Future Index

Man vs machine chess match ends in stalemate - New Scientist   Garry Kasparov's contest with Deep Blue took place in 1997. Now, more than five years later, he has been able to hold his own against "Deep Junior". Of course, Deep Junior may not have had the 3 terops computing power of Deep Blue. But one fact is clear: Deep Junior can already beat chess grand masters other than Garry Kasparov, and its only a matter of time before AI programs can overpower any human chess player.
    What's significant about this is that human-level AI, in certain narrow venues, is becoming affordable. I would be surprised if there aren't wonderful AI investment programs at work on Wall Street. There was an article in this week's issue of "The Scientist" about genetic algorithms that are re-inventing existing devices (demonstrating that it doesn't take a human inventor to create them), and even inventing new, improved designs that haven't been devised before. 
    Now it's only a matter of time....
    (Gordon Moore today reaffirmed Moore's Law for at least 10 more years.
Moore's Law to roll on for another decade - Business Week , Gordon Moore makes predication about Moore’s Law - Silicon Strategies  , Gordon Moore Sees Another Decade for Moore's Law- Yahoo )

Scientists Replace Stem Cell Genes... - Washington Post   This article suggests that "The work is a step toward the biomedical goal of being able to rebuild or regenerate parts of the human body by transplanting either stem cells or tissues grown from stem cells into patients, scientists said. Precise genetic changes in those formative human cells might enhance their therapeutic potential or make them more compatible with patients' immune systems." The article observes that this discovery might make it unnecessary to pursue therapeutic cloning in which "in which cloned embryos would be created as a source of therapeutic tissues that match the genetic signature of the patient." B
ut the article goes on to say, "Despite years of efforts, Johns Hopkins University stem cell researcher John Gearhart said, scientists have not been able to make lines of mouse stem cells that are compatible in all mice. He suggested that therapeutic cloning research, controversial though it is, will remain important in the search for treatments for human disease."
    A part of this article that concerns me is that it inserts a gratuitous warning against "designer babies".
    The politicization of science concerns me. One has to ask, what will the politics of genetic choice become? What if we had said,
    "Horseless carriages will be terrible! They'll go at great speeds, risking the lives and limbs of their occupants, and of innocent victims walking or riding their horses along the road. They'll churn our roads into mud, and then get stuck in the mud, blocking buggy traffic. They'll fill the air with the stench of their petroleum fumes. They'll be a lot louder than the cloppings of horses' feet. Anyone who goes more than 20 miles an hour in them will die. They'll be affordable only by the rich.
    "We'd better ban horseless carriage research and manufacture, and stick with good old Dobbin."
    If you want an idea about how accurately futurists can prognosticate, read the 1950's and 1960's science fiction forecasts for the year 2000.
    What I suspect will happen s that designer babies will be prohibited in the United States for a while. But gradually, wealthy and/or influential grandparents will help their children design the baby of their choice at a clinic somewhere in the world that is most permissive about such things. After a few years, word will seep out that so-and-so has bent the rules, and then, others will follow suit. People will work their way through loopholes. Eventually, the practice will spread. Pharmaceutical companies will want to share in the pie. Countries that are rigorous in their maintenance of genetic rules will lose business (and reputation) to countries that are more relaxed about such practices.
    Or alternatively, artificial intelligence will threaten human functions, and everyone will hustle to keep humans up with machines.