Blog

Archive for the ‘biological’ category

Nov 26, 2014

Astronauts Just Found Life In Outer Space — And Scientists Aren’t Sure How It Got There

Posted by in category: biological

By Zak Cheney-Rice  — News.Mic

The news: Russian cosmonauts have discovered something remarkable clinging to the outside of the International Space Station: living organisms.

The microscopic creatures appeared during a space walk intended to clean the vessel’s surface, and were allegedly identified — incredibly — as a type of sea plankton. This is big: According to Sploid, Russian scientists are both “shocked by [the] discovery and can’t really explain how [it] is possible.”

Continue reading “Astronauts Just Found Life In Outer Space — And Scientists Aren't Sure How It Got There” »


Nov 7, 2014

Plant Engineered to Supercharge Photosynthesis with Hopes of Increasing Crop Yields

Posted by in categories: biological, environmental

Written By: — Singularity Hub

tobacco-plant

While computers scientists find new ways to supercharge computers, a team of plant scientists have demonstrated that they can supercharge a plant.

Hoping to speed up plant photosynthesis, researchers from the US and UK have successfully upgraded a carbon-fixing enzyme vital to photosynthesis in a tobacco plant with two enzymes from cyanobacteria, which function at a faster rate. If photosynthesis can be performed more efficiently, plants would grow larger and crops could have higher yields, possibly as high as 60% according to computer models.

Continue reading “Plant Engineered to Supercharge Photosynthesis with Hopes of Increasing Crop Yields” »


Nov 5, 2014

The Exponential Nature of Ebola

Posted by in categories: biological, existential risks

The Exponential Nature of Ebola

Otto E. Rossler

Institute for Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, University of Tubingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 8, 72076 Tubingen, Germany

Inscribed on the UN Building:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul;
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain;
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
(Saadi, 1210–1292)

Continue reading “The Exponential Nature of Ebola” »


Nov 4, 2014

Homni: The new superorganism taking over Earth

Posted by in category: biological

Gaia Vince — BBC Future

(Nasa)

In Ancient Greek mythology, the Earth Goddess Gaia had nine titan sons, who attempted to control not just the Earth, but the entire Universe. I’d like to introduce another. It’s a new creature who emerged only in recent decades. But it’s a creature who is already as influential over life on the planet as the phytoplankton or forests that regulate global temperature, the weather and the air we breathe.

That new creature is us, or more precisely, what humanity is becoming. The entirety of our species, Homo sapiens, is evolving into a superorganism; I’ll call this new life force Homo omnis, or ‘Homni’.

Read more

Oct 31, 2014

Force of nature gave life its asymmetry

Posted by in category: biological

Elizabeth Gibney — Nature

Physicists have found hints that the asymmetry of life — the fact that most biochemical molecules are ‘left-handed’ or ‘right-handed’ — could have been caused by electrons from nuclear decay in the early days of evolution. In an experiment that took 13 years to perfect1, the researchers have found that these electrons tend to destroy certain organic molecules slightly more often than they destroy their mirror images.

Many organic molecules, including glucose and most biological amino acids, are ‘chiral’. This means that they are different than their mirror-image molecules, just like a left and a right glove are. Moreover, in such cases life tends to consistently use one of the possible versions — for example, the DNA double helix in its standard form always twists like a right-handed screw. But the reason for this preference has long remained a mystery.

Read more

Oct 28, 2014

One of science’s most baffling questions? Why we yawn

Posted by in category: biological

Oct 17, 2014

Alchemy vs Networks: The cure for ageing will come — but it will not be something physical

Posted by in categories: aging, biotech/medical, complex systems, evolution, life extension, transhumanism

Since ancient times people have been searching for the secret of immortality. Their quest has always been, without exception, about a physical item: a fountain, an elixir, an Alchemist’s remedy, a chalice, a pill, an injection of stem cells or a vial containing gene-repairing material. It has never been about an abstract concept.

Our inability to find a physical cure for ageing is explained by a simple fact: We cannot find it because it does not exist. It will never exist.

Those who believe that someday some guy is going to discover a pill or a remedy and give it to people so that we will all live forever are, regrettably, deluded.

I should highlight here that I refer to a cure for the ageing process in general, and not a cure for a specific medical disease. Biotechnology and other physical therapies are useful in alleviating many diseases and ailments, but these therapies will not be the answer to the basic biological process of ageing.

Continue reading “Alchemy vs Networks: The cure for ageing will come — but it will not be something physical” »


Oct 13, 2014

2014 Longevity and Genetics Conference – Keynote Aubrey de Grey

Posted by in categories: aging, biological, biotech/medical, DNA, events, genetics, life extension, science

Western Canada’s most futurist-oriented longevity organization, the Lifespan Society of British Columbia, has organized a first-class life extension conference, which will take place later this fall in the heart of downtown Vancouver. The Longevity and Genetics Conference 2014 offers a full-day of expert presentations, made accessible to a general audience, with keynote on the latest developments in biorejuvination by Aubrey de Grey of SENS Research Foundation. The conference will be interactive, with a panel session for audience questions, and VIP options for further interaction with speakers.

ImageofAubreydeGrey

Aubrey de Grey

Who will be there? In addition to Aubrey de Grey, there are four other speakers confirmed thus far: Dr. Angela Brooks-Wilson, Head of Cancer Genetics at the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at the BC Cancer Agency, Dr. S. Jay Olshansky, Board of Directors of the American Federation of Aging Research, and co-author of The Quest for Immortality: Science at the Frontiers of Aging, Dr. Clinton Mielke, former Mayo Clinic researcher and founder of the quantified self platform “infino.me”, and lastly, one of futurism’s most experienced and dedicated radical longevity advocates, Benjamin Best, who is currently Director of Research Oversight at the Life Extension Foundation. This conference is a multi-disciplinary event, engaging several points of interest and relevance in the longevity space, from the cellular, genetic science of aging, to the latest epidemiological and even demographic research. You can also expect discussion on personalized medicine and quantified self technologies, as well as big picture, sociological and philosophical, longevity-specific topics.

All around, the 2014 Longevity and Genetics conference, set to take place Saturday November 15, has a lot to offer, as does the host city of Vancouver. A recent study has indicated that a majority of Canadians, 59%, are in favor of life extension technology, with 47% expecting that science and technology will enable living until 120 by 2050. The Lifespan Society of British Columbia is keeping that momentum and enthusiasm alive and growing, and I’m glad they have organized such a high-calliber event. Tickets are currently still available. Learn more about the event and purchase tickets here.

Continue reading “2014 Longevity and Genetics Conference – Keynote Aubrey de Grey” »


Oct 1, 2014

The Abolition of Medicine as a Goal for Humanity 2.0

Posted by in categories: aging, biological, bionic, biotech/medical, ethics, futurism, genetics, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, medical, philosophy, policy, transhumanism

What follows is my position piece for London’s FutureFest 2013, the website for which no longer exists.

Medicine is a very ancient practice. In fact, it is so ancient that it may have become obsolete. Medicine aims to restore the mind and body to their natural state relative to an individual’s stage in the life cycle. The idea has been to live as well as possible but also die well when the time came. The sense of what is ‘natural’ was tied to statistically normal ways of living in particular cultures. Past conceptions of health dictated future medical practice. In this respect, medical practitioners may have been wise but they certainly were not progressive.

However, this began to change in the mid-19th century when the great medical experimenter, Claude Bernard, began to champion the idea that medicine should be about the indefinite delaying, if not outright overcoming, of death. Bernard saw organisms as perpetual motion machines in an endless struggle to bring order to an environment that always threatens to consume them. That ‘order’ consists in sustaining the conditions needed to maintain an organism’s indefinite existence. Toward this end, Bernard enthusiastically used animals as living laboratories for testing his various hypotheses.

Historians identify Bernard’s sensibility with the advent of ‘modern medicine’, an increasingly high-tech and aspirational enterprise, dedicated to extending the full panoply of human capacities indefinitely. On this view, scientific training trumps practitioner experience, radically invasive and reconstructive procedures become the norm, and death on a physician’s watch is taken to be the ultimate failure. Humanity 2.0 takes this way of thinking to the next level, which involves the abolition of medicine itself. But what exactly would that mean – and what would replace it?

Continue reading “The Abolition of Medicine as a Goal for Humanity 2.0” »


Sep 18, 2014

Why Superintelligence May Not Help Us Think about Existential Risks — or Transhumanism

Posted by in categories: alien life, biological, cyborg, defense, disruptive technology, ethics, existential risks, futurism, homo sapiens, human trajectories, internet, military, philosophy, policy, posthumanism, science, singularity, transhumanism

Among transhumanists, Nick Bostrom is well-known for promoting the idea of ‘existential risks’, potential harms which, were they come to pass, would annihilate the human condition altogether. Their probability may be relatively small, but the expected magnitude of their effects are so great, so Bostrom claims, that it is rational to devote some significant resources to safeguarding against them. (Indeed, there are now institutes for the study of existential risks on both sides of the Atlantic.) Moreover, because existential risks are intimately tied to the advancement of science and technology, their probability is likely to grow in the coming years.

Contrary to expectations, Bostrom is much less concerned with ecological suicide from humanity’s excessive carbon emissions than with the emergence of a superior brand of artificial intelligence – a ‘superintelligence’. This creature would be a human artefact, or at least descended from one. However, its self-programming capacity would have run amok in positive feedback, resulting in a maniacal, even self-destructive mission to rearrange the world in the image of its objectives. Such a superintelligence may appear to be quite ruthless in its dealings with humans, but that would only reflect the obstacles that we place, perhaps unwittingly, in the way of the realization of its objectives. Thus, this being would not conform to the science fiction stereotype of robots deliberately revolting against creators who are now seen as their inferiors.

I must confess that I find this conceptualisation of ‘existential risk’ rather un-transhumanist in spirit. Bostrom treats risk as a threat rather than as an opportunity. His risk horizon is precautionary rather than proactionary: He focuses on preventing the worst consequences rather than considering the prospects that are opened up by whatever radical changes might be inflicted by the superintelligence. This may be because in Bostrom’s key thought experiment, the superintelligence turns out to be the ultimate paper-clip collecting machine that ends up subsuming the entire planet to its task, destroying humanity along the way, almost as an afterthought.

But is this really a good starting point for thinking about existential risk? Much more likely than total human annihilation is that a substantial portion of humanity – but not everyone – is eliminated. (Certainly this captures the worst case scenarios surrounding climate change.) The Cold War remains the gold standard for this line of thought. In the US, the RAND Corporation’s chief analyst, Herman Kahn — the model for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove – routinely, if not casually, tossed off scenarios of how, say, a US-USSR nuclear confrontation would serve to increase the tolerance for human biological diversity, due to the resulting proliferation of genetic mutations. Put in more general terms, a severe social disruption provides a unique opportunity for pursuing ideals that might otherwise be thwarted by a ‘business as usual’ policy orientation.

Continue reading “Why Superintelligence May Not Help Us Think about Existential Risks -- or Transhumanism” »


Page 1 of 1612345678Last