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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Transhumanist Organization Extropy Institute Is Dissolving

The Extropy Institute, long a bastion of Libertarian Transhumanism, has just announced that it is planning to close up shop and cease to exist as an organization. If the news release quoted below is any indication, the Institute's leaders seem to believe they have accomplished their primary goals and it's now time to move on.

I tend to take people at face value (unless I notice some fact that gainsays them), but I can't help but wonder if, in an era of rising bio-conservative activism, the board of the Extropy Institute didn't want to serve as a lightning rod for political groups looking to score points. After all, if the leaders of the Extropy Institute feel they can carry out their work just as effectively on their own, then perhaps they're better off working on separate projects rather than sticking together and giving PR hatchet men something to attack.

Transhumanism has become a convenient target for people suspicious of human enhancement technologies and of technological progress in general, and by identifying a particular project with that "movement" (which is very small and has little power) you may simply be tagging yourself and your goals with a beacon that tells lots of uninvolved people, "This is an enemy. Use as foil, convenient target and fundraising bogey man." Or simply, "Enemy. Destroy at all costs."

Under those circumstances, if you are dedicated to a particular set of goals, why put them at risk by taking on the mantle of a sub-culture that scarcely exists (at least in overall demographic terms) in the first place?

I suspect some members of the Extropy Institute have already asked themselves that, and are now taking the most effective action they can to neutralize that line of attack. Though they may also feel the Institute has done as much as it reasonably can as organized to accomplish the goals set out for it.

NEXT STEPSExtropy Institute is closing its doors and opening a window for a proactive future.

Dear Members, friends, and colleagues:

This letter is an announcement of the events taking place at Extropy Institute as a result of its Strategic Plan 2006. A copy of the Plan is included for your review. The Plan identifies some factors that ExI's Board has considered in assessing the future of ExI and the best possible course of action to take for ExI, its members, and other stakeholders.

The Past. ExI was formed in 1990 by Max More and Tom Bell with a mission to bring great minds together to incubate ideas about emerging technologies, life extension and the future. ExI's goals were to (1) develop an elegant, focused philosophy for transhumanism—the philosophy of "Extropy"; (2) encourage discussions and debates on improving the human condition; and (2) develop a culture for activists, energized and devoted to bringing these ideas to the public. The initiatives which realized these goals are (1) Extropy: the Journal of Transhumanist Thought; Principles of Extropy; Extro Conferences 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; public forums such as the famed "extropians" and "extropy-chat" email lists; public presentations in the news, radio, televised documentaries, talk shows, and films; and the VP Summit of 2004 addressing the backlash from conservatives against technological

The Present. ExI deems its mission as essentially completed. With this said, and in respect for Extropy Institute’s legacy of achievement, the Board voted and has unanimously agreed to close Extropy Institute's doors.

Extropy Institute's website is being memorialized by turning it into a reference "Library of Transhumanism, Extropy, and the Future," —the beginnings, currents, and future of Transhumanism.

On behalf of our members, I would like to thank Max for authoring the philosophy of Extropy1 and for his many efforts in working with others to steer the philosophical development of transhumanism, which is truly treasured by so many people in so many places.

The Future. As you will see by reviewing the Strategic Plan, the Proactionary Principle stands first and foremost as the concept with the most potential for being of great service to humanity and transhumanity as we go forward. The Proactionary Principle (ProP) can help society by bridging the growing gap between conservative views and progress-oriented views, and educating society about the future. Meeting
these two challenges by providing an active course of action can be of tremendous benefit to us all.

In respect for the philosophy of Extropy and the Principles of Extropy, the Board of Extropy Institute believes that Extropy Institute has served its mission and achieved its goals and, in practicing the Principles of Extropy, our next step is to focus on developing worldwide awareness of the ProP and a network for proactive futures.

With my most sincere thanks for your support,

Natasha Vita-More
Extropy Institute, President

Some extropians and transhumanists have also commented on this change -- see Michael Anissimov, Justin Corwin and responses on Betterhumans.Com.

Even more importantly, here is Natasha Vita-More being interviewed in a podcast by R.U. Sirius on NeoFiles.

Future Imperative

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Materialistic Argument for Gender Equality

In another twist in the ongoing story of technology's impact on society, at least one feminist has found inspiration in cybernetics. This excerpt from Donna Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature describes her ideas for . You have to admit, the following is an interesting version of feminism: "At the centre of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the cyborg."

Haraway begins this piece by saying:

This chapter is an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism. Perhaps more faithful as blasphemy is faithful, than as reverent worship and identification. Blasphemy has always seemed to require taking things very seriously. I know no better stance to adopt from within the secular-religious, evangelical traditions of United States politics, including the politics of socialist feminism. Blasphemy protects one from the moral majority within, while still insisting on the need for community. Blasphemy is not apostasy. Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes, even dialectically, about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true. Irony is about humour and serious play. It is also a rhetorical strategy and a
political method, one I would like to see more honoured within socialist-feminism. At the centre of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the cyborg.

A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction. The international women's movements have constructed 'women's experience', as well as uncovered or discovered this crucial collective object. This experience is a fiction and fact of the most crucial, political kind. Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility. The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women's experience in the late twentieth century. This is a struggle over life and death, but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.
What's intriguing here (among other things) is this idea of a woman's reality as a social construction just as a cyborg's body is partially a social construction. That concept is fascinating because a classic cyborg is someone has crossed the threshold of deciding to alter or replace body parts in order to enhance them... assuming they have the techology to do. If a woman views her life as a social construction, she may decide she can alter or replace critical parts of her life as she sees fit -- a sense that nothing is sacred, or at least immutable.

I can see where this sense of social liberation parallels the hypothetical biological liberation of the cyborg. Ironically, I suspect an even more powerful viewpoint might be to see the function of your mind as an optional, modifiable construct. With the right cognitive resources -- accelerated learning techniques, creativity and intelligence enhancements, even non-invasive mindtech and/or nootropic nutrients and drugs -- you could, theoretically, take apart the structure of your mind and put it back together in ways far more potent.

Of course, many cybernetic enthusiasts want to do the same to the brain in purely physical terms.

But Donna Haraway's ideas are also interesting in another sense. By discussing a form of social and personal liberation, she is actually talking about another form of human enhancement. Subtle? Small scale? Perhaps. Though a woman who chooses to go to college and become a professional instead of accepting "her place," or who overcomes her hesitations to start a small business, etc may actually experience this small change in ultimately dramatic ways.

But even if the impact of such "social augmentation" is relatively muted, it has the potential to combine synergistically with many, many forms of human augmentation. Why? Because if we state Haraway's ideas and run with them, we might actually look at every aspect of our lives in terms of how we could realistically "enhance" them, and ourselves, by changing our fundamental viewpoints about who we are, what we're doing and what elements of ourselves and our environment we really have to accept.

How is your world and your mind shaped simply by what you read, what you watch, what you think about and what emotions you allow yourself to feel? How do you plan for the future, how much passion do you feel in life?

I could go on in a vein that might sound like the dust jacket of a self-help book, but the point is that there's a ton of things in our lives that could be optimized or exalted, not just our reading skills or neurochemistry. So why not give looking at those elements a shot?

Cyber, Soc
Future Imperative

NIH Offers $772,500 Grant to the Study "Protecting Human Subjects in Genetic Enhancement Research"

This news release from Case Law School reflects some of the growing interest in human enhancement research... and organizations' strong desire to stay on the ethical high ground when they undertake this work.
Researchers and bioethicists have developed guidelines for therapeutic research to protect human subjects in clinical experiments involving genetic technologies. Professor Mehlman's grant, "Protecting Human Subjects in Genetic Enhancement Research," will examine whether special protection is needed for subjects in enhancement research.

"Little thought has been given to this topic so far," says Professor Mehlman. "How do we measure and value the benefits, other than examining feedback from the subjects themselves? Special protections are needed for vulnerable populations, such as military personnel, athletes, and workers, who might come under pressure to use enhancement drugs to improve job performance."

I like these comments from Professor Mehlman. Obviously feedback from people actually experiencing a modification have more direct relevance than the speculations of armchair philosophers or self-interested executives and other leaders. There is at least one nootropic on the market that greatly increases motivation and efficiency that some users have stated alters the quality of their lives -- not by making them unhappy, but by making their work more interesting and exciting to them than the parts of their lives they normally cherish.

That transformation, of course, is exactly the kind of "nightmare" many enhancement critics fear. A dedicated effort to see how an augmentation might alter a subject's personality -- from both their perspective and from whatever objective and subjective outside perspectives you can muster -- is exactly what you need so that people can embrace, reject or offer qualified acceptance to any particular modification.

Mehlman's point about protecting vulnerable populations is also extremely well taken. Ironically, many of our supposedly "privileged" or elite workers are most vulnerable to these pressures. Certainly enhancing soldiers and athletes can have a profound impact upon their performance, but imagine the consequences of dramatically increasing the intelligence of your entire scientific research base. And radically augmenting the intellect of all of your engineers, your business executives, your political leaders, etc.

So many people would find their output immeasurably improved by skyrocketing intelligence and creativity that it is almost impossible to ignore the likely consequences. Assuming workers' rights are not carefully maintained and, equally important, augmentations are not carefully assessed to see exactly which ones have side effects, be they negative in nature, or merely annoying or... different. (Like the pill-using worker who suddenly finds s/he is not simply more effective, but enraptured with their day job.)

The press release continues:
The project will identify the ethically-relevant differences between therapeutic and enhancement genetic research and analyze them in light of the ethical principles that govern human subjects research generally and genetic research in particular. Researchers will determine whether there are any conditions under which it would be ethical to conduct research on genetic enhancement using human subjects.

Based on their findings, the investigators will propose changes in existing rules and regulations to govern research on genetic enhancement using human subjects.

Professor Mehlman's grant makes up part of his work for CGREAL (Center for Genetic Research Ethics and Law), a five-year interdisciplinary project at Case. The high quality of interdisciplinary work at Case Western Reserve University led the NIH in 2003 to designate the school one of only four "centers of excellence" in the study of the ethical, legal and social implications of human genetics. Professor Mehlman was appointed Associate Director for Public Policy and Director of the Genetic Enhancement research group.

Maxwell Mehlman's research will no doubt be of great interest to those following the debate over human enhancement. One point that is particularly curious is that we seem to be moving beyond the question of whether or not we should ban certain forms of medical research -- like curing babies of the painful death of Tay-Sachs disease with gene therapy -- lest we incidentally make discoveries that promote human enhancement.

A careful, reasoned look at the pros and cons of human augmentation is more apt to create ethical guidelines that stick than a simple, broad-based ban... especially a ban that takes in unrelated therapeutic research like Tay-Sachs or cystic fibrosis. Mehlman's report may be an important step in deciding just what red lines we wish to enforce, if any.

Bio, Soc
Future Imperative

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Feinstein Researchers Identify Intelligence Gene

A press release from the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System describes research pinpointing a single gene which significantly impacts human intelligence.

Psychiatric researchers at The Zucker Hillside Hospital campus of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have uncovered evidence of a gene that appears to influence intelligence. Working in conjunction with researchers at Harvard Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics in Boston, the Zucker Hillside team examined the genetic blueprints of individuals with schizophrenia, a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by cognitive impairment, and compared them with healthy volunteers. They discovered that the dysbindin-1 gene (DTNBP1), which they previously demonstrated to be associated with schizophrenia, may also be linked to general cognitive ability. The study is being published in the May 15 print issue of Human Molecular Genetics, available online today, April 27.

"A robust body of evidence suggests that cognitive abilities, particularly intelligence, are significantly influenced by genetic factors. Existing data already suggests that dysbindin may influence cognition," said Katherine Burdick, PhD, the study’s primary author. "We looked at several DNA sequence variations within the dysbindin gene and found one of them to be significantly associated with lower general cognitive ability in carriers of the risk variant compared with non-carriers in two independent groups."

The study involved 213 unrelated Caucasian patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 126 unrelated healthy Caucasian volunteers. The researchers measured cognitive performance in all subjects. They then analyzed participants’ DNA samples. The researchers specifically examined six DNA sequence variations, also known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), in the dysbindin gene and found that one specific pattern of SNPs, known as a haplotype, was associated with general cognitive ability: Cognition was significantly impaired in carriers of the risk variant in both the schizophrenia group and the healthy volunteers as compared with the non-carriers.

“While our data suggests the dysbindin gene influences variation in human cognitive ability and intelligence, it only explained a small proportion of it - about 3 percent. This supports a model involving multiple genetic and environmental influences on intelligence,” said Anil Malhotra, MD, principal investigator of the study.

The specific role of dysbindin in the central nervous system is unknown, but it is highly present in key brain regions linked to cognition, including learning, problem solving, judgment, memory and comprehension. Scientists speculate that dysbindin plays a role in communication between brain cells in these regions and helps promote their survival. An alteration in the genetic blueprint for dysbindin may ultimately interfere with cell communication and fail to protect brain cells from dying, with a resulting negative impact on cognition and intelligence.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; NARSAD, The Mental Health Research Foundation (formerly known as National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression); and Stanley Medical Research Institute.

The impact of this gene is seemingly small, but it reflects a fascinating potential form of broad-based human enhancement. What would happen if you had two or three genes which each diminished your overall intellect by roughly 3 percent? What if there were a perfectly safe and easy form of gene therapy that could repair them? And if they were repaired, how would you perceive the subsequent, substantial improvement in your intelligence?

If there turn out to be many such flaws in human genetics, and some societies eventually choose to use gene therapy to clear them all up, will we not be engaging in a large scale "human augmentation" program? Even if we describe it as merely therapeutic?

Future Imperative

MIT Research Offers New Hope for Alzheimer's Patients

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the supplement ocean, ruthless scientists in academia discover yet more "dual-use" technology that can be leveraged to support brain health. And as we all know, preserving brain health is just up the slippery slope from enhancing brain health. What's their excuse this time? Oh, yes -- fighting Alzheimer's. Apparently these amoral medical researchers believe that helping millions of Alzheimer's victims is more important than fulminating over the misgivings of a handful of tech-skeptical futurist philosophers.

What's the world coming to?

MIT brain researchers have developed a "cocktail" of dietary supplements, now in human clinical trials, that holds promise for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

For years, doctors have encouraged people to consume foods such as fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids because they appear to improve memory and other brain functions.

The MIT research suggests that a cocktail treatment of omega-3 fatty acids and two other compounds normally present in the blood, could delay the cognitive decline seen in Alzheimer's disease, which afflicts an estimated 4 million to 5 million Americans.

"It's been enormously frustrating to have so little to offer people that have (Alzheimer's) disease," said Richard Wurtman, the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor of Neuropharmacology at MIT, who led the research team. The study appears in the May 9 issue of Brain Research.

Wurtman will present the research at the International Academy of Nutrition and Aging 2006 Symposium on Nutrition and Alzheimer's Disease/Cognitive Decline in Chicago on Tuesday, May 2.

The three compounds in the treatment cocktail -- omega-3 fatty acids, uridine and choline -- are all needed by brain neurons to make phospholipids, the primary component of cell membranes.

After adding those supplements to the diets of gerbils, the researchers observed a dramatic increase in the amount of membranes that form brain cell synapses, where
messages between cells are relayed. Damage in brain synapses is believed to cause the dementia that characterizes Alzheimer's disease.

If the successful results obtained in gerbils can be duplicated in the ongoing human trials, the new treatment could offer perhaps not a cure but a long-term Alzheimer's treatment similar to what L-dopa, a dopamine precursor, does for Parkinson's patients, said Wurtman, a professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

"It doesn't cure Parkinson's, but what it does do is to help replace something that's missing. It's not permanent, but it has had an enormous impact on people who have Parkinson's," he said.

The new potential treatment offers a different approach from the traditional tactic of targeting the amyloid plaques and tangles that develop in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Until recently, most researchers believed these plaques and tangles caused the cognitive decline. But the failure of this hypothesis to lead to an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease has caused some scientists to theorize that, though the plaques and tangles are always associated with the disease, they may not be the main cause of the dementia, nor the best target for treating it.

Instead, the new research focuses on brain synapses, where neurotransmitters such as dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin and glutamate carry messages from presynaptic neurons to receptors in the membranes of postsynaptic neurons. In Alzheimer's patients, synapses in the cortex and hippocampus, which are involved in learning and memory, are damaged.

After the dietary supplements were given, the researchers detected a large increase in the levels of specific brain proteins known to be concentrated within synapses, indicating that more synaptic membranes had formed, Wurtman said. Synaptic membrane protein levels rose if the gerbils were given either omega-3 fatty acids or uridine plus choline. However, the most dramatic upsurge was observed in gerbils fed all three compounds.

"To my knowledge, this is the first concrete explanation for the behavioral effects of taking omega-3 fatty acids," said Wurtman.

Choline can be found in meats, nuts and eggs, and omega-3 fatty acids are found in a variety of sources, including fish, eggs, flaxseed and meat from grass-fed animals. Uridine, which is found in RNA and produced by the liver and kidney, is not obtained from the diet. However, uridine is found in human breast milk, which is a good indication that supplementary uridine is safe for humans to consume, Wurtman said.

Recent studies by the researchers at MIT, and by scientists at Cambridge University in England, showed that either uridine or omega-3 fatty acids can promote the growth of neurites, which are small outgrowths of neuronal cell membranes. That further supports the hypothesis that omega-3 fatty acids increase synaptic membrane formation, said Wurtman.

Alzheimer's patients in the clinical trials, which will involve multiple medical centers, are being given a drink that contains the compounds under study, or a taste-matched placebo.

"If it works as well on the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease as it does in laboratory animals, I think there will be a lot of interest," Wurtman said.

Other authors on the paper are Ismail Ulus, Mehmet Cansev, Carol Watkins, Lei Wang and George Marzloff of MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Ulus and Cansev also work at the Uludag University School of Medicine in Turkey.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Center for
Brain Sciences and Metabolism Charitable Trust and the Turkish Academy of Sciences.

Seriously, continued research into cognitive decline and achieving optimal brain health will lead to only one thing -- more information on how to achieve optimal brain health. (You wouldn't have guessed that, would you?) Which makes this yet another example of how health-oriented biotech research is turning out to be an enhancement "wolf" in sheep's clothing.

Now watch the sales of choline, uridine and omega-3 fatty acids shoot through the roof.

Future Imperative

Sunday, April 30, 2006

An Invention that Could Solve Global Warming, the Yellowstone Supervolcano, and the Canary Islands Tsunami Deadfall...

Incidentally, I may have an invention that could be an effective emergency solution for global warming, as well as for the Yellowstone supervolcano and the potential Canary Islands volcano-deadfall-tsunami.

Any of these dangers is a potential mortal threat to millions of innocent human beings. I, Ralph Cerchione, am therefore placing all of the following ideas into the public domain, to be freely used by anyone who can make use of them.* I believe they have great potential as emergency interventions or solutions of last (or first) resort for each of the above threats.

What would we use to accomplish all this?

Two words -- pyrolytic graphite.

This is a form of carbon which is roughly one tenth the weight of steel and about ten times stronger. It is also an excellent conductor of heat.

Now imagine that you have many, many long shafts of pyrolytic graphite conducting heat out of the lower atmosphere. Obviously you don't want to add to the oceans' heat load, because we don't know how much more the oceans can take. But temperatures in the upper troposphere run around -50 degrees Centigrade, and you wouldn't have to go nearly that high to get far below freezing. So conduct massive amounts of heat away from the Earth's surface.

There are some technical details to consider. I understand pyrolytic graphite can result from burning natural gas underground, but the most frequently described method for creating it is to allow a layer of vaporized carbon to accumulate very slowly. Assuming you have a huge, clean energy source to provide the heat, however, this isn't necessarily a show stopper. You could create these shafts as long "sheets" -- say 1/2" by 3' or whatever -- and then stretch them skyward. You might find it useful to tether them to extremely high balloons, or to build a structure of pyrolytic graphite panels collecting heat at the base while slowly narrowing as the structure rose until a single great shaft (possibly a hexagonal or cylindrical tube created as a single piece) lofted the accumulated heat into the heavens.

But the question is: Would even pyrolytic graphite be able to move that much heat? Would it necessarily be strong enough to support large enough columns by itself? They would have to rise several kilometers, after all.
Possibly not. But that's where the invention gets interesting.
Let's assume the answer to both those questions is negative, and we're forced to improve the concept further as a result.
What if you were to send this pyrolytic graphite into the high atmosphere in the form of a tube, or perhaps multiple tubes bonded/bound together? And then what if you were to pump ordinary supercooled air from the higher trophosphere down through the tubes to the Earth's surface and then through a network of feeder tubes surrounding the base of the "tower"? The feeder tubes could be naturally insulated by placing them a short ways underground, but even if they absorbed heat relatively close to the tower, they could still fulfill their purpose of spreading out the impact of the supercooled air.
It's possible that a pyrolytic graphite "tower" would only have to go part of the way up. The remaining distance could be covered by an airtight tube of some flexible material like a plastic, but capable of handling the low temperatures without cracking (at least for a time). Air pressure in that version might not be such a problem.
There are also people working on developing a cable capable of serving as an elevator into orbit who have apparently had some success in getting to a mile or so above the Earth's surface (tethered to balloons). Since all you need is a reasonably impermeable tube to channel extremely cold air, a flexible, cylindrical sheet held open by a rib-work of rings would suffice. Alternatively, so would a tunnel of pyrolytic graphite or other strong, rigid material that could be suspended from balloons (and which included some flexible joints).
So there are possibly other materials with the strength needed to suspend some kind of a tube or pipe in the upper troposphere.

Clearly, you also need to be fighting global warming in the meantime, but this project could buy us some considerable time for other measures to take effect (a shift to alternative fuels, the mass replanting of forests or global flooding/economic collapse reducing demand for fossil fuels).
Would this solve all our problems? Actually, no. The stratosphere is fairly stable (which is why jet aircraft often cruise there), and the overall heat levels of the planet might not change as fast we would like.
But if you had a mobile air conditioner funnelling vast amounts of -50 degree Centigrade air wherever you wish, you could refreeze the melting glaciers of Antarctica and Greenland, and lower Earth's surface temperatures enough to substantially delay any oceanic "methane belching" or a meltdown of tundra soil. Which might buy us enough time to cut emissions down to nothing (say, by switching to cheaper alternative power sources) and to engage in a global reforestation program. Both of which would help control atmospheric carbon levels.
Frankly, it doesn't matter how successful this technical concept is, we won't survive an atmosphere that absorbs heat like, say, Venus. But our dependence on oil may be about to disappear due to both economic and geo-political reasons anyway, and we still need a way to get around the "point of no return" some scientists fear we may have already reached with regards to existing atmospheric carbon levels.

In any event, this conduction of raw heat could subtract considerable thermal energy from the atmosphere and from sea waters in key areas, though you will also want to consider the impact on the North Atlantic Current and other critical climatological elements. In other words, simply cooling the hottest places off the East Coast of the United States might not work out so well if you kill the North Atlantic Current as a result. Then again, with a little thought and a capable research arm, you should be able to find areas that really need a sudden freeze. Like those melting Arctic and Antarctic glaciers.

Further to this idea, if we used my idea of channeling supercooled air down through such a pipe into multiple "feeder tubes" for dispersion over a large area, one place we might use these underground tubes could be... Yellowstone National Park. Imagine steadily chilling that supervolcanic dome under there to the point that eventually the magma cooled into solid rock, thus defusing a major long term threat to human civilization. We might be able to kill two birds with one stone with this invention.

In a similar vein, take that Canary Island threatening to break apart and unleash a mega-tsunami and freeze the molten rock beneath it into bedrock until you have a better solution (or the breakaway piece can be quarried away into a far less menacing volume =) ).

The CNN article on the Canary Island situation notes:
Dr Day said: "The collapse will occur during some future eruption after days or weeks of precursory deformation and earthquakes.

"An effective earthquake monitoring system could provide advanced warning of a likely collapse and allow early emergency management organisations a valuable window of time in which to plan and respond.

"Eruptions of Cumbre Vieja occur at intervals of decades to a century or so and there may be a number of eruptions before its collapse.

"Although the year to year probability of a collapse is therefore low, the resulting tsunami would be a major disaster with indirect effects around the world.

"Cumbre Vieja needs to monitored closely for any signs of impending volcanic activity and for the deformation that would precede collapse."
If we had this lead time and a cooling system already in place, Cumbre Vieja could theoretically be cooled down before it went off. Alternatively, we might have to simply engage in major supercooling of the magma beneath that area well ahead of time. But either way, if we built this system, we would have both options. Which, of course, beats dying.

The Yellowstone magma chamber is also complex, as noted in this Wikipedia article:

The volcanic eruptions, as well as the continuing geothermal activity, are a result of a large chamber of magma located below the caldera's surface. The magma in this chamber contains gases that are kept dissolved only by the immense pressure that the magma is under. If the pressure is released to a sufficient degree by some geological shift, then some of the gases bubble out and cause the magma to expand. This can cause a runaway reaction. If the expansion results in further relief of pressure, for example, by blowing crust material off of the top of the chamber, the result is a very large gas explosion.

Again, we'll want to be very careful in how we handle this phenomena, and if we want to deal with it, we'll want to study this chamber very carefully. Nevertheless, being able to cool down and solidify the magma beneath Yellowstone is probably a very useful option, and if we have the technology in place to do so, we'll be able to employ if scientists ever tell us we need it immediately.

Future Imperative

*On the off chance these ideas are noticed and used in time to make a difference, and do make a difference in the lives of anyone, I hearby offer these concepts to the world in honor of my mother and my recently departed father. Thank you.

Also, if this article makes sense to you, you have my permission to reprint it to share it with others - Copyright 2006 by Ralph Cerchione, http://futureimperative.blogspot.com
You may reprint this paper to share with others, in whole but not in part, including this copyright notice.

Global Warming -- An Immediate Problem -- Further Notes

Further to the Global Warming -- An Immediate Problem article, here are a few other comments from Dr. Wenger.

Some have pointed out that Earth was molton from its formation 4-1/2 or so billion years ago and again after it's collision with a Mars-sized body a hundred million or so years later which eventually gave rise to the moon. Obviously the world was above the threshhold for release of CO2 and resultant heattrap at that time. But even more obviously:

The atmosphere was extremely heavily laden by droplets of sulphuric acid, from all the bombardment and the heavy early vulcanism. Earth's reflectivity (albedo) of the sun's heat and light must have been extremely high. The renewal of the Late Heavy Bombardment, 3.9 billion years ago, with accompanying extremely high vulcanism, had to have renewed the high stratospheric layer of sulphuric acid, to the point of casting Earth into an early ice age. Since by then the Earth had developed oceans, the process began of oceanic absorbtion of CO2 and turning it into carbon-based rock, long before life got very far in converting CO2 to carbon and oxygen.

Furthermore, the sun was considerably cooler then than it is now.

Hence, if our atmospheric pollution and release of CO2 takes us beyond the point, 8 degrees Farenheit warmer than now, that was hit twice in our geologic record since life emerged, we enter uncharted waters quite literally. If we warm to the point where the oceans begin releasing CO2 instead of absorbing it, very soon after Earth will be like Venus, which once also had oceans before it reached that point, is now. If we somehow were to stop adding CO2 today, the Earth would continue warming for some time from the effects of that greenhouse gas already having been boosted by several times over natural amounts. We don't know how far that continued warming will run, but our best scientific estimates appear to place that at six to eight degrees Farenheit above today's global temperature levels. On top of that, our continuing - and expanding - rate of release of CO2 into the already laden atmosphere carries us further, day by day.

Enjoy your slumbers while leaving this matter to our present leadership, which has already performed so splendidly and responsibly on this issue! - Or at least to someone else, likely unequipped with the problem-solving methods you know very well about or their counterparts from other creativity programs. How many world leaders and experts do YOU know of who are equipped with such problem-solving skills and techniques? Not one.

And further still:

I did select the worst-case scenarios from among the most respected scientific reports, as to volumes and levels, but the original reports on the volumes of ice locked into those caps have not, I think, been seriously questioned and from there sea levels are pretty much a straight calculation. True, as much as 5-10% of the current ice cap in Greenland might remain parked around individual mountains after a general slide into the sea of the main cap, but that's not going to ease the disaster by much, two feet out of that twenty-two if we're lucky. Again, in Antartica, the melt is accelerating only in half of the continent at this time, so at first at least, we should lose only approximately half of the ice there, for an hundred-foot sea-level rise.

Please do keep that skepticism going - an active skepticism, much needed both in and out of science, which results in questioning and examination. Not arms-folded/look-the-other-way skepticism which is as unproductive as is blind automatic belief. Thank you again for your response.

Regarding the idea of towing a comet between the Earth and the Sun as a partial sun shield, Dr. Wenger adds the following comments:
Parking an average-sized comet in a LaGrangian orbit between Earth and the sun should reduce by 5 to 7 % the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth. It'd take a few years for the sun's warming and solar wind to wear out the comet, which could then be replaced by another. We should have some degree of asteroid-deflecting ability in another five or so years, and improve that to where we could have the delicacy to move fragile comets within five years after that. Probably by placing ion drive engines right on the object, very gradually accelerating it into the proper insertion trajectory. If it's a hyperbolic comet coming all the way from the Oort Cloud or beyond, we'd probably have to swing it close in front of either Mars or Venus (a "negative slingshot") to reduce its speed, and it'd then still take several years to ease it into position. But this is something we could reasonably do after other measures have failed or been undertaken too late.

Future Imperative