PostHuman: An Introduction to Transhumanism from the British Institute of Posthuman Studies

This video by the British Institute of Posthuman Studies explores three factors of transhumanism; super longevity, super intelligence, and super well-being.  Its called PostHuman: An Introduction to Transhumanism and it’s a great video to show your friends who have never heard of transhumanism or the technological singularity.  


Runtime: 11:11


This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTMS9y8OVuY

Video Info:

Published on Nov 5, 2013

We investigate three dominant areas of transhumanism: super longevity, super intelligence and super wellbeing, and briefly cover the ideas of thinkers Aubrey de Grey, Ray Kurzweil and David Pearce.

Official Website: http://biops.co.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/biopsuk
Twitter: https://twitter.com/biopsuk
Google+: http://gplus.to/biops

Written by: Peter Brietbart and Marco Vega
Animation & Design Lead: Many Artists Who Do One Thing (Mihai Badic)
Animation Script: Mihai Badic and Peter Brietbart
Narrated by: Holly Hagan-Walker
Music and SFX: Steven Gamble
Design Assistant: Melita Pupsaite
Additional Animation: Nicholas Temple
Other Contributors: Callum Round, Asifuzzaman Ahmed, Steffan Dafydd, Ben Kokolas, Cristopher Rosales
Special Thanks: David Pearce, Dino Kazamia, Ana Sandoiu, Dave Gamble, Tom Davis, Aidan Walker, Hani Abusamra, Keita Lynch

 

From the Human Brain to the Global Brain by Marios Kyriazis

This paper (From the Human Brain to the Global Brain by Marios Kyriazis) talks about brain augmentation and the possible (probable?) emergence of a global brain.  This is actually a concept which is quite familiar to me because it is the backdrop to a science fiction novel (possibly series) I’ve been writing in my spare time – limited as that may be, but more on that another time.  I’d just like to point out (and I know I’m not the first) that we already have the framework (the internet) for a rudimentary global brain.  Really, all it lacks is sophistication.


 

From the Human Brain to the Global Brain

Introduction

Human intelligence (i.e., the ability to consistently solve problems successfully) has evolved through the need to adapt to changing environments. This is not only true of our past but also of our present. Our brain faculties are becoming more sophisticated by cooperating and interacting with technology, specifically digital communication technology (Asaro, 2008).

When we consider the matter of brain function augmentation, we take it for granted that the issue refers to the human brain as a distinct organ. However, as we live in a complex technological society, it is now becoming clear that the issue is much more complicated. Individual brains cannot simply be considered in isolation, and their function is no longer localized or contained within the cranium, as we now know that information may be transmitted directly from one brain to another (Deadwyler et al., 2013; Pais-Vieira et al., 2013). This issue has been discussed in detail and attempts have been made to study the matter within a wider and more global context (Nicolelis and Laporta, 2011). Recent research in the field of brain to brain interfaces has provided the basis for further research and formation of new hypotheses in this respect (Grau et al., 2014; Rao et al., 2014). This concept of rudimentary “brain nets” may be expanded in a more global fashion, and within this framework, it is possible to envisage a much bigger and abstract “meta-entity” of inclusive and distributed capabilities, called the Global Brain (Mayer-Kress and Barczys, 1995;Heylighen and Bollen, 1996;Johnson et al., 1998; Helbing, 2011; Vidal, in press).

This entity reciprocally feeds information back to its components—the individual human brains. As a result, novel and hitherto unknown consequences may materialize such as, for instance, the emergence of rudimentary global “emotion” (Garcia and Tanase, 2013; Garcia et al., 2013; Kramera et al., 2014), and the appearance of decision-making faculties (Rodriguez et al., 2007). These characteristics may have direct impact upon our biology (Kyriazis, 2014a). This has been long discussed in futuristic and sociology literature (Engelbart, 1988), but now it also becomes more relevant to systems neuroscience partly because of the very promising research in brain-to-brain interfaces. The concept is grounded on scientific principles (Last, 2014a) and mathematical modeling (Heylighen et al., 2012).

Augmenting Brain Function on a Global Scale

It can be argued that the continual enhancement of brain function in humans, i.e., the tendency to an increasing intellectual sophistication, broadly aligns well with the main direction of evolution (Steward, 2014). This tendency to an increasing intellectual sophistication also obeys Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety (Ashby, 1958) which essentially states that, for any system to be stable, the number of states of its control mechanisms must be greater than the number of states in the system being controlled. This means that, within an ever-increasing technological environment, we must continue to increase our brain function (mostly through using, or merging with, technology such as in the example of brain to brain communication mentioned above), in order to improve integration and maintain stability of the wider system. Several other authors (Maynard Smith and Szathmáry, 1997;Woolley et al., 2010; Last, 2014a) have expanded on this point, which seems to underpin our continual search for brain enrichment.

The tendency to enrich our brain is an innate characteristic of humans. We have been trying to augment our mental abilities, either intentionally or unintentionally, for millennia through the use of botanicals and custom-made medicaments, herbs and remedies, and, more recently, synthetic nootropics and improved ways to assimilate information. Many of these methods are not only useful in healthy people but are invaluable in age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease (Kumar and Khanum, 2012). Other neuroscience-based methods such as transcranial laser treatments and physical implants (such as neural dust nanoparticles) are useful in enhancing cognition and modulate other brain functions (Gonzalez-Lima and Barrett, 2014).

However, these approaches are limited to the biological human brain as a distinct agent. As shown by the increased research interest in brain to brain communication (Trimper et al., 2014), I argue that the issue of brain augmentation is now embracing a more global aspect. The reason is the continual developments in technology which are changing our society and culture (Long, 2010). Certain brain faculties that were originally evolved for solving practical physical problems have been co-opted and exapted for solving more abstract metaphors, making humans adopt a better position within a technological niche.

The line between human brain function and digital information technologies is progressively becoming indistinct and less well-defined. This blurring is possible through the development of new technologies which enable more efficient brain-computer interfaces (Pfurtscheller and Neuper, 2002), and recently, brain-to-brain interfaces (Grau et al., 2014).

We are now in a position expand on this emergent worldview and examine what trends of systems neuroscience are likely in the near-term future. Technology has been the main drive which brought us to the position we are in today (Henry, 2014). This position is the merging of the physical human brain abilities with virtual domains and automated web services (Kurzweil, 2009). Modern humans cannot purely be defined by their biological brain function. Instead, we are now becoming an amalgam of biological and virtual/digital characteristics, a discrete unit, or autonomous agent, forming part of a wider and more global entity (Figure 1).

global brain

Figure 1. Computer-generated image of internet connections world-wide (Global Brain). The conceptual similarities with the human brain are remarkable. Both networks exhibit a scale-free, fractal distribution, with some weakly-connected units, and some strongly-connected ones which are arranged in hubs of increasing functional complexity. This helps protect the constituents of the network against stresses. Both networks are “small worlds” which means that information can reach any given unit within the network by passing through only a small number of other units. This assists in the global propagation of information within the network, and gives each and every unit the functional potential to be directly connected to all others. Source: The Opte Project/Barrett Lyon. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.

Large Scale Networks and the Global Brain

The Global Brain (Heylighen, 2007; Iandoli et al., 2009; Bernstein et al., 2012) is a self-organizing system which encompasses all those humans who are connected with communication technologies, as well as the emergent properties of these connections. Its intelligence and information-processing characteristics are distributed, in contrast to that of individuals whose intelligence is localized. Its characteristics emerge from the dynamic networks and global interactions between its individual agents. These individual agents are not merely the biological humans but are something more complex. In order to describe this relationship further, I have introduced the notion of the noeme, an emergent agent, which helps formalize the relationships involved (Kyriazis, 2014a). The noeme is a combination of a distinct physical brain function and that of an “outsourced” virtual one. It is the intellectual “networked presence” of an individual within the GB, a meaningful synergy between each individual human, their social interactions and artificial agents, globally connected to other noemes through digital communications technology (and, perhaps soon, through direct brain to brain interfaces). A comparison can be made with neurons which, as individual discrete agents, form part of the human brain. In this comparison, the noemes act as the individual, information-sharing discrete agents which form the GB (Gershenson, 2011). The modeling of noemes helps us define ourselves in a way that strengthens our rational presence in the digital world. By trying to enhance our information-sharing capabilities we become better integrated within the GB and so become a valuable component of it, encouraging mechanisms active in all complex adaptive systems to operate in a way that prolongs our retention within this system (Gershenson and Fernández, 2012), i.e., prolongs our biological lifespan (Kyriazis, 2014b; Last, 2014b).

Discussion

This concept is a helpful way of interpreting the developing cognitive relationship between humans and artificial agents as we evolve and adapt to our changing technological environment. The concept of the noeme provides insights with regards to future problems and opportunities. For instance, the study of the function of the noeme may provide answers useful to biomedicine, by coopting laws applicable to any artificial intelligence medium and using these to enhance human health (Kyriazis, 2014a). Just as certain physical or pharmacological therapies for brain augmentation are useful in neurodegeneration in individuals, so global ways of brain enhancement are useful in a global sense, improving the function and adaptive capabilities of humanity as a whole. One way to augment global brain function is to increase the information content of our environment by constructing smart cities (Caragliu et al., 2009), expanding the notion of the Web of Things (Kamilaris et al., 2011), and by developing new concepts in educational domains (Veletsianos, 2010). This improves the information exchange between us and our surroundings and helps augment brain function, not just physically in individuals, but also virtually in society.

Practical ways for enhancing our noeme (i.e., our digital presence) include:

• Cultivate a robust social media base, in different forums.

• Aim for respect, esteem and value within your virtual environment.

• Increase the number of your connections both in virtual and in real terms.

• Stay consistently visible online.

• Share meaningful information that requires action.

• Avoid the use of meaningless, trivial or outdated platforms.

• Increase the unity of your connections by using only one (user) name for all online and physical platforms.

These methods can help increase information sharing and facilitate our integration within the GB (Kyriazis, 2014a). In a practical sense, these actions are easy to perform and can encompass a wide section of modern communities. Although the benefits of these actions are not well studied, nevertheless some initial findings appear promising (Griffiths, 2002; Granic et al., 2014).

Concluding Remarks

With regards to improving brain function, we are gradually moving away from the realms of science fiction and into the realms of reality (Kurzweil, 2005). It is now possible to suggest ways to enhance our brain function, based on novel concepts dependent not only on neuroscience but also on digital and other technology. The result of such augmentation does not only benefit the individual brain but can also improve all humanity in a more abstract sense. It improves human evolution and adaptation to new technological environments, and this, in turn, may have positive impact upon our health and thus longevity (Solman, 2012; Kyriazis, 2014c).

In a more philosophical sense, our progressive and distributed brain function amplification has begun to lead us toward attaining “god-like” characteristics (Heylighen, in press) particularly “omniscience” (through Google, Wikipedia, the semantic web, Massively Online Open Courses MOOCs—which dramatically enhance our knowledge base), and “omnipresence” (cloud and fog computing, Twitter, YouTube, Internet of Things, Internet of Everything). These are the result of the outsourcing of our brain capabilities to the cloud in a distributed and universal manner, which is an ideal global neural augmentation. The first steps have already been taken through brain to brain communication research. The concept of systems neuroscience is thus expanded to encompass not only the human nervous network but also a global network with societal and cultural elements.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Acknowledgment

I thank the help and input of the reviewers, particularly the first one who has dedicated a lot of time into improving the paper.

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Keywords: global brain, complex adaptive systems, human longevity, techno-cultural society, noeme, systems neuroscience

Citation: Kyriazis M (2015) Systems neuroscience in focus: from the human brain to the global brain? Front. Syst. Neurosci. 9:7. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2015.00007

Received: 14 October 2014; Accepted: 14 January 2015;
Published online: 06 February 2015.

Edited by:

Manuel Fernando Casanova, University of Louisville, USA

Reviewed by:

Mikhail Lebedev, Duke University, USA
Andrea Stocco, University of Washington, USA

Copyright © 2015 Kyriazis. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: drmarios@live.it


 

This article can also be found at http://hplusmagazine.com/2015/02/10/human-brain-global-brain/

DARPA and Transhumanism – Biology is Technology

This is an article by Peter Rothman at H+ Magazine called Biology is Technology — DARPA is Back in the Game With A Big Vision and It Is H+.  DARPA, the world’s most technologically advanced organization is pursuing transhuman technologies and supporting the transhumanism/singularity movement.  Just a thought to keep in mind while reading this; DARPA doesn’t do science fiction…


 

Biology is Technology — DARPA is Back in the Game With A Big Vision and It Is H+

Peter Rothman

Introduction

DARPA, the Defense Research Projects Agency, is perhaps best known for its role as progenitors of the computer networking and the Internet. Formed in the wake of the Soviet Union’s surprise launch of Sputnik, DARPA’s objective was to ensure that the United States would avoid technological surprises in the future. This role was later expanded to causing technological surprises as well.

And although DARPA is and has been the leading source of funding for artificial intelligence and a number of other transhumanist projects, they’ve been missing in action for a while. Nothing DARPA has worked on since seems to have had the societal impact of the invention of the Internet. But that is about to change.

The current director of DARPA is Dr. Arati Prabhakar. She is the second female director of the organization, following the previous and controversial director Regina Dugan who left the government to work at Google. The return to big visions and big adventures was apparent and in stark contrast to Dugan’s leadership of the organization.

Quoted in WIRED, Dugan had, for example, stated that “There is a time and a place for daydreaming. But it is not at DARPA,” and she told a congressional panel in March 2011, “Darpa is not the place of dreamlike musings or fantasies, not a place for self-indulging in wishes and hopes. DARPA is a place of doing.”

Those days are gone. DARPA’s new vision is simply to revolutionize the human situation and it is fully transhumanist in its approach.

The Biological Technologies Office or BTO was announced with little fanfare in the spring of 2014. This announcement didn’t get that much attention, perhaps because the press release announcing the BTO was published on April Fool’s Day.

But DARPA is determined to turn that around, and to help make that happen, they held a two day event in the SIlicon Valley area to facilitate and communicate about radical changes ahead in the area of biotechnologies. Invitees included some of the top biotechnology scientists in the world. And the audience was a mixed group of scientists, engineers, inventors, investors, futurists, along with a handful of government contractors and military personnel.

Biology is Technology

I was lucky to be invited to this event because although I spend a large amount of time researching technology and science as related to the future, nothing prepared me for the scope of the DARPA vision. The ostensible purpose of the two day meeting was to introduce the DARPA Biotechnology Program Office and to connect program managers with innovators, investors, and scientists working in biotechnology and related disciplines. But really they were here to shake things up.

darpa bit01

Opening the Biology Is Technology (BiT) event was DARPA Director Dr. Arati Prabhakar. Dr. Prabhakar’s presence at this meeting demonstrates how serious DARPA is about this effort, and one imagines that she was also in California to support President Obama’s Cybersecurity Summit with top leaders of the computer industry.

Dr. Prabhakar interviewed GE’s Sue Siegel about innovation and GE’s role in creating the future. This was a freewheeling conversation in which Ms. Siegel turned the tables and interviewed Dr. Prabhakar instead. What followed was an outstanding introduction to the proactionary approach to research and development, or in DARPA’s language, preventing surprises by creating your own.

Dr. Prabhakar clearly set up the DARPA’s latest incarnation as a return to the big vision, swing for the fences approach. She discussed DARPA’s approach to managing risks while creating high impact technologies. In this vision, DARPA’s role is to help scientists and innovators to “remove early risk” which might prevent them from obtaining investment and bringing novel ideas to market. DARPA was described by one presenter as a “always friendly, but somewhat crazy rich uncle” and they made it clear that they were going to put a fair bit of money behind these ideas.

darpa bit04

This meeting was focused around the launch of the new program office, the Biotechnology Program Office, although other program managers were present. The BTO is headed Dr. Geoff Ling who is a practicing Army medical doctor. Dr. Ling is an energetic spokesman for the DARPA vision and the BTO. And it is notable that it is an M.D. that is in charge of this effort because many of the developments being undertaken by the BTO are simply going to revolutionize the practice of medicine as we know it today. With the energetic Dr. Ling in charge, you can imagine it getting done.

Dr. Ling portrayed DARPA’s ambitious goals and set out what was one of the clearest presentations of the proactionary principle which I have heard. But that was just the opening volley; DARPA is going full on H+.

Following the inspirational presentation by Dr. Ling, the individual program managers had a chance to present their projects.

The first Program Manager to present, Phillip Alvelda, opened the event with his mind blowing project to develop a working “cortical modem”. What is a cortical modem you ask? Quite simply it is a direct neural interface that will allow for the visual display of information without the use of glasses or goggles. I was largely at this event to learn about this project and I wasn’t disappointed.

Leveraging the work of Karl Deisseroth in the area of optogenetics, the cortical modem project aims to build a low cost neural interface based display device. The short term goal of the project is the development of a device about the size of two stacked nickels with a cost of goods on the order of $10 which would enable a simple visual display via a direct interface to the visual cortex with the visual fidelity of something like an early LED digital clock.

The implications of this project are astounding.

Consider a more advanced version of the device capable of high fidelity visual display. First, this technology could be used to restore sensory function to individuals who simply can’t be treated with current approaches. Second, the device could replace all virtual reality and augmented reality displays. Bypassing the visual sensory system entirely, a cortical modem can directly display into the visual cortex enabling a sort of virtual overlay on the real world. Moreover, the optogenetics approach allows both reading and writing of information. So we can imagine at least a device in which virtual objects appear well integrated into our perceived world. Beyond this, a working cortical modem would enable electronic telepathy and telekinesis. The cortical modem is a real world version of the science fiction neural interfaces envisioned by writers such as William Gibson and more recently Ramez Naam.

To the extent that it is real, the cortical modem is still a crude device. This isn’t going to give you a high fidelity augmented reality display soon. And since the current approach is based in optogenetics, it requires a  genetic alteration of the DNA in your neurons. The health implications are unknown, and this research is currently limited to work with animal models. Specifically discussed was a real time imaging of the zebrafish brain with about 85,000 neurons.

Notably, while i was live blogging the event one h+ Magazine reader volunteered to undergo this possibly dangerous genetic procedure in exchange for early access to a cortical modem. A fact which I later got to mention directly to Dr. Prabhakar at the reception afterwards.

darpa bit18

Following the astounding cortical modem presentation, Dr. Dan Wattendorf presented DARPA’s efforts to get in front of and prevent disease outbreaks such as the recent crisis with ebola in Africa. This was a repeated theme throughout the event. DARPA is clearly recognizing the need to avoid “technological surprises” from nature as well as from nations. It is widely recognized that the current technology for dealing with novel disease outbreaks, the so called “post antibiotic” era, and bioweapons requires entirely new strategies for detection and rapid response to communicable illnesses. As an example, the ebola vaccine currently being considered for use has been in development for decades. Moreover, only a small number of vaccines exists even for known diseases. A novel threat might provide only weeks or months to respond however. Clearly new approaches are needed in both detection of disease outbreaks and response to them. Perhaps most interesting to me here was the discussion of transient gene therapies where an intervention that alters an organism’s DNA but which “turn off” after some time period or event.

Dr. Jack Newman Chief Science Officer at Amyris and board member of the Biobricks Foundation followed. Jack has recently joined DARPA as a program manager himself and he talked about Amyris’ work with producing useful materials from bio-engineered yeast. This project funded under DARPA’s Living Foundries program is just one of a number of efforts seeking to create novel materials and production processes. Dr. Newman presented a view into the programming of living systems using Amyris software that was quite interesting.

This provided a natural segue to program manager Alicia Jackson’s presentation on the broader Living Foundries program which promises to leverage the synthetic and functional capabilities of biology to create biologically-based manufacturing platforms to provide access to new materials, capabilities and manufacturing paradigms based in biology and synthetic biology. Imagine materials that self assemble, heal, and adapt to their changing environment as biological systems do. The program currently focuses on compressing the biological design-build-test-learn cycle by at least 10 times in both time and cost, while simultaneously increasing the complexity of systems that are created. The second phase of the program builds on these advancements and tools to create a scalable, integrated, rapid design and prototyping infrastructure for the engineering of biology.

Following this, a more casual presentation, a “fireside” chat between famed geneticist Dr. George Church and technology historian George Dyson. This chat rambled a bit and started off slowly. But once it got going, Church laid out his vision of engineering ecosystems using “gene drives” and throughout a variety of remarks that were of interest. For example, he expressed skepticism about “longevity” research as compared with “age reversal” techniques. GDF 11 got a mention. He also discussed the observation of genetic changes in cells grown outside of the body for example in so called “printed” organs, and discussed his alternative approach of growing human donor organs in transgenic pigs. He suggested the real possibility of enhancing human intelligence through genetic techniques and pointed to the complete molecular description of living systems as a goal.

This led into another amazing presentation from new DARPA program manager Julian Sanchez who is leading DARPA’s Human-machine symbiosis group which is developing many of the groundbreaking prosthetics such as mind controlled limbs which have recently been in the news. DARPA’s investment in advanced limb prosthetics has already delivered an FDA-approved device but “cognitive prosthetics” are next. DARPA is developing hardware and software to overcome the memory deficits and neuropsychiatric illnesses afflicting returning veterans for example.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 9.56.11 AM

While there wasn’t much shown regarding applying these ideas to healthy individuals or combat systems, we can assume that this work is underway. One patient was shown employing a neural interface to fly a simulated aircraft for example. And DARPA is supposedly working towards a system that would allow one person to pilot multiple vehicles by thought alone. The approach is bigger than just thought controlled drones however, because it focuses on creating symbiosis which is to ensure a mutual benefit to both partners in a relationship. The potential of this idea is often overlooked and misunderstood in conversations about machine intelligence for example.

Together with the cortical modem, these devices promise to revolutionize human abilities to repair ourselves, extend ourselves, communicate and indeed they will eventually and inevitably alter what it means to be human. Where is the boundary between self and other if we can directly share thoughts, dreams, emotions, and ideas? When we can experience not only the thoughts but feelings of someone else? How will direct neural access to knowledge change education and work? These technologies raise many questions for which we do not yet have answers.

Dr. Sanchez closed by calling on members of the audience to “come to DARPA and change the world” a call which didn’t ring hollow by this point. And things were just getting started.

This statement was made repeatedly. DARPA is open for business and looking for collaborators to work with. They’re building teams that work across subjects, disciplines and communities. They seek to build a community of interest aimed at tackling some of mankind’s greatest challenges, including things like curing communicable diseases and reversing ecosystem collapse. DARPA has some unique instruments and capabilities to offer anyone developing radical technological ideas and they want you to know about them. They openly invited the audience to submit abstracts for research ideas and promised that every email they receive would be answered “at least once”.

Several different DARPA performers also gave presentations. These are the people that DARPA has hired under contract to actually do the work and the presentations were a pretty heady and eclectic mix ranging from deep science to the unusual and on to the profound. Dr.Michel M. Maharbiz of UC Berkeley who is developing “neural dust” and has done controversial work with insect cyborgs. Saul Griffith of Otherlab presented the farthest ranging talk including his work with computer controlled inflatables which includes development of exoskeleton concepts, pneumatic sun trackers for low cost solar power applications, and a life sized robotic inflatable elephant he made for his daughter. I was also intrigued by a toy they had designed that was a universal constructor. He also had some very interesting analysis of the world’s energy production and utilization, showing areas where DARPA (and anyone else interested) could make the biggest difference to slow climate change.

How about curing all known and even unknown communicable diseases? Exploring “post pathogen medicine” is an effort in which DARPA is working to identify “unlikely heros”, those individuals with surprising  resilience or resistance to dangerous diseases. The idea is to apply big data analytics to analyze data from a large number of existing scientific analyses that might hide data indicating genetic markers for immunity or disease resistance in individuals.

Karl Deisseroth presented his work with optogenetics and his newer techniques for transforming neural tissue into a clear gel that can be imaged. He presented some impressive images from this work and his new unpublished imaging technique called “Swift 3D”. The resulting images are real-time maps of neural events. For example, Dr. Deisseroth presented visual representations of mouse thoughts from one controlled experiment.

Beyond reading mids, DARPA’s BiT programs are also looking to revolutionize the practice of biology and science in general. Dr. Stephen Friend presented Sage Networks a science oriented social sharing and collaboration platform which radically realigns the practices of scientific publication and data sharing. Apart from providing a standardized platform for publishing annotated bioscience datasets, the system requires users to make their data available to other researchers while still preserving their ability to get credit for original ideas and work. This project is important and could see application elsewhere outside of the biosciences. One member of the audience was so impressed with this idea she was compelled to comment.

darpa bit38

More directly, DARPA seeks to revolutionize the day to day practice of biotechnology and drug development. A series of “organs on a chip” was presented. These devices allow cultures of cells from an individual’s organs to be grown and treated with medications to assess effectiveness and possible side effects without the need to use an animal model or test on a live human subject. While they haven’t replicated every human organ, they did have a “gut on a chip” shown here. These little chips are flexible and kind of artistic actually. The company Emulate had a representative explaining the technology at the reception after the first day of the event. This is just one of several projects in which DARPA is seeking to understand the effects of drugs including adverse side effects in novel ways. The eventual hope is to shorten time to market while also radically lowering the costs of new medications.

Microfluidics — making tiny droplets

Another impressive series of developments was presented in the area of microfluidics. These developments consist of a set of technologies for creating very small droplets, and various mechanisms for manipulating, and experimenting on these tiny drops. Currently the practice of bioscience experimentation is largely performed by human postdocs who spend thousands of hours pipetting, mixing, and carefully measuring results. But using microfluidics and a series of intricate valves, nozzles, and so on, many of these procedures can be automated and radically sped up.

The audience got a chance to mix with the DARPA program managers after the event at a reception where some of DARPA’s projects were presented in a hands on environment. I had a brief conversation with Dr. Prabhakar who mentioned that she was aware of Humanity+ and transhumanism more generally. She was excited to have us involved, but also expressed some dismay at the political aspect of the transhumanist movement.

Well known Silicon Valley venture capitalist, rocketeer, transhumanist, and super guy Steve Jurvetson was spotted “high fiving” a DARPA funded telepresence robot developed at Johns Hopkins APL at the reception.

The robot operates via a head mounted display which places the wearer into the robot’s “head” and two instrumented gloves which give the wearer control over the robot’s dexterous human like hands. The hands get a bit hot due to the motors that move them however, so a fist bump is going to be prefered over a handshake with this guy.

darpa bit28 darpa bit32 darpa bit34

DARPA’s Inner Buddha

a photo of a child holding hands with a prosthetic hand

AT the two day BiT event, it was revealed that DARPA hasn’t just gone full on transhumanist, they’re full Buddha.

The goal of his project as presented by one of the project investigators, Dr. Eddie Chang of the University of California at San Francisco, during day two’s “Lightning Round” , was nothing less than eliminating human suffering.

Curing communicable diseases and prosthetics were the top of the list day one.

But Dr. Chang was talking about curing a deeper inner injury, the sort of thing that causes mental illness, depression, and intractable PTSD;  problems which military veterans notably suffer disproportionately.

The first stage of the project is underway and working with patients who are already undergoing brain surgery for intractable epilepsy. Four individuals so far have had their detailed neural patterns recorded 24 hours a day for ten days using an implanted device. The resulting neural map is at the millimeter and millisecond level and is correlated with other information about the patient’s mood and physiological state.

In another program, ElectRX, DARPA is investigating the use of similar neural stimulation techniques to promote healing of the body from injuries and disease. In both cases the emphasis isn’t  on working around or bypassing damage, but using electrical stimulation to promote healing and repair. DARPA wants to heal you. Dr. Chang stated, for example, that the success of his project wouldn’t be marked by the date of the first implanted device, but rather the date of the first removal.

Summary

Creating novel industrial processes to reduce climate change? DARPA had that covered too. So while Dr. Ling made sure to remind the audience up front that this was all about supporting warfighters, it was impossible to not consider the deeper implications of what was being presented as the event proceeeded.

The reality is that the true DARPA mission isn’t just about war. A happier, more secure and sustainable world is the best possible security for the United States, a fact that DARPA’s leaders seemingly recognize at the moment.  And so DARPA is developing technologies for rapid identification of communicable diseases, restoring lost biological functions, producing materials and developing novel industrial processes to prevent slow and reverse climate change, save ecosystems and more.

And DARPA’s next revolution, biology is technology, is something even bigger than the Internet. They’re out to revolutionize the practice and products of bio-science and along the way they are re-defining what it will mean to be human. Will we alter our biology to enable direct mind to mind communication? Can we extend our immune system into the world to cure all communicable diseases? Can we cure and repair the most damaging and persistent mental illnesses?

In this amazing two day event, DARPA opened the door to a wider public collaboration and conversation about these amazing ideas.

A second event is planned for New York City in June and video of the February presentations will be available online according to DARPA representatives at the event. I will update this story with videos when they are available.

This article can also be found at http://hplusmagazine.com/2015/02/15/biology-technology-darpa-back-game-big-vision-h/

Cyborg Science: Ultrathin Nanowires can Monitor and Influence What Goes on Inside Your Brain

This is a short article from the humanity+ website called Cyborg Science: Ultrathin Nanowires can Monitor and Influence What Goes on Inside Your Brain.  This is some revolutionary brain science.  It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that this kind of tech will open worlds of possibilities in brain science.

Cyborg Science: Ultrathin Nanowires can Monitor and Influence What Goes on Inside Your Brain

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No longer just fantastical fodder for sci-fi buffs, cyborg technology is bringing us tangible progress toward real-life electronic skin, prosthetics and ultra-flexible circuits. Now taking this human-machine concept to an unprecedented level, pioneering scientists are working on the seamless marriage between electronics and brain signaling with the potential to transform our understanding of how the brain works — and how to treat its most devastating diseases.

“By focusing on the nanoelectronic connections between cells, we can do things no one has done before,” says Charles M. Lieber, Ph.D. “We’re really going into a new size regime for not only the device that records or stimulates cellular activity, but also for the whole circuit. We can make it really look and behave like smart, soft biological material, and integrate it with cells and cellular networks at the whole-tissue level. This could get around a lot of serious health problems in neurodegenerative diseases in the future.”

These disorders, such as Parkinson’s, that involve malfunctioning nerve cells can lead to difficulty with the most mundane and essential movements that most of us take for granted: walking, talking, eating and swallowing.

Scientists are working furiously to get to the bottom of neurological disorders. But they involve the body’s most complex organ — the brain — which is largely inaccessible to detailed, real-time scrutiny. This inability to see what’s happening in the body’s command center hinders the development of effective treatments for diseases that stem from it.

By using nanoelectronics, it could become possible for scientists to peer for the first time inside cells, see what’s going wrong in real time and ideally set them on a functional path again.

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For the past several years, Lieber has been working to dramatically shrink cyborg science to a level that’s thousands of times smaller and more flexible than other bioelectronic research efforts. His team has made ultrathin nanowires that can monitor and influence what goes on inside cells. Using these wires, they have built ultra-flexible, 3-D mesh scaffolding with hundreds of addressable electronic units, and they have grown living tissue on it. They have also developed the tiniest electronic probe ever that can record even the fastest signaling between cells.

Rapid-fire cell signaling controls all of the body’s movements, including breathing and swallowing, which are affected in some neurodegenerative diseases. And it’s at this level where the promise of Lieber’s most recent work enters the picture.

In one of the lab’s latest directions, Lieber’s team is figuring out how to inject their tiny, ultraflexible electronics into the brain and allow them to become fully integrated with the existing biological web of neurons. They’re currently in the early stages of the project and are working with rat models.

“It’s hard to say where this work will take us,” he says. “But in the end, I believe our unique approach will take us on a path to do something really revolutionary.”

Their presentation is taking place at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. The meeting features nearly 12,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics and is being held here through Thursday.

Lieber acknowledges funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Air Force.

 

This article can also be found here.

The Transhuman Future: Be More Than You Can Be by Marcelo Gleiser

Here’s an article called The Transhuman Future: Be More Than You Can Be from the NPR website.  This article explores what it means to be transhuman and relates it to ways we’ve already begun to enhance ourselves.

The Transhuman Future: Be More Than You Can Be

JUNE 11, 201410:59 AM ET
Collage illustration of a human head, computer chip, digits and various abstract elements.

Andrew Ostrovsky/iStockphoto

How is it that we define a human? Is it our body? Our genome? Our behaviors? Our self-awareness? Our compassion? Our minds? All of these and then something more? What now may be obvious to most people about being human will become less so as we become progressively more integrated with technology both inside and outside our bodies.

Transhumanism, according to the dictionary on my Apple laptop, is defined as “the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology.”

It sounds like something from a sci-fi movie, people flying around with purple wings (an image a student of mine mentioned in my class “Question Reality!” based on my book The Island of Knowledge). How about translucent skin or the strength to lift cars with one hand? Enhanced memory: who wouldn’t want that?

If you have a purist definition of what it means to be human, without any intervention from outside gadgets, it’s time to come to terms with reality: almost no one in modern society is purely human.

Our integration with technology is evolving us into something else.

Consider, for example, medication. If we take a drug that changes our chemistry to treat depression or high blood pressure, we are not the same. We are who we were before plus the medication. That’s not quite the same as going beyond our current human state. But it is a change.

Ritalin, on the other hand, does change things in a more transformative way. That’s why it’s such a prize among college students, as it supposedly enhances cognitive faculties in ways that help during exams. The movie Limitless takes this to the extreme. But transhumanism is no longer just in the realm of the fictional.

Even vitamins, superfoods and protein powders are doing the same: enhancing physical performance, the immune system, improving memory, boosting sexual energy, etc.

And when we add prosthetic implants? Should an athlete with carbon fiber prosthetic legs compete with others who don’t have the same technology? In the last Olympics, South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius competed with prosthetic legs. What if he had won?

We are already in the transhuman era.

If it isn’t vitamins or performance-inhancing drugs, who can be without a cell phone? This device is now an extension of who we are, indispensable in our everyday life. Forgetting one at home is tragic: a sense of loss, of disconnection, no memory, no schedule, no music, camera, news, email, maps, GPS, Facebook, Twitter, games. Nearly every app is an extension of our mental faculties, part of who we are.

Just a few decades ago, when you got to someones house you’d check out their records and books to get a feel for the person. Now, it’s their apps.

We are now linked to huge amounts of data. Any one of us can connect by video to people across the planet; cellular devices are a means of extending our presence, of redefining the reality in which we live. Our brain is no longer just the gray mass inside our head; through its digital tentacles the brain now extends itself — and you — around the world.

The future? Transhumanism will only grow. Technological devices will be implanted in our heads and bodies, our used peripherally, like Google Glass, extending our senses and cognitive abilities. Why see only in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum? Let’s go ultraviolet! Infrared! Let’s extend our hearing range, our memory capacity, our immune defenses, our life span, our brainpower.

The question that no one has answered, though, is what will this do to our species? Will we simply reinvent ourselves, taking evolution into our own hands? It seems that we are already doing this. And will we then become less human?

It seems so, but “less” may be a misnomer. We are becoming something else. We are becoming a new species. Let us hope that whatever we become, or some of us become, will be wise enough to deal with the unavoidable inequalities that will surely follow.Brave New World is not a good model for our future.

This article can also be found at http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/06/11/320961912/the-transhuman-future-be-more-than-you-can-be

Quantified Self Revolution

The quantified self revolution is the idea that as the data we accumulate on a daily basis grows and becomes more complete, our understanding of ourselves deepen and we can use that data to create better internal and external environments for ourselves.  The article is called Quantified Self revolution : Hello Human 2.0 and features a video in the Shots of Awe series with Jason Silva called Explore The “Quantified Self” Revolution with Jason Silva.

Quantified Self revolution : Hello Human 2.0

This week’s Quantified Self roundup features a filmmaker’s perception of the Quantified Self revolution, a platform that tracks everything in your life, and a design-savvy fitness tracker.

Human 2.0

Renowned filmmaker Jason Silva recently released a new video in his YouTube channel Shots of Awe wherein he talks about how amazing the Quantified Self revolution is.  Silva talks about how sensors obtaining all these data from millions of people can be used to better analyze a person and could well be the beginning of Human 2.0.

It’s certainly an interesting concept to ponder, and that’s what Silva does best.  The filmmaker’s been on a guest on theCUBE on at least one occasion, and we revisit his most recent appearance here, where he discusses Big Data and its impact on the consumer.

Tictrac

 

The biggest challenge right now in the Quantified Self revolution may be app fatigue, so it certainly doesn’t help that there are so many apps and gadgets available today.  To keep you get focused and on task, there’s a new platform that will help you keep track of all the tracking that matters.

Tictrac  allows you to sync all the apps and gadgets you are currently using so everything you need is in one place.  It tracks anything from your email, blood pressure, supermarket foods, food intake, your baby, and even the calories you burned during your workout.  And if you have just started with the quantified self revolution and your fitness tracker or app doesn’t offer other tracker, you can use Tictrac to track anything you please.

It is available in both mobile and web platform so you can check your progress anytime.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/64713784″>Tictrac</a&gt; from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/tictrac”>Tictrac</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Via Heartbeat Bracelet

 

If you’re still looking for a fashionable fitness tracker, you might want to check out the Via Heartbeat Bracelet.  The Via Heartbeat is still a Kickstarter project and has a long way to go to achieve its $300,000 funding goal.

What makes this fitness tracker different is that it looks simple but elegant and if people aren’t familiar with it, no one would guess that it’s a fitness tracker.  It is designed to fit comfortably and stay in place no matter how rigorous your workout routine is.  Via it’s web app, you can set your goals.  This will automatically sync with your bracelet and will glow various colors depending on which of your goals is being achieved.

If you are interested with this project, make sure to check out the project and help fund it.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/drbrenda/the-via-heartbeat-bracelet/widget/video.html

This article can also be found on the Silicone Angle website at http://siliconangle.com/blog/2013/11/13/quantified-self-revolution-hello-human-2-0/

The first video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjflrXDDU-w#t=89

The second video can also be found at https://vimeo.com/tictrac

The third video can also be found on the Kickstarter website at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/drbrenda/the-via-heartbeat-bracelet?ref=video

Video Info:

Published on Nov 5, 2013

“We will measure everything… and feed that information back into the system.”

The Quantified Self Revolution. You’ve heard the buzz term, but it’s the idea that as we extend computation into everything, and as we extend sensors into everything, we’re increasingly extending those sensors into ourselves – creating a data rich, always on stream of information about our biological functioning.

Join Jason Silva every week as he freestyles his way into the complex systems of society, technology and human existence and discusses the truth and beauty of science in a form of existential jazz. New episodes every Tuesday.

Watch More Shots of Awe on TestTube http://testtube.com/shotsofawe

Subscribe now! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_c…

Jason Silva on Twitter http://twitter.com/jasonsilva

Jason Silva on Facebook http://facebook.com/jasonlsilva

Jason Silva on Google+ http://plus.google.com/10290664595165…

Tictrac is a Lifestyle Design Platform that empowers people through their own data. Users can connect with health and fitness apps and devices they may already use, from blood pressure monitors, wireless weight scales, sleep/stress trackers, diet and activity monitors to email, calendar, weather and much more. We currently sync with over 50 services/devices from fitness (MyFitnessPal, Runkeeper, Endomondo) medical (Withings, VitaDock) personal (Fitbit, BodyMedia, Garmin) even social (Facebook, Twitter, Klout) adding new API integrations every week.

Users can visualise their data about themselves in personal dashboards that give them insights into how to improve their lifestyle. Users can also cross reference disparate sets of data to see how one aspect of their lives may affect another. They can then share their dashboards with professionals like their physician, personal trainer or coach who can interpret that data and tailor their programmes accordingly.

External Links

Building a Better You? The Era of Trans-Human Technology by Christopher Phillips

I just gotta say, if you’re going to do a pro-transhumanism piece, maybe you should refrain from using the most creepy-ass graphic you can find.  Am I right?

Anyway, creepy image aside, this is an interesting little article from LiveScience by Christopher Phillips called Building a Better You? The Era of Trans-Human Technology.  The article is about augmented reality and prosthetics how intimate our technology has become.

Building a Better You? The Era of Trans-Human Technology (Op-Ed)

Expertvoices_02_ls_v2[2]
A part-human, part-robot man, in image showing his face.
Some scientists imagine cybernetic parts to replace cancerous limbs and aging hearts, radically increasing longevity.
Credit: Lobke Peers | Shutterstock

This article can also be found on the LiveScience website at http://www.livescience.com/45872-transhuman-technology.html

Transhumans: Technology Powered Superhumans (Slideshow)

I found this presentation (Transhumans: Technology Powered Superhumans) on SlideShare.  Some of the pictures are a bit cheesy, but these 46 slides touch base on almost every category of transhumanism you can imagine.

Transhumans: Technology Powered Superhumans

Published on Nov 18, 2013

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”//www.slideshare.net/UXTrendspotting/transhumanism-technology-powered-superhumans” title=”Transhumans: Technology Powered Superhumans” target=”_blank”>Transhumans: Technology Powered Superhumans</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”//www.slideshare.net/UXTrendspotting” target=”_blank”>Institute of Customer Experience</a></strong> </div>

Transhumanism is the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations by means of science and technology. The more we explored this subject, the more we got fascinated to see how people are riding on the current era technologies to surpass the capabilities of human body. If the current explorations in transhumanism are anything to go by, then, we believe the future will be very exciting!

In this report we explore the various technologies, people involved and the advancements made in the field of Transhumanism. We would love to hear your feedback, comments and suggestions. Please mail us at ice@humanfactors.com

Published in: Design, Technology, Spiritual

 

The original presentation can be found at http://www.slideshare.net/UXTrendspotting/transhumanism-technology-powered-superhumans

A Transhumanist President in 2016? Yeah, we’ll see…

A transhumanist president in 2016?  As much as I would like to see a technologically aware president in the near future, I highly doubt 2016 will be the year (2020 will almost certainly be a different story, though).  Still, what better way to bring awareness to the public than having a singularitarian run for president?  I’ve read up on Zoltan Istvan a little, but I’ll have to dig in a bit more before I decide if I’m going to cast my vote his way.  Although, if it’s between him and a religious conservative, you know who I’m going to choose!

An interview with Zoltan Istvan, leader of the Transhumanist Party and 2016 presidential contender

A cyberpunk/transhumanist, kinda

ExtremeTech has never been particularly interested in politics. That being said, as the focus of politics and politicians inexorably shifts towards technology, we might just jump in the water for a dip.

Many might imagine that concerns of a more socio-political nature — like who is able to accrue what particular powers or possessions, and from whom — would persist independently of technological influence. Others, like the Transhumanist Party founder Zoltan Istvan, might offer that socio-political issues already are, at heart, technological issues. Now seizing the day, and a rapidly expanding number of like-minded transhumanists, Istvan has announced that he will be a contender in the 2016 US presidential race.

IstvanIf you haven’t heard of transhumanism, or you’re not quite sure what it means, I suggest you readour introductory story about transhumanismbefore diving into the rest of this story. In short, though, transhumanism (sometimes referred to as H+) is about improving or transforming the human condition through technology. Brain implants, genetic engineering, bionic limbs, indefinite life extension — these are all examples of the topics (and elective surgeries) that a transhumanist would be interested in.

The Transhumanist Wager

In his recent book The Tranhumanist Wager Istvan outlines three laws:

  1. A transhumanist must safeguard one’s own existence above all else.
  2. A transhumanist must strive to achieve omnipotence as expediently as possible — so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First Law.
  3. A transhumanist must safeguard value in the universe — so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First and Second Laws.

If energetically adopted, these deceptively simple maxims ultimately compel the individual to pursue a technologically enhanced and extended life. Zoltan and other supporters of transhumanism have come to see the choice to accept or reject these principles as something far more fundamental than the choice between liberal or conservative principles. In other words, it is a more compact predictor, a simpler explanation of your worldview, motivations, and actions than any current party provides.

It is for these reasons that Zoltan has founded the Transhumanist Party and is now taking this first major step to grow it. At this point in the game, the next major step — getting access to all the state ballots — could prove challenging. With these ideas in mind, we present an interview with (possibly) the next US president: Zoltan Istvan.

ZoltanIstvan

Why did you decide to run for the US presidency?

Zoltan Istvan – The most important goal of the Transhumanist Party and my 2016 presidential campaign is to spread awareness of transhumanism and to address the issue that society will be greatly changed by radical science and technology in the next 5-15 years. Most people are unaware how significant these changes could be. For example, we might all be getting brain implants soon, or using driverless cars, or having personal drones follow us around and do our shopping for us. Things like anonymity in the social media age, gender roles, exoskeleton suits for unfit people, ectogenesis, and the promise of immersive virtual reality could significantly change the way society views itself. Transhumanism seeks to address these issues with forward-thinking ideas, safeguards, and policies. It aims to be a bridge to a scientific and tech-dominated future, regardless what the species may eventually become.

While the Transhumanist Party has almost no chance of winning this election, its goal is to get on as many state ballots as possible, so people will see its promise and recognize what it stands for. By doing so, we’ll let citizens know an exciting political movement is afoot that focuses on using technology and science to enhance the human species. And maybe sometime in the future, many people will want to join it. Furthermore, I’m hopeful other political parties will take notice of transhumanism and incorporate its ideas into their own philosophies.

On a final note, it’s my hope that others will start to run for various political offices, both locally and nationally, under the Transhumanist Party banner. This way we can show the country that future politics should be far more science and technology inspired. This would be a great step for the direction of the America.

The best thing about being transhuman is what the word really means: beyond human. In this way, transhumanism aims to leave behind the problems and bickering the human race has undergone for millennia, especially ethnic, racial, gender, and cultural divisions. The language of transhumanism is science — and that language and cultural framework is universal. That’s the brilliance of transhumanism. It seeks not to divide, but to improve the lives of all people. It doesn’t judge one’s race, sex, class, culture, or ethnicity. It transcends them with its scientific aims. For example, designer babies — a classic transhumanist field — are literally just years away.

The idea that a child will belong genetically to one race when that same child has been significantly genetically modified is no longer valid. Transhumanism will overcome this hurdle and many others that have sadly embroiled many countries and communities into longstanding enmity.

A transhumanist's take on Michelangelo's Cistine Chapel

If, as you observed, “Morality is often defined by the amount of time we have left,” can transhumanists run on a morality platform without being labelled as some kind of a religion life-extension as their God?

This is a challenging question. I admit there are some aspects of transhumanism that seem almost religious in nature, such as the idea of the Singularity or the all-important goal of trying to stop biological aging and conquer human death. But what many people forget is that transhumanism is also engaged in discussing and exploring the mysteries of the universe — that many transhumanist scientists are in love with that mystery. They spend their lives dedicated to unraveling the puzzles of our existence. However, transhumanists pursue all this mystery from the point of view of the Scientific Method, which is a tool designed to ensure a healthy amount of skepticism to all endeavors. That is the critical difference between transhumanists and many fundamentalist religious people; it’s the difference between transhumanism and religion. We are encouraged to question and ask “why?” in our pursuit to make a better life for ourselves. We are encouraged to find the best path forward, regardless of preconceived notions or historical precedent. There are no guarantees except that which we create for ourselves.

Transhumanists are techno-optimistic people who believe they have the power and the universal right to improve their lives. Some will say this type of attitude is religious or spiritual in nature, and maybe it is from a certain point of view. But mostly it’s just a healthy scientific attitude about creating the best life for oneself, one’s loved ones, and one’s planet.

The fact that the deaf can hear via transhumanist implants, war amputees now have feeling robotic limbs, and the paralyzed can walk via exoskeleton technology reminds religious people of their own texts of faith and its parables. I find this a good thing, and hope that religious people may come to embrace transhumanism due to some of the similarities. While I remain an atheist, I see no reason that religions can’t eventually see many of their hopes and ideas fulfilled via the promise of transhumanism.

While the hope exists that improved societies promptly lead to improved individuals, historically it has always been the richest and most powerful people who — often exclusively — received the improvements. How might transhumanism best proceed in the current political climate to rectify our near universal dreams for equality and opportunity and universal improvements to the human condition?

The history of scientific and technological advancement — which is really the history of transhumanism — has always pushed our species forward in a positive way. Transhumanism has made all people live longer, better, and with more opportunity. A recent report out of the United Nations says the poverty level around the world is the lowest it’s ever been. This is largely due to science and technology. While it’s true that a small minority — often the so-called elite — are usually first to get new technologies and advancements, those products have a long history of trickling down to all levels of society. That’s why you can find cellphones in mud hut villages in some of the poorest parts of Africa. And now those villages can communicate with family members far away or call a doctor to come visit a sick person. Such advancement is truly wonderful.

Human with robot exoskeleton arm, writing EvolutionThe world is evolving positively due to transhumanism tech and science. I believe it will continue to evolve into a place where living standards and the happiness of all people sharply rise as a result. In the future, I think there will be more interconnectedness than ever before. While I’m a big fan of the individual and their rights, such interconnectedness due to a digital culture will bring us all closer, possibly in ways we couldn’t imagine. Eventually, advancements in technology — such as widespread chip implants, virtual currencies, and brain wave reading devices (which already exist) — will force issues of equality and universality across all communities and borders. Globalization will not just be a slow jog, but become a full sprint.

In the future, it may not be about the individual versus the collective, but about how much one wants to participate in a thriving global digital community versus not participating. Everyone will have the chance to engage and participate if they want. Virtual worlds, free online education, and 24/7 social media usage will become the playgrounds of society and social interaction. Such a life may seem strange to many people — especially older, more conservative people — but observe how the youth have already taken to such things. They are our future, and they are already leading the way, delving further into transhumanist perspectives as each year passes.

For more information about Zoltan Istvan, his book The Transhumanist Wager, and his bid for the 2016 US presidency, visit the Transhumanist Party website.

 

This article can also be found on the Extreme Tech website at http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/192385-an-interview-with-zoltan-istvan-leader-of-the-transhumanist-party-and-2016-presidential-contender

When Will We Be Transhuman? Seven Conditions for Attaining Transhumanism by Kyle Munkittrick

Here’s an article from Discover Magazine called When Will We Be Transhuman? Seven Conditions for Attaining Transhumanism.  The article is short, but well thought out.

When Will We Be Transhuman? Seven Conditions for Attaining Transhumanism

By Kyle Munkittrick | July 16, 2011 9:53 am

The future is impossible to predict. But that’s not going to stop people from trying. We can at least pretend to know where it is we want humanity to go. We hope that laws we craft, the technologies we invent, our social habits and our ways of thinking are small forces that, when combined over time, move our species towards a better existence. The question is, How will we know if we are making progress?

As a movement philosophy, transhumanism and its proponents argue for a future of ageless bodies, transcendent experiences, and extraordinary minds. Not everyone supports every aspect of transhumanism, but you’d be amazed at how neatly current political struggles and technological progress point toward a transhuman future. Transhumanism isn’t just about cybernetics and robot bodies. Social and political progress must accompany the technological and biological advances for transhumanism to become a reality.

But how will we able to tell when the pieces finally do fall into place? I’ve been trying to answer that question ever since Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution was asked a while back by his readers: What are the exact conditions for counting “transhumanism” as having been attained? In an attempt to answer, I responded with what I saw as the three key indicators:

  1. Medical modifications that permanently alter or replace a function of the human body become prolific.
  2. Our social understanding of aging loses the “virtue of necessity” aspect and society begins to treat aging as a disease.
  3. Rights discourse would shift from who we include among humans (i.e. should homosexual have marriage rights?) to a system flexible enough to easily bring in sentient non-humans.

As I groped through the intellectual dark for these three points, it became clear that the precise technology and how it worked was unimportant. Instead, we need to figure out how technology may change our lives and our ways of living. Unlike the infamous jetpack, which defined the failed futurama of the 20th century, the 21st needs broader progress markers. Here are seven things to look for in the coming centuries that will let us know if transhumanism is here.

When we think of the future, we think of technology. But too often, we think of really pointless technology – flying cars or self-tying sneakers or ray guns. Those things won’t change the way life happens. Not the way the washing machine or the cell phone changed the way life happens. Those are realinventions. It is in that spirit that I considered indicators of transhumanism. What matters is how a technology changes our definition of a “normal” human. Think of it this way: any one of these indicators has been fulfilled when at least a few of the people you interact with on any given day utilize the technology. With that mindset, I propose the following seven changes as indicators that transhumanism has been attained.

1. Prosthetics are Preferred: The arrival of prosthetics and implants for organs and limbs that are as good as or better than the original. A fairly accurate test for the quality of prosthetics would be voluntary amputations. Those who use prosthetics would compete with or surpass non-amputees in physical performances and athletic competitions. Included in this indicator are cochlear, optic implants, bionic limbs and artificial organs that are within species typical functioning and readily available. A key social indicator will be that terminology around being “disabled”and “handicapped” would become anachronous. If you ever find yourself seriously considering having your birth-given hand lopped off and replaced with a cybernetic one, you can tick off this box on your transhuman checklist.

2. Better Brains: There are three ways we could improve our cognition. In order of likelihood of being used in the near future they are: cognitive enhancing drugs, genetic engineering, or neuro-implants/ prosthetic cyberbrains. When the average person wakes up, brews a pot of coffee and pops an over-the-counter stimulant as or more powerful than modafinil, go ahead and count this condition achieved. Genetic engineering and cyberbrains will be improvements in degree and function, but not in purpose. Any one of these becoming commonplace would indicate that we no longer cling to the bias that going beyond the intelligence dished out by the genetic and environmental lottery is “cheating.”

3. Artificial Assistance: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) integrated into personal, everyday behaviors. In the same way Google search and Wikipedia changed the way we research and remember, AI and AR could alter the way we think and interact. Daedalus in Deus Ex and Jarvis in Iron Man are great examples of Turing-quality (indistinguishable from human intelligence) AI that interact with the main character as both side kicks and secondary minds. Think of it this way: you walk into a cocktail party. Your cyberbrain’s AI assist analyzes every face in the room and determines those most socially relevant to you. Using AR projected onto your optic implants, the AI highlights each person in your line of sight and, as you approach, provides a dossier of their main interests and personality type. Now apply this level of information access to anything else. Whether it’s grilling a steak or performing a heart transplant, AI assist with AR overlay will radically improve human functioning. When it is expected that mostpeople will have an AI advisor at their side analyzing the situation and providing instructions through their implants, go ahead and count humanity another step closer to being transhuman.

4. Amazing Average Age: The ultimate objective of health care is that people live the longest, healthiest lives possible. Whether that happens due to nanotechnology or genetic engineering or synthetic organs is irrelevant. What matters is that eventually people will age more slowly, be healthier for a larger portion of their lives, and will be living beyond the age of 120. Our social understanding of aging will lose the “virtue of necessity” aspect and society will treat aging as a disease to be mitigated and managed. When the average expected life span exceeds 120, the conditions for transhuman longevity will have arrived.

5. Responsible Reproduction: Having children will be framed almost exclusively in the light of responsibility. Human reproduction is, at the moment, not generally worthy of the term “procreation.” Procreation implies planned creation and conscientious rearing of a new human life. As it stands, anyone with the necessary biological equipment can accidentally spawn a whelp and, save for extreme physical neglect, is free to all but abandon it to develop in an arbitrary and developmentally damaging fashion. Children – human beings as a whole – deserve better. Responsible reproduction will involve, first and foremost, better birth control for men and women. Abortions will be reserved for the rare accidental pregnancy and/or those that threaten the life of the mother. Those who do choose to reproduce will do so via assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) ensuring pregnancy is quite deliberate. Furthermore, genetic modification, health screening, and, eventually synthetic wombs will enable the child with the best possibility of a good life to be born. Parental licensing may be part of the process; a liberalization of adoption and surrogate pregnancy laws certainly will be. When global births stabilize at replacement rates, ARTs are the preferred method of conception, and responsible child rearing is more highly valued than biological parenthood, we will be procreating as transhumans.

6. My Body, My Choice: Legalization and regulation will be based onsomatic rights. Substances that are ingested – cogno enhancers, recreational drugs, steroids, nanotech – become both one’s right and responsibility. Actions such as abortion, assisted suicide, voluntary amputation, gender reassignment, surrogate pregnancy, body modification, legal unions among adults of any number, and consenting sexual practices would be protected under law. One’s genetic make-up, neurological composition, prosthetic augmentation, and other cybernetic modifications will be limited only by technology and one’s own discretion. Transhumanism cannot happen without a legal structure that allows individuals to control their own bodies. When bodily freedom is as protected and sanctified as free speech, transhumanism will be free to develop.

7. Persons, not People: Rights discourse will shift to personhood instead of common humanity. I have argued we’re already beginning to see a social shifttowards this mentality. Using a scaled system based on traits like sentience, empathy, self-awareness, tool use, problem solving, social behaviors, language use, and abstract reasoning, animals (including humans) will be granted rights based on varying degrees of personhood. Personhood based rights will protect against Gattaca scenarios while ensuring the rights of new forms of intelligence, be they alien, artificial, or animal, are protected. When African grey parrots, gorillas, and dolphins have the same rights as a human toddler, a transhuman friendly rights system will be in place.

Individually, each of these conditions are necessary but not sufficient for transhumanism to have been attained. Only as a whole are they sufficient for transhumanism to have been achieved. I make no claims as to how or when any or all of these conditions will be attained. If forced to guess, I would say all seven conditions will be attained over the course of the next two centuries, with conditions (3) and (4) being the furthest from attainment.

Transhumanism is a long way from being attained. However, with these seven conditions in mind, we can at least determine if we are moving towards or away from a transhuman future.

Follow Kyle on his personal blog, Pop Bioethics, and on facebook andtwitter.

Image of psychedelic human eye by Kate Whitley via dullhunk on Flickr Creative Commons.

This article can also be found at http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/sciencenotfiction/2011/07/16/when-will-we-be-transhuman-seven-conditions-for-attaining-transhumanism/