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Archive for the ‘homo sapiens’ category

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” »


Jul 20, 2014

Humans Aren’t the Pinnacle of Evolution and Consciousness—We’re Only a Rung on the Ladder

Posted by in categories: biological, DNA, evolution, homo sapiens, posthumanism, transhumanism

Written By: — Singularity Hub
http://cdn.singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/universe-comes-to-know-itself-1.jpg
In his latest video, host of National Geographic’s Brain Games and techno-poet, Jason Silva, explores the universe’s tendency to self-organize. Biology, he says, seems to have agency and directionality toward greater complexity, and humans are the peak.

“It’s like human beings seem to be the cutting edge,” Silva says. “The evolutionary pinnacle of self-awareness becoming aware of its becoming.”

Read more

Jun 19, 2014

Amazing People with Real Superpowers

Posted by in categories: evolution, geopolitics, homo sapiens

Brent Swancer — Mysterious Universe

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The world of comics and movies is full of superheroes and characters with abilities that transcend what is possible for the typical person. We enjoy these stories because we can escape our reality and imagine what it would be like to have amazing powers of our own. Yet, a gifted few in this world don’t have to imagine because like the superheroes in comics and movies, they too have extraordinary powers beyond normal humans.

Here we will look at a selection of real world people with remarkable powers and abilities that surpass those of us mere mortals.

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May 10, 2014

What to make of the film ‘Transcendence’? Show it in classrooms.

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, augmented reality, bionic, computing, cyborg, disruptive technology, existential risks, fun, futurism, homo sapiens, human trajectories, innovation, nanotechnology, philosophy, posthumanism, privacy, robotics/AI, science, singularity, transhumanism

transcendenceI recently saw the film Transcendence with a close friend. If you can get beyond Johnny Depp’s siliconised mugging of Marlon Brando and Rebecca Hall’s waddling through corridors of quantum computers, Transcendence provides much to think about. Even though Christopher Nolan of Inception fame was involved in the film’s production, the pyrotechnics are relatively subdued – at least by today’s standards. While this fact alone seems to have disappointed some viewers, it nevertheless enables you to focus on the dialogue and plot. The film is never boring, even though nothing about it is particularly brilliant. However, the film stays with you, and that’s a good sign. Mark Kermode at the Guardian was one of the few reviewers who did the film justice.

The main character, played by Depp, is ‘Will Caster’ (aka Ray Kurzweil, but perhaps also an allusion to Hans Castorp in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain). Caster is an artificial intelligence researcher based at Berkeley who, with his wife Evelyn Caster (played by Hall), are trying to devise an algorithm capable of integrating all of earth’s knowledge to solve all of its its problems. (Caster calls this ‘transcendence’ but admits in the film that he means ‘singularity’.) They are part of a network of researchers doing similar things. Although British actors like Hall and the key colleague Paul Bettany (sporting a strange Euro-English accent) are main players in this film, the film itself appears to transpire entirely within the borders of the United States. This is a bit curious, since a running assumption of the film is that if you suspect a malevolent consciousness uploaded to the internet, then you should shut the whole thing down. But in this film at least, ‘the whole thing’ is limited to American cyberspace.

Before turning to two more general issues concerning the film, which I believe may have led both critics and viewers to leave unsatisfied, let me draw attention to a couple of nice touches. First, the leader of the ‘Revolutionary Independence from Technology’ (RIFT), whose actions propel the film’s plot, explains that she used to be an advanced AI researcher who defected upon witnessing the endless screams of a Rhesus monkey while its entire brain was being digitally uploaded. Once I suspended my disbelief in the occurrence of such an event, I appreciate it as a clever plot device for showing how one might quickly convert from being radically pro– to anti-AI, perhaps presaging future real-world targets for animal rights activists. Second, I liked the way in which quantum computing was highlighted and represented in the film. Again, what we see is entirely speculative, yet it highlights the promise that one day it may be possible to read nature as pure information that can be assembled according to need to produce what one wants, thereby rendering our nanotechnology capacities virtually limitless. 3D printing may be seen as a toy version of this dream.

Now on to the two more general issues, which viewers might find as faults, but I think are better treated as what the Greeks called aporias (i.e. open questions):

Continue reading “What to make of the film 'Transcendence'? Show it in classrooms.” »


Apr 23, 2014

Book Review: The Human Race to the Future by Daniel Berleant (2013) (A Lifeboat Foundation publication)

Posted by in categories: aging, alien life, asteroid/comet impacts, biotech/medical, business, climatology, disruptive technology, driverless cars, drones, economics, education, energy, engineering, ethics, evolution, existential risks, food, futurism, genetics, government, habitats, hardware, health, homo sapiens, human trajectories, information science, innovation, life extension, lifeboat, medical, nanotechnology, neuroscience, nuclear, philosophy, policy, posthumanism, robotics/AI, science, scientific freedom, security, singularity, space, space travel, sustainability, transhumanism

From CLUBOF.INFO

The Human Race to the Future (2014 Edition) is the scientific Lifeboat Foundation think tank’s publication first made available in 2013, covering a number of dilemmas fundamental to the human future and of great interest to all readers. Daniel Berleant’s approach to popularizing science is more entertaining than a lot of other science writers, and this book contains many surprises and useful knowledge.

Some of the science covered in The Human Race to the Future, such as future ice ages and predictions of where natural evolution will take us next, is not immediately relevant in our lives and politics, but it is still presented to make fascinating reading. The rest of the science in the book is very linked to society’s immediate future, and deserves great consideration by commentators, activists and policymakers because it is only going to get more important as the world moves forward.

The book makes many warnings and calls for caution, but also makes an optimistic forecast about how society might look in the future. For example, It is “economically possible” to have a society where all the basics are free and all work is essentially optional (a way for people to turn their hobbies into a way of earning more possessions) (p. 6–7).

Continue reading “Book Review: The Human Race to the Future by Daniel Berleant (2013) (A Lifeboat Foundation publication)” »


Apr 1, 2014

The White Swan’s Beyond Eureka and Sputnik Moments! [Treatise Excerpt] By Mr. Andres Agostini

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, aging, alien life, astronomy, augmented reality, automation, big data, biological, bionic, bioprinting, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, computing, cosmology, counterterrorism, cybercrime/malcode, cyborg, defense, disruptive technology, driverless cars, drones, economics, education, energy, engineering, environmental, ethics, evolution, existential risks, exoskeleton, finance, food, futurism, genetics, geopolitics, government, habitats, hardware, health, homo sapiens, human trajectories, information science, innovation, internet, law, law enforcement, life extension, lifeboat, medical, military, mobile phones, nanotechnology, neuroscience, open access, open source, philosophy, physics, policy, posthumanism, privacy, robotics/AI, science, scientific freedom, security, singularity, space, supercomputing, surveillance, sustainability, transhumanism, transparency, transportation

Buy the White Book Treatise on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/White-Beyond-Eureka-Sputnik-Moments-eb.….white+swan

Mar 5, 2014

The false allure of centenarians — Why centenarians epitomise our fears about growing old

Posted by in categories: aging, biological, homo sapiens, human trajectories

By Avi Roy, University of Buckingham and Anders Sandberg, University of Oxford

Today we wish a very happy 116th birthday to Misao Okawa who was born in Japan in 1898, making her the world’s oldest person. When she was young, Einstein hadn’t yet grasped the mysteries of a relative universe, cars were becoming affordable and were thought as the saviour of horse-polluted cities and the telephone was the next big thing in communication.

More than a hundred years later, we oft cite Einstein’s famous equation of relativity without understanding it. Cars are tools of pollution and most cities tax their presence. And a great many people shun voice communications for instantaneous texts. A lot has changed in our understanding of the universe, technology and our morality over the past century. But when it comes to living longer lives, we seem to collectively forget some basic biology.


Mind the generation gap.
Itsuo Inouye/AP

The media obsesses over the inevitable “secret” that centenarians (and super-centenarians, like Okawa, who live past 110) reveal as the reason for their exceptionally long life. In the case of Okawa, lots of sushi and eight hours sleep a day. Scientists study centenarians and their families to isolate the causes for longevity – so that we may be able to distribute it to everyone.

Continue reading “The false allure of centenarians — Why centenarians epitomise our fears about growing old” »


Feb 6, 2014

The Future of Scientific Management, Today!

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, aging, asteroid/comet impacts, augmented reality, automation, big data, biological, bionic, bioprinting, biotech/medical, bitcoin, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, computing, cosmology, counterterrorism, cybercrime/malcode, cyborg, defense, driverless cars, drones, economics, education, energy, engineering, entertainment, environmental, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, exoskeleton, finance, food, fun, futurism, general relativity, genetics, geopolitics, government, habitats, hardware, health, homo sapiens, human trajectories, humor, information science, innovation, law, law enforcement, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, medical, military, mobile phones, nanotechnology, neuroscience, nuclear, nuclear energy, open access, open source, particle physics, philosophy, physics, policy, polls, posthumanism, privacy, robotics/AI, science, scientific freedom, security, singularity, space, supercomputing, surveillance, sustainability, time travel, transhumanism, transparency, transportation, treaties, water

FEBRUARY 08/2014 LIST OF UPDATES. By Mr. Andres Agostini at The Future of Scientific Management, Today! At http://lnkd.in/bYP2nDC
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MITRE-Harvard nanocomputer may point the way to future computer miniaturization

http://www.kurzweilai.net/mitre-harvard-nanocomputer-may-poi.….turization

New form of graphene allows electrons to behave like photons

http://www.kurzweilai.net/new-form-of-graphene-allows-electr.….ke-photons

Continue reading “The Future of Scientific Management, Today!” »


Feb 4, 2014

The Future Observatory

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, aging, asteroid/comet impacts, augmented reality, automation, big data, biological, bionic, bioprinting, biotech/medical, bitcoin, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, computing, cosmology, counterterrorism, cybercrime/malcode, cyborg, defense, driverless cars, drones, economics, education, energy, engineering, entertainment, environmental, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, exoskeleton, finance, food, futurism, genetics, geopolitics, government, habitats, hardware, homo sapiens, human trajectories, humor, information science, innovation, law, law enforcement, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, medical, military, nanotechnology, neuroscience, nuclear, nuclear energy, open access, open source, particle physics, philosophy, policy, polls, posthumanism, privacy, rants, robotics/AI, science, scientific freedom, security, singularity, space, space travel, supercomputing, surveillance, sustainability, time travel, transhumanism, transparency, transportation, water

FEBRUARY 05/2014 UPDATES [LIST]. By Mr. Andres Agostini at www.Future-Observatory.blogspot.com
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Do autistic brains create more information at rest or do they have weaker connectivity — or both?

http://www.kurzweilai.net/do-autistic-brains-create-more-inf.….ty-or-both

‘Electronic tongue’ identifies brands of beer with 81.9% accuracy

http://www.kurzweilai.net/electronic-tongue-identifies-brand.….9-accuracy

Continue reading “The Future Observatory” »


Dec 26, 2013

The fork on the road for Homo Futura

Posted by in categories: biological, ethics, evolution, futurism, genetics, homo sapiens, philosophy, posthumanism, science, transhumanism

sz5_JER_fuller_-_croatian_interview-300x199To think about the existential prospects that lie ahead for Humanity 2.0, or Homo futura, imagine yourself in 1900 faced with two investment opportunities for the future of personal human transport: on the one hand, a specially bred – that is, genetically modified – horse; on the other, a mass-produced automobile. Which prospect would you pursue?

The horse has been long a reliable mode of transport, whose strengths and weaknesses are well known. A faster horse may require greater skill to handle and more feed that produces more manure. But your society is already equipped to deal with those consequences. In contrast, the automobile is a new technology, albeit one that has already shown that it can equal and even surpass the horse in terms of speed and durability under a variety of conditions. However, the automobile brings its own distinctive cost-benefit calculus, as its future improvement would very likely involve both greater enclosure of the traveller and greater pollution of the environment. In the long term, the traveller’s relationship to nature would probably need to change quite drastically for the automobile to become dominant.

It is too bad that the state of genetic knowledge was not sufficiently advanced in 1900 to turn this into a real choice. Instead the horse easily appeared a less attractive long-term bet, as it was generally presumed that the upper limits of the creature’s performance had been already reached. In that case, the indefinite continuation of horse-drawn personal transport could only be defended by those who had a principled objection to mechanical transport, a position perhaps grounded in a nostalgic view of humanity’s oneness with nature. But even these people could not deny the proven effectiveness of ships and trains as machines of mass conveyance. In short, the horse was doomed. The market for personal transport underwent what Joseph Schumpeter called ‘creative destruction’. Henry Ford effectively made it worthwhile for consumers to reorganize their value priorities in a way that quickly resulted in the automobile, rather than the horse, setting the standard of personal transport.

The twenty-first century may offer us a choice rather like that of our hypothetical 1900 decision between horse and car. But now the choice would be between two different ways of continuing the human condition – alternative vehicles, as it were, to convey our existence. One involves genetically modifying ourselves and the other involves transcending the bodies of our birth altogether. These two options represent the two rather opposing directions in which contemporary transhumanism is heading.

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