Archive for October 13th, 2010


October 13, 2010

Another smorgasbord of bite-sized speculations on the amazing world of tomorrow, in FoL…

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers said talent is mainly the residue of hard work, preparation, circumstance, and “the contributions of lots of different people.”

Howard Gardner (Five Minds for the Future, Multiple Intelligences) says let’s look into that, in a multidisciplinary way, and see if we can’t get to the bottom of what makes creative people tick. But do we really want to know? I’d love to understand more about the psychology of motivation, especially my own. But how much close inspection of genetic profiles and neural signatures can we indulge, without damping the spark of our own spontaneity and killing the magic? Are we too fragile to gaze into that mirror?

Still thinking about radiotelepathy: what if Wittgenstein was right, and we literally can’t think what we can’t say? Can we, must we, “draw a limit to thought”? (Tractatus) Maybe we’d better keep things strictly verbal, lest we lose our facility for stringing sequential thoughts entirely.

And doesn’t the language-thought equation also subvert the possibility of significant cross-species telepathy? Conversely, would that possibility subvert Wittgensteinian linguistics?

Radiotelepathy: too weird. Bring back “good old-fashioned nanotech,” like it was back when Eric Drexler (“The Incredible Shrinking Man“) was cool. I want my replicator, so I can order up my tea (“Earl Grey, hot”) and my replacement parts for whatever breaks. Let the “magical molecular assemblers” work their wonders. Would they really leave us with nothing to do but stagnate? That didn’t seem to be a problem on the Enterprise.

And if that’s not weird enough: “honey, I shrank the planet.” Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s pulling our legs, right?

Marc Hauser’s in hot water over questionable research practices, and we’d all be in it if we really answered his invitation to “let your imagination run wild” and went crazy with genetic manipulation experiments. Einstein plus Bach? What?

Same for Lewis Wolpert’s proposal to program fertilized human eggs “to develop into any shape we desire.”

Juan Enriquez seems excited about our new ability to store everything digitally, but much of everything is highly forgettable. We don’t need to archive everything. Why do some of us want to? I’m still not interested in tweeting my breakfast menu.

Stuart Kauffman says the world’s wide open and we don’t know what can happen. “We do not know the space of possibilities.” Has he read his Pluralistic Universe?

Gregory Benford notes those 5,000 year old Bristlecone pines, so symbolic to the Long Now crowd but whose decline was lately noted. Hope that’s not a harbinger.

Is it just me, or are Marcelo Gleiser‘s thoughts on cloning and storage strange even from an edge perspective? Anyway, don’t we already know how to “migrate to a new copy of ourselves when the current one gets old and rusty”? The self-help shelves are full of instructions on how to do it.

Less out there, but no less unsettling: Smith & Calvin on climate change. Strange how we got to the point of really needing to make contingency plans in case the world– the world— gets flooded.