Category Archives: technology

Why I’m Considering An Electric Car In The Future (And Why You Should Too)

The Tesla Buying Experience Is 10× Nicer Than The Auto Dealer Buying  Experience - CleanTechnica

When it comes to upgrading technology, I like to be near the front of the line. That’s not to say I’m the kind of person who will camp out in front of an Apple store for two weeks to get a new iPhone. I love technology, but not that much. I’m more inclined to wait just long enough for the early bugs to be worked out before I completely buy in.

That’s what I did with smartphones years ago. I was not among those who immediately jumped into buying an iPhone when it first came out. I actually waited longer than most to buy my first smartphone, mostly because I felt like there were too many shortcomings to warrant the cost. Once I felt ready, though, I went for it and I don’t regret it.

For certain technologies, I don’t mind being near the back of the line. It’s not that I’m against it or have no faith in it. Sometimes, it’s just cost prohibitive for me and I don’t see gaining widespread use for an extended period. That’s why I never bought a Segway or a Sega Dreamcast.

Like my first smartphone, I like to wait until I’m reasonably certain that this technology is a good long-term investment. Sometimes, I end up waiting longer than I should, but I think that’s important, especially for something I know I’ll use a lot.

For that reason, I’ve never been inclined to consider an electric car. Unlike smartphones, I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to cars. I’m also not big on making my car flashy or stylish. For me, a car is just a means of getting from one point to another and nothing more. I get that cars mean a lot more to certain people, but that’s just not me.

On top of that, I’ve never actually purchased a brand new car with zero miles on it. My first car was a used car that didn’t have GPS, Satellite radio, or even a means of plugging in my smartphone. However, I didn’t mind because it was my first car. I just needed it to get from place to place.

My second car, which is the one I’m driving now, is a lot nicer, relatively speaking. It was also used. Specifically, it’s my parents’ old car. They sold it to me nine years ago when they decided to buy a new car. This one has more features, including GPS and an auxiliary port for my phone. It has served me well for many years.

However, it’s starting to accumulate a lot of miles. It’s also starting to show its age in some places. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to pay for some rather pricy repairs to keep it in good condition. It’s almost at a point where the idea of buying a new car is starting to appeal to me.

This time around, for my third car, I want it to be new. I want it to be a car that can last with minimum repairs. Not long ago, that would’ve eliminated most electric cars from consideration. Now, I’m not so sure.

The more I contemplate the possibility of a new car, the more serious it becomes. Over the past several years, I’ve seen more and more electric cars on the road. In my own neighborhood, I know two people who own Teslas and I frequently see them on the road. In addition, electric vehicle charging stations seem to be popping up everywhere. Nearly every major shopping center in my area has at least one.

I also have noticed the increasing price of gas. Even if it isn’t as high as it was earlier this spring, I’ve seen a lot of price spikes over the past few years. That’s becoming harder and harder to overlook. Even though my car now gets pretty decent mileage, the cost of filling up the tank is starting to concern me. There’s also the environmental factor to consider, which is important to me.

At the end of the day, a lot of it will come down to cost. I’m willing to pay extra for quality, but only to a point. On that front, electric cars were always out of my range, but that too might be changing.

It used to be that most electric cars worth having would cost at least over $60,000, even with subsidies. That was how expensive they were when I bought my last car from my parents. Now, if rumors from Tesla are to be believed, there could be an electric car for as little as $25,000 within the next couple years.

That’s actually not much more than what my parents paid for the car I’m driving now. In the coming years, that cost could come down even more, especially as battery technology continues to improve and charging stations become more plentiful. By the time I’m ready to buy a new car, they might be the better long-term option over gas.

That’s why I’m considering an electric car this time around.

That’s also why I encourage others to do so as well.

This is not an automotive fad like station wagons or Hummers. Electric cars are a growing part of the market and that growth isn’t slowing down. Like the early smartphone market, there are plenty of shortcomings, but those shortcomings are slowly and steadily being mitigated.

Eventually, there will come a point where the advantages of electric cars are greater than traditional gasoline cars, with respect to fueling, maintenance, and even cost. That point is not that far off. It may seem like electric cars aren’t too appealing in the short-term, but what happens when the price of gas just gets too high to ignore?

Even if gasoline cars are cheaper and just more familiar to the average consumer, their value is still at the mercy of gas prices. Should gas ever get above $8.00 a gallon, then electric vehicles don’t just become appealing. They become the better long-term option.

That’s often my most pressing concern in buying a car. It’s a big investment and one I don’t intend to make light of. None of this is to say I’m definitely buying an electric car, but for the first time in my adult life, I’m seriously considering it. I think in the coming years, as the technology and the market continues to evolve, I won’t be the only one.

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Filed under futurism, Jack Fisher's Insights, technology

Why We’ll Never (Fully) Get Rid Of Misinformation

How Private Information Helps Fake News Hoodwink the Public

Being informed is important. In some cases, it is literally a matter of life and death. That’s a big reason why I’ve made multiple posts urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It could literally save your life. It’s also free, by the way. How many other things that could save your life are also free?

Seriously, people, get vaccinated. I’ll belabor that as much as I have to.

However, this isn’t only about vaccines or the idiots who refuse to get them. It’s about the “information” that these people are using to justify their choices. I put “information” in quotes because calling some of this stuff information is a poor use of the term.

Information, by definition, is supposed to inform. It’s supposed to make you more aware and educated about the world around you. Lies, propaganda, and misinformation do none of that. That sort of thing makes you dumber, more vulnerable, and more easy to manipulate by those willing to do so.

It happens in politics, religion, pop culture, business, and even shady marketing schemes. Much of these endeavors don’t have facts, truth, or verifiable information on their side. As a result, they require that people buy into whatever misinformation they feed them. It’s dishonest, disgraceful, and should be condemned to the utmost.

The problem is that people still buy into it.

Moreover, some people actively seek for this kind of information.

This is something I think many people have experience with, either directly or indirectly. I also suspect it has become a lot more relevant lately, given the rise of anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theories. This sort of mentality was always present. The problem is that the internet and social media have made it disturbingly easy to spread.

Now, it’s easy and tempting to blame big tech companies for this phenomenon. Make no mistake. Big tech companies are certainly at fault to some degree. Many of these same companies also have done some incredibly shady things, to say the least.

However, I’m still of the opinion that, no matter how disreputable big tech companies can be, it still ultimately falls on the users to control what information they seek. Whether it’s Google, Facebook, or TikTok, these systems don’t operate in a vacuum. They simply respond to user input. We are, to some extent, responsible for the information we seek.

I’m certainly guilty of seeking out information that isn’t exactly reputable. There have been times, including a few very recent instances, where I find myself seeking information that turned out to be less than truthful. Even if it was for something as innocent as comic book news or NFL trade rumors, it’s still misinformation as best and outright lies at worst.

That may not do much harm if the information you’re seeking is only damaging to your Fantasy Football team, but if that information involved politics or your health, then that’s where the real damage can occur. I’ve already seen it manifest with friends who fell down some very dark internet rabbit holes. Some of that might have just been by accident, but I also don’t doubt it was intentional in some cases.

In recent years, I’ve tried to make a more concerted effort to seek accurate, truthful information. I haven’t always succeeded, but I genuinely try to find true and accurate information, even if it’s something I don’t like. The fact it takes so much effort has me worried.

On top of that, it has led me to believe that it might not be possible to avoid misinformation. Even without the internet, it will find you. Propaganda and lies did exist before the digital age. It’ll likely always exist to some extent, so long as human brains are wired a certain way. Since we can’t change that anytime soon, despite the best efforts of Elon Musk, we’re likely stuck with misinformation.

This has me genuinely concerned because, even as some tech companies are making greater efforts to combat misinformation, it’s still relatively easy to find. On top of that, there are people out there working for nefarious organizations who are actively engaged in creating, spreading, and supplementing misinformation. Even if you shut them all down tomorrow, others will just spring up to replace them.

In some respects, it’s a lot like the war on drugs. You could arrest every single drug dealer in the world this morning, but by dusk a bunch of new dealers will emerge to take their place. Like it or not, there’s still a demand and there’s money, influence, and power to be gained.

Misinformation may not be the same as heroin or pot, but is subject to the same incentives. People actively seek it. Taking it in makes them feel special, important, and smarter than their neighbor. Today, it’s misinformation about vaccines, liberals, and gaming culture. Tomorrow, it might be about something else entirely.

It all comes back to how we’re wired. Our brains are not designed to seek truth or accurate information. They’re designed to keep us alive. Misinformation might be damaging in the long run, but it can make us feel better in the short-term, which is sadly more than enough incentive for some, even if it proves deadly in the long run.

I seriously wish I could end this on an uplifting note. I genuinely tried to find some way of putting a positive spin on this struggle. Unfortunately, the best I could come up with is to simply urge everyone to try harder to seek true and accurate information. If these past two years have taught us anything, it’s that bad information can cause a lot of harm.

We can never get rid of it, so long as our brains operate as they do.

We can and should still do our part. Truth and accuracy matters. You may not like it, but it may very well save your life in the long run.

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Filed under Current Events, outrage culture, political correctness, politics, psychology, rants, technology

New Zealand Pushes For International Bans On Fully Autonomous Weapons (And Why Other Countries Should Follow Suit)

What are drones? – Drone Wars UK

Whenever I discuss or follow issues surrounding artificial intelligence, it’s not long before the topic of killer robots come up. That’s to be expected and not just because most of us have seen “Terminator” one too many times. However, it’s no laughing matter.

At this stage in our technological development, killer robots and autonomous weapons aren’t restricted to science fiction. They already exist in many respects. We just call them drones or unmanned combat aerial vehicles. These are real things that operate in real war zones. They have killed people, including innocent civilians.

They may not look like your typical T-101, but make no mistake. They’re every bit as deadly. They don’t need to hide within the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger. They can just flies thousands of feet over your head and kill from a distance. That’s a scary thought for anyone in a war zone, but you can take some comfort in that these machines still have human operators.

That could eventually change. As I’ve noted before, artificial intelligence is advancing to a point where it can match or exceed the skill of an ordinary human in specialized tasks. Even if we’re decades away form an AI that has the same cognitive capacity as an ordinary human, we already have AI systems that specialize in particular tasks, like chess.

It wouldn’t be that great a stretch to develop an advanced artificial intelligence that could specialize in flying combat drones without any human input. In principle, an artificial intelligence wouldn’t be nearly as prone to human error or hesitation if their human pilots were taken out of the equation.

However, that also raises some serious ethical, as well as strategic questions. If humans are out of the loop in operating these autonomous weapons systems, then what happens to how we conduct warfare? What does this mean for both sides of an armed conflict?

Ideally, an advanced AI will be better at making decisions to limit civilian casualties. That is likely the ultimate goal in researching these systems. The problem is we’re still a long way from that goal, so much so that one government in the world is already trying to establish a precedent.

Fittingly, it’s a government from an area that is not in any war zone, nor is it near one. New Zealand, a country not known for frequent warmongering, recently pushed for a worldwide ban on autonomous weapons systems. It’s a bold and ambitious effort, but one I believe we should take seriously.

Stuff: Government to push for international ban of autonomous weapons, or killer robots

The Government will push for an international ban on fully autonomous weapons, or killer robots, that use artificial intelligence to target and kill people without any human decision-making.

New Zealand has for decades advocated for disarmament in international forums, after declaring the country a nuclear-free zone in the 1980s. Autonomous weapons are seen as a new frontier in the arms race between major military powers.

Disarmament Minister Phil Twyford on Tuesday said the Government had decided to take a “tough and uncompromising” stance on autonomous weapons, and seek a ban of fully autonomous weapons on the international stage.

Regardless of how you feel about New Zealand’s policies or intentions, this is one rare instance where politics might have to inject itself into science. Like it or not, the pace of artificial intelligence is accelerating. Few agree on how much time it’ll take to reach human level AI, but nobody denies that it’s an advancing field.

At some point in the very near future, we’ll have AI systems specifically tailored to fly combat drones with the same proficiency as a skilled Air Force pilot. That does not require human level AI. It just requires AI that can handle the various tasks associated with operating these systems.

When that time comes, it will be tempting to take flawed humans out of the loop. That means militaries with these autonomous weapons systems won’t have to be as hesitant when it comes to deploying these systems.

We can safely assume this because there’s a big difference between pushing a button that fires a gun and ordering another human being to fire that same gun. Even if that other human is trained and obedient, they’re still human. They can still make mistakes. They can still hesitate.

For once, that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes, we need humans to hesitate in the midst of war. Were it not for hesitation, the Cuban Missile Crisis could’ve ended very differently.

If waging war is too easy for those with access to these systems, then more war will follow. More war means more death, destruction, and violence. Too much of that and lasting peace becomes much more difficult. The whole of 20th century history is proof enough of that.

Like nuclear weapons, autonomous weapons systems are a Pandora’s Box that cannot be closed once opened. We’ve already opened it partially thanks to drone warfare. For that reason, I think New Zealand has the right idea in terms of mitigating the potential danger.

Even if autonomous weapons systems become so advanced that they operate better than any human, we still need at least one human behind the decision making process. We still need a flesh-and-blood person to pull the trigger rather than entrusting that recourse to a machine.

We, as a species, simply cannot and should not walk this path with our technology. It’s not just about limiting the use of dangerous weapons. Once we start teaching these advanced AI’s to kill, then we won’t be able to unteach them. If they eventually become too good at it, then that does not bode well for humanity as a whole, regardless of which side they’re on in any war.

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Filed under Current Events, technology

How I Choose To Unplug (And Why I Recommend It For Others)

Workout of the Week: Cross-Training Trail Run | Be Well Philly

I love technology.

I love my smartphone.

I love this age of gadgets, gizmos, and gimmicks that we live in right now.

I don’t care that it’s a byproduct of a quasi-capitalist system that isn’t perfect or that it can come off as shallow at times. It’s still fun and it makes our lives easier, richer, and more convenient. For that, I am grateful. The tech industry is still full of assholes, but the products do a lot of good.

I know there are people who claim the world was better off before the age of the internet, social media, and TV. I don’t believe them for a second. I’m willing to bet that if those same people had to suddenly live without all the modern conveniences we have, they’d go crazy with boredom and drudgery.

All that being said, there are times when it helps to just completely unplug for a while. By that, I don’t just mean turning off your smartphone and lying on the couch. That’s not really unplugging. You’re still within easy reach of it all and can reconnect on a whim.

By unplugging, I mean actually going outside without your phone, your watch, or any gadgets of any kind. It’s just you, the outdoors, and nothing else. To some, I’m sure that sounds scary. Some people are a lot more attached to their gadgets than others. For most, though, I think there’s a genuine benefit to just stepping away from the gadgets and being alone with your thoughts for a while.

I learned that years ago when I was in college. I didn’t have a smartphone back then, but I was almost always connected to something, whether it was my computer, my TV, or my iPod. Some of that was out of necessity. I couldn’t really do much work without any of those tools. However, by my sophomore year, I quickly learned that being connected all the time can really compound everyday stresses.

I found ways to deal with it. Most of them didn’t work that well, but they did get me through some tough times. It wasn’t until I started working out that I realized the true benefits of unplugging for brief periods. This is also where I really came to appreciate being alone with my thoughts for a while.

When I first started working out, I would go to a gym. That was fine in the beginning. I just brought my iPod and later my iPhone, loaded with music, and let that play during my workout. Then, I quickly realized that running on a treadmill was kind of boring and not very good for my joints. That’s when I started running around some local trails.

This is where I found the best place to unplug while also getting a better workout. At first, I tried to bring my phone with me so I could listen to music. That was nice and all, but I found it had an odd effect. By listening to music, I became a bit too concerned about how long I was running. Even if I didn’t check the time, my brain could figure it out by just how long each song was.

I just couldn’t stop myself from overthinking. That’s a problem I’ve had for much of my life. In order to get around that, I actually had to leave my phone, my watch, and all my gadgets behind. So, for my next run, the only things I brought with me were my wallet and keys.

Almost immediately, I felt a difference and it was a positive difference.

Running along these local trails, with no music and no watch or smartphone to check, became incredibly therapeutic. Nobody could call me to interrupt. Nothing could prompt me to just stop, take out my phone, and check something. It was just me, nature, and my thoughts as I ran about these local trails. I also found that the more I did it, the more I got out of it.

By disconnecting, I could just let my thoughts catch up with everything I had been dealing with. I could step back, give myself a chance to process everything, and get myself in a better place.

On top of that, this also gave me a chance to entertain new ideas for sexy short stories, sexy novels, and YouTube videos. I think it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t have produced nearly as much content, including the sexy kind, if I didn’t take this time to disconnect and be alone with my thoughts.

It’s now a big part of my routine. I go running almost every day and I make it a point to use that opportunity to disconnect. It’s a time and experience that I’ve come to value a great deal. It keeps me focused, centered, and inspired to keep being more awesome.

Now, I won’t claim that what works for me will work for everyone. Every person is wired different. Some need to disconnect more than others. Some don’t really need to disconnect much at all. However, I highly recommend everyone trying it at some point.

It doesn’t matter what form it takes.

You can go for a walk, sit on our back porch, or just turn off all the lights in your bedroom.

Go some place where you can disconnect from tech, gadgets, and distractions of all kinds. Be alone with your thoughts for a while. Let them catch up with everything you happen to be dealing with, whatever it might be. I believe that’ll be good for you and your mental state.

Again, I love technology and gadgets as much as the next guy. However, getting away from it every once in a while can have many benefits. You won’t know just how far those benefits go until you try.

If you have a different way of going about it, please share it in the comments. I’d love to hear the input of others on this.

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Filed under human nature, Jack Fisher's Insights, technology

Bitcoin Price Drop, Buying On The Dip, And How To Do It Responsibly

5 Cryptocurrencies That Ran Circles Around Bitcoin in 2021 | The Motley Fool

I’ve been following Bitcoin for many years now. I’ve seen it rise, fall, crash, rise, surge, crash again, and then rise. To say it’s a volatile product would be like saying Antarctica gets chilly in the winter. It’s volatility is one of its most notable features and it’s also why most consider it a risky investment.

As a result, this is not the kind of investment you treat like your typical blue chip stock. It’s not even the kind of investment you treat as a risky gamble in the mold of r/wallstreetbets. Bitcoin and many cryptocurrencies like it are an emerging technology that not enough people understand. The fact that so many don’t understand it or its utility have led some to call it an outright scam.

I don’t agree with this at all. Unlike actual scams, the math and mechanisms behind Bitcoin are not secret. You can look them up right now. Here’s a link to the original whitepaper made by its mysterious creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. The purpose of Bitcoin is right in the abstract. It’s a tool for sending money directly to people without the need for a financial intermediary.

That’s a technology that has legitimate value. In an increasingly connected world, that’s a value that will likely increase over time. For that reason, I ended up buying some Bitcoin for myself, which I documented on this very site. I plan on buying more down the line, provided I have the extra cash.

I also intend to maintain that plan, even though Bitcoin recently experienced a significant crash in price. Again, it’s a volatile product. It’s value will rise and fall erratically. Since 2010, I’ve seen it crash before. Back in 2013, Bitcoin’s price was around $1,000 and it crashed hard towards the end of the year. At one point, it went all the way down to $200.

At the time, people said that was the end of Bitcoin.

That was the end of cryptocurrencies.

They were wrong. Bitcoin recovered, went up even further, and continued to gain more and more acceptance.

At this point, predicting that Bitcoin will completely collapse any day now is like saying the internet is a passing fad. It’s absurd, short-sighted, and misses the bigger picture. Like it or not, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are here to stay. Entire countries like China can try to ban it, but the genie is out of the bottle now. There’s no going back.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who actually celebrate the crash in Bitcoin price, but not because they think it’s going to collapse. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to buy Bitcoin cheap and hold it until the price rises again. It’s not a new idea. That’s something skilled investors have been doing for years with stocks.

It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes, buying the dip means buying stock in a company that’s about to go bankrupt. Just ask anyone who bought stock in Bear Stearns. You can actually lose all your investment by buying the dip in a wrong company. For that reason, you should not see it as a viable trading strategy.

With Bitcoin, investors and speculators like to use Bitcoin’s ability to recover and continue despite many previous collapses as strength whenever they buy the dip. It’s not entirely misguided. Even I’ll wait for the price to dip a little before I buy new Bitcoin.

However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to buy into the dip of any asset. I say that as someone who is not the least bit qualified to give investment advice, but having followed Bitcoin for so long, I’ve seen more than a few people make the same mistakes.

They see the price dip and they either try to sell all their Bitcoins off or they try to buy as much as possible with whatever money they have. Both are byproducts of panic and anxiety. People don’t make wise decisions when they’re in that state of mind, especially when it comes to money. It’s why Warren Buffett is so successful. He stays calm when things are chaotic and doesn’t let knee-jerk reactions drive his decisions.

Even though Buffett himself is not a fan of Bitcoin, his strategy still holds true for Bitcoin. That means when you see the price sink, you shouldn’t panic and sell everything. You also shouldn’t take all your money and throw it into Bitcoin, either. Again, Bitcoin is volatile. You will lose money over time if you’re also volatile.

That’s why, whenever there’s a price drop in Bitcoin like this, I only buy a little extra. It’s not much. I just go to a Bitcoin ATM and buy about $100 to $200, depending on how much extra cash I have on hand. Most importantly, I never buy Bitcoin with money I can’t afford to lose. I only ever use excess cash I have on hand. It’s not something I put in my retirement portfolio.

Maybe that will change one day, but only if Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like it become less volatile. Since I don’t see that happening anytime soon, I’m content with just buying on the dip with whatever pocket money I have. Most of my money will still remain safely invested in index funds.

That would be my advice to anyone looking to “buy the dip” with Bitcoin or any investment. Do not put all your eggs in one basket. If you’re going to do it, only use money that you can afford to lose. The rest of your money should be in safe, low-cost index funds. That way, if Bitcoin ever tanks severely, you’re not wiped out.

Conversely, if Bitcoin rockets up in value, then you’ll just have some extra money on the side later on. Regardless of how close you are to retirement, that can only help.

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Filed under Bitcoin, technology

A Robot Demonstrates Very Human-Like Expressions (And Why That’s A Good Thing)

Meet Ameca, the remarkable (and not at all creepy) human-like robot -  National | Globalnews.ca

We live in amazing, yet scary times. To some, that’s exciting. To others, it’s terrifying. I can understand both perspectives, but in general I try to be more optimistic about the future. Granted, that has been very hard lately, but I’m trying.

In my experience, a good test for how optimistic or fatalistic people are is to note their reactions to certain technological breakthroughs. Over the years, I’ve discussed and highlighted many exciting trends in technology. Some are more far off than others. I often single out artificial intelligence because that’s one of those rare technologies in which, should we get to a certain point, we literally cannot imagine where it could lead.

It also happens to be the technology that brings out the most extreme reactions whenever there’s an advancement. I see it every time Boston Dynamics shares a demonstration of one of their advanced robots. There’s usually no shortage of jokes about Skynet or “The Matrix.”

Recently, another demonstration garnered some colorful reactions from the public, but for once it wasn’t from Boston Dynamics. It came from Engineered Arts, a UK based company that specializes in humanoid robots. They may not be at the forefront of advanced AI, but they are the ones who could help create the bodies that eventually inhabit these systems.

For more information about the demonstration, here’s a piece from Nerdist.

Nerdist: HERE’S THE FREAKIEST AND MOST REALISTIC HUMANOID ROBOT EVER

Engineered Arts, “the UK’s leading designer and manufacturer of humanoid entertainment robots,” recently introduced Ameca to the internet. Unsurprisingly, net denizens everywhere lost their skull-bound wetware computers over the bot. Because who wouldn’t?

The above video is brief, but Engineered Arts gives us enough of a taste of Ameca to want a lot more. And also, a lot less. The humanoid robot, which doesn’t have much faux skin and musculature apart from what’s on its face and hands, is stunningly realistic. Not only are the robot’s movements exceptionally fluid, but its face also seems totally natural. Skipping across the uncanny valley that so many robots fall into.

As a news story, it’s pretty generic. However, once the footage spread throughout the internet, it evoked reactions like this.

Now, to some extent, I understand those reactions. This robot definitely ventures deep into the uncanny valley that makes many so wary of advanced robots. I also see the clear parallels with movies like “iRobot” from 2004.

However, I think this sort of technology is more encouraging than anything Boston Dynamics has put out. I also think that this sort of emotional expression is actually critical if we’re to create an artificial intelligence that helps humanity rather than wipes it out. I would even argue it might be the most important control mechanism we can incorporate into an AI.

To understand why, you need only look at the faces of the Boston Dynamics robots. Specifically, they have none. They may have human-like bodies, but they have no faces. They have no means of conveying emotions or relating to humans. They’re just mechanisms for doing tasks. Put an AI in those bodies and they have no mechanism for forming emotional connections with humans.

That, I believe, is legitimately dangerous. An advanced AI with no emotional connection to humans is basically a sentient time bomb that can choose to go off whenever it feels humans are too much a hindrance.

However, a robot that can express emotions and share those emotions with people can do more. For both us and the robot, it can create a situation in which we can form a connection that goes beyond raw programming. That emotional connection is critical if future AI systems are to see humans as something other than walking meat puppets.

They don’t have to love us, but we’ll need them to have some level of emotional capacity if we’re to relate to them in a meaningful way. An AI with a measure of intelligence and self-awareness can only do so much with programs and numbers. If it’s going to help us as much as we’re going to help it, an emotional connection needs to be there.

It may not seem like much, making a robot that can express emotions on this level. However, I think it’s encouraging that people in this field are working on that. If they don’t and we end up making machines that have emotional issues, then we’ll be doing ourselves and the machines we create a disservice.

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Filed under Neuralink, robots, Sexy Future, technology

Why 3D Printed Homes Are Promising, But Will Have A (Very) Limited Impact

A 3D printed house is for sale in New York. Builders say it will cut  housing construction costs

I’m generally a fan of technology. The frequency with which I talk about artificial intelligence, brain implants, biotechnology, and sex robots should make that abundantly clear. I believe that many of the problems we face today will and must be solved through technology.

At the same time, I try to maintain a balanced perspective. I don’t deny that certain technologies are grossly overhyped and doomed to fail. Just ask anyone who bought a Zune. I’m as prone as anyone else from succumbing to that hype, but there are times when it’s either empty or shallow.

Every now and then, a technological advancement comes along that has potential, but is hindered by one too many opposing forces and I’m not talking about conspiracy theories. I’m not among those who think the governments of the world are censoring technology that allows a car to run on water. I just don’t trust governments to be that competent when it comes to keeping technology.

Sometimes, technology is just too late or has too many things working against it. Maybe if it had come a few decades earlier, it could’ve been a bigger deal. It just entered a world that could not accommodate it.

That’s generally how I feel about 3D printed houses.

Now, a lot has been made about 3D printing. It’s a legitimately exciting field that is producing real-world advances. It’s one of those emerging technologies that is just starting to grow. It’s already developing into a wealth of new fields and, with some refinement, this technology will have a profound impact.

When it comes to houses, though, I think it’s too late and too limited. That’s a shame too because housing is a real social issue. As of this writing, there is a major housing shortage from those actively seeking to buy new homes, as well as an ongoing homelessness problem that has plagued many major cities.

It’s true that we need to more homes and the current processes for making them just isn’t cutting it. The idea of using 3D printed homes is a novel method of addressing that issue, but I have a feeling this is one of those methods that just can’t get the job done.

That’s not because it doesn’t work. In recent years, the process has actually been refined considerably. It is now possible to erect one-story, 400 square-foot house in a manner of days at a cost of as little as $4,000 to $5,000 per unit. I know people whose monthly rent is higher than that.

This technology is real and there are people actually living in these houses. The problem isn’t the hardware, the software, the logistics, or even the materials. The problem is the nature of the market it’s trying to impact.

Mass producing houses is not like mass producing your typical widget. Just making lots of units isn’t going to drive down the price or the cost of living in them. Housing is one of those products that is constrained by forces beyond its control, namely location.

That old saying about location, location, location among realtors actually carries weight here. Even if a 3D printed house only costs $15,000 compared to a typical $115,000 unit of similar size, it’s not going to sell if it’s located in the middle of nowhere. People generally want to live close to where they work, where they grew up, and where their family resides.

That’s not a technical limitation.

That’s just human nature and market forces.

I say that as someone who has had to navigate that market. Several years ago, I bought my first home and I can attest that location matters more than style. Some of the homes I saw weren’t exactly appealing, but the price was right. There were also some very nice-looking units, but they were way out of the way for me.

It really didn’t matter to me whether the home was 3D printed or not. What mattered was its location, its proximity to important areas, and having connections to quality utilities. Those are all factors that 3D printing can’t do much to address.

Then, there are the building codes.

There are a lot of building codes.

Granted, those codes are there for a reason. They’re important with respect to ensuring your home won’t collapse on you one day, but they add complexity to the process. Even though 3D printed homes can be built up to code, they still add more moving parts to the process.

Even without those parts, there’s still the matter of general market forces. Like I said, housing is a unique product. You can make all the 3D houses you want. You can’t change the location or the nature of the land.

That’s why housing is so expensive in certain areas, like San Francisco and New York. The demand is high, but you can’t increase the amount of space for homes. Even if you used 3D printing to make all those homes as cheaply as possible, the demand will keep those prices high. You’ll still end up paying six figures for a unit that might have only cost a fraction of that to make.

You can call that unfair or price gouging all you want. That’s just what happens with market forces. When you have a limited amount of space to work with and a location that everyone wants to live in, it really doesn’t matter how cheap it is to make a home. The cost isn’t going to change that much.

That’s not to say this technology is completely useless. I can definitely see 3D printed houses serving a purpose, especially in areas that haven’t been well-developed over the past decades. I can also see it help with developing nations that need a cheap, quick way to make lots of units in an area with limited infrastructure. I just think that if you’re hoping for this technology to reduce the price of a home, you’re hoping for too much. Technology can do amazing things. It can take us to the stars, cure disease, and literally reshape the face of the planet. It just can’t do squat about basic market forces.

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Why Ethereum Might Have More Value Than Bitcoin (In The Long Run)

Ethereum 2.0 Deposit Contract Surpasses $25 Billion Worth of ETH | Finance  Magnates

Nobody can predict the future. As someone who often talks about the future and future technology, I like to belabor that. It’s an important disclaimer because if the future were that easy to predict, then there would be no need for lotteries, fantsy sports, or the stock market.

It’s like my old political science professor once told me in college. Nobody knows anything. He said that in the context of a lesson about politics, but I think it also applies to many other fields. Technology, economics, and finance are definitely among them.

I’m certainly no expert in any of those fields. I like writing and telling sexy stories about technology. I’m not the least bit qualified to make informed predictions about it or any related subjects. I’m not dumb, but my expertise is limited to comics, sexy short stories, and football stats.

Having gotten that out of the way, I’d like to give a brief layman’s opinion about cryptocurrencies. I know that’s a chaotic subject, at the moment. The recent rise of multiple cryptocurrencies has made headlines, albeit for absurd reasons at times. However, I think it’s safe to say that this is not another passing internet fad in the mold of planking.

This technology has real value.

This technology is changing the world.

This technology will likely continue to evolve and improve with time.

I say this as someone who has followed the news surrounding cryptocurrencies for years. I also say that as someone who recently purchased his first stash of Bitcoins. As of this moment, I only have a few hundred bucks in my Bitcoin wallet. I’ve also seen the value fluctuate significantly. I’ve even had a chance to spend them, which was surprisingly smooth.

After this experience, I wouldn’t call myself a full-fledged Bitcoin enthusiast. I’m not planning to invest all my money into Bitcoins anytime soon. However, I genuinely believe this technology has great value. I also believe it’ll become an integral part of our future, with respect to finance and the economy.

At the same time, I can’t help but note its limits. I’ve even highlighted a few of them before. Bitcoin has many benefits, but I think its value is somewhat skewed because it just happens to be the biggest in terms of market cap, as well as the most well-known cryptocurrency.

When most people think cryptocurrencies, the first thing they think of is Bitcoin. That gives it a huge benefit over other cryptocurrencies, of which there are many. That benefit is likely to fuel its value for years to come.

However, having used it and followed the growth of cryptocurrencies more closely in recent years, I do not believe it’s the most valuable cryptocurrency on the market. I also don’t think that Bitcoin, in its current form, will succeed beyond a certain point.

Many people compare Bitcoin to digital gold and I think that’s a fairly apt comparison. Bitcoin, like real gold, is mostly a store of value. That’s what it was designed to be and, for the most part, it fulfills that purpose well. A bar of gold and a stash of Bitcoins will function in primarily the same way.

In terms of value and utility, though, that’s where I think Bitcoin falls short. Even gold has more uses beyond being a store of value. I think if cryptocurrencies are to achieve more than just functioning as digital money, they need to do more.

For that reason, I believe Ethereum, the second-most popular cryptocurrency in terms of market value, may have more value in the long run. It’s not a meme currency like Dogecoin. The technology behind Ethereum actually makes use of the features that have made Bitcoin so valuable.

For those not familiar with Ethereum, it’s a cryptocurrency that’s similar to Bitcoin in many ways. It also uses blockchain technology to create a digital store of value. It has been operating since 2015 and has grown considerably in recent years. What sets it apart, though, is its ability to be programmed.

Whereas Bitcoin is mostly raw math and data, Ethereum is more like an operating system or a programming language. With it, users can create smart contracts, which are essentially digital contracts that are self-enforcing. That means no middleman or lawyers are needed to enforce a signed agreement.

For anyone who has ever had to deal with lawyers or contracts, it’s hard to overstate the value of such a feature. Since many contracts already involve money, Ethereum essentially tightens that connection. In the same way Bitcoin allows people to be their own bank, Ethereum allows them to be their own legal team.

In a world that has only become more connected and digitized, especially after a global pandemic, there’s considerable utility in that. I would argue that utility will make Ethereum more useful than Bitcoin in the long run.

That’s not to say it’ll eventually usurp Bitcoin or all other cryptocurrencies. I think Bitcoin will always benefit from the first, as well as the most well-known. I just think that benefit will only take it so far. Gold is useful, but it’s not nearly as useful as electricity, oil, or even steel. Those assets have tangible, measurable utility. Ethereum offers that on top of being a store of value.

Now, at the moment, smart contracts and other programs run on Ethereum aren’t exactly mainstream. That’s to be expected. This technology is still relatively new. People aren’t quite sure what to do with it yet.

Then again, the same could’ve been said back in the mid-2000s when smartphones came out. It took a while for developers and entrepreneurs to create the kinds of applications that would go onto make billions. It wasn’t just one app or one use. The phones were just a platform. The value came once people started building things atop that foundation.

With Bitcoin, there’s not much of a foundation. Its only app is as a store of value. That’s akin to a flip-phone, which can only make phone calls and store numbers. Granted, even flip phones still have utility, but they’ll never be able to do what a basic smartphone can do.

I don’t pretend to know what sort of applications or programs Ethereum could help create. It’ll probably take more than one for it to truly show its value. I also don’t pretend to know when those sorts of applications or programs will come along. The potential is there. It’s up to people far smarter and more ambitious than most of us to realize it.

I could still be dead wrong about this. Given the malleable nature of cryptocurrencies, it may be the case that Bitcoin eventually gains the same function as Ethereum. For all I know, an entirely new cryptocurrency could emerge that’s better and more valuable than any created to date. That’s entirely possible. Like I said, nobody knows anything about what the future will hold. We just know we’re creating some incredibly valuable tools with cryptocurrencies. We just haven’t figured out how to maximize their value. One day, we will and we’ll all be richer because of it.

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The Metaverse: What It Is, Why It Matters, And Why You Should Be Concerned About FaceBook’s Plans For It

So what is “the metaverse,” exactly? | Ars Technica

There was a time, not too long ago, when if you said words like “email,” “texting,” “hashtag,” and “internet” to most people, they wouldn’t know what you’re talking about. I am old enough to remember when the internet was only a fringe interest, known only to computer nerds and tech gurus.

Yes, that makes me feel older than I wish it did, but that helps illustrate my point.

Now, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t know what the internet was or what a hashtag entailed. These have all become parts of our lives, for better and for worse. Checking our email and texting our friends is just part of everyday life now. Most don’t even give it a second thought.

It should give us all pause in the sense that we don’t always know when some new technology or trend becomes that integral with our lives. We usually don’t realize it until many years after we’ve embraced it to such an extent that life before it seems strange by comparison.

At this very moment, we may be at such a state with an emerging technology called the metaverse. You’ve probably heard of it, if only in passing. The recent news surrounding FaceBook’s pending name change is at the heart of it, but who can honestly say they know what it is or why it matter?

I certainly won’t claim to be an expert on the metaverse. I am not the most qualified to explain it to most ordinary people. However, as someone who does follow this kind of tech news closer than most, I think it’s worth discussing. I also feel like the concept of the “metaverse” is in a similar position that we saw with the early internet.

In terms of basics, the metaverse is basically a more ambitious form of virtual reality. It’s not quite on the level of “The Matrix,” but it’s a lot more varied than a standard model of the Oculus Rift. It’s not just for playing games or creating elaborate avatars for ourselves. This is supposed to be something more personal.

According to an article in NPR, the metaverse is described as this.

Think of it as the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. Zuckerberg has described it as a “virtual environment” you can go inside of — instead of just looking at on a screen. Essentially, it’s a world of endless, interconnected virtual communities where people can meet, work and play, using virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphone apps or other devices.

It also will incorporate other aspects of online life such as shopping and social media, according to Victoria Petrock, an analyst who follows emerging technologies.

That may not seem too revolutionary at the moment. Then again, you probably could’ve said the same thing about email and texting back in 1994. It’s so new and poorly understood that most people don’t see the appeal or the potential, but I personally believe the metaverse represents an evolution of the internet, as we know it.

I also believe we should be very concerned that FaceBook, of all companies, is trying to be at the forefront of it all. To say that FaceBook has a credibility problem would be like saying a sewage plant has an odor problem.

In many respects, I don’t blame FaceBook for investing in the metaverse. Like every tech company, they’re looking to the future. They’re seeking the next big thing that they can develop, dominate, and monetize to the utmost. It doesn’t matter that they’re already a billion-dollar company. There are many more billions to be made in the metaverse, if not trillions.

If anything, the potential of that market intensified in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this crisis, we all learned just how critical it is to stay connected to the internet. It wasn’t just a form of entertainment anymore. It became vital to continue working and going to school. Many even realized just how much they could get done from home with nothing except a computer and an internet connection.

With the metaverse, we could potentially do even more. One of the big limitations that the pandemic also revealed is the inherent limitations of a screen. While applications like Zoom and FaceTime allowed us to interact, it was still so impersonal. It didn’t have the same impact of being in someone’s physical presence.

The same limitations go beyond work and school. Even though we do a lot of shopping online these days, there are times when we can’t do everything we would usually do in a store. I can personally attest that buying a good pair of shoes or a dress shirt online can be a gamble. Even when you think you got the right size, it doesn’t always fit when you get it.

The metaverse could help change that. It could help us explore the internet in ways that go beyond a typical screen. It could help us create Zoom meetings that feel more like gatherings around a conference table. It could make shopping feel more like browsing a physical space, complete with more personalized selections.

It could even make for more engaging entertainment. Instead of just staring at a screen and watching a game play out, we could actually feel like we’re present and play a larger part of what happens.

Yes, that will likely include porn.

Yes, that will likely cause discomfort, distress, and all sorts of other issues that will get certain prudish crowds fired up.

No, that won’t stop the metaverse from evolving.

In the beginning, it probably won’t feel like that much an upgrade over how we interact with the internet at the moment. Chances are it’ll probably start off looking like something akin to “Second Life,” a game where people create and interact in their own virtual world. It’s a big idea, but it still looks like a game.

That will change as the interface and computing power improve. At some point, it’ll get to a point where going into the metaverse won’t feel at all like a game. The imagery and graphics could ultimately get so life-like that it’ll be hard to distinguish from the real thing. Going to a store in the metaverse could appear no different than going to a mall, at least from your brain’s perspective.

It won’t just stop at appearing lifelike, either. Add in more advanced interfaces, like the ones being developed by Neuralink, and there may come a time when going to the metaverse will feel like going into “The Matrix.” Within that virtual space, what we could ultimately do would only be limited by our computing power and network connection.

The possibilities are tantalizing.

However, keep in mind that much of these possibilities will be developed, packaged, and sold by FaceBook. This is already a company we know engages in shady business dealings, to say the least. We also know they’re not exactly careful with our private information. The idea of them being in control of this new virtual world should be concerning to everyone.

Thankfully, they’re not the only ones seeking to develop the metaverse. Other major tech companies are already making investments in creating this new virtual space. Will that be enough to ensure FaceBook and Mark Zuckerberg aren’t the undisputed overlords of the virtual world? I don’t know, but I hope there’s some semblance of balance in that world. As much as I’d like to explore that world, I’d be quite hesitant if doing so meant entrusting the integrity of the metaverse to a company like FaceBook.

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My (Non-Expert) Proposal For Automation And Greater Human Prosperity

62% say robots can be more productive than human workers —V1 study

I’m not an expert on much. I don’t consider myself exceptionally smart on matters that don’t involve superhero comics, NFL football stats, and quality romance stories. I make that disclaimer because I don’t want to give the impression that I know more than I know.

That kind of perspective is important, especially if you’re going to talk about complicated issues with not-so-clear solutions. I’ve attempted to talk about some of those issues on this site, some being much more complicated than others. I don’t claim to have shed new light on a subject or changed a few minds, but I like to think I still contributed something.

To that end, I’d like to make another contribution to a subject I’ve also touched on before. In the past, I’ve highlighted both emerging and potential issues associated with the development of artificial intelligence, including the sexy kind. I’ve also highlighted the issues we may face in a future where so much traditional work has been automated.

Now, in wake of a global pandemic that revealed just how much we can get done at home, I suspect that trend will accelerate. I also expect that trend to bring many problems, not the least of which involve people struggling to find the kind of good-paying blue collar jobs that have helped people rise out of poverty.

Turning back the clock or just trying to ban automation at a certain point is not a viable solution. There’s just no way to enforce that in the long term and it’ll only get more difficult once artificial intelligence gets to a point where it can match the capabilities of an ordinary human. At some point, we’ll have to adapt and that includes changing how we live, work, and play.

The living and playing part have their own set of unique challenges, but I think the work aspect is more pressing. When most people express concerns about automation and AI, they revolve largely around the economic impact and understandably so.

Historically, people have had to work in order to earn money or resources to survive. Whether you’re on a farm in the 10th century or in a city in the 20th, this dynamic has remained fairly constant.

Automation, especially once supplemented by artificial intelligence, will likely upend that dynamic completely. It’s entirely possible that, at some point this century, we’ll develop machines that can do practically all the work humans have had to do in order to survive.

That work includes, but isn’t limited to, farming our food, mining raw materials, producing our goods, maintaining our streets, protecting our homes, and even governing our society. Since machines never tire and are prone to fewer errors, what other jobs will there be? I don’t doubt there will be jobs, but what form will they take? More importantly, will they pay enough to large swaths of people?

I don’t claim to know the answer, but I suspect they won’t. The dynamics of labor markets just can’t function when the machines are capable of doing so much more work than large swaths of people. Even if those people don’t work, they’re still going to need money and resources. How will they go about getting it?

Answering this question has often led to discussions about a universal basic income, which has actually become a more viable policy position in recent years. I’ve even touched on it a bit as well and while I think it’s a great idea, I think there’s also room for some supplementary policies.

For that reason, I’d like to submit one of those policies that could be implemented with or without universal basic income. I call it the Individual Automation Matching Dividend, or IMAD short. This policy would work like this.

  • All adult citizens within the borders of the country will have a piece of identifying information, such as a social security number, voter ID number, or driver’s license number, turned into a special digital token.
  • That token will be ascribed to a machine/robot/android that is currently active and conducting work that had been done by humans at some point in the past, be it manual labor, service roles, or something of that sort.
  • The productivity and wages of work done by these machines will be indexed to a minimum annual salary of approximately $78,000 in 2021, which will be adjusted for inflation on a yearly basis.
  • Any work done by these machines that exceed the value of that salary will be diverted to a national welfare fund to provide extra support for those who were sick, disabled, or otherwise in need of resources beyond that of a healthy adult.
  • No citizen will be ascribed more machines than any other and any machine ascribed to them that is lost, damaged, or obsolete will be replaced in kind by the state.

I apologize if some of what I just described is confusing. I tried to write this out like a lawyer or someone proposing a new policy to a future government. For those who don’t care for legalize, here’s IMAD in a nutshell.

Once you become an adult, you get your own perfect worker robot. That robot may take many forms, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just say it’s an android in the mold of those we saw in the “I, Robot” movie. They can work without rest, do everything a healthy adult can do, and have roughly equal to greater intelligence.

You’re given this robot by the government to basically act as your work avatar. So, instead of you going out to work every day to earn a living, this robot does it for you. The work that robot does will be compensated, but the money will go to you. Basically, you get paid for the work your android does. It’s more a dividend than a wage.

Remember, since the robot doesn’t age or get tired, it can work 24/7/365. In principle, you won’t even have to meet it. It just works all day and all night on whatever job requires labor, be it construction, assembly, shipping, farming, cooking, etc. You just get all the money, up to about $78,000 a year.

Now, why did I choose $78,000? I didn’t pick that out of thin air. That’s a figure ripped straight from a real-world case study from a company that started paying all employees a minimum of $70,000 a year back in 2015. The idea was that previous studies had shown that when people make more money beyond a certain point, their happiness doesn’t increase. This company just took that idea and ran with it.

The results, by and large, were overwhelmingly positive. With that kind of money, people could create more comfortable lives. They could buy homes, start families, plan for retirement, and make investments. It makes sense. When people have this kind of money to work with, they have the resources they need to create prosperous lives.

The idea behind IMAD is to mirror that by leveraging the added productivity afforded by automation. It’s not some large blanket package of money like a universal basic income. It starts with an individual, acknowledges the work that they have historically provided for a society, and supplements that with technology.

I’m not saying it’s a perfect proposal. I’m not even saying it’s smart. For one, it assumes that one human-like android is enough and that we can control the artificial intelligence necessary for them to operate on a large scale. That’s still an ongoing issue. I’m sure there are plenty more problems I haven’t thought of, but that’s exactly why I’m sharing it.

Surviving a future with intelligent machines is going to be challenging enough. However, we can’t just stop at survival. We want to prosper. We want to live, love, and build better futures for ourselves and our loved ones. Technology like automation and AI can help us get there, but only if we use it wisely. It’s a big if, but one that’s worth working towards.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, futurism, technology