Quotable (#219)

The NYT talks to Thiel:

His critics demanded to know how someone who immigrated from Frankfurt to Cleveland as a child could support a campaign so bristling with intolerance. How could a gay man back someone who will probably nominate Supreme Court justices inclined to limit rights for gays and women? How could a futurist support a cave man who champions fossil fuels, puts profits over environmental protection and insists that we can turn back the clock on the effects of globalization on American workers?

“There are reduced expectations for the younger generation, and this is the first time this has happened in American history,” Mr. Thiel says. “Even if there are aspects of Trump that are retro and that seem to be going back to the past, I think a lot of people want to go back to a past that was futuristic …

That “a past that was futuristic” thought could go somewhere — all we need is a name for it.

Simplified Drake

Drake equation

Great Filter calculation proceeds, around the back:

… according to a new paper published in the journal Astrobiology, recent discoveries of exoplanets combined with a broader approach to answering this question has allowed researchers to conclude that, unless the odds of advanced life evolving on a habitable planet are immensely low, then humankind is not the universe’s first technological, or advanced, civilization. […] “The question of whether advanced civilizations exist elsewhere in the universe has always been vexed with three large uncertainties in the Drake equation,” said Adam Frank, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester and co-author of the paper, in a press release. […] … “Thanks to NASA’s Kepler satellite and other searches, we now know that roughly one-fifth of stars have planets in ‘habitable zones,’ where temperatures could support life as we know it. So one of the three big uncertainties has now been constrained,” explained Frank.

Thing is:

However, the universe is more than 13 billion years old. “That means that even if there have been a thousand civilizations in our own galaxy, if they live only as long as we have been around — roughly ten thousand years — then all of them are likely already extinct,” explained Sullivan. “And others won’t evolve until we are long gone.”

(Apologies for the image quality — stumped in my search for a better one.)

Quotable (#121)

From the recent (and excellent) profile of Nick Bostrom in The New Yorker:

Bostrom worries that solving the “control problem” — insuring that a superintelligent machine does what humans want it to do — will require more time than solving A.I. does. The intelligence explosion is not the only way that a superintelligence might be created suddenly. Bostrom once sketched out a decades-long process, in which researchers arduously improved their systems to equal the intelligence of a mouse, then a chimp, then — after incredible labor — the village idiot. “The difference between village idiot and genius-­level intelligence might be trivial from the point of view of how hard it is to replicate the same functionality in a machine,” he said. “The brain of the village idiot and the brain of a scientific genius are almost identical. So we might very well see relatively slow and incremental progress that doesn’t really raise any alarm bells until we are just one step away from something that is radically superintelligent.”