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Archive for the ‘posthumanism’ category

Feb 11, 2017

Value Conflicts surrounding the Meaning of Life in the Trans/Post/Human Future

Posted by in categories: biological, cryonics, cyborgs, economics, environmental, ethics, futurism, governance, health, homo sapiens, law, mobile phones, policy, posthumanism, security, theory, transhumanism

Posthumanists and perhaps especially transhumanists tend to downplay the value conflicts that are likely to emerge in the wake of a rapidly changing technoscientific landscape. What follows are six questions and scenarios that are designed to focus thinking by drawing together several tendencies that are not normally related to each other but which nevertheless provide the basis for future value conflicts.

  1. Will ecological thinking eventuate in an instrumentalization of life? Generally speaking, biology – especially when a nervous system is involved — is more energy efficient when it comes to storing, accessing and processing information than even the best silicon-based computers. While we still don’t quite know why this is the case, we are nevertheless acquiring greater powers of ‘informing’ biological processes through strategic interventions, ranging from correcting ‘genetic errors’ to growing purpose-made organs, including neurons, from stem-cells. In that case, might we not ‘grow’ some organs to function in largely the same capacity as silicon-based computers – especially if it helps to reduce the overall burden that human activity places on the planet? (E.g. the brains in the vats in the film The Minority Report which engage in the precognition of crime.) In other words, this new ‘instrumentalization of life’ may be the most environmentally friendly way to prolong our own survival. But is this a good enough reason? Would these specially created organic thought-beings require legal protection or even rights? The environmental movement has been, generally speaking, against the multiplication of artificial life forms (e.g. the controversies surrounding genetically modified organisms), but in this scenario these life forms would potentially provide a means to achieve ecologically friendly goals.

  1. Will concerns for social justice force us to enhance animals? We are becoming more capable of recognizing and decoding animal thoughts and feelings, a fact which has helped to bolster those concerned with animal welfare, not to mention ‘animal rights’. At the same time, we are also developing prosthetic devices (of the sort already worn by Steven Hawking) which can enhance the powers of disabled humans so their thoughts and feelings are can be communicated to a wider audience and hence enable them to participate in society more effectively. Might we not wish to apply similar prosthetics to animals – and perhaps even ourselves — in order to facilitate the transaction of thoughts and feelings between humans and animals? This proposal might aim ultimately to secure some mutually agreeable ‘social contract’, whereby animals are incorporated more explicitly in the human life-world — not as merely wards but as something closer to citizens. (See, e.g., Donaldson and Kymlicka’s Zoopolis.) However, would this set of policy initiatives constitute a violation of the animals’ species integrity and simply be a more insidious form of human domination?

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Nov 1, 2016

Who wants to live forever?

Posted by in categories: aging, bioengineering, cryonics, disruptive technology, DNA, futurism, genetics, health, life extension, posthumanism

Bioquark Inc. (www.bioquark.com) Interview in MoneyWeek

bioquarklogo

Read whole story: http://moneyweek.com/who-wants-to-live-forever/

Aug 24, 2016

Steve Fuller’s Review of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Posted by in categories: big data, bioengineering, biological, bionic, cyborgs, disruptive technology, energy, evolution, existential risks, futurism, homo sapiens, innovation, moore's law, neuroscience, philosophy, policy, posthumanism, robotics/AI, science, singularity, theory, transhumanism

My sociology of knowledge students read Yuval Harari’s bestselling first book, Sapiens, to think about the right frame of reference for understanding the overall trajectory of the human condition. Homo Deus follows the example of Sapiens, using contemporary events to launch into what nowadays is called ‘big history’ but has been also called ‘deep history’ and ‘long history’. Whatever you call it, the orientation sees the human condition as subject to multiple overlapping rhythms of change which generate the sorts of ‘events’ that are the stuff of history lessons. But Harari’s history is nothing like the version you half remember from school.

In school historical events were explained in terms more or less recognizable to the agents involved. In contrast, Harari reaches for accounts that scientifically update the idea of ‘perennial philosophy’. Aldous Huxley popularized this phrase in his quest to seek common patterns of thought in the great world religions which could be leveraged as a global ethic in the aftermath of the Second World War. Harari similarly leverages bits of genetics, ecology, neuroscience and cognitive science to advance a broadly evolutionary narrative. But unlike Darwin’s version, Harari’s points towards the incipient apotheosis of our species; hence, the book’s title.

This invariably means that events are treated as symptoms if not omens of the shape of things to come. Harari’s central thesis is that whereas in the past we cowered in the face of impersonal natural forces beyond our control, nowadays our biggest enemy is the one that faces us in the mirror, which may or may not be able within our control. Thus, the sort of deity into which we are evolving is one whose superhuman powers may well result in self-destruction. Harari’s attitude towards this prospect is one of slightly awestruck bemusement.

Here Harari equivocates where his predecessors dared to distinguish. Writing with the bracing clarity afforded by the Existentialist horizons of the Cold War, cybernetics founder Norbert Wiener declared that humanity’s survival depends on knowing whether what we don’t know is actually trying to hurt us. If so, then any apparent advance in knowledge will always be illusory. As for Harari, he does not seem to see humanity in some never-ending diabolical chess match against an implacable foe, as in The Seventh Seal. Instead he takes refuge in the so-called law of unintended consequences. So while the shape of our ignorance does indeed shift as our knowledge advances, it does so in ways that keep Harari at a comfortable distance from passing judgement on our long term prognosis.

Continue reading “Steve Fuller's Review of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari” »

Aug 2, 2016

Bioquark Inc. and RegenerAge SAPI de CV to Collaborate on Clinical Regenerative Healthcare

Posted by in categories: aging, bioengineering, biotech/medical, DNA, health, life extension, neuroscience, posthumanism, science, transhumanism

Philadelphia, PA, USA / Mexico City, Mexico — Bioquark, Inc., (www.bioquark.com) a life sciences company focused on the development of novel bioproducts for complex regeneration, disease reversion, and aging, and RegenerAge SAPI de CV, (www.regenerage.clinic/en/) a clinical company focused on translational therapeutic applications of a range of regenerative and rejuvenation healthcare interventions, have announced a collaboration to focus on novel combinatorial approaches in human disease and wellness. SGR-Especializada (http://www.sgr-especializada.com/), regulatory experts in the Latin American healthcare market, assisted in the relationship.

regenerage

“We are very excited about this collaboration with RegenerAge SAPI de CV,” said Ira S. Pastor, CEO, Bioquark Inc. “The natural synergy of our cellular and biologic to applications of regenerative and rejuvenative medicine will make for novel and transformational opportunities in a range of degenerative disorders.”

As we close in on $7 trillion in total annual health care expenditures around the globe ($1 trillion spent on pharmaceutical products; $200 billion on new R&D), we are simultaneously witnessing a paradoxical rise in the prevalence of all chronic degenerative diseases responsible for human suffering and death.

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Jun 28, 2016

How VR Gaming will Wake Us Up to our Fake Worlds

Posted by in categories: architecture, augmented reality, economics, entertainment, ethics, futurism, holograms, homo sapiens, internet, journalism, philosophy, posthumanism, virtual reality

Human civilization has always been a virtual reality. At the onset of culture, which was propagated through the proto-media of cave painting, the talking drum, music, fetish art making, oral tradition and the like, Homo sapiens began a march into cultural virtual realities, a march that would span the entirety of the human enterprise. We don’t often think of cultures as virtual realities, but there is no more apt descriptor for our widely diverse sociological organizations and interpretations than the metaphor of the “virtual reality.” Indeed, the virtual reality metaphor encompasses the complete human project.

Figure 2

Virtual Reality researchers, Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson, write in their book Infinite Reality; “[Cave art] is likely the first animation technology”, where it provided an early means of what they refer to as “virtual travel”. You are in the cave, but the media in that cave, the dynamic-drawn, fire-illuminated art, represents the plains and animals outside—a completely different environment, one facing entirely the opposite direction, beyond the mouth of the cave. When surrounded by cave art, alive with movement from flickering torches, you are at once inside the cave itself whilst the media experience surrounding you encourages you to indulge in fantasy, and to mentally simulate an entirely different environment. Blascovich and Bailenson suggest that in terms of the evolution of media technology, this was the very first immersive VR. Both the room and helmet-sized VRs used in the present day are but a sophistication of this original form of media VR tech.

Read entire essay here

Mar 21, 2016

Resurrection and Biotechnology

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, disruptive technology, Elon Musk, futurism, human trajectories, neuroscience, posthumanism, Ray Kurzweil, Skynet, transhumanism

“He is not here; He has risen,” — Matthew 28:6

As billions of Christians around the world are getting ready to celebrate the Easter festival and holiday, we take pause to appreciate the awe inspiring phenomena of resurrection.

crypt

In religious and mythological contexts, in both Western and Eastern societies, well known and less common names appear, such as Attis, Dionysus, Ganesha, Krishna, Lemminkainen, Odin, Osiris, Persephone, Quetzalcoatl, and Tammuz, all of whom were reborn again in the spark of the divine.

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Mar 9, 2016

Death Reversal — The Reanima Project — Research Whose Time Has Come

Posted by in categories: aging, biotech/medical, business, cryonics, health, life extension, neuroscience, posthumanism, science, scientific freedom

I have spent the last 30 years in various aspects of the biopharmaceutical industry, which for the most part has been a very rewarding experience.

However, during this time period, having been immersed many different components of therapeutic development and commercialization, one thing has always bothered me: a wide array of promising research never makes it off the bench to see the translational light of day, and gets lost in the historical scientific archives.

bqiinclab

I always believed that scientific progress happened in a very linear narrative, with each new discovery supporting the next, resulting ultimately in an eventual stairway of scientific enlightenment.

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Oct 28, 2015

Humanity on a Budget, or the Value-Added of Being ‘Human’

Posted by in categories: automation, economics, futurism, governance, human trajectories, law, philosophy, policy, posthumanism, theory, transhumanism

This piece is dedicated to Stefan Stern, who picked up on – and ran with – a remark I made at this year’s Brain Bar Budapest, concerning the need for a ‘value-added’ account of being ‘human’ in a world in which there are many drivers towards replacing human labour with ever smarter technologies.

In what follows, I assume that ‘human’ can no longer be taken for granted as something that adds value to being-in-the-world. The value needs to be earned, it can’t be just inherited. For example, according to animal rights activists, ‘value-added’ claims to brand ‘humanity’ amount to an unjustified privileging of the human life-form, whereas artificial intelligence enthusiasts argue that computers will soon exceed humans at the (‘rational’) tasks that we have historically invoked to create distance from animals. I shall be more concerned with the latter threat, as it comes from a more recognizable form of ‘economistic’ logic.

Economics makes an interesting but subtle distinction between ‘price’ and ‘cost’. Price is what you pay upfront through mutual agreement to the person selling you something. In contrast, cost consists in the resources that you forfeit by virtue of possessing the thing. Of course, the cost of something includes its price, but typically much more – and much of it experienced only once you’ve come into possession. Thus, we say ‘hidden cost’ but not ‘hidden price’. The difference between price and cost is perhaps most vivid when considering large life-defining purchases, such as a house or a car. In these cases, any hidden costs are presumably offset by ‘benefits’, the things that you originally wanted — or at least approve after the fact — that follow from possession.

Now, think about the difference between saying, ‘Humanity comes at a price’ and ‘Humanity comes at a cost’. The first phrase suggests what you need to pay your master to acquire freedom, while the second suggests what you need to suffer as you exercise your freedom. The first position has you standing outside the category of ‘human’ but wishing to get in – say, as a prospective resident of a gated community. The second position already identifies you as ‘human’ but perhaps without having fully realized what you had bargained for. The philosophical movement of Existentialism was launched in the mid-20th century by playing with the irony implied in the idea of ‘human emancipation’ – the ease with which the Hell we wish to leave (and hence pay the price) morphs into the Hell we agree to enter (and hence suffer the cost). Thus, our humanity reduces to the leap out of the frying pan of slavery and into the fire of freedom.

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Jun 30, 2015

Kurzweil Responds to ‘When Robots Are Everywhere, What Will Humans Be Good For?’ — By David J. Hill

Posted by in categories: employment, futurism, human trajectories, posthumanism, robotics/AI

Lately, media around the web has been bracing for robots — not time-traveling robots per se, but robot workers. Specifically, the increased sophistication of artificial intelligence and improved engineering of robotics has spurred a growing concern about what people are going to do when all the regular jobs are done by robots.

A variety of solutions have been proposed to this potential technological unemployment (we even had an entire Future of Work series dealing with this topic in March), many of which suggest that there will still be things that humans can do that robots can’t, but what are they? Read more

Apr 24, 2015

Article: Harnessing “Black Holes”: The Large Hadron Collider – Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction

Posted by in categories: astronomy, big data, computing, cosmology, energy, engineering, environmental, ethics, existential risks, futurism, general relativity, governance, government, gravity, information science, innovation, internet, journalism, law, life extension, media & arts, military, nuclear energy, nuclear weapons, open source, particle physics, philosophy, physics, policy, posthumanism, quantum physics, science, security, singularity, space, space travel, supercomputing, sustainability, time travel, transhumanism, transparency, treaties

Harnessing “Black Holes”: The Large Hadron Collider – Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction

Why the LHC must be shut down

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