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Foresight Update 23.34: Superhuman psychopaths or AIs with consciences? - August 30, 2009

Discuss these news stories at and

Top News of the Week

Superhuman Psychopaths

…Ethics/morality is a separate module in the human mind — a conscience, if you will — whose effect will not be achieved by general intelligence and rationality on the part of the rest of the system, no matter how far advanced.

We need to build our AIs with consciences…

In this issue:

Foreseeing Future Technologies - Join Foresight
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Why would I want a flying car?

Let's consider: I live in Laporte, PA, and have an office in the Foresight suite in Menlo Park, CA. That's a distance of about 2800 miles, and I could drive it in about 40 hours, a full working week. That's a substantial commute. Of course, I don't drive, but fly. I live within about 3 hours of a couple of airports…

Why would I not want a flying car?

There have been many reasons urged against the concept of flying cars; let's take stock of them here:

  • They are impractical (and thus time spent on the concept is wasted)
  • They would be noisy or unsightly
  • They would be dangerous, to the occupants or to people on the ground…


How close to a true VTOL does a flying car have to be to retain the advantages we would like? If you have to keep it at an airport, you have to drive there and back in a separate vehicle, obviating many of the advantages. If it can fold up its wings and drive around town, like the Terrafugia, it gets most of them back. (The alternative is the modular convert-a-plane, where you leave the wings at the airport.)

Yet there remain a number of reasons why you might want to be able to takeoff and land anywhere. The landing part is obvious: safety…


cute video from nokia about what a nanotech phone might be like…

Flying Cars: how close are we?

So, how close are we to flying cars? For specificity, let's pick a technological bar to hurdle that answers most of the objections to the concept we've seen as comments on the previous posts…

Nanotechnology speeds desalination

This story illustrates both the best and worst of near-term nanotech research and reporting. It's a valuable result in a very important application…

Singularity or Bust

It's a question of some interest whether the Singularity will consist of just more exponential growth, or whether some superexponential growth mode is likely to happen (or is even possible), such as would be required for a real mathematical singularity…

—Nanodot posts by J. Storrs Hall

Foreseeing Future Technologies

Advancements in technologies such as nanotech, robotics, and biotech are promising to make major differences in our lives in the not-too-distant future, as the Industrial Revolution did to the agrarian world — to do for the physical world what the computer and Internet have done to the world of information.

Since 1986, the Foresight Institute has been in the forefront of a worldwide community of visionaries who work to help shape these possibilities into a positive, beneficial reality. If you would like to help us understand the potential of these technologies, and influence their direction, please consider becoming a member of the Foresight community. With your support, Foresight will continue to educate the general public on these technologies and what they will mean to our society.

To join:


Converging Technologies for 21st Century Security
Organized by the Institute of Nanotechnology
November 25, 2009
The Royal College of Physicians, London, UK

Organised crime, terrorism, civil conflict, and natural disasters are sadly commonplace in global society and have developed increasingly complex dimensions. To counter such threats, civil security and emergency response teams are looking towards new technologies that offer more sensitive, rapid, and accurate detection methods; that provide the means to neutralise or effectively deal with the outcomes of such incidents; and that provide greater protection to personnel.

NanoManufacturing Conference & Exhibits
Looking to understand what nanotechnology means for you?
April 14, 2010 to April 15, 2010
Hilton Phoenix East/Mesa, Mesa AZ USA

Call for Speakers, Abstract deadline: October 7, 2009

This conference will highlight the current, near-term, and future applications of nanotechnology and how they are transforming the way we manufacture products. Peer networking, information sharing, and technology exchange among the world's nanomanufacturing leaders will be a key feature of the event.

Contact Foresight

The Foresight Institute Weekly News Digest has merged with Foresight Update and is emailed every week to 15,000 individuals in more than 125 countries. Foresight Institute is a member-supported organization. We offer membership levels appropriate to meet the needs and interests of individuals and companies. To find out more about membership, follow this link:

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