Futurist feedback – “fun, frightening and fruitful”

Dear Futurists,

1.) More feedback on ‘Future Superhuman’

More feedback for the book Future Superhuman: Our transhuman lives in a make-or-break century, has steadily been accumulating since the London Futurists webinar with the same name as the book was first announced. To whet your appetite for that webinar – which is taking place this Saturday and features the author of the book, Elise Bohan – let me share some of that feedback:

‘A fun, frightening and fruitful look at our future. This is the book I want to give to friends who ask, “but what is transhumanism, really?”’
Anders Sandberg, Senior Research Fellow, Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford

‘There’s much doom and gloom about humanity’s future, understandably so at a time of climate change and large-scale environmental collapse. But there’s another side to what’s coming, and it won’t all be bad. Elise Bohan is your travel guide to the future of human minds and bodies. Enjoy the trip – your guide is as sharp, savvy, lively and entertaining as you could ever want.’
Russell Blackford, author of At the Dawn of a Great Transition: The Question of Radical Enhancement

‘Elise Bohan wants us to believe our survival depends on integrating ourselves with advanced robotics and artificial intelligence so that we can achieve what she calls a sustainable posthuman future. After reading her excellent and well-researched book, I’m inclined to agree with her.’
Tim Dunlop, author of The Future of Everything

‘A brilliant, engaging and edgy introduction to transhumanism – the idea that in coming centuries we humans will take charge of our own evolution and transform ourselves into new, artificially enhanced beings.’
David Christian, Distinguished Professor of History at Macquarie University, author of Origin Story

‘This book is an intellectual tour de force that cajoles us to take the blinkers off and confront the new era we have entered into – a time of “escalating promise and peril”. Elise Bohan’s clear-eyed view of the future can help us navigate a path forward, by showing us how to harness the extraordinary capabilities of our species rather than allowing them to destroy us. This is a most timely, enlightening and important work. It’s also a whole lot of fun to read.’
Mark Roeder, author of What We Do Next Really Matters

‘In Future Superhuman, Elise Bohan asks challenging but important questions. Is transhumanism the best future for humanity? How best should we ride technological waves like AI, not just to survive but to thrive?’
Toby Walsh, Laureate Fellow & Scientia Professor of AI at UNSW, author of 2062: The world that AI made

‘One of the most entertaining, fascinating, and thought-provoking books I’ve read in a long time! Future Superhuman provides a breathtakingly original, broad and optimistic view of a transhuman future. Elise Bohan’s fresh and unique voice comes through on every page: bold, fearless, fun and relentless on the absurdities of the human condition. She could well be the next big non-fiction star, at home in the same constellation as Yuval Noah Harari, Carl Sagan or Elizabeth Kolbert.’
Rob Brooks, Scientia Professor of Evolution, UNSW, author of Artificial Intimacy

If that has raised your interest, you can click here for more details of Saturday’s webinar and to register to attend.

2.) More feedback on ‘How to control AI…’

Our webinar last Saturday, featuring the analysis of AI researcher Tony Czarnecki, has given rise to considerable online feedback – on Meetup, on Twitter, and on YouTube.

In case you weren’t able to attend that webinar live – or you just would like to watch it again – here’s a copy of the recording of the event:

Tony has kindly made available a copy of the slides he presented. These can be downloaded from the Sustensis website, here. You’ll see they are full of rich content.

3.) Ironically, another kind of AI problem

One issue with systems that host online comments is that they frequently attract spam, hate-speech, or mental malware. Indeed, the comments sections underneath YouTube videos often used to demonstrate many of the most depressing aspects of the human condition.

YouTube has tried to make viewing these comments a more useful, constructive, and pleasant experience. They nowadays prevent some comments from appearing until the owner of that YouTube channel has approved them.

But that’s not the only “comment removal” mechanism that’s in operation behind the scenes of YouTube. In some cases, YouTube software seems to delete comments altogether, without any intervention by the channel owner. In other cases, I can see comments inside the YouTube Studio admin screen for the London Futurists YouTube channel, but these comments stubbornly fail to display under the video itself in YouTube. (What makes this particularly puzzling is that the comments in question have no objectionable aspects, and are just straightforward text contributions.)

I’ve tried to research what the problem might be, but I’ve not made any progress yet, sorry! All that I’ve been able to find out is that owners of other YouTube channels are experiencing the same bewildering non-appearance of comments on videos in their channels.

It looks like a bug in YouTube – quite possibly a bug in the algorithms used to decide which comments to suppress, and which to highlight.

Evidently, AI is far from perfect…

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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