068: Does Life Have Meaning in a World Without Work?

In today’s podcast we get philosophical about work and the meaning of life. Repeat guest John Danaher steers us away from the traditional arguments surrounding technological unemployment and towards a different set of questions: Is it possible for humans to have a meaningful existence in a world where they’ve been completely sidelined by machines? Is a life of game playing and pursuing beauty the best outcome we can hope for? Or is integrating with our technology a possible defense against future irrelevance?

Relevant Links and Related Episodes

067: Should You Sign Up for Cryonics?

In today’s podcast, we discuss cryonics, a topic we only recently became interested in. After a general overview of what cryonics is and where it comes from, we try to determine whether or not cryonics is a service we would sign up for. The rational arguments in favor of cryonics seem to be very strong, and the cost of cryonics, while significant, is not so high as to be out of reach. However, we do still have some reservations. For now we remain “cryo-curious” – sympathetic to the technology but not yet signed up. Hopefully this episode will trigger our listeners to begin their own thought process regarding this fascinating proposition.

Relevant Links

066: George Dvorsky on “What is the Future of Human Advancement?”


In today’s podcast, Jon talks with futurist and bioethicist George Dvorsky about the future of human enhancement. Topics covered include radical life extension, editing the human germline, multiplex parenting, artificial wombs, intelligence augmentation, moral enhancement, and more. What enhancements are just around the corner, and how cautious should we be when it comes to enhancing human beings? Is there any merit to the arguments of bioconservatives, or are most of their concerns lacking solid grounding? How can we get over the creepiness hurdle and begin to normalize these conversations?


Relevant Links:

065: What is the Future of Virtual Assistants?

In today’s podcast, we discuss the future of virtual assistant software. A long list of major companies and startups are racing to develop voice activated software that can help organize your life. Today’s assistant apps are still incredibly primitive, but it appears they may get considerably better in the near future. We identify and analyze three major trends that are poised to make computers into more powerful assistants: natural language interfaces, big data, and increasing autonomy. Will you be able to trust your virtual assistant not to steer you toward products you don’t need? Will social interactions be increasingly influenced by the realtime suggestions of virtual advisors? Will “being good with computers” stop being a relevant descriptor once everyone has easy access to powerful natural language interfaces?

Relevant Links:

Related Episodes

064: Calum Chace on “Is it Time to Start Worrying About AI?”

In today’s episode, Jon speaks with Calum Chace, author of the new nonfiction book Surviving AI. The potential risk posed by superintelligent AI has recently gained unprecedented coverage in the mainstream press, thanks to the release of Nick Bostrom’s book Superintelligence and public statements by the likes of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking. In our discussion we explore some of the fundamental questions surrounding this issue such as: how soon will artificial general intelligence arrive? How likely is it to be dangerous? And is a hard takeoff or soft takeoff more likely? While AGI may still be a long way off, the extraordinarily high stakes suggest we should devote a few more resources to studying this highly unique issue facing humanity.


Relevant Links

063: Bonus Episode: Kickstarter Launch, Social VR, and ADVANTAGEOUS Review

Our Kickstarter is LIVE! In this bonus mini-episode, we discuss our sci fi graphic novel project LET GO, and how you can help. We also respond to some listener questions about social networking in virtual reality. To what extent will modern day websites be replaced by virtual counterparts?  Finally, Jon gives a short review of the indie sci fi film ADVANTAGEOUS.


Relevant Links:

062: What is the Future of Brain-Computer Interfaces?

In today’s episode we talk about brain-computer interfaces. We discuss the range of available invasive and non-invasive sensor options, the difficulties of processing brain signals, and the wide variety of ways computers might use realtime brain data.  While it’s clear that BCIs promise incredible benefits to people who are paralyzed, it’s less clear how extensively BCIs will benefit able-bodied humans. We explore what some of those benefits (and dangers) might be.

Relevant Links

061: What is the Future of Movies?

In today’s podcast, we discuss the future of movies. We begin by addressing virtual reality and asking what impacts it will have on traditional moviemaking. In recent times, the cost of making an independent film has gone way down, and we consider whether those costs can drop even further, possibly as a result of better virtual filmmaking and machinima tools. Next, we analyze the shift towards greater serialization in movies and the rising dominance of television. Finally, we speculate wildly about the length of future movies, the effect of accelerating change on storytelling settings, personalized algorithmic movie production, and more.

Relevant Links:

060: Scott Santens on “Is Basic Income Part of Our Future and Should It Be?”

In today’s episode we are joined by basic income advocate Scott Santens. Scott explains his version of a basic income and how it might be paid for. Although future technological unemployment might increase the need for a basic income, there are actually many reasons besides concerns about automation to adopt such a policy. We discuss the various advantages of basic income over our current social programs and consider the Alaska model as one that might be exportable to the rest of the US. Lastly, we address the issue of feasibility: basic income sounds nice on paper, but could such a program ever actually get implemented?

Articles by Scott

 Other Relevant Links

059: What is the Future of Advertising?

In today’s episode, we discuss the future of advertising, which we define as the ‘sale of attention.’ People mostly hate ads, but why do they? Is it possible to make ads so well targeted that people actually enjoy the experience? We discuss the remarkably constant amount of advertising as a percent of GDP over a long stretch of history. We ponder the ways accelerating technologies might allow for better metrics and better ad designs in the future, and we wonder whether a large-scale consumer collapse might disrupt advertising’s steady growth. Speculating on the future, we imagine that nearly everything that remains scarce in the future might one day be ad-supported.

Relevant Links

058: What are the Top Ten Ways Science Fiction Fails to Predict the Future?

In today’s episode we give a comprehensive list of the sci-fi tropes that bother us the most. While not all science fiction has an obligation to be speculative, we would like to see more science fiction that avoids certain cliches when it comes to predicting the future. We discuss the following tropes:

  • The Prometheus Problem
  • The Boot-in-the-face Dystopia
  • Societal Regression
  • Super Now
  • Isolated technological Advancement
  • The Lone Inventor
  • Human Specialness
  • Primacy of the Real
  • Unnecessary Anthropomorphism
  • The Sofalarity

To find out what these terms mean, listen to the episode!

Related Links:

Full List of Referenced Science Fiction Works, Authors, Characters:

057: Nikola Danaylov on “What Do Experts Think About the Singularity?”

In today’s podcast we are joined by Nikola Danaylov, host of the popular Singularity 1 on 1 podcast, and a man who has interviewed 170 experts about singularity related topics. After establishing the meaning of the term singularity, we discuss the wide range of opinions held by thinkers in the field. We learn that although there is no single consensus. there are some clusterings of opinion, a few of which fall upon disciplinary lines. Nikola reveals that after doing his show for five years, he is less convinced the singularity will happen then he used to be. After walking through the various routes that could get us to a singularity, we discuss the validity of accelerating returns and the need for diversity in the future. Finally, we conclude by considering the current state of the futurist community.


Relevant Links:

056: Steve Anderson on “What are the Limits of Hollywood’s Portrayal of Technology?”

In today’s podcast we are joined by Steve Anderson PhD, an associate professor of cinematic arts at USC. We discuss the depiction of computers and surveillance in Hollywood films and the many factors, such as the need to tell a visual story and the convenience of certain props, that contribute to Hollywood’s often skewed portrayals. We also identify ways in which Hollywood both over and underestimates the power of technology and examine the inability of most films to make strong systemic critiques or imagine anything other than a human-centric future. Lastly, we look at Hollywood caricatures of both gamers and television viewers and ask if economic incentives might be partially to blame. Along the way, we mine the archive of old films and learn about some of the more fun and bizarre examples of super computers that have shown up in the history of cinema.


Projects by Steve Anderson

Movies and TV

Also Mentioned

End of Show Plugs

055: What’ll be the Impacts of Perfect Speech Recognition?

In this week’s episode, we consider the rapid progress and recent impressive demos in the realm of speech recognition technology. We consider the difference between transcribing and understanding language, and work out a thought experiment of what might change when full transcription is widely and cheaply available. We talk about the challenges facing current generation technologies and speculate which are likely to be improved soon and which are sticky. We wonder whether even machine-readable transcription might be enough to help search engines do things like jump you directly to a movie quote’s location in a film, or to help YouTube and Facebook mine your private videos for marketing purposes. We also cover the effects on lifelogging, surveillance, interface design — and of course, jobs. At the end of the episode, we debut a new listener mailbag feature and respond to your comments.

Relevant Links

Other Recent Content by Review the Future

Review the Future now has an IOS app

screen322x572Thanks to a new company called Podcast Pop (a venture started by our good friends over at the Smart Drug Smarts podcast) we now have a dedicated app for Review the Future!

Among other features, the app makes it super easy to browse old episodes from our archive, save your favorites, and remember where in a given episode you left off. According to the people at Podcast Pop, more features should be rolling out soon.

Currently the app is only available for IOS, which is unfortunate for Android users, but I expect that will change in the near future as well.

Available in the iTunes store.

054: Martin Ford on “Are We Heading for a Jobless Future?”

In today’s podcast, we talk with Martin Ford about his new book Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. We discuss which job sectors are most vulnerable to automation in the near future and to what degree technology might be the driving force behind troubling economic trends. Martin describes his version of a basic income, which features built-in tiers and incentives. He also responds to some of the skepticism leveled at his writing by reviewers such as Robin Hanson. All in all, we found it to be a fascinating discussion.


Relevant Links

Other Recent Content by Review the Future


053: Review of EX MACHINA

In today’s podcast, we review the new science fiction thriller Ex Machina. We talk about how this is one of the better movies we’ve seen about AI, and how in general movies seem to be getting better at handling these topics. However, we question whether the movie’s use of the phrase “Turing Test” really makes sense, and whether the notion of a lone genius unilaterally creating a humanoid robot is very believable. Around the twenty minute mark we give a brief spoiler warning before discussing the plausibility of the movie’s ending. While we find numerous things to nitpick about, in the end we highly recommend this movie as a film all science fiction and film fans should see.


Relevant Links

052: What is the Future of Synthetic Meat?

There are many reasons to reduce or eliminate meat production, and in this week’s episode we cover them and ask the question: are we soon going to be eating synthetic meat? From resources to ethics, there is tremendous pressure to bring down the costs associated with meat. We discuss the challenges tissue engineers face in creating meat that is delicious and affordable, and discuss the limitations of recent successes like the famous $300,000 synthetic burger. We also discuss some of the most promising companies and approaches in the synthetic meat space. Finally we consider other future alternatives to livestock farming such as insect protein, soylent, and the eventual decoupling of our nutritional needs from the pleasure of eating.

Relevant Links

051: Review of VRLA Expo 2015

In today’s podcast, we review our experiences at the VRLA Expo, a Los Angeles based event that showcases the latest in virtual reality entertainment.  We describe our experiences with a wide variety of Oculus and Gear VR applications and ask the question: what are the most exciting uses for this new medium? Is this just the next generation of 3D gaming? Or are we witnessing the birth of an all new artistic medium with its own yet-to-be-hashed-out strengths and weaknesses? We also recount our impressions of various interface and feedback solutions from companies like Leap Motion, Sub Pac, and Stompz.

Relevant Links

050: Jesse Lawler on “What is the Future of Brain Enhancement?”

Intelligence is the most powerful force in the world, and humans are increasingly losing out to computers in various intellectual pursuits. Can you take a pill that will make you smarter? If you could, would you? We would, and so would our guest Jesse Lawler, the host of the excellent podcast Smart Drug Smarts. We cover the gamut of currently available substances that are claimed to have the effect of enhancing intelligence. We discuss how current drugs and supplements on the market are not exactly silver bullet ‘smart’ pills but rather push us in one direction or another, with trade-offs. We also discuss some of the more speculative technology coming down the pike, and what might be the next big thing in nootropics.

Relevant Links

049: Mark Lewis on “Have We Reached Peak Education?”

On today’s podcast, Trinity University computer science professor Mark Lewis joins us to talk about his concept that we’ve reached ‘Peak Education.’ He argues that we cannot educate our way out of technological unemployment. If, in order to have a job, you have to be able to program, what does that mean for those of us who are never going to be great programmers? Humans are slow learners, and we already spend a quarter of our lives in school. Can we ever hope to duplicate the tremendous gains in education we achieved during the industrial revolution? What will it take? Enhanced brains, smart drugs, or just better pedagogy?

Relevant Links

048: Sarah Perry on “Should We Have Control Over Our Consciousness?”

Is life a sacred gift or a burden? In this episode, we welcome Sarah Perry, author of Every Cradle is a Grave, to discuss the right to control one’s consciousness. Paramount among consciousness rights is the right to die; we discuss the state of suicidal legality and the cultural and technological impediments to suicide. We also discuss the connection between radical life extension and suicide. Then we move into the control of states of consciousness, from drug use to mood enhancement, and discuss whether the right to commit suicide exists in a world where suffering has been abolished. Finally we discuss the ethics of simulated consciousness, and wonder where the authority might lie to, for example, delete an emulated mind.

Relevant Links

047: David Pearce on “What is the Future of Suffering?”

In this episode, philosopher, author and cofounder of H+ David Pearce joins us to discuss his concept of the hedonistic imperative, which is the argument that we have a moral obligation to end the suffering of not just all humanity but all sentient life. We discuss his terms “Hedonic Set Point” and “Hedonic Treadmill” and how these phenomena combine to keep most people at about the same amount of happiness, even if they win the lottery or lose the use of their legs. We discuss the feasibility of using prenatal screening to raise our children’s hedonic set points, and the farther-off possibility of using in-vivo genetic modification or future drug therapies to raise our own. It’s a fun and wide-ranging conversation that we think you’re going to really like. Check it out!


Relevant Links