Documenting the Coming Singularity

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Are Smartphones Influencing Human Evolution?

On techradar by Kate Solomon

Laptops and smartphones could alter our behaviour

One of the most embarrassing things happened to me when I was checking my phone while walking down the street one day. I was on my way to work scrolling mindlessly through Twitter and I walked straight into a lamp post.

Instead of handling it like the mature young career woman I thought I was, the shock of it made me burst instantly into tears. Bus-loads of commuters had seen and were, I imagined, laughing uproariously together. A taxi driver honked his horn, probably at traffic, but it felt like it was at my hilarious misfortune.

The memory of it makes me want to laugh and be held by my mother all at once.

There's no coming back from walking into a lamp post and bursting into tears on a busy public road. You have to just carry on and hope no one you know or fancy had seen. By 10 a.m. it was a tweet, by lunchtime an office anecdote, and by hometime I'd forgotten it even happened.

Still, it was an experience I'd rather not relive. It's strange that you don't see more people walking into trees and falling down open manhole covers as they check Twitter on the go. It turns out, I am the exception, not the rule, when it comes to clumsy walking and texting.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Why War in Space May Be Closer Than Ever

Scientific American - August 10, 2015 by Lee Billings

China, Russia and the U.S. are developing and testing controversial new capabilities to wage war in space despite their denial of such work.
The world’s most worrisome military flashpoint is arguably not in the Strait of Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, Iran, Israel, Kashmir or Ukraine. In fact, it cannot be located on any map of Earth, even though it is very easy to find. To see it, just look up into a clear sky, to the no-man’s-land of Earth orbit, where a conflict is unfolding that is an arms race in all but name.

The emptiness of outer space might be the last place you’d expect militaries to vie over contested territory, except that outer space isn’t so empty anymore. About 1,300 active satellites wreathe the globe in a crowded nest of orbits, providing worldwide communications, GPS navigation, weather forecasting and planetary surveillance. For militaries that rely on some of those satellites for modern warfare, space has become the ultimate high ground, with the U.S. as the undisputed king of the hill. Now, as China and Russia aggressively seek to challenge U.S. superiority in space with ambitious military space programs of their own, the power struggle risks sparking a conflict that could cripple the entire planet’s space-based infrastructure. And though it might begin in space, such a conflict could easily ignite full-blown war on Earth.

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Sunday, August 09, 2015

With Dating, Technology Isn't the Problem. We Are

NewStatesman - August 7, 2015 by Barbara Speed

Dating apps don't change what we want, they just gives us better access to it. 
Getty
The internet is ruining everything, right? It ruined teenagers. It ruined sex. And now, according to a big feature in this month’s Vanity Fair, it’s ruining dating.

The piece, by investigative journalist Nancy Jo Sales (best-known for her writing on the Bling Ring) opens on a savage vista: a Manhattan bar, where “everyone is drinking, peering into their screens and swiping on the faces of strangers they may have sex with later that evening”. A financial worker tells Sales he hopes to “rack up 100 girls” in bed per year, and has slept with five in the past eight days. “We don’t know what the girls are like”, his friend chips in. They just sleep with them.

Sales' piece is headlined “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse’”, and from here on out she inextricably links these woman-hating bros and their ilk with the rise of dating apps. The piece’s most convincing point centres on the "easiness” of online and app dating, a word that crops up again and again in Sales’ interviews. This easiness, David Buss, a psychology professor, tells her, changes the nature of demand:

When there is a surplus of women, or a perceived surplus of women, the whole mating system tends to shift towards short-term dating. Marriages become unstable. Divorces increase. Men don’t have to commit, so they pursue a short-term mating strategy."

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Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Robots Will Be Harder on Men

The Atlantic - 8/4/15 by Jerry Kaplan

Nearly half of today’s jobs are likely to become obsolete in the not-too-distant future.
Many economists and technologists believe the world is on the brink of a new industrial revolution, in which advances in the field of artificial intelligence will obsolete human labor at an unforgiving pace. Two Oxford researchers recently analyzed the skills required for more than 700 different occupations to determine how many of them would be susceptible to automation in the near future, and the news was not good: They concluded that machines are likely to take over 47 percent of today’s jobs within a few decades.

This is a dire prediction, but one whose consequences will not fall upon society evenly. A close look at the data reveals a surprising pattern: The jobs performed primarily by women are relatively safe, while those typically performed by men are at risk.

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Monday, August 03, 2015

Your Consciousness is Just Along for the Ride

SingularityHUB - AUGUST 2, 2015 by Shelly Fan

When the time comes to physically act on a decision, various unconscious processes deliver their opinions to a central “hub,” like voters congregating at town hall. The hub listens in on the conversation, but doesn’t participate; all it does is provide a venue for differing opinions to integrate and decide on a final outcome.
Think your deliberate, guiding, conscious thoughts are in charge of your actions?

Think again.

In a provocative new paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a team led by Dr. Ezequiel Morsella at San Francisco State University came to a startling conclusion: consciousness is no more than a passive machine running one simple algorithm — to serve up what’s already been decided, and take credit for the decision.

Rather than a sage conductor, it’s just a tiny part of what happens in the brain that makes us “aware.” All the real work goes on under the hood — in our unconscious minds.

The Passive Frame Theory, as Morsella calls it, is based on decades of experimental data observing how people perceive and generate motor responses to odors. It’s not about perception (“I smell a skunk”), but about response (running from a skunk). The key to cracking what consciousness does in the brain is to work backwards from an observable physical action, explains Morsella in his paper.

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