Sean O’Heigeartaigh – Interview at Oxford Future of Humanity Institute (on Artificial Intelligence)

Here is a video interview with Sean O’Heigeartaigh.  O’Heigeartaigh speaks on the ethics of artificial intelligence, the technological singularity, augmented reality… he covers a lot of ground.  The video is called Sean O’Heigeartaigh – Interview at Oxford Future of Humanity Institute and it’s worth the watch.


 

Runtime: 47:01


This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY90WIIrrlo 

Video Info:

Published on Jan 24, 2013

Dr Sean O hEigeartaigh
James Martin Academic Project Manager with the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology

Seán has a background in genetics, having recently finished his phD in molecular evolution in Trinity College Dublin where he focused on programmed ribosomal frameshifting and comparative genomic approaches to improve genome annotation. He is also the cofounder of a successful voluntary arts organisation in Ireland that now runs popular monthly events and an annual outdoor festival.

The Future of Humanity Institute is the leading research centre looking at big-picture questions for human civilization. The last few centuries have seen tremendous change, and this century might transform the human condition in even more fundamental ways. Using the tools of mathematics, philosophy, and science, we explore the risks and opportunities that will arise from technological change, weigh ethical dilemmas, and evaluate global priorities. Our goal is to clarify the choices that will shape humanity’s long-term future.

the Future of Humanity Institute: http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/

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PostHuman: An Introduction to Transhumanism from the British Institute of Posthuman Studies

This video by the British Institute of Posthuman Studies explores three factors of transhumanism; super longevity, super intelligence, and super well-being.  Its called PostHuman: An Introduction to Transhumanism and it’s a great video to show your friends who have never heard of transhumanism or the technological singularity.  


Runtime: 11:11


This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTMS9y8OVuY

Video Info:

Published on Nov 5, 2013

We investigate three dominant areas of transhumanism: super longevity, super intelligence and super wellbeing, and briefly cover the ideas of thinkers Aubrey de Grey, Ray Kurzweil and David Pearce.

Official Website: http://biops.co.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/biopsuk
Twitter: https://twitter.com/biopsuk
Google+: http://gplus.to/biops

Written by: Peter Brietbart and Marco Vega
Animation & Design Lead: Many Artists Who Do One Thing (Mihai Badic)
Animation Script: Mihai Badic and Peter Brietbart
Narrated by: Holly Hagan-Walker
Music and SFX: Steven Gamble
Design Assistant: Melita Pupsaite
Additional Animation: Nicholas Temple
Other Contributors: Callum Round, Asifuzzaman Ahmed, Steffan Dafydd, Ben Kokolas, Cristopher Rosales
Special Thanks: David Pearce, Dino Kazamia, Ana Sandoiu, Dave Gamble, Tom Davis, Aidan Walker, Hani Abusamra, Keita Lynch

 

From the Human Brain to the Global Brain by Marios Kyriazis

This paper (From the Human Brain to the Global Brain by Marios Kyriazis) talks about brain augmentation and the possible (probable?) emergence of a global brain.  This is actually a concept which is quite familiar to me because it is the backdrop to a science fiction novel (possibly series) I’ve been writing in my spare time – limited as that may be, but more on that another time.  I’d just like to point out (and I know I’m not the first) that we already have the framework (the internet) for a rudimentary global brain.  Really, all it lacks is sophistication.


 

From the Human Brain to the Global Brain

Introduction

Human intelligence (i.e., the ability to consistently solve problems successfully) has evolved through the need to adapt to changing environments. This is not only true of our past but also of our present. Our brain faculties are becoming more sophisticated by cooperating and interacting with technology, specifically digital communication technology (Asaro, 2008).

When we consider the matter of brain function augmentation, we take it for granted that the issue refers to the human brain as a distinct organ. However, as we live in a complex technological society, it is now becoming clear that the issue is much more complicated. Individual brains cannot simply be considered in isolation, and their function is no longer localized or contained within the cranium, as we now know that information may be transmitted directly from one brain to another (Deadwyler et al., 2013; Pais-Vieira et al., 2013). This issue has been discussed in detail and attempts have been made to study the matter within a wider and more global context (Nicolelis and Laporta, 2011). Recent research in the field of brain to brain interfaces has provided the basis for further research and formation of new hypotheses in this respect (Grau et al., 2014; Rao et al., 2014). This concept of rudimentary “brain nets” may be expanded in a more global fashion, and within this framework, it is possible to envisage a much bigger and abstract “meta-entity” of inclusive and distributed capabilities, called the Global Brain (Mayer-Kress and Barczys, 1995;Heylighen and Bollen, 1996;Johnson et al., 1998; Helbing, 2011; Vidal, in press).

This entity reciprocally feeds information back to its components—the individual human brains. As a result, novel and hitherto unknown consequences may materialize such as, for instance, the emergence of rudimentary global “emotion” (Garcia and Tanase, 2013; Garcia et al., 2013; Kramera et al., 2014), and the appearance of decision-making faculties (Rodriguez et al., 2007). These characteristics may have direct impact upon our biology (Kyriazis, 2014a). This has been long discussed in futuristic and sociology literature (Engelbart, 1988), but now it also becomes more relevant to systems neuroscience partly because of the very promising research in brain-to-brain interfaces. The concept is grounded on scientific principles (Last, 2014a) and mathematical modeling (Heylighen et al., 2012).

Augmenting Brain Function on a Global Scale

It can be argued that the continual enhancement of brain function in humans, i.e., the tendency to an increasing intellectual sophistication, broadly aligns well with the main direction of evolution (Steward, 2014). This tendency to an increasing intellectual sophistication also obeys Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety (Ashby, 1958) which essentially states that, for any system to be stable, the number of states of its control mechanisms must be greater than the number of states in the system being controlled. This means that, within an ever-increasing technological environment, we must continue to increase our brain function (mostly through using, or merging with, technology such as in the example of brain to brain communication mentioned above), in order to improve integration and maintain stability of the wider system. Several other authors (Maynard Smith and Szathmáry, 1997;Woolley et al., 2010; Last, 2014a) have expanded on this point, which seems to underpin our continual search for brain enrichment.

The tendency to enrich our brain is an innate characteristic of humans. We have been trying to augment our mental abilities, either intentionally or unintentionally, for millennia through the use of botanicals and custom-made medicaments, herbs and remedies, and, more recently, synthetic nootropics and improved ways to assimilate information. Many of these methods are not only useful in healthy people but are invaluable in age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease (Kumar and Khanum, 2012). Other neuroscience-based methods such as transcranial laser treatments and physical implants (such as neural dust nanoparticles) are useful in enhancing cognition and modulate other brain functions (Gonzalez-Lima and Barrett, 2014).

However, these approaches are limited to the biological human brain as a distinct agent. As shown by the increased research interest in brain to brain communication (Trimper et al., 2014), I argue that the issue of brain augmentation is now embracing a more global aspect. The reason is the continual developments in technology which are changing our society and culture (Long, 2010). Certain brain faculties that were originally evolved for solving practical physical problems have been co-opted and exapted for solving more abstract metaphors, making humans adopt a better position within a technological niche.

The line between human brain function and digital information technologies is progressively becoming indistinct and less well-defined. This blurring is possible through the development of new technologies which enable more efficient brain-computer interfaces (Pfurtscheller and Neuper, 2002), and recently, brain-to-brain interfaces (Grau et al., 2014).

We are now in a position expand on this emergent worldview and examine what trends of systems neuroscience are likely in the near-term future. Technology has been the main drive which brought us to the position we are in today (Henry, 2014). This position is the merging of the physical human brain abilities with virtual domains and automated web services (Kurzweil, 2009). Modern humans cannot purely be defined by their biological brain function. Instead, we are now becoming an amalgam of biological and virtual/digital characteristics, a discrete unit, or autonomous agent, forming part of a wider and more global entity (Figure 1).

global brain

Figure 1. Computer-generated image of internet connections world-wide (Global Brain). The conceptual similarities with the human brain are remarkable. Both networks exhibit a scale-free, fractal distribution, with some weakly-connected units, and some strongly-connected ones which are arranged in hubs of increasing functional complexity. This helps protect the constituents of the network against stresses. Both networks are “small worlds” which means that information can reach any given unit within the network by passing through only a small number of other units. This assists in the global propagation of information within the network, and gives each and every unit the functional potential to be directly connected to all others. Source: The Opte Project/Barrett Lyon. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.

Large Scale Networks and the Global Brain

The Global Brain (Heylighen, 2007; Iandoli et al., 2009; Bernstein et al., 2012) is a self-organizing system which encompasses all those humans who are connected with communication technologies, as well as the emergent properties of these connections. Its intelligence and information-processing characteristics are distributed, in contrast to that of individuals whose intelligence is localized. Its characteristics emerge from the dynamic networks and global interactions between its individual agents. These individual agents are not merely the biological humans but are something more complex. In order to describe this relationship further, I have introduced the notion of the noeme, an emergent agent, which helps formalize the relationships involved (Kyriazis, 2014a). The noeme is a combination of a distinct physical brain function and that of an “outsourced” virtual one. It is the intellectual “networked presence” of an individual within the GB, a meaningful synergy between each individual human, their social interactions and artificial agents, globally connected to other noemes through digital communications technology (and, perhaps soon, through direct brain to brain interfaces). A comparison can be made with neurons which, as individual discrete agents, form part of the human brain. In this comparison, the noemes act as the individual, information-sharing discrete agents which form the GB (Gershenson, 2011). The modeling of noemes helps us define ourselves in a way that strengthens our rational presence in the digital world. By trying to enhance our information-sharing capabilities we become better integrated within the GB and so become a valuable component of it, encouraging mechanisms active in all complex adaptive systems to operate in a way that prolongs our retention within this system (Gershenson and Fernández, 2012), i.e., prolongs our biological lifespan (Kyriazis, 2014b; Last, 2014b).

Discussion

This concept is a helpful way of interpreting the developing cognitive relationship between humans and artificial agents as we evolve and adapt to our changing technological environment. The concept of the noeme provides insights with regards to future problems and opportunities. For instance, the study of the function of the noeme may provide answers useful to biomedicine, by coopting laws applicable to any artificial intelligence medium and using these to enhance human health (Kyriazis, 2014a). Just as certain physical or pharmacological therapies for brain augmentation are useful in neurodegeneration in individuals, so global ways of brain enhancement are useful in a global sense, improving the function and adaptive capabilities of humanity as a whole. One way to augment global brain function is to increase the information content of our environment by constructing smart cities (Caragliu et al., 2009), expanding the notion of the Web of Things (Kamilaris et al., 2011), and by developing new concepts in educational domains (Veletsianos, 2010). This improves the information exchange between us and our surroundings and helps augment brain function, not just physically in individuals, but also virtually in society.

Practical ways for enhancing our noeme (i.e., our digital presence) include:

• Cultivate a robust social media base, in different forums.

• Aim for respect, esteem and value within your virtual environment.

• Increase the number of your connections both in virtual and in real terms.

• Stay consistently visible online.

• Share meaningful information that requires action.

• Avoid the use of meaningless, trivial or outdated platforms.

• Increase the unity of your connections by using only one (user) name for all online and physical platforms.

These methods can help increase information sharing and facilitate our integration within the GB (Kyriazis, 2014a). In a practical sense, these actions are easy to perform and can encompass a wide section of modern communities. Although the benefits of these actions are not well studied, nevertheless some initial findings appear promising (Griffiths, 2002; Granic et al., 2014).

Concluding Remarks

With regards to improving brain function, we are gradually moving away from the realms of science fiction and into the realms of reality (Kurzweil, 2005). It is now possible to suggest ways to enhance our brain function, based on novel concepts dependent not only on neuroscience but also on digital and other technology. The result of such augmentation does not only benefit the individual brain but can also improve all humanity in a more abstract sense. It improves human evolution and adaptation to new technological environments, and this, in turn, may have positive impact upon our health and thus longevity (Solman, 2012; Kyriazis, 2014c).

In a more philosophical sense, our progressive and distributed brain function amplification has begun to lead us toward attaining “god-like” characteristics (Heylighen, in press) particularly “omniscience” (through Google, Wikipedia, the semantic web, Massively Online Open Courses MOOCs—which dramatically enhance our knowledge base), and “omnipresence” (cloud and fog computing, Twitter, YouTube, Internet of Things, Internet of Everything). These are the result of the outsourcing of our brain capabilities to the cloud in a distributed and universal manner, which is an ideal global neural augmentation. The first steps have already been taken through brain to brain communication research. The concept of systems neuroscience is thus expanded to encompass not only the human nervous network but also a global network with societal and cultural elements.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Acknowledgment

I thank the help and input of the reviewers, particularly the first one who has dedicated a lot of time into improving the paper.

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Keywords: global brain, complex adaptive systems, human longevity, techno-cultural society, noeme, systems neuroscience

Citation: Kyriazis M (2015) Systems neuroscience in focus: from the human brain to the global brain? Front. Syst. Neurosci. 9:7. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2015.00007

Received: 14 October 2014; Accepted: 14 January 2015;
Published online: 06 February 2015.

Edited by:

Manuel Fernando Casanova, University of Louisville, USA

Reviewed by:

Mikhail Lebedev, Duke University, USA
Andrea Stocco, University of Washington, USA

Copyright © 2015 Kyriazis. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: drmarios@live.it


 

This article can also be found at http://hplusmagazine.com/2015/02/10/human-brain-global-brain/

The coming transhuman era: Jason Sosa at TEDxGrandRapids [Transhumanism]

Dawn of Giants Favorite…

This video from TEDx Grand Rapids is probably one of the best introductions to transhumanism. The video is called The coming transhuman era: Jason Sosa at TEDxGrandRapids. Jason Sosa is a tech entrepreneur and I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’ll be hearing more about him in the near future. This one is an absolute must see!


Runtime: 15:37

This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ugo2KEV2XQ


Video Info:

Published on Jun 24, 2014

Sosa is the founder and CEO of IMRSV, a computer vision and artificial intelligence company and was named one of “10 Startups to Watch in NYC” by Time Inc., and one of “25 Hot and New Startups to Watch in NYC” by Business Insider. He has been featured by Forbes, CNN, New York Times, Fast Company, Bloomberg and Business Insider, among others.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

DARPA and Transhumanism – Biology is Technology

This is an article by Peter Rothman at H+ Magazine called Biology is Technology — DARPA is Back in the Game With A Big Vision and It Is H+.  DARPA, the world’s most technologically advanced organization is pursuing transhuman technologies and supporting the transhumanism/singularity movement.  Just a thought to keep in mind while reading this; DARPA doesn’t do science fiction…


 

Biology is Technology — DARPA is Back in the Game With A Big Vision and It Is H+

Peter Rothman

Introduction

DARPA, the Defense Research Projects Agency, is perhaps best known for its role as progenitors of the computer networking and the Internet. Formed in the wake of the Soviet Union’s surprise launch of Sputnik, DARPA’s objective was to ensure that the United States would avoid technological surprises in the future. This role was later expanded to causing technological surprises as well.

And although DARPA is and has been the leading source of funding for artificial intelligence and a number of other transhumanist projects, they’ve been missing in action for a while. Nothing DARPA has worked on since seems to have had the societal impact of the invention of the Internet. But that is about to change.

The current director of DARPA is Dr. Arati Prabhakar. She is the second female director of the organization, following the previous and controversial director Regina Dugan who left the government to work at Google. The return to big visions and big adventures was apparent and in stark contrast to Dugan’s leadership of the organization.

Quoted in WIRED, Dugan had, for example, stated that “There is a time and a place for daydreaming. But it is not at DARPA,” and she told a congressional panel in March 2011, “Darpa is not the place of dreamlike musings or fantasies, not a place for self-indulging in wishes and hopes. DARPA is a place of doing.”

Those days are gone. DARPA’s new vision is simply to revolutionize the human situation and it is fully transhumanist in its approach.

The Biological Technologies Office or BTO was announced with little fanfare in the spring of 2014. This announcement didn’t get that much attention, perhaps because the press release announcing the BTO was published on April Fool’s Day.

But DARPA is determined to turn that around, and to help make that happen, they held a two day event in the SIlicon Valley area to facilitate and communicate about radical changes ahead in the area of biotechnologies. Invitees included some of the top biotechnology scientists in the world. And the audience was a mixed group of scientists, engineers, inventors, investors, futurists, along with a handful of government contractors and military personnel.

Biology is Technology

I was lucky to be invited to this event because although I spend a large amount of time researching technology and science as related to the future, nothing prepared me for the scope of the DARPA vision. The ostensible purpose of the two day meeting was to introduce the DARPA Biotechnology Program Office and to connect program managers with innovators, investors, and scientists working in biotechnology and related disciplines. But really they were here to shake things up.

darpa bit01

Opening the Biology Is Technology (BiT) event was DARPA Director Dr. Arati Prabhakar. Dr. Prabhakar’s presence at this meeting demonstrates how serious DARPA is about this effort, and one imagines that she was also in California to support President Obama’s Cybersecurity Summit with top leaders of the computer industry.

Dr. Prabhakar interviewed GE’s Sue Siegel about innovation and GE’s role in creating the future. This was a freewheeling conversation in which Ms. Siegel turned the tables and interviewed Dr. Prabhakar instead. What followed was an outstanding introduction to the proactionary approach to research and development, or in DARPA’s language, preventing surprises by creating your own.

Dr. Prabhakar clearly set up the DARPA’s latest incarnation as a return to the big vision, swing for the fences approach. She discussed DARPA’s approach to managing risks while creating high impact technologies. In this vision, DARPA’s role is to help scientists and innovators to “remove early risk” which might prevent them from obtaining investment and bringing novel ideas to market. DARPA was described by one presenter as a “always friendly, but somewhat crazy rich uncle” and they made it clear that they were going to put a fair bit of money behind these ideas.

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This meeting was focused around the launch of the new program office, the Biotechnology Program Office, although other program managers were present. The BTO is headed Dr. Geoff Ling who is a practicing Army medical doctor. Dr. Ling is an energetic spokesman for the DARPA vision and the BTO. And it is notable that it is an M.D. that is in charge of this effort because many of the developments being undertaken by the BTO are simply going to revolutionize the practice of medicine as we know it today. With the energetic Dr. Ling in charge, you can imagine it getting done.

Dr. Ling portrayed DARPA’s ambitious goals and set out what was one of the clearest presentations of the proactionary principle which I have heard. But that was just the opening volley; DARPA is going full on H+.

Following the inspirational presentation by Dr. Ling, the individual program managers had a chance to present their projects.

The first Program Manager to present, Phillip Alvelda, opened the event with his mind blowing project to develop a working “cortical modem”. What is a cortical modem you ask? Quite simply it is a direct neural interface that will allow for the visual display of information without the use of glasses or goggles. I was largely at this event to learn about this project and I wasn’t disappointed.

Leveraging the work of Karl Deisseroth in the area of optogenetics, the cortical modem project aims to build a low cost neural interface based display device. The short term goal of the project is the development of a device about the size of two stacked nickels with a cost of goods on the order of $10 which would enable a simple visual display via a direct interface to the visual cortex with the visual fidelity of something like an early LED digital clock.

The implications of this project are astounding.

Consider a more advanced version of the device capable of high fidelity visual display. First, this technology could be used to restore sensory function to individuals who simply can’t be treated with current approaches. Second, the device could replace all virtual reality and augmented reality displays. Bypassing the visual sensory system entirely, a cortical modem can directly display into the visual cortex enabling a sort of virtual overlay on the real world. Moreover, the optogenetics approach allows both reading and writing of information. So we can imagine at least a device in which virtual objects appear well integrated into our perceived world. Beyond this, a working cortical modem would enable electronic telepathy and telekinesis. The cortical modem is a real world version of the science fiction neural interfaces envisioned by writers such as William Gibson and more recently Ramez Naam.

To the extent that it is real, the cortical modem is still a crude device. This isn’t going to give you a high fidelity augmented reality display soon. And since the current approach is based in optogenetics, it requires a  genetic alteration of the DNA in your neurons. The health implications are unknown, and this research is currently limited to work with animal models. Specifically discussed was a real time imaging of the zebrafish brain with about 85,000 neurons.

Notably, while i was live blogging the event one h+ Magazine reader volunteered to undergo this possibly dangerous genetic procedure in exchange for early access to a cortical modem. A fact which I later got to mention directly to Dr. Prabhakar at the reception afterwards.

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Following the astounding cortical modem presentation, Dr. Dan Wattendorf presented DARPA’s efforts to get in front of and prevent disease outbreaks such as the recent crisis with ebola in Africa. This was a repeated theme throughout the event. DARPA is clearly recognizing the need to avoid “technological surprises” from nature as well as from nations. It is widely recognized that the current technology for dealing with novel disease outbreaks, the so called “post antibiotic” era, and bioweapons requires entirely new strategies for detection and rapid response to communicable illnesses. As an example, the ebola vaccine currently being considered for use has been in development for decades. Moreover, only a small number of vaccines exists even for known diseases. A novel threat might provide only weeks or months to respond however. Clearly new approaches are needed in both detection of disease outbreaks and response to them. Perhaps most interesting to me here was the discussion of transient gene therapies where an intervention that alters an organism’s DNA but which “turn off” after some time period or event.

Dr. Jack Newman Chief Science Officer at Amyris and board member of the Biobricks Foundation followed. Jack has recently joined DARPA as a program manager himself and he talked about Amyris’ work with producing useful materials from bio-engineered yeast. This project funded under DARPA’s Living Foundries program is just one of a number of efforts seeking to create novel materials and production processes. Dr. Newman presented a view into the programming of living systems using Amyris software that was quite interesting.

This provided a natural segue to program manager Alicia Jackson’s presentation on the broader Living Foundries program which promises to leverage the synthetic and functional capabilities of biology to create biologically-based manufacturing platforms to provide access to new materials, capabilities and manufacturing paradigms based in biology and synthetic biology. Imagine materials that self assemble, heal, and adapt to their changing environment as biological systems do. The program currently focuses on compressing the biological design-build-test-learn cycle by at least 10 times in both time and cost, while simultaneously increasing the complexity of systems that are created. The second phase of the program builds on these advancements and tools to create a scalable, integrated, rapid design and prototyping infrastructure for the engineering of biology.

Following this, a more casual presentation, a “fireside” chat between famed geneticist Dr. George Church and technology historian George Dyson. This chat rambled a bit and started off slowly. But once it got going, Church laid out his vision of engineering ecosystems using “gene drives” and throughout a variety of remarks that were of interest. For example, he expressed skepticism about “longevity” research as compared with “age reversal” techniques. GDF 11 got a mention. He also discussed the observation of genetic changes in cells grown outside of the body for example in so called “printed” organs, and discussed his alternative approach of growing human donor organs in transgenic pigs. He suggested the real possibility of enhancing human intelligence through genetic techniques and pointed to the complete molecular description of living systems as a goal.

This led into another amazing presentation from new DARPA program manager Julian Sanchez who is leading DARPA’s Human-machine symbiosis group which is developing many of the groundbreaking prosthetics such as mind controlled limbs which have recently been in the news. DARPA’s investment in advanced limb prosthetics has already delivered an FDA-approved device but “cognitive prosthetics” are next. DARPA is developing hardware and software to overcome the memory deficits and neuropsychiatric illnesses afflicting returning veterans for example.

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While there wasn’t much shown regarding applying these ideas to healthy individuals or combat systems, we can assume that this work is underway. One patient was shown employing a neural interface to fly a simulated aircraft for example. And DARPA is supposedly working towards a system that would allow one person to pilot multiple vehicles by thought alone. The approach is bigger than just thought controlled drones however, because it focuses on creating symbiosis which is to ensure a mutual benefit to both partners in a relationship. The potential of this idea is often overlooked and misunderstood in conversations about machine intelligence for example.

Together with the cortical modem, these devices promise to revolutionize human abilities to repair ourselves, extend ourselves, communicate and indeed they will eventually and inevitably alter what it means to be human. Where is the boundary between self and other if we can directly share thoughts, dreams, emotions, and ideas? When we can experience not only the thoughts but feelings of someone else? How will direct neural access to knowledge change education and work? These technologies raise many questions for which we do not yet have answers.

Dr. Sanchez closed by calling on members of the audience to “come to DARPA and change the world” a call which didn’t ring hollow by this point. And things were just getting started.

This statement was made repeatedly. DARPA is open for business and looking for collaborators to work with. They’re building teams that work across subjects, disciplines and communities. They seek to build a community of interest aimed at tackling some of mankind’s greatest challenges, including things like curing communicable diseases and reversing ecosystem collapse. DARPA has some unique instruments and capabilities to offer anyone developing radical technological ideas and they want you to know about them. They openly invited the audience to submit abstracts for research ideas and promised that every email they receive would be answered “at least once”.

Several different DARPA performers also gave presentations. These are the people that DARPA has hired under contract to actually do the work and the presentations were a pretty heady and eclectic mix ranging from deep science to the unusual and on to the profound. Dr.Michel M. Maharbiz of UC Berkeley who is developing “neural dust” and has done controversial work with insect cyborgs. Saul Griffith of Otherlab presented the farthest ranging talk including his work with computer controlled inflatables which includes development of exoskeleton concepts, pneumatic sun trackers for low cost solar power applications, and a life sized robotic inflatable elephant he made for his daughter. I was also intrigued by a toy they had designed that was a universal constructor. He also had some very interesting analysis of the world’s energy production and utilization, showing areas where DARPA (and anyone else interested) could make the biggest difference to slow climate change.

How about curing all known and even unknown communicable diseases? Exploring “post pathogen medicine” is an effort in which DARPA is working to identify “unlikely heros”, those individuals with surprising  resilience or resistance to dangerous diseases. The idea is to apply big data analytics to analyze data from a large number of existing scientific analyses that might hide data indicating genetic markers for immunity or disease resistance in individuals.

Karl Deisseroth presented his work with optogenetics and his newer techniques for transforming neural tissue into a clear gel that can be imaged. He presented some impressive images from this work and his new unpublished imaging technique called “Swift 3D”. The resulting images are real-time maps of neural events. For example, Dr. Deisseroth presented visual representations of mouse thoughts from one controlled experiment.

Beyond reading mids, DARPA’s BiT programs are also looking to revolutionize the practice of biology and science in general. Dr. Stephen Friend presented Sage Networks a science oriented social sharing and collaboration platform which radically realigns the practices of scientific publication and data sharing. Apart from providing a standardized platform for publishing annotated bioscience datasets, the system requires users to make their data available to other researchers while still preserving their ability to get credit for original ideas and work. This project is important and could see application elsewhere outside of the biosciences. One member of the audience was so impressed with this idea she was compelled to comment.

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More directly, DARPA seeks to revolutionize the day to day practice of biotechnology and drug development. A series of “organs on a chip” was presented. These devices allow cultures of cells from an individual’s organs to be grown and treated with medications to assess effectiveness and possible side effects without the need to use an animal model or test on a live human subject. While they haven’t replicated every human organ, they did have a “gut on a chip” shown here. These little chips are flexible and kind of artistic actually. The company Emulate had a representative explaining the technology at the reception after the first day of the event. This is just one of several projects in which DARPA is seeking to understand the effects of drugs including adverse side effects in novel ways. The eventual hope is to shorten time to market while also radically lowering the costs of new medications.

Microfluidics — making tiny droplets

Another impressive series of developments was presented in the area of microfluidics. These developments consist of a set of technologies for creating very small droplets, and various mechanisms for manipulating, and experimenting on these tiny drops. Currently the practice of bioscience experimentation is largely performed by human postdocs who spend thousands of hours pipetting, mixing, and carefully measuring results. But using microfluidics and a series of intricate valves, nozzles, and so on, many of these procedures can be automated and radically sped up.

The audience got a chance to mix with the DARPA program managers after the event at a reception where some of DARPA’s projects were presented in a hands on environment. I had a brief conversation with Dr. Prabhakar who mentioned that she was aware of Humanity+ and transhumanism more generally. She was excited to have us involved, but also expressed some dismay at the political aspect of the transhumanist movement.

Well known Silicon Valley venture capitalist, rocketeer, transhumanist, and super guy Steve Jurvetson was spotted “high fiving” a DARPA funded telepresence robot developed at Johns Hopkins APL at the reception.

The robot operates via a head mounted display which places the wearer into the robot’s “head” and two instrumented gloves which give the wearer control over the robot’s dexterous human like hands. The hands get a bit hot due to the motors that move them however, so a fist bump is going to be prefered over a handshake with this guy.

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DARPA’s Inner Buddha

a photo of a child holding hands with a prosthetic hand

AT the two day BiT event, it was revealed that DARPA hasn’t just gone full on transhumanist, they’re full Buddha.

The goal of his project as presented by one of the project investigators, Dr. Eddie Chang of the University of California at San Francisco, during day two’s “Lightning Round” , was nothing less than eliminating human suffering.

Curing communicable diseases and prosthetics were the top of the list day one.

But Dr. Chang was talking about curing a deeper inner injury, the sort of thing that causes mental illness, depression, and intractable PTSD;  problems which military veterans notably suffer disproportionately.

The first stage of the project is underway and working with patients who are already undergoing brain surgery for intractable epilepsy. Four individuals so far have had their detailed neural patterns recorded 24 hours a day for ten days using an implanted device. The resulting neural map is at the millimeter and millisecond level and is correlated with other information about the patient’s mood and physiological state.

In another program, ElectRX, DARPA is investigating the use of similar neural stimulation techniques to promote healing of the body from injuries and disease. In both cases the emphasis isn’t  on working around or bypassing damage, but using electrical stimulation to promote healing and repair. DARPA wants to heal you. Dr. Chang stated, for example, that the success of his project wouldn’t be marked by the date of the first implanted device, but rather the date of the first removal.

Summary

Creating novel industrial processes to reduce climate change? DARPA had that covered too. So while Dr. Ling made sure to remind the audience up front that this was all about supporting warfighters, it was impossible to not consider the deeper implications of what was being presented as the event proceeeded.

The reality is that the true DARPA mission isn’t just about war. A happier, more secure and sustainable world is the best possible security for the United States, a fact that DARPA’s leaders seemingly recognize at the moment.  And so DARPA is developing technologies for rapid identification of communicable diseases, restoring lost biological functions, producing materials and developing novel industrial processes to prevent slow and reverse climate change, save ecosystems and more.

And DARPA’s next revolution, biology is technology, is something even bigger than the Internet. They’re out to revolutionize the practice and products of bio-science and along the way they are re-defining what it will mean to be human. Will we alter our biology to enable direct mind to mind communication? Can we extend our immune system into the world to cure all communicable diseases? Can we cure and repair the most damaging and persistent mental illnesses?

In this amazing two day event, DARPA opened the door to a wider public collaboration and conversation about these amazing ideas.

A second event is planned for New York City in June and video of the February presentations will be available online according to DARPA representatives at the event. I will update this story with videos when they are available.

This article can also be found at http://hplusmagazine.com/2015/02/15/biology-technology-darpa-back-game-big-vision-h/

Thought-controlled Prosthetics

This is an article by Lucy Ingham from factor-tech.com entitled Thought-Controlled Prosthetics: Pioneering Bionic Reconstruction Surgery Performed For First Time.  

THOUGHT-CONTROLLED PROSTHETICS: PIONEERING BIONIC RECONSTRUCTION SURGERY PERFORMED FOR FIRST TIME

A pioneering surgery technique known as bionic reconstruction, which enables the control of a prosthetic hand with the mind, has been performed for the first time.

The surgery was performed on three Austrian men with injuries to a group of nerves in their neck known as the brachial plexus, which is responsible for sense and movement in the shoulders arms and hands. The injuries – a result of vehicle and climbing accidents – had resulted in the three men having very little use of one of their hands.

The bionic reconstruction surgery involved amputating the functionless hand and replacing it with a prosthetic, which was connected to each patient’s remaining arm muscle and nerves, allowing them to control it through thought.

“The scientific advance here was that we were able to create and extract new neural signals via nerve transfers amplified by muscle transplantation,” explained Professor Oskar Aszmann, director of the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Restoration of Extremity Function at the Medical University of Vienna, and co-developer of bionic reconstruction.

“These signals were then decoded and translated into solid mechatronic hand function.”

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Although clearly a major part, the actual surgery was only one aspect of the bionic reconstruction process, as all three patients prepared for an average of nine months prior to their surgery.

To start with, the patients underwent cognitive training to reactivate the under-used muscles in their arm, before learning to control a virtual hand that responded to electrical signals from their muscles.

After this, they learnt to use a hybrid prosthetic hand, which was connected to their non-functioning hand using a special device similar to a splint. This allowed them to practice controlling a prosthesis before undergoing amputation.

Once they were comfortable with the hybrid, the patients underwent the surgery. This involved transfer of a selection of nerves and muscles, the amputation of the non-functioning hand and the connection of the prosthesis, which contains an array of sensors that detect and respond the the muscles’ electrical signals.

After three months recovery, all three patients were able to perform a wide range of tasks with the new hand, such as using a knife to cut meat, pouring water out of a jug and using a key.

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While a radical step, the bionic reconstruction surgery has given the men far greater freedom to perform tasks, allowed them a greater quality of life and has reduced their pain.

With few other effective medical treatments available, without the new surgery they would have likely been faced with a lifetime of pain and limited hand use.

“In effect, brachial plexus avulsion injuries represent an inner amputation, irreversibly separating the hand from neural control,” said Aszmann.

“Existing surgical techniques for such injuries are crude and ineffective and result in poor hand function.”

The research, which was undertaken along with engineers from the Department of Neurorehabilitation Engineering at the University Medical Center Goettingen, was published today in medical journal The Lancet, and should enable other surgeons to perform similar surgeries.

“So far, bionic reconstruction has only been done in our centre in Vienna,” explained Aszmann.

“However, there are no technical or surgical limitations that would prevent this procedure from being done in centres with similar expertise and resources.”

Injuries to the brachial plexus can be very damaging, and are surprisingly common. Almost 5% of motorcycle and snowmobile accidents cause damage to the nerve group, and a 2010 study of Canadian football players found 26% received brachial plexus injuries in the season.

As a result, the surgery is extremely promising, and could boost the quality of life of many people.

However while promising, only the long-term use of the prosthetics by the three men will determine its level of success.

In a comment piece also published in The Lancet, Professor Simon Kay the surgeon who performed the UK’s first hand transplant, and Daniel Wilks from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, urged caution.

“The present findings – and others – are encouraging, because this approach provides additional neural inputs into prosthetic systems that otherwise would not exist,” they said.

“However, the final verdict will depend on long-term outcomes, which should include assessment of in what circumstances and for what proportion of their day patients wear and use their prostheses.

“Compliance declines with time for all prostheses, and motorised prostheses are heavy, need power, and are often noisy, as well as demanding skilled repair when damaged.”

This article can also be found here.

The video can also be found https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBU0SQuG-sQ.

Video Info:

Published on Feb 24, 2015

A recipient of bionic reconstruction surgery to a hand affected by severe nerve damage demonstrates his hand function before and after surgery. For more details see our article on the research: http://factor-tech.com/health-augment…

Bitcoin Pioneer Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof on Bitnation and M+ (H+ Magazine)

This is an article from H+ Magazine called Interview: Bitcoin Pioneer Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof on Bitnation and M+.  In it, Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof discusses transhumanism her brain child, BitNation.

Interview: Bitcoin Pioneer Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof on Bitnation and M+

Q1 Susanne, h+ Magazine readers may not be familiar with you or your background. Can you give us a brief history of you, a summary of your background with bitcoin and transhumanism and a short intro to what you are currently doing?

1522929_10151799161606417_1370639217_oI grew up in Sweden, my parents where Polish and French immigrants. My father was stateless for many years, which made me question the point of the nation state construct altogether. My passion was politics, and I wanted to make the world more borderless. I started writing about competing non-geographic nations at the age of 20. However, I thought the best way to change things was to work ‘within the system’. Hence to that end, I started working as a contractor for the most powerful government I could find, the US Government. I spent nearly 7 years working as a contractor in various conflict zones, from Afghanistan and Pakistan, to Egypt and Libya — assisting with building and overthrowing governments. However, as time went by, I believed less and less in what the government did, and I started sympathizing more and more with the ‘ungoverned’ societies.  The civil war in Libya was quite a wake up call. When I first came to the rebel controlled territories there was de-facto no government at all (the rebel council were about 10 guys hiding out in a basement, and their sole job was to speak with foreign media to gain recognition for the territories), but yet — everything worked amazingly well. Volunteers were doing everything from trash collection to traffic policing, neighborhood watch and cell tower engineering. But as layers of government got added, security deteriorated.

Around the same time a friend of mine was conducting a study in villages in Southern Afghanistan and South Sudan, measuring the difference between villages with the same socioeconomic and ethnic composition, but different amounts of points of social interaction — like wells, schools, etc. As one would intuitively assume — the study showed that villages with many points of interactions were less prone to violence, than those with few, because even if people – different tribes and ethnicities didn’t get along – just the fact of having to interact on a day to day level over simple things like ‘who should clean the well?’ reduced the level of violence. Fostering collaboration on small, seemingly insignificant tasks also been a common strategy in diplomacy between countries hostile towards each other. Hence, I thought, if we assume this theory to be correct, then wouldn’t Facebook be the biggest experiment for peace in the world ever? The fact of liking someone’s Instagram of their lunch, regardless of political or geographical differences? That would make sense.

10288784_10152094338981417_9031971903898307065_nHence, I went through a brief period of great self-doubt, where I thought what I had done for most of my 20’s was pretty much either not very significant in terms of impact, or even at times straight out harmful — while Zuckerberg, through a computer in a dorm, had done more of a positive impact than I could ever have dreamt of. I felt depressed, because I didn’t know how to impact things without working with the government, but I started spending more time around tech people, travelling to San Francisco, hanging out with the Burning Man crowd, going to libertarian meetups, etc. I had a feeling that the answer where somewhere in the technology sphere. Then, enter Bitcoin. The day I discovered Bitcoin my worldview changed forever — I realized that it was possible to not ‘change things from the inside’ but to actually totally reinvent something, and compete heads on with the current paradigm. It wasn’t impossible. Bitcoin did, and succeeded with it. That inspired me to leave my work as a contractor, and follow my initial dream of creating virtual competing nations. I travelled the world while writing about it, went to various anarchist communities and crypto startups, and then it suddenly dawned on me: why write about it? The blockchain technology — as a distributed public ledger — have all the functions I need to actually start it, without very much investment at all. Hence, I started Bitnation.

I got into Transhumanism through Biohacking. I operated in a magnet in one of my fingers, to see what it would be like. I posted the photos of the operation on Facebook which got me a lot of attention from the Transhumanist community, so I started to look deeper into all things connected with Transhumanism, and really fell in love with the field. I guess being able to to control your destiny, through cryonics, downloading brains, modifying the body, etc is the ultimate frontier for liberty, once the violent global oligopoly on governance is gone. Immortality!

10590444_10152283179491417_4185145039086534748_n-1Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.59.49 AMQ2 Tell me about Bitnation some more and explain to h+ Magazine readers what it is about. Let’s say I want to start my own transhumanist nation.Can Bitnation help me? I’m also interested in the notion of services that use the blockchain technology but are not properly involved with bitcoin per se. Can you comment?

If you break Bitnation down to its very essence, it can be described as a peer-to-peer platform with a set of Do-It-Yourself governance (D)Apps (like the Apple app store, as an example), backed by encrypted communication, ID and reputation, and dispute resolution.

Bitnation is the first ever Virtual Nation which provides actual governance services. Many of those services are based on the Bitcoin blockchain technology – a decentralized public ledger – which we use for all kind of records. From insurance, to dispute resolution, to family contracts like wills and marriages, to education, and more. Later on we’ll also add non-technology powered services, like security and diplomacy.

There are many metaprotocols on top of the Bitcoin blockchain, that can be used for things like crypto token creation, timestamping, etc. This year – 2015 – I expect smart contracts to really take off. These sounds like simple tools, but they offer such an extraordinary broad range of applications that it’s nothing short of breathtaking.

Everything Bitnation do is open source, and we encourage people to fork it, and create their own nation. If you would want to start your own transhumanist nation, the easiest way to get us onboard rather than just forking the idea straight out, would be to either work with us for a while, and see what you could make different, to better adapt it to your community, or engage us as partners to help you set it up. Forks are both inevitable, and healthy. I, personally, set out on this path, because I wanted to see a world of thousands or millions of competing borderless governance providers, competing through offering better services, rather than through the threat of violence within imaginary lines called borders. But someone had to be the first to do it, to demonstrate the virtual nation model in practice, and clear the path for others – just like Bitcoin did for cryptocurrency — so that’s what I did.

Q3 Bitcoin has a long history in the transhumanist world and some of the early adopters were transhumanists and the idea of “cryp” was a frequent topic on theExtropian Email List. Hal Finney was recently cryopreserved and was one of the first owners of bitcoins. as well as an Extropian. Ralph Merkle invented some of the core mathematics (Merkle trees) used in bitcoin and is a transhumanist who also has done a lot of work in nanotechnology. What’s the connection from your perspective between transhumanism and cryptocurrencies? Cryp was envisioned as an anonymous and untraceable method of payment, but bitcoin hasn’t quite gotten us there. What’s next for truly anonymous and untraceable crypto currencies?

Many questions to answer here at once!

From my perspective the similarity between the two is twofold: 1. that technology empowers superior innovative solutions than an outdated dinosaur of a centralized administrative structure, and b. that technology inherently defeats things as borders, because it connects people throughout time and space, irrelevant of where they were born, or what laws an irrelevant piece of paper (like a passport) claims they’re subject to. In essence, transhumanism, as well as Bitcoin, recognise that we’re much more than our physical flesh and blood, but that we’re also sensitive, thinking, feeling individuals who may or may not operate within forced upon (geographical) frameworks. That our mind and spirit stands above, and defeats, arbitrary lines in the sand — to a great extent via the beauty of the ever evolving technology freed from bureaucratic red tape.

Anonymity is important now, as we’re in the strange middle ground between the nation state world, and the post nation state world, where many visionaries still need to keep a low profile. Over time, however, identity and reputation will be more important. Though, lets keep in mind that for various reasons, it will remain essential for a person to be able to have multiple identities at the same time (like if being haunted by a homicidal ex husband or living a double life as gay/ hetero or human/ cyborg) etc. But at the same time, limiting Cybil attacks will also be crucial.

Another area where crypto meets transhumanism seems to be Basic Income. We have a Bitnation 3rd Party DApp, called basicincome.co developed by the Swedish prodigy Johan Nyberg, using p2p cryptoledgers to create a voluntary basic income system. Zoltan Istvan recently wrote about Transhumanism in VICE where Bitnation was quoted.

Q4 You recent joined the Advisory Board of Människa+, the Swedish chapter Humanity+. What’s happening with transhumanism in Sweden right now and the M+ group in particular? What next?

skc3a4rmavbild-2014-04-23-kl-20-42-16Sweden has always been a playground for new technologies, because – for better or for worse – it’s a fairly small and homogenous population —- meaning that if a concept catches on, pretty much everyone will adapt it rapidly. Swedes are also, generally speaking, very tech-savvy people who loves emerging ideas. Hence, because of rapid adoption rates, and Swedes natural love for everything seemingly empirically rational and scientific, I believe Sweden is ideally suited to be one of the leading geographical areas for transhumanism.

Q5 I notice that you are one of the few transhumanists that seems to understand Africa. Humanity+ board member Ben Goertzel also maintains an office in Ethiopia. And I think Africa is going to play a huge role in the future of transhumanism. Africa was first to widely adopt digital payments systems outside of mainstream banking with M-PESA and now seems hot on bitcoin. What’s the future of bitcoin in Africa and beyond? What is your view on the future of Africa and Africa’s role in creating the global future?

I don’t feel like I understand Africa particularly well. I spent roughly a year in North Africa (Egypt and Libya, throughout the Arab Spring), and some time now in West Africa, Ghana – which is an entirely different animal. Frankly, the more time I spend around here, the less I understand it. I do think, through cell phone adaption, remittance payments from abroad, and the natural ease of using digital money m-pesa style, Bitcoin will have quick adaption rates here, as you mentioned in your question. Frontier markets like this is also where it’s most needed of course — we’re speaking of billions of unbanked people who can’t access normal banking systems, etc.

Students for Liberty, Ghana

For Bitnation, that’s huge – naturally. Billions of people who need our services really bad, because their local governments are to slow, to corrupt, and too expensive to deal with. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the last frontiers of development (with perhaps the exception of places like Afghanistan and North Korea, etc). While we can expect steep rises in productivity, GDP, etc — it’s also very clear that there’s a very long way to go over here. For instance, in Ghana (which is by no means one of the poorest countries in this region) only 40% of the population have toilets (and the definition of toilets also includes holes in the ground) – just to illustrate average middle class living conditions. While they’re definitively leap frogging on some technological levels, the average life expectancy, life quality (like electricity, running water, etc) remains extremely low — and that will take much longer to fix. So while it’s overall getting better, don’t expect it to be the next ‘tiger economies’ any time soon — apart from a few expectations like Kenya, Nigeria, etc of course.

 

 

Q6 2015 may be noted as the year transhumanism became political. With a lot of activity around the Transhumanist Parties in the EU and UK recently. What’s your view on transhumanism and politics generally? How can Bitnation help transhumanists who are politically active? How can or should the TP interact with the Pirate Party, Green Party, etc.?

First of all, from my personal perspective, technology change politics much quicker than politics change politics. Point in case: it’s more efficient to create a better alternative, like Bitcoin, who just outcompetes the old bad system, rather than to get a job at the FED, and try to change politics from the inside.

If people really do want to interact with the dinosaur political system however, I suppose it can be useful, in a Ron Paul type of way; where they use political channels as platform to spread ideas. It has some merit to it. Concerning what parties to engage with, I’ll always vouch for the pirate party – they’re willing to break norms, and think forward. The green party really varies from one country to another. While I do believe in the importance of preserving the environment, I would never engage with the Green Parties I’ve seen so far, because in my view they’re old left-wing reactionaries who mainly want to back-peddle development. I may be wrong, but that’s what I’ve seen so far. Libertarian parties are sort of an oxymoron, if you come from the anarchist spectrum of it. I don’t personally vote, because I believe it’s immoral to show consent to a geographical monopoly on violence through participating in its illusion of ‘it’s all okay, because we can vote every now and then on who will be our front slave master’. But hey, each to their own.

Learn more http://bitnation.co

 

This article can also be found on the H+ Magazine website here.

The Transhuman Future: Be More Than You Can Be by Marcelo Gleiser

Here’s an article called The Transhuman Future: Be More Than You Can Be from the NPR website.  This article explores what it means to be transhuman and relates it to ways we’ve already begun to enhance ourselves.

The Transhuman Future: Be More Than You Can Be

JUNE 11, 201410:59 AM ET
Collage illustration of a human head, computer chip, digits and various abstract elements.

Andrew Ostrovsky/iStockphoto

How is it that we define a human? Is it our body? Our genome? Our behaviors? Our self-awareness? Our compassion? Our minds? All of these and then something more? What now may be obvious to most people about being human will become less so as we become progressively more integrated with technology both inside and outside our bodies.

Transhumanism, according to the dictionary on my Apple laptop, is defined as “the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology.”

It sounds like something from a sci-fi movie, people flying around with purple wings (an image a student of mine mentioned in my class “Question Reality!” based on my book The Island of Knowledge). How about translucent skin or the strength to lift cars with one hand? Enhanced memory: who wouldn’t want that?

If you have a purist definition of what it means to be human, without any intervention from outside gadgets, it’s time to come to terms with reality: almost no one in modern society is purely human.

Our integration with technology is evolving us into something else.

Consider, for example, medication. If we take a drug that changes our chemistry to treat depression or high blood pressure, we are not the same. We are who we were before plus the medication. That’s not quite the same as going beyond our current human state. But it is a change.

Ritalin, on the other hand, does change things in a more transformative way. That’s why it’s such a prize among college students, as it supposedly enhances cognitive faculties in ways that help during exams. The movie Limitless takes this to the extreme. But transhumanism is no longer just in the realm of the fictional.

Even vitamins, superfoods and protein powders are doing the same: enhancing physical performance, the immune system, improving memory, boosting sexual energy, etc.

And when we add prosthetic implants? Should an athlete with carbon fiber prosthetic legs compete with others who don’t have the same technology? In the last Olympics, South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius competed with prosthetic legs. What if he had won?

We are already in the transhuman era.

If it isn’t vitamins or performance-inhancing drugs, who can be without a cell phone? This device is now an extension of who we are, indispensable in our everyday life. Forgetting one at home is tragic: a sense of loss, of disconnection, no memory, no schedule, no music, camera, news, email, maps, GPS, Facebook, Twitter, games. Nearly every app is an extension of our mental faculties, part of who we are.

Just a few decades ago, when you got to someones house you’d check out their records and books to get a feel for the person. Now, it’s their apps.

We are now linked to huge amounts of data. Any one of us can connect by video to people across the planet; cellular devices are a means of extending our presence, of redefining the reality in which we live. Our brain is no longer just the gray mass inside our head; through its digital tentacles the brain now extends itself — and you — around the world.

The future? Transhumanism will only grow. Technological devices will be implanted in our heads and bodies, our used peripherally, like Google Glass, extending our senses and cognitive abilities. Why see only in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum? Let’s go ultraviolet! Infrared! Let’s extend our hearing range, our memory capacity, our immune defenses, our life span, our brainpower.

The question that no one has answered, though, is what will this do to our species? Will we simply reinvent ourselves, taking evolution into our own hands? It seems that we are already doing this. And will we then become less human?

It seems so, but “less” may be a misnomer. We are becoming something else. We are becoming a new species. Let us hope that whatever we become, or some of us become, will be wise enough to deal with the unavoidable inequalities that will surely follow.Brave New World is not a good model for our future.

This article can also be found at http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/06/11/320961912/the-transhuman-future-be-more-than-you-can-be

The Transhumanist Future of Sex by Zoltan Istvan

This is an article by Zoltan Istvan called The Transhumanist Future of Sex.  Hm… Transhumanism and sex; if there were more articles like this, maybe more people would know about the singularity…

The Transhumanist Future of Sex

October 20, 2014 // 10:50 AM EST

Zoltan Istvan is a futurist, journalist, and author of the novel The Transhumanist Wager. He writes an occasional column for Motherboard in which he ruminates on the future beyond natural human ability.

The internet is rife with chatter about the transhumanist age we are entering, where radical science and technology are already changing the way we live. Everything fromrobotic hearts to personal drones to mind-reading headsets are here. The new tech coming in just a few years will touch nearly every aspect of our lives, including one of the most personal ones: sex.

Mammals use sex as a means to generate offspring, to experience pleasure, and for bonding with partners. Throughout the last few centuries, humans have embraced tools, drugs, and even surgical operations in an attempt to improve sex.

To date, the list of transhumanist-themed tools and apparatuses our species has created for sex is practically endless. Perhaps the best known one is the condom, where descriptions of their use and composition begin to appear in 16th century writings. The writings of 16th century physician Gabriele Falloppio includes one of the  first documented references to condoms, and describes them as linen sheaths soaked in a chemical solution. Today, the condom is one of the leading life extension tools in the world, due to the protection it offers from disease, such as HIV.

Over 300,000 Americans underwent breast augmentation via plastic surgery, which typically aims to enhance sex appeal, in 2011. In the last century, one of the most sensationalized applications for sex is Viagra, whose name is almost as recognizableas Coca-Cola or Rolls Royce. Along with other options like Levitra and Cialis, erection drugs have helped return sexual health to millions of men (and their partners) around the world.

Today, sex—and technology for sex—is all around us, 24/7. The internet provides a continual stream of pornography, for better or worse, to millions of users everyday. A Forbes article citing neuroscientist Ogi Ogas says that between July 2009 and July 2010, 13 percent of web searches were for erotic content. It’s not just computers, though. Many people routinely use their cell phones for sexting. And the sex toy industry is a multi-billion dollar business, with thousands of workers and engineers dedicated to it.

Yet, whatever has happened so far in the history of sex is not going to be nearly as exciting or bizarre as what’s coming next. Whether by drugs, technology, or surgery, the future of sex is set to explode. Look for virtual sex and foreplay to become commonplace, where partners are linked into brain wave headsets and virtual reality goggles.

Some will take it further, and use full body haptic suits—a friend of mine called it the future hump suit—to experience full sexual immersion. Virtual worlds and Second Lives will keep people experiencing sexual acts they might not feel comfortable doing in real life—all without the risk of pregnancy or STDs.

I recently was asked by my wife what I wanted for Christmas. I replied: I want an exoskeleton suit. They’re going to be all the rage soon.

Image: Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia

Indeed, exoskeleton technology is significantly improving every year. Panasonic is getting ready to sell the first mass-produced robotic exoskeleton for just under $5,000. They are still crude, but in 5-10 years time, they are likely to make us faster runners, stronger climbers, and better athletes. I surmise an entire sporting and recreational culture will develop around them, similar to motorcycles and ATVs. Can you imagine the growing discipline of Parkour in one? Eventually, exoskeleton suits will look like the ones in the blockbuster movie Elysium starring Matt Damon.

But what about sex? Will they help? Yes! Potentially, a lot. Especially for disabled, obese, or unfit persons. Harvard is working on a soft exoskeleton suit. Someday soon, we will strap on exoskeleton suits and put ourselves in sexual positions once only possible for Bikram yoga experts—and then go at it. And we won’t be tiring very easily, either, not with the suits doing much of the work.

Almost as strange is the new internal skeletal stuff being developed, which combines structures inside your body to external artificial limbs. In a recent article forExtremeTech, engineer and neuroscientist John Hewitt writes:

In order to wield any artificial limb with full strength and confidence we are going to need to plug it in properly, so that it becomes a real part of our musculoskeletal system. Researchers at the Royal National Orthopedic hospital have now created an implant that does just that by interfacing a leg prosthesis directly to your endoskeleton.

We’ve already seen penile implants and surgical modifications of sexual organs. But this new musculosketelal technology is much more revolutionary. If scientists can connect internal human parts to external bionic parts, (and they’re already connecting robotic arms to the nervous system) then the age of the cyborg is truly here. Surely biohackers will remove body parts and limbs in an attempt to become a stronger, more agile entity.

If scientists can replicate that feeling through firing signals from an implanted chip or a brain wave headset, then it might even be the end of sex altogether.

With those acquisitions will come cyborg sex—something that is sure to be an upgrade to the usual romp. Don’t forget, those robotic fingers on those artificial limbs will soon have sensors that can detect some things, like heat and sweat, far more specifically than biological fingers. In time, every sense of ours will be improved and updated with technology that simply outmatches our biology.

How will this and all the other technologies affect sex for over seven billion people in the future? Probably dramatically—especially when it is combined with microchip implants. Erogenous zones and orgasms are simply the product of chemicals firing in the brain. If scientists can replicate that feeling by firing signals from an implanted chip or a brain wave headset, then it might even be the end of sex altogether. We’d turn on and off endless orgasms with our cell phone (or buzz our partners at will if they’ll allow us).

Hopefully it will be better than this.

Implants are becoming more commonplace. Recently, Dr. Theodore Schwartz and a New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center team put a cranial implant into an epileptic sufferer to help stop attacks. Other brain implant surgeries are now occurring to fight Alzheimer’s, a disease which affects over five million Americans. It’s not that big of a leap to imagine someone figuring out how to stimulate the sexual pleasure areas in the brain with an implant.

If all this seems crazy, then check out this WiFi-enabled vibrator called Vibease which will become available next month, according to its website. People can leave them in all day long, and enjoy for up to three hours of use whenever they want to. That might make you wonder about a lot of things in the future. Did your date really enjoy the spaghetti you made, or was something else going on?

The human species has come a long way in developing its sexual mores. Thankfully, many societies are philosophically and psychologically freer than ever to enjoy all that sex can be. But technologically, we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg for all for all that is coming, regardless of tastes and desires. Transhumanism has long centered on technologies that grant better health and extended longevity to people, but we shouldn’t forget that it will also make some of our most cherished experiences—like sex—a lot more fun in the future.

 

This article can also be found on the Motherboard website at http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-transhumanist-future-of-sex

The video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jae38H1_j-E

Video Info:

Published on May 1, 2014

Quantified Self Revolution

The quantified self revolution is the idea that as the data we accumulate on a daily basis grows and becomes more complete, our understanding of ourselves deepen and we can use that data to create better internal and external environments for ourselves.  The article is called Quantified Self revolution : Hello Human 2.0 and features a video in the Shots of Awe series with Jason Silva called Explore The “Quantified Self” Revolution with Jason Silva.

Quantified Self revolution : Hello Human 2.0

This week’s Quantified Self roundup features a filmmaker’s perception of the Quantified Self revolution, a platform that tracks everything in your life, and a design-savvy fitness tracker.

Human 2.0

Renowned filmmaker Jason Silva recently released a new video in his YouTube channel Shots of Awe wherein he talks about how amazing the Quantified Self revolution is.  Silva talks about how sensors obtaining all these data from millions of people can be used to better analyze a person and could well be the beginning of Human 2.0.

It’s certainly an interesting concept to ponder, and that’s what Silva does best.  The filmmaker’s been on a guest on theCUBE on at least one occasion, and we revisit his most recent appearance here, where he discusses Big Data and its impact on the consumer.

Tictrac

 

The biggest challenge right now in the Quantified Self revolution may be app fatigue, so it certainly doesn’t help that there are so many apps and gadgets available today.  To keep you get focused and on task, there’s a new platform that will help you keep track of all the tracking that matters.

Tictrac  allows you to sync all the apps and gadgets you are currently using so everything you need is in one place.  It tracks anything from your email, blood pressure, supermarket foods, food intake, your baby, and even the calories you burned during your workout.  And if you have just started with the quantified self revolution and your fitness tracker or app doesn’t offer other tracker, you can use Tictrac to track anything you please.

It is available in both mobile and web platform so you can check your progress anytime.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/64713784″>Tictrac</a&gt; from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/tictrac”>Tictrac</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Via Heartbeat Bracelet

 

If you’re still looking for a fashionable fitness tracker, you might want to check out the Via Heartbeat Bracelet.  The Via Heartbeat is still a Kickstarter project and has a long way to go to achieve its $300,000 funding goal.

What makes this fitness tracker different is that it looks simple but elegant and if people aren’t familiar with it, no one would guess that it’s a fitness tracker.  It is designed to fit comfortably and stay in place no matter how rigorous your workout routine is.  Via it’s web app, you can set your goals.  This will automatically sync with your bracelet and will glow various colors depending on which of your goals is being achieved.

If you are interested with this project, make sure to check out the project and help fund it.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/drbrenda/the-via-heartbeat-bracelet/widget/video.html

This article can also be found on the Silicone Angle website at http://siliconangle.com/blog/2013/11/13/quantified-self-revolution-hello-human-2-0/

The first video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjflrXDDU-w#t=89

The second video can also be found at https://vimeo.com/tictrac

The third video can also be found on the Kickstarter website at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/drbrenda/the-via-heartbeat-bracelet?ref=video

Video Info:

Published on Nov 5, 2013

“We will measure everything… and feed that information back into the system.”

The Quantified Self Revolution. You’ve heard the buzz term, but it’s the idea that as we extend computation into everything, and as we extend sensors into everything, we’re increasingly extending those sensors into ourselves – creating a data rich, always on stream of information about our biological functioning.

Join Jason Silva every week as he freestyles his way into the complex systems of society, technology and human existence and discusses the truth and beauty of science in a form of existential jazz. New episodes every Tuesday.

Watch More Shots of Awe on TestTube http://testtube.com/shotsofawe

Subscribe now! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_c…

Jason Silva on Twitter http://twitter.com/jasonsilva

Jason Silva on Facebook http://facebook.com/jasonlsilva

Jason Silva on Google+ http://plus.google.com/10290664595165…

Tictrac is a Lifestyle Design Platform that empowers people through their own data. Users can connect with health and fitness apps and devices they may already use, from blood pressure monitors, wireless weight scales, sleep/stress trackers, diet and activity monitors to email, calendar, weather and much more. We currently sync with over 50 services/devices from fitness (MyFitnessPal, Runkeeper, Endomondo) medical (Withings, VitaDock) personal (Fitbit, BodyMedia, Garmin) even social (Facebook, Twitter, Klout) adding new API integrations every week.

Users can visualise their data about themselves in personal dashboards that give them insights into how to improve their lifestyle. Users can also cross reference disparate sets of data to see how one aspect of their lives may affect another. They can then share their dashboards with professionals like their physician, personal trainer or coach who can interpret that data and tailor their programmes accordingly.

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