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Archive for the 'Economics' Category

Flying Cars: how close are we?

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on August 24th, 2009

Previous in series: VTOL So, how close are we to flying cars? For specificity, let’s pick a technological bar to hurdle that answers most of the objections to the concept we’ve seen as comments on the previous posts: It should be relatively high-powered compared to current light craft. It should be STOVL for safety and [...]

Space travel: utter bilge?

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 20th, 2009

It is, today, just 40 years since I sat glued to a grainy black-and-white TV set and watched the Apollo astronauts land on, and then step out on, the moon. If you had asked me then, I would have assured you that by the year 2000, much less 2009, I’d have my own spaceship, or [...]

More on Limits to Growth

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on May 11th, 2009

There was a gratifyingly large response to last Friday’s post Acolytes of neo-Malthusian Apocalypticism. Several of the commenters seemed to think I was trying to refute the LtG model, but that would require a whole book instead of one blog post. I consider LtG to have been demolished in detail by people with a lot [...]

Acolytes of neo-Malthusian Apocalypticism

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on May 8th, 2009

When I was in college 35 years ago, there was a major fad of neo-Malthusian doom-mongering, led by the “Limits to Growth” book and movement. A retreat was organized from the college, and some concerned, environmentally conscious professors and students, myself included, went off for a concentrated seminar in which we educated each other about [...]

Replicating nanofactories redux

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on May 4th, 2009

Over at Accelerating Future, Michael Anissimov continues the discussion about nanofactories. He says a number of reasonable things, but then mischaracterizes, or at least greatly oversimplifies, Foresight’s position on nanofactories and self-replicating machines in general: The general implied position of the Foresight Institute appears to be, “we’ll figure these things out as we go, MNT [...]

Bat Wings

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on April 23rd, 2009

Evolution has adapted what were the bones of the fingers of the bat’s ancestors to form the skeleton of its wing. Similarly, in technology, when one element of a system is capable of expanding to take up new functions, it can substitute for what might have been expected to be different ways to achieve the [...]

Mindsteading

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on April 16th, 2009

Reading this essay by Peter Thiel, I was struck by an amusing (though almost certainly coincidental) parallel. Thiel mentions three areas in which people interested in freedom may manage to get out from under the thumb of excessive government: cyberspace, seasteading, and outer space. The parallel is to three fronts on which people are pursuing [...]

Does seasteading need nanotech?

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on April 14th, 2009

I recently heard a talk by Patri Friedman about seasteading. Seasteading means “homesteading the sea,” or at least building floating cities and establishing permanent residences there, and ultimately alternative polities in hopes of enabling beneficial economic competition in the field of governance. Before saying more, let me point out that I am generally in agreement [...]

More energy

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on April 2nd, 2009

The power density is large compared to that of macroscale motors: >1e15 W/m^3. For comparison, Earth intercepts ~1e17 watts of solar radiation. (Cooling constraints presumably preclude the steady-state operation of a cubic meter of these devices at this power density.) Nanosystems p. 339 It is difficult, even for someone who has been working with these [...]

Early retirement — how soon?

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on March 26th, 2009

In my Early Retirement post, I wrote If you have a human-level AI based on computer technology, the cost to do what it can do will begin to decline at Moore’s Law rates. Even if an AI costs a million dollars in, say, 2020, it’ll be a thousand in 2030 and one dollar in 2040 [...]

The world is flat

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on March 19th, 2009

In this post I began considering the prognostications in George Friedman’s The Next 100 Years, in light of some of the kinds of changes in technology that might come online during the century. This is obviously hard to do, but imagine trying to predict the geopolitical course of the 20th century without understanding the possibility [...]

Required Reading

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on March 18th, 2009

What forces are going to shape the world throughout the 21st century? A recent NYT bestseller, The Next 100 Years, by George Friedman, proposes a number of very interesting theories. Friedman is considered to be something of an intellectual maverick, contradicting the conventional wisdom at many points, and very insightful, since in many cases his [...]

Early Retirement

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on March 16th, 2009

Last week at AGI-09, I chaired a one-day workshop on the future of AGI. (“AGI” means Artificial General Intelligence, which is essentially what the term “AI” meant before 1980: the attempt to build a system that would be the equivalent of a human in its thinking abilities, displaying a robust ability to think, converse, exhibit [...]

Singularity, part 6

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on March 5th, 2009

This the sixth essay in a series exploring if, when, and how the Singularity will happen, why (or why not) we should care, and what, if anything, we should do about it. Part VI: The heavily-loaded takeoff The fastest software I ever used ran on some of the slowest computers I ever had. Circa 1980, [...]

Steve Jurvetson on nature’s nanotechnology

Posted by Jim Lewis on March 4th, 2009

Many thanks to the Forbes/Wolfe Emerging Tech Report for permission to reprint the following interview with Steve Jurvetson “Writing the Code of Life”, which appeared in their February 2009 issue. There aren’t many investors as sharp, quick or multi-disciplinary as Steve Jurvetson,Managing Director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson. His firm is a leading venture capital firm [...]

Forward to the past

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on March 3rd, 2009

Charlie Stross, the British science fiction writer, recently posted a “21st Century FAQ” on his blog that has aroused some reaction in futurist circles. Let it be noted that I’ve had a few drinks with Charlie, and he is a pleasant, engaging, and very intelligent guy, and writes really excellent science fiction. But I have [...]

Post-crash economic trends

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on February 25th, 2009

Those interested in the economic-trends style of futurism will enjoy How the Crash Will Reshape America in the Atlantic. For background you might look at this 2006 essay by Paul Graham — they both embody some of the same theory of innovation as a driver to urban (or perhaps regional) vitality. Hat tip to Philippe [...]

The audacity of nano-hope

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on February 24th, 2009

Over at IEEE Tech Talk, Dexter Johnson points out a flurry of interest in “nanobots” over the past week, casting quite a wide net that ranges from Nadrian Seeman’s experimental lab work to Ray Kurzweil’s hopeful dreams for the far future. He also tosses a bit of credit in my direction — thanks! — and [...]

Singularity, part 4

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on February 19th, 2009

This the fourth essay in a series exploring if, when, and how the Singularity will happen, why (or why not) we should care, and what, if anything, we should do about it. Part IV: When So when is all this going to happen? To quote Mark Twain, I’m gratified to be able to answer that [...]

Singularity, part 2

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on February 12th, 2009

This the second essay in a series exploring if, when, and how the Singularity will happen, why (or why not) we should care, and what, if anything, we should do about it. Part II: What is this thing called Singularity? Since I was trained, originally, as a mathemetician, I never really liked the term Singularity. [...]