Category: Science and Technology

Some thoughts and links about Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a new digital currency with a twist. The twist is that there is no central authority, no bank, etc. It is based on peer-to-peer networking just like bittorrent. The advantage is that just as governments have been unable to shut down bittorrent, they have no way of identifying, freezing or stealing bitcoin accounts (if you are careful). Here is an article explaining more about bitcoin.

Here is a nice simple article that explains agorism. It doesn’t explain the relationship between bitcoin and agorism but once you understand something about both of them the relationship becomes clear.

Further exploration of the archives of the Bitcoin Weekly lead me to an article about how an online community could choose to incorporate the taxes it’s members freely consent to right into its currency. One of the criticisms of the state’s central bank’s power to increase the money supply – i.e. inflation – is that it really is a form of taxation. Well, recognizing this, and obtaining consent to using it for this purpose, could be a noncoercive means for funding the community’s common endeavours.

For trading in the Bitcoin currency Trade Hill has been recommended by some.

Capitalism goes on the offence (About time)

Here’s a nice site, a landing page for an ad that’s making the rounds online. Be sure to watch the video at the end. A rather telling and graphically attractive way to make the case that capitalism = health + wealth + freedom + peace = happiness.

Extreme Longevity May Be More Genes Than Lifestyle

Interesting study shows that those who live past 100 years still have the genetic disposition for common afflictions but their genetic disposition for living trumps them.

Also interesting that now we hear about how we are living to age 80-85. What happened to all the malarkey about life expectancy being 72-75? The latter figure does not take account of the rapid pace of technological advances. Neither does the former, fully, for that matter. I maintain that those middle aged and younger are now effectively immortal as the pace of technology will keep them alive, through crude replace and repair, until about 2040-2050 when mind uploading, the digitization of all mental processes, will be achieved.

Study: Extreme Longevity May Be More Genes Than Lifestyle – Yahoo! News.

Hawking shows that even geniuses can say stupid things.

In this report, Hawking says contact with aliens could be risky – CTV News Stephen Hawking is quoted as saying that there are “almost certainly” intelligent alien life forms and that they may be “nomads looking to conquer and colonize”.

First, there are several compelling reasons to believe that either we are alone, or nearly alone in the universe (see the rare earth hypothesis); or, if not alone, we are one of the most advanced civilizations as physicist John Barrow argues compellingly.

Then there is the matter of the incongruity between a civilization having the powerful advanced technology such an endeavour would require and yet not having advanced in ethics beyond such violent tendencies. Such a powerful yet violent species would surely have either blown itself up or be preoccupied with killing themselves to engage in the immense cooperative enterprise required to engage in conquest across the galaxy.

Then there is the contradiction between the immense knowledge such an endeavour would require and the sheer stupidity of wasting resources on conquest rather than “terra-forming” or other methods of employing resources closer to home and thus easier to access.

So either Hawking was misquoted or is willing to make sensationalized misstatements to sell books. We he probably, or ought to have, said is that dangerous extraterrestrials cannot be conclusively ruled out, but are exceedingly unlikely.

But that wouldn’t sell too many books, or newspapers.

The simulationist argument

In response to a scientific article two people wrote very dissonant comments. One, Rebekkah, condemned science and recited a very narrow fundamentalist view of the world. The other, Joshua declared emphatically that religion was entirely bogus and that all he could see was all that there is.

My comment:
Science vs religion again eh? Rebekkah”s diatribe is no sillier than Joshua”s categorical absolutism. Our universe appears to have been fine tuned for intelligent life. Better explanations than chance are: (a) God, (b) a multiverse (a virtually infinite number of universes), or (c) both. (See John Leslie)

Option (b) makes the best logical starting point but I can”t imagine (b) without there being many technologically (and ethically) sophisticated civilizations which can, and do, populate countless numbers of what we can think of as full immersion virtual reality simulations with beings like us. The more sophisticated, the more the distinction between the “virtual” and the “real” becomes meaningless.

Think of it. We are on the verge of developing such technology ourselves. What are the odds that no other civilizations have done so? And if they have, aren”t the odds of our being in one of those numerous “simulations” much greater than the odds of being in the one and only “reality”. (See Nick Bostrom)
Perhaps there is no reality underlying these simulations. Physicist Richard Gott III has proposed a manner for a universe to create its own ancestor-universe. This seems even more plausible an explanation for origins when one thinks of these universes as simulations.

So, once upon a time (in most senses not temporally connected to us but in another sense in our future) a technologically and ethically sophisticated being began running a simulation in which another did likewise and so on until one began running the simulation in which the “first” (first in our story anyway) found himself.

Fantasy? Rebekkah would dogmatically dismiss it for rendering a natural explanation for the supernatural. Joshua would dismiss it based on his pseudo-certitude concerning, well, everything. I find the scenario an appealing possibility that suggests that there may be a perfectly rational explanation for all aspects of actual human experience. It is at least cause enough to keep one”s mind at least partially ajar.

Global warming or global scamming

John Coleman, the founder of the Weather Channel, has declared the global warming frenzy to be the greatest scam in history. He has a number of related links to sites debunking the myth of global warming.

Sentient World: a simulation of civilization

We are on the verge of being able to simulate every person, thing and activity on the planet, play it, replay it, run it at ultra high speed so that years speed by in seconds, and intervene, God-like, to see how the simulation is effected. A small step from that will be to endow these simulated beings, individually with sentience. We will then run hundreds, no, millions of these simulations for every imaginable reason from war games to marketing research to sheer entertainment.

One might wonder how we could think of running experiments or games with beings, albeit virtual beings, who were experiencing their reality just as we experience ours. As interesting as that question is there”s another, even more interesting one. How do we know we ourselves are not sentient virtual beings in someone else”s simulation?

If considered with dispassionate objectivity I believe the answer to that question is that we almost certainly ARE living in a a virtual simulation. Here”s the argument: if we can do it (almost) then surely other civilizations elsewhere/elsewhen in the multiverse have/had/will have the same ability, probably countless gazillions of them each running gazillions of simulations. That makes it extremely more likely that we are in a simulation than not. Especially when you factor in that simulated beings ought to be able to run their own simulations.

So, we are either all alone in the multiverse (come on, get over yourself) or we are the most technologically advanced (sure we are) or nobody ever runs these simulations (we are about to, why wouldn”t others?). Or, we are overwhelmingly probably a simulation ourselves. Neat.

This argument originates with Nick Bostrum.

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