“The Singularity (Summit) is Near; Should we be Afraid?”

On October 15th and 16 the Singularity Institute will convene in Manhattan at the ’92nd Street Y’ for a second NYC Singularity Summit. The annual Singularity summits began in 2006 and the first one held in New York City in 2009 was attended by hundreds of the world’s most intelligent and visionary people.

The Singularity Summit is the premier dialog on the “(Technological) Singularity” – the name given to a point in the not-so-distant future when artificially engineered intelligence will surpass the intelligence of humans.

A common belief about such an event is that it is fraught with danger for the human species. But when we think about the future of highly developed AI, is the scenario popularized in such sci-fi classics as “The Terminator’ and ‘The Matrix’ series really something we should expect? Might it be possible that such an event may instead facilitate the realization of humanity’s collective dream of a world free from scarcity, drudgery, sickness, and suffering?

To help us sought out these other related questions and we will be joined by scholar of futurism, and producer of the “Changesurfer Radio” podcast, Dr. James Hughes. And to tell us about the upcoming Singularity Summit we will also be joined by Singularity Institute President, Michael Vassar. So take your seats because the singularity (summit) will soon be here.

The Belief Instinct

Equal Time for Freethought will host evolutionary psychologist Jesse Bering, director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University Belfast, and a writer for the weekly column “Bering in Mind” on the Scientific American website. We will talk about his book, “The Belief Instinct,” which explores the psychological underpinnings of humanity’s ability to believe in a variety of unseen things, such as life after death, a Supreme Being, Karma and more.

Have we evolved in such a way which has allowed such psychologically propensities? If so, does that mean there’s anything substantial to things unseen which may confirm our almost universal, often independently developed religious beliefs; or have our brains evolved this way as a survival mechanism?

And what are the psychological consequences of maintaining these beliefs in a time where dogmatic thinking can dangerously be combined with weapons of mass destruction? Also, why hasn’t the development of science – including the science of religion itself – been enough to eradicate magical thinking?

9/11 10th Anniversary Special: w/ Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping

Not long after the planes struck on 9/11, infamous anti-consumerist performers The Church of Stop Shopping (led by Reverend Billy and Church Director Savitri D) renamed themselves the Church of Stop Bombing. What followed was years of protest for peace and public space as both were attacked by the US Government and the NYPD.

War, community, shopping, grief, religion, and hope for peace are all tangled up in the legacy of 9/11. Over the years, Reverend Billy and the Church have performed 9/11 anniversary shows and rituals to commemorate the best responses to that day –the spontaneous eruption of community and solace in Union Square, the “I love you” final phone calls from the victims– alongside the tragic response of war, torture, and suspension of liberties from our government.

Michael O’Neil will talk to Reverend Billy and Savitri D on this special edition of Equal Time For Freethought; join us as we discuss where the 9/11 legacy has been taken. Also join The Church on Sunday at 2pm for a flowers and candles remembrance at Union Square in New York City.

What Capitalism’s Wrought w/ Michael Perelman

Central to the humanistic worldview are the notions of individual liberty and communal freedom. A humanist society is one where people can each reach their potential, and engage with each other in all the myriad aspects of living the good life.  But for all people to be able to participate in such a society, everyone has to have social, political, and economic freedom. To many on the Right, Free-Market Capitalism is the perfect tool toward meeting such goals, and the Government is the major obstacle. To others, it’s the other way around. And to perhaps just a few, both institutions are thought to be severely flawed, if not the actual antithesis of what is needed to reach a humanistic future society.

But everyone can see things are breaking down. Debt Ceilings, Spending Crises, High-Unemployment, Failing Entitlements, Obamacare, Low Tax Rates for the Rich and on and on. It almost seems as if American society is beginning to collapse; fracturing into many angry groups, some more powerful than others; and it all seems to be – underneath all the yelling – over economics (fed by misanthropic beliefs about the human condition).

But economics seems to be so confusing that many people – including the “experts” – don’t really seem to understand what exactly is going on. The result of this is that Americans seem to have many diametrically opposed opinions about capitalism, statism, “free markets”, and socialism/communism … about how we got here, and thus how to get out of this mess. But because so many of these opinions are based on misinformation, they don’t allow us to introduce evidence-based ideas on how to right the ship.

Then again, maybe the ship can’t be saved.

ETFF will speak to economist and economic historian Michael Perelman (The Invisible Handcuffs of Capitalism: How Market Tyranny Stifles the Economy by Stunting Workers) about these questions and problems and more, as we welcome in Labor Day weekend.