Is Virtual Reality Getting Too Real?

An attendee tries out a virtual reality program during a panel discussion in Boulder, Colorado. | Photo by Dana Ming As VR technology takes the world by storm, two Buddhist teachers and a cognitive neuroscientist debate its spiritual potential and shortcomings. A conversation with Andrew Holecek, Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, and Jordan Quaglia, edited by Julia Hirsch Tech moguls and gamers aren’t the only ones plugging into artificial virtual worlds these days. VR programs have helped treat phobias and PTSD, NASA scientists to envision life on Mars, and elementary schoolers to engage with science and history lessons. VR has also taken up shop in contemplative … Continue reading Is Virtual Reality Getting Too Real?

Yuval Noah Harari Is Worried About Our Souls

The big-data makeover of humanity could be a recipe for disaster. BY STEVE PAULSON Just a few years ago Yuval Noah Harari was an obscure Israeli historian with a knack for playing with big ideas. Then he wrote Sapiens, a sweeping, cross-disciplinary account of human history that landed on the bestseller list and remains there four years later. Like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, Sapiens proposed a dazzling historical synthesis, and Harari’s own quirky pronouncements—“modern industrial agriculture might well be the greatest crime in history”— made for compulsive reading. The book also won him a slew of high-profile admirers, including Barack Obama, Bill … Continue reading Yuval Noah Harari Is Worried About Our Souls


Asterion the Minotaur prowls the streets of Toulouse in the show ‘Le Gardien du Temple’ by La Machine street theatre company, France, 4 November 2018. Photo by Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images When we pit ourselves against machines, the game can only end in tears. It is in our gift to imagine another way by John Cornwell is director of the Science & Human Dimension Project at Jesus College, Cambridge. His writing has been published in the Sunday Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, the Financial Times, and the journal Brain, among others. His latest book is The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession (2014). Edited by Marina Benjamin The game of … Continue reading AlphaGolem


Julian Rose, Contributor Waking Times Freedom once meant something significant for mankind. It meant ceasing to be suppressed and imprisoned by forces that endeavour to control one. The word ‘freedom’ conjured a sense of what it means, at least to some degree, to be master of one’s destiny. No longer, for many, the new freedom has almost exactly the opposite meaning. Now freedom seems to be associated with having someone or something doing one’s thinking for one; making decisions that one ‘can’t be bothered ‘or doesn’t want to make – and ultimately completely relieving one from responsibility for taking any form of … Continue reading SAVE US FROM FREEDOM!

The Robot Economy Will Run on Blockchain

What finance will look like when it is controlled by machines. BY ALEKSANDR KAPITONOV & IVAN BERMAN Our future will be bright, fast—and full of robots. It’ll be more Asimov than Terminator: servant robots, more or less similar to us. Some will be upright androids, but most will be boxes filled with computer chips running software agents. And there will be a lot of them. Forecasts predict that, within just three years, we’ll have 1.7 million robots in industry, 32 million in our households, and 400,000 in professional offices.1 Robots will begin to run our factories. Autonomous sensors will monitor … Continue reading The Robot Economy Will Run on Blockchain

When an AI Goes Full Jack Kerouac

Ross Goodwin’s surveillance cameraCHRISTIANA CARO A computer has written a “novel” narrating its own cross-country road trip. BRIAN MERCHANT On March 25, 2017, a black Cadillac with a white-domed surveillance camera attached to its trunk departed Brooklyn for New Orleans. An old GPS unit was fastened atop the roof. Inside, a microphone dangled from the ceiling. Wires from all three devices fed into Ross Goodwin’s Razer Blade laptop, itself hooked up to a humble receipt printer. This, Goodwin hoped, was the apparatus that was going to produce the next American road-trip novel.A former ghostwriter for the Obama administration, Goodwin describes … Continue reading When an AI Goes Full Jack Kerouac

Left Unchecked, Artificial Intelligence Can Become Prejudiced All On Its Own

 Adobe Stock by Dan Robitzski  If artificial intelligence were to run the world, it wouldn’t be so bad — it could objectively make decisions on exactly the kinds of things humans tend to screw up. But if we’re gonna hand over the reins to AI, it’s gotta be fair. And so far, it’s not. AI trained on datasets that were annotated or curated by people tend to learn the same racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted biases of those people. Slowly, programmers seem to be correcting for these biases. But even if we succeed at keeping our own prejudice out of our code, it seems that … Continue reading Left Unchecked, Artificial Intelligence Can Become Prejudiced All On Its Own