What Do “Values” Even Mean to an Artificial Intelligence?

Over at Future Tense, Adam Elkus poses a very interesting question I’ve covered here before: Which brings us back to Russell’s optimistic assumptions that computer scientists can sidestep these social questions through superior algorithms and engineering efforts. Russell is an engineer, not a humanities scholar. When he talks about “tradeoffs” and “value functions,” he assumes […]

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Sitting at Six Months

I wish I had a better explanation than just forgetting, but I neglected to gather certain things here that have happened over the last several months and it feels meaningful in some way to do so. Most recently, I launched (with my friends Michael Cecire and Alex Hecht) Viewscreen Magazine, which we envision as a place to […]

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Vaporware to the Stars

A Russian billionaire has decided to send a bunch of iPhones to Alpha Centauri. If it all worked out — a cosmically big “if” that would occur decades and perhaps $10 billion from now — a rocket would deliver a “mother ship” carrying a thousand or so small probes to space. Once in orbit, the […]

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The Evolution of Robot Panic

The strange campaign to halt robotics and computer research has undergone something of an evolution since its previous few years of crazed sky-is-falling advocacy about automation and imagery sensors failed to get any traction among the world’s decision-making bodies. While their first round of imagery was dominated by an inexplicable obsession with a singular science fiction […]

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Why Would You Want to Live in an Orbital Habitat?

This post is part of an on-going series. See the other posts here. There is a great post over at SF Signal by author Rob Boffard, about the feasibility of constructing a large-scale permanent habitat in orbit over Earth. It’s a neat thought experiment: Getting stuff into space, and keeping it there, is hideously expensive. Even something […]

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The Missing Story

I’ve been trying to think through something that sort of nagged my hind brain for weeks: Fallout 4. Specifically what is so off about it. The new settlement dynamic is pretty cool, and it’s fun, etc., and I have really enjoyed playing it and I want to finish it, but something didn’t quite work for […]

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What Almost All Sci-Fi on TV Gets Wrong

Now that the season finale of the excellent SyFy series The Expanse has come and gone, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on what makes this show so special. Hailed as the heir to the Battlestar Galactica reboot, The Expanse combines a nuanced, realistic portrayal of politics in the far future corners of the solar system. The SyFy […]

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Staff: The Forgotten Metric of Presidential Success

While the primaries consume everyone with their endlessly circular debates about policies and scandals, one aspect of a successful presidential administration gets no love. There are good reasons for this, ranging from a desire not to offend potential future networkers who can offer a job to simple ignorance about how necessary an effective bureaucracy is, but […]

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Can A Democratic Government Exist on Mars?

This post is part of an on-going series. See the other posts here. The British Interplanetary Society sat down last year in a dingy room in London and decided the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights were the best documents to guide the governance of a colony on Mars. Conference delegates decide that having […]

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The Weird Thing About Green Earth by Kim Stanley Robinson

Mild spoilers for a decade-old book trilogy below, along with some slight incoherence due to sleep deprivation. Finally powered through this. Like all Kim Stanley Robinson works, the scope and detail in it are stunning; and many tropes you can expect from his writing, like a misty-eyed pastoralism about neo-paleolithic living, the technological sublime, and […]

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