The Healthy Workaholic's Manifesto

Whereas, global food and water shortages, the dwindling supply of non-renewable resources, and the possibility of a nuclear war all imminently threaten to cause the collapse of society, if not human extinction;

And whereas, the only cause for optimism that such threats are humanly surmountable is the phenomenon of technological acceleration, and the revolutions it is expected to trigger in nanorobotics, biotechnology, cognitive neuroscience, and artificial intelligence;

And whereas, research shows that people who tend to be the most dedicated to their work, to the detriment of our immediate health, also tend to be the most logical, analytical, creative, disciplined, self-confident, optimistic, and future-oriented;

And whereas, such people, if we work in engineering or scientific research, are therefore an indispensable asset in humanity's race against time to solve social, environmental, and economic crises technologically before they destroy us;

And whereas, both scholarly and popular discourse nevertheless derisively call us "workaholics", depict us in fiction only as evil (or at best unsympathetic) Mad Scientists, and label our heroic self-sacrifice -- or, depending on life expectancy, our sensible long-term investment -- as a symptom of a mental illness;

Resolved, therefore, that workaholism is among human nature's few redeeming virtues, and that it is to be encouraged and celebrated in all people who:
  • Work as, or are students training to become, scientists, engineers or professional philanthropists to help develop emerging technologies.
  • Maximize our actual contribution to our field worldwide -- and not just our time spent at work, our reputation among colleagues or managers, or our value to only one particular company's shareholders or one particular government's taxpayers.
  • Are concerned about the scientific and technological achievements of humanity as a whole more than about our own individually, so that we are motivated to cooperate rather than to compete.
  • Commit to resisting the corruptive influence of our power.
  • Accept that our lifestyle reduces our capacity to fulfill social and family commitments, and limit such commitments accordingly.
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Workaholism isn't obsolete after all

A week ago I confessed to being a workaholic, and wrote about how working too hard tends to lead to second-rate output. I quoted FM-2030 as saying that workaholics -- even those of us who love our jobs -- were too uncreative and all-around boring to be ready for the singularity and its precursor period (which he called the Telespheral Age).

On Saturday, however, Sean Henderson from the Abolitionist Society wrote, in reply to an e-mail inquiry of mine, "Present day work implies involuntary suffering - we'll need workaholics to develop the means to transform human design so that activity is blissful. Maybe the motto should be 'towards the abolition of suffering through suffering'."


Virtual devices and GPGPU's untapped potential: my thesis project

In 2001, Nvidia released the GeForce 3, the first video card with programmable shaders. They intended it to let game programmers invent new visual effects. But experts in high-performance computing started to wonder: How much processing power is on those video cards and now programmable? And why can't we use it to crunch numbers for lab studies and simulations? Research into General-Purpose computing on Graphics Processing Units (GPGPU) began. By the time Oak Ridges National Laboratory ordered 18,000 GPUs from Nvidia last October, one thing was clear: Video cards aren't just for games anymore.

But if Oak Ridges can use video cards to run applications faster, why does yours go unused when you're not playing games? Because of several software problems, one of which I'll attempt to solve in my master's thesis.


My name is Chris, and I'm a workaholic

In the small-town elementary school I went to, the teachers read us Aesop's "Fable of the Ants and the Grasshopper". They asked us what the moral of the story was, and prodded us into giving the usual answers. First, save for a rainy day. Second, hard work is a virtue that always pays off in the end.

John Maynard Keynes popularized the paradox of thrift in the 1930s, and by the postwar boom of the late 40s, everyone agreed he was right. Decades later, ants and uncles still teach the impressionable young grasshoppers of the Western world that thrift is a virtue. I believed this until Grade 9, when I was first exposed to Keynesian economics through a geography class. But I continued to believe the fable's other lesson, that hard work was a virtue, until this past Saturday.


#Occupy the #Singularity

[A]s death to the mortal man so failure to the immortal[...]. (Imperial Thought of the Day, Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook 4th ed., p. 226)
Some Singularitarians have publicly jumped to the conclusion that younger Occupy Wall Street protesters have nothing to worry about in the long run. The argument runs like this:

Premise: Mind uploading will eliminate the need for food, water, shelter and medicine. The only necessities of posthuman existence will be data storage, processor hardware, and electricity.
Premise: Moore's Law, combined with a new abundant energy source (fusion? space-solar?), will make all three of these resources abundant and the cost of existence negligible.
Conclusion: Therefore, at the time of the Singularity, planet Earth will have transitioned to a post-scarcity economy without poverty.

I consider the first premise all but proven and the second highly probable, but I don't agree that the conclusion logically follows from them.


Modern technology, obsolete economics

Courtesy of Ray Kurzweil and Kurzweil Technologies Inc.
Ray Kurzweil claims technology has been steadily narrowing the gap between rich and poor. Richer people still get new technologies first, but poor people are catching up. As proof, he offers us his chart "Mass Use of Inventions". Technological acceleration, Kurzweil tells us, means this trend will continue during the 21st century. When the Singularity finally arrives in 2045, it will finish -- not start -- the world's transition to a post-scarcity economy with no financial inequality. I'd like to agree with him, but I can't, for two reasons.

First, the idea of corporate-made technology as a social leveler amounts to trickle-down economics, a dead theory whose obituary hit the papers earlier this month.


High tech, low budget?

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase
I used to think I'd always be able to live comfortably and cheaply. I didn't drive, I liked living in a small apartment, and I didn't care about owning such status symbols as a private art or wine collection. All I wanted that'd be a splurge for a student was a computer with the latest and greatest of hardware, which wasn't anywhere near as expensive.

There were also lots of things that weren't on the market yet, but that I'd want when they came out and became practical. A mobile, wearable augmented-reality device. A brain-computer interface and other cyborg enhancements. Utility fog to make shape-shifting clothes and furniture. A self-driving car, preferably a plug-in hybrid. But technological acceleration meant everything I wanted beyond a poverty-line lifestyle would get cheaper and cheaper. I didn't have to worry about pursuing a six-figure salary. Even working-class people would be able to afford the upcoming radical technologies we wanted, so Singularitarian Transhumanists could drop out of the rat race now and the human race later. Right?