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IEET > Security > Rights > Life > Vision > Directors > George Dvorsky > Staff > Kris Notaro > Fellows > Aubrey de Grey > Natasha Vita-More

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Live-Blogging the Afternoon of Day One of Humanity+ San Francisco


Kris Notaro
By Kris Notaro
Ethical Technology

Posted: Dec 1, 2012

The morning was very successful. Dr. J. was especially pleased that Kim Stanley Robinson commended his referencing of Looking Backward and H.G. Wells.

Liveblog of Morning of Day One here.


Annalee Newitz "Slow Futures: Using History to Write About Tomorrow"

Abstract: One of the problems futurists have conveying their ideas to the public is that they represent the next few decades as a time period when we’ll experience a kind of temporal rupture, where global societies break radically from the past. Because this notion sounds so implausible to many people, futurists’ predictions come across as unreasonable and unfounded. I want to suggest that we write about the future in the context of history, and even geological deep time. While some changes may seem very rapid, they are also part of a very long, slow process that may not be perceptible within a human lifetime. Acknowledging the slowness of the future offers two rhetorical advantages. One, it allows us to explain to people what’s coming next in the context of familiar events that have already happened. And two, the slow future allows us to make claims that are grounded in scientific evidence from the present, rather than creating future scenarios that rely on highly speculative sciences that don’t exist yet. Both of these advantages will help make our writing more plausible to a general audience, as well as audiences of scientists and engineers that many of us hope to influence. We’ll explore the slow future perspective on three major areas of scientific work: synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and space colonization. What does it mean to suggest that the future of these areas of inquiry may unfold over many generations, rather than just one? The answers, I believe, can help us forge better relationships with the scientific community and encourage the public to invest in building a future world even if only their great-grandchildren will ever see it.

We are trapped in “human time”. What can we do to effect geological and species time? Engage in scientific realism. We want food security... A great long term goal would be a nano replicator, however we don't have the technology yet to have a “nano box” human time, but perhaps in species time.

She wants one million more years of the human mind to exist. Today we can work on hunger, etc, and someday we can have real geoengineering. She is totally for us saving the world TODAY for our future generations.

Watch live streaming video from humanityplus at livestream.com


RU Sirius "The Question of Content: Upbeat vs. Downbeat"

Abstract: There is always a lot of talk in transhumanist circles about how people in the creative arts tend towards dark or critical works. This, of course, includes creative writing — prominently novels, screenplays and so forth. I will discuss the question of upbeat versus downbeat content and then possibly supplant that discourse with questions regarding bad writing, good writing and great writing. What place does writing now for the future hold and what place does writing hold in the future? Does the bravura literary performance have a place and does it matter?

Why are cyberpunks so critical of transhumanism? The problem might be that they don't relate to a group or a subgroup. In the cyberpunk community perhaps they are writing in the traditional critical writing theme of doom and gloom.

During the discussion he stated that he likes the ambiguity of the past and present being better and worse. An audience member stated that the difference between a utopian future and a dystopian future might be subjective. He also mentioned DIY as a main focus of the cyberpunk movement in opposition to the “hippie” transhumanist collectivism.

However punks in general are indeed for collectivism in autonomous communities. The difference between cyberpunks and transhumanists is minimal. They are both idealistic movements outside the societal norm.



Natasha Vita-More "H+: Beyond Data"

Abstract: H+/transhumanism is all about human enhancement, so much so that its aim is to radically extend life. The Human-machine integration spans centuries of device-making with a goal in mind, and that is to enhance biology. The current hacking/DIY approach to enhancement links to the very core of cybernetics in steering our own future. Yet something is missing in both approaches. On the one hand hacking/DIY offers enormous abandonment of rigid rules, although its methods might be too unpredictable. On the other hand cybernetics offers a well-founded basis for further digitizing our bodies, although mechanistically sequestered to the cyborg. A third approach is needed. This is where H+/transhumanism comes in. Recording biological processes, sensorial tastes, sexual proclivities, intellectual reasoning, and psychological levels offer a peek into a new type of knowledge enhancement. But beyond data, what is there? Bringing knowledge and quality of life together begins to establish an exuberant freedom of expression and a design continuum.

Natasha Vita-More talked about how a person changes over time. From body to brain everything has changed. The ability to critically think, to understanding your own body changes. So what is “Beyond Data”? What are we doing with all this data?

She looks at the body, brain, and the mind as connected and constantly changing. We have body hacking and human enhancement, fMRI, x-rays, etc. So can we think of ourselves as a synthesis of data within the realm of the body, brain, and mind? Are we going towards a cyborg future, and what are we doing with this data for longevity? With hacking we have copy left licenses and open source. Perhaps the end goal is to look at the patterns, forms and molecules of ourselves.

How can we look at all this data differently? Vita-More suggests that its all about patterns coming together in the form of codes. How we re-arrange data is how we can re-arrange ourselves. She tracked her emotions, mental health, stress, list of how she felt on a daily basis about satisfaction with her life, etc.

One of her goals was to find the gabs in knowledge. So she took a hard look at the data she collected. She wanted to understand “a day in the life of” herself. Completing projects is very important to her because she reached a goal of understanding who she was day by day. Introspection kicks in and she has all this data available to her, but meditates, and lets things come together to form more ideas. She even utilizes her dreams to understand herself.

23andme allows her to review her genetic data and how likely you are to get a certain diseases.With thirteen years of tracking her bone density she could enhance her diet. However she notes that the environment changes and so does the effects on your diet and health. She also emphasized the positive aspects of design, for example, custom prosthetics. Vita-More more also tests her cognitive ability, and keeps up with developing technologies like nanotech to help her understand herself as a whole.



Ernesto Ramirez "Who Are You?"

Abstract: Before you can fully negotiate the future you must understand the here and now. But, how do we develop the expertise to full understand who we are? Maybe it’s through a deep dive into the objective. The Quantified Self movement has unearthed a variety of intriguing methods that may help us understand ourselves and the world we live in. Let’s talk about why living with numbers will help us understand the present and write our future.

Ernesto Ramirez talked about if we are “re-writing science”. The quantified self is using the lens of technology for the individual to see how they can change the world. People want to share how “the world is working for me”, “maybe it might work for you”.

When we create knew knowledge we want to share it with the world. For example Open SNP allows people to put up their genetic data for scientists to study. Ramirez also talked about a man who put up all his medical data on his cancer. People are completely free to do what they want with the information.

Engaging in self tracking helps you become aware and create a type of mindfulness.

He described “codex vitae” which is the idea that at the end of your life you have a type of database of everything you learned throughout your life for future generations to utilize. He anticipates that in the future people will be able upload everything about their lives. It helps someone understand who they are in the present, and helps people understand who you where.



Amy Li "Empifi: writing the future of understanding human emotions, and broadcasting empathy"

Abstract: Technology is growing at an exponential speed, but human emotion is still largely a mystery. Empifi is creating the next paradigm shift in understanding human emotions by using biosensors and contextualized data gathering.
 Using wearable devices, we leverage existing sensor technology to passively measure your bio-signals. The devices transmit information to your smartphone so that you can understand how, when and why you were feeling in a certain way. We can then use this information to help you change your emotions, in subtle, unobtrusive ways. Empifi aims to broadcast empathy, remind you all the happy moments in life, and make our world a happier and more loving place. This project is born out of the Singularity University Graduate Studies Program 2012. The program immerses students in an unparalleled learning environment to focus on solving the planet’s most pressing challenges using exponential & accelerating technologies. Students are challenged with 10⁹+ Team Projects, with the mission of positively affecting the lives of a billion people within 10 years.

Amy Li talked about her experiences with the Singularity University. She highlighted the 3d printer, her trying out being a surgeon. With many photos from the Singularity University we got an excellent feel for what goes on there. From workshops to dancing, the Singularity University is innovative wherever possible.

She started to talk about her experience with cancer. She put emphasis on the help she got from family and friends. She continues to be on chemotherapy, and is still recovering from the horrible side effects of it.

She showed a video about mental distress. Stress can cause a large number of illnesses – a young man in the video talked about his father having a heart attack and felt that if he wasn't under so much stress he wouldn't have had it. The video showed a device like a watch, or armband that can measure your bio sequence to a computer or a smartphone.

The user of such a device can review their data and use it to better their state of mind. She is using the device to monitor herself.



George Dvorsky "Covering the Future Beat: Managing Futureshock when Writing for a Mass Audience"

Abstract: Most futurists who write do so for a relatively small audience, the majority of whom are both familiar with and fairly receptive to seemingly radical futuristic ideas. When writing for an audience who has virtually no frame of reference for these ideas, however, reactions tend to enter into the realm of Futureshock — which tend to be characterized by outright dismissal or flat-out condemnation. This talk will address the challenges of writing for a mass audience and offer advice on how to present the material in an accessible and relevant way. Ultimately, the goal for writers covering the future beat should not be persuasion, but rather the matter-of-fact dissemination of all relevant information, accompanied by supplementary analysis and interpretation from the experts.

How do you convey topics of technological progress and futureshock to the general public? George who started his blog ten years ago moved onto io9.com as a writer. George talked about the general history of futurist writing on the web. The evolution of web blogging / writing has been a very positive experience for him.

He also went over some books that influenced people to join this conference. He also showed a picture of Time magazine with a front cover a person connected to a computer like in the Matrix movie. Dvorsky mentioned that he was restricted to a limit at io9, but got laughs from the audience. He was concerned about readership of his articles and had to convey his thoughts to a general audience different that of his readership at the IEET.

He argued that human performance and human experience is the new future shock. With moral and intellectual enhancement on the horizon, he sees people referring to it as “the rapture of the nerds”.  He noted that some people even go so far as to connect transhumanism and technological progress as the new eugenics.

Dvorsky mentioned fear from the general public: elimination of genetic diseases, climate change, true AI, animal uplift “nonhuman” personhood, autonomous machines, autonomous killing robots like drones, etc.


Kris Notaro, a former IEET intern, now the IEET's Managing Director, earned his BS in Philosophy from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. He is currently the Bertrand Russell Society’s Vice-President for Website Technology. He has worked with the Bertrand Russell A/V Project at Central Connecticut State University, producing multimedia materials related to philosophy and ethics for classroom use. His major passions are in the technological advances in the areas of neuroscience, consciousness, brain, and mind.
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