The pace of technological change is governed by many factors — including public demand. Which is why we need to be demanding more. Here are 12 transformative technologies whose development should be expedited right now. To make this list meaningful, I only included those items that are within reasonable technological reach. Sure, it would be nice to have molecular assemblers, warp drives, and the recipe for safe artificial intelligence, but it’ll be decades before we can reasonably embark upon such projects.
The perfect merger of academic rigor and contemporary thinking has come together in the concept of iSchools, which give practical consideration and interesting learning opportunities to the most relevant issue of our time: information.
Of all the bewildering diversity of new of consumer choices on offer before the middle of the century that would have stunned people from only a generation earlier, none was perhaps as shocking as the many ways there now were to be dead. As in all things of the 21st century what death looked like was dependent on the wealth question.
With futurist thinkers supporting the notion of human upgrading through technological enhancement, what parameters are considered in respect to moral enhancement? What cross cultural barriers and variations in moral reasoning are we targeting for such upgrades? Moreover, is moral enhancement simply a term we fear delving into despite the association it arguably has to almost everything our culture produces?
What kind of society are we creating? With the advent of the internet-of-things, advanced data-mining and predictive analytics, and improvements in artificial intelligence and automation, we are the verge of creating a global “neural network”: a constantly-updated, massively interconnected, control system for the world. Imagine what it will be like when every “thing” in your home, place of work, school, city, state and country is connected to a smart device?
I keep seeing and hearing cynics sigh about how far we have “fallen.” The disease is rampant, on both right and left. The striking thing to me is the inanity of cliches, like: “Isn’t it a shame that our wisdom has not kept pace with technology?” This nonsense is spouted amid the greatest transformation of diversity, inclusion, acceptance, re-evaluation and tolerance in the history of our species! At no other time were so many hoary/awful assumptions - about race-gender and so on - pilloried by light and scrutiny!
It is a risky business trying to predict the future, and although it makes some sense to try to get a handle on what the world might be like in one’s lifetime, one might wonder what’s even the point of all this prophecy that stretches out beyond the decades one is expected to live? The answer I think is that no one who engages in futurism is really trying to predict the future so much as shape it, or at the very least, inspire Noah like preparations for disaster.
Diet and genomes interact due to the simple fact that nutrition is perhaps the most important environmental factor in human development. The food we eat is the fundamental factor defining our optimal state of health and mental capacity.
Google Inc.’s 2013 book The New Digital Age, authored by Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen, was showered with praise by many, but attacked in a review by Julian Assange for the New York Times, where it is described as a “love song” from Google to the US state. Also addressed in Assange’s subsequent book When Google Met WikiLeaks, Google’s book makes an unconvincing effort to depict the internet as a double-edged sword, both empowering (p. 6) and threatening our lives (p. 7).
In a powerful article at the Atlantic, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel lined up facts and figures showing that much of the recent gain in human lifespan is about stretching out the process of decline and death rather than living well for longer. Most of us would love to live to 100 and beyond with our minds sharp and our senses clear, able to take pleasure in the world around us while contributing at least modestly to the happiness and wellbeing of others. But clear-eyed analysis shows that is not how most elderly Americans experience their final years.
I am a transhumanist, and I believe that politics is important. Let me unpack that a little: I believe that we can and should voluntarily improve the human condition using technology. That makes me a transhumanist, but aside from that single axiom I have in common with all transhumanists, we’re an increasingly diverse bunch.
Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon is the classic symbol of authoritarianism. Bentham, a revolutionary philosopher and social theorist, adapted the idea from his brother Samuel. The panopticon was a design for a prison. It would be a single watchtower, surrounded by a circumference of cells. From the watchtower a guard could surveil every prisoner, whilst at the same time being concealed from their view. The guard could be on duty or not.
We have a pretty good sense of how digestion works. And our grasp of thermodynamics is excellent. We know that there are three bones – the smallest in our bodies – in the middle ear, and that stars produce light because of thermonuclear fusion. While I’m skeptical of “progressionist” claims that the human condition has inexorably improved since the Neolithic revolution (the proliferation of technology-related existential risks being one reason for skepticism), it seems that science has made genuine progress.
I seem to work a lot. At least, I think I work a lot. Like many in the modern world, I find it pretty hard to tell the difference between work and the rest of my life. Apart from when I’m sleeping, I’m usually reading, writing or thinking (or doing some combination of the three). And since that is essentially what I get paid to do, it is difficult to distinguish between work and leisure. Of course, reading, writing and thinking are features of many jobs. The difference is that, as an academic, I have the luxury of deciding what I should be reading, writing and thinking about.
The first ever comprehensive introduction edited by Robert Ranisch and IEET Fellow Stefan Lorenz Sorgner which compares and contrasts posthumanism and transhumanism is forthcoming within the next two weeks.
Suspended Animation is a mean to preserve life by slowing or halting its processes, while not causing death. This is similar to natural occurring anabiosis, though carried out artificially in order to preserve human and non-beings. Currently there are two main means of suspended animation, Cryopresevation, dubbed Cryonics, and the less developed Ahydrobiosis. The former uses low temperatures or chemical fluid replacements, while the former uses desiccation in order to preserve an organism.
Robert Frost’s famous imagery—fire or ice, take your pick—pretty much sums it up. But lately, largely unnoticed, a revolution has unwound in the thinking about such matters, in the hands of that most rarefied of tribes, the theoretical physicists. Maybe, just maybe, ice isn’t going to be the whole story. Of course, linking the human prospect to cosmology itself is not at all new. The endings of stories are important, because we believe that how things turn out implies what they ultimately mean. This comes from being pointed toward the future, as any ambitious species must be.
Earlier this year, the first mind-to-mind communication took place. Hooked up to brain wave headsets, a researcher in India projected a thought to a colleague in France, and they understood each other. Telepathy went from the pages of science fiction to reality.
I’ve had the honor of serving as editor-in-chief of The Journal of Evolution and Technology (henceforth “JET”) since January 2008 – so it’s now approaching seven years! Where did the time go? Having been invited by Kris Notaro to write something about an aspect of transhumanism as it involves me professionally, I’m taking the opportunity to reflect briefly on JET and its mission. We have a great story to tell, and perhaps we should tell it more often.
Several years ago, Bill Gates keynoted a breakfast for Seattle-based Climate Solutions, a nonprofit focused on advancing the clean energy economy and driving practical, profitable solutions to climate change. Gates opened his speech with an equation. To paraphrase: Our carbon problem = persons x services x the energy intensity of services x the carbon intensity of energy. The number of people is growing, Gates observed, and we all want more services.
Consider the following passage from Richard Dawkins’s book Unweaving the Rainbow: “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people…”
Ray Kurzweil recently made the observation that: “A kid in Africa has access to more information than the President of the United States did 15 years ago.” Since I try to spend at least one month a year in Africa (mostly in Uganda), this quote got me thinking.
Between us and the future stands an almost impregnable wall that cannot be scaled. We cannot see over it,or under it, or through it, no matter how hard we try. Sometimes the best way to see the future is by using the same tools we use in understanding the present which is also, at least partly, hidden from direct view by the dilemma inherent in our use of language.
This is the second and final part of my series about a recent exchange between David Chalmers and Massimo Pigliucci. The exchange took place in the pages of Intelligence Unbound, an edited collection of essays about mind-uploading and artificial intelligence. It concerned the philosophical plausibility of mind-uploading.
What are our goals as a species? This, to me, is the most important question we can ask ourselves as human beings. Another way to say it: What is the meaning of our existence as a species? We never seem to directly ask ourselves these two questions in a collective way, which seems very odd to me. Because if we were discussing these questions openly, collectively and consistently, I believe we would live in a very different society.
Ethicists have been asking themselves a question over the last couple of years that seems to come right out of science-fiction. Is it possible to make moral machines, or in their lingo, autonomous moral agents -AMAs? Asking the question might have seemed silly not so long ago, or so speculative as risk obtaining tenure, but as the revolution in robotics has rolled forward it has become an issue necessary to grapple with and now.
An important question regarding human enhancement in the military is how the deployment of modified soldiers will redefine the ethical limitations on how combatants may be treated. The provisions of the Geneva Conventions and other bodies of international law prohibiting torture generally rest on certain assumptions about the human condition, such as pain thresholds, sleep requirements, and other forms of fragility.
A movement is afoot to cover some of the largest and most populated cities in the world with a sophisticated array of interconnected sensors, cameras, and recording devices, able to track and respond to every crime or traffic jam ,every crisis or pandemic, as if it were an artificial immune system spread out over hundreds of densely packed kilometers filled with millions of human beings.
Ted will be moving to Washington D.C. to lead the Global Economics and Strategy Department and be responsible for IFC’s strategy and development impact functions, leading a global team of approximately 100 people.