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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Janko Kokosar: on 6/7/14 at 10:31am UTC, wrote Dear James Blodgett Thanks you, that you read my essay. I did know for...

Cristinel Stoica: on 6/6/14 at 21:34pm UTC, wrote Dear James, I like your essay, which is well written and interesting. I...

Denis Frith: on 6/5/14 at 23:27pm UTC, wrote James, Technological systems carry out nearly all the operations of...

James Blodgett: on 5/31/14 at 0:32am UTC, wrote Thanks Peter. I appreciate your appreciation. However, I am not...

Peter Jackson: on 5/30/14 at 17:30pm UTC, wrote James, Nice Essay. Keith Henson is truly a man with drive and inspiration...

Michael Allan: on 5/21/14 at 19:03pm UTC, wrote I still hope you're able to review my essay, James. I'll be rating yours...

Niccolò Tottoli: on 5/18/14 at 20:33pm UTC, wrote (Sorry for English errors: more safety - save the planet.) N.

Niccolò Tottoli: on 5/18/14 at 20:27pm UTC, wrote Dear James, dear people Whether we can save the world depends on the point...


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FQXi FORUM
August 22, 2019

CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: Steering Humanity by James Blodgett [refresh]
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Author James Blodgett wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 11:58 GMT
Essay Abstract

Humanity is on the cusp of tremendous prospects—but also of disasters. This makes steering important, steering towards the prospects and away from the disasters. We have no choice but to steer as best we can, since walking away from the steering wheel is also a form of steering. Steering is a collective act of all of humanity, but for us, steering starts with us. We steer by influencing organizations that have the resources to steer on the scale of all humanity, and sometimes by founding new organizations. The effectuality of steering varies, depending on the steerability of the underlying situation. Choosing the direction in which we should steer seems to require evaluation of the utilitarian value of potential outcomes in all of the many directions in which we might steer, including all of the future branches of those directions. In general this is an impossible task, but it becomes possible in the case of positive or negative singularities. When they are in the picture, they overwhelm other considerations. Humanity’s current management of these prospects is problematic. Our individual ability to change, or even just to tweak , the odds of these prospects is also problematic, but even a tweak can have enormous expected value because of the enormous number of lives at stake. Individuals can make a difference. Individuals are invited by this essay to try.

Author Bio

James Blodgett, MA (sociology), MBA, MS (statistics), practices the hobby of trying to nudge the odds of positive and negative singularities, with success that he suggests is typical for this type of pursuit: infrequent and minor but not nonexistent, and therefore with a meaningful expected value. He is Coordinator of the Global Risk Reduction Special Interest Group within American Mensa, and he is one of over two thousand Advisory Board Members of the Lifeboat Foundation.

Download Essay PDF File

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 03:21 GMT
James,

One significant component of steering is the direction the road takes and the opportunities we have to take one route, versus another. A point I conclude with in my own entry is that in our financial circulation system, we treat the units of exchange as commodities, when in fact they are contracts. This creates the tendency to extract value from the underlaying society and environment, in order to increase the amount of these units. I propose that if we were to treat them as contracts, whose essential value is based on that community and environment, it would reduce the inclination to hoard them and increase the tendency to store value in ones community and environment, rather than extract it. This is the fork in the road I see as most important in our current early twentyfirst century predicament.

Regards,

John Merryman

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 03:24 GMT
I put in the wrong link. Right one.

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Michael Allan wrote on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 04:23 GMT
Hello James, May I offer a short, but sincere critique of your essay? I would ask you to return the favour. Here's my policy on that. - Mike

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Michael Allan replied on May. 1, 2014 @ 15:27 GMT
(You accepted by email, thanks again.) Your earnest concern is strongly felt and helps to carry the reader along. I think your final paragraph is a good summary of the essay, "Humanity has tremendous future potential. Not achieving that future would be a tremendous tragedy. Somehow or other we should do a better job of getting there. We, individually and collectively, can help. Let's get going!"

Nobody can fault this message. My main complaint (dissenting from Tihamer) is that you're agreeing with the question (how to steer?) more than answering it. - Mike

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Michael Allan replied on May. 21, 2014 @ 19:03 GMT
I still hope you're able to review my essay, James. I'll be rating yours (together with all the others on my review list) some time between now and May 30. - Mike

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Joe Fisher wrote on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 16:31 GMT
Dear Mr. Blodgett,

Your essay was exceptionally interesting and I do hope that it does well in the competition. Might I humbly suggest that my essay REALITY, ONCE, is the best place a reader can learn of your: “the best version of singularities.”

Regards,

Joe Fisher

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Tihamer T. Toth-Fejel wrote on May. 1, 2014 @ 03:44 GMT
James -

Yours was an excellent essay that described not only a very important solution (creating a space-faring civilization), but also the historical background for why it is so important. You touched on the impact of AI; not only it's potential benefits and risks, but more importantly why the risks are worth taking as you showed how the Precautionary Principle is a logical mistake. Finally, you laid out the path to the solution, which while not earthshaking, is true--we are each all responsible for steering by educating ourselves and by recruiting people to our ideas.

You fleshed out in detail the "case for space", one of the technologies that I covered relatively briefly in my paper Three Crucial Technologies . You also mentioned AI, so I was surprised that you didn't cover nanotechnology--an area that will definitely make spacecraft much better and much cheaper. Nanotech may also enable Artificial Intelligence (which also depends on specific technologies like RDF and the Semantic Web), so a lot hangs on small things (pun intended :-) ). I describe a number of specific nanotechnologies that have the power to change the world.

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Tommy Anderberg wrote on May. 5, 2014 @ 20:45 GMT
I was asked for some feedback, I think primarily on the presentation, so here goes:

There is something unique in this essay, relative to all others I've read (including my own...): it tries to tell the reader what he or she can do. Everybody else describes a more or less realistic roadmap or set of conditions, to be realized by some more or less vague, presumably very powerful entities or forces. This emphasis on individual initiative is important and should be acknowledged.

Unfortunately it is easy to miss, and that may be why nobody else has commented on it. Looking at the abstract, it contains 213 words (1296 characters) explaining the importance and difficulties of steering, followed by two sentences (13 words, 80 characters) stating the actual message. The essay itself displays the same tendency; the reader needs to reach the halfway point on page 4 (admittedly picking up a few nice references on the way; thanks!) to start seeing where it's going in the less than 2 remaining pages.

Maybe it's not what happened, but my impression is that this looks like a first draft written while trying to decide what exactly to say. Sometimes, once you find your message, it is best to start over from scratch and focus on delivering it.

A minor quibble, if I may: Android is only partially open source, and that part is of the "throw the source over the corporate wall once written" variety. Any geek in the know will react badly to it being presented as an example of open development. Oh, and regarding space solar power, a very powerful entity does actually seem to be doing something about it. :)

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Georgina Woodward wrote on May. 6, 2014 @ 04:22 GMT
Hi James,

Yes we are rather like those mice. Its not just nature set to get us but the consequences of our technology. We have silted up dams and damaged fisheries, plastic pollution, an ozone hole, acid rain and so on. I like that you have sight of a tremendous future in space and also potential disaster. You wrote ". On a more optimistic note, we have strong motivation to avoid disasters, so hopefully we will find a way to avoid them. If we can conceptualize existential threats (threats to human existence) we can try to develop ways to guard against them." Sounds very sensible to me. Good to have solutions 'in the tool box' before they are needed.

Also I like that you , as you say, put a steering wheel in front of each of us, while also acknowledging the difficulty of steering with so many hands on the wheel. Nice call to action at the end. Georgina

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Niccolò Tottoli wrote on May. 18, 2014 @ 20:27 GMT
Dear James, dear people

Whether we can save the world depends on the point of view and on what we do in our daily life. (More people does not automatically mean that better ideas will come through.)

The longer the run, the more contraproductive is egoism, it leads to destruction and wars.

So let us see the whole picture, let us help each other and try to safe the planet, which...

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Niccolò Tottoli replied on May. 18, 2014 @ 20:33 GMT
(Sorry for English errors: more safety - save the planet.) N.

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Peter Jackson wrote on May. 30, 2014 @ 17:30 GMT
James,

Nice Essay. Keith Henson is truly a man with drive and inspiration and I'm with him all the way. Yet there are far more, ignored and dismissed by mainstream science based on and clinging to myth and legend. I believe that's the task, the wrest the wheel away and go off road to discover. That is after all what science is supposed to be about. For most it rarely was.

Shame you're not engaging in the process. An improvement to your score seems justified in any case.

Best wishes

Peter

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Author James Blodgett wrote on May. 31, 2014 @ 00:32 GMT
Thanks Peter. I appreciate your appreciation.

However, I am not terribly disappointed by my essay's current low rating. Essay rating by competitors has a conflict of interest, but even without that I am out of sync with the interest in scientific theory here, an interest that you share from an off road point of view. I do better when addressing a different viewpoint. I have published in World Future Review, and just had a paper accepted by the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, a nice counterpoint to this contest. Actually I share your interest in the truth of theories as an interested spectator of science, indeed as somewhat of a scientist if the sociology of science can be considered science. I studied some of that in grad school. I grok Kuhn's scientific revolutions. I see some of them playing out today, and I am interested in the result. However, I am working on and care more about something that I think is even more important than the truth of theories, and that is the future of humanity. Of course the clash and resolution of theories is part of the development of the science and technology that has been a big part of what has brought humanity this far. Of course science is a big part of our hopes for the future. However, with great power comes great responsibility. The real issue is for me is how we use science, and whether we promote and invent and finance and chance initiatives permitted by science but initiatives that need problematic commitment and funding and sweat equity and invention to implement. I am working on ways to motivate those things, and on ways for even individuals to contribute. It would be nice to present these from the bully pulpit of this contest, but the results say I need more polishing and a different pulpit, and I can work towards that.

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Denis Frith wrote on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 23:27 GMT
James,

Technological systems carry out nearly all the operations of civilization. People make decisions about using what is possible and take advantage of the goods and services technology provides by ravishing the eco systems. Humanity can steer the future only be making sound decisions about using technology during its lifetime. I propose in my essay a movement, Earth's Lodgers' Activity Management, to provide the leadership down that path.

Denis

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 21:34 GMT
Dear James,

I like your essay, which is well written and interesting. I agree with many interesting ideas it contains, and with the closing paragraph: "Humanity has tremendous future potential. Not achieving that future would be a tremendous

tragedy.". I fully agree, merely surviving is not everything.

Best regards,

Cristi

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Janko Kokosar wrote on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 10:31 GMT
Dear James Blodgett

Thanks you, that you read my essay. I did know for Asimov book “Last Question”, but I find it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Question. Yes, it is really a similarity.

The first problem at such theories and essays which we imagine, that rarely any one read them. Thus, reading of my essay is already a favour for me. At this contest it is a problem that it is not easy to read all essays. I hope that the next year will be made some help, for instance printing of all abstracts in one page.

Thus now I read your essay, although too late. Of course, a good essay with a good language. You speak about organization of space exploration for saving the earth. One of such organizations are already us in contest of FQXi. There are problems, to read all essays, to evaluate correctly, prevention of cheat, and so on. I hope that this will find improvements.

My essay

Best regards

Janko Kokosar

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