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Posts tagged: transhumanism

If You Plug Twitter Into a Digital Avatar, Can You Live Forever?

Klint Finley

New article from me at Wired:

In one episode of Black Mirror — the British television series that explores the near future of technology with an edginess reminiscent of The Twilight Zone — a woman’s husband dies, and she replaces him with a robot.

This walking automaton looks like him and talks like him, and it even acts like him, after plugging into his Twitter account and analyzing every tweet he ever sent.

Yes, that’s a far cry from reality, but it’s not as far as you might think. With an online service called Lifenaut, an operation called the Terasem Movement Foundation offers a means of digitally cloning yourself through a series of personality tests and data from your social media profiles. The idea is to create an online version of you that can live forever, a digital avatar that even future generations can talk to and interact with. Eventually, Terasem wants to transform these avatars into walking, talking robots — just like on Black Mirror. And today, it provides a more primitive version, for free. […]

But Dale Carrico, a lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley, is skeptical. To say the least. He says that the folks at Terasem and other “transhumanists” — those who believe the human body can be radically enhanced or even transcended entirely through technology — are pursing pipe dreams. He doesn’t even give them create for trying. “The trying is evidence only of the depth of their misunderstanding, not of their worthy diligence,” he says. Simply put, an avatar isn’t a person — in any meaningful sense.

Full Story: Wired Enterprise: If You Plug Twitter Into a Digital Avatar, Can You Live Forever?

My avatar is embedded in the story so you can chat with it.

Six Radical Life-Extension Technologies for Transhumanist Consideration

Klint Finley

This week Paul Graham-Raven published his take on Transhumanism and challenged the notion that Transhumanist life extension technologies will become cheap and ubiquitous, pointing out that there are already many life extension technologies that are not widely available outside the “developed” world.

Tim Maly picks up on that thread:

We’ve developed tech guaranteed to extend the human lifespan, but market failures and regulatory bodies stand in the way of universal access.

CLEAN WATER This is a basic innovation. However, the marketing upside is huge. There is massive, seemingly endless demand for this tech. While on the low end it is highly at risk of being commodified, there is much profit to be made from premium versions of the product for all market segments.

URBAN SANITATION As a greater proportion of humans live in urban environments, upgrades can greatly impact many people. Good ROI.

SMOKELESS COOKING FACILITIES A niche tech, but stunningly effective in some markets. Positively impacts both quality and quantity of life. This last point is an important consideration in life-extension. It’s not enough to blindly build tech that keeps people technically alive for longer. We want tech that enables a good life.

FREE ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE Critics say this isn’t one technology but an ideological mess of blurry promises. I say, look at the graphs.

GUARANTEED MINIMUM INCOME Despite longstanding research in the arena, this remains a highly controversial procedure. Many concerns have been raised about its social side-effects and regulatory bodies continue to stand in its way. Still, we mustn’t impede progress.

GOOD FREE EDUCATION Sure to be popular with DIY arm of transhumanist crowd. Likely to encourage a faster run up the exponential curve as more minds become more capable of reaching their full creative potential.

See also: Left Behind: the Singularity and the Developing World

What is that? and I don’t know are repeated many times before the crowd engages its collective intelligence:

“I think it’s one of those downloading machines.”

Shannon Larratt Interview On The DIY Transhumanist/Grinder/Biohacker Movement

Klint Finley

BME founder Shannon Larratt was interviewed by io9 about the grinder/biohack movement:

Making a wristwatch implant would actually be quite simple. The electronics need to be as small as possible of course. Even though implants can be quite large (a single double-D breast implant has more volume than many laptop computers at this point), if the implant is kept thin it will be inconspicuous, perhaps even undetectable without touching it. So the wristwatch would be built with surface mount components in a tight package. The LEDs would easily be visible through the skin — it’s quite possible that some small backlit panels could be visible through the skin but simple round or bar-shaped LEDs would be my choice for a watch.

One could do a numeric display, a geeky binary display, or even just use a single light and flash the time with morse code. You’re probably not going to leave the light on all the time in order to preserve the battery, but triggering could be accomplished in many ways. An accelerometer could be used to trigger it with a specific arm motion, a pressure switch could respond to touch, or in my case, or a magnetic switch could respond to me waving my finger over it — there are many options, but whatever is chosen would have to be versatile enough to also allow the time to be set.

Finally — and this is the biggest issue — there’s power. You could have yourself cut open have the battery replaced — but there’s no need for that. Inductive charging is easy to build, and wireless chargers are commonplace these days — personally I would include such a circuit.

Full Story: io9: What does the future have in store for radical body modification?

Previously:

Short Documentary On The DIY Bodyhacking/Transhumanist Underground

World’s First Eyeball Tattoo

Shannon Larratt Leaves BME

The World’s First Bionic Eye

Klint Finley

The Register reports:

Australian researchers have claimed a world’s first by successfully implanting a ‘pre-bionic eye’ in a blind patient.

Ms Dianne Ashworth is the patient in question, and suffers retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that has left her with profound vision loss. […]

Ashworth has said, in a canned statement, that when researchers stimulated her implant didn’t know what to expect, but:

“… all of a sudden, I could see a little flash … it was amazing. Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye.”

The device has not given Ashworth sight but her experiences will allow the BVA team, a consortium of researchers from several Australian institutions, the chance to learn how to work their prostheses to achieve useful results.

Full Story: The Register: ‘Pre-bionic’ eye implanted in blind patient

Short Documentary On The DIY Bodyhacking/Transhumanist Underground

kevin warwick

The Verge did a short documentary, and a piece of long form, participatory journalism, on the DIY transhumanist/bodyhacker/grinder/whatever movement:

The boys from Grindhouse Wetwares both sucked down Parliament menthols the whole time we talked. There was no irony for them in dreaming of the possibilities for one’s body and willfully destroying it. “For me, the end game is my brain and spinal column in a jar, and a robot body out in the world doing my bidding,” said Sarver. “I would really prefer not to have to rely on an inefficient four-valve pump that sends liquid through these fragile hoses. Fuck cheetahs. I want to punch through walls.”

Flesh and blood are easily shed in grinder circles, at least theoretically speaking. “People recoil from the idea of tampering inside the body,” said Tim. “I am lost when it comes to people’s unhealthy connections to your body. This is just a decaying lump of flesh that gets old, it’s leaking fluid all the time, it’s obscene to think this is me. I am my ideas and the sum of my experiences.” As far as the biohackers are concerned, we are the best argument against intelligent design.

Neither man has any illusions about how fringe biohacking is now. But technology marches on. “People say nobody is going to want to get surgery for this stuff,” admits Cannon. But he believes that will change. “They will or they will be left behind. They have no choice. It’s going to be weird and uncomfortable and scary. But you can do that, or you can become obsolete.”

Full Story: The Verge: Cyborg America: inside the strange new world of basement body hackers

(via Grinding)

See also:

Transcending the Human, DIY Style

One in four Germans wants microchip under skin

Indie Game Designers Luke Crane and Jared Sorensen on Transhumanist RPG FreeMarket - Technoccult Interview

FreeMarket

New York based game designers Luke Crane (of Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard fame) and Jared Sorensen (known for octaNe and the various games released through his Memento Mori imprint) are sometimes referred to as godfathers of the indie game scene. Tomorrow they’re releasing their new game FreeMarket at GenCon - you can find them at booth #1732. I talked to them a couple weeks ago about what FreeMarket’s all about.

Could you briefly go over what FreeMarket is and why it’s different from other role playing games?

Luke Crane: FreeMarket is a transhumanist RPG in which players take on the roles of telepathic, immortal infovores living on a space station orbiting Saturn.

Jared: That’s also what makes it different from other RPGs.

Luke : In order to get ahead on the station, players must make friends, cooperate and give gifts to one another. Doing so enhances a player’s reputation. Players can then spend this reputation to accomplish personal goals. It uses a unique card-based mechanic, comes in a box and is really pretty.

Jared Sorensen and Luke Crane
Left: Jared Right: Luke

It also sounds like it’s a more intellectual game than most - you’ve said you can, for instance, play the role of a philosopher and have that be meaningful within the game.

Luke: Yeah, but don’t think you can’t play Soulshitter Killfuck and have fun, too. But, unlike many other games that I’ve played, you can play an artist and have serious conflict about what you do. It’s impossible to just make a piece of art in this game and have it sit there, inert. Art is controversial.

Jared: And conflicts (especially philosophical, critical and artistic) are both internal and external and can have wide-reaching and unplanned repercussions.

Right. So you could do a more typical hack and slash scenario, or you could do something where you’re dealing with post-scarcity speculation. Or maybe both.

Luke: Yes. But the “typical” scenario is also turned on its ear.

Jared: Definitely. “Death artists” is a common FreeMarket trope we see in our games.

Luke: You can kill the living shit out of something in the game. In fact, when you get into a fight, someone is going to die, period. But that is very costly, so you better be ready to have another side to your character. You better be ready to cooperate and give gifts. Otherwise, you’re not going to survive.

Jared: Some of the nicest people on FreeMarket Station are killers… because they have to be nice in order to remain viable members of society.

FreeMarket 1

So you can kill or be killed in the game?

Jared: Yes, but not permanently

What do you mean?

Luke: Yeah, the station just resuscitates you or reloads your back up into a new body if you’ve “perfect deathed.”

Jared: There are different levels of death… from induced death to brain death to total bodily destruction. If you just go around murdering people left and right, people are going to shun you and you’re going to burn your social capital to ashes.

Luke: Right, killing costs a lot of your reputation.

Jared: Especially if you’re killing people who are valuable members of the society. Assholes who kill each other off can get away with that for a while

Luke: *Laughs* True!

Jared: But kill a baker? Or a garbage man? You are FUCKED.

FreeMarket 2

I haven’t role played in years, and it’s been even longer since I’ve been at all serious about playing. But Free Market sounds like something I’d like to play. Do you think this is the sort of game that people who have lost interest in role-playing or maybe never even role played before would get into?

Luke: YES

Jared: We had a woman play — she was the CFO of a game company — who had never played an RPG before. She got it in five minutes. It was awesome.

Luke: It’s different. It’s not about roll-to-hit and not a number style play. People who are diehard RPG players have the most trouble with it, actually.

Was that your intention? To create a game for non-gamers?

Luke: No, we just wanted to create a game that we liked (and that Peter Adkison would like).

Jared: We wanted to create a game for people interested in science fiction.

Luke: That, too!

Jared: Not SF gaming, but actual SF.

Luke: Yeah, this isn’t space pirate romance.

Jared: No travel, no aliens. Which are two mainstays of the game genre.

You’ve said before this is the first actual science fiction game.

Jared: We say a lot of things.

Luke: *Laughs* True. Paranoia is the first science fiction roleplaying game. Our friend Joshua made a really neat science fiction game called Shock, but it’s not really an RPG.

What makes it a science fiction game and other sci-fi themed games NOT science fiction games?

Luke: They’re about fighting and romance. FreeMarket is about time, space and identity.

And economics?

Luke: Not really!

Jared: D&D is as much about economics as FreeMarket. The title of the game is ironic commentary — the space station was renamed “FreeMarket Station” by its residents and it’s probably ironic commentary by us as well.

So it’s not Milton Friedman: The Game?

Jared: Hah, no.

Luke: Unfortunately, no. Milton Friedman would probably hate the economy in this game.

Jared: More Malcom Gladwell.

Luke: There’s no money. No market.

Jared: That’s the joke. The market is one of ideas.

FreeMarket 3

More “free” than “market.”

Jared: And it’s a truly free society. For the first time ever, people have real freedom. And it’s terrifying.

Luke: Utterly.

And you’re going to be giving the game, sans artwork, away for free online at some point, correct?

Luke: We already did that.

Jared: With artwork even.

Luke: We gave away a PDF from November to April. We took it offline while we launch.

Jared: It was limited to 1,000 people. And we used that for our “colony program.”

Luke: I’m sure it’s out on torrent sites.

Jared: It totally is.

Luke: We’re discussing the future fate of the electronic life of FreeMarket. We need to see how well the printed version does. You can definitely get a sense of the game from the PDF. But to play it, it’s best to have the materials—the cards and chips.
FreeMarket hazard

How did you get interested in transhumanism and why did you decide to write a game based around it?

Luke: I’ve been a fan of cyberpunk since I had a brain…since about 1991. Transhumanism seems like the next natural step. It’s like cyberpunk, but without the 1980s and with some more thoughtful science fiction.

Jared: The game has gone through a lot of development and research but even from the first step we knew “transhuman science fiction” was going to be its thrust. And it was kinda unexplored as a game subject at the time (2007).

Luke: Yeah, somebody said to us, “What would you do with X” and we both said, “Transhumanist SF RPG. Space stations and weird technology.” I think I was reading Bruce Sterling at the time.

I suppose it would be hard to create a normal hack and slash transhumanist game. Unless you count Rifts or something.

Jared: You can play out brutal combat sequences in FreeMarket and it’s very satisfying. It’s just the consequences are all backward and upside down.

Luke: Rifts is totally transhumanist. But Eclipse Phase, our cousin, is a TH game about fighting. Did I just say that out loud?

Jared: *Laughs* Except that DEE-BEES are not human (so really, it’s transdimensional).

Luke: Fuck.

Jared: Rifts also has space whales I think.

Were virtual worlds like MOOs and MUSHes and newer things like Second Life an influence?

Jared: Definitely.

Luke: Absolutely. Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter too.

Jared: Everything from MUDs and Second Life to Facebook, dating sites and Slashdot.

Luke: Good science fiction expresses the present through the fiction of the technology. We wanted FM to feel like an outgrowth of today.

FreeMarket 4

How were social networking sites an influence?

Luke: Well, in the game, you friend each other. Friending each other increases your overall reputation and provides “social insurance.” The more friends you have, the harder it is for you to be kicked out of the community. So the influence is rather naked. It was more “What if that shit was about people and real life rather than your profile?”

Why wouldn’t everyone just friend everyone then?

Luke: Hah, well, do you go around friending everyone on Facebook? Do you love the people who do nothing but friend you?

No, but it doesn’t really keep me from getting kicked off my space station.

Jared: There are game equivalents of “like” and “mod down” buttons, social groups and trolling. There are people on the station who try and friend everyone. But friending carries serious social implications. Friending is like allowing someone access to your Google Calendar. And Ebay account. And email. Etc.

So there’s a real trust relationship there.

Luke: And if you’re worried about getting kicked off, then I don’t know if we should be friends. because you’re obviously up to something that’s going to get me in trouble. When your reputation tanks, your friends all take a hit, too.

Jared: Klint’s friends are all switchers, breakers and wetworkers! Don’t friend him!

What advice would you give people who want to be game designers?

Jared: continue to want to be that.

Luke: *Laughs* Play lots of games. Start breaking games. And then play your games. And break them. Also, recruit tolerant friends.

Jared: And stay the hell off of game forums.

Luke: That, too.

Are there any books on game design you’d recommend?

Luke: I like Rules of Play by Salen and Zimmerman. But Jared and I are both self-taught.

Jared: Also Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

Luke: Oh, yes!

Why Understanding Comics?

Luke: Because it’s the single best deconstruction of a medium around there. It teaches you how to think structurally and critically. It shows you how to clearly break down complicated stuff.

Jared: And if you get a chance to come to a convention seminar by Luke and me, I seriously recommend it.

Anything else you’d like to say to readers?

Jared: Replace your body as soon as possible! But don’t throw out the original packaging just in case.

Luke: Always back up your memories. Unless you need to forget.

Special thanks to Jesse for suggesting this interview!

FreeMarket

How to Live in a Simulation

Recently, Post-Atomic linked to this article about Nick Bostrom’s theory that we may be living in a simulation. Then Boing Boing posted a link to Bostrom’s paper. It makes me realize that Robin Hanson’s essay How to Live in a Simulation might be useful.

Government report call for expanded human cognition and communication through science and technology

A 405 page report from US National Science Foundation and Commerce Department calls for expanding human intelligence and communication through the convergence of nanotechnology, biology, IT, and cognitive science. BoingBoing’s Mark writes: “People may download their consciousnesses into computers or into bodies on the other side of the solar system, or participate in a giant ‘hive mind’ — a network of intelligences connected through ultra fast communications networks.”

One BoingBoing reader has already remarked: “Fantastic. In twenty year’s time, we can be Borg.”

Full report: CONVERGING TECHNOLOGIES
FOR IMPROVING HUMAN PERFORMANCE
(PDF)

Forget the iMac, I want a Matrioshka Brain

Matrioshka Brains are hypothetical supercomputers that “consume the entire power output of stars (~1026 W), consume all of the useful construction material of a solar system (~1026 kg), have thought capacities limited by the physics of the universe and are are essentially immortal.”

The full paper is here and you can also find more info on Wikipedia.

(via Boing Boing)