Forbes acquires cigar-chompin’ H+ blogger

Paul Raven @ 24-03-2011

They’re coming up like crocuses in the park: thanks to Mike Anissimov, we find that Forbes is the latest mainstream news outlet to hire on a blogger for the transhumanist/disruptive-tech/speculative-futures beat, in the form of Alex Knapp (who may not actually chomp cigars with any regularity at all, but hey: give yourself a masthead mugshot like that, and people are gonna jump to conclusions).

“Great, another naive singularitarian with a blog,” you may be thinking. “Like we need more of those, AMIRITEZ?” Well, give the guy a chance – looks to me like he’s going to be a lot less starry-eyed than some of the transhuman (ir)regulars, as this post responding to an H+ Magazine piece demonstrates:

The article goes on […] speculating the ways in which an advanced artificial intelligence might lower cancer risks or even develop alternative forms of energy.  But of course, nowhere does the article discuss how such an intelligence might be developed.  Nowhere does it discuss how you get from artificial general intelligence to the ability to model complex systems.  Nor does it discuss the limitations of such modeling.  No mention is made of potential drawbacks, technological failures, or anything.  It’s pure fantasy, masquerading as a serious proposal because it has a veneer of technology to it.

But frankly, you can show the reliance on magical thinking with just a few quick word changes.  For example, I’m going to change the title of the article to “Could Djinn Prevent Future Nuclear Disasters?”, then make just a handful of word changes to the paragraphs quoted:

“What is really needed, to prevent being taken unawares by “freak situations” like what we’re seeing in Japan, is a radically lower-cost way of evaluating the likely behaviors of our technological constructs in various situations, including those judged plausible but unlikely (like a magnitude 9 earthquake). Due to the specialized nature of technological constructs like nuclear reactors, however, this is a difficult requirement to fulfill using human labor alone. It would appear that finding magic lamps that hold Djinn has significant potential to improve the situation.

A Djinn would have been able to take the time to simulate the behavior of Japanese nuclear reactors in the case of large earthquakes, tidal waves, etc. Such simulations would have very likely led to improved reactor designs, avoiding this recent calamity plus many other possible ones that we haven’t seen yet (but may see in the future).”

I could, in fact, go through the entire article, replacing “AGI” with “Djinn” and a few other tweaks for consistency and not change the meaning of the article one iota.  Now to be fair, I don’t know if this author has grappled with these technological issues elsewhere, but as far as this article is concerned, wishing for a Commander Data or Stephen Byerley has about as much credence as wishing for a Djinn.  It’s simply not a practical solution for the moment.

I like him already!

[ A note to other editors looking to expand their stable of blogs with a soupçon of futurism and H+: this gun’s for hire, folks. *waves* ]

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2 Responses to “Forbes acquires cigar-chompin’ H+ blogger”

  1. Sarah Ennals says:

    Yeah, and Djinni always try to trick you, too : )

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    I don’t chomp cigars — that plugs the cigar and interferes with the smoke!

    Thanks for the link and I’m glad you’re enjoying it so far.