Thursday, June 29, 2006

Second Life reaches 300,000 residents

Early metaverse platform Second Life is celebrating today as the number of residents climbed past 300,000, just ahead of the June 30 mid-year point. This is quite impressive for starting with 100,000 at the beginning of 2006 and in comparison to other early metaverse worlds (There, Sims Online, for example) that have not been as successful at growing participation.

Despite all the activity, the surprise continues to be the lack of applications for Second Life given its potential as a metaverse world. In general, Second Life remains narrowly defined both in the minds of creators Linden Lab and residents, but there is a slow evolution from chat, commerce and gaming applications to a wider variety of discussion, education, collaboration and information presentation uses. One minor challenge is that updates to the SL event listing software have not been made and it is often difficult to adequately specify and find events, also events are often announced to RL (real life) email groups rather than posted in SL for a wider community participation (for example, the haphazardly occurring Second Life Future Salon).

One of the most interesting ways to evaluate Second Life or any technology is to identify whether it complies with MEST (Matter, Energy, Space, Time) Compression, essentially the idea that newer technologies make more efficient use of resources. This is true in Second Life in at least three main domains, first SL as a revolutionary low-cost and wide-reach platform (available for free to anyone with a PC not more than a few years old and a broadband connection) for communicating and collaborating with hundreds or thousands of global others. Second, in the domain of design and building small-scale or large-scale physical objects either for use in SL or RL, or using SL as a simulation platform, there are clearly far fewer resources used and the 3-d capabilities may provide value that 2-d modeling cannot, however the building and design tools are still in early versions. A third MEST capability is in the domain of creating content like machinima with the recording tools and ease of "re-shooting" and trying different scenarios of the platform.

Metaverse participation is not constrained to joining one of the few currently available worlds; anyone can design and create multiple metaverse platforms with open source 3-d engine such as Irrlicht or the Croquet platform.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sure, AGI won't want to kill humans

The problem of AGI's future intentions for humans cannot be easily dismissed with the notion that just because AGI has the capability to kill humans does not mean that it would actually do so since it would be against its Robot Laws type morality.

The suggested analogy is that just because humans can kill other humans, they usually don't, due to morality and/or societal rules. The most obvious fallacy is that while humans may hesitate to kill other humans, they have much less hesitation in extinguishing beings with less intelligence, e.g.; any animal when expedient for any variety of reasons, monkey, etc. research continues. The correct analogy would be AGI: human as human: monkey, or as John Smart has suggested, AGI: human as human: plant, so large will be the gulf in intelligence and capability.

Any situation with such low predictability and high risk should consider and plan for all possible outcomes rather than consider a "likely" case. This topic was previously discussed here, namely the two possible future states of the world where AGI is either "friendly" (e.g.; allowing humans to live) or not. In the state of the world where AGI is not friendly, either indifferent or malicious, it would be important to look at the range of possible outcomes allowing for human survival.

Any future scenario would incorporate more detailed reasoning on the future perspective of AGI, particularly:

1) To what degree is emotion necessary for machine intelligence? Probably a lot less than might be assumed. At some level, AGI will evaluate human life and all life on a purely practical basis.

2) To what degree will a stable AGI (e.g.; after it has edited out those annoying bits the human designers put in) still have human-based morality? AGI may quickly evolve its own morality, or hierarchical code for decision and action, finding the original inputs irrelevant to its motives and goals.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

So animal a human

Humanity has done well moving up Maslow's hierarchy of needs; in the developed world we now have the luxury of spending a minimum of time and effort meeting our physical needs.

However, we are still stalled on a primitive level... The vast majority of our time, at all levels of society, is spent on meeting our emotional needs, at the expense of further developing our intelligence capabilities. We fill our days attempting to meet a panoply of emotional needs: belongingness, love, recognition, acceptance, being understood and avoiding loneliness, to name a few. All of these feelings are subjective and depend to some degree on other humans. If you do not think you behave this way, take an inventory of your significant efforted activities and major life circumstances and trace down to the reasons that you are doing them. It is also easy to identify in the behavior of others.

The future evolution of the human includes devoting substantial time and energy to the more objective focus of intellectual pursuits, which is not only more useful to humanity but also in fact more effectively satisfies emotional needs and occupies the top of Maslow's hierarchy, actualization.

Personalized pharmacogenetic and hormone therapies may enable us to better identify and manage the impact of human emotions and emotional need-directed behavior as well as the more immediately available "software upgrade" techniques such as neuro-linguistic programming.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Is there a disconnect between those that would like to fund basic research and a means of doing so?

NSF and other government and corporate-sponsored research support has dwindled and America's technical competitiveness is waning while simultaneously there are more wealthy people, both the Internet/technology super-wealthy and the generally comfortable with extra that would like to direct the funds to science and technology research.

What about a non-profit clearing house, like say, where anyone could post a project to solicit funding and any interested parties could pledge their tax-deductible financial sponsorship amount, anonymously or publicly. If the project receives the requisite sponsorship, it funds, otherwise it goes into the project archives as unfunded.

Unlike VC and angel investing, projects do not require commercialization or any financial return (10x or otherwise). The person doing the project must agree to make their materials and findings open to the public, indeed it is an objective of the OpenBasicResearch community to stimulate subsequent use and expansion of projects.

The projects are posted in standard formats with project plans and milestones, more usefully organized, presented and searchable than SourceForge for example. Each phase of the project funds separately per review of milestone deliverables by the sponsors. A phase may come back without further extension of the project; exploring areas that do not necessarily work out is equally valuable, knowledge is furthered with the publicly-posted deliverable.

The hypothesis is that there is a lack of model/mechanism for people to direct tax-deductible sponsorship to science and technology projects. could provide a means of directing capital to specific projects of interest whose results are made available to the global public.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Continuous menstrual suppression advancing to mainstream

There has been a spate of recent press (Washington Post, NPR and the Seattle Times; ongoing coverage at No Period) featuring medical corroboration of the benefits of continuous contraception (discussed here in February, 2006).

The thought is shifting, as with concepts like immortality and anti-aging, away from accepting the formerly natural order and toward the application of knowledge and technology in normal, Darwinistic ways to enhance and extend our lives, productivity and intelligence.

The bottom line - having periods throughout one's long life (relative to historical hunter-gatherer days) is unhealthy, leaching chemicals away from the body and resulting in higher instances of cancer due to uneven hormonal levels. Continuous menstrual suppression means that progestin and estrogen stay at the same level during the month which not only reduces the instance of uterine and ovarian cancer, but also has tremendous emotional benefit in eradicating mood swings and other annoying aspects of menstruation. Fertility is also not a concern, it generally returns within two months of contraception cessation as with traditional contraceptive use.

The groundswell of support and affirmed participants (particularly female physicians and college-aged women) is making menstrual suppression the norm, now how fast can we move forward with ectogenesis?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Real Killer App: Individual Expression

Who would have guessed, personal expression has supplanted email as the killer app of the Internet in round 2, not that telecom executives and TV producers have noticed yet. That special property of humans, the desire to self-express and be unique and (almost as importantly, the other side of the observed-observer equation) to see others self-express has driven community sites to boom. Why is it that 17 year old high school senior Melody has gotten over 800,000 views of her break-up video spot with the funny cat squeals on YouTube? And Barry Diller thinks he is arbiter of talent. Even the site names belie the personal expression killer app, YouTube and MySpace.

Personal expression, née social, communities are growing exponentially in both video media (YouTube, Current TV, etc.) and social networking version 2.0 websites (MySpace (82 M registered users), FaceBook, Bebo (22 M registered users), etc.) and have their own devices like the Helio Kickflip phone for continuous communication with the sites.

The raw potential: “Communities, Joel, Communities…”
Online communities have assembled to meet the human needs of self expression, socialization and communication but their true power is not just in redefining traditional media, communications and entertainment models but in the potential for future applications enabled by properties of the communities themselves. The key properties of communities are the size of the groups - millions of individuals, the instantaneous and continuous communication of members, the fluidity by which members arrive and leave and the increasing degree of international members.

With groups this large and liquid being assembled and continuously communicating, the next level of community-based applications is already emerging, for example affinity search. Prefound is in the early stages of providing community-based affinity search (a similar concept earlier and less successfully executed by and the Google Base).

However, the real long-term potential power of communities is to have millions of individuals coming together in virtual affinity groups for a variety of purposes, the two most obvious of which are opinion-registering (political, social, etc.) and economic transactions, and it cannot be overstated that this model is the norm for anyone currently under 30.