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Live-Blogging Morning of Day One of Humanity+ San Francisco
Kris Notaro   Dec 1, 2012   Ethical Technology  

Dt. J. and I are at San Francisco State University today for the Humanity+ San Francisco.

Liveblog of Afternoon of Day One here.

James Hughes, Executive Director of the IEET "Re-Awakening the Power of the Utopian Imagination through Speculative Fiction"  [Video] [Powerpoint]

Abstract: Futurists and Transhumanists have been derided for association with science fiction, and conservatives have warned of the totalitarian implications of utopian speculation. But speculative fiction is the principal arena in which human beings imagine their own future radically transformed by social and technological change, try to anticipate the pitfalls, and motivate themselves to grasp the opportunities. We need to be self-critical of the sandtraps of the utopian imaginary while building on its energies to motivate ourselves and the public to great works. Engaging with culture creators we can push them beyond one dimensional depictions of novel technologies as horrifying hubris to depict more complex futures with both technological benefits and catastrophic risks.

James is skeptical of the of AI devastation catastrophic risk theory. However he is also skeptical about overoptimism, over pessimism, fatalism and messalianism. He mentioned prometheus vs pandora and how it relates to technological progress. He also wants to argue against “Gattaca memes” and the power of the State, corporations, and of one person. We need more fiction that does not put longevity in the negative, but instead in the positive as Aubry de Gray also talked about. People are a bit afraid of living forever, so we need to encourage people to accept the awesome future of living long lives.

He also talked about Heroic Individualism (Ayn Rand''s Atlas Shrugged) and how it is a negative top down centrally controlled system that just does not work.

James also talked about:
- We need to have Messianic Solutions without “god out of a box” and we have to program friendly AI.
- A vision of high tech socialism

David Orban "The Challenge of Positive Storytelling for a Future Network Society Better learning and transmedia storytelling can support our strained capacity to absorb the implications of rapidly emerging new technologies." 

Abstract: Since prehistoric times storytelling has been a fundamental means for human society to cope with the world. The interpretation of phenomena, and it’s impact on individuals and groups, are transformed by it’s representation. If we want to be able to efficiently absorb the implications of technological change, are our current tools for perceiving and learning about the world enough? Or should they be complemented by radical reinterpretations of how stories can be told? Next generation technologies (i.e. energy generation, manufacturing, food production, finance and learning) will rapidly transform society, and set up the foundation for new forms of social organization. If we want to plan for the transformation to be as devoid of conflict as possible, and achieve positive outcomes, then we have to embrace at the widest possible levels of innovative tools such as role-playing, policy-making, forecasting, and, in general, future-oriented storytelling. Our current assumptions of what it means to be a positively contributing member of society, how free we are to act, plan, and dream are going to be quickly upended by the uneven adoption and implementation of the changes around us. An open, transparent, rational dialog about these roles, degrees of freedoms, and opportunities can be achieved and is a fundamental component of what is going to shape our societies, and our lives as individuals.

Learning is the best tool to get people out of poverty. The Internet will destroy top down university like learning. Decentralized control so people can take action into their own hands. Transmedia storying telling is the most powerful tool we have today. Anachronic storytelling is immensely powerful – We have Facebook and the Internet as a global conversation platform which will only expand as time goes on.

With future platforms like augmented reality, and ebook reading on phones, etc we realize the power of technology. It is time that we study whether institutions are aligned with our future? If capitalism as it is today remains, we need to choose whether we want to serve the State, or our fellow humans. He thinks hackers are very important to help implement the system of a society for the human, not for the State or a corporation.

IEET Fellow David Brin "The rise of Science-Renunciation: Can we push ahead when change terrifies half our fellow citizens?" [Video]

Abstract: Some assume the Singularity will be smooth sailing. But suppose we successfully navigate the shoals of AI transition and satisfy the needs of safety, diversity, accountability and wisdom. Even so, history shows we cannot count on enthusiasm from all our neighbors. Already, there is a deep divide between future-zealots and nostalgists. We might well draw lessons from the rise and fall of other enlightenments… and from the daunting, apparently empty universe.

What is your biggest Job / worry? How do we keep moore's law going? How can we create AI? There are worries that a terminator scenario can happen as an emergent property. He worries that intelligence can emerge without us knowing about it, especially in the private sector. David stated that Synaptic bonds and their complexity allow for consciousness.  He then went on to talk about the Fermi Paradox and wondered perhaps, do we live in a “Matrix Universe.” If people are terrified by technology and where it is going we need to learn to talk with them.

The transhumanist movement can use the Tower of Babble, he stated, as an argument against the attack on diversity and power of the individual. The transhumanist community needs to learn how to reach out to the everyday person politically, ethically, and as friends.

Can we go back to a pragmatic problem solving society? We need to look at the metaphors that conspiracy theorists throw out there. We need to learn how to engage conspiracy theorists and show them some joy in their own work or readings – leading them away from their skewed world view. To engage with people who are skeptical of the transhuman movement we need to simply show them that it is a democratic and open-society friendly movement as well.

Kim Stanley Robinson"Science as a Utopian Project"

Abstract: I want to explore the relationships between science, science fiction, and society, with a view toward seeing where science fiction might help us to shape our efforts in the present to make a better future.

Writing is a consciousness changing technology that is 4-5 thousand years old. He suggests that we will always be human, but we are already cyborgs. Therefore the human and machine will never be “trans” or “post”, we evolve with technology. It also can't be backed by rich westerners. So he wants to look at how we can make it right. He said that the scientific method is a form of AI because it is not a normal human way of talking, we invented it, and it is a social construct.

If we don't know how consciousness works in the brain we can't model it in a computer. Computers will remain as fast as possible but not conscious. Because we have such a primitive theory of consciousness today it seems that it will be many years before we understand how to integrate it into computers.

Louie Helm "The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? — won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association "

Abstract: It may seem obvious to some that progress in fields like AGI and life extension will have the most long-lasting, far-reaching impact of any work that could possibly be engaged in. But what causes this realization? Advocates may have exhausted several months of independent self-study that required evaluating many informal arguments of varying quality. But if we want to attract an increase in research quality and productivity (especially domain experts who don’t have hundreds of hours to study outside their field), we need to formally summarize our best ideas in standard academic style to help erase this enormous barrier to entry. Contributing to this effort by publishing current research in accessible ways in an opportunity that’s open to many and has broad organizational support for those who are motivated.

To get kids excited about science show them a person riding a dinosaur and tell them that people who are working on things that you may find very boring will make this a reality one day.

He talked about the future of cognitive science and stated that we are the only example of general intelligence. When we design "better" minds we have to utilize discrete mathematics, and Linear Algebra, including set theory, algorithms, and complexity, etc.

He also talked about making large buggy code, and we have to refine computer science by going back to Probability Theory.

Fred Stitt "Rewriting Higher Education: Free and Universal"

Abstract: I will cover the following points: 1) The rise of student-centered online education; 2) New ways of learning to learn, think, and communicate; 3) Time and cost effectiveness of self-directed education; 4) Advanced learning technology and resources; 5) Overcoming traditional academic road blocks of student evaluations, credentialing, and school accreditation; and 6) DIY curricula, crowd-sourcing, wiki: Everyone can become an educator.

He suggests that education should be 100 percent free for all. Higher education is an old way of learning, and discriminatory. Imagine if a restaurant required you to take a test to eat. It seems higher education is the same way. Online education is less costly, and sometimes free. There are many arguments for online education, especially open access for everyone.

Online education allows you to make your own social circle based on your preferences. He notes that faculty at universities are mostly against online learning, and will continue to be for a while. If we are able to add 1 billion students online who are accessible to online higher education, the world as a superorganism, will most definitely be enriched with prosperity he stated. We will also learn better how to teach better for different minds. His goal is total worldwide free education!

Keith Henson "A Narrative for Humanity to off Fossil Fuels using Space Power Satellites launched by Laser Powered Rockets"

Abtstract: Utility-scale ground solar power has a number of problems: intermittency, large support mass due to gravity and wind, and transmission cost to distant markets. Space-based solar power (SBSP) solves these problems but at the expense of lifting the parts to GEO, currently around $10,000 per kg. Beamed-energy rocket propulsion (lasers), can reduce this cost to under $100/kg at the 500,000-ton-per-year shipment rate by providing substantially higher exhaust velocity than is possible from chemical fuels. The lasers need to be in GEO for a long acceleration path, required to keep laser size within practical bounds. The economic feedback comes from building an initial power satellite with conventional rockets, then using it to power propulsion lasers. The lasers enable cheap transport from Earth to GEO to construct hundreds of power satellites and more propulsion lasers. Power satellites built this way can produce power for half the price of electricity from coal. This positive economic feedback is enough to displace most use of fossil fuel uses in a decade after the first. They would replace fossil fuels with lower-cost direct electric power from space and synthetic liquid fuels made from power satellite electricity, water and carbon, even from CO2 out of air.

If we are going to get to a very technological future we will have to have an additional source of energy. If we were to build a power satellite we could use lasers as the propulsion system. Within 20 years we could eliminate the use of fossil fuels all together. Three weeks ago India and China have decided to start working power satellites powered by the sun, and moved in space utilizing lasers.

SABRE Pre-cooler can be used to tap energy from hydrogen without completely burning it. You cannot build power satellites using recent technology, except modern conceptions of lasers. The energy would be sent down to earth using a laser as well. The technology would be 5-1 cost in theory, compared to the ground on Earth.

Aubrey de Grey " Should we write what we think about how the future could be?"  [Video]

Abstract: The future and its many narratives, both written and spoken, are is created by people of the present. In many cases, notably the biomedical realm, the intrinsic costs of pioneering technological research mean that the rate of progress is strongly influenced by public enthusiasm for its goals. This creates a dilemma, in that the public are often ambivalent (at best) concerning such goals, even when by any rational standards they should not be. Should those involved in such work therefore understate their goals when writing proposals and addressing a general audience, making them less “scary” and thereby attracting funds to make initial progress? I will discuss various arguments for either answer to this question, with an emphasis on the work of SENS Foundation to postpone the ill-health of old age.

What should we write to invent the future? Should we force people to think or write for your audience. How do we come to estimates about technology in the next 20 to 50 years? Basic scientists are not necessarily working on creative futurism. Instead they look to understand nature, instead of inventing nature.

There are several ways to say the same things. A general statement without numbers and direct predictions do not frighten people. However when you include numbers, for example that humans will increase their lifespan by 15-30 percent in the next 30 years, many people become scared. For example middle age people would like to see better numbers. There is also a “shock value” of statements that we will live massively longer lives.

What points of view are out there about longevity? It is unlikely that we will have to improve on longevity technology in a massive way. However we don't know enough about biology to have 100 percent certainty about this claim.

Instead of talking about the predictions behind longevity he has focused on real world science which is making longevity a reality. He stated that many people are in denial of longevity velocity, and want him to talk mostly about current science and people may assume his longevity theories are obsolete. It is quite the contrary, in fact ADG still believes in all his “futurist” predictions.

We need to talk about longevity escape velocity because it will impact in ways that we absolutely need to address now.

Max More " Archiving the Brain’s Writing: Cryo or Chemo?" [Video]

Abstract: Scientific and practical considerations strongly support cryopreservation rather than chemopreservation for the stabilization of critically ill patients. Chemopreservation imposes unknown but probably substantial chemical damage. Infusion of plastic resin into an entire brains takes considerable time, during which extensive damage is likely. Chemical fixation is irreversible by known means. By contrast, cryopreservation seeks to maintain viability of the brain as far downstream as our capabilities and resources permit – an approach that reflects our view of cryonics as an extension of contemporary medicine. Cryopreservation preserves more options in that a cryopreserved brain could be scanned in future, or later chemically fixed, but the reverse is not true of a chemically fixed brain. The cost benefits of chemopreservation over cryopreservation are heavily exaggerated, largely because the standby and treatment procedures would be just as extensive, if not more so, even assuming that highly toxic chemicals could be worked with safely in the field. Chemopreservation is being inherently tied to mind uploading, an association that is likely to limit its acceptance as a form of experimental critical care medicine by apparently requiring acceptance of the idea of substrate independent minds.

He wants to aim at preserving the brain as much as possible. He wants to minimize the amount  of time one is frozen. He notes that mouse brains have been preserved, but we need to understand how to do the same thing for humans. Alcore is dedicated to more research in the field of preserving brains.

He is somewhat skeptical about mind uploading because it is mainly a philosophical idea. However he does not dismiss the possibility of mind uploading. Chemical preservation makes a lot of sense to research because we already are chemically based organisms.

Utopian Future Panel Discussion

We need to stop using the term transhuman to describe ourselves to reach out to a wider audience. The consensus is that the progress that humans have made over the thousands of years along side our technology has made us “transhuman” already. We also have to take into account that politically and socially aligning ourselves with the term “transhuman” may make the impression on people that we stand for just a few major futuristic theories. We need to make the project of visioning the future one not associated with “ism's” because it's too philosophical in nature.

James Hughes, on the Utopian future idea, thinks that we need to understand the complexity of politics and social theory. However some panelists feel that the term Utopian is over used and implies too much, in fact it can be taken as non progressive in nature.

Utopian futurism should be based on equality and more rights for creatures that nonhuman, even non-biological. Personhood rights is immensely important according to the H+ panel which agree with progressivism as the leading doctrine for a Utopian state. Food, water, education and free healthcare was mentioned as something everyone with personhood should have access to.

Kris Notaro served as Managing Director of the IEET from 2012 to 2015. He is currently an IEET Rights of the Person Program Director. He 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.


Thanks much for the recap!

Millennium Mythos

Forget the Greek tragedies!

This is my view of what “Technocracy” means.

Progressive interaction of online interconnected Human consciousness, crowd-sourcing, individual participation, Global democracy, supercomputers as hubs to provide for all Human needs, beginning with.. shared knowledge oracle for education and healthcare, (see also planned uses for IBM Watson), social democracy and transparency, accountability, the natural reduction in wealth as utilised for political power mongering, (as all Human wants and needs are met, then monies will no longer “buy” political powers, and status will no longer be attributed to monies)?

These supercomputers and advancing AI will be autonomous, and will be able to “emulate” Human consciousness through self-learning and speed of processing, and then from this learning form real-time strategies for providing for Human social and psychological needs, promote calm, peace, and ensure global security and a stable real-time economic strategy. By analysing individual online needs with perpetual data mining and understanding/learning what makes Humans “unhappy”, supercomputers connected to the global online collective will be able to mitigate global and local and individual crises, promote mindfulness and self-reflection, and through consequence increase Human happiness and contentedness, even without the use of drugs or external chemical stimulus.

The trans-human global society will be one that is reliant upon it’s machines, robotics and supercomputers, yet will be intimately connected through individual participation. Global unity will be promoted through expression of individualism, democracy, and the emergence of Universal values that our future technology will provide?


Heroic individualism

Again I would not take “Atlas shrugged” as critically literally as some, and heroic individualism and entrepreneurs, visionaries, and “mutant evolutionary genius” are all key to the progression of humanity? The analogy of the few who passionately pursue their ideals may indeed be seen as the real hero’s - Archimedes? Darwin? Brunel? Tesla? Einstein? Feynman? Gates?

Meritocracy and the acknowledgement of the “few” is important for the Global collective and progressive socialism, and in a “free” and democratic world vision, this talent should be rewarded and not merely commandeered?

Babylon 5 - never did get to see season 5

Star Trek no politics? It turned out it was all politics in DS9, never have so many commanders and captains fallen so foul of federation totalitarian militancy, (yes there is a downside to the typical federation viewpoint.. I do not deny this!) Perhaps the ST vision was a little too “sterile” and formulaic, and maybe this was the beginning of the end of the franchise.. “make it so” or just “do it!” (Seven of Nine was divine!) Bring it back!

BSG was tremendous, for it’s exploration into Human and Cyborg psychology and hypocrisies - shame about the ending and the rather anti-technology/singularity bent by Ronald, and yet, mitochondria Eve rather ties it up nicely - almost believable, (not for Star Wars fans)

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