Episode: 20 Cyberpunk Special

Posted on Sunday, Jan 3, 2021
In this special episode Richard and Michael discuss ideas relating to cyberpunk, are we headed for a cyberpunk dystopia and if so what technological and society factors are pushing us in that direction?

Show Notes

In this special episode Richard and Michael discuss ideas relating to cyberpunk, are we headed for a cyberpunk dystopia and if so what technological and society factors are pushing us in that direction?


00:00:32 - Intro
00:02:10 - Are we heading for a cyberpunk future?
00:04:21 - Defining our terms, What is cyberpunk? [1]
00:05:00 - Cybernetics [2]
00:07:00 - The cybernetics that are already with us: PCs, smartphones etc.
00:08:15 - We won’t remember your birthday unaided, we’re lucky if we remember our own
00:10:28 - A eulogy to the personal computer / smartphone & Linux [3]
00:15:08 - Cyberpunk as a genre of literature [4]
00:16:16 - (‘This’ is refering to Richard’s phone which he has forgotten that you cannot see he is holding)
00:16:30 - The tech is creeping up on us and we have not addressed the may societal issues it raises, may are adressed in fiction [5,6,7]
00:17:16 - Issues in current tech supply chains, conflict minerals, slave labour, bad incentives [8]
00:18:10 - Once tech is in your body and/or brain it gets personal
00:18:59 - In the limit freedom of compute is freedom of thought
00:19:42 - Bodily autonomy, software freedom, trust, and the commons [9]
00:21:09 - The need for effective political discussion of technology
00:21:51 - Cypherpunks, cryptography as a means to resit overreach by the state [10]
00:25:00 - When cryptography was considered a munition [11]
00:26:30 - Crypto can help balance power between people and non-state/corporate actors, increased differentiation of social class in cyberpunk
00:27:54 - Corperate hiveminds and their misaligned incentives - the problem with shareholder primacy [12]
00:29:13 - Reinternalising externalities, a role for government in increasing market freedom [13]
00:30:58 - Trust corporate entities only insofar as their utility function is aligned with your own, something that is seen a lot in cyberpunk
00:32:20 - Nestle are bastards
00:33:19 - Human machine interfaces, genetic engeneering to improve the precision and bandwidth of human machine interfaces, optogenetics [14]
00:37:00 - Obligatory neuralink mention [15]
00:40:12 - The challenge of differences in speed and architechture between brains and computers
00:40:54 - Evolution does not adhere to software engereering best practices and biology is the worst legacy code problem in history [16]
00:42:09 - The challenge is in the translation (joke for maybe 1 other person You thought dynamic binary translation betwen x86 and arm was bad hahahaha)
00:42:48 - Mind uploading, recent Kurzgesagt video [17] other books [18, 19, 20]
00:44:43 - Ads in your dreams! futurama got there first (we misremembered Fry’s name) [21]
00:45:40 - The importance of free software once you have hardware in your body [ cory talk insulin]
00:50:16 - Free as is speech (libre) not free as in beer (gratis) [9]
00:52:20 - Bad incentives in proprietary software, lock-in and worse devices with embedded computing [9]
00:56:47 - Deep brain stimulation devices [22]
00:58:36 - Current implant tech pacemakers, insulin pumps etc. [23, 24]
01:03:55 - Zoom contact lenses [25]
01:04:09 - Hugh Herr TED talk Prosthetic legs [26, 27]
01:06:12 - Cyber security of implanted medical devices. Don’t rely on security through obscurity, if it’s public weaknesses can be found and patched [28, 29]
01:10:00 - Surveillance Capitalism using data about us for the benefit of others not ourselves [30]
01:14:22 - You can still hack airgapped electronics [31]
01:16:12 - AWS outage stops ‘smart’ vacuums and doorbells from working [32]
01:19:00 - Dystopian uses of facial/gait recognition - The vast underworlds of cyberpunk are implausible in a surveilance panopticon as complete as the ones we are building
01:25:26 - The relationship between digital rights and rights in ‘meatspace’ when we increasingly live online [33]
01:26:58 - The false trade-off between security and privacy
01:27:12 - Encryption backdoors are a terrible idea that don’t work
01:27:58 - The failure of dragnet surveillance
01:28:36 - The new online arena for fights over civil liberties
01:30:25 - The problem of amplification of inaccurate or misleading content
01:32:36 - The incentives to maximise viewing time and click through rate promote divicive content.
01:34:18 - We can do this better ‘polis’ finding rough consensus in online consultations [34]
01:37:53 - Vote for policies [35]
01:40:00 - Finding reliable information in a sea of bad dis/misinformation, Countries with exposure to a neighbor with propaganistic media do well in media literacy education [36]
01:42:28 - Genetic engeneering, pre-implantation genetic diasnosis [37, 38]
01:45:50 - Gene therapy in adults [39]
01:47:11 - The double edged nature of heritable Germline genetic engeneering, permanant fix ~ permanant harm [37].
01:48:22 - First ‘CRISPR babies’ Chinese scientist He Jiankui [40]
01:50:02 - Trade-offs in genetic engeneering, you can’t be an optimal sprinter and an optimal long distance runner
01:51:16 - Geopolitics of the supersoldier, Liam Neeson, nukes, and killer robots
01:53:29 - bioengeneered organ farms
01:55:02 - Biology is nanotechnology
01:56:36 - The ‘pure’ humans vs the modified
01:57:22 - GATTACA [41]
01:57:51 - New forms of inequality and limitations of social mobility through the predetermining effects of particular genetic optimisations
02:01:00 - We need to have a productive societal conversation about Genetic engeneering.
02:04:02 - Technology gives us the capability to do more both bad and good
02:04:58 - Concluding remarks, the need to more conversation on these topics
02:09:45 - Outro


Intro: L’Etoile danse (Pt. 1) by Meydan Outro: Long Way Home by Spinning Ratio


Richard J. Acton

Richard J. Acton

A Human - for now.

Michael Glinka

Michael Glinka

A Human