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They found yet another reason to build nuclear interceptors to deflect asteroids and comet impact threats.

Sooner or later something is going to hit us. It could be like Tunguska in 1908 and destroy a city instead of a forest in Siberia- or it could be like what hit the Yucatan 65 million years ago.

Except just a little bigger and nothing larger than bacteria will survive. There is nothing written anywhere that says it will not happen tomorrow.

The wailing and gnashing of teeth over spending money on space never seems to cross over to DOD programs where obscene amounts of tax dollars are spent on cold war toys used to fight mountain tribesmen with Kalashnikovs.

For example:

The completed initial aircraft carrier, the first of three in the $40.2 billion program, is projected to cost at least $11.5 billion.

This essay was posted previously last year and removed and has appeared in abridged form in the European Space Safety online Magazine and can also be found on Yahoo voices.

Several dates are cited as marking the beginning of the space age. Sputnik, October 4th, 1957, Yuri’s day April 12th, 1961, and the first successful V-2 launch by the Nazis on October 3rd, 1942, to name a few. Some prefer December 21st, 1968, when human beings first escaped the Earth’s gravitational field on Apollo 8. When studying the events that allowed man to leave Earth, future historians may agree on a date not generally associated with space flight. July 16th, 1945 was Trinity, the first nuclear weapon test. Stanislaw Ulam, a 36-year-old Polish mathematician who helped build “the gadget”, visited ground zero after the test. Ulam later conceived the idea of propelling a spaceship with atomic bombs. Near the end of his life the eccentric genius stated the idea was his greatest work.

When considering nuclear propulsion, it must be understood that space is not an ocean, though often characterized as one. The distances and conditions are not comparable. While chemical energy has allowed humankind to travel across and above the surface of Earth, the energy required to travel in space is of a different order. Water, in the form of steam, was the agent of change that brought about the industrial revolution. Fossil fuel, burned and transformed by steam into mechanical work, would radically change the world in the span of a century. What is difficult for moderns to understand is not only how limited human capabilities were before steam, but how limited they are in the present in terms of space travel. The psychological limits of human beings limit space journeys to a few years. Chemical propulsion is not capable of taking human beings to the outer solar system and back within those crew limits. The solution is a reaction one million times more powerful. Nuclear energy is to the space age as steam was to the industrial age.

Space is not an ocean and this was the correct lesson drawn by Stanislaw Ulam after that suddenly bright morning in 1945. While metal can barely contain and harness chemical energy, Ulam thought outside that box and accepted nuclear energy could never be contained efficiently by any material. However, nuclear energy could be harnessed to push a spaceship in separate events to the fantastic velocities required for interplanetary travel without any containment problems at all- by using bombs. An uncontained burst of nuclear generated plasma could be withstood by a surface momentarily before the physical matter had time to melt.

Sixty years after Ulam’s stroke of genius, atomic bomb propulsion still has no competition as the only available propulsion system for practical interplanetary travel. This fact is almost completely unknown to the public. The term “ISP”, expressed in seconds, is used in measuring the efficiency of a rocket engine and chemical rockets have low ISP numbers but high thrust. The most efficient rocket engines, such as the space shuttle main engines, with a listed ISP of 453 seconds are also among the most powerful. Atomic bomb propulsion, thanks to the billions of dollars poured into star wars weapons research, would have an ISP exceeding 100,000 seconds. While other propulsion systems that use electricity have similar or higher numbers, the amount of thrust is trivial and requires months or years of continuous operation to develop any significant velocity. Considering space travel as not only a speed and distance problem, but also a time and distance problem, low thrust lengthens any missions to the outer solar system beyond crew limits. The thrust imparted by atomic bombs can in a short period easily accelerate thousands of tons to the comparatively extreme speeds necessary and then coast. Unlike an electric propulsion failure, a few dud bombs need not doom a mission or crew.

Though an incredible use of awesome power, the obstacles to employing bomb propulsion are not technical as some of the best engineers and physicists on the planet evaluated and validated the concept. A cadre of celebrity scientists also endorsed atomic bomb propulsion, including Werner Von Braun, who was present as a Nazi SS officer at the first successful V-2 launch, and as an American citizen at the launch of Apollo 8. Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan were also supporters. The first serious work on bomb propulsion was done by physicist Freeman Dyson and weapon designer Ted Taylor on the top secret project Orion. Dyson’s son, in his book Project Orion, refers to the classified star wars project Casaba Howitzer. This device focused most of the energy of a nuclear explosion in one direction. Ted Taylor’s specialty was small warheads and he designed the Orion bombs, aka “pulse units.” The “unclassified” state of the art in nuclear weapons can direct 80 percent of bomb energy into a slab of propellant, converting this mass into a jet of superheated plasma. A pusher plate would absorb the blast without melting for the fraction of a second it lasts and accelerate the spaceship in steps with each bomb. Perhaps the closest experience to riding in an atomic bomb propelled spaceship would be repeated aircraft carrier catapult launches. Instead of the ocean- space, instead of supersonic fighters- a thousand ton spaceship.

Project Orion was canceled due to nuclear weapon treaties requiring international consent for using any such devices in space. A parallel to the failure of atomic bomb propulsion may be found in an examination of the industrial age. In The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention, author William Rosen theorizes English patent law was the key enabler of the industrial age by allowing inventors to retain and profit from their intellectual property. The atomic bomb originated with a letter to President Roosevelt in 1939 from pacifist Albert Einstein- who was afraid the Nazi’s might build one first. With the human race living at the bottom of a deep, damp, and easily contaminated gravity well, atom bombs have never been applied successfully to a peaceful purpose. Stan Ulam, who lost most of his family in the holocaust, held the patent on atomic bomb propulsion. In the space age, nuclear weapon treaties and anti-nuclear activism have had the opposite effect of patent law and prevented atomic bomb propulsion from opening up the solar system to human exploration and colonization. Ironically, the nuclear industry is not safe on Earth- but deep space seems designed for it. There are no contamination or waste hazards, no long-term storage problems.

The problems with space travel are more than just the political barriers to detonating nuclear devices. The space industry is ipso facto a nuclear industry. Not only is nuclear energy the only practical source of propulsion in deep space, nuclear radiation generated by supernova and other celestial sources permeate space outside the protection of the earth’s atmosphere. All astronauts are radiation workers. Most, but sadly not all, space radiation is relatively easy to shield against. Many will argue using atomic bombs for propulsion is unnecessary. The presence of a small percentage of highly damaging and deeply penetrating particles- the heavy nuclei component of galactic cosmic rays makes a super powerful propulsion system mandatory. The tremendous power of atomic bomb propulsion is certainly able to propel the heavily shielded capsules required to protect space travelers. The great mass of shielding makes chemical engines, inefficient nuclear thermal rockets, the low thrust forms of electrical propulsion, and solar sails essentially worthless for human deep space flight. Which is why atomic bomb propulsion is left as the only “off the shelf” viable means of propulsion. For the foreseeable future, high thrust and high ISP to propel heavy shielding to the required velocities is only possible using bombs. The most useful and available form of radiation shielding is water. While space may not be an ocean, it appears human beings will have to take some of the ocean with them to survive.

The water comes before the bombs in human space flight because of the humans. The radiation hazards of long duration human space flight beyond earth orbit are only recently being addressed after decades of space station experience. The reason for this neglect is low earth orbit space stations are shielded from much of the radiation found outside the Earth’s Van Allen belts and magnetic field. An appreciation of the heavy nuclei component of galactic cosmic radiation, as well as solar events, will put multi-year human missions beyond earth orbit on hold indefinitely until a practical shield is available. While vested interests continue to promote inferior or non-existent technology, dismissing the radiation hazards and making promises they cannot keep, radiation scientists studying deep space conditions are skeptical- to say the least.

In the March 2006 issue of Scientific American magazine, Dr. Eugene Parker explained in simple terms survivable deep space travel. In “Shielding Space Travelers”, Parker states, “cosmic rays pose irreducible risks.” The premise of this statement is revealed when the only guaranteed solution to reducing the risk- a shield massing hundreds of tons- is deemed impractical. Active magnetic shields and other schemes are likewise of no use because while they may stop most radiation, the only effective barrier to heavy nuclei is mass and distance. The impracticality of a massive shield is due to first the expense of lifting hundreds of tons of shielding into space from Earth, and secondly propelling this mass around the solar system. Propelling this mass is not a problem if using atomic bombs, however, another problem arises. Even if the bombs could be politically managed, there is still the need to escape Earth’s gravitational field with all that shielding. Bomb propulsion is ideal for deep space but cannot be used in Earth orbit due to the Earth’s magnetic field trapping radioactive fallout that eventually enters the atmosphere. Not only lifting the shielding into orbit but chemically boosting it to a higher escape velocity away from the Earth is thus doubly problematic. Earth is a deep gravity well to climb out of.

The situation changed in March 2010 when NASA reported Mini-SAR radar aboard the Chandrayaan-1 lunar space probe had detected what appeared to be ice deposits at the lunar North Pole. An estimated 600 million tons of ice in sheets a couple meters thick. Moon water would allow a spaceship in lunar orbit to fill an outer hull with the 500+ tons of water required to effectively shield a capsule from heavy nuclei. This would enable an empty spaceship to “travel light” to the Moon and then boost out of lunar orbit using atomic bomb propulsion with a full radiation shield. Parker’s guaranteed but impractical solution had suddenly become practical. Fourteen feet of water equals the protection of the Earth’s air column at an altitude of 18,000 feet above sea level. This would protect astronauts not only from all forms of cosmic radiation but the most intense solar storms and the radiation belts found near the moons of Jupiter. With water and bombs, epic missions of exploration to the asteroid belt and outer planets are entirely possible. The main obstacles are again political, not technical. Bombs work, water works, and the Moon is in range of chemically propelled spacecraft launched from Earth.

There are other challenges to long duration beyond earth orbit human space flight but the solutions have been known for many decades. Zero gravity debilitation causes astronauts to weaken and permanently lose bone and bone marrow mass. The most practical solution, theorized since the early 1930′s, was investigated in 1966 during the Gemini 11 mission. A 100-foot tether experiment with the capsule attached to an Agena booster was successful in generating a small amount of artificial gravity by spinning the two vehicles. Equal masses on the ends of a tether can efficiently generate centrifugal force equal to one gravity. The concept is to “split the ship” when not maneuvering under power so the 500+ tons of shielded capsule is on one end and the rest of the craft of equal mass is reeled out on the other end of a thousand foot or more tether. Looking out through 14 feet of water, the crew of such a spaceship would view a slowly rotating star field. Long duration missions may last close to half a decade and the only option for providing air and water is to use a miniature version of Earth’s ecosystem. Equipment to enable a closed cycle life support system providing years of air and water is now available in the form of plasma reformers and facilitated by tons of water in which to grow algae or genetically modified organisms. With Earth radiation, Earth gravity, and air and water endlessly purified on board, crews can push their psychological limits as many years and as far out into the solar system as the speed of their atomic spaceships allow.

At the time of this writing, in early 2011, the outlook for human space flight is not encouraging. There are zero prospects for funding a long duration beyond earth orbit mission. Using atomic bombs to push minimum spaceship masses of over one thousand tons around the solar system for years at a time would cost as much as several major U.S. department of defense projects combined. Space flight is inherently expensive; there is no cheap. However, there is a completely valid military mission for atomic bomb propelled spaceships. Planetary protection became an issue in 1980 after the Chicxulub impact crater in Mexico was assigned blame for the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Though overshadowed by the cold war, the impact threat remains. Comet and asteroid impacts are also the stuff of Hollywood movies and this is unfortunate in that a grave threat to the survival of life on earth is viewed as fictional entertainment. The impact threat is not science fiction; it is quite real, as the frequent near misses and geologic evidence of repeated extinction events show. Optimized directional bombs used in bomb propulsion could also be employed to deflect comets and asteroids long before they approach Earth.

While the consequences of ignoring the threat of an inevitable tsunami, earthquake, or hurricane are bad, the consequences of ignoring the inevitable comet or asteroid impact are apocalyptic. It is not only random impacts that could strike at any time the human race need guard against. In April of 2010 renowned physicist Stephen Hawking warned of alien civilizations posing a possible threat to humanity. Several large comets purposely crashed into a planet to wipe out the majority of indigenous life and prepare for the introduction of invasive alien species may be a common occurrence in the galaxy. Before readers scoff, they might consider towers brought down by jetliners, the discovery of millions of planets, and other recent unlikely events. It is within our power to defend Earth from the very real threat of an impact, and at this time self-defense is the only valid reason to go into space instead of spending the resources on Earth improving the human condition. Protecting our species from extinction is the penultimate moral high ground above all other calls on public funds. The vast treasure expended by nations threatening each other is not protecting the human race at all. Earth is defenseless. President Ronald Reagan in his 1983 Star Wars speech said, “I call upon the scientific community who gave us nuclear weapons to turn their great talents to the cause of mankind and world peace.” President Barack Obama has expressed a desire to reduce the world nuclear arsenal and converting these weapons to propulsion devices would do so. A powerful force of nuclear powered, propelled, and armed spaceships cannot guarantee Earth will not suffer a catastrophe. The best insurance for our species is to establish, in concert with a spaceship fleet, several independent self-supporting off world colonies in the outer solar system. The first such colony would mark the beginning of a new age.

Time line

1939 (August) Einstein sends letter recommending atomic bomb.

1939 (September) Germany invades Poland, World War 2 begins.

1942 First successful V-2 rocket launch by the Nazis.

1945 Trinity, the first atomic bomb is detonated.

1957 Sputnik achieves orbit using a rocket designed to carry an atomic bomb.

1961 Yuri Gagarin orbits Earth.

1966 Gemini 11 mission demonstrates artificial gravity.

1967 Outer Space Treaty restricts nuclear weapons in space.

1968 Apollo 8 crew escapes Earth’s gravitational field.

1980 Chicxulub impact crater revealed as dinosaur killer.

1983 Ronald Reagan gives Star Wars speech.

2006 Eugene Parker explains survivable deep space travel.

2010 (March) Millions of tons of ice are discovered on the Moon.

2010 (April) Stephen Hawking warns of alien civilization threat.


George Dyson, 2002, Project Orion: The True story of the Atomic Spaceship, Henry Holt and Company, LLC

Eugene Parker, March 2006, Shielding Space Travelers, Scientific American Magazine

William Rosen, 2010, The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention, Random House

The unknown troubles and attracts us. We long to discover a reason for our existence. We look out to the stars through the darkness of space to observe phenomena incredibly far distances away. Many of us are curious about the things we see, these unknowns.

Yet, many of us look skyward and are uninspired, believing that our time and resources best be kept grounded. Despite our human-centered ideologies, our self-assured prophecies, our religious and philosophical beliefs, no existential rationale seems apparent.

We as people welcome technology into our lives and use it constantly to communicate and function. Scientific discoveries pique the interest of every citizen in every country, and technological revolutions have always preceded social and political revolutions from the creation of the internet back to man’s first use of simple tools. Leaders of nations proclaim the importance of science and discovery to our welfare to be utmost.

But what we have seen done recently contradicts these proclamations: space programs are closed; science funding for schools always falls short; and we see no emphasis of the significance of science in our modern culture. Our governments call for the best but provide capital for only the satisfactory, if even. We no longer succumb to the allure of learning simply for the sake of knowing what we once did not know. We have stopped dreaming.

The exploration of space is as related to earthly affairs as any trek, perhaps even more so, because what we learn along the way directly affects the knowledge we apply to our politics, our religions, societies, and sciences. We learn about ourselves, our dreams, our fears. We learn about our strengths and our weaknesses as nations and as a species. In searching the void all around us we learn how to interact with each other and bridge differences between races, religions, genders, and ideologies. The societies of Earth need to emphasize the importance of discovery and innovation to the longevity of mankind, as well as the very human need for the pursuit of challenge.

We are and always have been an adaptable species capable of creating dreams and accomplishing them. We should seek to explore our new frontier and chase ideas yet to even be conceived. The exploration of space has lifted our human spirit, enlightened us, and has made lucid and close our fragility and responsibilities. Perhaps our inhibitions and worries, and our craving to overcome them fuels our explorative ambitions.

If we desire greater purpose then let us earn it; through hardship to the stars! The sky is no longer a limit, but a starting point. We can define our lives, and our existence, by how we accept and handle the unknown; our significance as humans set forth by our bravery and intelligence. Regardless of our qualms and fears, exploration of the unknown is an intrinsic passion of mankind. Why not remind ourselves of what has advanced us thus far?

As the astrophysicist and activist Carl Sagan said, “We were hunters and foragers. The frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the earth and the ocean and the sky.” Let us now explore the boundless, and go forth into the starry-night, fresh and inspired, ready to accept any challenge, just as those before us did, when they first set sail for the unknown.

Read the original post at

A Future of Fewer Words? Five Trends Shaping the Future of Language
By Lawrence Baines
Published in 2012 in THE FUTURIST 46(2), 42–47.

Summary: Natural selection is as much a phenomenon in human language as it is in natural ecosystems. An ongoing “survival of the fittest” may lead to continuing expansion of image-based communications and the extinction of more than half the world’s languages by this century’s end.

Just after I moved to Oklahoma three years ago, I was invited to a meeting of the state’s Department of Education to discuss Native American languages. I learned that, of the 37 or so Native American languages represented in the state, 22 are already extinct. The last speakers of the Delaware and Mesquakie tongues had recently died; several other languages had only one or two speakers left.

Vanishing languages are not unique to Oklahoma. K. David Harrison, author of When Languages Die (Oxford University Press, 2008), estimates that, of the 6,900 or so languages spoken on the planet, more than half are likely to become extinct over the next century. Today, 95% of people speak one of just 400 languages. The other 6,509 languages are unevenly distributed among the remaining 5%. Hundreds of languages, most with only a few speakers still living, are teetering on oblivion at this very moment.

Why are the world’s languages disappearing? Like living organisms, languages morph over time in response to continuous evolutionary pressures. Any language is in serious trouble if it is spoken by few people or is confined to a remote geographic area. Many of the languages in northeastern Asia, for example, are in isolated, inhospitable regions where low birthrates and high morbidity rates have been facts of life for hundreds of years.

Geography and Distribution of Languages and Speakers

Geographic isolation is a problem that Oklahoma’s dying Native American languages have in common. For example, speakers of Ottawa, of which there may be only three still living Oklahoma, live in the northeastern part of the state, a location that draws few tourists and little business. If the remaining speakers of Ottawa are still alive, there is a good chance that they are over age 70 and rarely travel outside of the community. Anyone who would want to learn the Ottawa language would have to journey down dirt roads and knock on some unfamiliar doors to find out where these speakers live. Once you arrived on their doorstep, they still might not talk to you, especially if you are not a member of the tribe.

In New Guinea, a country that hosts a cauldron of language diversity, villagers on one side of a mountain often speak a completely different language from villagers who may live less than a kilometer away on the other side. If travel to a geographic location is difficult or interactions with speakers of other languages is restricted, then a language has no way to flourish. Like a plant that receives no pollination, a language without some kind of interaction eventually dies.

A second factor contributing to a language’s health is its social desirability. In some parts of the United States, children of first-generation immigrants often grow up in English-speaking neighborhoods, go to English-speaking schools, and come to think of English as the language of acceptance and power. Some of my Texas friends whose parents emigrated from Mexico do not know how to speak, read, or write in Spanish. One friend told me that his parents actually forbade him from speaking Spanish when he was growing up because they considered mastery of English to be essential for success in America.

According to the Global Language Monitor (, 2011), almost 2 billion people around the globe speak English as either a first or second language, making it the most widely spoken language in the history of the world. The closest runner-up is Mandarin Chinese, with roughly 1 billion speakers, the majority located in or around China. Spanish is the third most widely spoken language, with 500 million speakers, while speakers of Hindi and Arabic come in at fourth and fifth respectively, with between 450 million and 490 million speakers.

French was the most popular language in the world in 1800, but today, Spanish speakers outnumber French speakers worldwide by more than a 2:1 margin. English speakers outnumber French speakers by 10:1.

As the table below shows, 10 languages constitute a combined 82% of all content and traffic on the Internet. Six of them—English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, French, and Russian—also happen to be the six “official” languages of the United Nations. The ubiquity of these languages on the Internet, and in international relations and commerce, assures their advance for the foreseeable future.

Languages Represented on the Internet, 2011 est.


Number of Users

Percent of Total Users

Percent Increase, 2000–2011


565 million




510 million




165 million




99 million




83 million




75 million




65 million




60 million




60 million




39 million



Source: Internet World Stats,

Trend 1: Images Are Subverting Words

Not only is the world using fewer languages on a daily basis, but it is also using fewer words. Consider the rich vocabulary and complex sentence constructions in extemporaneous arguments of politicians in earlier centuries against the slick, simplistic sound bites of contemporary times. No politician today speaks like Thomas Jefferson, whose 1801 inaugural address began with the following two sentences: “Called upon to undertake the duties of the first Executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow citizens which is here assembled to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look towards me, to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge, and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire. A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye; when I contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honour, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation & humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking.”

During the nineteenth century, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated for hours in open, public arenas around the country. An examination of their spontaneous verbal sparring reveals dexterous vocabulary and complex thought processes delivered in speeches loaded with clarity and wit. In contrast, during the 2004 presidential campaign, George W. Bush’s campaign logo for the election was a simple W alongside an American flag, an essentially wordless communiqué.

The move from language to image is perhaps most apparent in advertisements, which increasingly emphasize sound and image to the exclusion of language. A winner of the 2010 CLIO award for the best commercial of the year was Volkswagen, whose commercial featured a series of rapid close-ups of a man and woman intimately dancing to rap music, followed in the last few seconds by a picture of a car and just two words: “Tough. Beautiful.”

To help encourage communication among tribes who have been long-time rivals, organizations working in Tanzania, where 129 “official languages” exist, have turned to images, not words, to try to get the tribes to communicate with one another. As John Wesley Young reports in Totalitarian Language (University of Virginia, 1992), translators in these organizations have found that trying to find a common language was cumbersome and fraught with unexpected problems, such as the “loaded connotations” of words like comrade and enemy. To de-escalate tensions, translators try to establish communications using only images, which require no intermediary translation and are not as encumbered by pejoration.

Trend 2: The Written Word Is Losing Authority

In the Bible, John 1:1 begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In Isaiah 48:13, God says, “By my word, I have founded the earth.”

In Christianity, as in most religions, holy words are assumed to have potency well beyond human comprehension, and the mere utterance of a holy word is assumed to have mystical power. J. K. Rowling borrowed this aspect of religious texts in writing the Harry Potter series of books, where her characters are often too fearful to even mention “him that need not be named” (Voldemort).

To get a sense of the power of words in earlier times, it is instructive to read the literate stirrings of a sixteenth-century Italian peasant named Domenico Scandella and his attempt to understand the Bible on his own terms. Scandella’s interpretation of the world as a ball of cheese infested with worms (angels) was considered blasphemous by the priests of the local Catholic Diocese, and he was thrown in prison several times over the course of his life, eventually dying there.

The Church assumed that Scandella’s linguistic interpretation could influence other parishioners in nefarious ways, so it silenced him. Today, thousands of political dissidents around the world are imprisoned on the same principle—that a few well-chosen words have the potency to change society.

The power of words is also substantiated by endless volumes of legal documents. In most countries, an agreement between individuals may be binding only if it is in writing and features the signatures of all involved. In courts of law, the presence of written documentation trumps oral agreements.

With the proliferation of electronic documents, clicking “I ACCEPT” has become equivalent to a written signature. Software programs downloaded from the Internet whose long, legal agreements momentarily flash upon a computer screen, are, in actuality, legally binding documents. In this manner, “proof of click” is replacing the multi-page, hand-signed documents in the legal system.

At first blush, the popularity of texting might be construed as a sort of affirmation for writing. Upon closer inspection, text messages and e-mails have more in common with oral language than written language. Text messages are usually spontaneous, one-shot efforts, written with little to no revision, often in response to a previous communication. They may include pauses (communicated through additional spaces or …), facial expressions (communicated through emoticons such as ;D for a wink and a smile), simple vocabulary, and recursive, sometimes incoherent construction, all of which are characteristics of oral language. Not surprisingly, text messages are generated by a device originally designed for speaking—a telephone.

Some texts are tweets, which are limited to 140 characters. Obviously, a 140-character limit restricts both linguistic complexity and sentence length. Few tweeters are likely to become the next William Faulkner, who commonly used more than 140 words (not characters) in a single sentence.

The cell phone has become a ubiquitous, all-purpose communications tool. However, its small keyboard and tiny screen limit the complexity, type, and length of written messages. Because no sane person wants to read streams of six-point font on a three-inch video screen, phones today are built with menus of images up to the presentation point of the messages themselves.

Trend 3: Changing Environment for Words

Most public libraries around the world are transforming from institutions focused on archives and research to centers for information and entertainment. The old conception of the library, with its mammoth, unabridged dictionary, ordered sets of reference books, and collections of bounded materials, has become a relic. Now most libraries feature large open spaces with Wi-Fi access, plenty of computer terminals, and as many film DVDs and audio CDs as can be purchased on a dwindling budget. Most libraries today spend more on non-print media than on books and magazines. In my local, college-town library, the computer stations always have a line of patrons waiting to log on, and the DVD aisles are packed with browsers, while the book stacks are relatively deserted.

Libraries are simply responding to changes in human behavior. In 1996, Americans spent more time reading than using the Internet. The following year, time spent on the Internet eclipsed reading, and the gap between reading and Internet usage has been expanding every year since. On a typical weekend, when individuals can choose how to fill their time, they read for about five minutes and they watch television, socialize, text, click around the Internet, and play video games for about five hours. In other words, the ratio of time spent with electronic media to time spent reading has ballooned to 60:1.

Research by the Kaiser Foundation found that adolescents, who are particularly heavy users of electronic media, pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes of media content into seven and a half hours of media interactions per day. In his book Everything Bad Is Good for You (Riverhead, 2005), Steven Johnson observes that electronic media have been shown to enhance student decision-making processes, to improve hand–eye coordination, and to promote collaborative thinking. However, most electronic media do not build vocabulary, enhance reading comprehension, or improve the quality of writing.

Television shows, even critically acclaimed series, are notoriously simplistic in their use of language. Script analyses of popular television shows such as South Park, 24, CSI, American Idol, and Friday Night Lights, all reveal a preponderance of monosyllabic words and short sentences.

Language simplification is apparent in cinema, as well. Film scripts from Avatar, Planet of the Apes, Transformers, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars are written at a second- or third-grade readability level. The basic unit of communication for film is the image, with music and special effects playing significant, supplementary roles. Words serve only as minor support.

The move toward grander spectacle through computer-generated images moves film even more toward the visual and farther away from the linguistic. The complete dialogue for the first Terminator film, which served as a harbinger for a new era of special effects, is just 3,850 words—about as long as this magazine article.

Trend 4: Effects of Neural Darwinism

Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist Gerald Edelman postulated that the brain constantly undergoes a “survival of the fittest” process, in which cells respond to environmental stimuli and, in turn, battle for dominance. Thus, avid readers build parts of their brains that are associated with reading while those parts of the brain associated with other tasks, such as hand–eye coordination (exercised during the playing of video games, for example), stabilize or atrophy. This “neural Darwinism,” the constant fight for dominance in the brain, is evident even in very young children. The stimuli that newborns choose to pay attention to will strengthen the circuits and synapses in the brain related to the stimuli. If certain parts of the brain are not stimulated, that part of the brain will not develop.

More than 20 years ago, neuroscientist Marian Diamond noted that enriched environments increase the size of the cortex at any age. Incredibly, detectable increases in cortical development become apparent after only four days.

The hypotheses of Edelman and Diamond have been confirmed in non-laboratory settings by sociologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley, who did studies of language use among parents and children in professional and welfare homes. The sociologists observed that, by age 3, children in professional homes had twice the vocabularies of children in welfare homes.

To find out why, they recorded oral exchanges between parent and children in both environments and found that professional parents averaged 487 utterances per hour with their children with a ratio of positive to negative comments of 6:1 (six positive comments for every one negative comment). On the other hand, in welfare homes, parents only averaged 178 utterances per hour with a ratio of positive to negative comments of 1:2 (one positive comment for every two negative comments).

By age 3, the average IQ of children of professional parents was 117; the average IQ of children of welfare parents was 79. Thus, much of the achievement gap may be attributable to impoverished environments in the early years.

In a more recent Carnegie Mellon University study, psychologists Timothy A. Keller and Marcel Adam Just took PET images (Positron Emission Tomography) of the brains of children who were poor readers, and then offered the children 100 hours of intensive “reading therapy” designed to improve reading effectiveness. Upon the conclusion of the 100 hours of therapy, the students showed significant improvements in their ability to read. When photographs were taken of the children’s brains after the 100 hours of therapy, the physical structure of their brains had changed to look more like the brains of avid readers.

As the world recedes from the written word and becomes inundated with multisensory stimuli (images, sound, touch, taste, and smell), the part of the human brain associated with language will regress. While there are benefits to becoming more visually astute and more aurally discriminating, the areas of the brain associated with language are also associated with critical thinking and analysis. So, as the corpus of language shrinks, the human capacity for complex thinking may shrink with it.

Trend 5: Translating Machines

Imagine a hand-held device that can translate simple phrases into any of several foreign languages. You type a phrase in your native language and the machine instantly translates and pronounces the desired phrase in the target language. Actually, such a machine already exists and may be purchased for about $50.

While today’s machine translators are not perfect, they are surprisingly functional. Most rely on translation algorithms that depend upon the most commonly occurring words in a language. Plain-language-in and plain-language-out enhances the probability that a word is contained in the database of the device and is understandable by the listener. An erudite translation could result in misunderstanding and confusion. That is, the machine is programmed explicitly for the most common words and phrases.

The inevitable proliferation and technological improvements of translating devices will mean more plainspeak, more monosyllabic words, and fewer polysyllabic words. As world commerce continues to expand and the need to communicate in several languages becomes a standard expectation, the emphasis will be on functionality—a few, useful words and durable phrases. Again, the universe of words seems destined to shrink.

The Rise and Fall of Languages, and What Comes Next

Foreign-language courses in K-12 schools and colleges used to focused upon culture as much as language. Students would study the government, religion, history, customs, foods, and etiquette of a country as much as its language. Today, foreign-language teaching is moving away from cultural awareness and toward language as a transaction. If you own a factory in Norway and you want to export your products to Vietnam, it would be in your best interest to become competent in Vietnamese as quickly as you can. What level of competency do you need to achieve your goals? How long will it take to get there? When the enterprise in Vietnam dries up, then the urgency to learn Vietnamese ceases to exist. While the loss of cultural transmission is lamentable, the focus on functionality is understandable, especially in light of widening international trade.

The reverberations of the shift from words as the dominant mode of communication to image-based media are becoming apparent. As we click more and write less, the retreat of polysyllabic words, particularly words with complex or subtle meanings, seems inevitable. The rich vocabulary in books occurs in the exposition, not the dialogue. When a book is adapted for film, a video game, or a television series, the exposition is translated into images, so the more complex language never reaches the ears of the audience. Media associated with the print world (books, magazines, newspapers) are the repositories of sophisticated language, so as individuals read less, they will have less exposure to sophisticated language.

Losing polysyllabic words will mean a corresponding loss of eloquence and precision. Today, many of the most widely read texts emanate from blogs and social networking sites, such as Facebook. Authors of these sites may be non-readers who have little knowledge of effective writing and may have never developed an ear for language. Over the next century, a rise in “tone deaf” writing seems certain.

Finally, more and more languages will disappear from the face of the planet, and world languages will coalesce into pidgin dialects as communication among cultures continues to accelerate. There will be an ongoing “survival of the fittest” battle among languages. If a language is not needed for commerce, identity, or communication, then it will shrink and possibly die.

The French novelist Gustave Flaubert once wrote, “Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to.” As images replace words, they will foster faster comprehension, enable easier communication, support stronger retention, and stimulate new ways of thinking. The possible consequences of the contraction of written communication are difficult to discern, but ready or not, the age of the image is upon us.

I have just watched this video by Global Futures 2045.

This is my list of things I disagree with:

It starts with scary words about how every crisis comes faster and faster. However this is untrue. Many countries have been running deficits for decades. The financial crisis is no surprise. The reason the US has such high energy costs goes back to government decisions made in the 1970s. And many things that used to be crises no longer happen, like the Black Plague. We have big problems, but we’ve also got many resources we’ve built up over the centuries to help. Much of the challenges we face are political and social, not technical.

We will never fall into a new Dark Ages. The biggest problem is that we aren’t advancing as fast as we could and many are still starving, sick, etc. However, it has always been this way. The 20th century was very brutal! But we are advancing and it is mostly known threats like WMDs which could cause a disaster. In the main, the world is getting safer every day as we better understand it.

We aren’t going to build a new human. It is more like a Renaissance. Those who lost limbs will get increasingly better robotic ones, but they will still be humans. The best reason to build a robotic arm is to attach it to a human.

The video had a collectivist and authoritarian perspective when it said:

“The world’s community and leaders should encourage mankind instead of wasting resources on solving momentary problems.”

This sentence needs to be deconstructed:

1. Government acts via force. Government’s job is to maintain civil order, so having it also out there “encouraging” everyone to never waste resources is creepy. Do you want your policeman to also be your nanny? Here is a quote from C.S. Lewis:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

2. It is wrong to think government is the solution to our problems. Most of the problems that exist today like the Greek Debt Crisis, and the US housing crisis were caused by governments trying to do too much.

3. There is no such thing as the world’s leaders. There is the UN, which doesn’t act in a humanitarian crisis until after everyone is dead. In any case, we don’t need the governments to act. We built Wikipedia.

4. “Managing resources” is codeword for socialism. If their goal is to help with the development of new technologies, then the task of managing existing resources is totally unrelated. If your job is to build robots, then your job is not also to worry about whether the water and air are dirty. Any scientist who talks about managing resources is actually a politician. Here is a quote from Frederic Hayek:

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design. Before the obvious economic failure of Eastern European socialism, it was widely thought that a centrally planned economy would deliver not only “social justice” but also a more efficient use of economic resources. This notion appears eminently sensible at first glance. But it proves to overlook the fact that the totality of resources that one could employ in such a plan is simply not knowable to anybody, and therefore can hardly be centrally controlled.”

5. We should let individuals decide what to spend their resources on. People don’t only invest in momentary things. People build houses. In fact, if you are looking for an excuse to drink, being poor because you live in a country with 70% taxes is a good one.

The idea of tasking government to finding the solutions and to do all futuristic research and new products to shove down our throats is wrong and dangerous. We want individuals, and collections of them (corporations) to do it because they will best put it to use in ways that actually improve our lives. Everything is voluntary which encourages good customer relationships. The money will be funded towards the products people actually care about, instead of what some mastermind bureaucrat thinks we should spend money on. There are many historical examples of how government doesn’t innovate as well as the private sector: the French telephone system, Cuba, expensive corn-based ethanol, the International Space Station, healthcare. The free market is imperfect but it leads to fastest technological and social progress for the reasons Frederic Hayek has explained. A lot of government research today is wasted because it never gets put to use commercially. There are many things that can be done to make the private sector more vibrant. There are many ways government can do a better job, and all that evidence should be a warning to not use governments to endorse programs with the goal of social justice. NASA has done great things, but it was only because it existed in a modern society that it was possible.

They come up with a nice list of things that humanity can do, but they haven’t listed that the one of the most important first steps is more Linux. We aren’t going to get cool and smart robots, etc. without a lot of good free software first.

The video says:

“What we need is not just another technological revolution, but a new civilization paradigm, we need philosophy and ideology, new ethics, new culture, new psychology.”

It minimizes the technology aspect when this is the hard work by disparate scientists that will bring us the most benefits.

It is true that we need to refine our understandings of many things, but we are not starting over, just evolving. Anyone who thinks we need to start over doesn’t realize what we’ve already built and all the smart people who’ve come before. The basis of good morals from thousands of years ago still apply. It will just be extended to deal with new situations, like cloning. The general rules of math, science, and biology will remain. In many cases, we are going back to the past. The Linux and free software movement is simply returning computer software to the hundreds of years-old tradition of science. Sometimes the idea has already been discovered, but it isn’t widely used yet. It is a social problem, not a technical one.

The repeated use of the word “new”, etc. makes this video like propaganda. Cults try to get people to reset their perspective into a new world, and convince them that only they have the answers. This video comes off as a sales pitch with them as the solution to our problems, ignoring that it will take millions. Their lists of technologies are random. Some of these problems we could have solved years ago, and some we can’t solve for decades, and they mix both examples. It seems they do no know what is coming next given how disorganized they are. They also pick multiple words that are related and so are repeating themselves. Repetition is used to create an emotional impact, another trait of propaganda.

The thing about innovation and the future is that it is surprising. Many futurists get things wrong. If these guys really had the answers, they’d have invented it and made money on it. And compared to some of the tasks, we are like cavemen.

Technology evolves in a stepwise fashion, and so looking at it as some clear end results on some day in the future is wrong.

For another example: the video makes it sound like going beyond Earth and then beyond the Solar System is a two-step process when in fact it is many steps, and the journey is the reward. If they were that smart, they’d endorse the space elevator which is the only cheap way to get out there, and we can do it in 10 years.

The video suggests that humanity doesn’t have a masterplan, when I just explained that you couldn’t make one.

It also suggests that individuals are afraid of change, when in fact, that is a trait characteristic of governments as well. The government class has known for decades that Social Security is going bankrupt, but they’d rather criticize anyone who wants to reform it rather than fix the underlying problem. This video is again trying to urge collectivism with its criticism of the “mistakes” people make. The video is very arrogant at how it looks down at “the masses.” This is another common characteristic of collectivism.

Here is the first description of their contribution:

“We integrate the latest discoveries and developments from the sciences: physics, energetics, aeronautics, bio-engineering, nanotechnology, neurology, cybernetics, cognitive science.”

That sentence is laughable because it is an impossible task. To understand all of the latest advances would involve talking with millions of scientists. If they are doing all this integration work, what have they produced? They want everyone to join up today, work to be specified later.

The challenge for nuclear power is not the science, it is the lawyers who outlawed new ones in 1970s, and basically have halted all advancements in building safer and better ones. Some of these challenges are mostly political, not scientific. We need to get engineers in corporations like GE, supervised by governments, building safer and cleaner nuclear power.

If you wanted to create all of what they offer, you’d have to hire a million different people. If you were building the pyramids, you could get by with most of your workers having one skill, the ability to move heavy things around. However, the topics they list are so big and complicated, I don’t think you could build an organization that could understand it all, let alone build it.

They mention freedom and speak in egalitarian terms, but this is contradicted by their earlier words. In their world, we will all be happy worker bees, working “optimally” for their collective. Beware of masterminds offering to efficiently manage your resources.

I support discussion and debate. I am all for think-tanks and other institutions that hire scientists. However, those that lobby government to act on their behalf are scary. I don’t want every scientist lobbying the government to institute their pet plan, no matter how good it sounds. They will get so overwhelmed that they won’t be able to do their actual job. The rules of the US Federal government are very limited and generally revolve around an army and a currency. Social welfare is supposed to be handled by the states.

Some of their ideas cannot be turned into laws by the US Congress because they don’t have this authority — the States do. Obamacare is likely to be ruled unconstitutional, and their ideas are potentially much more intrusive towards individual liberty. It would require a Constitutional Amendment, which would never pass and we don’t need.

They offer a social network where scientists can plug in and figure out what they need to do. This could also be considered an actual concrete example of something they are working on. However, there are already social networks where people are advancing the future. is the biggest community of programmers. There is also with 1,000,000 projects. Sage has a community advancing the state of mathematics.

If they want to create their own new community solving some aspect, that is great, especially if they have money. But the idea that they are going to make it all happen is impossible. And it will never replace all the other great communities that already exist. Even science happens on Facebook, when people chat about their work.

If they want to add value, they need to specialize. Perhaps they come up with millions of dollars and they can do research in specific areas. However, their fundamental research would very likely get used in ways they never imagined by other people. The more fundamental, the more no one team can possibly take advantage of all aspects of the discovery.

They say there is some research lab they’ve got working on cybernetics. However they don’t demonstrate any results. I don’t imagine they can be that much ahead of the rest of the world who provides them the technology they use to do their work. Imagine a competitor to Henry Ford. Could he really build a car much better given the available technology at the time? My response to anyone who has claims of some advancements is: turn it into a demo or useful product and sell it. All this video offer as evidence here is CGI, which any artist can make.

I support the idea of flying cars. First we need driverless cars and cheaper energy. Unless they are a car or airplane company, I don’t see what this organization will have to do with that task. I have nothing against futuristic videos, but they don’t make clear what is their involvement and instances of ambiguity should be noted.

They are wrong when they say we won’t understand consciousness till 2030 because we already understand it at some level today. Neural networks have been around for decades. IBM’s Jeopardy-playing Watson was a good recent example. However, it is proprietary so not much will come of that particular example. Fortunately, Watson was built on lots of free software, and the community will get there. Google is very proprietary with their AI work. Wolfram Alpha is also proprietary. Etc. We’ve got enough the technical people for an amazing world if we can just get them to work together in free software and Python.

The video’s last sentence suggests that spiritual self-development is the new possibility. But people can work on that today. And again, enlightenment is not a destination but a journey.

We are a generation away from immortality unless things greatly change. I think about LibreOffice, cars that drive themselves and the space elevator, but faster progress in biology is also possible as well if people will follow the free software model. The Microsoft-style proprietary development model has infected many fields.

I spend most of my time thinking about software, and occasionally I come across issues that are relevant to futurists. I wrote my book about the future of software in OpenOffice, and needed many of its features. It might not be the only writing / spreadsheet / diagramming / presentation, etc. tool in your toolbox, but it is a worthy one. OpenDocument Format (ODF) is the best open standard for these sorts of scenarios and LibreOffice is currently the premier tool to handle that format. I suspect many of the readers of Lifeboat have a variant installed, but don’t know much of the details of what is going on.

The OpenOffice situation has been a mess for many years. Sun didn’t foster a community of developers around their work. In fact, they didn’t listen to the community when it told them what to do. So about 18 months ago, after Oracle purchased Sun and made the situation worse, the LibreOffice fork was created with most of the best outside developers. LibreOffice quickly became the version embraced by the Linux community as many of the outside developers were funded by the Linux distros themselves. After realizing their mess and watching LibreOffice take off within the free software community, Oracle decided to fire all their engineers (50) and hand the trademark and a copy of the code over to IBM / Apache.

Now it would be natural to imagine that this should be handed over to LibreOffice, and have all interested parties join up with this effort. But that is not what is happening. There are employees out there whose job it is to help Linux, but they are actually hurting it. You can read more details on a Linux blog article I wrote here. I also post this message as a reminder about how working together efficiently is critical to have faster progress on complicated things.

It’s been a while since anyone contributed a post on space exploration here on the Lifeboat blogs, so I thought I’d contribute a few thoughts on the subject of potential hazards to interstellar travel in the future — if indeed humanity ever attempts to explore that far in space.

It is only recently that the Voyager probes provided us with some idea of the nature of the boundary of our solar system with what is commonly referred to as the local fluff, The Local Interstellar Cloud, through which we have been travelling for the past 100,000 years or so, and which we will continue to travel through for another 10,000 or 20,000 years yet. The cloud has a temperate of about 6000°C — albeit very tenuous.

We are protected by the effects of the local fluff by the solar wind and the sun’s magnetic field, the front between the two just beyond the termination shock where the solar wind slows to subsonic velocities. Here, in the heliosheath, the solar wind becomes turbulent by its interaction with the interstellar medium, and keeping the interstellar medium at bay from the inners of the solar system, the region currently under study by the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes. It has been hypothesised that there may be a hydrogen wall further out between the bow shock and the heliopause composed of ISM interacting with the edge of the heliosphere, another obstacle to consider with interstellar travel.

The short end of the stick is that what many consider ‘open space’ to traverse once we get beyond the Kuiper belt may in fact be many more mission-threatening obstacles to traverse to reach beyond our solar system. Opinions welcome. I am not an expert on this.

Russia’s hastily convened international conference in St. Petersburg next month is being billed as a last-ditch effort at superpower cooperation in defense of Earth against dangers from space.

But it cannot be overlooked that this conference comes in response to the highly controversial NATO anti-ballistic missile deployments in Eastern Europe. These seriously destabilizing, nuclear defenses are pretexted as a defense against a non-nuclear Iran. In reality, the western moves of anti-missile systems into Poland and Romania create a de facto nuclear first-strike capability for NATO, and they vacate a series of Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaties with the Russians that go back forty years.

Deeply distrustful of these new US and NATO nuclear first-strike capabilities, the Russians announced they will not attend NATO’s planned deterrence summit in Chicago this month. Instead, they are testing Western intentions with a proposal for cooperative project for near-space mapping, surveillance, and defense against Earth-crossing asteroids and other dangerous space objects.

The Russians have invited NATO members as well as forward-thinking space powers to a conference in June in Petrograd. The agenda: Planetary defense against incursions by objects from space. It would be a way of making cooperative plowshares from the space technologies of hair-trigger nuclear terror (2 minutes warning, or less, in the case of the Eastern European ABMs).

It’s an offer the US and other space powers should accept.

High energy experiments like the LHC at the nuclear research centre CERN are extreme energy consumers (needing the power of a nuclear plant). Their construction is extremely costly (presently 7 Billion Euros) and practical benefits are not in sight. The experiments eventually pose existential risks and these risks have not been properly investigated.

It is not the first time that CERN announces record energies and news around April 1 – apparently hoping that some critique and concerns about the risks could be misinterpreted as an April joke. Additionally CERN regularly starts up the LHC at Easter celebrations and just before week ends, when news offices are empty and people prefer to have peaceful days with their friends and families.

CERN has just announced new records in collision energies at the LHC. And instead of conducting a neutral risk assessment, the nuclear research centre plans costly upgrades of its Big Bang machine. Facing an LHC upgrade in 2013 for up to CHF 1 Billion and the perspective of a Mega-LHC in 2022: How long will it take until risk researchers are finally integrated in a neutral safety assessment?

There are countless evidences for the necessity of an external and multidisciplinary safety assessment of the LHC. According to a pre-study in risk research, CERN fits less than a fifth of the criteria for a modern risk assessment (see the press release below). It is not acceptable that the clueless member states point at the operator CERN itself, while this regards its self-set security measures as sufficient, in spite of critique from risk researchers, continuous debates and the publication of further papers pointing at concrete dangers and even existential risks (black holes, strangelets) eventually arising from the experiments sooner or later. Presently science has to admit that the risk is disputed and basically unknown.

It will not be possible to keep up this ostrich policy much longer. Especially facing the planned upgrades of the LHC, CERN will be confronted with increasing critique from scientific and civil side that the most powerful particle collider has yet not been challenged in a neutral and multidisciplinary safety assessment. CERN has yet not answered to pragmatic proposals for such a process that also should constructively involve critics and CERN. Also further legal steps from different sides are possible.

The member states that are financing the CERN budget, the UN or private funds are addressed to provide resources to finally initiate a neutral and multidisciplinary risk assessment.

German version of this article published in Oekonews:

Related LHC-Critique press release and open letter to CERN:

Typical physicist’s April joke on stable black holes at the LHC (April 1 2012, German):

Latest publications of studies demonstrating risks arising from the LHC experiment:

Prof Otto E. Rössler:

Thomas Kerwick B.Tech. M.Eng. Ph.D.:

Brief summary of the basic problem by LHC-Kritik (still valid since Sep. 2008):

Detailed summary of the scientific LHC risk discussion by LHC-Kritik and ConCERNed International:

We wish you happy Easter and hope for your support of our pragmatic proposals to urgently increase safety in these new fields of nuclear physics.

LHC Critique / LHC Kritik — Network for Safety at nuclear and sub-nuclear high energy Experiments.

[email protected]

Tel.: +43 650 629 627 5

New Facebook group:

GatgetBridge is currently just a concept. It might start its life as a discussion forum, later turn into a network or an organisation and hopefully inspire a range of similar activities.

We will soon be able to use technology to make ourselves more intelligent, feel happier or change what motivates us. When the use of such technologies is banned, the nations or individuals who manage to cheat will soon lord it over their more obedient but unfortunately much dimmer fellows. When these technologies are made freely available, a few terrorists and psychopaths will use them to cause major disasters. Societies will have to find ways to spread these mind enhancement treatments quickly among the majority of their citizens, while keeping them from the few who are likely to cause harm. After a few enhancement cycles, the most capable members of such societies will all be “trustworthy” and use their skills to stabilise the system (see “All In The Mind”).

But how can we manage the transition period, the time in which these technologies are powerful enough to be abused but no social structures are yet in place to handle them? It might help to use these technologies for entertainment purposes, so that many people learn about their risks and societies can adapt (see “Should we build a trustworthiness tester for fun”). But ideally, a large, critical and well-connected group of technology users should be part of the development from the start and remain involved in every step.

To do that, these users would have to spend large amounts of money and dedicate considerable manpower. Fortunately, the basic spending and working patterns are in place: People already use a considerable part of their income to buy consumer devices such as mobile phones, tablet computers and PCs and increasingly also accessories such as blood glucose meters, EEG recorders and many others; they also spend a considerable part of their time to get familiar with these devices. Manufacturers and software developers are keen to turn any promising technology into a product and over time this will surely include most mind measuring and mind enhancement technologies. But for some critical technologies this time might be too long. GadgetBridge is there to shorten it as follows:

- GadgetBridge spreads its philosophy — that mind-enhancing technologies are only dangerous when they are allowed to develop in isolation — that spreading these technologies makes a freer world more likely — and that playing with innovative consumer gadgets is therefore not just fun but also serves a good cause.

- Contributors make suggestions for new consumer devices based on the latest brain research and their personal experiences. Many people have innovative ideas but few are in a position to exploit them. Contributors rather donate their ideas that see them wither away or claimed by somebody else.

- All ideas are immediately published and offered free of charge to anyone who wants to use them. Companies select and implement the best options. Users buy their products and gain hands-on experience with the latest mind measurement and mind enhancement technologies. When risks become obvious, concerned users and governments look for ways to cope with them before they get out of hand.

- Once GadgetBridge produces results, it might attract funding from the companies that have benefited or hope to benefit from its services. GadgetBridge might then organise competitions, commission feasibility studies or develop a structure that provides modest rewards to successful contributors.

Your feedback is needed! Please be honest rather than polite: Could GadgetBridge make a difference?