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?
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?
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.
Over a single generation, the Web and digital media have remade nearly every aspect of modern culture, transforming the way we work, learn and connect in ways that we’re only beginning to understand. FRONTLINE producer Rachel Dretzin (Growing Up Online) teams up with one of the leading thinkers of the digital age, IEET Fellow Douglas Rushkoff (The Persuaders, Merchants of Cool), to continue to explore life on the virtual frontier.
The dominant trajectory of Enlightenment thought over the last three hundred years has been towards atheism. Most transhumanists are atheists. But some transhumanists, like many of the original Enlightenment thinkers, are attempting to reconcile naturalism and their religious traditions. Some transhumanists even believe that the transcendent potentials of intelligence argue for a new form of scientific theology.
When asked in a recently concluded poll, where they would choose to live if they had to leave their current nation of residence, IEET readers made Europe their top choice, at 19%, but outer space was just behind, at 18%.
IEET readers have weighed in with their opinions about why the LHC project kept running into seemingly endless delays on its way to running protons into each other. Now that it’s back up and operating, perhaps some of our more far-fetched conjectures will be proved wrong.
Cyberconsciousness implies techno-immortality. Immortality means living forever. This has never happened in the real world, so we think of immortality as a spiritual existence (as in heaven) or as a non-personal existence (as in ‘Bach’s music will live forever’). With cyberconsciousness it will be possible, for the first time, for a person to live forever in the real world. This unique, technologically empowered form of living forever is called techno-immortality.
Many people, including me, are now used to being always online. With my smartphone powered by Google’s Android operating system, I am used to sending and receiving email and IMs anytime, from anywhere. It is easy to see how this trend will evolve: most routine computing applications will migrate to smartphones, the coverage and bandwidth of wireless networks will go up, and their price will go down. In only a few years, we will be used to being permanently plugged in the global Internet, and of course the user interfaces will improve. For example, as described by the visionary science fiction author Charlie Stross in his novel Halting State, augmented reality technology based on smart glasses will soon permit overcoming the limitations due to the small size of phones. A first generation of suitable smart glasses is already available, but there is something much better on the horizon: instant telepathic communication.
DI/DO (Drop In, Drop Out) connotes a lifestyle consisting almost entirely of online activity, but in place of a focus on interaction with actual friends and family, the vast majority of time is spent engaging with artificial digital companions.
As our various electronic devices gain more and more sensory awareness, we open up the potential for entirely new forms of interaction. Not just new interfaces—tapping and shaking and whatnot—but a shift in presence. With few exceptions, we use these new technologies in rather familiar ways. We might speak instead of type, or tap instead of click, or wave a control wand instead of mash a control pad, but these are essentially the same kinds of direct input processes we’ve done for years, just dressed up in a new look.
One of my first impressions after reading Bill Bainbridge’s 1981 essay “Religions for a Galactic Civilization” was that it was dated (well, it was written 26 years ago). I wrote: “If Bill were to write the same article today, he would probably mention NBIC technologies (nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive sciences) besides space travel and colonization. I hope he would give less space to Scientology, and I am sure he would discuss the works of transhumanist thinkers in great detail. I think the first sentence quoted below could be written, today, as “We need a new transhumanist social movement capable of giving a sense of transcendent purpose to dominant sectors of the society””. I asked Bill to write a revised and updated version of the paper, to be published (translated into Italian) in the print journal Divenire of the Italian Transhumanist Association and then discussed at the TransVision 2010 conference. A first draft of the revised and updated version has just been posted to the IEET blog.
This is an interview with Marko A. Rodriguez, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Besides doing basic research on applied mathematics and computer science, he is doing work on computational eudaemonics — the use of computer algorithms to increase happiness by helping us make better decisions, even suggesting new options.