Show 495: Science, Science Fiction, and the Future of Humanity

Science, Science Fiction, and the Future of Humanity w/ Christopher L. Bennett

Advances in technology have already allowed us to achieve remarkable things, from the internet to space travel to medical technology, all of which would likely have been considered “miracles” only a few centuries ago.

In many works of Science Fiction, and in Star Trek in particular, the future is depicted as one in which this trend continues; working together, we cooperatively solve our social problems and expand into deep space, achieving things that would seem incredible even today. In the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, even God was seemingly afraid of what humans can achieve together. Seeing them building a tower to heaven itself, He foiled the humans by complicating communications by making them all speak different languages. Besides being a rather silly explanation for the origins of language, this was a similar tactic as when God demanded the first humans not to eat from the tree of knowledge and remain ignorant subservient to Him.

Philosophically speaking, should we continue to build that tower and conquer the heavens? Or should we be doomed to ‘speak different languages’ and proceed no farther into the universe?

Science fiction author Christopher L. Bennett addresses some of these issues in his novels, Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel, which directly references the Tower of Babel story, and more recently, Only Superhuman, which deals with future technology granting us real superhuman powers. Bennett is an accomplished sci-fi novelist, having also written a number novels based on Marvel’s superhero universe as well as Star Trek. He will discuss with ETFF science fiction, technology, the future of humanity!

Show 400: “The Singularity (Summit) is Near; Should we be Afraid?”

“The Singularity (Summit) is Near; Should we be Afraid?”

On October 15th and 16 the Singularity Institute will convene in Manhattan at the ’92nd Street Y’ for a second NYC Singularity Summit. The annual Singularity summits began in 2006 and the first one held in New York City in 2009 was attended by hundreds of the world’s most intelligent and visionary people.

The Singularity Summit is the premier dialog on the “(Technological) Singularity” – the name given to a point in the not-so-distant future when artificially engineered intelligence will surpass the intelligence of humans.

A common belief about such an event is that it is fraught with danger for the human species. But when we think about the future of highly developed AI, is the scenario popularized in such sci-fi classics as “The Terminator’ and ‘The Matrix’ series really something we should expect? Might it be possible that such an event may instead facilitate the realization of humanity’s collective dream of a world free from scarcity, drudgery, sickness, and suffering?

To help us sought out these other related questions and we will be joined by scholar of futurism, and producer of the “Changesurfer Radio” podcast, Dr. James Hughes. And to tell us about the upcoming Singularity Summit we will also be joined by Singularity Institute President, Michael Vassar. So take your seats because the singularity (summit) will soon be here.

Show 281: Futurist, John Smart

Futurist, John Smart of the Acceleration Studies Foundation

The world of the near future will bring challenges that are much stranger and far more disruptive than keeping your flying car from drifting out of its lane.

Casting off the limitations of traditional religious and cynical attitudes about humankind going to hell in a hand basket, it becomes possible to imagine a radically different future that may be highly desirable. That a happy future for humankind is possible, and that we need to begin preparing for, and ensuring the realization of such a future is the key concept with which all futurists are concerned.

On this installment of Equal Time for Freethought we consider our future with one of the preeminent futurists of our time John Smart.

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Show 254: Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age with Maggie Jackson

From the Publisher:

We have oceans of information at our fingertips, yet we seek knowledge in Yahoo headlines glimpsed on the run. We are networked as never before, but we connect with friends and family via email and fleeting face-to-face moments that are rescheduled a dozen times. Distracted is a gripping exposé of this hyper-mobile, cyber-centric, attention-deficient life. Day by day, we are eroding our capacity for deep attention— the building block of intimacy, wisdom and cultural progress. The implications for a healthy society are stark.

And yet we can recover our powers of focus through a renaissance of attention. Neuroscience is just now decoding the workings of attention, with its three pillars of focus, awareness and judgment, and revealing how these skills can be shaped and taught. This is exciting news for all of us living in an age of overload. In her sweeping quest to unravel the nature of attention and detail its losses, Maggie Jackson introduces us to scientists, cartographers, marketers, educators, wired teens, and even roboticists. She offers us a compelling wake-up call, an adventure story, and reasons for hope.

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