Reason #217 to read Eliezer Yudkowski's website.

"I am Eliezer of Borg. You have the option of being assimilated."

Q. Is resistance futile?
A. We are happy to help you with all forms of futile resistance. We regret that, to ensure the safety of others, non-futile resistance is not possible at this time.

Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
I hadn't previously heard of a few of the speakers at Stanford's Singularity Summit, but I know every single one of the following eight names, and it's the most exciting lineup of Guests of Honor ever. It's interesting to finally find out from their photos what some of them look like.

- Ray Kurzweil, inventor, futurist, author of "The Singularity Is Near"
- Douglas Hofstadter, cognitive scientist, author of "Gödel, Escher, Bach"
- K. Eric Drexler, nanotechnology pioneer, author of "Engines of Creation"
- Nick Bostrom, director of the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute
- Cory Doctorow, science fiction author, blogger, technology activist
- Eliezer Yudkowski, Director and Research Fellow, Singularity Institute
- Christine Peterson, VP Public Policy, Foresight Nanotech Institute
- Tyler Emerson, Executive Director, Singularity Institute

The "What others have said" section shows Marvin Minsky, Hans Moravec, Vernor Vinge, Ben Goertzel, Jamais Cascio and Jaron Lanier. I wonder if they'll be at the summit? That section also lists Bill Gates, Bill Joy and Stephen Hawking.

But it's not a science fiction convention, it's an academic conference. These aren't really Guests of Honor, because that implies the presence of their fans at the event. This is by RSVP only. That's fine-- it's important that specialist professionals gather to do valuable work on the problems and promises of the Singularity in peace. That having been said, it would also be fantastic to get any of these to speak at Penguicon, especially since it's a Linux and Open Source software expo in addition to a science fiction convention. Many of them would probably demand an appearance fee, which all-volunteer not-for-profit SF conventions don't pay. And many of them probably would not want to be seen to be associated with a science fiction event (except for Cory Doctorow, who has already been our Guest of Honor). But Christine Peterson says in her Singularity Summit promotional blurb "If you're trying to project the long-term future, and what you get sounds like science fiction, you might be wrong. But if it doesn't sound like science fiction, it's definitely wrong."

I enjoyed reading the comment by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Professor of Law, University of Tennessee, which is extremely signifigant to me as a non-specialist:

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nemorathwald: (Matt 3) features an MP3 and lyrics, by Charlie Kam, to a Transhumanist rewrite of "I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General" from Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance". It's goofy and delightful proof that we Extropians, Transhumanists and Singularitarians do not necessarily treat our ideas with a cultish seriousness.

(As if we needed any further proof of that than Charlie Stross' satirical Tough Guide To The Singularity.)
I'm LMAO. You've got to read this parody article on Locus Online:
Charles Stross Attains Posthuman Status
"... Aussie critic and potential "Spiker" himself, Damien Broderick, comments, "I tried to visit [Greg] Egan years ago, and found myself stuck in a timelike infinity loop once I got too close to his nominal address. Only the concerted efforts of Stephen Baxter, Vernor Vinge and Greg Bear were able to free me."
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
As reported by, Science fiction author Charlie Stross has started a Wiki called Singularity! A tough guide to the rapture of the nerds. The stated intent is to learn about the Singularity, but this would only be true in roughly the same sense that QuackWatch is a site to "learn about" alternative medicine. What Stross has written in his wiki so far is pretty funny, but it's difficult to interpret his intent as anything but debunking and ridicule. I recommmend Eliezer Yudkowski's mind-bending Shock Level 4 Wiki to those interested in learning about the Singularity.

Charlie Stross has written serious fiction that is fascinating and enjoyable for those interested in the Singularity, such as the delightful "Toast: A Con Report." But from a self-marketing perspective, what effect does he expect to have on his readership by expressing off-handed contempt for them in this site? Consider how his sometimes-collaborator Cory Doctorow gains readership and sells books by positioning himself as the champion of our media consumer rights, thus shaping the actual future. Both of these self-marketing strategies-- Doctorow's brilliant one and Stross' apparent lack of one-- are unrelated to the writing talent of the author, and of course both of these authors would not have succeeded unless they were talented, but it's a fact of life that attracting the necessary attention to succeed in media is about understanding who is making what entertainment choices and the psychology behind it.

For instance, I used to read Orson Scott Card voraciously until he turned the center of his public platform into his religious views, instead of his fiction. (Homosexuals and secular humanists did not do that, he did. Those who want to keep their private religious views from affecting their sales are wise, and don't write newspaper editorials about it.) These days I shrug and "ho-hum" over his novels even though they are no less brilliant. It's natural for authors to prioritize writing talent over all other concerns, but do they understand that not all their fans are like that? We're not just "the readers," we continue to exist after we put the book down. That means we don't care about quality fiction as much as we care about our own passions, from which our reading choices stem.

Charlie Stross could take a lesson from the approach of Matthew Woodring Stover's interview with The SF Site. Stover criticizes problems with the fantasy genre as currently seen on store shelves, but unlike Stross he does not have fun at the expense of those who enjoy it, he flatters them with having a craving for better. His criticism is in earnest, he cares enough to repair fantasy rather than discard it, and he describes how he does so. As a result, this interview was the first time I felt a real interest in reading fantasy, and if I do it will be Matthew Woodring Stover.

This is the correct approach to pointing out problems (of which there are many) with the Singularity meme for anyone who wants to be an SF author. Point out issues with Eric K. Drexler and Ray Kurzweil in that way and we will flock to you; if the best you can do when we are introduced to you is call us goobers for having taken them seriously, we will not be motivated to read you. As Eliezer Yudkowsky has said about certain Singularity fiction authors in a conversation with Damien Broderick, "The Singularity is not an ironic commentary on the rate of change." As that rare creature, a science fiction fan who still actually believes in the future, I know what it's like to thoughtfully ponder outrageous possibilities, with an eye that is critical without being an antagonistic outsider. I want to read an author only when I can tell that she or he knows what that is like.
nemorathwald: (Matt 3)
Last time I posted this I think all of you skipped over it, since memes are ordinarily so boring. So I'm posting it again. I picked up this meme from [ profile] jeffreyab and [ profile] rikhei. Take the timeline and fill in the story of your past and your plans for the future.

Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 3) has a humorous set of notes that an artificial intelligence might need in order to pass the Turing Test. For example:
Clever questioners will ask about your feelings. Safe responses: 1. I'm anxious. 2. I'm depressed. 3. I'm hungry. Bad responses: 1. I'm itchy. 2. I'm righteously indignant. 3. Constipation's gone!
According to Evolution As A Team Sport by Douglas Rushkoff, the Renaissance had many ways in which that which had been 2 dimensional became 3 dimensional. (Such as perspective painting, circumnavigating the globe, and calculus.) In the current web-enabled Renaissance, such trends continue. Read the article.

"Originally, the collective was the clan or the tribe - an entity defined no more by what members had in common with each other than what they had in opposition to the clan or tribe over the hill. Networks give us a new understanding of our potential relationships to one another. Membership in one group does not preclude membership in a myriad of others. We are all parts of a multitude of overlapping groups with often paradoxically contradictory priorities. Because we can contend with having more than one perspective at a time, we needn't force them to compete for authority in our hearts and minds - we can hold them all, provisionally. That's the beauty of renaissance: our capacity to contend with multiple dimensions is increased. Things don't have to be just one way or directed by some central authority, alive, dead or channeled. We have the capacity to contend with spontaneous, emergent reality."
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
How much of the way of life that a person chooses has to do with crafting an identity, a persona?

Take for instance those who join the Society for Creative Anachronism, dance to "Under A Harvest Moon" by a Celtic acoustic band, protect the environment, shop at Whole Foods Market, collect fantasy art, worship aboriginal pantheons, study geneology, pay for alternative traditional remedies, and pine for the simpler and more romantic days of yore.

Consider those who attend science fiction conventions, listen to highly-produced electronica, live entirely on Hot Pockets and Breakfast Toaster Scrambles in the car, read WIRED Magazine, collect art of artificial eco-habitats floating in outer space, scorn the religions and heritages of the world, donate to genetic engineering and artificial intelligence research, would implant their cell phone in their ears and an internet-equipped PDA in their eyes if they could, and can hardly wait for life to get faster, prettier and more complicated.

I could name other categories than these two, but is it really ideology? Such as that between past and future, between nature and technology, between gods and man? How much of the difference between counter-cultures is just ... a fashion statement? A series of "identity purchases" that cultivate a "Total Personality LifestyleTM"?
nemorathwald: (Matt 3)
At Cafe Penguicon on Friday night of ConFusion, I playtested Planet Catan. This is my variant of Settlers of Catan played on a Hoberman sphere. The player must balance the strategies of mega-engineering the planet Catan to fit the colonists, or bio-engineering the colonists to fit the planet Catan. Through the game the colonies diverge into human subspecies until the planet is irreversibly transformed to be habitable by the winning global techno-ecology. This is a photo of me with one of the playtesters (whose name I failed to get, which is a bad habit of mine) and another photo of ESR on the left and [ profile] ded_guy on the right, pointing. (Correction. It is not him after all.) They were both playtesters; the bald guy in the center is a bystander. Congrats to ESR for winning, and thanks very much to the playtesters for awesome improvements to the game. I must buy a used Hoberman sphere now so I can play it at Star*Con and Penguicon. Here are the rules:Read more... )
I loaned [ profile] rikhei some of my GURPS: Transhuman Space roleplaying sourcebooks at ConFusion. Instead of hijacking her LJ comment to talk at length about this, I'll make a new post here. David Pulver's GURPS: Transhuman Space series is one of my favorite works of science fiction ever, despite not being a novel. It's almost a compendium of a certain radial category of SF tropes; a subgenre that matches the tastes of that subset of fen who are just as happy reading non-fiction pop-science futurics (like Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition by Ed Regis) as they are when reading a narrative with characters. In the literature-centric convention culture I actually felt embarrased admitting to this.

[ profile] jeffreyab said he likes TS but likes Traveler more. I guess this is correct; I didn't buy TS to actually play it (although I do and I enjoy it). Traveler is possibly better as a game qua game,* because in a "good" roleplaying setting the hero's campaign is able to change the world in the mythopoeic sense. I've been told that's what roleplayers want. When I play TS the roleplayer character's actions make a difference in the same limited personal sense as in real life. But I don't care; I mainly read or roleplay SF for the future shock, in which TS is unsurpassed.

More about ConFusion in the days to come. Particularly, there will be thoughts related to what motivates a SF/F audience to choose a particular subgenre of book, media, fannish activity, or other "ghetto of choice." Much of the con experience happened to converge profitably on this theme.

* Oh my ghod, I just said "qua," forgive me.
nemorathwald: (Matt 3)
I picked up this meme from [ profile] jeffreyab and [ profile] rikhei. Take the timeline and fill in the story of your past and your plans for the future.
Read more... )

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