March 2011

Mark Stevenson on his tour of the future

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Mark Stevenson, writer, comedian, and author of the new book An Optimist’s Tour of the Future: One Curious Man Sets Out to Answer “What’s Next?”, discusses his book. Stevenson calls An Optimist’s Tour of the Future a travelogue about science written for non-scientists, and he talks about why he traveled the world to try to draw conclusions about where human innovation is headed. He discusses his investigation of nanotechnology and the industrial revolution 2.0, transhumanism, information and communication technologies, and the ultimate frontier: space. Stevenson also discusses why he’s hopeful about the future and why he wants to encourage others to have optimism about the future.

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Patri Friedman on seasteading

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Patri Friedman, executive director and chairman of the board of The Seasteading Institute, discusses seasteading. Friedman discusses how and why his organization works to enable floating ocean cities that will allow people to test new ideas for government. He talks about advantages of starting new systems of governments in lieu of trying to change existing ones, comparing seasteading to tech start-ups that are ideally positioned to challenge entrenched companies. Friedman also suggests when such experimental communities might become viable and talks about a few inspirations behind his “vision of multiple floating Hong Kongs”: intentional communities, Burning Man, and Ephemerisle.

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Joseph Hall on e-voting

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Joseph Hall, a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Berkeley School of Information and a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy, discusses e-voting. Hall explains the often muddled differences between electronic and internet voting, and talks about security concerns of each. He also talks about benefits and costs of different voting systems, limits to having meaningful recounts with digital voting systems, why internet voting can be a bad idea, and the future of voting.

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Siva Vaidhyanathan on why we should worry about Google

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Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, discusses his new book, The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry). Vaidhyanathan talks about why he thinks many people have “blind faith” in Google, why we should worry about it, and why he doesn’t think it’s likely that a genuine Google competitor will emerge. He also discusses potential roles of government, calling search neutrality a “nonstarter” but proposing the idea of a commission of sorts to monitor online search. He also talks about the human knowledge project, an idea for a global digital library, and why a potential monopoly on information by such a project doesn’t worry him the way that Google does.

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Jim Harper on identification systems

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Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, discusses identification systems. He talks about REAL ID, a national uniform ID law passed in 2005 that states have contested, and NSTIC, a more recent government proposal to create an online identification “ecosystem.” Harper discusses some of the hidden costs of establishing national identification systems and why doing so is not a proper role of government. He also comments on the reasoning behind national ID proposals and talks about practical, beneficial limits to transparency.

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