Current Reading – Redux

Columbus Futurist member Jerry Thomas responded to the call for “What are your reading” at the January meeting by offering a handout with a couple of pages of sources he has collected over time, including links, where appropriate.

You can download this Word document here.  Right click on the live link (or Control + click on a Mac) and select “save link as” to download document to your computer.  We all appreciated Jerry’s effort to offer a handout to the group!

— Posted by Rich Bowers

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Current Reading Covers A Broad Spectrum

The January meeting of Columbus Futurists celebrated the 10th anniversary of the local chapter – and elicited a spontaneous round of applause for David Staley, chapter president who initiated the chapter and has shepherded it ever since.

The topic of discussion for the meeting was “What are you reading now?”   Everyone in the group offered at least one title on their current list, and some have more than one book going at any given time.  I made an effort to capture the titles, and present them here in no particular order.  I have also provided an embedded link to each title, so they are easy to find should you wish to follow-up.  For consistencies sake, each link – where available – goes to the printed book edition – but many do have electronic editions also, which are listed where they exist.

If anyone who was in attendance finds that I have omitted something – or somehow gotten it wrong – please add a comment here or send an email, and I will correct the list for posterity.

What are you reading now? – January 26, 2012:

Quite an eclectic list – and of course we would anticipate nothing less from this group!

We look forward to seeing the group again on Feb 23 (same location: Panera on Bethel Rd.), when we will be discussing “Are Freeways Doomed?

— Posted by Rich Bowers

Book Circle News

The August 11 book is John Brockman’s collection of essays This Will Change Everything: Ideas that will shape the future.  We’ll meet at the Panera (875 Bethel Rd) for the last time for a while – at 7pm.

We are re-thinking some aspects of the Futurists’ Book Circle.  Attendance has been in decline and we are unsure if that’s a function of the book selections, the location, the frequency or some other characteristic.  So the plan is to make some changes and see how the members react.

Starting in August, we will meet quarterly.  Thereafter we will meet in November, February and May for the 2012 program year.  We are looking for another comfortable location – to be announced – along with the exact dates.

As always, suggestions for books to read and discuss are always welcome.

If you have an interest in re-setting the program, or suggesting titles or locations – please feel free to post your input here as comments, or email David directly.

— Rich Bowers

April Forum: Are America’s best days behind us?

The Columbus Futurists met on Thursday April 28, and discussed Fareed Zakaria’s article “Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?” (Newsweek, March 3, 2011).  One of the largest groups in recent times attended, and a lively discussion touched on key issues in the article, including: What is the definition of “best”?  Are we in a detectable cycle of history?  If there is a decline, what might be done to change directions?  A good part of the discussion also focused on changing attitudes in the political forum and among young people,  a new discovery of Ayn Rand and the decline of altruism – and do those attitudes impact the quality of life in society at large?

Further reading and resources:

Bob Letcher, offered a couple of links to blog posts he had written he felt were relevant even (if the current events discussed are a bit dated).  They are “Pendulum or Wrecking Ball: Which is the more apt image for the United States as the 2008 election approaches” and “Beyond Unemployment Insurance in the Face of Structural Job Loss.”  Both these articles incorporate substantial background and history related to the broad issues of the April discussion and Zakaria’s piece.  The “Pendulum” piece contains Bob’s  attempt to describe Olson’s “logic of collective action,” and it may be  as good as any of us will have opportunity to read.   Neither Olson’s logic nor Bob’s  explanation of it are dated at all.

— Rich Bowers

On Machine Ethics

The most recent meeting of Columbus Futurists delved into the topic of IBM’s trivia-savvy supercomputer Watson and his most recent performance on Jeopardy.

Some of the discussion had to do with the thorny issue of machine ethics, based on the very human fears that machines may become intelligent in unintended ways and make ethical decisions which are less than satisfactory.

As I reflected on the topic, my belief (and, frankly, hope) is that there will be multiple machine ethical standards from multiple manufacturers. Different companies will program their computers with different ethical frameworks and there will be plenty of opportunities to assess and compare the different frameworks.

I find this idea a relief. Often when we debate machine ethics, we think there must be only one ideal standard, the complexity will be deciding on what that standard should be and then we’ll have to deal with the consequences if there is something wrong with that standard.

In reality, machine ethics will be a process of continuous improvement, with no right answer, much like how ethics, morality and politics are for humans.

–James Moyer