kingubu said,Alternatively it's when you meet Camus wandering along the beach with a gun, and you tell him that there's no reason to shoot some stranger and he says that there's no reason not to either.
May 5, 2007 at 2:04
Its when Nietzsche shows up at your door with a hammer, brandishing his giant mustache and muttering ominously about what nice idols you have and how it would be a shame if something were to happen to them.
Alternatively you can take your bad self to The Lifeboat Foundation, where the musicians aboard the Titanic are only too glad to explain that
An existential risk is a risk that is both global and terminal. Nick Bostrom defines it as a risk "where an adverse outcome would either annihilate Earth-originating intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential". The term is frequently used to describe disaster and doomsday scenarios caused by non-friendly superintelligence, misuse of molecular nanotechnology, or other sources of danger.I always imagined that the band who kept playing while the Titanic sank was a full symphony orchestra, with double strings and a ruthe in the percussion section so they could play Mahler's 2nd, but it turns out to be merely an octet. There was the usual quintet who "played at teatime, after dinner concerts, Sunday service etc.", with another three musos drafted in from the "trio of violin, cello and piano that played in the reception room". I had no idea that the Titanic was such a threadbare shoestring operation. You could look it up.¹
The Lifeboat Foundation was formed to prevent existential events from happening, as once they occur, humanity may have no possibility to correct the error. Unfortunately governments, and humanity in general, always react AFTER a disaster has happened, and some disasters will leave no survivors so we must react BEFORE they occur. We must be proactive.
The Lifeboat Foundation is developing programs to prevent existential events ("shields") as well as programs to preserve civilization ("preservers") to survive such events.
It turns out that there are so many urgent crises converging upon us that the Foundation have had to prioritise their efforts and work on the most immanent ones first:
With those problems solved, some time in the future they will turn their ingenuity to devising a Climateshield. Evidently climate change is a relatively non-pressing threat to human survival, which is reassuring... along with "abuse in the areas of neuropharmaceuticals, neurodevices, and neurodiagnostics. Worst cases include enslaving the world's population or causing everyone to commit suicide" (to be addressed by NeuroethicsShield) and "particle accelerator mishaps including quantum vacuum collapse, mining the quantum vacuum, formation of a stable strangelet, and the creation of artificial mini-black holes" (ParticleAcceleratorShield). With the problems of aliens and antimatter barely visible on the horizon, there can be no doubt about these people's solidly-grounded sense of perspective.
Long Range programs:
Going back up to the truly urgent issues, details are meagre about the AIShield that will cope with "against unfriendly AI (Artificial Intelligence)". The panel concludes that it would be a Good Thing for the coming AIs to be friendly, but they are vague about the nature of AI, and also about the nature of friendliness (this being an emotional state, which they have already determined to be undesirable in an AI). They may have been watching The Forbin Project.
In a vexing lacuna, nothing at all is said about the existential threat posed by hostile AIs decades in the future using time-travel technology to send cybernetic assassins back into the present day to wipe out individuals with the potential of threatening them later.
As compensation there all the detail you could possibly desire about Nanoshield, and more neologisms than you could shake a stick at:
Another method is to examine chunks of material. If we assume a possible size on the order of 10 cubic microns, detection of a potentially dangerous nanodevice in a cubic meter of material would require that 1017 chunks of material be examined. To perform such an examination for each of the 1015 cubic meters within two meters of the earth's surface using "rod logic" (nanomechanical computation at the molecular level, as proposed by K. Eric Drexler in Nanosystems) would require roughly the Earth's incident solar energy over a 15 minute period for every computational operation involved in characterizing a particle as a threat.The whole section has a barking madness that I cannot recommend sufficiently... a kind of hard-edged cold-light-of-day surrealism, resulting from the authors' hope that speculative magic and visions of god-like omnipotence will not seem so magical (or indeed, speculative) if coated in a patina of clinical language. Talk of "21 THz infrared radiation, the approximate resonant stretching frequency of the Ge-C dimer bond" is all very well, but it does not address the Ya-canna-break-the-laws-of-physics-captain concern.
It would also require the practical disassembly of every object on earth and some technique for utilizing the information acquired. Because some defensive probes would be expected to fail in the ordinary course of events, this technique would also fail to detect ecophagy armed to defend themselves. Even a less thorough examination, testing a single 10 cubic micron sample volume chosen randomly in each 10 cm3 region of space (a one-in-a-trillion sampling rate), would be disruptive, computationally intensive, and relatively easy to circumvent.[...]In the aftermath, advanced molecular manufacturing and nanomedicine should allow us to repair many forms of damage to biological organisms, including individual human beings. Much, although perhaps not all, of the natural global ecological infrastructure might be reconstituted if proper genetic and statistical records have been maintained that describe the location and design of every large object and organism.
There is no time, alas, to look at the SecurityPreserver, which was contributed by someone selling surveillance technology, and addresses the existential threat posed by people who want privacy.
See too, and also.
¹ No-one ever talks about the musicians aboard the life-raft of the Medusa, which is a bit rough, they deserve recognition too.