There is very good reason to believe that, in a generation or so, capitalism itself will no longer exist – most obviously, as ecologists keep reminding us, because it’s impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual growth forever on a finite planet, and the current form of capitalism doesn’t seem to be capable of generating the kind of vast technological breakthroughs and mobilizations that would be required for us to start finding and colonizing any other planets. Yet faced with the prospect of capitalism actually ending, the most common reaction – even from those who call themselves “progressives” – is simply fear. We cling to what exists because we can no longer imagine an alternative that wouldn’t be even worse.
How did we get here? My own suspicion is that we are looking at the final effects of the militarization of American capitalism itself. In fact, it could well be said that the last 30 years have seen the construction of a vast bureaucratic apparatus for the creation and maintenance of hopelessness, a giant machine designed, first and foremost, to destroy any sense of possible alternative futures. At its root is a veritable obsession on the part of the rulers of the world – in response to the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s – with ensuring that social movements cannot be seen to grow, flourish or propose alternatives; that those who challenge existing power arrangements can never, under any circumstances, be perceived to win. To do so requires creating a vast apparatus of armies, prisons, police; various forms of private security firms and police and military intelligence apparatus, and propaganda engines of every conceivable variety, most of which do not attack alternatives directly so much as create a pervasive climate of fear, jingoistic conformity and simple despair that renders any thought of changing the world, an idle fantasy.
Maintaining this apparatus seems more important to exponents of the “free market” than maintaining any sort of viable market economy. How else can one explain what happened in the former Soviet Union? One would ordinarily have imagined that the end of the Cold War would have led to the dismantling of the army and the KGB and rebuilding the factories, but in fact what happened was precisely the other way around. This is just an extreme example of what has been happening everywhere. Economically, the apparatus is pure dead weight; all the guns, surveillance cameras and propaganda engines are extraordinarily expensive and really produce nothing, and no doubt it’s yet another element dragging the entire capitalist system down – along with producing the illusion of an endless capitalist future that laid the groundwork for the endless bubbles to begin with. Finance capital became the buying and selling of chunks of that future, and economic freedom, for most of us, was reduced to the right to buy a small piece of one’s own permanent subordination.
In other words, there seems to have been a profound contradiction between the political imperative of establishing capitalism as the only possible way to manage anything, and capitalism’s own unacknowledged need to limit its future horizons lest speculation, predictably, go haywire. When speculation did go berserk, and the whole machine imploded, we were left in the strange situation of not being able to even imagine any other way that things might be arranged. About the only thing we can imagine is catastrophe.
February 15th, 2009 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Sonic Shower)
I first heard a rumor of that something like this that was done in the 1960’s by General Electric. The rumor goes that in it’s test market the housewives were having spontaneous orgasms while using it. So they pulled the plug.
At the 1970 World Expo in Osaka, consumer electronics maker Sanyo demonstrated their vision for the future by showcasing a series of appliances they thought would populate the home of tomorrow. Included was the Ultrasonic Bath, a pod-like human washing machine that cleans, massages and dries the user in a fully automated 15-minute process.
Using a ladder, the bather climbs in through an opening on top of the machine, which stands about 2 meters (6 ft) tall. Once the desired water temperature is set and the main switch is activated, the pre-rinse cycle starts, spraying the user with jets of hot water for 5 minutes.
Next, the chamber fills up with hot water for a 3-minute massage bath. High-pressure jets create a powerful whirlpool, and scores of knobby, golf ball-sized “massage balls” suspended in the water pelt the body, delivering a vigorous massage intended to stimulate blood circulation. An ultrasonic wave generator creates a ticklish cloud of tiny air bubbles that lift dirt from the skin.
The bath is then followed by a 2-minute hot rinse cycle. Finally, a 5-minute dry cycle blasts the user with warm air, while a flood of infrared and ultraviolet light destroys any lingering germs.
Developed as a concept model, the Ultrasonic Bath never made it into our homes. Several years ago, however, Sanyo unveiled the $50,000 HIRB (”Human In Roll-lo Bathing”) system, a compact version designed for use in elderly homes.
December 8th, 2008 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Heal the Planet, Live Forever, Travel the Stars)
Vincent Callebaut’s Lilypad Ocean City
Solutions to all the world’s problems are all around us. Every day there are thousands of new solutions presenting themselves to solve every pressing problem facing the planet and humanity.
It was Bucky Fuller who made this observation back in the 1960’s, that given sufficient willingness we have everything we need now to house, clothe and feed every human being on the planet ten times over, and at a standard of living equal to a billionaire. What is required, Bucky Fuller said, is a Design Science Revolution. Updating this for modern time, what we really need is a Green Design Science Revolution.
Lets start with the picture [to the right]. The so-called Lilypad Project is perhaps the most fantastical of these green wonders. The idea is to create a series of floating self-sufficient ocean-going eco-city islands. Each one would be able to house 50,000 residents and would support a great deal of biodiversity. Collecting pools located in their centers would gather and filter water for use on board.
These would be places for adventurers and refugees alike as water levels rise around the world and threaten many, particularly island, habitats. As fears of global warming induced population displacement are steadily realized, the allure of waterborne aquatecture becomes more and more enticing.
Designed by Alexander Asadov, this incredible floating Aerohotel (pictured above) features a lighter-than-air aesthetic that sits serenely atop an elegant system of supports. Conceived as an elevated aquatic structure replete with hanging gardens, the space-age floating island preserves the entire extent of the ecosystem beneath it, contrasting with man-made islands that disrupt their immediate environment with tons of gravel fill.
The beauty of most of these solutions is they not only solve their intended design problem, they also solve many of the other problems of the world as well. Whether it’s poverty, pollution, political tyranny, climate change, disease, or environmental degradation, they are all related to each other via a complex web of life in a materially closed system at the bottom of a gravity well. Solve one piece of the puzzle, and the rest of the puzzle gets a little bit easier to solve as well.
Although I’m still a bit jaded with the American political process, I’m more hopeful than ever before. The reasons are many, but most especially the “can do” attitude that is sweeping the nation since Obama’s victory. It’s a shift in consciousness. I’m seeing solutions, rather than intractable problems. I’m seeing that we can do anything if we’re willing enough. And I’m not the only one feeling it, millions around the world are.
Thanks to 8 long years of disastrous policy and rampant corruption, people have seen just how much bold faced lies and crap they can take. People are fed up with the constant bullshit, and they are not going to take it anymore. When pundits and other so-called “experts” say we can’t do this, or we can’t do that, people are crying foul! I’ve heard it on the radio, and seen it on the streets. People know now that we can do anything if we set our mind to it.
I heard a recent radio interview with some so-called electric car supporter saying it will takes us decades to convert even 25% of our car fleet to electric and plug-in hybrids, except this time he was out smarted, and out WILLED by everyone else on the panel, including the callers, who said their is no reason we can’t convert to 100% renewable and electric vehicles in half the time – if we are willing.
Better Place, a company that aims to build a worldwide electric car charging infrastructure, has announced an agreement with the state of California to build a $1 billion network in the Bay Area. Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says his company is looking at rapid charge technology, and the possibility of swappable batteries. The entire US fleet of vehicles could be powered by renewable energy.
A recent study done by Mark Z. Jacobson at Stanford University says that wind, water and sun beat biofuels, nuclear and coal for clean energy.
Wind was by far the most promising, Jacobson said, owing to a better-than 99 percent reduction in carbon and air pollution emissions; the consumption of less than 3 square kilometers of land for the turbine footprints to run the entire U.S. vehicle fleet (given the fleet is composed of battery-electric vehicles);l the savings of about 15,000 lives per year from premature air-pollution-related deaths from vehicle exhaust in the United States; and virtually no water consumption.
“There is a lot of talk among politicians that we need a massive jobs program to pull the economy out of the current recession,” Jacobson said. “Well, putting people to work building wind turbines, solar plants, geothermal plants, electric vehicles and transmission lines would not only create jobs but would also reduce costs due to health care, crop damage and climate damage from current vehicle and electric power pollution, as well as provide the world with a truly unlimited supply of clean power.”
Jacobson’s research is particularly timely in light of the growing push to develop biofuels, which he calculated to be the worst of the available alternatives. In their effort to obtain a federal bailout, the Big Three Detroit automakers are increasingly touting their efforts and programs in the biofuels realm, and federal research dollars have been supporting a growing number of biofuel-research efforts.
“That is exactly the wrong place to be spending our money. Biofuels are the most damaging choice we could make in our efforts to move away from using fossil fuels,” Jacobson said. “We should be spending to promote energy technologies that cause significant reductions in carbon emissions and air-pollution mortality, not technologies that have either marginal benefits or no benefits at all”.
The three best alternatives that Jacobson is mentioning are each seeing revolutionary advancements. The Maglev wind turbine is designed to generate up to 1GW of power.
Magnetic levitation is an extremely efficient system for wind energy. Here’s how it works: the vertically oriented blades of the wind turbine are suspended in the air above the base of the machine, replacing the need for ball bearings. The turbine uses “full-permanent” magnets, not electromagnets — therefore, it does not require electricity to run. The full-permanent magnet system employs neodymium (”rare earth”) magnets and there is no energy loss through friction. This also helps reduce maintenance costs and increases the lifespan of the generator. Maglev wind turbines have several advantages over conventional wind turbines. For instance, they’re able to use winds with starting speeds as low as 1.5 meters per second (m/s). Also, they could operate in winds exceeding 40 m/s. Currently, the largest conventional wind turbines in the world produce only five megawatts of power. However, one large maglev wind turbine could generate one gigawatt of clean power, enough to supply energy to 750,000 homes. It would also increase generation capacity by 20% over conventional wind turbines and decrease operational costs by 50%. If that isn’t enough, the maglev wind turbines will be operational for about 500 years. A few hundred of these could power the entire American car fleet.
Beyond centralized solutions, there are plentiful cheap individual ones as well. Accessible individual wind power is getting cheaper all the time, such as Helix Wind residential wind turbine.
On the Solar front we have Nanosolar’s printed solar cell. They are already creating and selling massive sheets of solar cells for less than $1.00 per watt. Their current manufacturing output now exceeds all other solar manufacturers in the world combined! They are claiming prices of less than 30 cents/watt are achievable once manufacturing goes mainstream. To put this in perspective, the current price for coal is $2.10 per watt. Solar and wind are becoming cheaper all the time, and are no competitively cheaper than the more dirty alternatives. There is no excuse anymore to use the dirtier alternatives, other than providing corporate welfare to obsolete industries (coal, oil, nuclear, etc.). The only downside to sources like the sun and wind, is they are not continuously available.
Enter Deep Geothermal. Currently, geothermal plants exist near fault lines and other areas where hot temperatures are closer to the surface. For example just south of Reno, Nevada there is a geothermal plant that powers the entire city, or equivalent to 220,000 homes. This tiny plant and all of its facilities takes up less than 8 acres of land. This plant works because it’s sitting on top of a geothermal basin, where hot temperatures are right under the surface. So location is everything with current geothermal implementations. Deep geothermal technologies change this because they are able to dig deep enough, that location doesn’t matter anymore. With deep geothermal power water is pumped down to the hot rock, heated, and then brought back to the surface to turn turbines for electricity. Dig deep enough and boiling hot temperatures are available everywhere. You could set up a geothermal plant anywhere power is needed. Nevada is also home to Solar One, the third largest solar concentration plant in the world, producing 64MW of power on less than 400 acres. Combine Nevada’s abundance of sun, wind (especially in Northern Nevada) and resident surface geothermal could power most of the United States, turning Nevada into one of the 10 biggest economies in the world.
Cars meanwhile could be converted over to running mostly or entirely by electricity. About 90% of the population drives their cars less than 100 miles a day. So the limited range of current battery technology would take care of 90% of automobile energy consumption. The other 10% could be a combination of electric and plant-based fuels with 100 – 300 miles per gallon possible.Rather than these plants taking place of food crops, they could be saltwater based and be grown in currently non-arable areas. The use of saltwater crops for food and fuel could expand the world’s arable land by 50%! That’s over 50 million square miles of previously uncultivated territory in the world’s coastal deserts, inland salty soils, and over-salinized agricultural land (For more information on salt-water agriculture see Food vs Fuel). The water for these salty plants could come directly from the ocean. Meanwhile a portion of this seawater could be desalinized, bringing fresh water to the very arid regions that need it. An added benefit of all these saltwater plants along with renewable energy could cut global greenhouse gases back to pre-industrial levels
As I mentioned in Regreening the Earth, the European Union has proposed building out a massive renewable energy works that would tie together very-large scale solar facilities in Northern Africa, offshore wind powered turbines in the North Sea to form a large universal energy grid. The Africans would also get a cut of this cheap energy, since most of the solar plants would be in the Northern Sahara. As part of this plan, large scale desalination plants would line the African coastline to bring much needed water to areas of Africa that have been suffering from devastating droughts and desertification. This massive increase in fresh water to Africa would alleviate many of Africa’s problems with hunger, disease, and poverty. The potential for re-greening Africa is very compelling, and could be a model for re-greening much of the rest of the world. Comprehensive solutions like this EU proposal is precisely what the world needs to making the world a better place and bringing us all into a prosperous and robust 21st century future. .
However, climate change is but one part of our current environmental crisis. The other is the wholesale destruction of fragile ecosystems taking place around the world. Locations like Indonesia and the Amazon are seeing the most diverse plant and animal kingdoms give way under chain saws and bulldozers. These vital ecosystems, having evolved over millions of years, are bring destroyed for short-term economic gain.
The problem of resource depletion is big, and it will require an equally big solution What we need is a wholesale transition to a world-wide regenerative economy – based on value, rather than debt. ( A regenerative economy is one that recycles and regenerates everything it uses and creates back into the economic fold to be used again and again. This eliminates both the need for chewing up the planet or creating toxic landfills.
Below is an artist depiction of San Franciscos powered by geothermal energy “mushrooms” and algae-harvesting towers produce hydrogen, which is stored and distributed via a series of carbon nanotube walls. Fog catchers capture moisture from the atmosphere to distill fresh water.
A network of above ground and underground systems “fulfill infrastructural needs for the movement of people, water, hover-cars, and energy throughout the city”. Taking cues from nature, a giant super system resembling seaweed and chantrelle mushroom will hold together this network to collect water, power and distribute it across the city.
The biggest challenge in creating a regenerative economy is converting waste back into useful materials. This includes all of our waste such as water, petroleum based plastics, and precious metals. One solution to having abundant clean water will be the widespread adoption of cheapnanofilters, which have already proven effective in treating waste water. Biodegradable and recyclable plastics exist, and only require infusions of capital investment to become cheap enough to compete head on with traditional plastics. Saltwater agriculture + plant based plastics = win-win regeneration. Add in the growing potential of nanotechnology and microbe-based reclamation tools, and we could clean up and eliminate ALL of the toxic materials we’ve ever created, while simultaneously restoring damaged ecosystems. Human civilization finally becomes a deeply organic and fully integrated part of the biosphere.
All of this effort toward creating a sustainable and regenerative economy would simultaneously solve many, if not most of the world problems. It would create hundreds of millions of new jobs. It would allow developing and third-world nations the opportunity to leap-frog entirely the polluting and wasteful industrializing phase right into a clean, green, regenerative economy. This would result in a radical reduction of world-wide poverty and hunger, while bringing them the benefits the best of the 21st Century has to offer.
So this brings me to two other pressing problems – population growth and political tyranny. As I mentioned previously, all the worlds problems are interrelated. The rapid rise in pollution, industrial waste, and environmental destruction can be directly linked to population growth. Population growth in turn means more competition over dwindling resources, which means more wars, genocides, and politically oppressive regimes run by brutal dictators and junta’s, supported by first-world industrialists. BUT, if the means to health, wealth and economic prosperity can be had without further resource depletion, then the incentive for war is significantly reduced. The same goes for political oppression and culturally based genocide wars, which are the result of desperate, ignorant people caught in the web of poverty, disease and lack of education. Economic prosperity and education go hand-in-hand. If developing nations are able to access the world’s knowledge through the internet, this opens them up to the rest of the world. Freedom is a tantalizing thing, and once people have it they will do everything they can to keep it and expand it. I found out just yesterday, Saudi Arabia now has it’s own all-girl rock band called Accolade. Their hit song Pinocchio is getting massive airplay throughout the middle east. They still can’t perform live, and must wear their black shawls while in public, but the influence of downloadable music and iPods is having a cultural influence on the young in oppressive regimes.
When people are well off economically several things happen – they are less likely to commit crimes, less likely to commit acts of terrorism, and less likely to have children, and less likely to put up with assaults on their freedom. The net population growth in the First World is zero. All population growth is happening in Second and Third World countries and their immigration into First World countries. Improve the economic conditions of the world’s poor, and population growth stops.
All this will take is willingness to make it happen. Most people don’t even know their are solutions, or think it is way more difficult than it seams. So it’s about educating and inspiring as many people as possible. This is why I’m cautiously optimistic that if a minimum threshold of people wake up and adopt a can-do attitude we can in fact make it happen.
December 7th, 2008 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on 3D Sketching)
Wow, it seems like every month or two, the ever increasing speed of computer processing is making possible entirely new ways of interacting with computers. I mentioned Photosynth, which allows all the worlds photos to be seamlessly tied together to form a virtual 3D visual of the world. Then there is multi-touch, which will utterly change the way we interact with computers in the coming decade. Below is a demo of a new intuitive 3D sketch program that will let anyone create 3D sketches easier than working with clay.
July 28th, 2006 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Our Planet’s Future is not Dead)
Karen Hurley of Grist Magazine is an interdisciplinary Ph.D. student, eco-feminist futurist, “retired” environmental planner, and board member of a community organic farm. She wrote this good story which I am quoting in full:
Back at the turn of the millennium, the local government I was working for asked community members to contribute their vision of the municipality in the year 2025. As an environmental planner, I attended the community’s presentations with some interest.
One group that responded was a gifted-students’ club from an elementary school. In their envisioned future, they imagined a community with only indoor parks. Beyond these parks, there would be no trees, no plants, no birds, and no animals. Freshwater would be gone, because lakes and streams would either be dried up or too polluted to support life; drinking water would have to be created from desalinization plants on the coast. In the future these children predicted, universities and colleges would be closed because everyone would learn — alone — through their personal computers.
As the children spoke, I sat with tears rolling down my cheeks. Had I really just heard what they’d said? Had the appreciative and encouraging municipal council heard the same thing? Why would children who lived in an idyllic natural environment — surrounded by trees, a rich diversity of plants and lush gardens, abundant wildlife including deer and cougars, large forested parks, and fish-bearing streams — imagine a future that was ecologically dead?
The answer may be because this is the future collectively envisioned by most everyone, including scientists, technology pundits, fiction and documentary filmmakers, writers, advertisers, video-game producers, and those of us whose careers are devoted to trying to protect the planet. Perhaps these children envisioned a future in which their community was dead because that’s the future they’re taught is inevitable.
I fully understand this despair. I hit a wall of it straight-on during my tenure as an environmental planner. In fact, I remember saying things like, “Yes, we will hit total ecological collapse, but our job is to ensure that as many species as possible live beyond it.” Now I see how harmful such words are.
Somehow, we need to begin to envision ecologically sound and socially just futures that reflect the great diversity of all beings, including humans. We must insist on having a say in what our futures look like. We do not have to accept the singular vision being created by those in power. This singular vision of the future is hyper-urban, with decaying cities, polluted air, and corporate and technological dominance. There is not a speck of nature. White men are still in charge. And then there are those damn flying cars.
This isn’t the future I want, nor is it one I am working hard to create in my community. My vision of the future includes birds, trees, and clean flowing streams; organic, small-scale farms and lots of bicycles; conversations with neighbors at local stores and engaging educational institutions; clean air, strong women, diverse communities, truly democratic decision making, and happy children. No flying cars.
Some people will dismiss my vision as idealistic or unrealistic. But as scholar Ivana Milojevic of Metafuture reminds us, the dominant, dystopic vision of the future is seen as more “realistic” simply because it is talked about more, visualized more, and analyzed more. It is given infinite time and space in the media. It serves those in control; it is a continuation of their world. It’s endorsed by our corporate culture, because people who have been made to feel powerless to contribute to a better world simply give up, becoming self-absorbed in golf games, video games, war games. Becoming relentless consumers to fill the void — without challenging a thing.
Some people will say that my image of the future is counterproductive; that the doom and gloom is necessary to keep us all on our toes, to get us to respond to the warnings. I understand this. I have witnessed how politicians are unwilling or unable to take action until there is a crisis in front of them. But it doesn’t have to be an either/or. Yes, a good cautionary tale is a powerful thing. What makes me crazy is that a cautionary tale is all we get. We also need the alternative. We need hopeful visions to give us something to work for, as opposed to always working against something. We need a diverse crop of sustainable ways forward.
Back to the children who imagined their future as dead: I went to visit them a few months later, and told them about the work I was doing at the local level, some of the amazing work being done by teams of people at the regional and federal levels, by volunteers, and by nonprofit groups. And they completely shifted. They reworked their vision to include flowing streams, trees, birds, animals, and happy people. They just needed to know that there were adults making positive change toward a flourishing earth. And then they asked me how they could help. So we set to work on a plan to create a native garden in their schoolyard.
As peace activist Elise Boulding puts it, “The sheer difficulty of imagining a future sustainability different from the present is one of our greatest problems as a society.” Let’s create a dialogue about our worries and our hopes. Let’s share stories about what is important for us to put in place for the future, and what’s happening in our communities now that provides hopeful ways forward. It will be hard work to imagine sustainable and just futures, but it is time to begin.”
The AirBike™ is the ultimate expression of the V.T.O.L. idea. Parked in your garage, launched from your driveway, the AirBike™ will be able to reach and land in areas not accessible by any other mode of transportation.
The AirBike™ is a VTOL, personal aircraft which uses vectored thrust, generated by a ducted fan, to achieve both vertical and level flight.
I have dreamed about flying something like this ever since I saw one in the movie Heavy Metal back in 1981. Here is a screen cap of a “bad guy” flying one during a chase in the movie:
I don’t know about you, but despite all the apparent slow down with the economy and technology, advances in design and technology seem to be coming faster. Below are some links to the future available today:
By the end of this year I expect that we’ll see a near complete and unrestricted convergence of home media (stereo, TV, etc) with the PC despite whatever DRM restrictions they try to put in place. Secondly, I predict that by 2007, DRM will turn out to be a complete waste of time and money, and the marketplace winners will be people offering high quality digital content at reasonable prices without any restrictions.
January 30th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Why The Future Does Need Us)
Freeman Dyson has just published his own review of Michael Crightons Prey in the New York Review. The title of this article is also a response to Bill Joy’s, Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us, which first appeared in Wired Magazine a couple of years ago. This article covers nanotechnology, bioterrorism and censorship.
I would only like to add that despite the dangers of any powerful technology, especially biological and nanotechnological, barring their research outright, as Joy suggests, is the most dangerous path as only those hiding in the dark, and away from accountability, will be developing it – think both government black-budget and privately funded terrorist groups. Only if this research is open can we hope to thwart its dangers, mitigate its risks, and steer it in a positive direction. The promise of nanotechnology is so great that we must do our absolute best to harness it for good
October 5th, 2002 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Carbon Wonders)
Carbon’s covalent bond structure allows for a greater number of molecular combinations than any other element, maximizing it’s role as a building block for complexity. Discoveries made from biochemistry and nanotechnological research has spectacularly confirmed this. Carbon in the form of diamond, and now surpassed by its fullerene companions, are the hardest, strongest, and most versatile materials known. Its amazing how a single element arranged in one way can be soft and brittle (graphite), and in another extremely strong. Nanotubes as they are now known, are sure to become the building blocks of ultra-miniaturized computational machinery and large-scale mega-engineering projects. We are already seeing applications utilizing nanotubes, and there are already plans for using it to build space elevators. And here is a company planning to do it.
If there is other molecular-based life in this universe, chances are carbon plays a crucial role. In our quest for building better brains, the underlying hardware will increasingly resemble our wetware and ultimately surpass it – eliminating any previous difference between computer and neural architecture. The implications of such computer-brain symbiosis are startling, because we essentially become conscious software, gaining the ability to fully reprogram ourselves while freely running on increasingly superior hardware. Imagine for starters perfect recall of all knowledge and archived experience, fully customizable reality mediation and creation, complete empathy/telepathy with others, and the ability to choose exactly what state of mind and mood you’re in. Imagine states of ecstatic bliss becoming the norm in which further experience and exploration is pursued. A place where love is realized, not for any moral correctness, but as the most rational choice available. Please see The Hedonistic Imperative for a great treatise on this subject.
The Singularity holds out the possibility of winning the Grand Prize, the true Utopia, the best-of-all-possible-worlds – not just freedom from pain and stress or a sterile round of endless physical pleasures, but the prospect of endless growth for every human being – growth in mind, in intelligence, in strength of personality; life without bound, without end; experiencing everything we’ve dreamed of experiencing, becoming everything we’ve ever dreamed of being; not for a billion years, or ten-to-the-billionth years, but forever… or perhaps embarking together on some still greater adventure of which we cannot even conceive… that’s the Apotheosis.
We accept the possibility that this future may be unattainable; there are many visualizations under which Apotheosis is impossible. Probably the most common category is where the superintelligences have no particular reason to be fond of humanity – all superintelligences inevitably come to serve certain goals, and we don’t have any intrinsic meaning under whatever goals superintelligences serve, or we’re not sufficiently optimized – so we get broken up into spare atoms. Perhaps, in such a case, the superintelligences are right and we are wrong – by hypothesis, if we were enhanced to the point where we understood the issues, we would agree and commit suicide.
There was a point where I was sure that superintelligent meant super-ethical (probably true), and that this ethicality could be interpreted in anthropomorphic ways, i.e. as kindness and love (unknown). Now, with the invention of Friendly AI, things have gotten a bit more complicated. Apotheosis is definitely a possibility. I refuse to hope for an Apotheosis that contravenes the ultimate good, but I can hope that the ultimate good turns out to be an Apotheosis – and if there is no “ultimate good”, no truly objective formulation of morality, then Apotheosis is definitely the meaning that I’d currently choose. So I hope that all of us are on board with the possibility of an Apotheosis, even if it’s not necessarily the first priority of every Singularitarian.
The Principle of Apotheosis covers both the transhumanist and altruist reasons to be a Singularitarian. I hope that, even among the most philosophically selfish of transhumanists, the prospect of upgrading everyone else to godhood sounds like at least as much fun as being a god. There are varying opinions about how much fun we’re having on this planet, but I think we can all agree that we’re not having as much fun as we should.
Even after multiple doses of future shock, and all the other fun things that being a Singularitarian has enabled me to do to my personality, I still like to think of myself as being on track to heal this planet – solving, quite literally, all the problems of the world. That’s how I got into this in the first place. Every day, 150,000 humans die, and most of the survivors live lives of quiet desperation. We’re told not to think about it; we’re told that if we acknowledge it our minds will be crushed. (11). I, at least, can accept the reality of child abuse, cruelty, death, despair, illiteracy, injustice, old age, pain, poverty, stupidity, terror, torture, tyranny and any other ugliness you care to name, because I’m working to stop it. All of it. Permanently.
It’s not a promise. It can never be a promise. But I wish all the unhappy people of the world could know that, whatever their private torment, there’s still hope. Someone, somewhere, is working to stop it. I’m working to stop it. There are a lot of evil things in the world, and powerful forces that produce them – Murphy’s Law, blind hate, negative-sum selfishness. But there are also healers. There are, not forces, but minds who choose to oppose the ugliness. So far, maybe, we haven’t had the knowledge or the power to win – but we will have that knowledge and that power. There are greater forces than the ugliness in the world; ultratechnologies that could crush Murphy’s Law or human stupidity like an eggshell. I can’t show an abused child evidence that there are powerful forces for good in the world, forces that care – but we care, and we’re working to create the power. And while that’s true, there’s hope.
There is no evil I have to accept because “there’s nothing I can do about it”. There is no abused child, no oppressed peasant, no starving beggar, no crack-addicted infant, no cancer patient, literally no one that I cannot look squarely in the eye. I live a life free of “the normal background-noise type of guilt that comes from just being alive in Western civilization”, to paraphrase Douglas Adams (12). It’s a nice feeling. All you have to do is try to help save the world.