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10 Unsettling Future Technologies

Transcript

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On this channel, I often talk about advanced alien civilizations and speculate about what
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they might be like.
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But the fact is, if you think about it from the perspective of the rest of the universe,
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we ourselves are an advanced alien civilization.
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And, with technological advancement, whether alien or here on earth, will come options
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for our society where we all may want to pause and think before we take the plunge.
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Some of these scenarios are more immediate, and if they come to pass as they appear right
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now, will be realities in just a few years.
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Others lie further ahead in the future, but if all of this is managed carefully then they
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all offer our species great advantages.
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If mismanaged though, they could be catastrophic, so here are ten unsettling potential future
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technologies.
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Number 10.
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The Genetic Engineering of Humanity
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As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
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In this case that means that technologies initially intended to improve life, can step
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past certain boundaries and go into unsettling territory.
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Nowhere is this more apparent than in the science of genetics.
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Humans have practiced genetic modification for thousands of years through selective breeding.
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We’ve built our system of agriculture on it, producing corn from what was originally
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a type of grass, or cows selectively bred from the aurochs, which are currently extinct,
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though there are efforts to change that.
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But with the advent of modern genetics, we gain an increasing amount of power over just
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what we can do by directly modifying the genetics of plants and animals.
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But, this also applies to us.
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Genetic research and modification is already revolutionizing how we treat and prevent disease.
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This is a good thing.
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But it also offers other possibilities, such as the creation of designer babies, that can
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have whatever traits their parents might want; an activity that gets a bit close to eugenics.
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But, if unchecked can go much, much further.
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In addition to creating designer humans, ideal soldiers could be created by unscrupulous
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governments, or even entirely new, synthetic species of animal or even humans with abilities
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that natural evolution did not provide.
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Think superhumans.
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In short, at some point, we will need to ask ourselves if we truly want to be the lords
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of our own evolution, or if such things are best left to nature.
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9.
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Shrinking Technology
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There was a time, not long ago, when to get the computing power of a modern cell phone,
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you needed a computer the size of a building.
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This is no longer the case and as our electronics become increasingly more advanced, they are
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likely to continue the trend of miniaturization, including increasingly tiny microphones and
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cameras.
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Quite tiny cameras and microphones are already commercially available, see your cell phone,
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and work to miniaturize them further goes on.
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Ridiculously tiny cameras are of particular use in medicine for example to see inside
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the human body at levels unheard of to us now, but obviously such things would also
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be useful for espionage.
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Micro Cameras and tiny microphones used for spying are of course nothing new, but as electronics
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have grown cheaper, more easily available, and tinier, it’s now possible for regular
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people to spy on each other on a level that actual spies during the cold war could only
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dream about.
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Where will all of this end, will someday potentially all of us be under the view of imperceptibly
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tiny surveillance devices by anyone, government or otherwise, with access to such miniaturized
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equipment?
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8.
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The Democratization of Advanced Technology
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It used to be that technology, particularly biotechnology, was solely the realm of the
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very few that had access to enormous amounts of funding.
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And, even during those days, there were mishaps, unintentional though they were.
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Regarding nuclear technology, during the Castle Bravo nuclear test in 1954, the weapon yielded
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2.5 times it’s predicted energy due to a mistake by the scientists.
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While it may never be viable to create a nuclear weapon in one’s own garage, it’s certainly
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now possible for rogue governments to do so.
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This is also true for chemical or biological weaponry, and eventually someone might create,
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intentionally or not, a pathogen so deadly that it could cause the extinction, or near-extinction
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of the human species.
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As the technology to do this becomes ever more accessible, it’s anyone’s guess what
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someone in their garage might do.
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7.
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The Loss of Mental Privacy
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In an age where privacy certainly isn’t as easy to come by as it used to be, especially
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on the internet, the one place that still seems absolutely inviolable may some day not
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be.
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This is the human mind itself, and as scanning techniques, understanding of the brain, and
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technology improves it may become possible, at least in principle, to completely decode
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a person’s thoughts.
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Termed thought identification, this currently rudimentary area of neuroscience is at a level
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where things like recognition of objects can be discerned through brain scans.
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One the one hand it may not be of much use to know when a person is recognizing a mundane
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object like a tomato, but how about a criminal recognizing a crime scene?
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And, there is also the question of reading someone’s immediate intentions.
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Neuroscientists can see, through scanning techniques, what a person’s choice will
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be in an immediate situation, at least to a degree, before the person physically acts.
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It may be cheating to know what someone will do while playing a boardgame a split second
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before they make a move, but what about a car anticipating the driver’s actions before
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they can physically act?
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That might save lives, or improve the lives of people who cannot speak on their own.
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But, this is a technology that we will need to weigh the ethics of heavily, since every
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aspect of it seems to carry both immense pluses, in the right situations, but also horrors
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if misused.
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Do we want a world where scanned thoughts are admissible in court?
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How how about the decoded thoughts of one individual being sent to another person’s
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head?
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Can there ever be secrets in such a world?
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If this comes to pass, we’re in for a strange world indeed, should advanced thought identification
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ever become a reality.
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6.The Indistinguishable Being
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Whenever I’ve done videos touching on the dangers of artificial intelligence, I always
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get a string of comments of two types.
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Those that fear it and view it as the chief existential threat to the human species, and
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those that don’t think it can ever become a reality.
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In other words, the jury is still out.
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Yet the technology marches onward nonetheless.
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Regardless of whether superintelligent A.I. will ever be a reality, or a threat, one thing
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we can be more certain of is that our computers are becoming, at least outwardly, increasingly
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human-like.
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At some point, it may become virtually impossible to tell if you’re having a conversation,
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say by phone, with a human or a machine.
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We’ve known for awhile that we were eventually going to reach this point.
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In 1950 Alan Turing devised a test that distinguishes a machine’s ability to, well, act human.
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In recent years, there have been claims of computers that have passed the Turing test,
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though this is, of course, debated.
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But one thing seems certain, there will come a day, probably sooner rather than later,
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where machines will at least seem like they are human and thinking, even though they are
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not.
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5.
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The Von Neumann Trap
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The danger here is machine reproduction.
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Can a machine make another machine?
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Well, yes, we can to a large degree automate factories to make cars for example, though
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this is still something heavily dependent on human programmers and maintenance.
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But it’s not hard to envision a day where that may no longer be the case, and the programming
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and maintenance of machines is largely done by other machines, and they may ultimately
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do a better job at that than humans leading to a fully automated means of production.
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What this means for the employment of the human race remains to be seen, but the idea
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that machines can make other machines may continue from where it’s unfolding now to
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a much more efficient and advanced state where machines can make copies of themselves quite
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autonomously.
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This is an almost natural outcome if you think about it, it’s what life does.
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We are self-replicating organic machines in a sense, and this all would simply be applying
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nature to technology.
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The ultimate use for self-replicating machines is, of course, colonizing the galaxy.
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One could create a handful of such machines and send them out into the universe to go
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from star system to star system to collect materials and make more copies of themselves,
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and within a relatively short time, at least on geologic scales, we could have such a machine
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in every star system in the galaxy.
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Eventually though, such machines if left unchecked might consume entire galaxies, and one hopes
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that if there are alien civilizations out there, they have not made this mistake lest
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earth end up victim to someone else’s self-replicating probes, or home-grown nanotechnological counterparts
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that could consume our planet if control of them is lost, though that may not be the doomsday
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scenario that is sometimes predicted, but instead a much slower process that could potentially
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be mitigated.
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But what of another possibility?
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What of another kind of machine reproduction, that of machines propagating out into the
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universe to create not just other machines, but biological beings?
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What of a machine that can create humans, rather than humans traveling to distant systems
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themselves?
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Perhaps humans genetically tailored by their creator von neumann machines for the environments
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of other exoplanets?
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I recently spoke with Dr. Avi Loeb of Harvard University about just such possibilities in
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an interview for my new long-form show, Event Horizon, a relevant clip from the interview
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is linked below and the full show debuts on September 20th.
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Or you can go to YouTube.comBACKSLASHeventhorizonshow, all one word or hit the link below, to subscribe.
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Be sure to hit the bell to get the notifications.
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4.
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Nanoweaponry and the Invincible Soldier
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While it’s unclear what the ultimate end is for nanotechnology and what level of threat
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it might present to the human race — there may be far easier ways to devastate this world
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if one really wanted to, imagine a colony of humans in space that decided they want
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to cause the extinction of humans on earth by redirecting an asteroid towards us if we
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didn’t give them 1 million space dollars, but nanotech itself may provide a more targeted
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threat.
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If this technology pans out, it may allow for clandestine or battlefield uses, such
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as clouds of airborne nanotech that can configure themselves to identify a target, cloud around
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them and ignite as a sort of fuel-air weapon.
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This would allow nations to create an invisible, perhaps invincible soldier.
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How would one fight such a thing?
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3.
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Geoengineering
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One thing regarding space exploration that we’re just now beginning to talk about is
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the idea that we hypothetically could take a dead planet such as Mars and terraform it
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to become habitable for earth life.
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While it’s not yet entirely clear how feasible terraforming will turn out to be, Mars for
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example was recently determined not to have enough carbon dioxide for the standard method
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behind that task, it won’t have been the first planet humans have terraformed.
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That title goes to Earth, we’ve been changing this world large scale for quite some time
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now, and we gain an increasing ability to change it even further the more we advance.
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Eventually there may come a time where it’s necessary to change it, whether to mitigate
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climate change or even improve the conditions of this world and make the planet better.
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At what point will this world no longer be a natural planet, but one with only remnants
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of nature?
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Is it that already?
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2.
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Brain Hacking
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If you can read a human brain’s thoughts, might you also be able to change and manipulate
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them?
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While this might have profound effects on things like treating mental illness, or even
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crime prevention, at what point do things go too far and leave the realm of what we
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would consider normal as humans?
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Is it dangerous to delve into this subject in a world where politicians function on the
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concept of changing enough minds to get elected?
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What of dictatorships?
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What of an artificial superintelligence controlling the collective minds of humanity?
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When do we become the Borg?
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Number 1 Eternal Digital Damnation
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Virtual reality technology is continually marching forward hallmarked by increasing
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realism.
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It seems the mind and technology may begin to merge and virtually reality might become
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a matter of not tricking the brain externally through the senses, but tricking the brain
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through a direct interface with technology.
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While it’s not yet clear how realistic that could be, those technologies are early in
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their development, one could speculate that there could come a time where seamless science
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fiction-like virtual reality could, well, become a reality.
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This is usually depicted in science fiction sometimes as a utopia, a place where existence
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is perfect, or a dystopia even if most people inside don’t realize it one, such as The
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Matrix.
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But there is a dark side to all of this, if technology can be pushed to this level, one
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could also just as easily create a virtual hell.
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This could be done for punitive reasons as a sort of prison, or just for fun by some
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sadistic entity in which to imprison and torture other entities.
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And there you have it, ten scenarios where coming or hypothesized future technologies
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might go horribly wrong.
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But it can also be said that the development of these technologies can be guided to only
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good ends by a vigilant human species.
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We may well only develop these technologies for positive use, that is still possible.
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But I leave you with one thought, what happens if we reach a point where superintelligent
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technology can create and improve its own technology?
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Thanks for listening!
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I am futurist and science fiction author John Michael Godier currently living in fear of
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a world controlled by technologically superintelligent plants eternally paying me back for years
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of salads!
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Never augment your plants with intelligence and be sure to check out my books at your
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favorite online book retailer and subscribe to my channels for regular explorations of
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the interesting, weird and unknown aspects of this amazing universe in which we live.

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