The vicarious experience of the astronauts’ triumph instills a certain pride in humankind, in what we can accomplish, in what we can dream. We should look for that sense of wonder and fascination in whatever we do. Our experiences have value--and so do we.
We need statistics to make society and medicine safer and more effective. We need baseline values so that we know when there are problems. Yet ultimately we cannot control every number we measure, and maybe we shouldn’t try. Averages may be calculated from individuals, but individuals can’t be calculated from the average.
The sheer size of the Internet community serves as a double-edged sword, giving individuals an easy way to find others that will accept them but at the same time giving them the means to insulate themselves from differing views.
Whether we embrace our obsessions with Lord of the Rings or particle physics, or whether we really believe that the geeks get the girls, there’s no better time than now for putting aside concerns of social awkwardness and focusing instead on the interests and inclinations that mark our contributions to our jobs and our communities.
Going forward, museums face a plethora of challenges relating to broad audience engagement. To avoid becoming obsolete, museums should highlight the aspects of their exhibits that visitors can’t get elsewhere, such as interaction with original artworks or specimens.
The world is full of unsolved problems. It is also full of problems for which solutions already exist, if we only leverage them. When we slow down for a minute, consider the available options, and more carefully assess the consequences of various modes of action, we have a better chance of directing our efforts where they ought to go--for the good of ourselves and the issues we face.
Another critical component of turning dream into reality: build on what’s already there. The good thing is, once the path is there, it’s easier to make people walk. In light of Denis’s lessons in leading by example, we can consider an ongoing environmental effort on campus: the student-led petition to replace Stanford’s grass landscaping with drought-tolerant native plants.
Ultimately Denis envisions entire green cities that function like ecosystems, exchanging materials and energy throughout the system in a self-sufficient way. Already there are experiments with sustainable buildings on a larger scale, such as the ecodistricts targeted for Washington DC and Los Angeles.
Yet we should take heart in the biological adaptability of humans to changing circumstances, even as we are mindful of the trade-offs we make as a result of technological dependence--like exchanging nut-chewing for intelligence. When we imagine the kind of future we want our descendants to inherit, we should bear in mind that they will not be Homo sapiens as we know them. They will go on evolving right alongside technology--and maybe complicitly, we will have contributed to that evolution.
While we can explore a wealth of material from our computers, we should seriously reconsider how much time we spend on them at home, in the office, and on the go for work, for correspondence, and for play. We don’t have to give up our screens entirely, but we should make sure the time we spend on them isn’t just for lack of something better to do. After all, we each have more than one eye for a reason. The world was not meant to be flat.
As resource shortages and the energy crisis loom near, biomimicry provides countless opportunities for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our technologies. If we want to move toward a greener future, we should look to the green that’s already around us.
Is it so far-fetched, then, to imagine that emotions might emerge in sentient A.I. even without our deliberately putting them there? While a robot may never experience physical emotional cues such as an elevated heartbeat, cold sweat, or butterflies in the stomach, its mental perceptions of feeling could still exist. If emotions are indeed akin to an instantaneous summing up of inputs, then could a conscious machine be said to experience emotions as its internal processes produce new conclusions?
I propose a Darwinian definition: more fit to survive. I don’t mean to say we should ruthlessly outcompete other living beings; instead I refer to survival in a universal societal sense. Humanity has a greater chance of dealing successfully with upcoming crises if the “superorganism” of society as a whole is adaptable.
It’s Thursday night of finals week, spring quarter. Tomorrow night you have a math final and the evening after that you have physics — neither of which you’ve started studying for, thanks to the stubbornly low throughput of your heap allocator (which is due at midnight tonight with your last late day). To make matters…
Today, with the rapid spread of media through the Internet, it is easy to find examples of great people. Anyone with access to the web can listen to YouTube videos of the world’s most virtuosic musicians or follow skilled artists on deviantART or Tumblr. The talented, the intelligent, the accomplished and the beautiful are popularized…
My father once told me that he loves zoos because “the more times you go, the higher the probability of seeing an animal engaging in an interesting activity.” That’s why I was so excited one morning when I spotted the jaguar pacing outside of its den — the big cat usually lounged out of sight…