Showing posts with label transhumanism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label transhumanism. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Transcendent machines

"Someone once said plants invented animals to carry them around. Well, I think the Earth invented human beings to build machines; and those machines will be the consciousness of the Earth. Have you not noticed that these machines are made of the Earth? They are made of gold and silver and arsenic and copper and iridium. They are the stuff of the Earth, organised by primate fingers into more complex arrangements than the Earth could achieve through geological folding, glaciation, volcanism, what have you. We do the fine-tuning; but the Earth is beginning to think."

--Terence McKenna

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The hour is nigh.

Get Smarter (Jamais Cascio)

The end of the fossil-fuel era, the fragility of the global food web, growing population density, and the spread of pandemics, as well as the emergence of radically transformative bio- and nano­technologies -- each of these threatens us with broad disruption or even devastation. And as good as our brains have become at planning ahead, we're still biased toward looking for near-term, simple threats. Subtle, long-term risks, particularly those involving complex, global processes, remain devilishly hard for us to manage.

But here's an optimistic scenario for you: if the next several decades are as bad as some of us fear they could be, we can respond, and survive, the way our species has done time and again: by getting smarter. But this time, we don't have to rely solely on natural evolutionary processes to boost our intelligence. We can do it ourselves.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Only forward

(Hat tip: Dedroidify.)

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Monday, August 03, 2009

The semantic apocalypse

Welcome to the Semantic Apocalypse

What if our memories, experience, thoughts and worldview are all just a side effect of our brain's evolution? What if human consciousness as we know it is something we'll eventually evolve out of? What if we are essentially just a strange dream cooked up by a piece of meat that drives our bodies on a genetic mission to reproduce?

The day that scientific knowledge blots out human meaning -- that's the semantic apocalypse.

Image by Chris Butler.

Could sentience be a passing evolutionary phase? If so, what comes next? Elsewhere, I've wondered if the strange behavior exhibited by UFO occupants might reflect a post-sentient mode of being:

If we're dealing with aliens -- regardless whether or not they originate in space or on Earth -- maybe their clumsy, oblique interactions with us can be explained if they're endowed with intelligence but devoid of sentience. They could have taken an evolutionary route that bypassed awareness entirely, or they could have achieved a form of sentience only to lose it, perhaps by recklessly merging with their machines.

In hindsight, I suppose I shouldn't have used the word "recklessly." After all, we're conditioned to accept self-awareness as an advantage because it's a fundamental aspect our our existence; just because it seems "natural" or consoling now doesn't mean it will last. If the future survival of life on Earth entails ultimately jettisoning consciousness, perhaps we should welcome the prospect -- regardless how "cold" or alien it might seem from our slender perspective as social primates.

Once again I'm drawn to the prospect that the "Grays" function as posthuman metaphors summoned forth from the collective unconscious, their clinical disposition underscoring our own postbiological trajectory.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Augmented vision

I don't mind wearing glasses; I prefer them to the hassle that accompanies contacts. However, I'd be willing to reconsider if "bionic" lenses ever went commercial.

(Thanks to Grinding.)

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Biological printing

Watching this video, I felt a small but perceptible sense of wonder.

(Tip of the hat to Beyond the Beyond.)

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Friday, May 29, 2009

"Dreamers of a Better Future, Unite!"

Athena Andreadis has posted an excellent piece on Sentient Developments, lucidly arguing that space exploration and human augmentation are mutually advantageous endeavors.

A brief excerpt:

Yet no matter how palatable the methods and outcomes are, it seems to me that changes to humans will be inevitable if we ever want to go beyond the orbit of Pluto within one lifetime. Successful implementation of transhumanist techniques will help overcome the immense distances and inhospitable conditions of the journey. The undertaking will also bring about something that naysayers tend to dread as a danger: speciation. Any significant changes to human physiology (whether genetic or epigenetic) will change the thought/emotion processes of those altered, which will in turn modify their cultural responses, including mating preferences and kinship patterns.

Andreadis' proposal reminds me of speculation that the so-called "Grays" that play such a pivotal role in the modern UFO mythos are in fact genetically engineered for space travel. With its small, streamlined frame, the anatomy of a prototypical Gray might be ideal for long space voyages; if we chose to send a "generation ark" to a nearby star, we might very well design our astronauts along similar lines.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Under the knife

From: Next Nature:

Designer Laura Boffi envisions a future in which human instincts will leap behind on technological progress. For example, once the 'disease called mortality' is cured with regenerative medicine, man may start to see death not as a biological event in his life, but as something that may occur to the 'unlucky on call'. What would be the implications for our instincts for death?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Don't wear your jewelry. Be your jewelry!

Marta Lwin explains:

epiSkin jewelry extends biological identity by combining technology and design into a new decorative body surface. This project is an exploration into the decorative technological control over biology to create an artifact which is a hybrid of both. Cultured in a lab, this biological jewelry is made of epithelia cells which grow to create an artificial skin. The cells are grown into custom designed forms, controlled by the artist. The cells are incubated for a period of time, following which they are stained with a custom dye. The skin is then visibly sealed into a wearable object.

(Via Grinding.)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The abolition of suffering

A World Without Suffering? (David Pearce)

Smart neurostimulation, long-acting mood-enhancers, genetically re-engineering our hedonic "set-point" (etc) aren't therapeutic strategies associated with Buddhist tradition. Yet if we are morally serious about securing the well-being of all sentient life, then we have to exploit advanced technology to the fullest possible extent. Nothing else will work (short of some exotic metaphysics that is hard to reconcile with the scientific world-picture). Non-biological strategies to enrich psychological well-being have been tried on a personal level over thousands of years - and proved inadequate at best.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The art of Dominic Elvin

You can find more of Dominic Elvin's futuristic imagery here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The edge of human

George Dvorsky (Sentient Developments) poses essential questions about the slippery status of "personhood" and suggests some useful philosophical strategies:

What is a person?

Looking to the future, and as we move forward with NBIC technologies, we run the risk of denying essential basic liberties to intelligent and sentient beings should we fail to better elucidate what it means to be a person (whether they be non-human animals or artificially intelligent agents). As Glenn notes, we need to be prepared to ask, "How can we preserve our human rights and dignity despite the fact that our 'humanness' may no longer be the exclusive possession of Homo sapiens?"

Although Dvorksy is addressing animals, humans and posthuman intelligences, it's worth adding that his criteria will almost invariably discover further validity in the event that we establish contact with extraterrestrials.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The finger pointing at the Moon is not the Moon.

It looks like Chris Wren, one of my favorite bloggers, is throwing in the towel for the greener (?) pastures of Facebook. His "final thought" is worth the read:

Our creations may be fascinating and superficially exciting. They may make certain aspects of our lives more convenient, but they're never going to change who we are in any meaningful way. We can change our natures, improve ourselves and strive to create a better society. But as always, we still have to do that ourselves. That's the real meat of science fiction for me - it's not about technology changing us, it's about us having the vision to change who and what we are.

And while you're at it, be sure to take a look at Mondolithic Studios if you haven't already.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Coming to an epidermis near you

Conductive bodypaint

The material allows users to create custom electronics and interact with technology through intuitive gesture. It also allows information to be sent on the surface of the skin from person to person or person to object.

The formulation is carbon based and water-soluble: skin-safe and non-invasive. It may be applied in a number of ways including brushing on, stamping or spraying and has future potential for use with conventional printing processes on the body.

I'm reminded of the (still-conceptual) animated tattoos depicted here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


HAL exoskeleton can boost strength 10 times

The suit's "voluntary control system" works by capturing bio-electrical signals detected on the surface of the skin, before the muscles actually move. The system analyzes these signals to determine how much power the wearer intends to generate and calculates how much power assist must be generated by which power units. The power units then generate the necessary torque and the limbs move. All this takes place a split second before the muscles start moving, allowing the relevant robotic joints to move in unison with the wearer's muscles.

I'm not sure calling this thing "HAL" was the best marketing decision. I don't envy the person whose exoskeleton decides it has better things to do than, say, lift bricks.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Terence McKenna and artificial intelligence

"This is a medium so permeating, so inclusive of what we are, that its agenda, in a sense, supervenes the agenda of organic evolution and organic biology."

(Once again, tip of the hat to Dedroidify.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Honda develops brain interface for robot control

The system was not demonstrated on Tuesday but Honda did release a video of experiments. It shows a controller sitting in a chair with a large hemispheric scanner over his head, like the sit-down hair dryers you find in hair salons.

Both the EEG and NIRS techniques are established but the analyzing process for the data is new. Honda said the system uses statistical processing of the complex information to distinguish brain activities with high precision without any physical motion.

Just as compelling:

The next not-so-big thing: Nanogenerators

Such generators could be used to power sensors for detecting cancer or measuring blood sugar level for diabetics, Wang says. He adds that within five to 10 years, the technology will mature to the point that these generators could be placed in the soles of shoes or the fabric of clothes so that people will be able to power their iPods and cell phones using the mechanical energy created by the rustling of their clothes or compression of their shoe insoles as they walk.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lacoste envisions the future of tennis.

Was that a foul ball or a glitch in the Matrix?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I won't be satisfied until my spleen begins using Twitter.

Body 2.0 - Continuous Monitoring Of The Human Body

In the future your doctor might call you before you have a heart attack, responding to an alarm sent out by monitoring systems in your body that have detected the precursors to a heart attack hours or days ahead of time. With body 2.0, medicine dosages could be tailored precisely to your body chemistry and metabolism. Real-time monitoring of chemical concentrations in your blood could allow for increasing or decreasing dosages accordingly.

The huge amounts of data that would be accumulated from hundreds of thousands of continuously monitored people would be nothing short of a revolution for medical research and analysis. This data could be harvested to understand the minute by minute changes in body chemistry that occur in response to medication, stress, infection, and so on.

(Via Futurismic.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

David Brin on "uplift"

Noted science fiction writer David Brin is guest-blogging at Sentient Developments. First up is an evaluation of the contentious prospect of "animal uplift," a concept that Brin's novels helped define:

Artistically, of course, it is wonderful to work with characters who come from an uplifted species. I get to stretch my imagination, and the reader's, exploring what sapient dolphins or chimps might feel and think, under the pressure of such development, tugged between both the ancient instincts of their forebears and the new template being imposed upon them by their "patrons."

I see nothing philosophically wrong with animal uplift, but the concept is freighted with some alarming anthropocentric baggage. "Uplifting" animals to function as peers might sound liberatingly utopian, but the very notion of "peer" suggests, at least to me, beings more or less like ourselves.

As a potential "patron" race, we're bound to project our own preconceptions of personhood onto the animal species in question; our future uplifted friends might very well thank us, but they'll be doing so in a singularly human-like manner (in which case we might be better off poring our energies into the development of sentient machines instead of pretending to be faithful to a given species' zoological source code).

Well-intentioned as they are, proponents of animal uplift labor under the dubious assumption that there's something innately wrong (or at least existentially limiting) about animal-hood. On the other hand, anyone who's had a close relationship with an animal is bound to question such certainty. Sure, it might be nice to jam with my cats about quantum theory, but I sense they're quite content in their feline-hood -- and who am I to deprive them of that?

I'd go so far as to propose that animals are already engaging us in a meaningful dialogue, although perhaps not the sort of dialogue depicted in Brin's canon. That we've yet to understand our fellow mammals on their own terms remains an emasculating reminder that perhaps our "patronage" is neither needed nor desired.