Sunday, September 8, 2013

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines - Five Reasons Humans Should Not Become Machines!

September 08, 2013 - TECHNOLOGY - Are humans doomed to a machine-like future of radically-enhanced lifespan and intelligence, but without the intangibles that have made our 200,000 year-old species so unique?

Using technology to stave off Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other neurological maladies is easy to justify. But is it inevitable that humans and machines will meld into a Borg-like future?

That is, something akin to the “Trekian” villains who appear to have all the personality of a side-by-side refrigerator.

“I don’t think it’s inevitable, but there are powerful forces pushing us in that direction,” said Nicholas Agar, a philosopher at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington and the author of the books, “Humanity’s End” and the forthcoming “Truly Human Ehancement.”

“Whether we want that future is often presented as a simple picture,” he said. “But we need to practice defensive ethics and think about what could go wrong.”

For perspective, asked Agar to address five possible reasons humans will never and should never become machines.

— We are already irreplaceable biological “machines.”

And even if we could be replaced, says Agar, we shouldn’t, because we’d risk losing the intangibles that make us human.

— Humanity should never go along with being totally usurped by human-machine hybrids.

“Humans may be tricked into that process,” said Agar, “but if they think about it, they will recognize that that process deprives us of a lot of what we think is important.”

— Humans have too many intangibles to be effectively replaced.

Advocates of radical cognitive enhancement view humanity in a very simplistic way and goal-oriented way, says Agar; who says such proponents simply just want posthumans that are smarter and that live longer.
But creative processes such as art, music and dance are not goal-oriented, says Agar. Even higher levels of mathematics require creativity.

— There’s no reason to totally replace human brains with artificial ones.

“I’m looking forward to a [world] without Alzheimer’s,” said Agar, “but there’s a lot that’s worth preserving.”

— It’s arguably technically impossible.

As Agar notes in “Humanity’s End,” by some by some estimates the brain may have quadrillions of neural connections. Thus, replacing human brains with artificial ones may be technically impossible. And if not, he says there are some things that are technically possible that simply shouldn’t be done.

Star Trek as a cautionary tale. Above, Jean Luc Picard has been assimilated and given a new identity as a Borg.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia

Even so, a prosthetic hippocampus brain implant could in effect offer a way out of Alzheimer’s; since, in theory, it would provide sufferers of such neurological disorders with new ways to encode and retrieve memory.

But is such an artificial hippocampus the first step toward radical enhancement?

Agar says it’s certainly one of them, but notes it would be irrational to upload one’s brain to external hardware, even if you were “pretty confident” it would work.

“It would be a bit like playing Russian roulette,” said Agar.

He says when technologists like Ray Kurzweil talk about our machine futures, Kurzweil imagines that the machines that we become will be interested in artistic and emotional aspects of human existence.

“But I think that would be ditched,” said Agar. “Poetry is about human vulnerability and emotion. If you didn’t feel that vulnerability, why bother writing it?”

How could a Borg-like future be precipitated?

A lateral view of the hippocampus highlighted in blue.  Modified from Gray's Anatomy
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If you could upload the activity of your prosthetic hippocampus then it’s all there,” said Agar. “That’s the last bastion of privacy that the NSA [National Security Agency] or some successor organization could have access to.”

The mere act of uploading our brains into hardware opens up the potential for outside monitoring of our most private thoughts. This, in turn, could open the door to Borg-like outside brain control.

Such radical cognitive enhancement could also rob us of the natural process of neurological evolution.

Advocates of this radical enhancement, says Agar, ask — Why trust nature when we can choose our future?

“It almost sounds unsophisticated, but I like being human,” said Agar. “Radical cognitive enhancement could actually set back our attempts to understand the universe rather than accelerate it.”

Science proceeds by selective simplification and idealization, says Agar who argues that cognitively enhanced science could cause humans to lose our innate human sense of curiosity about our place in the cosmos. That’s the very thing that has long driven man to set sail and peer into the heavens.

And as for entertainment on long night drives?

A generation of radically-enhanced poets, playwrights, songwriters and singers might be about as inspiring as sheet music. Would a radically-enhanced Robert Frost still be compelled to stop by those “woods on a snowy evening”?

Don’t bet on it. - Forbes.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Over 2,000 POUNDS Of Fish Suddenly Die In Atascadero Lake, California?!

September 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - City public works crews cleaned more than 2,000 pounds of fish from the Atascadero lakeshore Friday resulting from a sudden die-off.

Photo by Luke Phillips An Atascadero Public Works crew member works to clean up more than 2,000 pounds
of fish Friday in a sudden die-off resulting from low water and oxygen levels at the Atascadero Lake.
For more photographs, get a copy of the Wednesday, Sept. 11 Atascadero News.

"We knew the oxygen levels were getting low; we tested them [Thursday] and saw they were getting low,” said Bob Joslin, Atascadero public works operations manager. “We went [Friday morning] to test them again and saw the fish were dead on the shore.”

Joslin said drought conditions this year have produced a quickly evaporating body of water at the Atascadero Lake Park, one that now holds its deepest points at just four-to-five feet, a good eight feet lower than the lake is at its fullest.

The low water levels mean lower oxygen content for the fish, and that brings a deadly consequence for the animals.

Part of the problem is that the so-called lake is not really what its name implies.

“It’s not really a lake, it’s a big pond, and when the water gets hot, it starts to stagnate,” Joslin said. “We’re being as proactive as we can. We do what we can do, but with this weather and the low levels, there’s not a lot we can do. It’s a natural phenomenon, and it’s happened before.” - Atascadero News.

HIGH STRANGENESS: Mystery From Above - Huge Chunks Of Ice Fall From The Sky Over Brooklyn, New York?!

September 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Chunks of ice apparently fell from the sky on an 80-degree day in Brooklyn. The question is, where did they come from?

© CBS New York

Terry Blasi and Louie Vitale said they were sitting on Blasi's porch on Wednesday when something the size of a softball crashed through the trees.

"All of a sudden something had come down through the trees really loud and then a loud thump on the ground," Vitale told TV 10/55′s Dick Brennan on Friday.

The pair raced to the street and found a chunk of ice.

"It must have come through really fast and then thud. It sounded like a bowling ball went through," Blasi said.

Ice was scattered around the street.

"I said, 'Holy [expletive]. Where did this come from?' and we're all looking up all over the sky," Vitale said.

A plane is the most likely suspect as the ice landed on East 36th Street, near John F. Kennedy International Airport.

"Usually they say the ice is blue if it comes from an airplane latrine. But this is solid ice. I think it was something high-flying and it fell off," Blasi said.

Some neighbors offered other theories.

"I hope it's not from outer space. Those things are radioactive," a man named Dave said.

Blasi's family is worried.

"My step-daughter grabbed the baby, panicked, ran, grabbed the baby, said it was extra-terrestrials," Terry said.

Experts said that if it had come from space the impact would have been much worse.

Blais has preserved the ice in her freezer. The Federal Aviation Administration will look at the evidence on Monday. Until then, neighbors said they plan to take precautions.

"Hard hat, Kevlar. I'm gonna look both ways and then look up, left, right, and up," Vitale said.

Blasi said she is dying to know what happened. - CBS New York.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: Unusual Mortality Event In The Mid-Atlantic - High Number Of Bottlenose Dolphins Dying Off North Eastern United States!

September 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (as amended), an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) has been declared for bottlenose dolphins in the Mid-Atlantic region from early July 2013 through to the present day.

Bottlenose dolphin stranding in NJ.
© Marine Mammal Stranding Center.

A much higher number than usual of strandings of Bottlenose dolphins has occurred in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

These Bottlenose dolphin strandings are more than seven times the historical average for the month of July for the Mid-Atlantic Region. All age classes of bottlenose dolphins are involved and strandings range from a few live animals to mostly dead animals with many very decomposed.

As yet, there are no unifying gross necropsy findings although several dolphins have presented with pulmonary lesions. Preliminary testing of tissues from one dolphin indicates possible morbillivirus infection, although it is too early to say whether or not morbillivirus may be causing this event.

Probably infectious disease

Based on the rapid increase in strandings over the last two weeks and the geographic extent of these mortalities, an infectious pathogen is at the top of the list of potential causes for this UME, but all potential causes of these mortalities will be evaluated. Work is underway to determine whether an infectious agent affecting these dolphins is present in collected tissue samples.

25 years since last major event when more than 740 dolphins died

It has been 25 years since the 1987-1988 bottlenose dolphin morbillivirus mortality event that occurred along the mid-Atlantic coast, involving more than 740 animals and spanning from New Jersey to Florida.

That massive die-off, along with a humpback whale mortality event in 1987 off the coast of Massachusetts and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill prompted Congress to formally establish the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program with the specific instructions for the UME Program as Title IV of the MMPA. - WLE.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Another Meteor Explosion Over Ferrara, Italy - Second Within Two Days!

September 08, 2013 - ITALY - A first meteorite exploded in the sky of Ferrara Italy on September 3 2013. Two days after, this one was filmed by the exact same cameras.

The images were shot at 10:11 pm on September 5, 2013 west of Ferrara, Italy.

WATCH: Fireball over Italy.

- Strange Sounds.