seems less likely to succeed in the near future than seasteading.
*The Singularity – This simultaneously awesomely hope-inspiring and terrifyingly disturbing concept essentially says that technology is building upon itself and accelerating development in an exponential fashion, and that at some point in the future, probably within the next 30-150 years, it will suddenly explode at practically infinite speeds. That explosion of technological advancement and creativity is called The Singularity, because much like the event horizon of the black hole, we can’t see what lies beyond it.
This “future blindness” is frightening, and the fact is that our best science fiction writers and thinkers don’t really have a clue what happens after that. The most likely trigger event seems to be the development of Artificial Intelligence, because once an AI can create another AI, they should be able to create increasingly smart versions of themselves, adding another exponential factor to the knowledge explosion.
There are much more friendly interpretations of this concept however, such as the charming Neo-human guy scene in Waking Life.
*Singularity Watch – This site seems quite bullish about the positive possibilities contained in the Singularity and the society that immediately proceeds the Singularity. They even have this very condescending yet entertaining set of stories for kids about teenage life right before the Singularity hits, Future Heroes 2035.
And that’s all for tonight, thank goodness…
The “Singularity” Notion
A fascinating speculation; we’ll all see in the future how it turns out, I suppose.
To imagine “post-humans” is perhaps possible only in terms of analogy. Such as comparing chimps to humans (with us at the chimp end of the scale.)
But wait a minute: are we fooling ourselves about progress again?
Human history is full of examples of people who believed they could create the New, Improved, Perfect Man. (The usual suspects: Nazis, Communists, Robespierre, eugenics campaigners). They were all deluded fanatics. Lurking in the recesses of the Singularity idea may be that old devil, the “Perfect Man” and all the misery such an idea will cause.
I wouldn’t mind being a cyborg, or genetically engineered, or wired to a computer group-mind. Heck, I’m a cyborg already (wears eyeglasses). What I DO mind is when a starry-eyed fanatic tries to convince me that a Utopia is right around the corner.
The real threat isn’t technology or change, but the illusion of “Perfection”. We still have monkey DNA in our bodies. Even when we have altered our genes, attached implants into our bodies, we’ll still have a monkey on our backs, guiding at least some of our motives.
“Singularists” should watch FORBIDDEN PLANET and learn something. In this quaint but still profound 1950s film, the characters learn about an extinct alien race, the Krel. The Krel became so drunk with the power of their own planet-spanning technology, that they wired a matter-creating machinery directly to their brains.
But they forgot the “id”, the mindless primitive sections of their minds, from which springs irrational fear, hatred and bloodlust. Once they had given their irrational side virtually God-like power to spontaneously create matter, the Id went on a planet-wide rampage and killed off the entire population overnight (probably while the Krel slept and their conscious minds were shut down).
The aliens had forgotten or ignored that part of themselves that wanted to destroy them, and thought that technology had made morals and laws obsolete.
If people in the real world start deluding themselves that “we are post-human, we don’t need that old-fashioned Judeo-Christian morality anymore,” they are heading for a world of pain.
The real challenge of historical “Singularity” is: what kinds of laws and morals should post-humans live by? The debate on the ethics of cloning genetic engineering is only the beginning of this challenge.
hey, this is susan, i just came across your lj. my dad was for a while interested in something called i think “the millenial project” it’s this whole plan for colonizing first the ocean, then a space station, etc. etc. then the UNIVEFRSE, BWAHAHAHAHHAHH! and they have a book that’s full of impressive-looking stats and an organization that people join and pay money to.
Seasteads sound cool. The rest sounds pie-in-the-sky.