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/

The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas by Butsugen Chigen

This article (The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas from H+ Magazine) is a Buddhist perspective on transhumanism.  While the idea of Buddhism as a religion still makes me a bit skeptical, I think the idea of Buddhism as a philosophy can be a powerful tool.  In fact, it is a tool (particularly the aspect of meditation) that has greatly shaped my life and I think the idea of a Bodhisattva is, hands down, the most beautiful concept of which I have heard.  Tranhumanist Bodhisattvas would throw good parties, indeed!  Definitely my kind of people…


 

The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas

The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas are group of transhumanists who seek to obtain the goals of transhumanism for the benefit of other sentient beings. Rather than solely for themselves, the Transhumanist Bodhisattvas work to benefit everyone and establish a world of universal and beneficial abundance.The Bodhisattvas base their approach  on the notion of bodhicitta or non-dual compassion and recognize that the universe consists of a series of complex interconnected networks that depend on each other in deep ways. Our illusion of separateness divides us, but it remains an illusion. We are connected.

Enlightenment is intimacy with all things.

While Transhumanist Bodhisattvas may not have literally taken the Bodhisattva Vow, they work towards the benefit of other sentient beings and they base their actions around bodhicitta as well as the proactionary principle. The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas seek to compassionately extend and expand human life, enhance joy, and end suffering. They throw good parties.

Each Transhumanist Bodhisattva performs altruistic activity in the world specifically directed towards the benefit of other sentient beings, but they need not be a scientist or engineer or have any academic training in particular. However, many of the members of this movement have scientific training or other academic credentials and wisdom and knowledge are valued as well as compassion. It is a philosophy born from the dual sources of applied reason and universal compassion.

Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken. Take heed, do not squander your life.

In Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhism the aspirant’s goal of practice is to be reborn an infinite numbers of times so that the aspirant can work to liberate other beings still trapped in samsāra. Transhumanist technologies hold out the promise of vastly extending life and potentially through cryonics or future developments unknown today of allowing transhumanists to return to life to continue their work. The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas plan to live a long time so they can help others do the same. They plan to return until they get it right.

The Ten Bulls is a buddhist text that presents a Zen Buddhist interpretation of the ten stages on the path of enlightenment experienced by a Bodhisattva as outlined in various Mahāyāna sūtras, most particularly the Avataṃsaka Sūtra. In the final or tenth stage, the student returns to the marketplace and mingles with humanity. The student returns, bearing a full wineskin and a smile.

“The Laughing Buddha” also known as “Hotei” was a wandering Chinese monk of the Tang Dynasty known for carrying a sack on his back, roaming the countryside, spreading joy and goodwill, especially to children. His sack contained endless treasures which he gave freely, characterizing his virtue of selfless giving. Transhumanist Bodhisattvas engage in DIY or other research efforts to extend and enhance human life. They do research or work with others and promote and communicate beneficial ideas widely. Bearing the fruits of their researches and efforts, they return to the marketplace to share the wine with a smile on their face.

Therefore the Bodhisattvas take the wandering monk Hotei as their patron and symbol. Hotei is also a symbol of the universal benign abundance we seek to achieve through transhumanist technologies for the benefit of all beings.

Recognizing the technical and scientific challenges and obstacles we may face in our most ambitious objectives of extending and enhancing life, we also recognize that we as individuals may not be able to personally benefit from all of these developments. Even if we extend life to several hundred years, millions would continue to die from age related diseases. We most certainly may be among them. The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas work diligently anyway, advancing the state of the art in cryonics, nanotechnology, genetics, robotics, and prosthetic design. If they are non-technical, they use their skills in communication to share the ideas of compassion based transhumanism.

The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas can be found around the fringes of the effective altruism movement, and they are as likely to be found reading Dogen as Kurzweil. Their interests include quantifying altruism, life extension and enhancement technologies, creating abundance, and technological systems which enhance well being and eliminate suffering. They seek to harness the singularity for the benefit of everyone and all beings. The two best known bodhisattvas in the Transhumanist Movement today are David Pearce and the IEET’s James Hughes but they are not alone.

Avalokiteśvara the Buddha of compassion is said to have 1000 arms each with which to reach out to help those who are suffering. The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas however still number much less than 1000. They need your help.

Myriad sentient beings remain trapped in samsāra, suffering, destined to die from aging and disease. No task is too small for a Transhumanist Bodhisattva if it is based in compassion. Seemingly small actions can have large effects, benefit others, and outlast their originators. Compassion starts with those closest to you, right where you are, right now. Reach out to help someone that needs you.

If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?

###

Quotations from Zenji Dogen. Hotei image artist unknown.


This article can also be found at http://hplusmagazine.com/2014/08/20/transhumanist-bodhisattvas/

 

Transcendance with Johnny Depp – Transhuman Movies

I thought the film Transcendence with Johnny Depp would be a good start form my new Transhuman Movies category because it is based on technology that some of the greatest thinkers and organizations (like DARPA and Google) are working on even as I type (Don’t believe me?  Just have a look around Dawn of Giants and then tell me what you think.).

Transcendence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Spoiler Alert!  Read no further until you have seen the movie…

This movie got terrible reviews, but I loved it.  I only had one problem with the movie itself; the typical Hollywood ending.  Do you really think a human, no matter how smart, would be able to write a virus that could stop a god-like, post-singularity consciousness?  The idea is absurd, however I also understand how hard it would be to write a realistic ending for Transcendence because a post-biological entity would be intelligent past our current ability to understand.  I remedied this little imaginative hiccup by actively suspending my disbelief (the same thing religious people subconsciously do in order to keep their faith*).

Here’s my other problem and it’s actually not with the actual movie at all.  I read several reviews for Transcendence and they all say something like “a cautionary tale” or I read one review which called the movie “Hollywood’s bizarre techno-idiocy” (the reviewer who wrote this is Andrew O’Hehir).  While the latter is just technological ignorance** by someone who is obviously oblivious to what is going on in the tech world, the former just struck me as out of context.  To whom is this a cautionary tale?  Anyone who ‘transcends’ – especially if they have already mastered nanotechnology – would basically be untouchable by unaugmented humans.  On the flip side, William Caster (played by Johnny Depp) was actually acting as a benefactor to humanity and what do us primitive, ape-people do?  We attack without provocation.

I think the ‘cautionary tale’ for us should be that we need to evolve passed our petty, small-minded, ego-centric, dull-witted meat-minds before we decide to lay judgement on an entity who’s only crime was to be smarter and adherent to higher ethical standards that the rest of humanity.

All in all, Transcendence is definitely a ‘must see’ for anyone interested in Transhumanism (and we all should be because it sure looks like that’s where we’re headed).  With names like Johnny Depp, Morgan FreemanRebecca HallPaul BettanyCillian Murphy, and Kate Mara, you know it’s going to be well acted.  Transcendence had a (mostly) well-written plot and the special effects were visually appealing.  I would like to see more movies like this.  If you haven’t seen Transcendence, check out the trailer below.

*I just couldn’t resist…

**Maybe techno-idiocy would be a better description?  Seriously though, O’Hehir’s review reads like a mixture of suppressed jealousy for Johnny Depp (as an actor, mainly, but maybe for the Depp’s character as well) and small-minded conservative paranoia.  Andrew, if you read this, you had better open you eyes to what is happening in the world right now or you’re going to be in for a nasty shock.  The only person you are hurting by staying in the dark is yourself.


Runtime:2:31

Video Info:

Published on Dec 20, 2013

TRAILERS FORMAT:
Subscribe to TRAILERS: http://bit.ly/sxaw6h
Subscribe to COMING SOON: http://bit.ly/H2vZUn
Like us on FACEBOOK: http://goo.gl/dHs73
Transcendence Official Trailer #1 (2014) – Johnny Depp Sci-Fi Movie HD

Two leading computer scientists work toward their goal of Technological Singularity, as a radical anti-technology organization fights to prevent them from creating a world where computers can transcend the abilities of the human brain.

The Movieclips Trailers channel is your destination for the hottest new trailers the second they drop. Whether it’s the latest studio release, an indie horror flick, an evocative documentary, or that new RomCom you’ve been waiting for, the Movieclips team is here day and night to make sure all the best new movie trailers are here for you the moment they’re released.

In addition to being the #1 Movie Trailers Channel on YouTube, we deliver amazing and engaging original videos each week. Watch our exclusive Ultimate Trailers, Showdowns, Instant Trailer Reviews, Monthly MashUps, Movie News, and so much more to keep you in the know.

Here at Movieclips, we love movies as much as you!

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.

darpa bit04

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.

darpa bit18

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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 9.56.11 AM

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.

darpa bit38

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.

darpa bit28 darpa bit32 darpa bit34

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/

Transhumanism and Religion by John G. Messerly

Here is an excellent, bite-sized article from John G. Messerly on the IEET website called simply Transhumanism and Religion.  In the article, Messerly presents a case for why he considers religion to be premature transhumanism.  


 

Transhumanism and Religion

 

By John G. Messerly
The Meaning of Life

Transhumanism is: The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities … transhumanism is a way of thinking about the future that is based on the premise that the human species in its current form does not represent the end of our development but rather a comparatively early phase.1<sup< p=””>

Transhumanism appears to have nothing in common with religion, defined as: “the belief in and worship of a god or gods, or any such system of belief and worship…”In transhumanism the gods play no role.

Yet the two are not entirely dissimilar. Religious people generally want to overcome the limitations of the body and live forever, just like transhumanists. Arising before transhumanist ideas were conceivable, religions had no other option but to advise their followers to accept death and hope for the best. Religious beliefs provided comfort in the face of death and natural evils before the advent of science and technology. We might think of religion as premature transhumanism. Religion is not the opposite of transhumanism but a seed from which transhumanism can grow.

However today the comfort provided by archaic religious superstitions impedes advancement and therefore should be set aside. We need to grow beyond religion. But must we relinquish religious beliefs now, before science gives us everything we want? Yes. The most important reason to abandon religious belief is religion’s opposition to most forms of progress. For the most part religion has opposed: the elimination of slavery, the use of birth control, women’s and civil rights, stem cell research, genetic engineering, and science in general. Religion is from our past; it opposes the future.

Can humans function without the old religious narratives? They can, they just need new narratives based on a scientific worldview. Such narratives could be transhumanist, of humans playing their role as links in a chain leading to greater forms of being and consciousness; or perhaps they will focus on the idea that cosmic evolution is the story of the universe becoming self-conscious through conscious beings like ourselves. Whatever shape those narratives take, they must be informed by the belief that humans can evolve into something much more than they are now.

But against this seemingly infinite temporal background, what of the significance of a single, finite human life, and what is the significance of all of cosmic evolution? We are significant if we play our part in advancing evolution, if we accept our role as the protagonists of the evolutionary epic. And if we succeed our post-human descendants will understand these ultimate questions, giving our own lives—by then long past—a significance we can now hardly fathom. For the moment we must take solace in the hope that the better world we imagine is indeed possible.

1. This quote is from the Humanity+ website’s FAQ section.

2. From “The Cambridge International Dictionary of English.”

Having introduced transhumanists ideas to university students over the years, I am familiar with typical objections to transhumanist philosophy: if we don’t die the world will become overpopulated; not having a body would be yucky; this is all science fiction; lots of things can go wrong; technology is bad; death makes life meaningful; immortality would be boring; etc.

So I was surprised after yesterday’s post to receive hostile responses of the “we shouldn’t play god,” or “we should let nature take its course” variety. You can find similar critiques at links like : “The Catholic Church Declares War on Transhumanism”  and “Transhumanism: Mankind’s Greatest Threat.” Here is a statement from the latter:

Various organizations desire to use emerging technology to create a human species so enhanced that they cease to be humans. They will be post-humans with the potential of living forever. If these sciences are not closely monitored and regulated, transhumanists’ arrogant quest to create a post-human species will become a direct assault on human dignity and an attack on God’s sovereignty as Creator. We must decide on an unmovable line now, one that upholds human dignity based on Biblical Truth.

It is no longer enough to be pro-life; we have now entered a time when we must be pro-human. Education about the full implications of these emerging sciences is a key to be able to directly confront these assaults on humanity.

If one truly believes that humans should accept their fate, that they were specially designed and created by the gods, and that the divine plans includes evil and death, then the condemnations of transhumanism are justified. But will this opposition succeed? I doubt it. Most do not desire to go back to the middle ages, when believers prayed sincerely and then died miserably.

Today some still consult faith healers, but the intelligent go to their physicians. Everything about technology plays god, and letting nature takes its course means that half the people reading this article would have died in childbirth or from childhood diseases before the advent of modern medicine.

Still there are good reasons to be cautious about designing and using future technologies, as Bill Joy outlined more than a decade ago in “Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us.”  (Here is my published criticism of Joy’s argument.) Yes, we should be cautious about the future, but we should not stand still.

​Do we really want to turn the clock back 100 years before computers and modern medicine? Do we really want to freeze technology at its current level? Look before we leap, certainly, but leap we must. If we do nothing, eventually we will go extinct: asteroids will hit the planet, the climate will change irrevocably, bacteria will evolve uncontrollably, and in the far future the sun will burn out. Only advanced technologies give us a chance against such forces.

If we do nothing we will die; if we gain more knowledge and the power that accompanies it, we have a chance. With no risk-free way to proceed, we should be brave and bold, unafraid to guide our own destiny.

Perhaps the best way to illuminate the choice is to consider a previous choice human beings faced in their history. What should they do about disease? Should they pray to the gods and have faith that the gods will cure them, or should they use science and technology to find the cures themselves? In hindsight the answer is clear. Praying to the gods makes no difference, whereas using modern medicine has limited death and disease, and nearly doubled the human lifespan in the last century.

When medieval Europeans contracted the plague they prayed hard … and then died miserably. Other examples also easily come to mind. What is the best way to predict weather, harness energy, capture sound, achieve flight, communicate over great distances, or fly to far off planets? In none of these cases is doing nothing and hoping for the best a good bet. All of the above were achieved through the use of science and technology.

These examples highlight another advantage to making the transhumanist wager—the incremental benefits that accrue as we live longer and better lives as we approach the holy grail of a blissful immortality. Such benefits provide assurance that we are on the right path, which should increase our confidence that we are making the correct wager. In fact, the benefits already bestowed upon us by science and technology in the past confirm that it is the best path toward a better future. (Half the readers of this essay would have died from a childhood disease just a century ago.) As these benefits accumulate, and as we become aware of them, our existence will become increasingly indistinguishable from the most enchanting descriptions of any afterlife.

So we should throw off archaic superstitions and use our technology? Yes Will we do this? Yes. I can say with confidence that when an effective pill that stops or reverses aging becomes available at your local pharmacy—it will be popular. Or if, as you approach death, you are offered the opportunity to have your intact consciousness transferred to your younger cloned body, a genetically engineered body, a robotic body, or a virtual reality, most will use such technologies when they have been shown to be effective. By then almost everyone will prefer the real thing to a leap of faith. At that point there will be no need to make a transhumanist wager. The transhumanist will already have won the be

However at the moment the above is science fiction and subject to trillions of variables. Contingent factors beyond our imagination will lead to some unimaginable future, or no future at all. Thus evolutionary progress is not inevitable, and in no way do our views entail technological optimism—technology can be used for good or ill.

But even if our technology can lead to a glorious future, it could be halted by terrestrial or celestial disasters, or by dogmatists, zealots, religious fanatics, and others who oppose progress. The opponents may have legitimate fears about the repercussions of future technologies, but they may also be guided by ignorance and irrationality.

They may long for a past paradise, fear what they don’t understand, believe they possess a monopoly on the truth, or think humans subservient to super beings. But for whatever reasons they oppose change, preferring stasis and stagnation to dynamic, progressive evolutionism. They prefer to prevent the groundswell of initiative, creativity, inventiveness, perseverance, and hope that drive evolution forward. They are fearful that the new world will render them and their beliefs, anachronistic. They are the enemies of the future.

But if the surge of cosmic longing presses forward, then higher forms of being and consciousness will emerge, and the universe will become increasingly self-consciousness. This is the story of cosmic evolution, of a universe becoming self-conscious through the creation of conscious beings. Humans are not an end, but a beginning. They need not fear imaginary gods, but need instead to have the courage to create minds more powerful than the gods. Let the dark ages not again descend upon us—let our most fantastic longings be realized. Let us have faith in the future.


John G. Messerly is an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET. He received his PhD in philosophy from St. Louis University in 1992. His most recent book is The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific, and Transhumanist Perspectives. He blogs daily on issues of philosophy, evolution, futurism and the meaning of life at his website: reasonandmeaning.com.

This article can also be found at http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/messerly20150118

Cyborg Science: Ultrathin Nanowires can Monitor and Influence What Goes on Inside Your Brain

This is a short article from the humanity+ website called Cyborg Science: Ultrathin Nanowires can Monitor and Influence What Goes on Inside Your Brain.  This is some revolutionary brain science.  It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that this kind of tech will open worlds of possibilities in brain science.

Cyborg Science: Ultrathin Nanowires can Monitor and Influence What Goes on Inside Your Brain

F

No longer just fantastical fodder for sci-fi buffs, cyborg technology is bringing us tangible progress toward real-life electronic skin, prosthetics and ultra-flexible circuits. Now taking this human-machine concept to an unprecedented level, pioneering scientists are working on the seamless marriage between electronics and brain signaling with the potential to transform our understanding of how the brain works — and how to treat its most devastating diseases.

“By focusing on the nanoelectronic connections between cells, we can do things no one has done before,” says Charles M. Lieber, Ph.D. “We’re really going into a new size regime for not only the device that records or stimulates cellular activity, but also for the whole circuit. We can make it really look and behave like smart, soft biological material, and integrate it with cells and cellular networks at the whole-tissue level. This could get around a lot of serious health problems in neurodegenerative diseases in the future.”

These disorders, such as Parkinson’s, that involve malfunctioning nerve cells can lead to difficulty with the most mundane and essential movements that most of us take for granted: walking, talking, eating and swallowing.

Scientists are working furiously to get to the bottom of neurological disorders. But they involve the body’s most complex organ — the brain — which is largely inaccessible to detailed, real-time scrutiny. This inability to see what’s happening in the body’s command center hinders the development of effective treatments for diseases that stem from it.

By using nanoelectronics, it could become possible for scientists to peer for the first time inside cells, see what’s going wrong in real time and ideally set them on a functional path again.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 11.05.41 AM

For the past several years, Lieber has been working to dramatically shrink cyborg science to a level that’s thousands of times smaller and more flexible than other bioelectronic research efforts. His team has made ultrathin nanowires that can monitor and influence what goes on inside cells. Using these wires, they have built ultra-flexible, 3-D mesh scaffolding with hundreds of addressable electronic units, and they have grown living tissue on it. They have also developed the tiniest electronic probe ever that can record even the fastest signaling between cells.

Rapid-fire cell signaling controls all of the body’s movements, including breathing and swallowing, which are affected in some neurodegenerative diseases. And it’s at this level where the promise of Lieber’s most recent work enters the picture.

In one of the lab’s latest directions, Lieber’s team is figuring out how to inject their tiny, ultraflexible electronics into the brain and allow them to become fully integrated with the existing biological web of neurons. They’re currently in the early stages of the project and are working with rat models.

“It’s hard to say where this work will take us,” he says. “But in the end, I believe our unique approach will take us on a path to do something really revolutionary.”

Their presentation is taking place at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. The meeting features nearly 12,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics and is being held here through Thursday.

Lieber acknowledges funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Air Force.

 

This article can also be found here.

Interview with Transhumanist Zoltan Istvan

Here is an interview from Reason.tv with Zoltan Istvan called What If You Could Live for 10,000 years? Q&A with Transhumanist Zoltan Istvan.  

Zoltan is the transhumanist party’s candidate for US presidency in 2016.  Even though I am not a religious person, I like how Zoltan reconciles transhumanism with religion*.  The interview also covers various other transhumanist ideas and themes.  I still don’t think this will be our next president, but I’m curious to see where his campaign leads us.  At very least, I’m hoping Zoltan’s campaign will bring the transhumanist debate to the forefront of our cultural awareness.

*Personally, I often wonder how many religious people there would be if the concept of hell had never been fabricated (because, really, how evil would you have to be to even allow a hell to exist in the first place?).  

Runtime: 9:58

This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Pi52PNL_c0

Video Info:

Published on Feb 6, 2015

“I’m not saying let’s live forever,” says Zoltan Istvan, transhumanist author, philosopher, and political candidate. “I think what we want is the choice to be able to live indefinitely. That might be 10,000 years; that might only be 170 years.”

Istvan devoted his life to transhumanism after nearly stepping on an old landmine while reporting for National Geographic channel in Vietnam’s demilitarized zone.

“I’d say the number one goal of transhumanism is trying to conquer death,” says Istvan.

Reason TV’s Zach Weissmueller interviewed Istvan about real-world life-extension technology ranging from robotic hearts to cryogenic stasis, Istvan’s plan to run for president under the banner of the Transhumanist party, the overlap between the LGBT movement and transhumanism, and the role that governments play in both aiding and impeding transhumanist goals.

Approximately 10 minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Justin Monticello and Paul Detrick. Music by Anix Gleo and nthnl.

Visit http://reason.com/reasontv for downloadable versions of this interview, and subscribe to Reason TV’s YouTube channel for daily content like this.

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.”

14TL3681_1

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.

14TL_3681_fig2

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