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.
In creating, publishing, and promoting Eclipse Phase we wanted to make a product that made an deliberate effort to engage with explicitly transhumanist and political themes but would deal with these issues in a way that complete novices to them would be able to grok. I’ll discuss some of the issues that we encountered in making a game with an agenda, how we tried to make complicated transhuman and ethical issues interesting to play with, and some of the complications that have arisen since the game was published.
Brian Cross is co-founder of Posthuman Studios, co-creator of Eclipse Phase a transhuman roleplaying game, and a sociologist researching the effects of new technologies on the law and politics.
Jamais Cascio (openthefuture.com) is a Senior Fellow of the IEET. He writes about the intersection of emerging technologies and cultural transformation, and specializes in the design and creation of plausible scenarios of the future. His work focuses on the relationships between disparate forces and systems, and the importance of long-term, systemic thinking, particularly regarding the environment and technological development. In 2003, he co-founded WorldChanging.com, the award-winning website dedicated to finding and calling attention to models, tools and ideas for building a “bright green” future. His articles at WorldChanging covered topics including energy and the environment, global development, open source technologies, and catalysts for social change. Foreign Policy magazine named Jamais one of the top 100 “global thinkers” of 2009.
We are all descended from the harems of kings, who somehow talked other men into fighting to preserve aristocracy. How did those kings and priests and bards manage such a spectacular trick, over and over again… and is there any chance of escaping that cycle? Does it start with telling Joseph Campbell to shove off, and reclaiming the art of storytelling for the people? For progress and freedom?
David Brin is a scientist, speaker, technical consultant and world-known author. His novels have been New York Times bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages.
The New York City screening will be followed by a live panel discussion which will be simulcast to venues screening the film nationwide and will stream live online.
Dr. Robert Butler, Gerontologist, Psychiatrist & Pulitzer-Prize Winner; President and CEO of the International Longevity Center
Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Biomedical Gerontologist; Chief Science Officer, SENS Foundation
Dr. Leonard P. Guarente, Novartis Professor of Biology, MIT; Director, Paul F. Glenn Lab for Science of Aging
Dr. Gordon Lithgow, Biomolecular Geneticist; Head of the Lithgow Lab, Buck Institute on Aging
Moderated by Robert Kane Pappas, director of TO AGE OR NOT TO AGE
The scientists featured in TO AGE OR NOT TO AGE have found the means to postpone and possibly mitigate diseases tied to aging, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and diabetes. Genes that control aging, among them SIRT2/SIRT1 genes, when altered, may, as a side effect, increase our lifespans.
New York City, NY USA
With the search and rescue efforts officially called off in Haiti, the time has come for reconstruction. But with nearly 200,000 dead and one in nine Haitians currently homeless, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and lose sight of the primary lesson learned from the catastrophe. That poverty kills. And it kills big time.
Digital Nation – Doug Rushkoff’s new PBS documentary – airs Tuesday February 2 on PBS
Doug will be hosting a series of roundtable discussions following each broadcast. One per month, with invited guests and running commentary from the viewing audience. The above clip – Patrick Stewart on Twitter, the iPhone, and his passion for gaming – is not in the show. But it is an example of the kind of conversations and guests Doug will be having in the Roundtables – both by text and video.
So please, go to pbsdigitalnation.org after the show and share your thoughts with the people who were in it, see the discussion in progress, and push the participants to go deeper. Most important, suggest topics and guests – including yourself – you’d like to see on there.
For past 100 years—from the tail end of the industrial revolution, through the chemicals revolution and into the digital revolution—we have been passive observers of our effects on the planet. Over the next 100 years, we will need to take an active role in managing these effects if we are to avoid potentially catastrophic impacts on large numbers of the world’s population.
Humanity is devoting some of its best minds, from a wide diversity of fields, to helping software achieve consciousness. The quest is not especially difficult as it is a capability that can be intelligently designed; there is no need to wait for it to naturally evolve.
Are there no ethical principles we can share to help guide our colonization of outer space? If not, then how do we deal with some of the fundamental questions that govern such work? For instance, what obligations do we owe to the various life forms we send there, or those we might discover? Can we develop a more considerate approach to colonizing outer space than we were able to achieve for various sectors of Earth?
Associating the Enlightenment with abstract reasoning runs smack up against what should be considered the Enlightenment’s greatest insight—that humans are inherently delusional beings, able to talk ourselves into anything at all.
In her book A History of God, Karen Armstrong notes that atheistic ideologies can lead to atrocities as readily as theologies. But then she smears Nietzsche by repeating the falsehood that he was somehow an inspiration for Nazism, and that his atheism somehow contributed to Nazi atrocities. The accusation is an insult not just to Nietzsche but to the victims of the Holocaust.