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The Foundational Questions Institute, which runs essay contests usually focused on physics, has suddenly chosen an essay topic perfectly suited to Azimuth:
I think we should contribute an essay! So, the first question is, what should we talk about. Here is some advice from the FQXi:
Dystopic visions of the future are common in literature and film, while optimistic ones are more rare. This contest encourages us to avoid potentially self-fulfilling prophecies of gloom and doom and to think hard about how to make the world better while avoiding potential catastrophes.
Our ever-deepening understanding of physics has enabled technologies and ways of thinking about our place in the world that have dramatically transformed humanity over the past several hundred years. Many of these changes have been difficult to predict or control—but not all.
In this contest we ask how humanity should attempt to steer its own course in light of the radically different modes of thought and fundamentally new technologies that are becoming relevant in the coming decades. In this vein we ask questions such as:
What is the best state that humanity can realistically achieve?
What is your plan for getting us there? Who implements this plan?
- What technology (construed broadly to include practices and techniques) does your plan rely on? What are the risks of those technologies? How can those risks be mitigated?
(Note: While this topic is broad, successful essays will not use this breadth as an excuse to shoehorn in the author's pet topic, but will rather keep as their central focus the theme of whether information or “material” objects are more fundamental.)
I think the parenthetical remark is left over from a previous contest!
Here are some of the rules:
Submission: Essays and accompanying material must be submitted online using the webform between the dates of January 9, 2014 (commencing 4:00 PM Eastern Time), and April 18, 2014 (until 11:59PM Eastern Time). Applicants must provide accurate contact information, an abstract of their essay, a brief biographical statement, and their essay. Immediately after an essay application is submitted, the applicant will receive an application confirmation email containing this information at their specified email address. This confirmation DOES NOT mean your essay has been accepted into the Contest. All essays will be reviewed for rule compliance (see "Publication" below) and those that are eligible will be posted online within 10 days. Essays received on the deadline date will be posted in batches for up to 10 days after the contest ends.
Please note: You will be required to register an email address with fqxi.org and set up an account to enter the Contest. This information is available on the application page.
Acceptability: In order to be judged, essays must at least satisfy minimal professional standards of acceptability for publication, both qualitative and quantitative.
Format & length: Essays must be submitted as PDF documents via the webform.
Eligible essays must comply with these guidelines:
The body of the essay may not exceed 9 pages or 25,000 characters (not including spaces). To ensure your submission fits the character count, you can use our online character counter.
The length of the body of the essay must not exceed 9 pages, including figures and equations, calculated based on a standard 8 ½ x 11 inch single-sided page with 1 inch margins. The following can be appended to these 9 pages: one page of references, and up to two pages of technical endnotes. No essay text (such as textual footnotes), figures, notations, or equations can be included in the reference section. The technical endnotes are meant to provide an opportunity for additional technical detail while retaining a readable, accessible, and self-contained essay body; all essay reviewers, including the Expert Judges, will be encouraged to focus on the body of the essay, and use the endnotes only as a technical supplement to a self-contained work.
Color figures as well as hyperlinks within the document are acceptable.