We Need to Stop Killer Robots from Taking Over the World
Nick Bostrom’s job is to dream up increasingly lurid scenarios that could wipe out the human race: Asteroid strikes; high-energy physics experiments that go wrong; global plagues of genetically-modified superbugs; the emergence of all-powerful computers with scant regard for human life—that sort of thing.
In the hierarchy of risk categories, Bostrom’s specialty stands above mere catastrophic risks like climate change, financial market collapse and conventional warfare.
As the Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, Bostrom is part of a small but growing network of snappily-named academic institutions tackling these “existential risks”: the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge; the Future of Life Institute at MIT and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute at Berkeley. Their tools are philosophy, physics and lots and lots of hard math.
Five years ago he started writing a book aimed at the layman on a selection of existential risks but quickly realized that the chapter dealing with the dangers of artificial intelligence development growth was getting fatter and fatter and deserved a book of its own. The result is Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. It makes compelling—if scary—reading.
The basic thesis is that developments in artificial intelligence will gather apace so that within this century it’s conceivable that we will be able to artificially replicate human level machine intelligence (HLMI).
Once HLMI is reached, things move pretty quickly: Intelligent machines will be able to design even more intelligent machines, leading to what mathematician I.J. Good called back in 1965 an “intelligence explosion” that will leave human capabilities far behind. We get to relax, safe in the knowledge that the really hard work is being done by super-computers we have brought into being.
A Bluetooth-Enabled Vibrator Made Me Reconsider Sexual Intimacy
My lover is a luddite. He says he doesn’t want to rely on technology because he doesn’t want to feel its absence if ever it were to be taken away. For example, last week Earth skimmed the boundaries of a solar storm, which could have seriously disabled the planet’s electricity grids. Matt would have likely been inconvenienced, whereas I would have likely killed myself before its repair.
As a blogger for a media website, I feel very integrated with technology. I often write about personal experiences and sometimes I’m given free products to advertise under the guise of narrative. The OhMiBod® blueMotion™ Bluetooth™ enabled vibrator sat quietly in a bed of pink packaging paper. The small box depicted a man on an armchair pointing his smartphone at a female who seemed to be dancing. The inner pamphlet said that the device was “perfect for couple’s play,” so I stowed it aside and waited for Matt to come home from work. I was sort of confused by the company’s marketing objectives, ultimately, but curious to test its wares.
When Matt came home we took turns ridiculing the product, which was probably just a result of our insecurity or nervousness.
“Why would anyone want this?” laughed Matt. “Why wouldn’t I just control you with my hands?”
Why and How to Leave Facebook
This 16-Year-Old Made an App That Exposes Sellout Politicians
With US politics swimming in so much corporate money that it’s pretty much an oligarchy, it can be hard to keep track of which particular set of lobbyists is trying to milk more cash out of healthcare, fossil fuels and other very important issues from one week to the next.
But thanks to 16-year-old Nick Rubin, keeping track of just how much politicians have sold out has become a lot easier. He created Greenhouse, a new browser plugin which operates under the motto, “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” The plugin aims “to shine light on a social and industrial disease of today: the undue influence of money in our Congress.” It sounds like a bit of a lofty aim for an app, but it’s actually pretty simple and effective—it provides a break down of a politician’s campaign contributions when that politician’s name comes up in an article. It is currently available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari and is completely free. As you can imagine, reading about how your Member of Congress voted in a recent health bill becomes all the more enlightening if you know how much money the health industry showered him in at the last election.
I spoke to Nick Rubin about the plugin, politics and what he calls the “money stories” behind what you read in the news.
VICE: Hi Nick. So how did you come up with the idea for Greenhouse?
Nick Rubin: Back in seventh grade, I gave a presentation on corporate personhood and ever since then I’ve been really interested in that issue. I think the one problem is that the sources of income for members of congress haven’t been simple and easily accessible when people have needed it. More recently, I’ve been teaching myself how to code and I thought that something like Greenhouse that puts the data at people’s fingertips would be a perfect solution. It really is the intersection of these two passions of mine—coding and politics. I made it after school and on weekends on my computer.
Why the name?
Well, green is the color of money in the US, and house refers to the two houses of Congress [the Senate and House of Representatives]. The name also implies transparency; greenhouses are see through and they are built to help things thrive.
Where did you get the information on the politician’s donations?
It uses the data from the last full election cycle which was 2012. This is simply because it’s just the most complete set of data that we have. But, the browser does provide access to the most up to date 2014 information by just clicking the name of the politician on the top of the window or theOpenSecrets.org link in the popup. So the 2014 data is just one click away.
I’m intending to update the data as a whole later in the election cycle as the 2014 contributions are more complete. These are updates I’m currently working on, as well as thinking of other ways I can expand the tool.
How to Be a Landlord in San Francisco
A fact about Frisco living is that we deal with a predictable litany of questions when we encounter someone from outside our urban womb: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the gays?” Or: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the earthquakes?”
But nowadays, instead, I get: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the evictions?” Evictions are the new earthquakes.
These days, San Francisco’s gonzo housing market is international knowledge. And yet, an unspoken truth about San Francisco housing is that the easiest job in the world is to be a landlord here. On the list of easy jobs, it edges out press secretary for the Secret Service, where the only words you ever get to say are, “That’s classified.”
I would know what an easy job it is because I am a San Francisco landlord. That’s why I started Small Property Owners for Reasonable Control as a PAC of insignificant landlords. We are small landlords (we own four or fewer rental units), and we support tenant protections, rent control, and limits on evictions because, as landlords, we know we’ve got it way too good.
Ten years ago, I bought a house in North Bernal with an in-law unit using a down payment I inherited and a mortgage I shouldn’t have been allowed to get. You know the kind of mortgage that caused the housing bubble and wrecked the world economy? I had one. Then, through no acumen of my own, my neighborhood became the Hottest Real Estate Neighborhood in America™. I got out of my sketchy mortgage and into a low-rate 30-year fixed because my home value rode a wave of appreciation fueled by the relentless power of startup pixie dust and tech VC hot air.
Now, because it is so groovy and desirable and close to the Google (and Apple and Yahoo and Genentech and Facebook) buses, no one I know can afford to live in my neighborhood. So instead of having friends nearby, I get to charge obscenely high rent. I don’t want to charge obscenely high rent. I’d rather have friends.
We Talked to a Dick Pic Expert About Vag Pics