Many readers here have no doubt spent at least some time thinking about the Singularity, whether in a spirit of hope or fear, or perhaps more reasonably some admixture of both. For my part, though, I am much less worried about a coming Singularity than I am about a Sofalarity in which our ability to create realistic illusions of achievement and adventure convinces the majority of humans that reality isn’t really worth all the trouble after all. Let me run through the evidence of an approaching Sofalarity. I hope you’re sitting down… well… actually I hope you’re not.
Pandora’s Brain is one of the most philosophical science fiction novels I have read recently. And since Calum Chace has been a valuable contributor to Singularity Weblog, as well as a great blogger with an interesting and diverse experience in his own right, I thought that he would make a great guest for my Singularity 1on1 podcast. And so I invited him for an interview which turned out to be a very enjoyable conversation indeed.
In his article, “What is the Difference between Posthumanism and Transhumanism?”, Kevin LaGrandeur sets out to clarify the meaning of the terms “posthuman”, “transhuman” and “posthumanism”. (http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/lagrandeur20141226) He notes that the relative newness of the terminology is a source of confusion among many who employ these terms.
Automatically-executing smart contracts and their impact on society has been contemplated in many different contemporary science fiction works like Daemon (Suarez), and Accelerando and Glasshouse (Stross). The interesting point is that artificial autonomous agents are becoming increasingly full-fledged participants in the real-life contemporary world.
Human beings have long desired immortality. In his book on the topic, cleverly-titled Immortality, Stephen Cave argues that this desire has taken on four distinct forms over the course of human history. In the first, people seek immortality by simply trying to stay alive, either through the help of magic or science. In the second, people seek resurrection, sometimes in the same physical form and sometimes in an altered plane of existence.
Transhumanism is an increasingly popular philosophical movement, and that increasing popularity can sometimes lead to a degree of confusion among newer adherents about what its necessary features are. In my opinion the only common basis to Transhumanism, coined by Anders Sandberg as the “Central Meme of Transhumanism” (CMT) is as follows: That the human condition can and should be improved by technology.
From Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning by Martin Rees, Royal Society Professor at Cambridge and England’s Royal Astronomer. “Twenty-first century science may alter human beings themselves - not just how they live.” (9) Rees accepts the common wisdom that the next hundred years will see changes that dwarf those of the past thousand years, but he is skeptical about specific predictions.
It’s just possible that there is a looming crisis in yet another technological sector whose proponents have leaped too far ahead, and too soon, promising all kinds of things they are unable to deliver. It strange how we keep ramming our head into this same damned wall, but this next crisis is perhaps more important than deflated hype at other times, say our over optimism about the timeline for human space flight in the 1970’s, or the “AI winter” in the 1980’s, or the miracles that seemed just at our fingertips when we cracked the Human Genome while pulling riches out of the air during the dotcom boom- both of which brought us to a state of mania in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
We all, as individuals and members of societies, dedicate a lot of effort to finding ways to cope with the idea of death. Most believers in traditional Western religions imagine resurrection in an afterlife, where they will be forever reunited with loved ones. Most believers in traditional Eastern religions and spiritual traditions think that, while an otherworldly realm beyond physical reality may eventually be attained, most people go through a long string of lives here on Earth (reincarnation).
It is important that the transhumanist movement establish a consensus on the meaning of life. Failure to do so will result in conflict, the extent of which is difficult to predict. As it stands today, transhumanism is a divided movement of various competing interests promoting values which are contradictory in nature. It seems the only agreement the movement has reached thus far is that the proper course of action is to promote the widespread adaptation of transhumanism.
I am a Cyborg. No, I don’t have any technological enhancements just yet, though I plan on doing so very soon with help from my friends within the DIY grinder community. Even then, my “choosing” to identify myself as a cyborg is more than a mere desire for cyborg enhancements, but is an identity that I feel deeply within myself – a longing to express myself in ways that my current biological body cannot.
So much anti-religious dogmatism, so much misrecognized religiosity, so little time. It's a wonder to me that some clearly sophisticated persons can express such unsophisticated opinions about religion. Maybe it's just because we all have vested interests? On the one hand, those who have distanced themselves from tradition seek to justify their choice, as those who have continued to embrace tradition likewise would justify themselves. What's to be made of the strange creatures, arguably not so uncommon now or ever, that reject any notion of the choice being all or nothing or even mutually exclusive?
What is an existential risk? The general concept has been around for decades, but the term was coined by Nick Bostrom in his seminal 2002 paper, here. Like so many empirical concepts – from organism to gene to law of nature, all of which are still debated by philosophically-minded scientists and scientifically-minded philosophers – the notion of an existential risk turns out to be more difficult to define than one might at first think.
Consider your smartphone for a moment. It provides you with access to a cornucopia of information. Some of it is general, stored on publicly accessible internet sites, and capable of being called up to resolve any pub debate one might be having (how many U.S. presidents have been assassinated? or how many times have Brazil won the World Cup?). Some of it is more personal, and includes a comprehensive databank of all emails and text message conversations you have had, your calendar appointments, the number of steps you have taken on any given day, books read, films watched, calories consumed and so forth.
Getting out of Earth’s gravity well is hard. Conventional rockets are expensive, wasteful, and as we’re frequently reminded, very dangerous. Thankfully, there are alternative ways of getting ourselves and all our stuff off this rock. Here’s how we’ll get from Earth to space in the future.
Looked at in a certain light, Adrian Hon’s History of the Future in 100 Objects can be seen as giving us a window into a fictionalized version of an intermediate technological stage we may be entering. It is the period when the gains in artificial intelligence are clearly happening, but they have yet to completely replace human intelligence. The question if it AI ever will actually replace us is not of interest to me here. It certainly won’t be tomorrow, and technological prediction beyond a certain limited horizon is a fool’s game.
It’s hard to get your head around the idea of a humble prophet. Picturing Jeremiah screaming to the Israelites that the wrath of God is upon them and then adding “at least I think so, but I could be wrong…” or some utopian claiming the millenium is near, but then following it up with “then again this is just one man’s opinion…” would be the best kind of ridiculous- seemingly so out of character to be both shocking and refreshing.
Okay, then. As we launch into a new year… possibly the first "real" year of a new century... it seems that a theme will be deification or bust! Either we build up enough momentum to attain godlike powers - in sane and wise ways - or we fall short and crumble into a morass of unsolved problems and stifling dogmas. Oh… but don't forget the "sane and wise" part! Which takes us to our first item.
Today we enjoy basic conversations with our smart phone, desktop PC, games console, TV and soon, our car; but voice recognition, many believe, should not be viewed as an endgame technology. Although directing electronics with voice and gestures may be considered state-of-the-art today, we will soon be controlling entertainment and communications equipment not by talking or waving; but just by thinking!
People have for some time speculated about the possibility that we’re living inside a computer simulation. But the 2003 publication of Nick Bostrom’s “Are You Living In a Computer Simulation?” brought a new level of sophistication to the topic. Bostrom’s argument is that one (or more) of the following disjuncts is true: (i) our species will go extinct before reaching an advanced posthuman stage; (ii) our species will reach a posthuman stage but decide not, for whatever reasons, to run a large number of simulations; or (iii) we are almost certainly in a simulation.
Anti-aging guru Aubrey de Grey's prediction that the first person to live 1,000-years has already been born got me thinking. What might life be like in this long-range future? Will boredom set in as we count the centuries; or will what promises to be an incredible technology-rich life keep the excitement alive?
There’s a pervasive notion that monogamous relationships are the end-all-be-all – the default pact in human couplings that keep the fabric of society from being torn apart. But growing numbers of scientists believe monogamy is not our biological default; and may not even represent the best road to happiness.
Building machines that process information the same way a brain does has been a dream for over 50 years. Artificial intelligence, fuzzy logic, and neural networks have all experienced some degrees of success, but machines still cannot recognize pictures or understand language as well as humans can.
By mid-century or before, many future followers predict the pace of technological progress in genetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will become so fast that humans will undergo radical evolution. By the 2030s, we'll be deluged with medical breakthroughs that promise a forever youthful state of being.
While at conferences and doing research and writing over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a lot of confusion about the terms “posthuman,” “transhuman,” and “posthumanism.” A lot of people—including scholars who should know better—use these terms pretty much interchangeably and indiscriminately. Part of the problem is that these terms are all fairly new. So for clarity’s sake, I offer these simple thumbnail definitions of all three terms…
In just ten years, many of today’s older citizens might look in the mirror and ask, “Who is that gorgeous person?” Their reflection would reveal a revitalized body overflowing with enthusiasm, sporting a dazzling smile, wrinkle-free skin, perfect vision, natural hair color, real teeth, and an amazing mind and memory.
Positive future watchers believe we will see more progress in the next three decades than was experienced over the last 200 years. In The Singularity is Near, author Ray Kurzweil reveals how science will change the ways we live, work, and play. The following timeline looks at some amazing possibilities as we venture ahead in what promises to become an incredible future…