Last Thursday, the second annual University of Michigan Innovation In Action competition concluded, with six stunning student pitches for startups that could make a significant dent on the health and well-being of communities. It was a great example of what can be achieved at the intersection of public health, entrepreneurship, and the creativity and energy that students can bring to real-world problems.
“At Death’s End”, written by James Blish (1921-1975), was published in the May 1954 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. Surprisingly, this short story is still only accessible in hard copy, within the original Astounding Science Fiction edition. Apart from a brief review by Robert W. Franson, who introduced me to this work, there is today surprisingly little literary analysis devoted to “At Death’s End” – even though it offers a fascinating glimpse into how a science-fiction writer from an earlier era perceived the prospects for indefinite human longevity, from the vantage point of the scientific knowledge available at the time.
The above is a quote from Ynval Harari’s book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which I reviewed last time. So that’s his view of history, but what of other fields specifically designed to give us a handle on the future, you know, the kinds of “future studies” futurists claim to be experts in, fields like scenario planning, or even some versions of science-fiction.
A National Academy of Sciences panel said that, with proper governance and other safeguards, we should commence more research on geoengineering — technologies that might let himanity deliberately intervene in nature to counter climate change. With the planet facing potentially severe impacts from global warming in coming decades, drastically reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases was by far the best way to mitigate the effects of a warming planet. But society would be foolish not to at least carefully commence small scale experiments looking into other means of reducing the net harm.
The campaign for the introduction of a universal basic income (UBI) has been gaining ground in recent years. What was once a slightly obscure proposal, beloved by certain political theorists and welfare reformists, is now being embraced as a potential solution to the threat of technological unemployment. I myself have written about it on several occasions, mainly focusing on different political and philosophical arguments in favour of its introduction.
Inspired by the debate over the effects of partisan tribalism on cognition we asked “Are liberals and people on the Left as cognitively biased as conservatives and people on the Right?” A plurality (42%) of the 150 respondents answered that “Leftists and liberals have some biases, but less than conservatives and the Right.”
Victor Frankl claimed that creative, productive work was one of the three main sources of meaning in human life. (The others are human relationships and bearing suffering nobly.) If the most meaningful lives entail meaningful work a number of questions arise. What kind of work is meaningful? Is meaningful work an objective or subjective notion? Can we find meaningful work in a capitalist economic system? Can we find meaningful work in any conditions?
What does it mean for the world to flow with light? Let's start this example of sousveillance in action… a professor and his students showcase where the FDA buried information about drug company misconduct. Now, the standard response to something like this is to build and then build some more upon our callouses of cynicism. Oh no, we see more villainy, proving that all institutions are corrupt! Instead of yes! We just caught some villainy! Proving that we can—with grinding but relentless hard work—improve our institutions, the way our parents and grandparents did!
Unwanted pregnancy is contributing to a new “caste system” in America. Is that about to get worse? When new and better technologies become available only to people who are already privileged, the rich get richer and opportunity gaps get wider. That’s exactly what’s happening with family planning—and unless trends change, a recent revolution in contraceptive technology may deepen America’s economic divide. Many factors intersect to create poverty or keep people mired there: racism, sexism, untreated illness and mental illness, hopelessness created by lack of opportunity, structural barriers between social classes, and more.
Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014
“Regulating a Damage Repair Approach to Cure the Diseases of Aging” Panel Discussion (August 23, 2014, 12:30pm)
Escalating societal healthcare needs have driven an unprecedented era of biomedical innovation. However, the development of candidate technologies without consideration of a robust regulatory strategy is likely to contribute to stymied patient access and commercial viability. Therefore, this session considered worldwide efforts to rapidly and proportionally develop international regulatory processes to accommodate increasingly heterogeneous and unfamiliar healthcare technologies and their swift translation from lab to bedside.
• David Brindley, Research Fellow, University of Oxford/Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Medical Innovation (Moderator)
• Bob Clay, Chief Regulatory Officer, Kinapse & Manging Director, Highbury Regulatory Science
• Andrew Martello, Managing Director, Spoonful of Sugar
• Evan Snyder, Director, Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, Director, Stem Cell Research Center and Core Facility, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014 Keynote Presentation (August 23, 2014, 9:00am) “Creating a Culture of Innovation and Breakthroughs” Presenter: Peter Diamandis, Co-founder and Vice Chairman, Human Longevity, Inc, Founder and CEO, X PRIZE Foundation.
Dr. Peter H. Diamandis is an international pioneer in the fields of innovation, incentive competitions and commercial space. In the field of Innovation, Diamandis is Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, best known for its $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private spaceflight. Today the X PRIZE leads the world in designing and operating large-scale global competitions to solve market failures.
Diamandis is also the Co-Founder and Vice-Chairman of Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), a genomics and cell therapy-based diagnostic and therapeutic company focused on extending the healthy human lifespan. He is also the Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Singularity University, a graduate-level Silicon Valley institution that studies exponentially growing technologies, their ability to transform industries and solve humanity’s grand challenges. In the field of commercial space, Diamandis is Co-Founder/Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, a company designing spacecraft to enable the detection and mining of asteroid for precious materials.
Diamandis is the New York Times Bestselling author of Abundance – The Future Is Better Than You Think. Abundance was #1 on Amazon and #2 on New York Times. He was also named one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” – by Fortune Magazine. He earned an undergraduate degree in Molecular Genetics and a graduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School.
Diamandis’ mission is to open the space frontier for humanity. His personal motto is: “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.”
Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014 Musculoskeletal Disease Session (August 23, 2014, 12:30pm) “The Rejuvenation of Aged Skeletal Muscle by Systematic Factors” Presenter: Young Jang, Assistant Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology.
Young Jang received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences (Cell Biology) from University of Texas in 2008, and completed his postdoctoral training from Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies and the laboratory of Amy Wagers at Harvard University and Harvard Stem Cell Institute. In 2014, he was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the School of Applied Physiology and a faculty member in the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Institute of Technology.
The primary research focus of the Jang laboratory is to understand the molecular and biochemical mechanisms of age-related muscle loss and function. The Jang laboratory applies bioengineering approaches and stem cell-based therapies to study skeletal muscle dysfunction during aging and in age-associated muscle diseases. The laboratory develops and applies novel tools using a combination of animal and stem cell models.
Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014 Cancer Session (August 22, 2014, 1:00pm) “Accelerating Knowledge Turns: The I-SPY Model and Drug Development”
Presenter: Laura Esserman, Professor, Departments of Surgery and Radiology, and Affiliate Faculty, Institute for Health Policy Studies and Director, Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center; Co-Leader, Breast Oncology Program, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Francisco.
Dr. Esserman is a surgeon and breast cancer oncology specialist, and is the Director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). In 1996, she started the Center of Excellence for Breast Cancer Care at UCSF to integrate clinical care and research, automate tools for the capture of patient and clinical data, and develop systems to tailor care to biology, patient preference, and performance.
Dr. Esserman is nationally and internationally known as a leader in the field of breast cancer and has published over 200 articles. She served as a member of a taskforce for President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Working Group on Advancing Innovation in Drug Development and Evaluation. The group was tasked with making recommendations to the federal government about how to best support science-based innovation in the process of drug development and regulatory evaluation.
She is the Principle Investigator of the I-SPY TRIAL program, a multi-site neoadjuvant clinical trial (which includes phase 2 and 3 trials) that has evolved into a model for translational research and innovation in clinical trial design. Dr. Esserman has recently launched a University of California-wide breast cancer initiative called the Athena Breast Health Network, a program designed to follow 150,000 women from screening through treatment and outcomes, incorporating the latest in molecular testing and web-based tools into the course of care. Athena is in the final stages of launching a statewide demonstration project and phase 1/2 trial of personalized screening.
Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014 Musculoskeletal Disease Session (August 23, 2014, 12:30pm) “What is Sarcopenia? Definitions, Diagnosis and Developing Interventions”
Presenter: Christy Carter, Assistant Professor, Department of Aging and Geriatric Research, Institute on Aging, University of Florida. Dr. Carter received her PhD in Experimental and Biological Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her post-doctoral training at The Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Globally , Dr. Carter’s current research interests lie in preserving physical function and healthspan during aging; and in particular focuses on the use of a preclinical rodent model of aging to test a variety of late-life interventions designed to mitigate sarcopenia. Furthermore, she has demonstrated that the application of standardized physical performance measures to a variety of animal models of aging may help to define similarities between species in the underlying mechanisms of sarcopenia, the age-related decline in performance, disability, and longevity. Indeed the assessment of behavioral outcomes is essential for measuring the efficacy of any late-life intervention in the context of mitigating declining performance and improving healthspan. She has extended this area of research to other special aging populations such as the frail and obese, and has developed combinatorial therapies, using these compounds in conjunction with behavioral modification such as exercise.
A few days ago there was an interesting article in the New York Times, “The Feel-Good Gene,” by a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. The author wonders why some people are predisposed to anxiety which doesn’t have obvious environmental causes, and which is thus not helped by psychotherapy.
Jason Silva and IEET Fellow Douglas Rushkoff at MINDJAM at 92Y in New York City. Jason Silva hosts a series of powerful discussions in a live setting with world renowned experts in art, science, technology, philosophy, and beyond. He and his guests dive deep into forward thinking theories and modern misconceptions surrounding human consciousness.
It is widely bruited about that both society and the internet are utterly unforgiving. That any nude photo or youthful indiscretion will be remembered until the galaxies go dim. That teen instagrams will scandalize potential mates and employers, ruining your life, forcing you to live in gutters. But this Atlantic article— Naked on the Internet is Not Forever—casts doubt on both assumptions…. that those photos hang around, or that anyone really cares.
In response to pressure from the advocacy group As You Sow, Dunkin’ Brands has announced that it will be removing allegedly “nano” titanium dioxide from Dunkin’ Donuts’ powdered sugar donuts. As You Sow claims there are safety concerns around the use of the material, while Dunkin’ Brands cites concerns over investor confidence. It’s a move that further confirms the food sector’s conservatism over adopting new technologies in the face of public uncertainty. But how justified is it based on what we know about the safety of nanoparticles?
The most important difficulty for utilitarianism is that it emphasizes consequences exclusively. Utilitarians claim that “the ends always justify the means,” and therefore we can do anything to maximize utility as long as the consequences are good. For example, imagine that our neighbor opens our mail every day before we get home and then meticulously closes and replaces it with such skill that we cannot tell it has been opened. He derives great satisfaction from this activity and we never find out about it. When we are out-of-town and give him the key for emergencies, he rummages through our mail and personal effects, carefully replacing them before we return.
Dr. James Hughes is not only the executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) but also a well known book author and transhumanist. I enjoyed having him on the show and will probably ask him to come back.
During our conversation with Dr. Hughes we cover a wide variety of topics such as: what is the IEET and what does it do; the story behind James’ interest in technology, policy, philosophy and bio/ethics; why transhumanist atheists are often drawn to Buddhism; his first book Citizen Cyborg and his upcoming Cyborg Buddha; transhumanism and his definition thereof; whether optimism is rational; the impact of artificial intelligence on transhumanism; James’ take on the technological singularity and our chances of surviving it; the benefits of biology; moral enhancement and animal uplift.
The race for Barbara Mikulski’s Maryland Senate seat has just begun. But Social Security is already shaping up as a major issue, especially between two leading contenders: Maryland representatives Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards.
Wisdom 2.0 addresses the great challenge of our age: to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world.
Through our series of conferences, meet-ups, and workshops, Wisdom 2.0 strives to bring this conversation to the world in an accessible, innovative, and inclusive way.
Intelligence is the most powerful force in the world, and humans are increasingly losing out to computers in various intellectual pursuits. Can you take a pill that will make you smarter? If you could, would you? We would, and so would our guest Jesse Lawler, the host of the excellent podcast Smart Drug Smarts. We cover the gamut of currently available substances that are claimed to have the effect of enhancing intelligence. We discuss how current drugs and supplements on the market are not exactly silver bullet ‘smart’ pills but rather push us in one direction or another, with trade-offs. We also discuss some of the more speculative technology coming down the pike, and what might be the next big thing in nootropics.
Automatically-executing smart contracts and their impact on society has been contemplated in many different contemporary science fiction works like Daemon (Suarez), and Accelerando and Glasshouse (Stross). The interesting point is that artificial autonomous agents are becoming increasingly full-fledged participants in the real-life contemporary world.
IEET Fellow Susan Schneider spoke to LipTV about AI, superintelligence and the Singularity.
Superintelligence asks the questions: What happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence? Will artificial agents save or destroy us? Nick Bostrom lays the foundation for understanding the future of humanity and intelligent life.
The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our species owes its dominant position. If machine brains surpassed human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become extremely powerful - possibly beyond our control. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on humans than on the species itself, so would the fate of humankind depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence.
But we have one advantage: we get to make the first move. Will it be possible to construct a seed Artificial Intelligence, to engineer initial conditions so as to make an intelligence explosion survivable? How could one achieve a controlled detonation?
This profoundly ambitious and original book breaks down a vast track of difficult intellectual terrain. After an utterly engrossing journey that takes us to the frontiers of thinking about the human condition and the future of intelligent life, we find in Nick Bostrom’s work nothing less than a reconceptualization of the essential task of our time.
Sitting down for brief periods can help us recover from stress or recuperate from exercise. But nowadays, our lifestyles make us sit much more than we move around. Are our bodies built for such a sedentary existence? Murat Dalkilinç investigates the hidden risks of sitting down.
On March 4 the World Economic Forum released its list of the top 10 emerging technologies of 2015. The list was put together by the Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies in a bid to offer a vivid glimpse of the power of innovation to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard our planet. Included in the list are zero-emission cars fuelled by hydrogen and computer chips modelled on the human brain