More technology and science, with an assist from Tumbld Thoughts. This time, our "tech and science" tour will focus on new visions of futurism (I) and the second (evolution-focused) episode of the Cosmos reboot (II).
I. Futurist Terms for the 21rst Century
A possible future with lots of skyscrapers, bridges, and clouds. Apparently, the earth's atmospheric consists of a lot more water vapor then......
Do you want to be "in the know" when it comes to futurist trendmaking? Or at least sound like you know what you are talking about? George Dvorsky  went out and asked people already in the know (or at least in the vision) about which terms one should use to characterize up-and-coming technological trends.
* co-veillance. Reciprocal vision and supervision -- or scrutiny from below. A combination of several pre-existing ideas, including the participatory panopticon and sousveillance , all in one slightly more visionary package.
* multiplex parenting. A reproductive technology that involves the genetic material (sperm, egg, and mitochondria) of three parents.
* longetivity dividend. Related to the more well-known demographic dividend, but focuses on lifespan rather than fecundity
* repressive desublimation. Feeling free by repressing your human urges (with pharmaceutical enhancement this time around) and adding a dash of soft paternalism. Break out the soma, kids.
* mules. Black-swan-like events that are not only extremely rare, but are outside our scope of understanding. The field of predicting rare events is replete with animal metaphors .
* evolvability risk. The production of superlative (much stronger or faster than average) variants -- the focus here is more on cultural evolution than on genetic engineering-assisted biological evolution. You get the idea?
I find this list fascinating for more than a couple of reasons. For one, it tells us what the state-of-the-art is in terms of future prediction. For example, modernist-era (1950's era) visions of the future were dominated by flying cars and jetpacks. Not exclusively, but that was the mode of thinking. But when many of those technologies have either been realized to some extent or realized to be impractical, what is left to inform your vision of the future? In this list, the future trends can be broken down into four categories:
COURTESY: Derren Brown's Milgram Experiment replication.
1) 4 out of 20 terms have to do with moral/social control. A staple of science fiction, I thought that there would be more terms in this category. Nevertheless, there is a distinct "Brave New World" flavor to this group of terms . One highlight is "effective altruism", which seems to presume that not only can altruism can be enhanced, it is our moral duty to make it as efficient as possible. Cultural bias, anyone?
2) 8 out of 20 terms have to do with biological enhancement/optimization. This is unsurprising, since biotechnology and bioengineering are fields where most technologists think the future breakthroughs lie. But as Stephen Zweig once observed: "Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be". Subcategories include life extension (extropianism), reproductive technologies, and cognitive enhancement [5, 6].
This is the extropian's scala naturae-inspired vision of the future. Not sure what the extropian "branching bush" would look like.
3) 6 out of 20 terms have to do with characterization and/or analysis of the future. In this bucket, I include "computational overhang" (a big data-related concept), "technological unemployment" (an observational term), and the forementioned "mules". These terms are a little more grounded in data and reality, mainly because they pick up on already-observable trends.
4) 2 out of 20 terms have to do with autonomous systems. This is in conflict with the modernist-era view of the future, mainly in terms of focus. While many concrete advances have been made in such systems (e.g. robots, self-driving cars) in recent years, this survey of futurists tends to lump autonomous systems in with advances in biotechnology (e.g. substrate-autonomous person, intelligence amplification). And while this survey is by no means a representative sample, this tells us something about expectations.
Is this the future? No, that's a relic of the past.....
 Dvorsky, G. 20 Crucial Terms Every 21rst Century Futurist Should Know. io9, March 17 (2014).
 Mann, S. Sousveillance: inventing and using wearable computing devices for data collection in surveillance environments. Surveillance and Society, 1(3), 331-355 (2003).
 Cascio, J. 3 Reasons Why Your Predictions Of The Future Will Go Wrong. Co.EXIST Blog, March 27 (2013).
II. Recap of Cosmos, Episode II
Links and supplementary reading for the Cosmos reboot, episode 2 (The Interesting Things Molecules Do). There were a few parts in which scientific accuracy and nuance were sacrificed in the name of "coherent narrative" (a.k.a. the narrative fallacy). But of course, coherent narratives make the science go down easier, especially for the uninitiated. Apparently, that's the nature of our species. You will have to watch to see why these categories are interesting/relevant.
COURTESY: Thomson, J. Walking Molecules. Chemical Society Reviews blog, March 29 (2011). But aside from the ease of visualization and understanding, it is important to remember that molecular machines are no more "creatures" than are a spinning top or a passive dynamic walker.
COURTESY: A Darwin Study Group blog.Dog domestication:
Goldman, J.G. Two theories of dog domestication. The Thoughtful Animal, October 7 (2010).
Harmon, K. Origin of Dogs. Scientific American, August 20 (2009).
Freedman, A.H. et.al Genome Sequencing Highlights the Dynamic Early History of Dogs. PLoS Genetics, 10 (1), e1004016 (2014).
Artificial selection. Understanding Evolution, UC-Berkeley.
Phototaxis and vision:
Drescher, K., Goldstein, R.E., and Tuval, I. Fidelity of adaptive phototaxis. PNAS, 107(25), 11171-11176 (2010).
Brouers, L. Animal vision evolved 700 million years ago. Thoughtomics blog, November 20 (2012).
Nilsson, D-E. and Pelger, S. A pessimistic estimate of the time required for an eye to evolve. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 256(1345), 53-58 (1994).
Blurred vision, Squid and Spider:
Tripp, E. The Squid's Blurred Vision: judging distance underwater. Marine Science Today, January 27 (2014).
Coghlan, A. Zoologger: squid snares prey using badly blurred vision. New Scientist Zoologger, January 20 (2014).
Yong, E. Jumping Spides use blurry vision to judge distance. Not Exactly Rocket Science, January 26 (2012).
COURTESY: Pharyngula blog.
Frank, A. A human-driven extinction: good or bad? NPR 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog, January 28 (2014).
Jablonski, D. Lessons from the past: evolutionary impacts of mass extinctions. PNAS, 98(10), 5393-5398 (2001).
A final point in the form of sculpture.....
Giant Key West Chicken by Derek Arnold. A steampunk-style, ridable source of metal eggs (according to cartoon evolution rules).