Tom Easton If Artificial Intelligence (AI) software is already close to being able to learn to be us by watching us, then we must be AIs. This outrageous statement follows from physicist Frank Tipler’s 1994 proposal in The Physics of Immortality (Doubleday) and Nick Bostrom’s 2003 argument that we live in a vast computer simulation. […]Read More Are We AIs?
Tom Easton One of the latest wrinkles (among many) in artificial intelligence (AI) research is AI programs that can learn by watching. They don’t have to be painstakingly coded with instructions for performing a task. Nor, like the old numerically controlled machine tools, do they have to be guided step-by-step through a task until they […]Read More AIdentity Theft
Tom Easton An ecosystem is a combination of living species and the environment in which they live. An ecological community is just the living species. There are a great many communities. There are even communities on and within human beings, consisting of the bacteria and fungi—and even the generally harmless follicle mites–on our skin and […]Read More The Frenemy Within
Tom Easton Once upon a time, nuclear power was pitched as promising electricity too cheap to meter. It didn’t work out that way, for the power plants turned out to be absurdly expensive. There were several reasons for this. One was the perception that nuclear power was dangerous, largely (at first) because after World War […]Read More Let It Glow
Tom Easton We don’t have to worry about this one at the moment, but eventually we will join the thousands of civilizations that have preceded us in the Milky Way galaxy. Not that we seem to have any chance of ever meeting them. Seventy years ago, famous physicist Enrico Fermi was having lunch with colleagues […]Read More Gee, It’s Lonely Here
Tom Easton In the last few years, the human microbiome has been drawing a great deal of attention. It consists of the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that occupy your guts (generating about a third of your poop), as well as your skin, mouth, nose, and other niches. Its many species make up a population of […]Read More Your Other Half
Tom Easton Before the automobile was the horse, and Lo! the streets were covered with horse puckeys and the air was filled with stink and flies. Most especially in cities. People were happy to see the steam engine and the trains it enabled. But trains were restricted to tracks, emitted smoke and sometimes sparks, and […]Read More Gimme Juice
Tom Easton One of the foundations of computer science and thus of all the gadgets that enrich (or bedevil—take your pick!) our lives is cybernetics. The root is the Greek word for “steersman” (as of a ship) and it is apt for the study and implementation of electrical devices that produce appropriate outputs in response […]Read More How Safe Is Safe?
Making It Up Tom Easton What comes after genetic engineering? Ever since its origin in the 1970s as “recombinant DNA,” some people have wrung their hands and cried alarm about how swapping and editing genes (made of DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid) in our food posed hazards of toxicity and ecological destruction. If we ever […]Read More Making It Up
Prepping for Disaster Tom Easton Most of these little essays deal with matters of science and technology. My aim has not been to add to the flood of techno-hype. I have mostly chosen to point out potential problems and—when possible—potential solutions. Perhaps unfortunately, the realm of solutions is not the realm of science and technology, […]Read More Prepping for Disaster