Dr. J. chats with Arika Okrent, author of In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers and the Mad Dreamers who tried to Build a Perfect Language. Dr. Okrent holds a doctorate in linguisitics and cognitive neuroscience from the University of Chicago. MP3
The current discussion on transhumanism concerns human use of NBIC1 technologies and sciences to enhance human biology and to radically extend human life. I address this concern by bringing arts/sciences and design into the discussion. Artists and designers have been altering the human form-perceptually, conceptually and in actuality-from existing states to envisioned, preferred states. The perception of an ideal human is evident in the construction of statuesque sculptures. The conception of an enhanced human is evident in imagined mechanism in providing electronic senses and robotic extensions. The central issue now is that both the opponent and the advocate of transhumanism realize that the actuality of altering the human form is practicable, that duplicating the mind is probable, and that extending life is feasible.
What properties of consciousness and mind will remain the same in a posthuman world? Will enhanced minds look at themselves and reality like we do? What can we learn from cognitive science and consciousness studies to help answer these questions? What are some ethical consequences of enhancing the brain/mind?
Dr. Patrick Lin, director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has accepted an appointment as Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies for 2010.
Geoengineering, the concept of altering the environment to mitigate climate change, has gone from fringe idea to the subject of Congressional hearings. Yet many scientists remain skeptical that it can be done safely. IEET Senior Fellow Jamais Cascio, author of Hacking the Earth, tells NPR’s “Living the Earth” program that geoengineering is ripe for ethical problems, chief among them international political conflict. Read the transcript
Three dynamic expert presenters will address the topics of anti-aging research, genetically tailored medicine, and brain enhancement during the IEET’s “Future of Medicine” event, coming in October 2010.
Within a single generation, digital media and the World Wide Web have transformed virtually every aspect of modern culture, from how we learn and work to how we communicate and even conduct war. On WNYC Radio in New York, IEET Fellow Doug Rushkoff and producer Rachel Dretzin discuss their new PBS documentary, “Digital Nation,” which investigates whether technology is moving faster than we can adapt to it.
What is this thing called “self”—this inner image of “Ben Goertzel” that I carry around with me (that, in a sense, constitutes “me”), that I use to guide my actions and inferences and structure my memories?
Mike Treder, managing director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, is a prolific writer, speaker, and activist with a background in media and communications. Mr. Treder co-founded the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) with Chris Phoenix in 2002, and served as its executive director for six years. Mr. Treder currently sits on the Board of Advisors for CRN. Mr. Treder is a consultant to the Millennium Project of the American Council for the United Nations University, serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Lifeboat Foundation, is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, a consultant to the Future Technologies Advisory Group, and a member of the World Future Society. As an accomplished presenter on the societal implications of emerging technologies, Mr. Treder has addressed conferences and groups around the world, including in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil.
Visions in science fiction films that portray dystopic futures involving emerging technologies, i.e. Nano, Bio, Information, robotic, etc. I argue can actually be good for both society and the emerging technologies they portray. For example, dystopic images portrayed in films such as AI: Artificial Intelligence, Gattaca, 2001: Space Odyssey, Minority Report and others paint imagined futures that, while they are both scary and unfamiliar, also serve as an exposure to these emerging technologies that might otherwise not exist without the cinematic lens to expose them. These images and scenarios put up on the screen serve a potentially valuable and positive good for society because they not only open up the minds of the viewers to the imagination of the filmmakers but also to a reality, real or imagined, that they might otherwise not have considered.
Kristi Scott is working on her PhD in Mass Communication and Media Arts at Southern Illinois University. Her specific interest is in the body and how it is technologically mediated. She has served an IEET intern, writer/blogger, volunteer, teaching assistant and coordinator since 2007 and also a reviewer, copyeditor, and layout editor for the Journal of Evolution and Technology. She is a member of Humanity+ and the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities, a Futurist Board member for the Lifeboat Foundation, reviewer for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, and a contributor and blogger for the Women’s Bioethics Project.
Are humans being replaced in media arts and entertainment? If so, what new types life forms will arise? Artists and designers are delving more deeply into immersive environments and creating bio-artificial life forms. This panel of media experts will discuss the role of emergence, hybridity, artificial life systems, adaptive AI agents, temporal representatives, and full-body immersivity which are forming a new and evolving visual system of social synthetics in film, TV, gaming, and other mechanism of entertainment and interactivity.
Matthew Patrick (matthewpatrick.tv) is a director of feature films, TV movies and short films.
Michael Masucci is an acknowledged pioneer in the desktop and digital video movement, and an award-winning writer, producer, director, photographer, editor and musician, whose work has been seen on the BBC, BRAVO, PBS as well as in such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art ( New York ), the Institute of Contemporary Art ( London ) and the American Film Institute, who honored Masucci, and his company EZTV, a 27 year-old media arts organization. Masucci has produced in China, the U.K., Mexico, Croatia, Canada, Thailand, and throughout the United States, He has served as the international chair for Digital Video for SIGGRAPH, served on the Advisory Board for DV Expo, and has lectured and major conferences and universities internationally, as well as been profiled in various print & electronic media, including on the Discovery Channel, PBS, TechTV, the LA Times, Variety, the LA Weekly, Wired.com and Internet.com.
Natasha Vita-More is a media artist/designer and theorist, and a prominent proponent of ethical means for achieving human enhancement for the purpose of radical life extension. She has spoken world-wide on futurism and art for two decades. Currently a PhD candidate at the Planetary Collegium, University of Plymouth, UK, where she is working on the post-biological transformations of the human through the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive/neuro science (NBIC). Natasha has a background in film and video, is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and was a filmmaker in residence at the Inter’l film Archive, worked with Zoetrope and Twentieth Century Fox studios, has exhibited performative and directed works in Women in Video, US Film Festival, BBC Films, Moscow Film Festival, and National Centre for Contemporary Arts, Kaliningrad. Her works have been featured in The New York Times, Wired, U.S. News & World Report, Net Business, Village Voice and Teleopolis, and in more than 24 televised documentaries. She is an advisor for several non-profit organizations and is fellow of IEET.
Jeannie Novak is the founder of Indiespace—one of the first companies to promote and distribute interactive entertainment online—where she provides social networking, project management, and consulting services for educators, game developers, and independent creative professionals in the game, music, and film industries. Jeannie is Lead Author and Series Editor of the widely acclaimed Game Development Essentials series (with 12 titles currently on the market), co-author of Play the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Video Games, and co-author of three pioneering books on the interactive entertainment industry, including Creating Internet Entertainment. Jeannie was Online Program Director for the Game Art & Design and Media Arts & Animation programs at the Art Institute Online, where she was also Producer & Lead Designer on an educational business simulation game that was built within the Second Life environment. She has also been a game instructor and curriculum development expert at UCLA Extension, Art Center College of Design, Academy of Entertainment and Technology at Santa Monica College, DeVry University, Westwood College, and ITT Technical Institute—and she has consulted for the UC Berkeley Center for New Media and Alelo Tactical Language & Culture. Jeannie has developed or participated in game workshops and panels in association with events such as the Game Developers Conference (GDC), Macworld Expo, Digital Hollywood, and Digital Music Forum. She is Game Conference Chair for the upcoming ANIMIAMI conference, member of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), and member of the Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) and Online Excellence Awards selection committees for the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) DICE Awards. Jeannie was chosen as one of the 100 most influential people in high-technology by MicroTimes magazine—and she has been profiled by CNN, Billboard Magazine, Sundance Channel, Daily Variety, and the Los Angeles Times. She received an M.A. in Communication Management from USC, where she focused on using MMOGs as online distance learning applications. Jeannie is also an accomplished composer, recording artist, and performer (piano/voice). More information is available at http://indiespace.com and http://jeannie.com.
Could augmented reality turn us into deathtrippers whose real lives merge with first-person shooters? Will brain-computer interfaces lead to a world where anybody can be turned into a willing sexbot? These questions, lifted from recent pop culture about entertainment, address some of the same fears critics have had about TV, comics, and movies for the past century. These critics wonder whether mass consumption of transgressive stories (mostly about sex and violence) will make us inhuman. In this talk, I’ll use examples from speculative fiction to explore whether this question is still relevant in a future where entertainment can be implanted and advertising works on a molecular level.
Annalee Newitz (techsploitation.com) is the editor of the science and science fiction blog io9. She’s the author of Pretend We’re Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture, and co-editor of She’s Such a Geek.
A clue to a possible (or probable) future reaction of the general population to the appearance of posthumans can be seen in the backlash against bodybuilders in the first half of the twentieth century. The rise in popularity of weight-lifting in the second half of the nineteenth century, spurred on by the muscular Christianity movement and widespread fears of racial degeneracy, created a number of bodybuilders who marketed themselves so efficiently as to become household names. These bodybuilders billed themselves as “superhuman” and as a new breed of man. By the early 20th century the idea that these bodybuilders were the first of a new race was so widespread that the most famous body builders appeared in popular culture as superheroes and as the equal of the fictional heroes of the era, many of whom were described as following similar weight-lifting regimens and having superhuman abilities. The general population went from idealizing and imitating the marquee bodybuilders to feeling unable to live up to their models and from there to hostility. In popular fiction, this backlash manifested itself in regulation and control of the superhumans through plot: superhuman heroes inevitably either lost their powers, had them fade away, or retired, vowing never to use their abilities again.
Jess Nevins is a reference librarian at the University of California at Riverside, and author of Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana and The Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes (forthcoming, 2010).
Can we predict the future? It is often said, and rightly so, that science fiction is merely commentary on the current human condition. Often times the fact that these stories are set in a future is merely an aesthetic change, yet this ignores the integral role played by technology, social systems, and ecosystems. Other times, we are shown a utopian or dystopian version of modern political philosophies like liberalism, marxism, and fascism through a rigid lens of ideology. While it is essential to highlight possible futures so that we may plan accordingly, to do this with any degree of accuracy it must take into account certain facts about the nature of systems. So, yes, we have the capacity to make relevant predictions about the future, but the point is to change it. This talk will explain how to optimally structure our living spaces, psychologies, bodies, and social systems given a sober recognition of reality.
Edward Miller is the Chief Information Officer of the Network for Open Scientific Innovation. He is a passionate advocate of Open Source development models. His blog, EmbraceUnity, deals with democracy, humanism, and sustainable development.
PJ Manney has a degree in Film and American Studies from Wesleyan University and has worked at Walt Disney/Touchstone Pictures and for independent film production companies. She has written for television (Hercules, Xena). Patricia also cofounded Uncharted Entertainment and written and/or created many pilot scripts for television networks, including CBS, Fox, UPN, Discovery, ABC Family and Comedy Central. She lives with her husband and two children in California. She is presently writing a techno-thriller/H+ novel.
Science fiction has long been a source of uncredited inspiration to inventors and entrepreneurs, even just from books. Now that science fiction has mutated into graphic novels that become movies, and $500 million movies become global events, and the Air Force is advertising that if you join up, you’ll be bringing science fiction to life, what can we expect the impact on our culture to be? Science fiction to Americans is like water to a fish: so all pervasive as to be almost invisible. This talk will make the case for science fiction as the solution of most problems, and the lack of awareness of what science fiction actually is as the source of most problems.
Alex Lightman is the author of The Future Engine: How Science Fiction Catalyzes Business and Technology, to be published in 2010, and over 800,000 words mostly about technology and the future. He was invited by the Producers Guild to come up with guidelines for how producers of content other than movies and television could become official Hollywood producers, based on his pioneering work creating over 90% of the science fiction websites for Hollywood, and 90% of the Internet 3D sites, in the first six years of Hollywood studio websites. His projects have included Babylon 5 (the first official fan site), The Fifth Element, Titanic, Mortal Kombat, Blade, Xena, Lost in Space, and dozens of others. His Spawn 3D site won the Entertainment and Grand Prize categories of the only SGI web contest as well as “Best Avatar”. He is the Executive Director of Humanity+ and writes regularly for H+ magazine.
There are two kinds of science fiction: One of hope, the other of fear. Hope is what we all cherish. But fear is easier to portray and helps build box office profits. In SF, the hoped-for utopian city is often replaced by the feared dystopian urban nightmare. This nightmare is sometimes contrasted with the rural idyll—except when that, too, is replaced by backwoods horrors. Arthur C. Clarke steered a path between these two extremes that yet skewed toward the rural in his far-future SF novel The City and the Stars. He contrasted the ultimate city of immortals, Diaspar, with the back-to-nature, small-is-beautiful towns of rural Lys. In this presentation, I will claim that a melding of these two that, contrary to Clarke, skews more closely to Diaspar, would be the most desirable social outcome for enhancing human life, fostering the arts and sciences, and extending human flourishing into the future.
Michael LaTorra is Assistant Professor of English at New Mexico State University, where he has taught since 2000. Previous to his teaching appointment, he worked in Information Technology in California’s Silicon Valley and in other states. He is the author of the 1993 book A Warrior Blends with Life, and is an ordained Soto Zen Buddhist priest at the Zen Center of Las Cruces / Daibutsuji Zen Temple. Prof. LaTorra is an active transhumanist. He serves on the Board of Directors of the World Transhumanist Association and on the Board of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
Myths and stories reflect popular hopes and anxieties, and in turn shape the attitudes of each new generation. Our emerging biopolitics - which concerns emerging technologies, human enhancement, longevity, robots and AIs, chimeras, and so on – have been profoundly shaped by the bioconservative tropes of Frankenstein, Brave New World and Gattaca. At the same time SF, fantasy and horror images have become part of mainstream culture, with increasingly positive depictions of vampires, cyborgs and robots. On the other hand there are still very few examples of moral humans who choose to live a long time or enhance their intelligence. To what extent do contemporary television, film and literature reflect a positive trend in the depiction of the “intelligent Other”? If there is such a trend what might it mean?
James Hughes Ph.D., the IEET Executive Director, is a bioethicist and sociologist at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut where he teaches Health Policy and serves as Associate Director of Institutional Research and Planning. He holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago, where he also taught bioethics at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. Dr. Hughes is author of Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future , and is working on a second book tentatively titled Cyborg Buddha. Since 1999 he has produced a syndicated weekly radio program, Changesurfer Radio.
Like the popular TV series, sometimes the law is prescriptive, restricting human behavior, but it is also fluid and evolves, reflecting social norms. Solving recurrent problems, setting standards for desirable behavior, proclaiming symbolic expressions of communal values (such as autonomy and privacy), resolving disputes about facts, and such, are just some of the important functions which the law serves in our society. However, law is not the only domain that regulates behavior in our culture; morality, religion, social conventions, etiquette, moral and ethical values also guide human conduct in many ways which are similar in altering and shaping human performance. Technological advances in human enhancement will not only change social norms and conventions, but will challenge our current laws and our current legal systems.
Linda MacDonald Glenn is a bioethicist, healthcare educator, lecturer, consultant and attorney. Formerly a fellow with the Institute of Ethics of the American Medical Association, and current Women’s Bioethics Project Scholar, Linda Macdonald Glenn’s research encompasses the legal, ethical, and social impact of emerging technologies and evolving notions of personhood. Linda currently holds faculty appointments at the University Of Vermont College Of Nursing and Health Sciences, Department of Medical Laboratory and Radiation Sciences, and the University of Sciences in Philadelphia, Department of Biomedical Writing. An active lecturer, Linda has spoken at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Loyola University at Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical School and various law schools. She has also addressed numerous public and professional groups internationally.
This presentation will study radical enhancement as a marketing challenge. We will start with the centuries-old tropes that make it a hard sell today, study positive models, then briefly outline what a marketing campaign for Transhumanism would look like. Western culture has been on an invisible, centuries-long campaign against the concept of human enhancement. The vision of a technologically-enhanced human being has been locked in mortal combat with Rousseaus Noble Savage and the concept of Man-As-God-Intended. The result is a conflict between our programmed fear of Frankensteins and our instinctive human fascination with knowledge, change, and increased power. This has produced a cultural stalemate: a zero-sum trope of enhancement and transhumanism where each advancement in capability must be met with an equal amount of tragedy and loss. From Adams expulsion from Eden to Robocops banishment from his own family, from the fall of Icarus to the Silver Surfers exile, cultural tropes have led us to believe that great gain must be accompanied by great loss. In the game of radical evolution, the winners must also be losers. While this presenter is agnostic about many Singularitarian and Transhumanist concepts, its clear were going to change a lot. How do advocates for significant change break down public resistance? And how can one overcome the more subtle age-old programming behind the zero-sum vision of what might be called Tragic Transhumanists, tormented heroes like Spiderman and Spawn? The surprising answer may come from the one aspect of modern culture where great power does not typically mean great loss: advertising. From Mr. Clean to the eSurance Saleslady, from the White Tornado to the guys in those Viagra ads, ad agencies have been modeling unambiguously powerful meta-humans as happy, well-adjusted success stories. With tongue only slightly in cheek, we discuss how guys with ED may represent one of several ways to market radical enhancement as a uniquely healthy and uniquely human endeavor.
Richard Eskow is a consultant with a background in IT, social science, health care, public policy, and long range planning. He pioneered the use of informatics to study and influence provider/patient behavior, helped lead national health transformation in several former Communist countries, and has had executive positions in several companies. His consulting projects typically involve systems development & marketing strategies (especially in health care), finance & insurance, public policy, or related issues. Richard’s also a writer who covers health, politics, religion, and pop culture. He has been published in a number of print and online venues, and was anthologized in Best Buddhist Writing of 2008.