How (Not) to Regulate the Internet

In 2012, famous computer security expert Bruce Schneier worried about the rise of what he called “security feudalism.” This is the process by which users place their trust in a given vendor to safeguard their data and their devices — whether through automatic updates, automatic backups, required two-factor authentication, and so on. Echoing the old […]

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Space Colonies Are Cool. And Economically Impossible.

At the Re:Code conference this week, Amazon CEO and rocketship manufacturer Jeff Bezos made some bold claims about going into space. “We will settle Mars,” he told the audience. “And we should, because it’s cool.” Mars colonies are cool if you don’t think about them very much. But colonization never happens simply because it is […]

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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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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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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 Scary Political Logic of Colonizing Mars

Nuclear Terraforming? In all the fervor about water on Mars and building colonies there, I have been digging through the literature about living on Mars, from non-fiction accounts of the engineering required, to speculation about how such places might work, to science fiction about what those colonies could become. And I’m left with a conclusion […]

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A World Of Infinite Paper Clips

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald raises a common apocalyptic thought experiment about artificial intelligence and machines that is worth considering: Of all the reasons robots might rise up and destroy humanity, making paper clips is not an obvious one. But the popular theory goes that an artificially intelligent machine programmed to produce as many paper […]

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The Science Fiction of Drone Hype

The FBI is investigating a “drone” supposedly spotted near JFK Airport in New York City. An Alitalia pilot claims he saw, coming in to land, a small quadrotor “drone” flying within 200ft of his airplane. The real question is why such a thing would be flying 1,700 ft high near an airport, as the pilot […]

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Basics Matter in Killer Robots Debate

Last year, Human Rights Watch launched a campaign to ban the development of autonomous weapons systems, which they dysphemistically call “killer robots.” The report and email campaign has several problems to it, which Greg McNeal lays out ably here — namely, that it’s based entirely on an oversimplified campaign of fear and doesn’t take into […]

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