In his 1932 “My Credo” Albert Einstein wrote “I do not believe in free will.” In the best-seller Free Will, Sam Harris declares the notion “incoherent.” Neuro-philosopher Garrett Merriam opines in an IEET interview “the notion of ‘free will’.. [is a] useless concept… I have high hopes that neuroscience will…eliminate [it]…”
Is there any politically tractable strategy for transhumanism to avoid the Bismarckian move, which ultimately curtails the capacity of basic research to explore and challenge the fundamental limits of our being? My answer is as follows: Transhumanists need to take a more positive attitude towards the military.
I critiqued the Effective Altruist movement in a previous essay, and suggested a superior alternative: DIY Philanthropy. My recommendation is to erase the ‘middleman” in charitable giving by donating directly to the people you want to assist. Instead of spending hours trying to decide the best non-profit to scribble a check to, you can travel directly to those in need and hand them cash, food, medicine or supplies. Face-to-Face.
After several decades of relative obscurity Transhumanism as a philosophical and technological movement has finally begun to break out of its strange intellectual ghetto and make small inroads into the wider public consciousness. This is partly because some high profile people have either adopted it as their worldview or alternatively warned against its potential dangers. Indeed, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama named it “The world’s most dangerous idea” in a 2004 article in the US magazine Foreign Policy, and Transhumanism’s most outspoken publicist, Ray Kurzweil, was recently made director of engineering at Google, presumably to hasten Transhumanism’s goals.
“Blue Gold.” Water is becoming dangerously rare and valuable in drought-stricken areas around the globe, including my home in California.
Today citizens in developed nations each wastefully splash away 100s of gallons per day. But what if fresh H2O continues to dwindle? Suppose humans were rationed a meager allotment, like 10, or 5, or even 2 gallons per day?
I just finished reading Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford. This is a nonfiction book in which Ford predicts that all jobs will soon be automated away, and that this will lead to an economic crash, since no one will have any money to buy anything. I’ve written about this idea before, and Ford’s position hasn’t changed much since his previous book, Lights in the Tunnel.
The last couple of months have seen major victories for marriage equality. In May, Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage in a national referendum — the first country in the world to do so by popular vote. In June, the US Supreme court issued a landmark 5-4 decision legalising same-sex marriage throughout the United States. These were important steps toward building a fairer and more just society. If marriage is to continue to exist as a legally-recognised relationship status, then it is important that it do so in an egalitarian and inclusive manner. I don’t think anyone should doubt this.
Transhumanists typically think of human enhancement in terms of biological and computational technologies that are physical in nature, and yet historically many schools of psychology have aimed to improve people through non-physical therapies, personality training, or methods of self-discovery based on relatively standard theories in social and behavioral science. The diversity of such approaches is absolutely astonishing, but in their underlying ideologies and treatment practices, some are indistinguishable from religions, others are clearly tied to science, and still others apparently are based on extrapolations from popular notions about the human mind that may or may not be correct.
25 years ago most people didn’t imagine that the Internet would reshape the way that they existed on a day-to-day basis. 25 years from now people will think about Virtual Reality the same way we think about the Internet today – we won’t even be able to imagine our global existence without it. One of the largest beneficiaries of this technological development could be the global church because VR is going to change the way that Christians participate in worship.
The “Immortality Bus” - appearing as a 40-foot coffin - will soon be rolling down American highways as a “pro-science symbol of resistance against aging and death.” The bus will stop at rallies and events to argue “for science and technology to overcome death.”
One integral part of the design we in the Earth Organisation for Sustainability envision is that humanity needs to utilize information technology in order to establish a better overview of the resource flows that we use on the planet, as well as the planet’s own capacity. More of this can be read in the article “The Three Criteria” on this blog.
One can’t help be positive about the future. Even obstacles have a bright side. For example - humans at some point will be limited by space and time; we can’t expect to go far in space exploration without the development of strong artificial intelligence and robots.
I have recently been working my through David Roden’s book Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human. It is a unique and fascinating work. I am not sure that I have ever read anything quite like it. In the book, Roden defends a position which he refers to as speculative posthumanism. This holds, roughly, that the future we are creating through technological change could give rise to truly weird and alien forms of posthuman life.
Political leanings are frequently associated with attitudes toward science and technology in the U.S. Yet as the most recent poll from the Pew Research Center on Americans, Politics and Science Issues shows, public attitudes toward science and technology depend on a far more diverse and complex set of factors.
I’ve been stumping for some time about how Artificial Intelligence will provide the shortest path to curing aging forever. In fact, without it, I’m convinced we won’t solve aging in our lifetime. I’m glad to hear Peter Diamandis describe AI as the most important technology we’re developing this decade.
Peter goes on to say it’s a massive opportunity for humanity, not a threat, as well as the following:
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about puppets. I know that sounds way too paleo-tech, and weird, but hear me out. Puppets are an ancient technology, which, for all the millennia that passed before, and up until very, very recently, were the primary way we experienced animated art. For the vast majority of human history the way we watched projected figures in front of us playing out some imagined drama was in the form of shadows cast on the walls.
Every major news site is currently packed with dozens of articles on Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic Decathlon winner and openly transgender “hero”, and Rachel Dolezal, the former “white person” who was head of Spokane NAACP, but now she’s a disgraced “villian.”
You think their journeys are different?
Honestly, they look exactly the same to me. Both are after the identical objective, the ability to be who they choose to be, regardless of the role “society” is trying to force them into.
There’s a graph making rounds lately showing the comparative EROIs of different electricity production methods. (EROI is Energy Return On Investment – how much energy we get back if we spend 1 unit of energy. For solar this means – how much more energy does a solar panel generate in its lifetime than is used to create it?)
This EROI graph that is making the rounds is being used to claim that solar and wind can’t support an industrialized society like ours.
Soon afterwards, I attended a MeetUp titled, “Enlightened AI”, at Sophia University in Palo Alto. The talk was led by Google researcher, Mohamad Tarifi, PhD. Not only is he a bright engineer working on the next level of artificial intelligence at one of the top companies in the Valley, he’s also very well versed in the philosophies of consciousness. From the Abrahamic traditions, to the Buddhists and Eastern teachings, Tarifi displayed a grasp of the whole of humanity unlike any other technologist I’ve met.
Seven years, ago when microblogging was still fairly new, I co-launched rakawa.net. Inspired by the work of the Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara, (photo below) Rakawa is a tool to document daily accomplishments by entering a response of up to 150 characters to the question “What have you achieved today?” Optionally a picture for illustration can be added.
Innovator Elon Musk was widely reported in the media when he described artificial intelligence (AI) as probably the most serious threat to the survival of the human race.  But while artificial intelligence systems will certainly take over an increasing range and number of jobs formerly carried out by people, humans will remain infinitely more dangerous than robots for generations to come.
The recent push by a circle of my friends to produce more anarcho-transhumanist imagery has gotten me thinking about the paucity of aesthetics in the broader transhumanist movement.
Frankly—if we’re going on aesthetics alone—I’ve found most of what’s produced by transhumanists to be quite repelling. This is kind of understandable though. Transhumanism has long existed in an awkward state. We’re not really a traditionally evangelical sort of ideology, or an ideology at all really. Believing that physical/technological freedom is important is hardly a political platform, valuing scientific research is not really a traditional call to action, and so it’s no wonder that when some decide to make glossy brochures they so often come across as awkward imitations. The ideologues of those perspectives we’re at odds with have a lot of experience in the dark arts and in comparison we often come across as naive dilettantes.
I think it is an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the growth of AI and robotics, and the future of humanity. Carr is something of a techno-pessimist (though he may prefer ‘realist’) and the book continues the pessimistic theme set down in his previous book The Shallows (which was a critique of the internet and its impact on human cognition). That said, I think The Glass Cage is a superior work. I certainly found it more engaging and persuasive than his previous effort.