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Giulio Prisco (M, 59)
Budapest, HU
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    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    Science fiction authors Richard Morgan and Greg Egan have described mind uploading and “backup copies” as a practical technology for immortality. Of course, “carbon chauvinists” often speak against mind uploading, and some have interesting things to say.

    The perils of mind uploading
    In The Perils of Mind Uploading, science fiction writer Nigel Seel anticipates mind uploading, which he describes as “in a few decades time, it will be possible to scan a living brain at the resolution of individual neurons — cell bodies, dendrites and axons — and “parse” such a “bitmap” into a computerized brain model.”

    He also warns that “every technological advance has its dark side,” and imagines three case studies from the criminal files of a fictional future with widespread mind uploading technology:

    — Case 1: The Self-Erasing Murderer
    — Case 2: The Bed-Sit Torturer
    — Case 3: The Memory Blackmailers

    The three examples are horrible and scary, and seem taken from Morgan novels.

    Altered carbon and digitally-stored personalities
    Science fiction author Richard K. Morgan, quoted by Seel, has developed a very complete and elaborate future universe with “noir” stories built around mind uploading and digitally-stored personalities.

    In Morgan’s stories everyone has a brain implant, called “stack,” which stores the user’s memories in realtime. The content of the stack can be retrieved after physical death (which happens frequently and often violently in Morgan’s stories) and downloaded to a new body, or “sleeve.” People are effectively immortal, of course provided they are able to pay.

    The main character Takeshi Kovacs, a hyper-trained killer who is basically a nice person inside, travels from star to star, as a data file beamed to destination, and from sleeve to sleeve. In the three novels published so far, Kovacs:

    — Visits the decadent Earth and defeats a psychopath billionaire. He needs some help, so he splits in two and spawns an expendable copy to do the dirtiest part of the work (Altered Carbon).
    — Participates in a planetary war and recovers a super spaceship left in a parking orbit by an ancient civilization, with a team of mercenaries restored from their stacks purchased wholesale at a Voodoo market (Broken Angels).
    — Back in his home world, rescues a long-dead revolutionary leader, imprinted by an alien database in the brain of a mercenary girl and emerged after some steamy sex with our Takeshi. Who, in the meantime, is stalked by a murderous paid killer, a certain… Takeshi Kovacs, recovered from an old bootleg softcopy of his stack (Woken Furies).

    Virtual hells
    The worse thing that can happen to you in Morgan’s universe is being copied from a bootleg softcopy of your stack by a sadist who wants to torture a copy of you (or thousands of copies of you) forever.

    If you accept the possibility of continued existence after biological death as a upload (sorry Randal, substrate-independent mind), then you must also accept the possibility of such a virtual hell. In The Perils of Mind Uploading, Seel says: ” The moment you permit your brain to be scanned you’ve lost control. Your computer-virtual is exactly identical to corporeal-you, except that it can be copied without limit and can be hacked by anyone who can get access. The nearest analogue to this situation today is your money. It’s also stored electronically and can be moved around the network. We trust institutions, banks and credit card companies, to keep our digital cash safe, but we know that it doesn’t always happen.”

    Yes, once mind uploading technology is developed, people will use it for good as well as bad ends, and substrate-independent minds will be at constant risk of being hacked and abused. Like Seels, I would like my upload copy to have “high-grade data-encryption, a remote location-finder, and a self-erase function in case it gets stolen.”

    The perils of the Internet
    But any technology can be abused for bad ends. A few decades ago, today’s interconnected world with billions of personal mobile devices connected to the planet-wide Internet would have been seen as a beautiful science fiction utopia. But somebody might have written an article on The perils of the Internet, with stories like:

    — Case 1: Pedophile stalks children on the Internet, bodies found
    — Case 2: Terrorists remotely detonate bombs with mobile phones, kill hundreds
    — Case 3: Addict gamer shoots in shopping center, thought it was a video-game

    I don’t have to make up the content, because such things have, unfortunately, happened. A quick Google search will sadly reveal real examples.

    Most people are good, but some people are bad. Some bad people commit atrocities and use any technical means to abuse and kill others. This does not mean that we must relinquish or slow down the development of advanced technologies. On the contrary, advanced technologies may someday offer the means to cure severely disturbed psychopaths.

    While recognizing the perils of advanced technologies available to insane people, I think we can agree that the effects of the Internet have been (much) more good than bad.

    The promises of mind uploading
    Similarly, while recognizing the perils of mind uploading, I prefer to think of the promises of mind uploading, and imagine examples like:

    — Case 1: 21st century cancer victim recovered from chemically preserved brain, beamed to the Tau Ceti colony to meet grandchildren
    — Case 2: Couple revived from mind scans and softcopy mindfiles celebrate second wedding with a global mindcast, plan to recover their children
    — Case 3: Artist merges with quantum AI, produces sublime works

    The very advanced mind uploading technology described by Morgan will not be developed for quite some time, so perhaps we should not worry too much just yet. But the first baby steps toward mind uploading technology may be taken much sooner.

    Back to the present then, or to the near-term future. Seel links to his review of Greg Egan’s Zendegi, a well-researched and believable fictional account of the very early development stages of mind uploading technology.

    I have also written a review of Zendegi. If you have read the book or if you don’t mind spoilers, read Seel’s review or mine. My conclusions:

    The tragic end is already expected by the reader and does not come as a surprise. Egan knows that the development of disruptive technologies is never easy, never linear, and always troubled. I think uploading technology will be developed eventually, perhaps in the second half of this century, but I am afraid Greg is right, and in the early development stages there will be unexpected problems and major setbacks, there will be unhappiness, and there will be tragedies. But, fast forward a few centuries to the upload society in Diaspora, this is how the “Introdus” to a next phase of our evolution might begin.

    And, in fact, the novel ends with a positive thought: “Maybe in Javeed’s lifetime a door could be opened up into Zendegi-ye-Bethar; maybe his generation would be the first to live without the old kind of death. Whether or not that proved to be possible, it was a noble aspiration.”

    There will be risks, and then there will be even more risks. There will be suffering and death, as it has always been the case. But there will be much more happiness, and wonderful adventures. The only way to avoid risk is staying all day in bed and never going out… but even so, an earthquake can kill you in bed.

    No, risk is part of being alive. The only way to avoid all risks, is not being alive.

    I prefer risk.
    Tue, Sep 20, 2011  Permanent link
    Categories: sciencefiction, minduploading
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    The teleXLR8 online talk program based on OpenQwaq has been covered by Hypergrid Businessas an online open TED, using modern telepresence technology for ideas worth spreading, and as a next generation, fully interactive TV network with a participative audience.

    TED (the well known Technology, Entertainment and Design global set of conferences and talks on “ideas worth spreading”) is a role model. teleXLR8 offers similar content with fully interactive online talks and discussions using modern video conferencing and virtual reality technology, almost as good as being there in person.

    The previous phase of teleXLR8 project, based on Teleplace, has been running as a free, invitation-only beta on the Teleplace servers and network infrastructure since March 2010, and produced many online talks by well-known emerging technologies experts and futurists, and online extensions to conferences such as the ASIM 2010 Conference, satellite to the Singularity Summit 2010, and the TransVision 2010 Conference. In the latter, streamed interactively as a full 2-way “mixed-reality” event with both local and remote speakers, the participants in Milan were joined by remote participants from all over the world. The Turing Church Online Workshop 1, held on Saturday November 20 2010 in teleXLR8, explored transhumanist spirituality and “Religion 2.0″.

    All talks have been recorded on video and posted to video sharing sites the day after the talk. The videos have been seen by tens of thousands of viewers and covered by important technology oriented websites including internetACTU, IEET, KurzweilAI, H+ Magazine, Next Big Future, HyperGrid Business and Slashdot.

    At the end of 2010 the teleXLR8 project, based on the industrial strength commercial Teleplace platform, was put on hold waiting for funding.

    In May 2011 Teleplace made the visionary decision to open source their technology as OpenQwaq. This permits continuing teleXLR8 as a free, invitation-only program based on OpenQwaq, with more frequent talks, workshops and conferences.

    The initial release of OpenQwaq was functionally equivalent to Teleplace with the exception of the video subsystem used for webcam videoconferencing, video playback and session recording, because the proprietary video codecs used in Teleplace could not be included as open source. The OpenQwaq development team and 3d Immersive Collaboration Consultants (a value added OpenQwaq consulting and hosting company) have then integrated the open source video and audio codecs used in the VLC media player.



    In August 2011 the teleXLR8 project has been re-launched. See my short presentation Welcome to the 2011 season! The first talk has been announced by KurzweilAI: “teleXLR8 is reopening on Sunday 21 10 a.m. PST with a talk by [experimental quantum physicist/programmer] Suzanne Gildert on Hack the Multiverse!. The teleXLR8 online talk program is “a telepresence community for cultural acceleration,” as their blog puts it. Translation: an audiovideo seminar — think TED in Second Life, plus webcam videoconferencing and video session recording."

    Suzanne outlined the basics of Quantum Computing, described the the D-Wave One quantum computer, and explained how to program it. See the D-Wave blog Hack the Multiverse for more. The talk covered an introduction to quantum computing and the technology of building quantum computers, then moved into a tutorial discussing Energy Programming: A new way of programming unlike anything else in existence, with a special treat for those attending the talk: A chance to navigate one’s avatar around a lifesize virtual copy of the D-Wave One quantum computer.

    More than 30 participants attended the talk and asked many interesting questions in a lively Q/A session after the talk. This talk has been the first field test of the new OpenQwaq server hosted by 3d Immersive Collaboration Consultants, which has performed very well. For those who missed the talk, the full video coverage is on the teleXLR8 video channel on YouTube:

    VIDEO A – 1h 33 min, recorded by Giulio Prisco
    VIDEO B – 1h 43 min, recorded by Frederic Emam-Zade, includes 10 min of chat before the talk, taken mostly with a zoom on the viewgraphs
    VIDEO C – 1h 50 min, recorded by Jameson Dungan, includes 18 min of chat before the talk, taken from a fixed point of view

    The same videos are available on the teleXLR8 video channels on Blip.tv and Vimeo.

    The teleXLR8 project will continue with more frequent talks, seminars, online conferences and mixed-reality extension of traditional conferences, interviews, talk shows, and e-learning courses. Thanks to the built-in video recording feature of OpenQwaq, we will post the full video coverage to our video sharing channels on Blip.tv, Youtube and Vimeo after a few days. Participation in the realtime interactive sessions is free, but invitation-only: if you wish to participate, please contact us, join the mailing list or the groups on Facebook and Linkedin, and ask for an invitation.

    teleXLR8 is not for profit, and running on open source software strongly reduces the operating costs, but we still have to pay for server resources, bandwidth and manpower. We will not charge attendance fees, but encourage donations from users and actively look for sponsors. These days, Internet users expect everything to be free online, but of course there is no such a thing as a free lunch. Google and Facebook are free... or are they? In my articles here, I have often voiced my concern for the freedom of the Internet, which should not belong to governments and giant corporations, but to the user community. I think supporting innovative community projects based on open source software is a good way to protect our Internet.

    In an interview published on H+ Magazine, I said: “I use Teleplace [now OpenQwaq] because, based on my (quite extensive) knowledge of and experience in this sector, at this moment Teleplace [now OpenQwaq] is by far the best operational technology for online meetings, workshops, presentations, seminars, conferences and e-learning.” Modern desktop telepresence technology can effectively open conferences to remote participants and, with OpenQwaq, online meetings and conferences have already passed the tipping point of critical usability and performance. Online events are now a very useful complement, or a faster and cheaper alternative, to traditional conferences.

    teleXLR8 is described as a “telepresence community for cultural acceleration” because interactive and immersive telepresence technology, with integrated videoconferencing, document sharing and collaboration in 3D virtual reality, can accelerate global cultural development by permitting people to fully participate, interactively and immersively, in their favorite interest groups and intentional communities, independently of their geographical locations. The explosion of the Internet in the 90s has, by permitting the rapid spread of world-changing ideas, initiated this process whose results are beginning to be very clearly evident in today’s world. The explosion of telepresence in the 10s will accelerate it forward. By reducing the need for physical travel, telepresence can also make our planet greener, and give us a better quality of life. More on our manifesto “Telepresence Education for a Smarter World“.
    Sat, Aug 27, 2011  Permanent link
    Categories: internet, telepresence, openqwaq, telexlr8
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    One month after the introduction of Google+, the debate on "real vs fake identities" goes on. I see a lot of that on Google+ and Facebook because I have many Second Life users in my network, and many of them have chosen to be pseudonymous.

    In particular two of my best friends, Khannea Suntzu and Extropia DaSilva, have made this choice. Khannea I have also met in brickspace, but I have never met Extie's "primary" in brickspace (Extie maintains that she and her "primary" are two separate identities, and I think she is the one who knows best about her own life), and probably I never will. I know Extie via her writings, and a long online friendship. To me, Extie is as real as my neighbor in brickspace. More real, because my neighbor is an idiot and Extie is a great person and a great thinker.

    But Google (in its Google+ profiles) and Facebook are deleting pseudonymous users because they are not "real". I think at least Google will back off at some moment with some face-saving declaration, and there are indication that they will accept pseudonymous profiles. But the trend remains, and it is a disturbing trend.

    At this moment, I am representing myself online via the same name that is printed on my passport and my credit cards. This has not always been the case, and perhaps it will not always continue to be the case. I do have some semi-pseudonymous identities like Eschatoon Magic and Perplexing Poultry, but I only wear them in Second Life and they are easily traceable back to me. I also have a couple of truly pseudonymous identities, watertight nyms that it would be very difficult to trace back to me (difficult as in the NSA could probably break them but it would cost a lot of money), but I don't really use them.

    Using my "real" name and identity online is convenient for me, because I try to make a living as a consultant, software developer and producer of "serious" online events. In "Google+, the pseudonym banstick, and the netizen cultural schism", Emlyn O'Regan says it better: "The integrated identities tend to work in the web 2.0 universe. Silicon valley seems to be the cultural center of this. They meet the same people online and offline; people who have startups, tech bloggers, money guys, opinion leaders of all kind. Their identity is their primary asset, it’s got their reputation attached to it. To them, it’d be mad to have a separate online and offline identity, and seems kind of sinister; what reason could you have to split your reputation, really, other than that you are trying to hide something?"

    Emlyn continues: "But the separate identity people are actually part of an older tradition (and yes this environment is old enough to have an older tradition). It’s the tradition of the Handle, and it comes from back when computer networks were esoteric, back when using them was a marker of class...". This is very true: back in the 90s we all used nyms, and this was seen as something normal and proper.

    I often voice my very deep concerns about our once free Internet becoming the property of nanny states and greedy corporations, and I think we must protect the Internet at all times. Our society is becoming a global nanny state and a dictatorship of self-righteous control freaks and idiotic "moral majorities", and we should keep and protect at least some pockets of personal freedom and privacy online.

    Or else (see below). At this moment I am not affected by real-dentities-only policies, because I chose to represent myself via my legal name anyway. I must also confess that, sometimes, I am mildly annoyed by some aspects of my pseudonymous friends' behavior. But I am happy to accept a moderate level of annoyance for the privilege of living in a free society, and I try to be tolerant of others' little annoying habits because I hope they will be equally tolerant of mine. And I remember:

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.


    Thanks to another pseudonymous Internet user, Singularity Utopia (whose profile was deleted from both Facebook and Google+), for pointing out the relevance of "First they came..." and coming up with the title of this post.

    My friend Khannea Suntzu has written a vehement defense of the rights of pseudonymous Internet users, quoting the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "A Case for Pseudonyms". I definitely agree with Khannea that "Social Networks have become a necessity for a large segment of society and not being able to freely take part in these services represent a significant vulnerability for people in our society who want to communicate in some level of relative freedom." My friend Extropia DaSilva has framed her own defense of the rights of pseudonymous Internet users in a version of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing", beginning with "Remember the 90s when the web was new?"

    I wish to invite everyone to read again John Perry Barlow's Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace: "Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather...". In an initial mailing list post with a draft version of the Declaration, Barlow had previously written: "Well, fuck them. Or, more to the point, let us now take our leave of them. They have declared war on Cyberspace. Let us show them how cunning, baffling, and powerful we can be in our own defense." This is the spirit of the free Internet (and society) that we must protect at all times. Unfortunately we are forgetting our beautiful dreams and becoming sheeple.

    I really hope we-the-sheeple wake up some day and start kicking some ass before it's too late.

    How should we kick ass? I left a comment on Extie's TIMES A-CHANGIN’, edited version below:

    You know that I fully support the right to be pseudonymous on the net, and the right to hide your name, age, gender, location etc. As you say, this is what things were done in the 90s.

    But Facebook and Google are businesses. They are there to make money. You and I don’t pay them a cent. Instead, they make money with targeted ads. They want to know your age, gender, and location because this information is useful to target ads. They want to know your name because they wish to use it to correlate the info in their databases with info from other sources. I doubt they give a damn about the name on your passport, but they want to know the name on your credit card, which is usually the same.

    Added note: Nanny states are much worse than corporations. Corporations only want your money, but nanny states control freaks also want your soul. They want to know your name, age, gender, location, sexual preferences, religious beliefs and thoughts, and someday soon they will want to know which hand you use to wipe your own ass, because they want to control you from the cradle to the grave. Give me an evil greedy corporation anytime.

    In the 90s we were only a few thousands of Internet users, and we earned the right to our free Internet by using it, recommending it to others, and also writing code and running web servers. Some did a little, and others did a lot. Instead of complaining against a ugly world we tried to build a beautiful one. Perhaps TIMES A-CHANGIN’ because we-the-sheeple are too lazy to take things into our hands?

    Don't expect nanny states and greedy corporations to give you freedom, because it is not in their interest. They want a society of good sheeple and good consumers. Freedom cannot be given. Only taken.

    What Facebook and Google choose to do with their money is not our business. But we have open source, decentralized, P2P distributed alternatives like Diaspora built by-the-people and for-the-people, where nobody would (or could) question your right to be pseudonymous and disclose only the info that you want to disclose, or none at all. Instead of complaining against Google and Facebook why don’t you support Diaspora? if you have the skills you can contribute to the codebase or run a Diaspora server, if you have some money you can support them financially, and if you have neither you can… just USE DIASPORA: since the growth rate of a social network is exponential, you can contribute a lot just by using it. If you don't like Diaspora for some reasons, think of something else (I have a hunch that a tweaked BitTorrent protocol could power a social network).

    Added note: they want to know your credit card number (and the name on it) to use it as a means to control you. Paypal started in the 90s as a subversive Internet initiative, and now it is more regulated than a bank. USE BITCOIN. After writing this enthusiastic article about Bitcoin, I have lost some money to a scammer who requested a Paypal chargeback after receiving the Bitcoins he paid, and I am sure they will side with the scammer to discourage Bitcoin users. Of course I will be much more careful next time, but I will continue to use and support Bitcoin.

    Don't buy paper books from dinosaur publishers who overprice their books, but buy e-books from new DRM-free publishers like Smashwords. Don't buy movies from dinosaur publishers who overprice their DVDs, but support new content distribution models like VODO. If the quality is not good enough for you, write or produce something better, or support those who do. Let's boycott the system and repeat with Barlow "We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before." LET'S TELL THE OLD WORLD TO GO FUCK ITSELF.

    I wish one percent of the energy used to complain could be channeled to developing and supporting a free Internet. It would start growing very fast.
    Wed, Aug 3, 2011  Permanent link
    Categories: internet, freedom, pseudonimity
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    I have been one of the lucky few to receive an invitation to Google+ on the first day it went public as a beta field test, and I have been playing with it a lot. I have successfully invited some friends in the first couple of days, but I have not been able to invite all the friends I wanted to invite, and recently they have started to delay processing new invites because they prefer to field-test with a small number of people.

    Google+ is Google's new social network, very similar to Facebook with extra features similar to Twitter and Diaspora. Google+ is already interoperable with other Google services, e.g. Profiles and Picasa. In time, it may be seamlessly integrated with the rest of the Google ecosystem (Gmail, Groups, Docs, Calendar, Blogger, Maps, Latitude, Youtube, Apps...) and become something huge.

    This is not the first time Google ventures in the social networking space. The two previous attempts, Wave and Buzz, have been unsuccessful. I never much cared for Buzz but after the launch of Wave I was very impressed, and wrote:

    "Google Wave could be a Big paradigm shift, and change the way we use the Web. Email, chat, discussion groups, wiki, IRC, blogs, microblogs, social network and groupware all in one. Wave may be a Facebook killer and a new Twitter much more integrated with the rest of the Web. Email and IM are obsolete, we will spend our online life in front of a Wave screen. Instead of sending email, IM and tweets, writing blogs and logging on Facebook, we will plug in dynamic and interconnected Waves...

    As a transhumanist, I really look forward to trying Wave. Transhumanism , a sparse and global social movement, required the Web as an essential enabler to bloom, and I wonder how we will use this new powerful communication platform. By enabling us to do things much faster the Web, the new Web 2.0 (is Wave the first example of Web 3.0?) and the mobile Web wake emergent properties of our collective consciousness. We could send snailmail letters hundreds of years ago, but we could not build a new global social movement in a matter of days. Wave may permit doing things even much faster and achieve a critical mass to enable new emergent waves in our developing noosphere.
    "

    Too bad Wave did not KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) a critical mass of Internet users. At the beginning the discussions on Wave were only about the system itself, by and for geeks, and after a while even geeks stopped using it because nobody else was there. I think KISS is why Wave failed, and also because they never managed to integrate it with Docs and Groups. The "critical mass to enable new emergent waves in our developing noosphere" has been almost achieved by... Facebook. A few weeks ago I wrote: "When I am in a Facebook flow, posting updates, IMing friends and participating in many almost real time group discussions at the same time, sometimes I have a very clear feeling of being plugged in the developing collective mind of our species, a feeling much sharper than in the pre-Facebook Internet."

    You never really know, but I think there is a good possibility that Google+ may take off where previous social networking initiatives of Google have failed. Google+ is very easy to use, and users of Facebook and Twitter will get it immediately. And, Google has already so many other Internet services in place, which are already used and loved by hundreds of millions of users, and can be seamlessly integrated with Google+. If Google+ becomes a social layer fully integrated on top of all other Google services, and of course if it is actually used as such, it will be huge.

    A short guide to Google+ for Facebook and Twitter users: On Facebook, you share everything with all your friends, and on Twitter you share everything with all your followers, whom you don't have to follow back. Google+ is built around Circles: a circle is a group of people, and you can share a post with one or more circles. If you add person A to a circle, for example "Best friends", A does not have to add you to any circle, or can even add you to the circle "Idiots and jerks" and you will never know it (you will know that A has added you to a circle, but not to which). You can add the same person to more circles, which permits very flexible sharing.

    You can also share a post with nobody, with one or more individual persons only, with all your circles, or make it public. A public post is like a Tweet (all those who have decided to follow you can see it), and a post shared with all your circles is like a Facebook post. The other options are much more flexible. The two images below, recently shared on Google+, show who can see your posts.





    Circles are the same as Aspects in Diaspora. I hoped (and I still hope) that the free, open source, distributed, decentralized, P2P Diaspora built by-the-people for-the-people could replace the walled gardens of Facebook, but I am afraid Diaspora will be sort of forgotten for a while, leaving Google and Facebook to fight for the pole position in the social networking space. However, even if Google "does no evil" and has a somewhat better privacy and openness record than Facebook, it is still a huge corporation motivated by profit and dangerously close to being a monopoly.

    I hope Diaspora will continue to gain momentum. Open source community projects cannot really compete with corporate projects at the beginning, but once they achieve a critical mass of users and developers they may become unstoppable. So I hope in time Diaspora will become a better alternative to Facebook and Google+. But in the next future Google+ will capture a lot of attention. A Google+ API is coming soon, and I and everybody else have already requested early developer access.

    I think selective sharing is both a strong and weak point. It is strong, because you can share a post with your friends without sharing it with your mother and your boss. It is weak, because sharing with everyone is simpler than categorizing your contacts in circles, and things must be made really very simple in these KISS days. Most of my own posts are shared with all my circles like on Facebook and also public (shared with everyone who chooses to follow me like on Twitter), but I can certainly see the advantages of selective sharing. Especially for young people who can now have different Family, Friends, School and Work circles, but strangely I think most young people may stay on Facebook and ignore Google+, leaving the latter to us grown-ups. Also, perhaps only persons with some degree of computer literacy will use Google+ frequently: if Wave is for computer geeks only, and Facebook is for everyone including your granddaughter and grandfather, Google+ may occupy the mid ground.

    I miss a "Groups" feature: the new Facebook Groups are excellent, and in Google+ you can put a group of friends in a circle but your friends in the group do not necessarily have to put you in the same circle, so shared Groups would be useful. However, I am sure they are busy integrating the existing, excellent Google Groups in Google+.



    The picture above shows a Google+ "Hangout": a group video conference able to accommodate up to 10 people simultaneously, which works surprisingly well (it seems the same thing that was called "Google Meetings" in some Internet rumors circulating last summer, and according to new Internet rumors Facebook may launch something similar very soon). You can start a hangout restricted to selected persons or circles, or you can just hang out and wait for somebody to join you. I am very active in the online educational video conferencing space, and I think Google+ can become a popular entry-level solution, especially when it is fully integrated with Google Apps and Google Docs (imagine a teacher showing a presentation to a class with fully interactive video and Power Point like in Elluminate, plus interactive documents editable by all participants).

    Of course Google+ has an Android app, with a simple group messaging tool optimized for mobile, and I am sure an Iphone app is coming soon. I don't think Google+ will kill Facebook and Twitter, and I hope it will not kill Diaspora, but the social networking world is becoming much more interesting. See also Why Google Plus is about to change the Web as we know it and Google+ is Awesome. Facebook Maimed, Twitter Mortally Wounded.

    The new Web is everywhere, always-on, and huge. [Now quoting from my Diaspora article of a few weeks ago]. We are already always online via our mobile devices, and I wonder how things will continue to develop and where we are going. Someday BCI ( Brain-Computer Interface) technology will link our brains to social networks (read Ebocloud to see how this could begin to happen, and please buy it as a DRM-free ebook on Smashwords - we don't kill trees and support DRM, do we).

    We oldies have used social networks only for a small part of our lives, but billions of digital natives born in the 00s will have deep and detailed records of their lives, thoughts, feelings and personalities, on future social networks. According to the Bainbridge-Rothblatt hypotesis which seems more and more plausible in light of recent scientific advances, sufficiently advanced future technologies may be able to ignite these "mindfiles" and bring them back to life.

    Last year I wrote a post on "Mind uploading via Gmail", ending with "If all assumptions above are correct, I hereby give permission to Google and/or other parties to read all data in my Gmail account and use them together with other available information to reconstruct my mindfile with sufficient accuracy for mind uploading via detailed personality reconstruction, and express my wish that they do so. Signed by Giulio Prisco on September 28, 2010, and witnessed by readers." I did not think of the post as a joke, and I believe things are moving in that direction.
    Wed, Jul 6, 2011  Permanent link

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    I am honored of having been included in the 200th episode of The Future And You: "Over a hundred never before heard predictions about the future from dozens of past guests, a few possible future guests, several listeners and an assortment of people actively building the future we are all going to live in."

    The Future and You's host, my good friend Stephen Euin Cobb, interviews a variety of authors, futurists, scientists, celebrities and "pioneers of the future" as to what they believe both the near future and distant future will be like for individuals as well as for humanity in general. I had already been interviewed for the February 20, 2008 Episode.

    Stephen's question for the 200th episode was: "The next episode of my show (The Future And You) will be the 200th episode. If you would, please send me a prediction of the future I can read into the show. Especially good would be a prediction based on a trend most people have been ignoring or just not aware of."

    Here is an annotated and commented version of my own prediction. I am hoping to bring attention to what I consider as a very important issue that should be discussed, and a very dangerous trend that should be avoided:

    "My long term predictions are as optimist as ever. I am confident that we will develop human empowerment technologies such as radical life extension, mind uploading and synthetic realities. I am confident that we will go back to space, back to the Moon, and then onwards to Mars and to the stars. I am confident that those who wish will someday have have the option of leaving biology behind, move to new high performance substrates, and beam themselves to the galaxies."

    The paragraph above is an introduction where I start with an optimist attitude on things that are very important to me, but it is not the main point that I wish to make. Read on.

    "Sadly my short term predictions are far less optimistic, at least as far as the future of our "western" society is concerned. I see that we are becoming old, ossified, with far too much obsession for safety, control and political correctness, like old people afraid of their own shadows in a safe, PC and sad retirement home."

    This is my main point, and I think I can safely assume that you know what I mean. There is this clear feeling that over the last few decades we have been slowly and gradually walking from a (more or less) free world to a prison, without even noticing it. This is especially evident to those who are old enough to remember. Governments make more and more intrusive (and completely useless) regulations on what we can or cannot eat, drink or smoke. Sooner or later they will be making regulations on which hand we must use to wipe our own butt. And sex will be illegal when it is not practiced in presence of a qualified nurse who can give emergency treatment in case one of the participants has a heart attack.

    What really worries me is that nobody seems to notice and complain. I hope younger people will wake up and say ENOUGH someday soon. Many young persons cannot remember what personal freedoms feels like, because they have been over-protected since they were toddlers. When I was a kid, we were not over-protected from life and reality, yet most of us are still here and have grown into responsible citizens, so I think we should give our children the same respect that our parents have given us. But even if we don't, kids are much smarter than us, and they will quickly find their way around our stupid intrusions in their privacy: if a kid really wants to watch porn, have sex, smoke or participate in Internet chats with adults, (s)he will find a way. And this is good.

    "If this trend continues, we will cease to be relevant and other cultures, younger and more dynamic, will take the lead."

    I am an Italian, a European and a person with ethnic and cultural roots in the "western" civilization, and I think our culture has produced a lot of good things. I do not consider our culture "better" than others, whatever that means, but I do not consider it worse either. And of course I wish we could continue to play an important role in this century and beyond. But I see myself mainly as a citizen of the planet and a member of the human species, I think we can build a great future for everyone, and I think this is much more important than the preservation of specific nations and cultures. So if we become a relic of the past, I hope other cultures will take the lead and I wish them the best.

    "I see, but perhaps this is wishful thinking, also some counter trends: Wikileaks, the Pirate Parties, new spiritual movements such as Terasem, citizen scientists, file sharing, Bitcoin, DIY tech movements, citizens everywhere beginning to realize that we must take the power back in our hands and build the future that we dreamed of in the 60s."

    These are little signs that citizens everywhere are beginning to become really fed up and to take some action. Subversiveness and civil disobedience are, I believe, not only our right but also our duty if we think our intrusive nanny-states have gone too far and must be stopped. Of course a society of sheeple is the wet dream of nanny-state bureaucracies and control-freaks, which now dominate both the Left and the Right. I think we citizens must stop them, encourage positive subversion and disruption, work around stupid regulations and laws, and take the power back in our hands where it belongs.

    "In the 60s we used to think of 2011 as "the future". Now I realize that the 60s WERE the future, and later we as a society have lost our imagination and let nanny-state control freaks take us back to the past. Let's go back to the 60s, back to the future, and onwards to the stars! But it is going to take some work."

    Yes, the 60s have been the most beautiful decade that I can remember. I was too young to really _participate_ in the 60s, but I could appreciate the flavor. Of course, I say this also because I was a kid in the 60s and we all tend to think the world was more beautiful when we were kids. But I think the free spirit of the anti-authoritarian 60s, the hippie and New Age movements, the cultural and social experimentation and the widespread protests were healthier than our contemporary, geriatric western societies. The cultural roots of the Internet revolution and the beautiful "Californian Ideology" can be traced back to the counterculture of the 60s, as RU Sirius shows in "How the Sixties Shaped the Personal Computer Revolution" in the book "True Mutations." What has the nanny-state culture of sheeple produced instead? The 60s began with Yuri Gagarin's flight and John Fitzgerald Kennedy's "Moon speech", and ended with Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon. Then, we have walked back from space, and we have walked back from freedom. Let's go back to the 60s, back to freedom, back to the future, back to space, forward to the next phase of our evolution as a species, and onwards to the stars!
    Sun, Jun 26, 2011  Permanent link

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    I have just seen this picture on Facebook. Today on the memorydealers.com website: "We are excited to announce that we now accept Bitcoin as payment! Learn more about Bitcoin, the new peer-to-peer digital currency. It's like cash — it's free to use and nobody will charge you any fees. The first Bitcoin Billboard in the world! View from the road!" Seeing Bitcoin billboards on the road may indicate that the Bitcoin wave is now unstoppable, and the world has to deal with it.

    Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer digital currency. Peer-to-peer (P2P) means that there is no central authority to issue new money or keep track of transactions. Instead, these tasks are managed collectively by the nodes of the network. Bitcoin has been created in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto as one of the first implementations of a concept called cryptocurrency, which was first described in 1998 by Wei Dai on the cypherpunks mailing list. See also the Bitcoin page on Wikipedia.

    I have been playing with Bitcoin for a couple of years. Initially, only for intellectual and political interest: I am an IT professional and a Pirate Party member, and I am very interested in cryptography technology and the social libertarian politics of cypherpunks and cryptoanarchists. Initially, my only transactions were small (and sometimes large) Bitcoin donations to get friends started in using the system.

    I will not go into technical details on how the Bitcoin system works, please take a look at the links if you are interested. It will be enough to say that you can generate Bitcoins by using the Bitcoin client to solve a complex computational problem which takes some time, and the difficulty of the task increases over time to keep the system stable. A couple of years ago you could generate Bitcoins fast enough on the home PC, but now it takes at least a personal supercomputing rig, perhaps built with GPGPUs (or you can pool resources with other users and generate Bitcoins together in a Bitcoin pool). This means that now the gold rush is over and the Bitcoin economy is based on trade and good business ideas.

    Only a few months ago I wrote: "[Bitcoin has] recently reached parity with the US dollar as reported by Slashdot." More recent articles on Slashdot have catchy and alarmist titles such as "BitCoin, the Most Dangerous Project Ever?" or "Bitcoin Used For the Narcotics Trade". And today (June 7, 2011) one Bitcoin is worth more than 18 USD and its value is going up very fast (you can track the value of Bitcoin at an exchange site like Mt. Gox). And this is not just theory: yesterday I needed some fast cash in my Paypal account to do something, and I easily sold a few Bitcoins at near market value on the Bitcoin forum. Of 4 buyers, 3 were honest and sent me the money, which is not that bad.

    When I wrote this blog post I had just made my first real purchase in Bitcoin, buying a one year subscription to a VPN. I paid 96 Bitcoins, which was a fair price at the time when one Bitcoin was worth about one USD. But now after four months the 96 Bitcoins that I paid are worth about 1.800 USD, so the good folks at the VPN have made a very, very good business. I hope this anecdote will encourage more sellers to accept Bitcoin for their products and services.

    A few months ago Bitcoin was covered by the popular show Security Now on the TWiT network: Security Now 287: BitCoin CryptoCurrency. I have posted to blip.tv an edited version of the video (the original has a CC license), with only the 45 min dedicated to Bitcoin. The video gives a simple and effective explanation, and the system has not changed much in the last few months. What has changed is the visibility and popularity of Bitcoin, which is now all over the press and the media.

    Rick Falkvinge, the founder and first party leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, says "I’m Putting All My Savings Into Bitcoin" and "Bitcoin is an amazing technology with an insane potential. But there are four things that must appear for that potential to materialize. This is the first in a series of four articles, where we address usability." I am reading the article now, and I look forward to reading the next three articles in the series.

    A recent Big Think article is titled "What happens when Anonymous gets a bank?" (found via K21ST) : "Yes, that's right, the hacktivists now have a virtual currency that's untraceable, unhackable, and completely Anonymous. And that's where things start to get interesting. Veteran tech guru Jason Calacanis recently called Bitcoin the most dangerous open source project he's ever seen. TIME suggested that Bitcoin might be able to bring national governments and global financial institutions to their knees. You see, Bitcoin is as much a political statement as it is a virtual currency." Read also Xeni Jardin and Cory Doctorow on Bitcoin at BB.

    I am not even going to try making a list of recent news coverage, because Bitcoin is all over the blogosphere and the press. Just google Bitcoin or search on Twitter, and you will be (I hope positively) amazed.

    So... I should write some conclusions. I am sure governments are taking a very unfriendly interest in Bitcoin, and they must be already thinking hard on how to stop the Bitcoin wave. A Bitcoin Technical Lead is going to brief the CIA (see also the discussion at the Bitcoin forum). I am sure they will try to stop Bitcoin, they will try to make it illegal, and they will fight very dirty.

    But the open, distributed, P2P nature of the Bitcoin wave makes it very difficult to stop. And here is where we, freedom-loving citizens, must play our role. WE MUST PROTECT OUR FREE INTERNET AT ALL TIMES, and we must protect (what is left of) our free society. I praise memorydealers.com, and I have just sent them a donation. If we start using Bitcoin and take it above critical mass, they will not be able to stop it. Support Bitcoin. Download it now. Start to play with it. Buy Bitcoins and use them. Support the vendors who accept payment in Bitcoin. Tell all your friends and give them some Bitcoins to start with. Write about Bitcoin on your blog, Twitter and Facebook. Join Diaspora (another aspect of the free Internet that we must protect) and promote Bitcoin there. Send Bitcoins to your grandmother, with instructions on how to buy nice things.

    I think Bitcoin is important. We must protect the Internet and the right to free speech, pseudonimity and anonimity online, and we need a untraceable anonymous currency. Of course I realize that Bitcoin can also be used by bad people to do bad things, but I am sure it will be mainly used by good people to do good things, and I think the benefits outweigh the dangers. All things considered, I prefer to live in a world with untraceable anonymous currency than in a world without.
    Tue, Jun 7, 2011  Permanent link

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    I have been using Facebook for a few years, at the beginning not very much, but now I use it more and more often. Most of my friends are there, Facebook is a very quick and convenient way to stay in touch, and I am beginning to consider it also as a very good alternative to email, discussion group and blogs. And, it has also a very useful mobile app.

    Like many other users, i am beginning to depend on Facebook too much. I don't like to depend on things which belong to others who get to make the rules, and I don't like monopolies. Social networking is huge and Facebook has already a (well deserved) place in history, like Apple, Microsoft and Google. But I think it is evident that it is time to move on to more open and distributed alternatives.

    At the beginning of the 90s I was an avid Compuserve user, and I liked it a lot. But then the Web arrived and everything / everybody moved to the Web in a few years. Compared to Compuserve, the Web offered the same features (and eventually many more) in an open and distributed way. Everyone could choose one or more service providers, send email to anyone, browse web pages on any server, set up their own pages, and move them to another host if needed.

    If Facebook is Compuserve, where is the Web? Is Diaspora the future of social networking? From Wikipedia: "Diaspora is a free personal web server that implements a distributed social networking service, providing a decentralized alternative to social network services like Facebook... Diaspora works by letting users set up their own server (or "pod") to host content; pods can then interact to share status updates, photographs and other social data. It allows its users to host their data with a traditional web host, a cloud based host, an ISP, or a friend. The framework, which is being built on Ruby on Rails, is free software and can be experimented with by millions of developers." Diaspora promises, indeed, a diaspora - from commercial walled gardens to free P2P networks.

    I have been using Diaspora for a few weeks. I should be more precise: I have been using the Diaspora service maintained by the Diaspora development team at joindiaspora.com. My handle is giulioprisco@joindiaspora.com, feel free to add me. But Diaspora is a distributed network, and everyone can set up a node ("pod" in diasporaspeak) in the Diaspora network. Pods can be self-hosted on a home PC or hosted remotely, and there are already many Diaspora pods. I have also joined other two Diaspora pods at my-seed.com (handle perplexingpoultry@my-seed.com) and diasp.org (handle giulioprisco@diasp.org). At this moment you can join these two pods without an invitation.

    Eventually, Diaspora may become a social web: a large decentralized network of pods operated by different individual and groups, linked by common protocols, and able to deliver all the things (friends, status updates, chat, groups, pictures, video, like, unlike, share...) that we have in Facebook and many more. But the important difference is that the Diaspora social web will not belong to anyone but its users, and users will have full control over their data and their presence. Don't like your current Diaspora service provider? Move to another one with all your data, install the Diaspora software on your home PC and become your own service provider, or start a new service provider! As a user, you are always in total control of what is stored, where, and shared with whom. And if you are a programmer you can contribute to the code as well.

    Beautiful, but what does Diaspora do now in its current Beta (sorry, alpha) status? Not really much: it is bare-bone work in progress. The look&feel is modern and clean, you can post short status updates and longer rants, the flow is as smooth and fast as in Facebook, but the user interface is not always consistent. For example, if you are already using Diaspora, try adding me to one of the "aspects" (groups of contacts) of your friends list (my coordinates above). There is a "Manage aspects" function that you can use to add my handle on any Diaspora pod, but I am quite sure you will not find it easily. Once you do find it, however, the most important and disruptive function of Diaspora IS there, and it even works on occasions! You can add a user on another Diaspora pod. It does not always work, but sometimes it does depending on the configuration of both pods. Once you are connected to users on other pods, you see their activity in almost real time like if they were on the same pod. If the Diaspora network takes off and achieves critical mass, it will be an open, decentralized, distributed P2P social web.

    This is very important. We are already always online via our mobile devices. When I am in a Facebook flow, posting updates, IMing friends and participating in many almost real time group discussions at the same time, sometimes I have a very clear feeling of being plugged in the developing collective mind of our species, a feeling much sharper than in the pre-Facebook Internet, and I wonder how things will continue to develop and where we are going. Someday BCI (Brain-Computer Interface) technology will link our brains to social networks (read Ebocloud to see how this could begin to happen, and please buy it as a DRM-free ebook on Smashwords - we don't kill trees and support DRM, do we).

    We oldies have used social networks only for a small part of our lives, but billions of digital natives born in the 00s will have deep and detailed records of their lives, thoughts, feelings and personalities, on future social networks. According to the Bainbridge-Rothblatt hypotesis which seems more and more plausible in light of recent scientific advances, sufficiently advanced future technologies may be able to ignite these "mindfiles" and bring them back to life.

    So, join the free Diaspora and build YOUR mindfile. You don't want to trust Facebook with your afterlife, do you?
    Mon, Jun 6, 2011  Permanent link

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    Like everyone I have watched all three Zeitgeist films (the last has been released very recently, you can watch it here if you have not done so yet). I cannot say that I agree with all, but I certainly agree with much.

    In particular, as it is often repeated, we must protect the Internet at all times.

    Protect the Internet against what?

    We must protect the Internet against big governments at war against their own citizens. We have very recently seen the Egyptian government shutting off the Internet in Egypt, and we don't want to see similar things again. And never think it cannot happen "at home", wherever that is: remember the Wikileaks case and remember that governments, all governments, are only interested in power, will do whatever it takes to preserve it at all costs, and are afraid of free speech (those who pay lip service to free speech for electoral reasons are often the first to complain when they hear some free speech).

    See 3 Projects to Create a Government-less Internet and 4 More Projects to Create a Government-less Internet on ReadWriteWeb. I think it is evident that we need distributed, open source, open mobile mesh networks. See also How Phone-Powered Mesh Networks Could Help in Egypt with coverage of the very interesting Serval Project.

    We must protect the Internet against big governments and big corporations that want to control it. They want a one-way Internet like the old TV system where we-the-sheeple can only consume content imposed for above, but we-the-people want a free, many-to-many, open and uncensored Internet like we had in the 80s and early 90s. Remember Usenet? Perhaps we should restart using some "old" communication systems, dated but more difficult to control.

    Of course, in the 80s and early 90s only a few geeks were on the Internet, not enough people to do real damage and be seen as a threat. Now everyone is on the Internet and everyone is downloading songs and movies, and soon cracked e-books, and this is disrupting entrenched financial interests and power structures. I don't believe everything should be free, not in the current economic system. On the contrary I understand that if artists, writers and other creators cannot make money with their creative work, they will have to do something else for a living and everyone will lose. But creators only see a small fraction of the money, while all the rest goes to obsolescent production and distribution dinosaurs. These must go, and I wish to recommend to all creators to switch to distribution models like vodo.net. To all consumers, I recommend to download free-to-share content from vodo.net, for example the great SF series Pioneer One (here on vodo.net) and make a small donation to support the creators. Many small donations will permit creators to make a living while focusing on their creative work and, make no mistake, this model will kill the traditional model in the long run.

    In the meantime, I support the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Pirate Party. I had never joined the Pirate Party, but I think immediately after finishing this post I will join the Italian Pirate Party (not the most active one, but Italy is where I can vote). I hope Pirate Parties will be successful everywhere and, someday, fight also for the right to use other emerging technologies for individual and social empowerment.

    We must protect the Internet at all times, because big governments and big corporations will attack the Internet at all times to protect their power. Now Internet usage will be metered in Canada, and I am sure other countries will follow soon (unless, of course, we do something about it). Metered Internet usage makes sense to entrenched powers because it helps big national telcos to make more money, and also because it is a disincentive to download content, pirated or not.

    Downloading pirated content is illegal. I believe it should not be illegal in the sense that the applicable laws and regulations should be changed, and I believe downloaders should not be prosecuted, but at this moment is illegal and we citizens should respect the law. But as I mentioned above there is also plenty of legally sharable content available, and we should be free to share it. I believe anti-piracy measures are aimed not only at protecting proprietary IP, but also and especially at slowing down the spread of alternative distribution channels for legally sharable content, and therefore I oppose anti-piracy measures.

    We should be aware of all that we can do to protect the Internet at all times, and use distributed, open source, open mobile mesh networks when they will be available. In the meantime, existing technologies offer interesting possibilities that we should know and use. For example, FrostWire for Android, advertised as "The First Mobile P2P network on Earth", used with Android's personal Wi-Fi hotspot, permits easily creating local ad-hoc content sharing networks.


    Wed, Feb 2, 2011  Permanent link

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