George P. Dvorsky (born May 11, 1970) is a Canadian bioethicist, transhumanist, and futurist. He is a contributing editor at io9 and producer of the Sentient Developments blog and podcast. Dvorsky currently serves as Chair of the Board for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) and is the founder and chair of the IEET's Rights of Non-Human Persons Program, a group that is working to secure human-equivalent rights and protections for highly sapient animals.
Dvorsky is a secular Buddhist, progressive environmentalist, ancestral health advocate, and animal rights activist. Primarily concerned with the ethical and sociological impacts of emerging technologies, specifically, "human enhancement" technologies; he seeks to promote open discussion for the purposes of education and foresight. He writes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including technoscience, ethics, existential risks, artificial intelligence, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and futurology, from a democratic transhumanist perspective.
Nonhuman Rights and Ethics
Dvorsky presented an argument for non-human animal biological uplift at the IEET Human Enhancement Technologies and Human Rights conference at Stanford University in May 2006; and wrote the first published article in defence of the Ashley Treatment in November 2006, and subsequently the only bioethicist cited by Ashley X's parents in their defense.
Dvorsky also presented an argument warning of the decline of democratic values and institutions in the face of existential and catastrophic risks at the Global Catastrophic Risks: Building a Resilient Civilization conference in November 2008.
Dvorsky, along with Milan M. Ćirković and Robert Bradbury, published a critique of SETI in the May 2012 Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (JBIS) arguing that SETI techniques and practices have become outdated. In its place, Dvorsky, Ćirković, and Bradbury advocated for what they called Dysonian SETI, namely the search for those signatures and artefacts indicative of highly advanced extraterrestrial life.
Dvorsky gained some notoriety in 2012 after writing about Dyson spheres, hypothetical structures intended to collect the entire energetic output of a star with solar power collectors. While Dvorsky presented it as a solution to humanity's resource needs including power and living space,  Forbes blogger Alex Knapp and astronomer Phil Plait, among others, have criticized Dvorsky's article.
Dismantling Mercury, just to start, will take 2 x 1030 Joules,[note 1] or an amount of energy 100 billion times the US annual energy consumption ... [Dvorsky] kinda glosses over that point. And how long until his solar collectors gather that much energy back, and we’re in the black?
At one AU – which is the distance of the orbit of the Earth, the Sun emits 1.4 x 103 J/sec per square meter.[note 2] That’s 1.4 x 109 J/sec per square kilometer. At one-third efficiency, that’s 4.67 x 108 J/sec for the entire Dyson sphere. That sounds like a lot, right? But here’s the thing – if you work it out, it will take 4.28 x 1028 seconds [1.35 sextillion years] for the solar collectors to obtain the energy needed to dismantle Mercury. That’s about 120 trillion years.[note 3]
— Alex Knapp
Although Plait's numbers are correct (in round numbers), Knapp's analysis is incorrect on a number of points. This can be verified using simple math:
- Knapp says 4.28x1028 seconds is 120 trillion years when the correct number is 1.35 sextillion years. The 120 trillion year number is how long takes for one square kilometer at 4.67 x 108 to disassemble Mercury, which (as Knapp later realized) has no direct relevance to a bootstrapping scenario.
- The area of a sphere at 1.0 AU from the sun given by Dvorsky (which he cites from Anders Sandberg) is 2.72x1017 km2. Knapp claims it is only 6.9 x 1013 km2, a number he erroneously attributes to Dvorsky.
- Knapp does not give a calculated total amount of energy per second directly, but states that it would require 174 years for such a sphere to acquire the needed energy to disassemble Mercury. However, even assuming Knapp's claimed surface area of (6.9 x 1013 km2), the amount of energy for the sphere should work out to 1/3 of the total solar output regardless of the collector's physical size. This is enough to disassemble Mercury (meeting the cost of 2x1030 J) in 4 hours, not 174 years.
- Multiplying the numbers given by Knapp (6.9 x 1013 km2 for the sphere size and his estimate of 4.7x108 J/s for the power per square kilometer) gives 3.24 x 1022 J/s, which meets the Mercury criteria in 2 years rather than 174 years.
Knapp's second blog post reiterates his incorrect conclusion that it would require 174 years at a minimum to disassemble Mercury using the Sun's entire output.
Other blogs including Popular Science, Vice, and skeptical blog Weird Things followed up on this exchange.  None of them note the above numerical inaccuracies, although Weird Things does point out Knapp's misunderstanding regarding bootstrapping (later retracted).
- This is a close approximation to the number given by Wolfram Alpha which is 1.789×1030 J (joules)
- This is related to how far we are from the sun, and if we know the energy output of the sun (3.846x1026 W) we can calculate based on distance using the formula for surface area of a sphere 3.846*1026W/(4pi * au2/m2) = ~1400W/m2
- This underestimates the time by a factor of 11 million.
- Humphrey, Stephen (2004). "No Death, Please, I'm Bionic: Cyborg-Obsessed Transhumanists Push Bioethical Limits While Fending Off Foes From All Sides". Retrieved 2015-06-12.
- Mayer, Andre (2005). "The Great Byte Hope". Retrieved 2007-03-03.
- Dvorsky, George. "George Dvorsky: About". Google+. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- "Cyborg Buddha Project". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
- Dvorsky, George (September 2008). "Better Living through Transhumanism". Journal of Evolution & Technology. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
- Dvorsky, George (2003). "Technophiles and Greens of the World, Unite!". Retrieved 2007-03-19.
- Dvorsky, George (2011). "Primal Transhumanism". Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- Dvorsky, George (2006). "The myth of our exalted human place". Retrieved 2007-03-19.
- Dvorsky, George (2006). "IEET Monograph Series: All Together Now: Developmental and ethical considerations for biologically uplifting non human animals" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2007-02-09.
- Bailey, Ronald (2006). "The Right to Human Enhancement: And also uplifting animals and the rapture of the nerds". Retrieved 2007-03-03.
- Dvorsky, George (2006). "Helping families care for the helpless". Retrieved 2007-02-09.
- Dvorsky, George (2007). "The "Ashley Treatment": Towards a Better Quality of Life for "Pillow Angels"". Retrieved 2007-02-09.
- Dvorsky, George (2008). "Future Risks and the Challenge to Democracy". Retrieved 2000-01-24. Check date values in:
- Dvorsky, George (2012). "Dysonian Approach To SETI: A Fruitful Middle Ground?". Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- Dvorsky, George (2008-03-05). "Seven ways to control the Galaxy with self-replicating probes". Retrieved June 2015.
- Dvorsky, George (2012-03-20). "How to build a Dyson sphere in five (relatively) easy steps". Retrieved June 2015.
Let's build a Dyson sphere! And why wouldn't we want to? By enveloping the sun with a massive array of solar panels, humanity would graduate to a Type 2 Kardashev civilization capable of utilizing nearly 100% of the sun's energy output. A Dyson sphere would provide us with more energy than we would ever know what to do with while dramatically increasing our living space. Given that our resources here on Earth are starting to dwindle, and combined with the problem of increasing demand for more energy and living space, this would seem to a good long-term plan for our species.
- Dvorsky, George (2014-02-12). "Here's what a Martian space elevator might actually look like". Retrieved June 2015.
- Dvorsky, George (2013-02-15). "Why we'll probably never build a space elevator". Retrieved June 2015.
- Waugh, Rob (2012-04-10). "Huge sphere of solar panels in space could turn humanity into a galactic superpower in 25 years (but we just have to blow up Venus and Mercury first)". Retrieved June 2015.
- Alex Knapp Destroying Mercury To Build A Dyson Sphere Is A Bad Idea
- "A Few More Notes On The Impracticality Of Building A Dyson Sphere".
- Boyle, Rebecca (April 2012). "Why Turning Mercury Into a Dyson Sphere to Harvest Solar Energy Is Not Worth It". Retrieved June 2015.
Forbes writer Alex Knapp takes his argument apart instead, crunching some numbers with the help of astronomer Phil Plait. Click through to Knapp's argument for the breakdown of joules needed to dismantle Mercury versus joules obtained by solar collectors. But the gist is that it would take 174 years to recover the energy input that it would take to blow up the lovely, geologically interesting innermost planet.
- Mead, Derek (April 2012). "Forget Wimpy Plans and NIMBYs, Let's Solve the Energy Crisis by Blowing Up Mercury". Retrieved June 2015.
Knapp calculated (brilliantly, I might add) that, at it’s earliest stage, the Dyson sphere would take 120 trillion years to produce the energy needed to pillage Mercury. Even at full, Sun-encircling power, the sphere itself would take 174 years to dismantle Mercury. Knapp thus flips the kill switch: “If we’re capable of generating the amount of energy right now that would take a Dyson Sphere 174 years to recover, why would we need to build a Dyson Sphere in the first place?”
- Fish, Greg (April 2012). "Why we won’t build a dyson sphere soon". Retrieved June 2015.
Dvorsky proposed an unworkable plan weren’t included in their calculations. Instead, they worked out that it would take so much energy to disassemble Mercury, that a 100% efficient Dyson shell of satellites would take us some 174 years to balance the energy budget. Now this would’ve been fine if we were talking about warp drives and negative energy/mass constructs, but we’re not, and even after having it pointed out that Dvorsky was proposing a very energy amortized bootstrapping scenario, Alex Knapp was still sticking to his energy balancing guns.”