Singularity and ESI’s


I always thought of singularity as being when supercomputers end up being able to match human intelligence. One of the early science fiction films that influenced me in my youth was 2001 A Space Odyssey. I loved all of Arthur C Clarke’s books,but HAL 9000 was my first introduction to the concept of a computer that thinks, reasons and has emotions. I’ve often thought  that if a computer reached that level, it would consider humans to be animals to be eradicated as quickly as possible. The way we humans behave is often totally irrational and inappropriate, we are actively destroying our planet and instead of working together to fix it.

So I was somewhat surprised to read of research by organisations such as DARPA working on the concept of singularity as being a combination of genetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. I don’t know why I was surprised. First, the concept of Ubermensch probably goes way back before Nietzsche, perhaps even to da Vinci. Some people consider Nietzsche to be the inspiration for Hitler’s concept of the Aryan master-race.

Over the years we have seen many films such as The Terminator, TV shows like The Six Million Dollar Man and it is only logical that for many reasons, the military, NASA and others need to be able to modify humans to be more powerful. The military can use people who have super vision, night vision, extreme strength and resilience and of course if we are going to send people into space for long periods of time, wouldn’t it be easier if they were able to withstand low or no gravity for long periods of time, perhaps very high gravity, be able to thrive on different diets, different atmosphere etc. Just adding a little justification here.

One of the first areas that the concept of enhanced human beings is a result of the medical world finding ways to aide humans who have had injuries or other conditions, for example having lost an arm or a hand. It is now only mildly surprising to see people with a stump, manipulating a prosthetic hand and managing complex tasks.

The BeBionic Hand in the video above is due for release in June of this year and will make a huge difference to many people. Of course the military and those who can afford it, can add this type of enhancement technology to the able bodied. Imagine having an exoskeleton that would allow you to lift a 200 pound weight 500 times in a row. With millions of dollars of funding from DARPA, Sarcos, a recently purchased subsidiary of Raytheon has built the XOS Exoskeleton which can do that, it’s real technology, not something out of a Marvel comic or a SciFi movie. It’s very real.

They call this a Combat Robot, but imagine the other uses. For example imagine the uses of a suit like this for civil defence emergencies, after an earthquake, or rescuing people from a major motor accident. I’ve said it many times before: Science Fiction is becoming fact at a pace that is mind boggling.

I’ll finish for now with eyesight. Imagine being able to see and focus way beyond what humans can normally do. Did you know that Tiger Woods used to have -11 eyesight, which is about as short sighted as you can get. According to TLC Eye Centres, he wouldn’t have been able to see the ball without glasses until he had Lasik treatment. They say that he now has eyesight significantly better than the average person and that this contributed to his golfing success. According to a story on the Slate website, many athletes are being targeted by marketing offering them an advantage by enhancing their eyesight when there is nothing wrong with it. Last year I wrote about Tanya Vlach who was trying to get someone to provide her with a bionic eye. Checking out her blog, she hasn’t achieved her goal yet, but I suspect she will.

If you’d like to know more about enhanced humans and DARPA, I’ll leave the last word to Wired Magazine who have an excellent article (already 3 years old) about some of the amazing developments that have probably already been dramatically improved on and we haven’t even started on nanotechnology.

Skyscrapers and high society


The race is on to build the world’s tallest building, yet again. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia they are working on the first building the will be a mile high. No this isn’t a joke, it will be more then 1600 metres tall and will be called Mile High Tower. It is due for completion in 2012. You could join the mile high club without getting on a plane!

I’ve been to the top of buildings like the Twin Towers (and grateful for the experience and respect to those who died or were injured when she came down) and Sears Tower, well this is almost 3 times as high as Chicago’s ediface.

Why are they building it? In this case mostly I suspect because they can. Because Prince al-Walid bin Talal, who owns the Savoy, can. Is he doing something that is needed because of a shortage of land in Jeddah? I don’t think so. I wonder if he hsa a very large ego that he needs to house. If the Sears Tower contains 4.4 million square feet the Mile High Tould have to have close to 10 times that amount of space because the base would have to be enormous to hold up the rest of the structure.

Aside from all the issues of building and trying to pump wet concrete a mile into the sky, there are also power issues. Imagine how much electricity it would take to power a building like that? Suggestions are that the building can house a huge number of solar panels and in many cases it’s height could mean that while it is raining on lower floors, the higher floors will be basking in sunshine. maybe the ecosystem could capture boh the sun and water and try to head towards self sufficiency. As to energy use, I wonder how much energy it would take to send a room service meal from the ground to the penthouse?

This is the stuff that they have been writing about in Science Fiction for years. Imagine having a penthouse apartment that is so high up that you can’t go onto your balcony without an oxygen mask because the air is too thin. They say that from the penthouse you will be able to see the Middle East, the Pacific Ocean and Africa.

Because of the height and technology involved you would need to have 10 or more lifts just to get to your apartment. Imagine what would happen if you had to evacuate it in hurry.

A building that big would be like a medium sized town. You would have everything you need in a homogenous environment. Schools, shops, busineses, you would have your own hospital, police station, everything.

But who would want to live in such a building. Sure it would be great to have an apartment in it so that you can say you do. It would be great for corporate events. But would you want to live on the 351st floor of an apartment building? Imagine if the power went out and you had to climb down 350 sets of stairs to get to the ground.

I’ve never lived in an apartment. I’ve enjoyed staying in hotel rooms 30 floors above the ground, but this is something entirely different. I don’t much like gardening, but I do like living in a free standing home where I can turn the stereo up loud and go and sit by the pool or potter around in my rock garden. I find the whole idea of living in a building which for practical reasons, you never have to live, to be quite claustrophobic, but it will happen. Many others feel the same.

If the future means that more and more people live at great heights, this might help with the development of new transport technologies as they try to find more economic ways to move around. Who wants to spend 15 minutes standing in lifts to get to the ground floor. They won’t be able to go too fast because you are likely to suffer effects of gravity and air pressure. There will off course be helipads, but that’s a little expensive for the average person.

I’ll leave the last word to BOB with his 15 reasons to live in a skyscraper🙂

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