Here’s the second half of our conversation with R.U. Sirius, editor of the late great Mondo 2000 magazine and the co-author of the forthcoming Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity.. This time around R.U. tells us about the state of the Transhumanist movement and what he misses about the 90s, and Chris and I go off on a tangent about algorithms and an app store for identity.
Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Counterculture, The Singularity, and the Amish with R. U. Sirius pt 2
The first half is here.
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.
My avatar is embedded in the story so you can chat with it.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
(via Boing Boing)