SingularityU Sydney Summit - Political Science: Exponential Interactions between Technology and Social Justice

Speaker - Niraj Lal

“The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed” wrote William Gibson in 1993.

The intersections between science and politics are fraught: there are dissonances between how technology advances and how social policy can distribute it equitably.

With an exploration of the four limited resources of the universe: energy, time, space and matter, this talk explores the human interaction with each, highlighting what technology can do for social justice in three examples:
  • The democratisation of energy
  • Sharing distilled knowledge and persistent wisdom in an age of the constantly New
  • Dragnet surveillance and methods to resist it
Supporting our #futurebydesign to be just, unrestricted, and evenly distributed.

Solar panels will soon be cheaper than plywood

Global distribution of wealth

World’s wealthiest 10% own 85% of global wealth

Top 10% own $100,000 worth of assets. May of us are in the top 10%!

Our limited resources include:
  • Energy
  • Time
  • Matter (resources)
  • Space
Top 10 Companies by revenue:

Curing Affluenza: How to buy less stuff and save the world

By Richard Denniss

Affluenza is that strange desire we feel to spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t know . . .

A truly modern affliction, affluenza is endemic in Western societies, encouraged by those who profit from a culture of exploitation and waste. So how do we cure ourselves?

In this sparkling book of ideas, Richard Denniss shows we must distinguish between consumerism, the love of buying things, which is undeniably harmful to us and the planet, and materialism, the love of things, which can in fact be beneficial. We should cherish the things we own – preserve them, repair them, and then gift or sell them when we no longer need them. We must foster new ways of thinking and acting that do not squander limited resources, and which support the things we value most: vibrant communities and rich experiences.

At once a lucid explanation of a critical global issue and a stirring call to action, Curing Affluenza will change the way you think about your place in the world.

Internet and Surveillance

Do we need to forgo the internet to avoid surveillance??

Noise vs Signal
Noise vs Signal is a form of digital protest against bulk surveillance. Who is opposed to targeted surveillance? No-one sane. But the bulk untargeted surveillance of all digital communications is dangerous, unethical and unconstitutional.

Must we forego use of the internet to avoid surveillance? Perhaps. Must we route all digital traffic through the TOR network and encrypt all communication to experience the web? Possibly. Is the price of Google searches and Facebook posts the selling of our private information to advertisers? Almost definitely. Old-fashioned conversations and physical letters are probably the best, most secure communications we can have; but we should also be able to speak about the kind of internet we want. NvS is an attempt for one day each month (the 21st - in a nod to Edward Snowden) to break the filters. To make it a little harder for the Giant Surveillance Vacuum to suck up, store and process our internet traffic and phone calls.


It’s up to us to draw the line as to what we regard acceptable surveillance.

Who do we trust?

George C. Marshall Institute??
The George C. Marshall Institute (GMI) was a nonprofit conservative think tank in the United States.[2] It was established in 1984 with a focus on science and public policy issues and was initially active mostly in the area of defense policy. Since the late 1980s, the Institute put forward environmental skepticism views, and in particular has promoted fringe views regarding the scientific consensus on climate change. The think tank received extensive financial support from oil companies.

It closed in 2015, morphing somewhat into the CO2 Coalition.


What information is “true”?

E.g Contradictory information about chocolate and wine.

The Knews (beta)
Things we once knew – in support of distilled knowledge and persistent wisdom.
A place to find and contribute the best knuggets of wisdom on any #topic.
– Niraj Lal, Nick Binnington, August 2016

Knuts and bolts on how it works will one day store the best available knuggets of wisdom/advice/thoughts on any topic in the world. It works by the contribution of ‘knuggets’ with an associated #topic (and optionally an @author). These topics can be searched and the knuggets rated by readers.

An example entry would be the pithy advice from Michael Pollan on what to eat:

Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. #health #diet #life @michaelpollan

where the attributed author of the entry (known as a Knewer pronounced ‘canoe-er’) linked the advice to the topics ‘#diet’, ‘#health’, and ‘#life’.

Another might be the adage:
Everything in moderation. #health #life #excess

Searching for “health” would give:
Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. #diet #health #life | ↑ ↓ 931

Everything in moderation #health #life #excess| ↑ ↓ 79

Readers rate the merit of any entry by clicking the arrows. The Value of each entry is persistent; that is, the number represents the weighted opinion of all readers since the entry’s creation.



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