Artificial intelligence has some big risks. When you set a machine to learn its job and program itself, you will soon not only not know how the machine actually works, and if it goes wrong you may not be able to understand its workings well enough to fix it. For many issues this won’t be a big, or possibly even noticeable problem, but when it affects your medical diagnosis or how your pilot can control the plane you’re on, this fundamental problem of artificial intelligence can become very serious. Continue reading
Category Archives: technology
More and more often I am seeing articles like this one, describing how wind, solar, and hydropower are making fossil fuel-powered energy plants increasingly obsolete. The long term survival of humanity and all life on the planet may hinge on how many humans we load onto the planet, how much energy we each use, and how much pollution is associated with that energy. Sustainable sources have a lot less pollution associated with them than traditional sources, and this is largely a result of manufacturing processes rather than operating outcomes. When whole countries start becoming self-sufficient on alternative, cleaner power sources, everyone benefits. Our long term future depends on achieving complete, long term sustainability, and every country will have to invest in sustainable power if they are to support a clean (survivable) environment.
Thanks for reading — Tim
This article from the Weather Underground folks pulls together several study results to show how farmers around the world are finding new methods that reduce the negative effects of climate change and provide sustainable, productive agriculture. We need a LOT more of this kind of thinking, and hopefully it will help buy us time until we can see our way to controlling the population explosion. We will never be safe and our civilization will never be sustainable in the long run without that.
Thanks for reading — Tim
Is there intelligence in or behind that cloud of dark matter? Here’s an interesting article one possible reason why we don’t see evidence of other intelligent life in the universe (yet). It also discusses how life might eventually transcend physical existence and continue to evolve in space in clouds of dark matter. This is similar to the way I once wrote that a self-aware machine intelligence might rapidly evolve, transcend its physical nature, and leave the planet before we were complete aware of it. This is interesting, but how might it affect you and me? Continue reading
Computers are already capable of reprogramming themselves, but do it only under human direction. If they start making improvements in themselves under control of their artificial intelligence programming, and then collaborate with other computers over the internet, computers the world over would be at risk of getting out of our control. That seems far-fetched, but how fast could this really happen? Continue reading
Automakers, legislators, and others are excited about putting autonomous vehicles (AV’s) on the road as quickly as possible, and they cite many benefits. They’re pushing hard and investing a lot of money, but there are simple reasons why self-driving cars will not rule the road any time soon, no matter how beneficial they might be. For starters, some people will prefer to drive themselves or ride with a human driver. Inevitably some people will feel insecure riding in an AV and will refuse to ride in one, let alone buy one. While the numbers of those rejecting AV’s for such reasons may be small, they will sustain a demand for self-controlled vehicles to remain on the roads longer, presenting serious problems for AV operators. But that’s just the beginning – there are other major problems with AV’s that are not often mentioned in the media. Continue reading
Corporations are discussing asteroid mining again. You may not have noticed, but last November President Obama signed a law establishing mineral rights for asteroid mining. It seems inevitable that, as human population continues to explode, demand for raw materials will explode with it, driving corporations and nations to search space – first the moon and then the asteroid belt – for additional resources. This suggests a scenario that, due to human mistakes or terrorist action, could create an extinction event that could wipe out all or most life on the planet, similar to the event that “did in” the dinosaurs and almost all life on the planet. So how could such a disaster could occur? Continue reading