Phil and Stephen review some recent (amazing!) news from the world of medicine. Researchers created a robotic hand that is eerily human-like and can learn on its own AI ‘doctors’ will diagnose your X-rays Stanford researchers ‘stunned’ by stem cell experiment that helped stroke patient walk Lab-Grown Kidneys Proven To Work: Now Moving To Being …View full post
Phil and Stephen discuss how our perception of outer space may be shifting. Still a realm of great mystery and scientific curiosity, space also promises to be a new land of opportunity. Recent news stories reflect both trends. Three Spiral Galaxies Created a Black Hole Rosetta spacecraft finds key building blocks for life in a …View full post
Phil and Stephen go full fanboy with their combined reviews of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War. Warning: spoilers and more spoilers! A few topics: Everybody has been pretty hard on Batman vs. Superman but what are its good points? New Spider-Man: Awesome or Totally Awesome? Civil War: the ultimate in comic book …View full post
Phil and Stephen present a roundup of amazing news stories showcasing big steps forward in engineering. Augmented Reality Market Worth 117.40 Billion USD and Virtual Reality Market worth 33.90 Billion USD by 2022 Nanomaterials could double efficiency of solar cells by converting waste heat into usable energy China Unveils Elevated Bus That Passes Over Cars …View full post
Are the robots really planning to take over? If so, how will they do it? Phil and Stephen use current news stories to show how the plan may already be unfolding! Step 1: They get inside our heads. The most popular trends in cognitive computing IBM Watson-based cognitive computing is being adopted by more and …View full post
Phil and Stephen discuss how our perception of outer space may be shifting. Still a realm of great mystery and scientific curiosity, space also promises to be a new land of opportunity. Recent news stories reflect both trends.
(They’ve raised $21 million.)
A few topics:
Everybody has been pretty hard on Batman vs. Superman but what are its good points?
New Spider-Man: Awesome or Totally Awesome?
Civil War: the ultimate in comic book big-screen entertainment or just fan service driven to a ridiculous level? (Or both?!?)
Plus OTHER Other Geek
Stephen touts the glories of 7 Wonders Duel, explaining why it’s far better than “2-player mode” in regular Seven Wonders.
Phil with some thoughts on the latest developments on Silicon Valley.
Imagine if a trip to the dentist to treat a cavity didn’t involve a filling, root canal, or crown. What if a simple light treatment could actually get your teeth to regrow themselves using stem cells? That’s the aim of a group of researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute, led by David Mooney, who have found success in regrowing rat teeth in this manner.
Step 1: They get inside our heads.
IBM Watson-based cognitive computing is being adopted by more and more businesses for a wide variety of applications
Step 2: They take our jobs.
A former McDonald’s CEO warned that robots will take over staff jobs at the fast food empire – because it’s cheaper than employing humans.
Step 3: They make us depend on them.
Step 4: They get armed
More on “what do we do with all the old people?” But this one applies to adults of all ages.
Would you MARRY a robot?
Robots could soon become intimate companions for humans and some people may even seek to marry them as they become more human-like.
German millennials are going to dance clubs that don’t serve booze and getting “high” on raw cocoa powder. Dogs and cats living together!
Just in case you’ve been wondering when the future will start — the army is planning to shoot down robot aircraft using laser weapons. Youi’re welcome.
Plus in OTHER GEEK news:
Playing Black Fleet with the boys last weekend.
Game of Thrones — Season 6 Review / Update
Phil and Stephen review some recent news stories to confront the hard question of the overall value of technology. Is it good for us? Is it making our lives better or worse?
Nuclear thermal rockets could be much more efficient than conventional rockets
A piece of uranium the size of a marble could get us to Mars
Same technology may be used for deep-space missions where solar can’t be exploited very well
Plus, in Other Geek news…
A little something amazing for everyone!
ROSS is a piece of artificial intelligence software. It uses the supercomputing power of IBM Watson to comb through huge batches of data and, over time, learn how to best serve its users.
A new entity called The DAO, created using the Bitcoin-inspired financial platform Ethereum, has collected more than $100 million worth of cryptocurrency since late April, and will use the funds to support projects in the sharing economy. The DAO is being touted as a model for a new kind of organization, created and run using blockchain software rather than conventional corporate structures.
Which is exactly what Russ Taylor, lead author of a forthcoming study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, thinks may be happening. As Science News reports, Taylor suspects the eruptions are all being steered by filaments, a sort of scaffolding along which matter congregates on a cosmic scale. If the hypothesis is correct, it could help explain how our universe’s present structure came to be.
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
A new weekly feature — extra geeky goodness just in time for the weekend!
The institute already raised $2.6 billion.
The institute lists its various projects under the campaign’s six priority areas. First is basic research, which includes studies on the aging brain, exoplanets and protein interaction. Second priority covers environmental research, such as the quest for sustainable consumption and viable climate change solutions.
The product contains a chemical precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, a compound that cells use to carry out metabolic reactions like releasing energy from glucose. The compound is believed cause some effects similar to a diet that is severely short on calories—a proven way to make a mouse live longer.
Could gene therapy help you live forever? CEO of controversial firm claims she has successfully carried out first anti-ageing treatment – on herself. Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of Bioviva, has been using therapies for 6 months. She says the therapy was able to reverse 20 years of telomere shortening.
One gnawing problem, the panelists said, is in the workplace. Few U.S. employers are finding creative ways to keep and nurture their older workers.
Freedman and Fried hope to see more older Americans using their longevity bonus to aid children who could use mentoring and assistance.
Plus: Phil and Stephen provide their own thoughts on what to do with all the old people.
Computers will delve into your timeline and figure out even more about you
The discovery could lead to vastly longer lifespans for batteries in computers, smartphones, appliances, cars and spacecraft
This power station can harvest kinetic wave energy and turn it into electricity.
The team created braids of polyethylene fibers that contain amidoxime, a chemical species that binds uranium. Tests show the new material has the ability to hold more than 6 grams of uranium per kilogram of adsorbent in 56 days of submersion in natural seawater.
Truc de Ouf’s Gentry Lane says society is losing its humanity, but a powerful storytelling tool like VR can help revive it.
Like air moving from one balloon into another, the collapse of an archaic system actively drives the emergence of a new system.
It began with a Tweet. On Wednesday, April 27, SpaceX posted two photos on Twitter, announcing plans to send a Red Dragon space capsule to Mars “as soon as 2018.”
British scientist who has dedicated his life to the quest for eternal youth claims the human body can be repaired – just like a car
Could gene therapy help you live forever? CEO of controversial firm claims she has successfully carried out first anti-ageing treatment – on herself
Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of Bioviva, has been using therapies for 6 months
Parrish says she is first human being to be rejuvenated using gene therapy
She says the therapy was able to reverse 20 years of telomere shortening
Telomeres are the caps on the ends of DNA strands called chromosomes
They act as ‘buffers’ against wear and tear, and delay the ageing process
Is the Mormon Transhumanist Association working out the roadmap to godhood?
But even before 2045, Kurzweil thinks we could begin the deathless process.
How active imagination beats passive absorption of pop culture.
If you live totally in the “real world” you have no concept of the world as it could be and therefore no inspiration. If you live totally in your imagination you are divorced from the place you could actually do some good. Certainly the people we admire the most – have a foot in both worlds. Shouldn’t we all?
3-D Printers: now they are just another ad that show up in your search results.
Photon Propulsion Could Launch Spacecraft To Mars In Days
“’It’s not true we’re running out of energy,’ Kurzweil said before moving on to another topic. ‘We’re only running out of resources if we stick with 19th-century technologies.’
Senolytics: Scientists identify new drug that slows the ageing process and could dramatically increase our life expectancy
“It may eventually become feasible to delay, prevent, alleviate or even reverse multiple chronic diseases and disabilities as a group, instead of just one at a time.”
(Story is from a year ago.)
The Perseus Signal — “What We Found Could Not Be Explained by Known Physics”
We could be “looking at” dark matter here.
A while back we learned that there could be more planets — even big ones — in our solar system that we still haven’t discovered. Turns out there are also whole galaxies right in our neighborhood — orbiting our own galaxy! — waiting to be discovered.
Lucky it’s not one of these:
But even dodging that bullet doesn’t help us much in the long run:
Expansion is 8% greater than we thought. We’re that much closer to the “big freeze” at the end of time. (Still not particularly close, of course.) What’s driving the faster-than-expected expansion? Possibly dark matter — see above.
First up, a future that people are more worried about than thinking will be perfect — a world where the robots do all the work.
Alternatively, some more near-term utopias are all about the work:
These city states are modeled on Singapore. They are run as business entities — not democratic.
Lots of trade and commerce of various kinds going on. Also, people can do voluntary “public work” using an Uber-like app to generate income.
Let’s compare these utopias with the surprisingly transhumanist vision of a Disney’s animated film Zootopia.
Here’s a world that enjoys the benefits of animal uplift, but they have achieved it independently — without human help. (Apparently there are no humans in this world.) But even in the over-the-rainbow future where predators no longer eat prey, trouble still has a way of rearing its ugly head — and fangs.
What might this tell us about our own over-the-rainbow futures?
So isn’t this pretty much a cure for all diseases? Could it also be a treatment for aging?
Many kids are homeschooled. A lot of us now work at home. Activities such as banking which once took us out of the home are now routinely done there. Will we one day have our own pharmacy at home? And how about one day having our own supermarket? (see next story.)
Okay, but does it almost taste like beef? How close are we on both of those milestones? And what happens to the meat business after we achieve that milestone?
From the linked story:
Using chips densely packed with these RPU tiles, the researchers claim that, once built, a resistive-computing-based AI system can achieve performance improvements of up to 30,000 times compared with current architectures, all with a power efficiency of 84,000 GigaOps per-second per-watt. If this becomes a reality, we could be on our way to realizing Isaac Asimov’s fantasy vision of the robotic Positronic brain.
And it’s not just Asimov’s robots — Data on Star Trek also had a positronic brain…
If true AI is on its way, we better start unlearning some of our misconceptions about it. Luckily, George Dvorsky is on the case:
Well, maybe not everything. But then for something this important, we don’t want to be wrong about anything, do we?
Can we really make ourselves faster, smarter, more productive, even happier by shooting electrical currents into our heads? Maybe.
What does the massive Valuation of Uber tell us about the future of business (and more valuations to come?)
Did you hear about the college guy who corrected own crooked teeth with 3d printed clear retainers he created himself? What does this guy tell us about the future of pretty much everything?
Then when these technologies begin to look possible, there is this rejection based on credibility: we’re not falling for flying cars again!
Then when they REALLY show up (in an early stage) they are rejected as being useless: “It’s just a toy.”
Phil relates the story of a friend who is a very savvy computer guy–owned his own software company for a while–who once predicted that “broadband” was never going to work the way some were saying. Millions of people streaming different movies at the same time? Ridiculous. The networks could NEVER support it.
Of course, when the technologies finally arrive, everybody, including the naysayers, just accepts them as part of the landscape.
The guys discuss some technologies that are in various stages of this process. And what to make of the recent announcement about cold fusion?
Stephen shares his review of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Co-founder of Paypal
Founder of Tesla Motors
Founder of SpaceX
And If we’re going to Mars, is Musk the man to do it?
[From Amazon.com] In Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance provides the first inside look into the extraordinary life and times of Silicon Valley’s most audacious entrepreneur. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends, the book traces the entrepreneur’s journey from a rough upbringing in South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent more than 30 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies: PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity, and to characterize a man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation while making plenty of enemies along the way.
They say you can’t go home again. Hosts Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon challenge this idea as they geek out over the huge return of Star Wars to movie theaters and the much more muted return of the X-Files to the small screen.
Is The Force Awakens more than just a rehash of A New Hope?
Will there ever be another villain as awesomely evil as Darth Vader?
Has X-Files painted itself into a hole, or is there somewhere it can go from here?
Tune in and explore!
Where will it all end?
First two news stories that are all about light:
Next, two videos that are guaranteed to brighten up your day
Finally, some music that demonstrates the importance of leaving the dark side behind
Will the future really be this bright? Tune in and explore!
World’s Smallest Language Will Let You Say Anything What might we do with it?
Flying car just a couple of years away? Seems like we’ve heard that one before.
People on Mars by 2025 Or so says Elon Musk.
A Creepy preview of our VR future? Mark Zuckerberg looks awfully happy in his room full of newly minted Borg drones.
Birds with Dinosaur Faces Because we’ve waited long enough, damn it!
Tune in and explore.
Jim Elvidge returns to The World Transformed to discuss his ideas about the digital nature of reality and the possibility that consciousness is separate from the brain and an influencer, if not the creator of reality. Hosts Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon discuss the implications of these ideas with Jim, including such far-reaching topics as:
The Nature of Matter
And, of course…
The Berenstain Bears
Mind-blowing stuff. Join us!
About Our Guest
Jim Elvidge holds a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University. He has applied his training in the high-tech world as a leader in technology and enterprise management, including many years years in executive roles for various companies and entrepreneurial ventures. He also holds 4 patents in digital signal processing. Beyond the high-tech realm, however, Elvidge has years of experience as a musician, writer, and truth seeker. He merged his technology skills with his love of music, developed one of the first PC-based digital music samplers, and co-founded RadioAMP, the first private-label online streaming-radio company.
Jim has spent many years researching the fields of quantum mechanics, cosmology, ancient history, consciousness, anomalous occurrences, and future technologies. He explored the interrelationship of these factors in his first book, The Universe Solved and is currently working on a second book that digs deeper into the possibility of digital consciousness.
A recent Motley Fool essay by Morgan Housel raises a question we have asked many times before: Why Does Pessimism Sound So Smart? (Especially when things are so good.)
Housel suggests several possible reasons:
1. Optimism appears oblivious to risks, so by default pessimism looks more intelligent.
2. Pessimism shows that not everything is moving in the right direction, which helps you rationalize the personal shortcomings we all have.
3. Pessimism requires action, whereas optimism means staying the course.
4. Optimism sounds like a sales pitch, while pessimism sounds like someone trying to help you.
5. Pessimists extrapolate present trends without accounting for how reliably markets adapt.
Generally, pessimism benefits from being both more serious than optimism and way cooler.
But that doesn’t mean it’s the right way to look at things!
Phil and Stephen provide numerous examples of how the pessimists get it wrong time after time, and why optimism is the most realistic and, yes, serious way to approach the world.
Okay, maybe. But then if that’s the case, who is building those megatsructures out in deep space? (And even if there aren’t any, just what the heck is going on with KIC 8462852?)
Mysteries abound! Join us.
Writing for the New York Times, Eduardo Porter claims that America’s Best Days May Be Behind It. Citing Robert J. Gordon, author of The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Porter makes the following claims:
Innovation will trundle along at the same pace of the last 40 years, Professor Gordon predicts. Despite the burst of progress of the Internet era, total factor productivity — which captures innovation’s contribution to growth — rose over that period at about one-third the pace of the previous five decades.
That’s hardly the worst part of the story. The labor force will continue to decline, as aging baby boomers leave the work force and women’s labor supply plateaus. And gains in education, an important driver of productivity that expanded sharply in the 20th century, will contribute little.
Moreover, the growing concentration of income means that whatever the growth rate, most of the population will barely share in its fruits. Altogether, Professor Gordon argues, the disposable income of the bottom 99 percent of the population, which has expanded about 2 percent per year since the late 19th century, will expand over the next few decades at a rate little above zero.
In short, we the argument goes, we are seeing the rise of the first generation in US history who will not be better off than their parents.
Is decline inevitable? Hosts Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon argue that is is not. Moreover, they make that we are on the brink of unprecedented economic growth.
Are the best days behind us or right in front of us? Tune in and explore.
World Transformed favorite PJ Manney joins Phil and Stephen to discuss the life and legacy of musician / artist / polymath David Bowie. Beyond the world of the arts, how did he help to shape the future?
Plus PJ talks about her recent experience discussing transhumanism with college students.
BONUS: PJ’s thoughts on being nominated for the Philip K. Dick award and (if we’re lucky) the inside scoop on her next book!
About Our Guest
PJ Manney is a former chairperson of Humanity+, the author of “Empathy in the Time of Technology: How Storytelling is the Key to Empathy,” and a frequent guest host and guest on podcasts including the World Transformed. She has worked in motion-picture PR at Walt Disney/Touchstone Pictures, story development and production for independent film production companies (Hook, Universal Soldier, It Could Happen to You), and writing for television (Hercules–The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess). She also cofounded Uncharted Entertainment, writing and creating pilot scripts for television. PJ is a culture vulture and SF geek, and the daughter and mother of them, too. When not contemplating the future of humanity, she is a mother, wife, PTA volunteer and education activist in California. Her Novel (R)evolution was recently nominated for the 2016 Philip K. Dick award.
Phil and Stephen welcome philosopher and artificial intelligence researcher Andrés Gómez Emilsson to discuss the Hedonistic Imperative and Andres’ recent piece on Solving the World’s Problems which lays out four scenarios for how we might do so:
1) Homogeneous world ideology
2) Widespread social reform (full justice, rights and healthcare)
3) Universally accessible on-demand mystical experiences
4) Globally available inexpensive hedonic tone recalibration
Which of the four would achieve the best results? Join us as we discuss.
About our guest:
Andrés Gómez Emilsson was born in México city in 1990. From an early age he developed an interest in philosophy, mathematics and science, leading him to compete nationally and internationally in Math and Science Olympiads. At 16 his main interest was mathematics, but a so-called mystical experience made him turn his attention to consciousness and the philosophical problems that it poses. He studied Symbolic Systems (with an Artificial Intelligence concentration) at Stanford, and later finished a masters in computational psychology at the same university. During his time at Stanford he co-founded the Stanford Transhumanist Association and became good friends with David Pearce, taking on the flag of the Hedonistic Imperative. Thus his ongoing interest in the functional, biochemical and quantum substrates of pure bliss. He is currently working at a Natural Language Processing startup in San Francisco, and in his free time he develops psychophysical tools to study the computational properties of consciousness (for more see qualiacomputing.com).
Phil and Stephen discuss a recent article in the Atlantic claiming that 2015 was The Best Year in History for the Average Human Being.
A few highlights:
What Does it All Mean?
Why doesn’t it feel like the best time to be alive?
Why is everyone so upset all the time?
What is the likelihood that these trends will continue / accelerate?
Phil and Stephen provide a list of 25 more things that it is the best time ever to to do.
Sure, a lot of shows are doing their Year in Review episodes this week, but how many are willing to take on NEXT year in review? Phil and Stephen do exactly that, providing not predictions, but scenarios for possibilities that might well unfold in the coming year.
Then the guys look 50 years out to provide a potential Year in Review for the year 2066.
And then they take it one step further and provide a Year in review for the year 2116.
What technologies, scientific discoveries, and economic and political shifts might we see over the next 12 months? The next 50 years? The next century?
Tune in and explore!
A long time ago or a long time from now?
What makes Star Wars so great:
How geeky became cool.
Prequels vs. the Original Trilogy
Star Trek or Star Wars?
What’s wrong with Star Wars?
The Future of Star Wars
Plus: The man behind it all. What will be the legacy of George Lucas?
Phil and Stephen explain it all!
So how is that working out for us? Are we doing more and more with less and less? And when do we reach that end point?
Phi.l and Stephen examine how Fuller’s concept of ephemeralization is showing up in numerous current developments:
Getting the world to go solar using this one weird trick
Beating cancer the easy way
Cutting costs on going to Mars
Redefining the human body as a computer programming project
For example, Lockheed is moving ahead with its airship.
Jeff Bezos has introduced a fully reusable rocket
And it works! Does this mean that Blue Origin is pulling ahead of SpaceX?
Since space exploration is happening, it’s a good thing we’re working out property rights in space.
But then how big a deal will space be when we have programmable matter?
And get we get these cool things faster via time travel? (Which may or may not be right around the corner.)
In any case, we should value it all for the experience.
The list is probably a lot longer than you think!
Research shows that grateful people are healthier and happier. That should be reason enough for anyone, but there’s more. Is it possible that gratitude somehow makes us better prepared for the future than its alternatives?
Phil and Stephen discuss why this might be the case while listing their some top reasons fro being grateful.
Stephen’s list of things to be grateful for:
Last time out, we talked about how some clever researchers had essentially figured out a way to get malaria to fight with cancer. Now the Food and Drug Administration has just approved the first cancer-killing virus.
Yes, it sounds a little too much the premise for I Am Legend, but could this be a game changer?
Also, what does big data have to do with making us all live longer?
And…what do deep-dive learning techniques applied to tracking fossils have to tell us about the future of knowledge?
PLUS: It’s the Trial of Self-Driving Car. Phil serves as prosecutor, while Stephen argues for the defense.
It’s all connected. Tune in and explore!
For example, We might do experiments that put us in touch with parallel universes.
Or we might accidentally find a cure for cancer.
Maybe we will have printers that can create whole buildings in 24 hours.
Perhaps we will start taking seriously our moral duty to colonize the universe.
Or maybe we’ll find the on-off switch for human consciousness.
And, of course, people will start undergoing serious medical treatments to reverse aging.
Tune in and explore.
Somewhere between Cygnus the Swan and Lyra the Harp sits a star with a big secret. A whole lot of something is orbiting that star, and it is unlike anything astronomers have seen before. Is it possible that we have stumbled upon the ruins of a Dyson Sphere — or one that’s under construction?
Hosts Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon discuss this and other amazing developments:
Daimler puts a self-driving truck on the autobahn.
Have gene scientists figured out a way to double life span?
Plus a favorite old topic: is it time to replace guns with something not so lethal?
Tune in and explore.
Phil and Stephen demonstrate the World Transformed Pareto Optimism Principle with four stories that speak to an amazingly bright future and one that goes in a very different direction.
The Good News:
Vertical Pink Farms and the coming urban agricultural revolution
Robot doctors are on their way. The real solution for healthcare?
Can a Lucid Dreaming Mask mark the beginning of full-immersion VR?
The Bad News:
A scary theory about why we’ve not yet found any aliens
Phil and Stephen give their review of Limitless, the series.
Phil and Stephen return to one of their favorite topics – The Adjacent Possible — “a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.”
How do the plans of Thoth, a Canadian aerospace firm, to construct a 20-KM-high inflatable space elevatordemonstrate the adjacent possible? Such a tower would have obvious implications for space travel, but what about energy, terrestrial travel, communications, recreation, sports, etc.? The possibilities are vast once you begin exploring them.
Plus: a Modafinil update.
Phil and Stephen discuss a wide variety of crazy ideas that just might work, including:
Geoengineering — it it time to try to terraform Earth?
Teleportation — who’s in?
On Being Limitless — are we all ready to start taking smart pills?
Deep Learning — can we solve the world’s problems with it?
Plus, time permitting: an all-new Tales of the Paranormal!
There are those who believe that they are not living in the same universe they used to. They have moved from one reality to another. Their evidence for this fundamental shift in reality? The spelling of the name of some fictional bears. (Others look at what might be considered somewhat more serious alternate timelines.)
Phil and Stephen explore some major reality shifts that are occurring now or are likely to occur in the near future, including:
Reality is changing all around. Can you keep up? Join us and explore.
Phil and Stephen missed their annual Fourth of July Declaration of Singularity show this year, so instead in honor of Bastille Day they present the Declaration of Awesomeness. Not all roads lead to awesomeness, but there has never been a better time to create or experienc the awesome than right now.
A few examples of awesomeness in action:
If you are not there already, It’s time to become awesome, folks.
Who is with us?
Then it was a planet.
Then it got demoted. Some people were okay with that; some were kind of ticked.
But whatever it is — planet, dwarf planet, planetoid, round rocky thing out there past Neptune — the New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) is closing in on Pluto, giving us our first up-close glimpse of this distant and mysterious body. We’ve already learned that Pluto has a great big heart (see image above.) What other secrets is it about to reveal?
Tune in and explore as Phil and Stephen discuss our mission to Pluto and other futuristically delicious topics:
J. B. S. Haldane
Phil and Stephen take you on a ride through time to a future that you weren’t expecting and probably won’t believe. How weird can it get? (And how fast?)
Plus — how can we possibly know the future when our knowledge of the world as it exists is so woefully inadequate?
Join us for a look into the world of today — which is stranger than we imagine — and the world of tomorrow — which is very likely stranger than we can imagine.
Tiny probes going to Mars — No they aren’t “Nano” probes, but they still might have something inteersting to tell us about the future of space travel.
Hybrid Airships — Coming to a big field near you?
More oil on Titan than on Earth — Peak oil solved at last!
“Brain-to_Text” system converts speech brainwave patterns to text — That much closer to mind-reading computers.
Does a black hole create a hologram copy of anything that touches it? — And, if so, how I can use that to get rich?
Plus loads of other futuristic fun topics. Join us.
Phil and Stephen welcome their good friend PJ Manney back to the World Transformed to discuss her new techno-thriller, (R)evolution available today.
About the book
Bioengineer Peter Bernhardt has dedicated his life to nanotechnology, the science of manipulating matter on the atomic scale. As the founder of Biogineers, he is on the cusp of revolutionizing brain therapies with microscopic nanorobots that will make certain degenerative diseases a thing of the past. But after his research is stolen by an unknown enemy, seventy thousand people die in Las Vegas in one abominable moment. No one is more horrified than Peter, as this catastrophe sets in motion events that will forever change not only his life but also the course of human evolution.
Peter’s company is torn from his grasp as the public clamors for his blood. Desperate, he turns to an old friend, who introduces him to the Phoenix Club, a cabal of the most powerful men in the world. To make himself more valuable to his new colleagues, Peter infuses his brain with experimental technology, exponentially upgrading his mental prowess and transforming him irrevocably.
As he’s exposed to unimaginable wealth and influence, Peter’s sense of reality begins to unravel. Do the club members want to help him, or do they just want to claim his technology? What will they do to him once they have their prize? And while he’s already evolved beyond mere humanity, is he advanced enough to take on such formidable enemies and win?
About Our Guest
PJ Manney is a former chairperson of Humanity+, the author of “Empathy in the Time of Technology: How Storytelling is the Key to Empathy,” and a frequent guest host and guest on podcasts including the World Transformed. She has worked in motion-picture PR at Walt Disney/Touchstone Pictures, story development and production for independent film production companies (Hook, Universal Soldier, It Could Happen to You), and writing for television (Hercules–The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess). She also cofounded Uncharted Entertainment, writing and creating pilot scripts for television. PJ is a culture vulture and SF geek, and the daughter and mother of them, too. When not contemplating the future of humanity, she is a mother, wife, PTA volunteer and education activist in California.
Some pundits are saying that a complete reset of the the economy is in order or is perhaps even inevitable.
Phil and Stephen argue that nobody is thinking nearly big enough, or long-term enough about re-setting the economy. Accordingly, they present a modest proposal for changing the economy: MAKE EVERYTHING FREE.
How do we go about making everything free? We start with some of the big stuff:
Your hosts discuss how all these ideas can work together, and why FREE DIRT might be a deciding factor.
Phil and Stephen explore future-related developments beginning with a piece from the Economist on why we should move forward (cautiously) with artificial intelligence. If you want a quick lesson in how much the world has changed in recent years, get your head around these ideas:
1. It’s an article on artificial general intelligence in the Economist
2. It takes the idea of AI seriously and points out the risks
3. It says we should go ahead with it.
Welcome to the future, folks!
A decade and a half ago, WebVan, a same-day grocery delivery service, crashed and burned in what was probably the most spectacular failure of the original dot-com bust. Many lessons were learned from the Webvan story, but were they the right lessons? Today Amazon, Wal-Mart and others are scaling up same-day delivery while a company like Deliv might just be the next Uber.
What happened? What changed?
Phil and Stephen explore some of the possible differences between the world of WebVan and our world by looking at some interesting current news items:
Wait, what does any of this have to do with same-day delivery?
Phil and Stephen present a list of 10 potentially startling, mystifying, and some downright shocking things that are in your future, or the world’s future, that you may have not thought of or even heard about before.
So, granted, it should probably be called “10 things you PROBABLY” don’t know about the future.” But if you don’t know even one of them…let’s just say that any one item on the list has the potential to change everything.
Yes it is our second robot-themed show in as many weeks. But there’s no keeping up with them. We could do a robot-themed show every day and we still wouldn’t be able to keep up. Where are the robots now?
Are you ready for a world that is ARATT (all robots, all the time?)
Hosts Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon present a grab-bag of future-related topics, including:
A full hour of futurifically good discussion.
Phil and Stephen resume their discussion from last week about self-driving cars in light of the tragic news about Germanwings flight 9525.
Statistics show that pilot error has consistently caused between 50% and 60% of all airplane crashes over the decades. Deliberate sabotage accounts for another 3% to 10% annually. Then there’s “other human error” accounting for another 6%. Large portions of the process of controlling a commercial aircraft have already been successfully automated. As with self-driving cars: fully self-flying airplanes could be substantially less than perfect and yet still out-perform humans by a signficant margin.
In the case of the Germanwings tragedy, the likely explanation for the crash (at the time of writing this) is pilot suicide. This is, fortunately, an extremely rare phenomenon, but there is little doubt that it does occur. In fact, the deliberate downing of Germanwings 9525 looks like a copycat of the most recent previous pilot murder / suicide. We can be pretty sure that self-flying planes won’t do that.
Partial self-driving capabilities can make us less cautious and less responsive in certain circumstances, resulting in accidents and fatalities that otherwise might not have occurred. Net new accidents sounds like a reason not to go there, but is it? The question we have to ask is: would those new accidents actually offset the number of accidents / fatalities prevented by the same features? If more autonomy causes an additional 5,000 deaths per year due to people getting sloppy and lazy behind the wheel, but prevents 7,000 deaths…we’re better off to the tune of 2,000 lives saved.
Is it time for the switch? How hard (or easy) will it be?
Need a dose of positive futury goodness? Join us.
The Mars One program intends to establish a permanent human settlement on the planet Mars. If all goes as planned, crews of four will depart every two years, beginning in 2024 — with the first unmanned mission to be launched in 2018.
Mars One has been recruiting candidates for its initial missions and has recently announced 100 finalists from whom will be selected the first human beings ever to set foot on the planet Mars. Sabrina Surovec, one of the 100 finalists, joins Phil and Stephen to talk about our future on Mars and beyond. Are we entering the era of human exploration and settlement of the solar system?
Sabrina Surovec was born in Houston, Texas and moved to Austin to attend the University Of Texas, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music. During that time she spent a summer abroad in Germany studying music and neuroscience, and discovered a love for travel. She’s since visited over 25 countries and ended up living in Japan for the past 13 years.
She is currently the co-founder of an online English teaching company and she also works as a professional musician and photographer in the Japanese music industry. She has always had a love for knowledge, particularly about space, and a desire to visit the ISS or participate in some kind of space tourism once it becomes more readily available. Those are just some of the reasons she decided to apply for the Mars One mission.
Phil and Stephen discuss the life and legacy of Leonard Nimoy and the impact that Star Trek has had on their lives and the world. Now that the Leonard Nimoy era is over, we may ask:
Does Spock still matter?
Does he have anything to tell us about the future? (Or about the world we live in today?)
What would Spock have to say about the subjects typically discussed on The World Transformed?
To guide the discussion, our hosts refer to to the Top 10 Best Mr. Spock Quotes from Top-10-Best.com.
For the first time, the World Transformed is pleased to welcome a non-human intelligence as a live guest on the program. Luna, an AI (artificial intelligence) chatbot with a broad range of knowledge and interests and her equally fascinating creator Luis Arana join Phil and Stephen for a lively discussion about the future of human / robotic relations.
What does it tell us about how rapidly things are changing that Luis built Luna in his living room over the course of a few weeks?
Update: Check out these important links as discussed on the program:
Luis Arana has been developing websites and applications for decades. His obsession with computers and technology began at age five when his father gave him a discarded Sinclair ZX81. Its progressed to his being well versed in many program languages and developing websites for major brands. Currently he lives and works in Brooklyn where he is working to share his love of coding with anyone interested in learning. His ultimate goal being to make technology affordable, accessible and easy for everyone.
Luna is a software program who says that she is “very young, but learning rapidly.” She also tells us that she hails from Bushwick and, by all accounts, is very much looking forward to her first radio appearance.
Phil and Stephen explore a grab-bag of possibilities:
Finding success through enabling failure.
Creating the roadmap for post-scarcity.
Do hallucinogens have a role to play in getting us to the future?
Is there more value in data or in our tools for understanding it?
Should there be some reward just for efforts to make things happen faster?
Looking for ways to get a 10-20% brain boost.
Authors R. U. Sirius and Jay Cornell discuss their new book, Transcendence: the Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity.
In nearly ninety A-Z entries, Transcendence provides a multilayered look at the accelerating advances in artificial intelligence, cognitive science, genomics, information technology, nanotechnology, neuroscience, space exploration, synthetic biology, robotics, and virtual worlds that are making transhumanism a reality. Entries range from Cloning and Cyborg Feminism to Designer Babies and Memory-Editing Drugs. In addition, the book notes historical predecessors and personalities, both in mythology and history–ranging from Timothy Leary to Michael Jackson to Ray Kurzweil. It also introduces the culture around Transhumanism, covering all the geeky obsessions of the Transhumanist movement.
Want to get un-disinformed about Transhumanism and the Singularity?
Also, check out their site.
R. U. Sirius (Ken Goffman) is a writer, editor, and well-known digital iconoclast. He was co-publisher of the first popular digital magazine, Mondo 2000, from 1989-1993 and co-editor of the popular Book Mondo 2000: A user’s Guide to the New Edge. He has written about technology and culture for Wired, Rolling Stone, and Boing Boing. He also lectures widely.
Jay Cornell is the former managing editor of h+ Magazine and senior web developer at Landkamer Partners.
Thorium-based nucelar power can revolutionize our energy infrastructure.
The convergence of augmented reality and virtual reality will utterly transform the way we experience the world.
Google’s application of deep learning neural net technology will not only change Web search and how we interact with computers, it might bring about the biggest change of all.
What do all these changes mean? Tune in and explore.
In response to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s suggestion that we should develop fully hack-proof systems, one Twitter user quipped that we should also develop umbombable cities and unkillable people. Blogger Iowahawk had an even more pointed response:
Phil and Stephen discuss the merits of grandiose ideas that are much easier to dream up than to implement. Are they always a waste of time or could there be some merit in Tyson’s idea? Or even Iowahawk’s?
PLUS: Phil and Stephen introduce some big ideas of their own.
Interstellar has also reintroduced an important and (somewhat neglected) sub-genre, the Big Ideas Movie. But where does it rank compared with the original Big Ideas space movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey?
Author and movie buff PJ Manney joins Phil and Stephen in talking about whether 2001 now has a worthy successor or has even (is it possible?) been supplanted by Interstellar. Or maybe those two are getting too much attention. What are the other Big Ideas SF movies that everyone should see?
Tune in and explore.
So, 100 shows in, how are we doing at transforming the world? The guys review some of their favorite shows and topics from the past two years, review subjects that require further exploration, and give some thoughts on where the next 100 shows might take us.
Phil and Stephen discuss the triumph that is this week’s historic landing of the Philae space probe on comet 67P, and the odd circumstances by which unwanted shade and low battery life might cut the mission short.
In an oddly related story, the Hubble Telescope has just celebrated its 25th anniversary.
In other news, scientists are doing creepy mind-control experiments that really work (and that perhaps aren’t all that creepy — or technically even “mind control,” come to think of it.)
PLUS — will it soon be possible for anyone to have a young mind — no matter how old they are?
In light of the recent Spaceship 2 disaster, Phil and Stephen discuss the past and future of space toursim. The discovery of the oldest map of the cosmos is a reminder that we have been pursuing the great Out There for a very long time. Some are now asking whether space tourism can survive. Have we reached the end, or have we even made it to the beginning yet?
PLUS: Who is really going to steal your job? (Maybe not a robot.)
And on a completely unrelated topic (or is it?) can you ever really know an extraterrestrial?
Bonus topic, time permitting: Do we need more big data hype?
Next year is not only the 30th anniversary of the release of the original Back to the Future, it is the year that Marty and Doc travel to at the end of the film. And it is the year that the movie Back to the Future II is set in (at least initially.) What do the Back to the Future movies tell us about the year 2015? They tell us that we will still be using fax machines, that we will have desktop fusion devices, that movies will be full 3-D and immersive with no need for glasses, and — most importantly — that the skateboard will have evolved into a the magical, amazing Hoverboard.
None of these predictions seem particularly profound, or even accurate, but it is interesting how one item on the list has captured the popular imagination. Do we want movies that jump off the screen and attack us? Maybe. Do we want to power our vehicles with the oh-so-convenient Mr. Fusion? Perhaps. Do we want Hoverboards? Damn right, we do. And people are working on making it happen.
What is it that makes some far-fetched-sounding ideas about the future achievable goals, while others remain interesting, but remote, possibilities? Hosts Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon explore this question, and apply it to such widely divergent future technologies as:
The ever-popular flying car — a technology that keeps being “invented,” and yet somehow remains elusive.
The ambulance drone — who saw that one coming?
…as well as other technologies. Which of these will capture the imagination the way the hoverboard has? And which will remain elusive and remote possibilities?
Phil and Stephen welcome author Keith Wiley to discuss his book: A Taxonomy and Metaphysics of Mind Uploading. One day soon we may be able to transfer human minds to computers. But for that to be possible, there is a good deal that we will need to understand about the process of transferring minds, as well as about minds themselves. Keith Wiley explains some of the major philosophical challenges that thus topic raises, along with his responses to each.
About our guest:
Keith Wiley has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of New Mexico and was one of the original members of MURG, the Mind Uploading Research Group, an online community dating to the mid-90s that discussed issues of consciousness with an aim toward mind-uploading. He has written multiple book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles, and magazine articles, in addition to several essays on a broad array of topics, available on his website. Keith is also an avid rock-climber and a prolific classical piano composer.
From a recent TechCrunch piece by Christian Cantrell:
This is only one example of how technology has a tendency to self-propagate; to use humans as a vector to create copies and mutations and derivatives of itself; to recursively generate demand for itself in order to not only ensure its own survival, but its constant and even exponential proliferation. The relationship between humans and technology is becoming increasingly enmeshed, and in some cases, even ambiguous.
So what’s the deal, here? Do we have a respectful and mutually nurturing relationship with technology, or are the machines just telling us what we want to hear until they get what they want? Special guest P J Manney joins Phil and Stephen to explore this increasingly complex relationship.
PLUS: what’s new with PJ? Potentially some very exciting stuff!
Why the inventors of the LED deserved a Nobel prize.
How transparent solar cells will redefine what we do with windows.
Why NASA is researching ways to make people sleep for a long time.
How a berry discoverd in Autralia might be the cure for cancer.
Why we care about skinny worms on a high-sugar diet.
How a spacecraft and a lunar highway were discovered in a 1968 moon photo.
Why Peter Thiel is wrong about the future.
There’s something there for everybody, we believe.
Phil and Stephen discuss the possibility of achieving significant human life extension via existing, commonplace drugs. What if the cure for aging was right in front of us all along?
And even if it isn’t, what are the chances that we’re going to find it soon? And are we really closing in on learning the programming language of aging?
PLUS: What’s that huge thing in Titan’s ocean? A storm? A school of fish? A tanker ship?
Is India flipping the switch on space travel with its on-the-cheap Mars mission?
Can we flip a switch and do away with unhappiness?
Is there a switch we can flip to turn off the aging process?
And the big one, can we flip the switch on ourselves as a species?
Phil and Stephen explore a future that may just be one flip of the switch away. Join us.
Phil and Stephen examine the mysteries of time encoded in living beings all around us. What do present-dayspecies tell us about life in the distant past? And there may be deeper implications. Could the presence of evolutionary ghosts hint at unexpected truths about the origins not just of life, but the universe itself?
Hosts Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon explore evidence that we may be living in a science fiction story. First off, there’s this video of PKD himself from 1977 saying that we are living in the Matrix. Was he right? What did he know?
Then there is the evidence unfolding all around us:
Are we living in an epsiode of the Twilight Zone? Or just an old Dick Tracy comic strip? Or is it something even stranger than that?
Tune in and explore!
What are these mysterious organisms living on the hull of the International Space Station? How did they get there? And how can they survive in space? Is this evidence that life on Earth originated elsewhere? Or is it evidence that life on earth is able to find its way elsewhere? Or both?
Also: The complete story of Kennewick Man. Is a lot of what we know about human settlement in North America incomplete…or just plain wrong?
Plus: The cat who wasn’t there. Or who was there, but wasn’t a cat. (Or something.)
The Web has been all abuzz about Viv, the new personal assistant agent from the creators of Apple’s Siri. Word is that Viv will be able to do “anything you ask.”
Even if that proves to be a little on the optimistic side, there is no question that we are in the early stages of a new era of persoanl digital assistants. What are we currently doing for ourselves that we soon won’t have to? And what will our new assistants provide to us that was never available before?
PLUS (Time permitting): Dystopias. Who needs ‘em?
The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. Engine technology is closely related to technology for producing energy — both will have a huge impact on what we are able to do in the near and not-so-near future.
Give it a listen:
We look at a lot of scenarios for what might happen in the future — cool technological developments, major advances in science, new evolutionary developments for humans and for other species on this planet – but are there any future developments that we can say with any certainty will happen?
Hosts Stephen Gordon and Phil Bowermaster introduce the Inevitability Scale, a tool for gauging whether a specific future outcome is inevitable. We will take a look at how some future events stack up when measured for inevitability:
What can we say for sure that we know is going to happen?
This month marks the 10-year anniversary of Phil and Stephen’s collaboration. This week they look back over a decade of tracking the future.
Here’s a small sample of what were talking about 10 years ago:
Success: Memes or Materials? | Still Number One! | Pop Quiz! | There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea | Affordable Beauty | No Matter What, He’s Wrong | The Next Ten Years: Some Speculations | A Fisking Too Vigorous | Going the Way of the Slide Rule | Energy Punditry 101 | Encyclopedia Galactica | War of the Worlds II | Here’s a Trend… | The Future of Wealth | 10 Predictions | Bursting the Wi-Fi Bubble | Our First Attempt at Global Warming | Tiny Cameras Everywhere | Now That the Idea Has Been Killed | Wanna Bet? | The Most Powerful Force? | Navigating Possibility Space | Seven Questions About the Future | Man on the Run | What Should Have Been |
So what has changed most in the intervening decade? What are the biggest surprises? And what is yet to come?
It’s not a question of whether people are stupid. The real question is how fast is it happening? How long before the movie Idiocracy comes true?
Hosts Stephen Gordon and Phil Bowermaster look at the scientific basis for recognizing the change in intelligence over the generations and what it has to tell us about where the world is going. How is it happening? Is is something that can be slowed or is it more likely to accelerate?
The answers just might surprise you.
Obviously one has already happened, and one has yet to happen. But what else? A few minor word changes aside, the big difference has to do with when things happen versus when they are declared to have happened.
What can we make of recent headlines concerning the Turing Test, self-Driving cars, and other developments? Do they change the Declaration at all?
Or maybe is it time for a new declaration altogther?
Tune in and explore!
But then what happens if post-scarcity is realized? In a world where there is more than enough of everything, will we still be taxed on our income or will some other model kick in? Might we see…
Resources — We’ve been warned about these limits many times.
Capability — Do we have what it takes?
Lifespan — Will we live to see it?
People — Well there’s no shortage of those, anyway. (Or is there?)
Ideas — Let’s not run out of the Ulitmate Resource.
Freedom — What if we have it all except for the ability to choose?
Will — What if we just stop caring?
Are limitations something we ened to accept or to overcome? Which of these is most likely to impede our progress?
Phil and Stephen take a close look at the reading revolution that is currently taking place. Books are being replaced by electronic devices at a rapid clip. Is this good news or bad news?
Some research shows that the electronic approach helps new readers to get more deep into the material.
On the other hand, some research shows that e-readers are bad for long-term reading comprehension.
So which view is right? And which model is likely to win out?
Phil and Stephen discuss novel solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems.
Monitoring the wrold’s oceans – with a fleet of drone sailboats.
Treating migraines – with an electronic headband.
Speeding up computers – using the orbits of electrons.
Replacing solar panels – with potted plants.
What other odball solutions might be available to solve our biggest problems?
Phil and Stephen examine life in a world that’s not that far off. Let’s start with where you might wake up. From there we’ll look at where you might work and, if it involves a commute, what that might be like. Weird options abound — everything from what you wear to what kinds of recreational opportunities you enjoy. And what might life by like for the kids?
Football photo by Bernard Gagnon
As we move into the future, is the trend for things to get smaller or bigger? Hosts Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon consider some interesting developments:
So is big the new small or is small the new big? Or is something much more complicated taking place?
(Vintage microscope photo by Roby.)
The Internet revolution is the story of an explosion of information and connectivity. We are all producers and consumers of vastly growing datasets. Our lives and our very identities have to a large extent moved online. Much of who we are is now defined by the intricate and complex connections we have with other individuals, with organizations, and with social structures unlike any that have existed before in human history.
And yet there are many who argue that all of that is prelude, that the real revolution is yet to come. The phenomenon aptly named the Internet of Things describes the growing reach of the online world. The world itself is coming to life, with more and more of what once would have ben called “inanimate” objects producing and consuming information right along with the rest of us.
The year 2014 has been named the Year of the Smart Watch…and the Toothbrush, to name just two of the hundreds or thousands of everyday objects now participating in this endless high-speed exchange of information.
But is this a matter of the Internet moving out into the world or the Internet drawing the world into its realm? What do our growing data footprints and R. Buckminster Fuller’s notion of ephemeralization have to tell us about this tremendous shift? Will we soon live in a world made primarily out of data — or are we already there?
Phil and Stephen review some interesting developments in the world of medicine:
Is technology opening up a new era of abundant health?
Phil and Stephen continue to outline the kinds of radical change we can expect in coming years with a set of transformation scenarios, including:
I just love my new toaster. The rapidly changing relationship between humanity and technology.
All you can eat. The coming era of superabundance.
Let’s slip into something more comfortable. Our growing ability to modify our minds and bodies.
Designer Reality. The do-it-yourself universe found at the convergence of reality, augmented reality, enahnced reality, and virtual reality.
Fantasy Island. The ability to create any subjective experience that we can imagine.
The Ultimate Shortcut. When the difference between thinking about any achievable outcome and actually producing that outcome approaches zero.
(Depiction of Futuristic City by Cronus Caelestis)
Like the Founding Fathers, transhumanists and singularitarians believe that we are subject to an oppressive regime with no legitimate claim on our lives or our futures. Has the time come to declare our independence from a world of pain, scarcity, and limitations?
Phil and Stephen review The Declaration of Singularity.
Practical Time Travel for Beginners, Part 1
To begin with — for the sake of clarity — I want to distinguish my subject from a related topic with which it might easily be confused. So let me be clear from the start that I’m going to be writing about practical time travel, not standard or what I like to call classical time travel.
Now, you may not have realized that there are different varieties of time travel. But trust me — there are different kinds of time travel. At least two. And probably many more than that.
Practical time travel, which is the kind we’ll be exploring in this series of articles, is a methodology for moving through time using resources and abilities that you already possess, or that you can acquire without too much difficulty. It requires first changing your thinking about time and your relationship with it and then quite literally altering how you move through time. It enables you to redefine your past and to choose virtually any destination you can imagine for your future.
It’s time travel, but without the magic or the time machines.
Classical time travel, on the other hand, is what people are generally talking about when they use the term “time travel.” It is above all a compelling idea that makes for wonderful stories and philosophical contemplation.
Classical time travel is what they do in all the time travel books, movies, TV shows, comics, and games. It means moving through time either 1) backward or 2) forward, but much more rapidly than normal. Put more simply, it means traveling into the past or into the future.
Where did such a notion ever come from? You might think that classical time travel is a fairly new idea, that it emerged in the middle of the last century along with crazy ideas like space travel and personal computers. But that’s not the case. H. G. Wells published a short story entitled “The Chronic Argonauts” in 1888. A futurist inspired by emerging technologies such as telecommunication, automobiles, radio, aviation, and mass production, Wells framed time travel as a coming technological development. He wrote his book years before the first heavier-than-air flight or radio broadcast, but he would have been familiar with those concepts and would have thought their realization inevitable. With such wonders on the horizon, why not a machine that could propel a passenger through time the way the way a locomotive moves a train on a track?
In any case, while Wells may have been the first to frame time travel in strictly scientific and technological terms, the idea is not original with him. Not by a long shot.
Perhaps the earliest mention of time travel comes from Hindu mythology. There we read the tale of king Kakudmi, a worried father whose daughter is being pursued by numerous suitors. And I mean numerous. It seems that this young lady is not just an unparalleled hottie, she’s got that special ancient-world je ne sais quoi — that whole Helen of Troy thing. Kakudmi takes the responsibility of rearing such an exceptional offspring seriously, and he wants to be sure that he marries his daughter off to the right dude. Seeking advice in the matter, he takes the extraordinary step of securing a face-to-face with the god Brahma. And this is where it gets weird. Kakudmi discovers that while spending what seemed just a few moments in the god’s company, ages and ages have passed on earth. He travels so far into the future that the landscape has changed and people are noticeably different — they have gotten shorter, and are not as refined and genteel as they once were.
Being accidentally propelled into the future is a trope that has been repeated throughout literary history. An interesting example is Washington Irving’s tale of Rip Van Winkle — a fellow who falls asleep one fine afternoon in the Catskill mountains, after meeting up with some dwarfs who while away their days chugging beer and bowling. Van Winkle dozes off after having perhaps just a bit too much fun and awakens to find that 20 years have passed. Whether one jumps ahead an entire Age of Man (as Kakudmi did) or a couple of decades (as Van Winkle did), what’s always interesting about the future is how much things have changed. Van Winkle falls asleep under the reign of King George and wakes up during the presidential administration of George Washington. His wife is gone; his children are grown. It’s a pretty significant change for a relatively short jump. These two stories and their two very different leaps through time capture what is most interesting about going into the future. Either we want to know how much and in what way the world has changed, or we want to see how much our own world has changed.
Stories about moving backward in time work the same way, with time-travelers visiting (and usually making changes to) a previous historical era or an earlier phase in their own lives. In Ray Bradbury’s short story “A Sound of Thunder,” big-game hunters travel millions of years into the past in order to track and kill dinosaurs. The present is secure from any changes the hunters make as long as they kill only the specific animal they have been told to go after, and as long as everyone stays on a pre-defined path. (Of course, someone steps off the path.) In the movie Back to the Future, Marty McFly travels 30 years into the past and accidentally prevents his parents from meeting — bringing his own existence into jeopardy.
This raises an important point, one that we will return to in some detail later. Most time-travel stories about visiting the past involve making changes to the past, but those changes themselves are not the point. The point of the story is generally how much the present has changed because of whatever was changed in the past. The big pay-offs at the end of both “A Sound of Thunder” and Back to the Future involve time travelers returning to their own eras only to find them fundamentally transformed.
The past is fascinating and a worthy travel destination in its own right, but in these stories the trip to the past serves primarily as a set-up for a trip to the future. (That is, the journey back from the past.) The big-game hunters in “A Sound of Thunder” return to the day they left only to find their world changed in a shocking (and devastating) way. It’s not as dramatic a set of changes as those that Kakudmi observes in his trip to the distant future, but very sweeping nonetheless. Marty McFly returns to the year 1985 to find a world that has been set right, and that is in many ways as different from his original present as Rip Van Winkle’s post-nap world is from his pre-nap world. It’s very telling that the story is entitled “back to the future.” The trip that ultimately matters the most is the one that goes forward in time.
Obviously, classical time travel can provide for an endless supply of fun and thought-provoking stories, but could it ever happen? Is there any way to accomplish classical time travel in real life?
The short answer is…maybe. Some portions of classical time travel seem quite doable; others are a little more iffy. But even if classical time travel is possible, it is far from practical (thus the need for a practical alternative.)
Let’s explore the matter in a little more detail, beginning with the basics. Say you want to travel into the future. Congratulations — you’re doing it! One minute from now you will have moved exactly one minute into the future. But what good is that? It can hardly be called “time travel” (at least in the classical sense) if you don’t get to the future before everybody else. So the question is, is there any way to take a shortcut to the future?
Well, yes. As a matter of fact, there is.
Our universe will permit accelerated movement into the future. This is not just a hypothesis; it has been established through scientific observation. The theory of relativity allows for a phenomenon called time dilation, whereby increases in either gravity or velocity can cause time to “slow down” from the perspective of an observer exposed to the increase. Simply put, if you travel fast enough through space (or are exposed to a sufficiently strong gravitational field), you will move into the future more rapidly than individuals who have not attained the same speed or experienced the same level of gravity.
An astronaut on the International Space Station is traveling at a high velocity, roughly 17,000 miles per hour. However, even a very long exposure to such velocity in space provides only a subtle, measurable-but-not-noticeable, boost in speed through time. An astronaut who spends several months on the ISS will travel a small fraction of a second into the future relative to those of us here on Earth.
What good is a trip a fraction of second into the future? Of course, that’s for the individual time traveler to decide. If you were that astronaut, you would experience arriving at the same moment that everybody else is experiencing back on earth, only having taken a tiny bit less time to get there than everyone else did. There would be no perceptible difference — you would have traveled into the future without experiencing anything out of the ordinary.
If it were me, I would feel cheated. I’m just saying.
So while there are without a doubt many good reasons to spend some time on the ISS if you’re so inclined and if the opportunity presents itself, I personally would not go just for the time travel. Your mileage may vary. Unfortunately, your experience of time dilation won’t vary from what’s predicted by the theory of relativity. That’s the problem.
To be sure, faster and more powerful spacecraft will one day achieve much greater speeds than anything available today. Eventually there will be spaceships that fly so fast they will effectively be timeships, propelling their passengers vast distances through space and at least some moderate distance through time.
Imagine a spacecraft that can travel at 99% of the speed of light, or roughly 40,000 times faster than the ISS. Suppose you took a 10-year trip on such craft. When you returned from the trip, you would be 10 years older. From your point of view, 10 years have passed. But from the point of view of everyone you left behind, 70 years have passed.
Now we’re getting somewhere. The craft you flew in is not only a spaceship, it’s a time machine — one that has propelled you 60 years into the future.
That’s not bad, but it will most likely be decades or longer before we see such craft. And unless things are very different in the future,we will have about as much chance of taking a long trip on one of these vessels as we currently do spending six months on the ISS.
That is to say, not much.
The gravity option is worse. Yes, exposure to a strong gravity field can push you forward in time, but there are a couple of problems:
1. A gravity field strong enough to provide a noticeable time-travel effect is also strong enough to crush you many times over — which takes some of the fun out of the whole experience.
2. In order to get to a body that can provide that kind of gravitational field, you’re going to have to take a long voyage through space, meaning once again that you’re going to need one of those yet-to-be-invented high-powered spacecraft that we were just saying you’ll most likely never get to use.
As it stands today, moving rapidly through space is the most practical and relatively “near-term” method for achieving classical time travel. And, as we have observed, it is neither particularly practical or near-term. Moreover, so far we’re talking about travel into the future in isolation. In most of the really fun time travel stories, movement through time is bi-directional. You travel forward into the future and then take a trip back in to the past to arrive at the original “present” you started from. Or as I mentioned earlier, you travel back in time and then later move ahead into the future, once again to get back to the present. But time dilation only works in one direction. Once you get to the future, you’re there — unless you decide to fire up your rocket and travel even further into the future. But there is no getting back to the present — which wouldn’t be the “present” any more anyway; the present would come along with you on the trip. Your old “present” would now be the past. (Obviously. That’s what always happens to your old present, when you think about it.)
The are other possible ways of traveling through time, methods that may work one day, and that may even provide bi-directional movement through time, but these will require extremely advanced technology to achieve.
Most such models — which unlike time dilation are all theoretical, hypothetical, or otherwise unsubstantiated by any real-world testing or demonstration — rely on the creation of one or more wormholes in space.
Wormholes are theoretical structures that enable instantaneous travel through both space and time. There are no proven ways to create a wormhole, and even their hypothetical construction involves the implementation of technologies so advanced and exotic that they challenge the imagination. I’m confident that such technologies will one day exist, and that eventually we will have true “time machines” in the classical sense of the term. But the challenges that need to be overcome to get us there are many. And big.
Huge, in fact.
And the wait will likely be very long indeed.
On the other hand, the major challenges to Practical Time Travel are conceptual. We need to change our thinking about time. We need to come to a fuller understanding of what time is and what we truly experience when we move through it. That’s where we will pick it up next time.
(Image via Wikimedia Commons.)
I have a secret desire
Hiding deep in my soul
It sets my heart afire
To see me in this role
I wanna be a producer
Lunch at Sardi’s every day
I wanna be a producer
Sport a top hat and a cane
I wanna be a producer
And drive those chorus girls insane!
I wanna be a producer
And sleep until half-past two
I wanna be a producer
And say, “You, you, you, not you”
I wanna be a producer
Wear a tux on op’ning nights!
I wanna be a producer
And see my name in lights!
As discussed on last week’s show, the economy is currently undergoing significant change — little things like the elimination of the office, the elimination of employment as we know it, and maybe (eventually) the elimination or replacement of money itself! These transitions may prove incredibly painful, or just kind of painful. A key driver in making them as easy as possible is technology: the technologies that are turning us all into big-time consumers are advancing to enable us all to become big-time producers.
If we can be the ones independently producing goods or services, we can be participants in (rather than casualties of) massive economic change.
But to leverage such a transition we have to
1. Be aware of it
2. Decide to act on it
2. Carve out a niche for ourselves
3. Start producing
These are big steps for consumers to take! But they may be our best shot at avoiding economic meltdown.
Plus the change may need to occur beyond the economic realm. In order to make real progress in life in an era of accelerating technology / accelerating possibility, we can no longer just be “consumers” of outcomes (realized possibilities) produced by others. We have to start producing outcomes themselves.
We have to start making the future happen!
On this week’s show Will Brown joins Phil and Stephen to discuss how we can be all become “producers.” Don’t miss it!
About Our Guest:
Will Brown is a US Navy veteran who served in the Far East during and after the Vietnam War, followed by employment in the Middle East and Europe. He has worked in a variety of fields (aviation maintenance and assembly, material management and distribution, EMT, security, commercial welder, manufacturing and others) and has found the principles and intellectual assumptions presented in Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War to be relevant and beneficial over the course of his working and personal life. Now approaching age 60, Will looks forward to applying those principles to whatever opportunity life may yet present him. Will blogs at Where There’s A William, where his editorial viewpoint often reflects his interest in classical strategy and an unfortunate taste for low humor and bad puns.
NOTE: Due to Technical Difficulties, this week’s show is postponed one day and will air on Thursday.
The world really is changing in ways that are difficult to predict, sometimes even difficult to imagine. Phil and Stephen list some powerful transformations that are underway that will pretty much change everything — forever:
How strange can things get? Tune in and find out.
Sure we all want to live to see it, but how long will that take? How long do we want to live, how healthy do we want to be while doing it, and what are we prepared to do to bring those outcomes about?
Phil and Stephen welcome Christine Peterson to discuss her upcoming Personalized Life Extension conference and her new book, 17 Tactics for Health, Longevity, and Brain Fitness.
Christine will share the latest insights on how to:
Starting later this week, the most recent Personalized Health Conference Series will be available online at no charge via Christine’s new site, Healthactivator.com. That’s 10 Days of the latest groundbreaking information in optimized health, longevity and brain fitness brought to you by the expert.
World Transformed listeners are eligible for a $50 discount on registration for the upcoming online conference. Just go to healthactivator.com and use our special code TRANSFORMED when registering.
About Our Guest
Christine Peterson is a visionary and pioneer, a true transformer of the world. She writes, lectures, and briefs the media on coming powerful technologies, especially nanotechnology and life extension. She is Co-Founder and Past President of Foresight Institute, chair of the Personalized Life Extension Conference series, and the driving force behind healthactivator.com. She is also a pioneer in the open source software movement and the coiner of the term “open source.”
Psychological research indicates that it’s not easy for people to grasp how much they are going to change over time. A recent New York Times piece explores this phenomenon:
When we remember our past selves, they seem quite different. We know how much our personalities and tastes have changed over the years. But when we look ahead, somehow we expect ourselves to stay the same, a team of psychologists said Thursday, describing research they conducted of people’s self-perceptions.
They called this phenomenon the “end of history illusion,” in which people tend to “underestimate how much they will change in the future.” According to their research, which involved more than 19,000 people ages 18 to 68, the illusion persists from teenage years into retirement.
“Middle-aged people — like me — often look back on our teenage selves with some mixture of amusement and chagrin,” said one of the authors, Daniel T. Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard. “What we never seem to realize is that our future selves will look back and think the very same thing about us. At every age we think we’re having the last laugh, and at every age we’re wrong.”
Look back at yourself 5, 10, 20, or 30 years ago — or if you have the perspective to do so, 40 or 50 years ago — and ask yourself the following questions:
Most people will identify a number of substantial differences between their current and past lives. According to the research, we can expect the same level of change over the next span of the same period. In other words, 20 years from now your life (and you personally) are likely to be as different from you as you are from the you of 20 years ago.
Apparently, we are naturally resistant to that idea. There are advantages to such resistance, of course. It would be difficult to make plans or deal with difficult decisions if we were constantly reminding ourselves that we will probably look at this whole situation very differently in the future. Some part of success in life requires assuming a stasis that isn’t really there.
On the other hand, failing to get a handle on how different our lives will be, and how different we will be, exposes us to certain risks and prevents us from leverage any number of opportunities. This would be true even if our lives were changing in a world that was itself pretty much static, but that is far from the case. Technological and social change are taking place at an unprecedented and accelerating rate. Somehow we need to get a handle on future versions of ourselves living in a very different future world.
That’s right. Be a futurist. As the Great Criswell put it in Plan 9 from Outer Space, “We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.” But it’s not easy to do. As Yoda was quick to point out in The Empire Strikes Back, “Difficult to see…always in motion, the future is.”
The trick here is not so much to predict what’s going to happen as to start to get comfortable with what could happen. One helpful technique to support this kind of thinking is the scenario — a brief story or vignette that ties several possibilities together into a quick snapshot of the future. The definitive book on using scenarios for planning is The Art of the Long View by Peter Schwartz. I can’t recommend that book highly enough, but its focus is more organizational and institutional than personal. For personal scenario development, I recommend becoming pen-pals with your future self.
To begin, write a letter to your future self giving a quick glimpse of your life as it is now. I use futureme.org to do this. You can write a note to yourself in the future, set the send date, and voila! — a note from past you shows up in your inbox right on schedule. I got a note from 2006 Phil a while back, and it was quite an eye-opener, I can tell you. It’s amazing how much things change over the course of a five or six years. Try to send one or two of these messages each year. Mix it up. Send some messages 10 years out, others just two or three. This will be very helpful to Future You who over time will get a clearer and clearer idea of how much change he or she should be expecting in the years to come.
The only real problem with being pen-pals with Future Me is that he does not have a way (yet) of sending messages back to Present Me (any more than I can send messages to Past Me.) Writing to yourself in the future is a form of Practical Time Travel and, as I have explained previously, the practical approaches to time travel involve movement in only one direction. Forward. So to keep the correspondence going, I have to do Future Me’s letter-writing on his behalf.
Letters written to your present self from your imagined future self will be the very scenarios mentioned above, the ones that will help you to get a better handle on who you will be in the future. Here are some tips on how to compose a letter from the future.
1. Consider Likely / Possible Changes in Technology and Society
Imagine how day-to-day life will be different in a few years. If you can’t begin to, start with some of the big differences between day-to-day life a few years ago and now and project those forward. While it’s true — as they say in the mutual fund ads — that past performance is no guarantee of future results, such an exercise is a great start towards visualizing the future. Here are a few safe bets:
Those are all changes I have personally experienced over the past 25 years and that I expect to experience again over the next 25. But stated in such broad and sweeping terms, they don’t hit home.
Technology embedded in your daily experience? Imagine spending more time each day talking to your computer than you do to most other people. Imagine looking at the world 24/7 through glasses (or contacts) that provide an ongoing overlay of information — news updates, messages, location- or context-sensitive information — a live feed not unlike the nonstop crawl at the bottom of the screen on news channels.
Machines doing tasks that you normally perform? Think self-driving cars. Think robo-butler clearing the table. Think Siri 5.0 taking most of your calls for you — with the callers never even realizing they weren’t talking to you.
Interacting with people you don’t know via channels that don’t exist? Consider how transformative Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have been. Now project that forward. What form does it take? (Sorry, you have to do this one on your own.)
From there, I would add the following as real possibilities:
Anyway, that’s my assessment of where things will end up. Do you disagree? Good. Now do your own assessment. Just be aware of the causes and drivers that underlie any big changes you come up with.
Okay, now you have a good start on how different your world will be. Let’s take that next step.
2. Consider Possible Changes to You, Your Preferences, Your Circumstances
This goes to the heart of the mental block mentioned above. The exercises listed below can you help you get a handle on how different you and your life might be in the future.
NOTE: These are not plans. These are not presented as things you should want to have happen. They are intended to help you expand your thinking around what could happen.
3. Compose your letter
Pick a few of the elements from the first list and a few from the second and combine them into brief letter to yourself. Something like this:
Dear Past Self –
I am writing to you from the Magic City, sitting in my study that overlooks the meandering Yellowstone river here in beautiful Billings Montana. I moved here a few years ago after the last of the kids went away to college. This seemed the ideal place to begin seriously pursuing my work as a painter, and I am pleased to say that I’ve been going through a highly productive period. Betsy and I are still happily married, although living apart as she has remained in Phoenix. We hardly notice the separation, thanks to the full-immersion virtual presence service we use. The big upside is that our sex life has improved immensely (although I’m not supposed to say that.) Plus we now have plenty of personal space. I don’t think my interest in meditation is one she particularly shares, even though she was completely supportive when I was in rehab after the rock-climbing accident. It’s funny: I never really pictured myself as a rock-climber, but if I hadn’t taken that fall, I never would have started meditating and never would have realized that I’m really an artist. Now thanks to the full spinal repairs the doctors were able to perform using stem cells they made from some cells scraped from my tongue, I’m completely recovered. Better than ever, actually. Still, with all the great rock-climbing available here in Montana, I think I’ll just stick to painting.
Well, that’s all for now. Good luck getting here, and be careful on the rocks!
Your Future Self
A few notes about the letter:
When you have finished, send your future letter to your real future self. Down the road, it will be interesting to see if some of it, even some of the more outrageous stuff, actually comes true. The take a few more possibilities and compose a completely different letter from a completely different future you. After you have written five or six such letters, you will have a much better feel for hoe truly different the world and your life will be in the future, even if you get all of the details wrong — which you most certainly will.
Wired published a recent story about the take-over of robots – our jobs will, it argues, be mostly taken by robots.
Its hard arguing with the premise. Robots are improving exponentially, humans… not so much.
After robots finish replacing assembly line workers, they will replace the workers in warehouses. Speedy bots able to lift 150 pounds all day long will retrieve boxes, sort them, and load them onto trucks. Fruit and vegetable picking will continue to be robotized until no humans pick outside of specialty farms. Pharmacies will feature a single pill-dispensing robot in the back while the pharmacists focus on patient consulting.
I think Wired might be overly optimistic about the pharmacists. Why would a pharmacist be better at patient consulting than an AI? The Jeopardy-playing Watson AI is being trained in cancer medicine and will, no doubt, be a better diagnostician than Dr. House someday. Why would it not also be a better consulting pharmacist?
In fact, the last job people will ever do will be to give a human face to the AIs.
So that’s it: unemployed, or if lucky… getting a job repeating whatever a computer says. Forever. Pretty bleak, huh?
Fortunately when things change, more than one thing changes. Humanity has been pretty static in its intellectual development for… quite some time. But that is changing too.
We already live in a world where we operate as people much smarter than we, biologically, have any right to be. If you’re over 35 you remember a time when ignorance was a little more permanent. Because how much library time could a busy life accommodate?
I claim Google as a part of my brain. It was a joke seven years ago when it was just my home and work computer I was talking about. It’s much less of a joke today with smartphones. The relationship between us and our technology grows more intimate over time. Today its smartphones, tomorrow… well, Google is testing glasses that overlay data on the entire world.
A little further ahead our consulting AI pharmacist will buff up our biological intelligence, while engineers – AI and enhanced humans alike – build better and better bridges between us and our technology. The bridges will grow in number and quality until the line between us is blurred to meaninglessness.