Anyone who has the scientific tenacity to question “common truths” and come to a valid conclusion outside of the confines of popular opinion are destined to be heralded as someone working in the pocket of some agency. Conspiracy theories run amok throughout society, believing any large corporation to be intrinsically “evil”. One corporation in particular stands out the most: Monsanto!
On Friday March 6, 2015, more than 3,000 people attended the ASU Emerge event. This is where Eric Kingsbury, futurist, founder of KITEBA, cofounder of the Confluence Project, launched “You Have Been Inventoried”. I helped with some of the content for the project, along with others from the Confluence Project.
Everywhere you look in the world you can see pessimism, gloom, doom and negativity. No matter where you live, it seems many are convinced that there’s just no hope. Many people have stopped trying to do anything, while they “wait for god” or “wait for the Singularity.” Or simply wait, period.
The negativity is everywhere.
So, here’s one of my rants, against that negativity.
There has of late been a great deal of ink devoted to concerns about artificial intelligence, and a future world where machines can “think,” where the latter term ranges from simple autonomous decision-making to full fledged self-awareness. I don’t share most of these concerns, and I am personally quite excited by the possibility of experiencing thinking machines, both for the opportunities they will provide for potentially improving the human condition, to the insights they will undoubtedly provide into the nature of consciousness.
The rapidly growing field of transhumanism—an international social movement whose highest immediate priority is overcoming human death via science and technology—is facing a colossal challenge. About 85 percent of the world’s population believes in life after death, and much of that population is perfectly okay with dying because it gives them an afterlife with their perceived deity or deities—something transhumanists often refer to as “deathist” culture.
In fact, four billion people on Earth—mostly Muslims and Christians—see the overcoming of death through science as potentially blasphemous, a sin involving humans striving to be godlike. Some holy texts say blasphemy is unforgivable and will end in eternal punishment.
Jaron Lanier’s book “Who Owns the Future?” discusses the role that technology plays in both eliminating jobs and increasing income inequality. Early in the book Lanier quotes from Aristotle’s Politics:
If every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or the tripods of Hephaestus, which, says the poet, “of their own accord entered the assembly of the Gods; ”if, in like manner, the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves.
Aristotle saw that the human condition largely depends on what machines can and cannot do; moreover, we can imagine that machines will do much more.
Sticks and stones can break my bones , but words can never hurt me
The Nursery Rhyme is Bulls**t. Words hurt.
They don’t physically damage our bodies, but the pain is palpable. It’s also measurable in our brain activity. Social rejection activates the same parts of our brain as a punch to the face or a broken arm.
First of all, someone needs to demystify the idea that Westerners have of India. There are two modern empires in Asia: Russia and mainland China. They are empires because they rule over subjects who, given a choice, would probably not want to be part of them and these are big chunks of territory with huge natural resources (Chechnya and other Muslim regions in the case of Russia, Tibet and Xinjang in the case of China). India is never listed alongside them because it used to be a colony. Somehow the colonial past deters people from seeing what is relatively obvious: India too is an empire just like China and Russia that rules over many “conquered” regions that, given a choice, would probably secede.
A worry that is not yet on the scientific or cultural agenda is neural data privacy rights. Not even biometric data privacy rights are in purview yet which is surprising given the personal data streams that are amassing from quantified self-tracking activities. There are several reasons why neural data privacy rights could become an important concern.
Technological change is accelerating and transforming our world. Assuming trends persist, we will soon experience an evolutionary shift in the mechanisms of reputation, a fundamental on which relationships are based. Cascading effects of the shift will revolutionize the way we relate with each other and our machines, incentivizing unprecedented degrees of global cooperation.
In 2015, you probably have more computing power than that of the Apollo Guidance computer in your smartphone, and yet Moore’s Law continues unabated at its fiftieth anniversary. Machines are becoming faster and smaller and smarter.
Even if they aren’t flesh, “mindclones” deserve protection.
For much of the 20th century, capital punishment was carried out in most countries. During the preceding century many, like England, had daily public hangings. Today, even Russia, with a mountainous history of government-ordered executions, has a capital-punishment moratorium. Since 1996, it has not executed a criminal through the judicial system.
If we can learn to protect the lives of serial killers, child mutilators, and terrorists, surely we can learn to protect the lives of peace-loving model citizens known as mind clones and bemans—even if they initially seem odd or weird to us.
If your first impulse was to tell me how many years it has been since you were born, stop right there. There could be a huge difference between your chronological age and your biological age.
Let me explain.
Your chronological age measures how long you have been on this planet. Your biological age measures how you look, feel and perform—and is a gauge as to how long you will live. Recent studies have shown that the rate at which you age is only determined 25–35% by your genetics. The rest is up to you.
Recently, the Daily Kos published an article titled, I Am Pro-Choice, Not Pro-Abortion. “Has anyone ever truly been pro-abortion?” one commenter asked.
Uh. Yes. Me. That would be me.
I am pro-abortion like I’m pro-knee-replacement and pro-chemotherapy and pro-cataract surgery. As the last protection against ill-conceived childbearing when all else fails, abortion is part of a set of tools that help women and men to form the families of their choosing. I believe that abortion care is a positive social good. And I suspect that a lot of other people secretly believe the same thing. And I think it’s time we said so.
Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, is campaigning to be the next USA President. He defines himself as a “Democratic Socialist” and praises Scandinavian nations. USA citizenry is largely puzzled and aghast:
“The only thing most American know about socialism is they don’t like it.” - Leo Huberman
In a survey of transhumanists, 16.9% described themselves as Socialist, 4.2% Marxist, 32.7% Liberal, 27.4 Libertarian, and 15.6 Moderate. The Transhumanist Party is running a candidate in 2016 - Zoltan Istvan. I’ll be posting a series of articles on transhumanist political positions.
In this first installment, I interview four contributors to IEET.
As William Gibson always reminds us the real role of science-fiction isn’t so much to predict the future as to astound us with the future’s possible weirdness. It almost never happens that science-fiction writers get core or essential features of this future weirdness right, and when they do, according to Gibson, it’s almost entirely by accident. Nevertheless, someone writing about the future can sometimes, and even deliberately, play the role of Old Testament prophet, seeing some danger to which the rest of us are oblivious and guess at traps and dangers into which we later fall. (Though let’s not forget about the predictions of opportunity.)
Frank Herbert’s Dune certainly wasn’t intended to predict the future, but he was certainly trying to give us a warning.
“May all that have life be delivered from suffering”, said Gautama Buddha.
The vision of a happy biosphere isn’t new. Jains, for instance, aim never to hurt another sentient being by word or deed. But all projects of secular and religious utopianism have foundered on the rock of human nature. Evolution didn’t design us to be happy.
While I’m generally an extremely stubborn person, my opinion has radically changed on some topics over the years. I don’t view this as a bad thing. I don’t aspire to be one of those people whose ideas are set in stone, impervious to growth or adaptation.
Some of my changes of opinion have been purely “changes of heart”—e.g. in my early 20s I transitioned from a teenage solipsism to a more compassion-oriented attitude, due more to internal growth than any external data or stimuli.
Other times, the cause of my change of opinion has been encountering some body of evidence that I simply hadn’t been aware of earlier.
The change of mind I’m going to write about here has been of the latter kind— data-driven.
Considering machines that think is a nice step forward in the AI debate as it departs from our own human-based concerns, and accords machines otherness in a productive way. It causes us to consider the other entity’s frame of reference. However, even more importantly this questioning suggests a large future possibility space for intelligence.
I am interested in “secularizing” Africa because I believe this would benefit the continent intellectually, socially, and economically. To help advance this goal I support Kasese Humanist Primary School, and I co-launched BiZoHa - the world’s first atheist orphanage.
Every morning for the last four and a half months, I’ve broken off a large chunk of grass fed butter (usually around 50 grams or just over three tablespoons) and a couple tablespoons of coconut oil and thrown them in a blender with my morning coffee. You might have heard of this idea, dubbed ‘bulletproof coffee’ and created by a guy called Dave Asprey. 1
Over the last few years, I’ve received various reactions from the public about my articles on transhumanism. Those reactions have ranged all across the board—from spewing hatred to mocking skepticism to genuine interest. The thing with transhumanism—the core of its message—is whatever it espouses, it’s new thinking. Whether it’s brain implants, bionic limbs, designer babies, robotic hearts, exoskeleton suits, artificial intelligence, or gene therapies that aim to eliminate biological death, it’s decidedly uncharted territory for the human species.
For the very first time, scientists have demonstrated that a brain implant can improve thinking ability in primates. By implanting an electrode array into the cerebral cortex of monkeys, researchers were able to restore — and even improve — their decision-making abilities. The implications for possible therapies are far-reaching, including potential treatments for cognitive disorders and brain injuries.
But there’s also the possibility that this could lead to implants that could boost your intelligence.
The most significant event in a person’s life is death. It changes everything. More precisely, it takes everything that a person had. If he was in love, he no longer is. If he was aspiring to pleasures, there will be none any longer. The world will be gone for the person.
Every single neuron will disappear that was responsible for the wishes, desires, and feelings. We don’t realize this, but everything single thing we accomplish, we do so looking in the face of inevitable death. Death takes away the sense of a person’s life.
Michael Tooley’s article “Moral Status of Cloning Humans” defends human cloning. I am in complete agreement with it. Cloning, despite the viceral reaction it raises, is a tool in the arsenal of the transhumanist once it is understood.
Here is a brief outline of the article with a bit of commentary identified by parenthesis.
What makes a Seattle mother spend her days trying to chip away at Bible belief rather than digging holes in the garden?
When my husband sent me the Pew Report news that the percent of Americans who call themselves Christian has dropped from 78.4 to 70.6 over the last 7 years, I responded jokingly with six words: You’re welcome. Molly Moon’s after dinner?
Not that I actually claim credit for the decline. As they say, it takes a village.
If yoga helps a Christian man to walk for the first time in thirty-three years, does his newfound strength come from God or the Devil? That is the question tearing apart an Evangelical church in Las Vegas.
Longevity and Brain Enhancement are the two primary ambitions of transhumanists, according to a survey conducted two years ago. This indicates that the “average transhumanist” is strongly motivated to keep his-or-her physical body and mental cognition in tip-top condition. These desires would be, it seems, even more emphasized in tranhumanists who were 55+ years old.
I am 62 – an age considered “old” by many – but I recently “resurrected my strength” using a combination of old-fashioned hard work + new-fangled technology. In only 4 months I became stronger than I’ve ever been in my life.
The final frontier of digital technology is integrating into your own brain. DARPA wants to go there. Scientists want to go there. Entrepreneurs want to go there. And increasingly, it looks like it’s possible.
You’ve probably read bits and pieces about brain implants and prostheses. Let me give you the big picture.