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IEET > Security > Rights > Life > Vision > Contributors > Five Things You May Have Missed

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Dick Pelletier, Manoj VR, Jamais Cascio, Dale Brownfield, Melanie Swan: 5 things you may have missed

Five Things You May Have Missed
By Five Things You May Have Missed
Ethical Technology

Posted: Feb 14, 2013

1: Future of civilization: the incredible possibilities, by Dick Pelletier
2: Cyborgs can live without a pulse : The amazing story of the new techno hearts that literally drops your pulse! by Manoj VR
3: New Chapters by Jamais Cascio
4: NEXT! by Dale Brownfield
5: Core 21c Skillset: Data Literacy by Melanie Swan

Future of civilization: the incredible possibilities, By Dick Pelletier

Author William McGaughey interprets world history as five civilizations appearing in succession over the last 5,000 years, each launched by a new communication technology. In the first civilization, we wrote in graphic form, then in 3,000 BC, alphabet writing was devised, starting the second civilization.

The third civilization included the invention of the printing press in China in 593 AD and the first printed newspaper, 700 AD in Beijing. The fourth civilization began in the 20th century with electronic recording and broadcasting, and has now merged into the fifth civilization with PCs and the Internet.

Leaving this communications world, futurists ponder where we go from here. In 1964, Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev introduced a method for categorizing civilization advances based on energy consumption, which he divided into three stages, Type I, II, and III. Type I harnesses all the energy from its planet, Type II, its sun, and Type III, its galaxy. Others have since added Type IV, which controls extra-galactic energy including dark matter that makes up most of the universe.

Today, physicists rate Earth at Type 0.7. Astronomer Don Goldsmith reminds us that Earth receives only one billionth of the suns energy, and we utilize just one millionth of that; however, with predicted advances in nanotech and artificial intelligence, many predict we could reach Type I by 2100. As Type I, we will increase space travel, control weather, and become a peaceful global community.

Technologies expected in the next century could thrust us into Type II status by 2200, enabling us to mine all the sun’s energy. In Parallel Worlds, physicist Michio Kaku suggests that Type IIs would establish space colonies throughout their solar system and explore planets orbiting nearby stars.

Kaku says that when we evolve into Type III, which forward-thinkers believe will happen by the end of this millennium; we would derive power from multiple stars in our galaxy.

We may even establish wormhole travel and develop backwards time travel. We would meet intelligent ETs and join them in a Star Trek-like federation.

After spending a few millenniums in Type III, we would finally evolve into Type IV.

With God-like powers, we can now interact with our ‘other selves’ in parallel universes.

Cyborgs can live without a pulse : The amazing story of the new techno hearts that literally drops your pulse! by Manoj VR

It is very rarely that technological evolution undergoes a sudden shift from the natural progression of things. But some technological approaches are completely unprecedented and defy if not break convention. The continuous flow artificial heart is one such technological innovation that has almost surely destroyed the convention that it takes a beating heart to keep a person alive. Developed originally as a VAD (Ventricular Assist Device) for failing hearts by Dr.Bud Frazier and Dr.Billy Cohen (both from the Texas Heart Institute); this continuous flow device actually defies anything close to what you would define as normal behaviour for a biological heart ! The discovery is simply Serendipity at it's finest.

The following are lines from the popular article on their story from Popular Science :

And here’s where the story gets spooky. In November 2003, Frazier installed the newly approved HeartMate II to assist the failing heart of a young man from Central America who barely spoke English. His family members spoke none. So none of them fully understood Frazier’s instructions to return to the hospital frequently for follow-up. The young man walked out of the hospital and disappeared.

When he finally showed up eight months later, Frazier held a stethoscope to his chest and was stunned to hear no heartbeat at all. None. Even more-sensitive instruments would have found nothing resembling a pulse. The young man’s heart continued to flutter weakly, but it had effectively shut down. Although the HeartMate II had been designed to assist the heart, not replace it, in this case it seemed to be doing all the work: not just helping the left ventricle push oxygenated blood to the body, but pushing the blood hard enough to flow through the body, then back through the useless heart to the lungs, through the useless heart again, and into the pump to complete the loop and begin the process all over again. The reason the young man had never come back for follow-up, he told Frazier, was that he’d felt perfectly fine.

Wow ! Now, efforts are on by means of testing on animals (especially calves) with much success. They even kept an elderly gentleman alive for several weeks with their device. Intially, artificial hearts mimicked the biological heart's "pump" mechanism to lug blood throughout the body. However, this posed the difficulty of compactness and the need for enormous energy sources. Take a look at the video on how the reduced size of an artificial heart changed the quality of life for a person :

The most important motivating factor till now for the development of such devices is the need to sustain the person's life till he/she receives a transplant. However, devices such as the continuous flow heart even dare to question the working of the conventional heart. These doctors say continuous flow is indeed much better for the body than the conventional pumping  of the biological heart !!! Being alive with a decent quality of life is all that matters in the end, it shouldn't really matter if this can be acheived without a beating heart or a pulse. With nanotechnology, micro-electronics and miniaturized energy sources; we are just at the cusp of their individual breakthroughs, it will only be a matter of time before these devices come of age. In the distant future, a flatline may literally also just mean that the person has a continuous flow heart !!!

New Chapters by Jamais Cascio

I have two new written pieces out now, each at sites to which I will be regularly contributing.

The first, "5 Unexpected Factors That Change How We Forecast The Future," is my first essay for Co.EXIST, a FastCompany spinoff focusing on "world changing ideas and innovation" (world... changing... where have I heard that before?). It's a quiet sequel to the "how to do scenarios" pieces I wrote for FastCompany a few years ago, looking at the non-technology drivers that we need to keep in mind when building forecasts:

This is tricky, because a forecaster usually needs to avoid taking partisan positions in his or her work. But recognizing changing reactions to LGBT communities, for example, or the evolving role that religion plays in our lives is just being thorough. Another big one that’s too often missed: the transformation of the position of women in politics and economics.

Another “third rail” dynamic, this includes the impact of economic inequality (both across and within nations), the existence of marginalized (but not necessarily powerless) communities, even the change from a primarily rural to a primarily urban planet. Will the subject of your forecast change economic and political balances? Could it be used to hack the status quo, or make it stronger?

My stuff at Co.EXIST will be monthly initially, likely moving to twice/month this Summer.

The second new item, "Shaping the Anthropocene," is my first essay for Ensia, the new web magazine by the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. I'll be contributing there a bit less frequently, but I'll try to make up for that with an effort to push my thinking.

The heroic narrative of fighting global warming implies that victory will mean getting back the Earth we know and love. But the reality of the situation is that significant damage has already been done; putting a stop to carbon emissions still leaves us with a planetary mess.

It’s useful to consider the alternatives we’ll have when the time comes to start the cleanup. It may seem premature to be talking about what to do after we’ve put an end to using the atmosphere and ocean as a carbon dump, but it’s often useful to consider one’s eventual destination even when still trying to figure out the map. When that time comes, we’ll face a choice between trying to accelerate the return to the equilibrium the world has known for millennia, trying to adapt ourselves and our environment to the new normal, or simply adapting ourselves and letting the new environmental conditions evolve on their own. It’s a sobering set of options.

Two bits of phrasing in the piece have already started to show up in people's comments about the essay: "Anthropoforming" and "the rats & kudzu future."

If you're in the Minneapolis area, by the way, I'll be speaking at UMN on March 14. Tickets are still available, and there's this:

Cascio’s presentation will be complemented by an aerial arts performance by Ribnic Circus featuring the eclectic stylings of musician and aerialist Kelsey Long and aerialist, dancer and contortionist Caitlin Marion.

Aerial arts and a contortionist!

NEXT! by Dale Brownfield

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve reached a deal for my next book with the folks who did Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers — AMACOM Books in New York. The topic is marriage and parenting between religious and nonreligious partners. No title yet, and I hate even the working titles I’ve come up with. (More on that soon.)

I’ve been hoping to get this done for about three years now, but other projects kept butting in. Many of the most common questions I get from secular parents are about issues around this kind of mixed marriage. Though there are several books on marriages between partners of two different religions — including half a dozen titles on Jewish-Christian intermarriage alone — there’s nothing for the biggest belief gap of all. And since there are at least five times as many nonreligious people in the U.S. as Jewish, we’re talking about a much larger population, one that’s totally unserved.

The issues are also different when instead of two religious traditions, you’re blending natural and supernatural worldviews. Existing interfaith marriage books aren’t all that helpful with this different set of questions.

This is a complex project that will take all year. Since detailed data are sparse for the topic, I’ll be conducting a large-scale survey sometime in March or April, as well as a series of interviews with mixed couples.

Like the Dummies book, I’ll be blogging the process and asking questions along the way — just watch for posts with the “mixed marriage” tag. Thanks in advance for your help!

Core 21c Skillset: Data Literacy by Melanie Swan

A core 21st century skillset is data literacy, meaning the ability to recognize, understand, and manipulate various forms of data. One way is through visualization, using visual techniques to both represent data, and also as an inquiry tool for finding patterns.

Some of the basics of data visualization are being able to distinguish between ordinal (qualitative) and quantitative data, and selecting corresponding plotting techniques. For example, a bar chart may be best for displaying simple quantitative and ordinal values, a scatterplot for multiple quantitative data values, and a shape-based plot chart for multiple ordinal values.

Beyond the basics, the next step is mastering more sophisticated visualization techniques. Some of these build on information visualization pioneer Edward Tufte’s work and include using small multiples (plotting several similar charts to highlight differences in one variable), bullet charts, sparklines, horizon charts, and adding a dynamic element to visualizations.

Five things you may have missed that are relevant to the Technoprogressive / Transhumanist community. Check back every week to be linked to more articles and blog posts written by IEET contributors.
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