Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

The End of the World is all the rage these days. Though it seems like pop-culture has grown tired of asteroids and aliens as we’ve all moved towards zombies. Maybe it’s because the other stuff feels a little bit too possible, and zombies gives us a way to have end times anxiety with a bit of detachment from reality.

Luckily though, there are some guys at Oxford who have set up shop with the intent on making sure we understand all of the different ways that technology could wipe us out.

Are you more likely to die from cancer or be wiped out by a malevolent computer? That thought has been bothering one of the co-founders of Skype so much he teamed up with Oxbridge researchers in the hopes of predicting what machine super-intelligence will mean for the world, in order to mitigate the existential threat of new technology – that is, the chance it will destroy humanity. That idea is being studied at the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and the newly launched Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, where philosophers look more widely at the possible repercussions of nanotechnology, robotics, artificial intelligence and other innovations — and to try to avoid being outsmarted by technology.

My prediction: whatever finally does it will be the result of video game DRM gone rogue. And it will likely have Netflix streaming.


Antony Young on Cannes: Brands Should Plan Less

In many ways the industry is shifting toward planning campaigns less. Coca-Cola Global Content Director David Campbell said in one Cannes workshop that that execution should shape strategy in real time. And as a planner — okay, a former planner — I’m excited how this emphasis on response and speed is challenging conventional norms of planning. We all need to be more fluid. How you respond could well be more important than what you plan.

Is it about planning less or is it about doing more useful things than filling geometric shapes with adjectives? 

Biophysicist Determines Zombie Film Unrealistic

But while explaining in detail that zombies aren’t real, he notes that the zombie swarming scene seems to make biological sense.  

One of the coolest scenes involved that swarm of zombies scaling the wall into Jerusalem. This was kind of foreshadowed at the beginning with brief images of ants and bird flocks. There’s a phenomenon in biology called self-organization, which basically refers to the notion of individual components following a few simple rules in order to create a larger structure that has the appearance of design. This happens on all kinds of length scales, from within the cell (the mitotic spindle in cell division) to whole populations (schools of fish and flocks of birds). In these examples, individual components (such as a protein or a single bird) are merely following a simple cue in their local environment without any concern for or intention to follow a bigger plan. However, as a whole group of these individual components interacts in this way, a large, ordered structure can emerge. The relevant point here is that the zombies didn’t need to lay out a strategy and design a plan; by simply responding to their local cues (loud noises that way!), this large and effective structure emerged.


This is the end of Google Reader

I’m guessing that anyone who has subscribed to my blog using RSS is well aware that Google Reader is Dead App Walking as of July 1.

Also, apparently my feed link has been broken for awhile for some reason. It should be working fine now if you click here.

But just in case you’re my mom and had no idea this was happening or what to do about it, here’s some resources:

  1. Ed Dale has put together a PDF that describes the process of switching from Google Reader to Feedly here

  2. If you’re not into Feedly or are just looking for more information, Mac Power Users did an hour and a half about the different options available on their podcast here.

  3. Gabe Weatherhead is doing a series of reviews of the options here

So go get yourself all set up. Before you experience the world without the guilt of thousands of unread feeds piling up somewhere online.