Lamar Smith Anti-Science Redux

lamar-smithI just read a weird speech delivered by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas on the House floor.

So what? Members of Congress deliver odd oratory on a constant basis.  It’s puzzling because, Smith is the chair of the House Science Committee.  A position that should work to progress science. As I noted in a previous post, Smith doesn’t really like or trust scientists.

In 2014, he stated in a Committee meeting that’s — you know — dedicated to science:

“Going forward, members of the House Science Committee will do our best to avoid listening to scientists.”

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#DroneMonday: #DJI Software, Hydrogen Fuel and Mining Make Headlines

#Drones launched quite a buzz this past week.

For example, #DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturer, unveiled a major upgrade in its software development toolkit last week during the Chinese company’s AirWorks conference in San Francisco. Company officials said its new software enhancements will allow developers to build on each other’s work via DJI’s Mobile and Onboard Software Development Kit (SDK).

 

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What is #Transhumanism?

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Within the confines of SparkRayGun, I tend to throw around the word “Transhumanism” much like my dog, Katie the Wonder Schnauzer, throws around her favorite toy — often and in unpredictable directions.

I consider myself a Transhumanist without reservation, but it occurs to me that new readers may have no idea what I mean by this rather esoteric, yet increasingly popular, term.

So, in the interest of clarity, let’s dive into the world of Transhumanism, where we’ll learn that, like most -ism’s, our journey may raise more questions than answers.

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Students concoct Martin Shkreli’s price-hiked pill for a mere $2

imrs.jpgOne of my favorite hashtags is #BetterWorld. Eleven letters and a hash mark concisely capture a shared goal to make the world a healthier, more sustainable place (depending on what one means by “better,” of course).

With that in mind: Here’s an example of how open source cooperation is fighting the insipid greed and demagoguery that threaten to hold back human progress.

The Washington Post details the movie-villain backstory of Martin Shkreli, the biotech executive has become “widely reviled for hiking the price of a lifesaving drug by more than 4,000 percent overnight, to $750 per pill.”

What can defeat such a diabolical scheme?

A few good high-school students:

 

“A group of 11th grade students claim to have proven a point: the drug can be made for much, much cheaper. The group of 11 high school students, ages 16 and 17, successfully recreated the drug, Daraprim, for a mere $2 a pill, according to scientists from the University of Sydney.”

Shkreli responded via Twitter, admitting he had seen the error of his wrongheaded ways and would immediately drop the price.

Just kidding.

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Apparently, not just anyone can make a coherent sentence.

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#DroneMonday: Media Rights, Trump’s DOT, #NoDAPL

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It’s a given that drones (aka unmanned aerial vehicles or systems) will continue to skyrocket as a major emerging tech sector. The commercial drone sector is expected to soar into an $89-billion-dollar industry over the next decade, producing millions of new jobs.

As with any disruptive technology, weekly media reports are chocked full of drone-related controversies, breakthroughs and startup news.

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Boosting Memory: ‘Member Being Born?

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Special thanks to Futurism.com. I look to their excellent brand of journalism to spark so many of my ramblings. They are worth a follow on Twitter.

One of my favorite episodes of my favorite futurist anthology, Black Mirror, has to be The Entire History of You (season 1 – ep. 3). In the “near future” (the setting for every Black Mirror scenario), a neural implant allows a person to view every memory they have ever had via their smart device. They can also screen cast their memories as a video feed to anyone. Of course, as with any episode, something goes wrong and a cautionary tale is born.

But what if you could regain your memories from earliest childhood? As Futurism’s June Javelosa writes, your toddler memories are still stuck in some back bedroom closet of your brain but you cannot currently access them due to what scientists call infantile amnesia.

However, new research could lead to a Remembrance of Diaper Days Past.

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AI: Savior? Demon? Or Boring Kubrick Film?

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Credit: nood2708 via DeviantArt

We just can’t trust Artificial Intelligence. At least that’s the claim rampant across Western pop culture.

AI run amuck is a well-worn Hollywood trope — from the eponymous HAL 900 in 2001 or the more recent AI robot Eva in the highly acclaimed film Ex Machina (Oscar-caliber performance by Alicia Vikander – just saying).

You know the story: In the spirit of extreme hubris, a mad and/or self-deluded scientist cooks up a machine that passes the Turing test. The AI entity (usually stuck with some acronym moniker) is declared to be intelligent (a label that many would say is purely subjective). The world rejoices. It’s implied the AI can solve all of humankinds’ maladies.

But then … Something. Goes. Wrong. Through some often unexplained or glossed over glitch, the AI decides humans are not worth serving, leading to wholesale slaughter or enslavement of its homo sapien masters. Only the Keanu-esque action hero  and the sexy PhD can save our species … with explosives. And there is much rejoicing — yea.

But is this vision true to reality? Should we assume that AI would adapt the same Will to Power sickness that has defined our species from Tutankhamen to Trump?

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Cheaper Energy Costs Blowing in the Wind

Bob Dylan was right: “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.”

Wind energy costs are expected to fall by up to 30 percent in the next 15 years. That’s according to a freshly published paper in Nature Energy. 

A survey of 163 wind-power experts, the review offers a bullish outlook for renewable energy — a necessity is humanity is to create a cleaner, healthier society.

As the survey details: “Costs could be even lower: experts predict a 10% chance that reductions will be more than 40 percent by 2030 and more than 50 percent by 2050.”

The key components in making this happen will be public support and more advanced tech. Polls conducted by the Wind Energy Foundation show public support somewhere in the 60-70 percent range in various Western nations.

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Jason Drones On and On …about Drones

darpaaerialdragnetIn addition to my sporadic posts here at Sparky RayGun, I’m a regular contributor to DroneLife, a premier source for drone industry news, product information, trends, and analysis.

As an optimistic futurist, I’m bullish about the potential for drones to transform humanity in a positive way despite the many roadblocks along the way — privacy issues, unmanned weaponization and rouge aircraft crashes.

Every past instance of tech emergence has always harbored a potential dark underbelly. Lest we forget the naysayers of the 90’s who predicted the Internet would be a frightening tech-pocalypse rather than the essential backbone of civilization it has become — warts and all.

Once we as a society address the problems inherent with drone disruption- be it job loss, terror threats, etc. — I’m confident we’ll integrate drones into our society to the betterment of humankind. In fact, for every negative story you may find about drones, I can produce three examples of Drones for Good.

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