Illustration for article titled SimEarth, the Pope, space-based solar, GPS trackers, big aliens

1. This is RF bait: James Lovelock, SimEarth, and superintelligent AI all in one essay.


"As humanity tackles the idea of the Anthropocene—the proposed name for the idea that we are now in a new geological age, one in which humans possess SimEarth-scale powers to affect the planet—we’re at a crossroads. But SimEarth and its lessons are as relevant as ever. So is Lovelock. At age 95, he has just released a new book—a poignant bit of timing, given that SimEarth just came to an end. A Rough Ride to the Future is part autobiography, part a continuation of his philosophy of Gaia. In it, Lovelock suggests a period of 'accelerated evolution'—literally a million times faster than Darwinian evolution—began in 1712 with the invention of the steam engine. That’s brought amazing technological progress (like video games) alongside unprecedented uncertainty about the future of humanity. The catch is, as Lovelock writes, 'we are not yet evolved enough to regulate ourselves.' Lovelock says that’ll change in the coming decades with the advent of superintelligent artificial intelligence, a transition that he says humans should embrace because it will help us to bring about a great future and spread throughout the galaxy."

2. Black-box algorithms, precarious workers, and the Pope.

"I’ve written on Catholic social thought before, and I still consider it an extraordinary source of person-centered social theory. Francis is a particularly eloquent advocate, critiquing 'an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.' We’ve had decades of policy arguing for more 'flexible workers,' who can turn on a dime to meet any demand by employers (and who will now be monitored ever more closely to assure compliance). The Pope replies, simply, Why not create economic structures better suited for human flourishing?"

3. Of course China is mulling a space-based solar power station.

"However, he is confident that China can build a space solar power station. Li Ming, vice president of the China Academy of Space Technology, says, 'China will build a space station in around 2020, which will open an opportunity to develop space solarpower technology.' The space station could support experiments on the key technologies of constructing spacesolar power station, Li says. China is also expected to develop a new generation heavy-lift launch vehicle, he adds. 'When space solar energy becomes our main energy, people will no longer worry about smog or the greenhouse effect,' says Wang."


4. The law continues its long struggle with the explosion of data available about people.

"If the government puts a GPS tracker on you, your car, or any of your personal effects, it counts as a search—and is therefore protected by the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court clarified and affirmed that law on Monday, when it ruled on Torrey Dale Grady v. North Carolina, before sending the case back to that state’s high court. The Court’s short but unanimous opinions helps make sense of how the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, interacts with the expanding technological powers of the U.S. government."


5. Not sure I understand this logic, but I fully support aliens being huge.

"Furthermore, since population density is widely observed to decline with increasing body mass, we conclude that most intelligent species are expected to exceed 300kg. Primitive life-forms are a pre-requisite for advanced life, and so the planets which host them must trace at least the same volume of parameter space. Our conclusions are therefore not restricted to the search for intelligent life, but may be of significance when surveying exoplanets for atmospheric biomarkers."


On FusionThe craziest Bitcoin saga in history just got a whole lot crazier.

Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip:

dog days. Associated with the 'pernicious influence' of the Dog-star (Sirius, the greater or Procyon, the lesser), not with the fact that dogs go mad in hot weather. A period of from 4 to 6 weeks between early July and early September. Popularly the sultry, humid part of summer.


The Credits

1. | @ibogost 2. | @journoscholar 4. 5. | @pkedrosky


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