An Optimistic Vision for Expansion into Space

In his 2008 science fiction novel The Dark Forest, acclaimed author Lui Cixin offered a disturbing and simple explanation for why we haven’t detected intelligent alien life. It says that only one intelligent alien species exists, exterminating all others as they emerge. Let’s call that species The Predator.

While this makes sense to many as a solution to the Fermi Paradox (i.e. where are the aliens?), it has three problems:

(1) We Shouldn’t Be Alive Now. Presuming that the Predator is monitoring for signs of emergence, the best time to destroy us would…

In all things, I try to remain openminded yet skeptical. This has served me well over the years, and led me to some surprising perspectives.

One such thing is the Mandela Effect (ME). This is the name given to a phenomenon in which people remember having lived in a different reality than the one they now co-inhabit with the rest of us. It was so named when a researcher discovered that many people worldwide had memories of Nelson Mandela having died in prison, never having become President of South Africa. Since then, many other examples have been uncovered.

Most cases…

Eurovision: The Fire Saga Story is an amazing movie. It’s a touching love story, a good comedy, and a movie about pop music with some original songs that are sure to win awards.

It’s also an authentic movie. Mostly filmed in Iceland, it perfectly captures the culture in this unique society/country. It walks a delicate line between ridicule and admiration, and includes surprising richness in its characters. The making of this movie included actual Icelanders, and it shows. Many subtleties of the culture are shown.

I’ve never attended the Eurovision event, but multiple commentators have said that this part of…

I am going to tell you a story. I haven’t told this story to many people. But this seems the time to share it more widely.

In 2005, I attended Burning Man. I was there as a student, studying possible models for a post-scarcity society.

I was amazed by what I saw; the possibilities for humanity. A full flowering of artistic talent, expression, and experience. A city (it actually is a functioning if temporary city of 50,000+ people) devoted to this. Yes, there were shortages, and forms of abundance that were unsustainable. But it was a clear vision of possibilities.

The rational expectations view of markets requires that humans be rational actors. This has two fundamental problems. First, rationality is context-specific. And models, by limiting the context considered, risk mischaracterizing…

Science fiction is littered with dystopian stories. Many of them focus upon the prospect of an alien invasion.

Assume, for the moment, an irrational fixation on planetary resources by these visitors. They arrive in our system and, for unfathomable reasons, want to rule Earth.

How do they do it? Using 20th century technology, they:

  1. Affix rockets to dozens of asteroids, redirecting them into Earth orbit;
  2. Demand the unconditional surrender of all human governments;
  3. When the first government refuses, drop one of those asteroids onto its capital city. That city ceases to exist. (There is no defense to this.)
  4. After several…

Why do we have certification of lawyers, doctors, and other professionals with the power to make life changing decisions? To assure competency.

There should be juror certification. They would have to pass a standardized written test and demonstrate the ability to reason from evidence, understand and question assumptions, distinguish personal preference from fact, and recognize manipulation.

Then jury pools would be randomly selected from among certified jurors. No challenges by either defense or prosecution attorneys allowed; all of these jurors are competent.

The position should pay comparably to judges, to make the certification process worthwhile to jurors……and so that qualified…

So far as I can tell, the Left believes the following about technological unemployment:

  1. People who lose their jobs should be retrained;
  2. The rich should be more heavily taxed to pay for transfer payments;
  3. There should be guaranteed jobs for all;
  4. New programs (plural) of financial assistance should be enacted.

All of these ideas have serious deficiencies, which I will address. But first, some context. Many on the Left, as well as the Right, remain unaware of the magnitude of threat posed by technological unemployment. This despite forecasts by think tanks such as Nomura, Merrill Lynch, and Brookings that about…

So far as I can tell, it’s a statement of faith that past is prologue. Specifically, that because all past waves of automation generated more new jobs than were destroyed, this wave of automation must do the same.

But sometimes what’s new really is different. This is such a time. The automation now emerging has these unprecedented attributes:

  1. Machines that learn like people learn: by observation, trial, error, and correction. Once a single such machine can perform a job at human-equivalent levels, unlimited copies can be made.
  2. Machines that surpass humans in intellectual activities. These include not only game-playing machines…

It has been argued that the overstatement of AI capabilities (e.g. Musk’s promise of fully autonomous cars by 2018, which some have called hype) risks a retrenchment in AI funding and development. This is nonsense.

Hype is always part of the rollout of new technology. In the past, excessive AI hype did result in a funding retrenchment. But that was when the US had no peer in AI development. If the US allows political winds to dictate AI funding, we can be sure that China won’t, and so AI will progress regardless.

Speaking of hype vs. fact, it’s equally true…

Jonathan Kolber

I think about how to create societies of sustainable, technological abundance. My book, A Celebration Society, offers one solution. It has been well received.

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