Animal Uplifting

Animal uplifting, the use of scientific methods and genetic engineering in particular to increase to (cognitive) abilities of non-human animals, is coming a step closer to reality. Chinese scientists have added human genes associated with intelligence in monkeys.

Though the effectiveness of this method has yet to be established, it raises the question on whether animal uplifting is something we should want. Save from the obvious question if we have the right to do so, we need to answer a series of questions:

  • should we uplift all animals?
  • If not, which animals should we uplift and which not?
  • How can we make such a distinction?
  • What role should uplifted animals play in society? Should they be partners or slaves?

I could easily increase this list with many more questions. I won’t answer this question right now, but these might be a serious plot element of some of my mundane science fiction stories, which feature animal uplifting.

More generally, I believe that authors of (mundane) SF should use fiction as a tool to explore the ethical and social consequences of the trends in scientific and technological progress. Reflection is, as far as I am concerned, one of the primary functions of literature. Writers should stimulate discussion on important issues.

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In a future where jobs on Earth are increasingly scarce, a young woman is excited when she is offered a job as a governess in a space settlement. After accepting the job, however, she suddenly find herself in a strange web of government secrets – with her mysterious pupil at the very center of it.

Read this story here.

Cover credits: photo by Vincent Anderson on Unsplash, edited with GIMP

Lobbying in Elynesia

The Elynesian Android and Robotic Corporation or EARC is one of the largest enterprises within the Republic of Elynesia. This multi-trillion business has naturally its own interests, which it seeks to protect and hence it should not surprise anyone that EARC maintains an active lobby machinery.

Around the Solar System its lobbyists have been involved in the following:

  • campaigns to reduce working hours
  • campaigns to raise minimum wages across the Solar System
  • campaigns to improve work safety standards
  • funding of trade unions
  • funding legal assistance for various people to sue their employers
  • to increase penalties for using child labor
  • sponsoring anti-slavery groups
  • campaigns to restrict immigration
  • promotion of legislation to abolish indentured servitude

The effectiveness of its lobby campaigns vary from country to country – though it is most effective in Elynesia – and from issue to issue. However, since EARC has substantial cash reserves the corporation can easily persists its lobbying for decades.

Though Elynesia has very strict rules regarding lobbying, EARC has found many workarounds and the company hardly conceals its stances from the public. In fact it places ads in several major media outlets to promote its causes – virtually always accompanied with its logo.

OTEC and Syn Fuel

In a previous post I discussed the potential of Ocean Thermal Energy conversion to meet Japan’s energy demand in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Below a video on how this method of energy generation works. Continue reading →

Ocean thermal energy conversion for Japan?

Though this an old post by me, I think it still relevant.

Lagrangian Republican Association

Introduction

On march 11, 2011, Japan was hit by an earth quake and a tsunami which resulted in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Consequently the public opinion in Japan turned 180 degrees against nuclear power. Even their government began to consider a nuclear free future. But Japan is so heavily dependent on nuclear power, that last summer two nuclear power plants had to be restarted in the face of massive public opposition. The question of this post is what are the alternatives for Japan? I will discuss solar power, wind power and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). [However, both wind power and OTEC are in fact indirect forms of solar energy since both winds and the oceans are powered by the Sun.]

Wind and Solar power

These are the “classical” kinds of alternative energy sources. Both options require a lot of space, and the intensity of solar radiation…

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Education in Gramatia

After Emperor Pimpèl founded the Gramatian state, he also introduced compulsory education and military conscription for all citizens. That both education and military service were (and still are, even twenty-five centuries later) mandatory, is no coincidence. Just one look at the traditional Gramatian school curriculum reveals their relation:

  • reading and writing
  • arithmetics
  • geometry
  • logic and grammar
  • equestarianism
  • archery (girls) / swordsmanship (boys)
  • Takamu (a strategic board game, similar to chess)

Continue reading →

The Wet Frontier

Oceans cover two-thirds of the surface area of our blue planet. So it is not really surprising that people are looking to the seas to solve the problems caused by a growing world population. Continue reading →

Airships

With increasing fuel costs as a result of the depletion of cheap oil and the abundance of helium as by-product of fusion power, I can easily imagine that airships will make a comeback in the second half of this century. At least Lockheed Martin has some serious designs of the next generation of airships.

 

Etiquette in Gramatia

Terrestrials who visit Gramatia will be heavily surprised with the complex rules of Gramatian etiquette. At first glance an Earth-born person might think Gramatian have no etiquette at all, but that would be plain wrong. Here a quick summary of the most important aspects of etiquette in the Commonwealth of the Gramatian Union. Continue reading →

Is the singularity right around the corner?

This excellent post illustrates why I don’t talk about “technological singularity” in any of my SF stories.

SelfAwarePatterns

Schematic Timeline of Information and Replicators in the Biosphere: major evolutionary transitions in information processing. Image credit: Myworkforwiki via Wikipedia

You’ve probably heard the narrative before.  At some point, we will invent an artificial intelligence that is more intelligent than we are.  The superhuman intelligence will then have the capability to either build an improved version of itself, or engineer upgrades that improve its own intelligence.  This will set off a process where the system upgrades itself, with its greater intelligence come up with new ways to enhance itself, and then upgrade itself again, looping in a rapid runaway process, producing an intelligence explosion.

Given that we only have human level intelligence, we have no ability to predict what happens next.  Which is why Vernor Vinge coined the phrase “the technological singularity” in 1993.  The “singularity” part of the label refers to singularities that exist in math and science, points at which existing theories or frameworks break down.  Vinge predicted that this would happen “within…

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