Roseites and Bostromites

Epistemic status: Speculation. Grasping at a distinction that might or might not be useful. Playing around with dichotomy to see what happens.

 

The venture capitalist David Rose once told a group of students (I was there: I don’t think the speech was published) to think about things that “will have to happen” as technology develops, and to create businesses that will enable those things.

For example: If the Internet allows a store to have a near-infinite selection, someone will have to found Amazon.

I recently realized that Rose’s way of thinking parallels the way philosopher Nick Bostrom thinks about the future. As an expert on global catastrophic risk, he asks people to figure out which things will have to not happen in order for humanity to develop, and to create organizations that will prevent those things from happening.

For example: If nuclear war would wipe out civilization, someone (or many someones) will have to ensure that no two nuclear-armed groups ever engage in all-out war.

 

If you were to divide people into two groups — the followers of David Rose, and those of Nick Bostrom — you’d get what I call “Roseites” and “Bostromites”.

Roseites try to make new things exist, to grow the economy, and to enhance civilization.

Bostromites try to study the impact of new things, to prevent the economy’s collapse, and to preserve civilization.

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Immortality Is Exciting

TL;DR: Immortality may seem like it would be boring. But an awful lot of people have hobbies and projects that would probably work out better if those people had more time to get things done. What’s more, these activities might be more exciting the longer they went on, rather than less.

To illustrate this, I use the example of a Go master, who is in love with a fiendishly hard game and might continue improving for centuries, given the chance — and that’s just one popular board game in a universe of activities.

Introduction

I’d like to clear up a common misconception about living forever.

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Dubstep in Vienna: Or, Craving Things That Don’t Exist

Reading time: 8-10 minutes, plus one short song.

A collection of musings around the topics of art, yearning, and synthesizers. 

 

How I learned to love music

Most people worry about the future. Some people worry about the past. I worry about alternate histories: things that never happened, but what if they had?

One of those what-ifs has been on my mind lately:

What if I’d been born early enough in history that I never got to hear electronic music?

* * * * *

I still remember the first time I knowingly heard a synthesizer. (Whatever electronic sound effects Britney Spears and Nelly were using had escaped my notice.)

I was 12, and riding in the car of my good friend Peter Andrews. His mother was driving, and we were listening to songs from the 1970s. Most of them were background noise, and held no interest for me.

Until…

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Sky Lanterns and the World of Tomorrow

I just started writing for Applied Sentience, a blog curated by the humanist chaplaincies of various American colleges. This post first appeared over there.

Whether or not you like me, the other folks at Applied Sentience write really great stuff about physics, ethics, religious policy, and many other notable topics. Check them out!

* * * * *

Humanist communities need more wonder.

This isn’t the fault of the humanist communities. Most religious communities also need more wonder. Most people need more wonder.

(The words “awe” and “transcendence” could stand in for “wonder” – I’m referring to that whole category of emotions.)

Whether it comes from the high note of a gospel hymn or the highest rocket in a fireworks display, wonder might just be the single best emotion. Mix wonder with affection, and you get love. Seek out wonder in your daily life, and you might avoid the hedonic treadmill that so often exhausts the pursuers of happiness. As far as I know, wonder never gets boring.

I don’t come by the feeling of wonder easily. And when I do, it’s hard to tell whether the things that give me that feeling will also work for other people.

(For example, most people don’t see dubstep as a quasi-religious experience.)

But last November, I stumbled onto something I think could become a wonder-inducing ritual for humanists around the world. The ritual is cheap, safe, beautiful, and equally accessible to one person or a gathering of thousands.

I could reveal it now, but this essay will make more sense if I tell you a story first.

Read the rest here!

 

Ten Big Questions

At a recent symposium, social scientists gathered to create a list of “big questions” that might serve as a driving focus for academics in the years to come—inspired in part by David Hilbert’s (largely successful) use of this technique to guide mathematicians.

More on the symposium here. The final list of questions is highly informal, but gives us a good idea of what problems are on the minds of very smart people:

1. How can we induce people to look after their health?

2. How do societies create effective and resilient institutions, such as governments?

3. How can humanity increase its collective wisdom?

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20 Things I Wish I Knew At 20

I may be only 20 years old, but there are many things I wish I knew.

So, in honor of these endless lists:

1. Who wins Super Bowl XLIX?

Vegas is already accepting bets. I could use the money.

2. Which of the 715 books on my Amazon wish list are worth reading? 

I just know I’m going to waste weeks threshing my way through all the chaff.

3. When will the next big earthquake hit Los Angeles? 

Frankly, I’m shocked that this wasn’t on the other lists. If I knew this, I could save thousands of lives. Think big, people!

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