[Spoiler Alert: contains spoilers for the first episode of the final half-season of BSG Sometimes a Great Notion ] As the final half season of Battlestar Galactica opened with one of the darkest episodes ever, it gave me a lot to think about regarding death, immortality, and hope even in the worst of situations. Even if you happen to assign a low probability to the possibility of a high-quality future for ourselves here in 2009, it is worth dedicating a lot in pursuit of that future when its realization is of great value and permanence.
The Order of Cosmic Engineers are a group of transhumanists who are focused on “turning this universe into a ‘magical’ realm.” They focus on building their activity in online virtual reality worlds. They include IEET Board member Giulio Prisco and IEET advisor Martine Rothblatt. They have recently issued the “YES! to Transhumanism” statement which is a call to arms for defense of radical transhumanism against pressures to downplay the more challenging and futuristic aspects of the transhumanist perspective.
Congratulations to the newly elected Board of Humanity+ which now includes IEET Board members Nick Bostrom, Mike LaTorra and George Dvorsky, IEET Fellows Ben Goertzel and Mike Treder, and the IEET Executive Director J. Hughes.
No, I’m not talking about Heat Death or another Ice Age. I’m talking about what could happen if mind uploading becomes universally or near-universally adopted and every mind is accelerated by a factor of several million or billion. Such an outcome seems inevitable if mind uploading is actually possible.
Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale.  In its advanced form, which should be achieved within the next decade or two, the technology will allow a revolution in manufacturing—building powerful products with atomic precision from the bottom up—and could fundamentally alter our ability to confront challenging issues such as climate change.
Until 2006, John Hayes, a psychologist and self-described Zen-Catholic, had never taken a hallucinogenic drug. In the 1960s, Hayes was a Franciscan friar watching with curiosity while the counter-culture used psychedelics with impunity. Through his own meditation and religious practice, Hayes believes he has had sensations that he would label mystical. But these mystical states—which he described to me as “moments of unitive experience” —were significant enough that when he heard about a surprising research project at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine he was more than intrigued. Doctors at JHU were investigating the effects of psilocybin—the active ingredient in the more common variety of hallucinogenic mushroom—and looking for volunteers.
On Buddhist Geeks Shinzen Young discusses a new way to deliver classical enlightenment to the masses using an artificial intelligence system with virtually led home meditation retreats. This Home Practice Program is what is currently being offered at BasicMindfulness.org. Finally Shinzen discusses the “crowning glory” of his mission to unify Western and Eastern technologies, and that is to help nurture the emergence of a “neuro-scientific paradigm for classical enlightenment.” This paradigm could help lead to the emergence of technologies which have the potential to bring classical enlightenment to the masses and hence make large-scale social and individual change. This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Listen to part 1, Shinzen Young: The Hybrid Teacher & part 2, Building a Dharma Successor.
Some of you are members of our sister organization Humanity+ (formerly World Transhumanist Association), so I wanted to just drop a quick note about this week’s elections for the Humanity+ Board of Directors. (If you aren’t a voting member you have until Thursday to join and vote). All the candidate statements are here. There are four IEET folks in the running that I thought you should be aware of including IEET Board members Michael LaTorra and George Dvorsky, and IEET Fellows Mike Treder and Ben Goertzel.
Wikipedia succinctly defines postmillennialism as “an interpretation of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation which sees Christ’s second coming as occurring after (Latin post-) the ‘Millennium’, a Golden Age or era of Christian prosperity and dominance.”
Julian Smith has penned an excellent overview of prosthetic technologies for New Scientist. Smith describes the current state-of-the-union as far as assistive devices goes and looks at the potential for these devices to not just mimic normal human functioning, but to surpass it as well.
For those who believe that human-level AI isn’t far off and that a rosy scenario isn’t inevitable, 2009 is a somewhat sad and depressing time. Popular opinion is that AI won’t be here for centuries, but that isn’t a huge problem or issue. (In fact, it makes things easier by limiting the number of people involved in AI research, thus allowing me and my confederates to keep a closer eye on them.)
National Constitution Center - Philadelphia, PA - Jun 17th, 2008
“I would call it a myth that we have the best healthcare system in the world,” says Daschle, who is now the Obama nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the administration’s advocate for health care reform. He outlines specific reforms essential to repairing the United States healthcare system.
Would-be censors often justify themselves by claiming that certain kinds of material are harmful to children, and so must be kept out of public sight. It’s worth thinking about this before we simply accept it at face value.
We have started on the new issue of the Journal of Evolution and Technologywith a brief editorial by Russell Blackford and articles by Eric Steinhart (on the relationship between transhumanism and the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) and Colin Farrelly (a dialogue about fundamental public policy priorities).
Kattesh V. Katti PhD, Director, Cancer Nanotechnology Platform, Professor of Radiology, University of Missouri “Green Nanotechnology: An Economic And Scientific Initiative For the Future Of Human Civilization”
Scientists have taken us one step closer to achieving permanent bliss. Neuroscientists Morten Kringelbach and Tipu Aziz recently announced that they were able to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain by implanting a chip that sends tiny shocks to the orbitofrontal cortex. This is the same area that is responsible for feelings of pleasure induced by such things as eating and sex.
IEET Fellow Marshall Brain gave this speech on the inevitable structural unemployment that automation and artificial intelligence will create at the Singularity Summit 2008. The astonishing thing about Marshall’s talk was the amount of outrage from the libertopians in the audience who were all perfectly content to imagine that we would soon have super-robots doing things a gazillion times better than humans, and that that transition might wipe humans out or bring about a utopian society, but they couldn’t accept that such a transition might cause unemployment and require any redistribution of the wealth. History apparently shows that the market solves all structural unemployment, even after an historical discontinuity so radical that we make up a word for it - Singularity - which precisely means that we can’t predict anything after that point. Libertopians would be funny if they hadn’t just ruined the world economy.
One of the secondary effects of the latest set of crises to grip the world is the rise of essays and articles from various insightful folks, laying out scenarios of what the future will look like in an era of limited resources, energy, money, and so forth. Most of these follow a similar pattern: a list of reasonable depictions of a more limited future, and at least one item that seems completely out of the blue.
Virtual Reality (VR) has advanced to incredible heights. For those who haven’t kept up with the gaming scene, the newest game renowned for impressive graphics is Fallout 3. Of course, graphics aren’t all that matters to gamers, which is why another one of the hottest games on the block right now is Spore, which looks very cartoonish.
Wireheaded pleasure. Brain damage causes religious selflessness. Powerful people are less compassionate. The US is become more unequal. Obama and the Congressional Democrats want to fund science, respect science and use science. Three rules for knowing when technology will - and won’t - fix a social problem. Jonathan Coulton salutes the worst President in US history. (MP3)
Dr. Anders Sandberg gave the opening keynote address at a conference on Global Catastrophic Risks on Nov 14, 2008 in Mtn View CA. The meeting was sponsored by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and the Lifeboat Foundation. Sandberg spoke on threats to the future of humanity, natural and man-made. (MP3)