shaydchara: a pen and notebook (Default)
Notes behind the cut. People are attributed by initials; aud -> indicates an audience comment or question. As always, transcribed fast and edited only vaguely, misattributions and errors are my own. Assume everything outside of quote marks is a paraphrase. (?) indicates something that I missed.

Biotech: Friend or Foe?
Panelists: Mark Offer, Stephen B Pearl, Jane Carol Petrovich, Peter Watts, Eric Choi (mod)

Description: This science holds out a myriad of possibilities: supplying fuel while removing carbon from industrial emissions, regenerating cartilage, restoring mobility to millions, and curing human illness... as well as generating plagues that are racially specific, destroying our food supply by killing off bees, and converting farm land to deserts. A look at this double-edged sword and where it might take us... for good or ill.

Note: was late arriving to this one due to having popped out for lunch with some other folks. Missed the introductions and initial round of questions.
Read more... )
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Gods, Jackboots, And Rule 34: How Pornography Could Save The World
by Peter Watts

[aside: I really hope they get the video for this one up soon, because the talk was amazingly entertaining.
ETA: Video! Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
As always, " " indicates direct quotes, and any misattributions or misunderstandings are mine.]

Peter alleged to write "hard character SF" (hcSF) - he prefers/coins term: "neuropunk"
(examples of hcSF = Battlestar Galactica, Dexter)

neuropunk - started with socio-biology
"we are chemicals and electricity"
brains are survival engines
"free will is incompatible with physics"
"the brain lies" -> fitness trumps truth
we are not thinking machines, we are feeling machines
real science informs personality

hcSF - explores why we are the way we are, and understanding it, can therefore "hack" human nature

natural selection favours the paranoid - those who see agency where none exists
(did something move in the grass, or was it just the wind? the paranoid lived)
- those who are powerless are more likely to see patterns
- belief in god/astrology increases in times of stress

[case in point: Discovery News, Nov 9, 2010: Belief in God Increases with Government Instability ]

the *idea* of surveillance triggers a response (picture of eyes on wall in exam hall enough to deter cheating)
- authoritarian religions have observable advantage in terms of survival
- USA the worst of developed nations on successful socities scale

success - for propogation - depends on self-delusion

throwing rocks at moving targets necessitated time series analysis (invention of time in order to understand world)
- positive feedback loop reinforces black and white thinking

example: climate change
- our species has chosen catastrophe because we don't believe in it

how to short-circuit this behavior?
- you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't arrive at through reason
- have to hack our brains to make our instincts part of the solution

Rule 34: If it exists, there is porn of it. - The Internet

Therefore: to save the world, we need to make change pleasurable - use whatever turns people on.

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Shay D.

January 2014

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