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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Transhumanist
Posted: February 23, 2017 at 12:41 pm
Updated February 23, 2017 13:17:22
Can transhumanists, biohackers and grinders live forever?
The answer is maybe soon at least according to them.
Ok. So what’s a transhumanist?
Like some scientists, they believe that ageing is a disease, and they are not afraid of taking human evolution into their own hands by harnessing genetic engineering, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.
Sydney-based IT innovation manager and self-described transhumanist Peter Xing says Australians aged in their 20s and 30s could now end up living long enough to live forever.
It is called “longevity escape velocity”.
“That means staying healthy for as long as you can until such a point that there’s the technology to enable you to live indefinitely,” Mr Xing explains.
Fellow transhumanist Meow-Ludo Meow-Meow (yes, that’s his real name, changed by deed poll) believes he could be one of the first generations of humans to live forever.
“I’m 31. I think with technology improving exponentially I have a very good chance of living forever.”
“We know a lot of the causes of ageing and we’re actively working on technology to address them.
“If we can increase our life span by more than one year for every year of our lives, then we become functionally immortal.”
Have you got a question? Join the live QandA with Peter Xing and Margot O’Neill on Facebook tonight at 8:00pm (AEDT).
In the last couple of years, researchers have extended the life of mice by up to 40 per cent through various means including gene therapies.
Human trials are a long way off because of tight government regulations, but many researchers have started experimenting on themselves.
In 2015, American genetics activist Liz Parrish flew to Colombia to avoid US regulatory constraints.
Once there she says she injected herself with an unproven anti-ageing gene therapy.
Ms Parrish, the CEO of biotechnology company BioViva, is now known as Patient Zero.
She says results show the treatment rejuvenated part of her DNA, called telomeres, that shorten with age, and she claims her telomeres have now grown by 9 per cent, or about 20 years.
Many scientists question her claims.
Grinders or biohackers are people who augment their bodies with technology.
This could be as crude as implanting magnets under your skin a procedure that can be done at some tattoo and body piercing studios or slightly more high-tech like getting microchips placed inside your body.
Mr Meow-Meow has a micro-chip implanted in his left thumb and has downloaded some smartphone functions directly into his body.
“I can open doors, authenticate myself to my credit card, activate my phone, activate drones and I can program the chip in my thumb from my phone anytime,” he said.
US grinder Rich Lee has more than seven implants, including magnets in his finger tips which twitch in response to electro-magnetic fields.
“You can feel it because all those nerves in your fingertips have grown around the magnet and it has a texture and you’re feeling this otherwise invisible world,” he said.
Mr Lee also has magnets in his ears which serve as earphones: “being able to hear through walls is cool.”
And Mr Meow-Meow warns would-be biohackers against trying to implant themselves with DIY kits.
“Anything that’s put under the skin provides an environment in which bacteria can grow,” he said.
“This is why it’s very important that you go and see a professional.”
Aside from physical modifications, the race is also on to reach a new, super intelligence.
Billionaire Elon Musk wants to develop a neural lace which would layer onto the human brain and connect digitally to AI.
Without it, he says humans will risk becoming like a “house pet”, because AI will eventually outstrip human intelligence perhaps this century.
Mr Xing says all this is vital so humans don’t lose their jobs to robots and it will also help us adapt to space travel.
“The question is at what point does the incorporation of all this technology make us a different species and what are the ethics behind that?”
Watch Margot O’Neill’s report tonight on Lateline at 9.30pm on ABC News 24 or 10.30pm on ABC TV.
Topics: science-and-technology, pseudo-science, biology, robots-and-artificial-intelligence, australia
First posted February 23, 2017 06:02:40
Wow! Really? The Hungarian-American Transhumanist Who Wants to Become a CyborgAnd Live Forever – Hungary Today
Posted: at 12:41 pm
In the latest installment of our new (semi)regular segment, Wow! Really?, we examine little-known or unexpected facts about Hungary and Hungarian culture. Today, we turn to a Hungarian-American who wants to fundamentally change the nature of humanity.
Zoltn Istvn, a Hungarian-American journalist entrepreneur, and candidate in last years US presidential election, is one of the leading voices in the world of Transhumanism, a movement whose core belief is that, through the extensive use of technology and scientific advancement, humans will eventually be able to live forever.
Speaking to The Atlantic, Istvn likewise described how he came to embrace the tenants of transhumanism. The former journalist came to this realization in 2003, when, while working for National Geographic in Vietnam, he nearly activated a landmine. This experience led him to quit journalism and become a full-time advocate for transhumanism: I thought, death is horrible,How can we get around it?
Likewise, Istvn is extremely enthusiastic about the integration of technology and the human body. He has a chip implanted in his hand that opens his front door at a wave, and would like to replace his limbs with bionics so he can throw perfectly in water polo. He sees such physical integration of humans and machines as a key part of the future, and told the Atlantic that he would be surprised if we dont start merging our children with machines in the near future.
Istvn has appeared at events all over the world promoting his vision of a future that many would consider to be something straight out of science fiction; last summer, he took part in the Brain Bar Budapest festival, a gathering of world class scientists and thinkers held in June in the Hungarian capital. You can view his Brain Bar discussion below:
Upon launching his 2016 presidential campaign, Istvn took Transhumanism on the road, driving around the US spreading his message in his signature Immortality Bus, a campaign bus that had been modified to look like a coffin. While traveling as the self-described science candidate, he received plenty of criticism for the atheistic nature of his views, particularly in more religious areas of the country. By his own admission, however, Istvns goal in running was never to win, but rather to increase the visibility of, and drum up support for, the idea of transhumanism.
And the idea itself is catching on, particularly in Silicon Valley, where it would seem that dreams of immortality are dancing in tech barons heads. Nor was the 2016 election Zoltans last foray into politics; earlier this month, the journalist-entrepreneur-transhumanism evangelist announced his intention to run for Governor of California as a Libertarian.
If all this wasnt enough, Zoltn Istvn is also the self-proclaimed inventor of an entirely new extreme sport: Volcano Boarding.
Via BBC, the Atlantic, the Guardian, zoltanistvan.com, and Newsweek
Images via memory-alpha.wikia.com, zoltanistvan.com, the BBC,
Posted: February 22, 2017 at 3:41 am
Zoltan Istvan is a transhumanist, journalist, politician, writer and libertarian. He is also running for Governor of California for the Libertarian Party on a platform pushing science and technology to the forefront of political discourse. In recent years, the movement of transhumanism has moved from a niche collection of philosophical ideals and anarcho-punk gestures into a mainstream political movement. Istvan has become the popular face of this movement after running for president in 2016 on a dedicated transhumanist platform.
We caught up with Istvan to chat about how transhumanist ideals can translate into politics, how technology is going to change us as humans and the dangers in not keeping up with new innovations, such as genetic editing.
New Atlas: How does transhumanism intersect with politics?
Istvan: For me you can never make any headway in the universe, or on planet Earth, if you don’t involve politics because so much money for innovation or research and development comes from the government and so many laws about what you can do. Genetic editing, chip implants, can you get a brain implant that makes you smarter than other people? These things are often directed by the government determining whether it’s illegal or not. You can either be thrown in jail or not thrown in jail so you must have a political footprint, you must have attorneys on the ground, you must have that kind of legal position that can explain things in terms that a government will understand.
One of the things that happened to me was that when I became a public figure in the movement, I realized very quickly there was zero political framework for this entire movement. It was one of the reasons why I founded the Transhumanist Party and also then went through the process to become the 2016 nominee.
As part of his 2016 Presidential campaign Zoltan Istvan traveled through the United States in a bus shaped like a coffin(Credit: Zoltan Istvan)
You’ve recently announced your run for California governor as a libertarian. How do you reconcile the small government “hands off” ideals of a libertarian ideology with your transhumanist goals of keeping technological innovations accessible to all?
Well, tranhumanism began as a libertarian philosophy really, with most early people who thought about it having the point of view that we should have the right to merge with machines, we should have the right to overcome death.
To actually make real headway in politics it would takes years, maybe decades, to get the Transhumanist Party with enough funding and infrastructure to make a difference. But with the libertarians you walk directly into a party that got four million votes for Gary Johnson, its 2016 presidential nominee. Four million votes is a lot of votes.
That’s one of the reasons why I am running for the Libertarian Party. It’s not that in any way am I changing my science or technology beliefs. It just happens to be that the libertarian philosophy is pretty equivalent with tranhumanism and it fits very well for the next journey of my life.
What do you see the government’s role is in preventing technological inequality between the rich and poor?
In my opinion the government should obviously be around to make sure we don’t create a dystopia. Everyone thought the Transhumanist Party was totally optimistic of technology and, while it totally is, it is also very fundamentally concerned with things like being able to go onto eBay and for a thousand dollars buy some kind of a virus making kit where you can create a virus that could take out millions of people. Or the idea of artificial intelligence, some people just want to let AI run wild whereas I’m not really sure we want a species on Earth that is smarter than human beings. I’m not sure that makes any sense.
So despite the optimism of the Transhumanism Party and that political element, we were also very conscious that inequality was growing because of technology. That said the standard of life was improving around the world even if inequality was growing. But still, I think the role of transhumanism in politics is not just to say, ‘this is the greatest thing ever, let’s go full force with whatever new technological development is happening.’ We need to be concerned about these things.
Transhumanists can play a political role by stepping up and saying there are limits to where technology goes, and at the same time some things like genetic editing are things that we should put our foot down and say this should be open market. We should find out where this takes us and seek to improve ourselves as human beings. As you probably read all the time, Christian America is literally trying to shut down genetic editing and they are only getting certain types of things going. It’s just like when George W Bush ran the government and stopped stem cell funding for seven years. They are trying to do the same thing now with genetic editing, which is perhaps the most promising science of the 21st century.
This is where transhumanists have to stand up and just say no, this has to be determined by the market. If people start creating monsters and those monsters do evil things that’s a whole different story, but what we’re trying to do right now is eliminate cancer, augment our intelligence so we can become smarter, and do away with hereditary diseases. Very few people in Congress are talking about it, yet it is probably the most important science of our time.
So, for example, in terms of genetic editing that creates IQ boosting – how do you manage that so it’s not just an expensive process only available to the rich? Do you agree there needs to be a heavy regulatory hand from the government to ensure we don’t move towards a dystopian future?
Tough question. I would’ve answered in the past that certainly some regulatory hand has to be involved, and I still think some regulatory hands have to be involved. I just think at this point in time we’re not really talking about the rich becoming super smart and the poor not getting these kinds of technology. We’re just fighting for the right to even do experiments.
I do believe that there’s a libertarian version of universal health care and universal income out there that would be good. I just think at the very top of the food chain is where we really need to let people, those very rich and super innovative people, do exactly what they want to do. But as a left-leaning libertarian I’m probably always going to say that some regulatory hand has to be in there to protect the poor.
My entire goal, and one of the things I’m standing behind is that we all have a universal right to indefinite lifespans. That’s something I can promise you in the 21st century will become one of the most important civil and ideological rights of humanity. That everybody has a right to live indefinitely. Right now we still think death is natural, but that’s gonna be changing over the next five, 10, 15 years.
I want people to feel entitled to an indefinite lifespan where if they choose to live for a long period of time, they will. And to get there we’re going to need some type of government hand that says, enough with the bandaid medicine, enough with your Christian antics where you must die to meet God and it’s okay to age. I believe aging is a disease. I believe the government needs to classify it as a disease. We need to tackle aging, let’s stop it.
It’s not really libertarian or democratic or republican. It’s a humanitarian point of view. People should have the right to live as long as possible. We should stop trying to fix the human body when we need to realize that moving beyond the human body is probably the very best scenario for getting rid of some of the maladies and diseases we suffer from. And you can call this universal health care, the libertarians may get all grumpy and angry, but the reality is I think there is a very libertarian nature to it.
The most important thing about the libertarian point of view here is private property, and this private property extends all the way to yourself. If you see yourself as something that wants to be left alone, then you want to be left alone, not only from other people, but from the ravages of nature, from the ravages of disease and I think the libertarian calling could be to come up with these solutions that could change humanity forever so we really could live a truly libertarian life where you’re not constantly attacked. We’re all being bothered by biological issues so I’d like to take that libertarian philosophy one step further and apply that to the human body.
You’ve done a little biohacking yourself. Can you tell us about the chip in your hand and what it does?
On my bus tour recently, the very first stop on that four-month tour was this place called Grindfest. All the biohackers across the country fly in and they do things to themselves. They put chips in, they electrocute each other, they party, they do drugs, it’s a very free society. One of the things I did was I got chipped. I got a tiny little implant in my hand. It’s about the size of a grain of rice and it allows me to open my front door. I’m trying to get the software right now to get my car to start with it. It also sends out a text message if you get close enough to me and have the right software. It can do all sorts of little things.
The biohackers are some of the most important people in the transhumanist movement. They’re some of the ones that are really out there beyond the academics of it. They’re doing things, they’re testing things. I’m a big believer that a lot of people will get chip implants soon. I’m a surfer and when I go surfing I don’t have to hide my keys underneath my car somewhere or worry about them getting wet. I just go because the housekeys are in my hand.
Do you think there is a line in how far human enhancement and augmentation can go before we can’t really classify ourselves as humans anymore?
I would say that when we start really merging with machines, maybe over the next five or 10 years, that’s when mainstream people will say, yes, we are fundamentally crossing that line of becoming less human.
I think when we start affecting our thoughts, and that’s gonna come through the neural laces or the neural prosthetics. When you start getting into the matrix you’re really no longer a human being, but the reality is that we’re probably going to keep the best of our human traits with us for a long time. There’s this idea that we may not ever even see that change because it happens so slowly and it will be hard to diagnose when it does. We’ll always just think, oh, we’re who we are.
So you’re not afraid that we’re moving into a phase where we are potentially losing an essential sense of self or individuality through this augmentation? You’re embracing a future with a new type of human?
Oh I’m totally embracing it! I have called for the end of humanity as we know it. The reality is that I think the human body is frail. I don’t want to say the human body is evil, but I don’t like it. I’m not a fan of the human body. I think it’s something that is designed to be replaced and replaced as quickly as possible.
When you tell me that a third of everybody I know dies from heart disease and my father has had four heart attacks, I’m not saying the human body is something wonderful. I’m saying look, the heart is a terrible frigging mechanism. Awful mechanism. Terrible. We need to replace it and we need to replace it quickly. Frankly you could say the same thing about the human body as a whole. Every single part on the human body has to go and can be substantially improved. And will be substantially improved over the next 25 years.
We need to get over this idea that the body is something holy. Of course this is classic Christian ideology teaching us that, the human body is holy, marriage is holy, all these things are holy. Listen, none of that is holy. The only thing that really makes sense is what’s most functional to increase our living standards for ourselves, for our families and for our community and humanity as a whole. And frankly, to do that, the most functional thing is to upgrade ourselves. To get rid of limbs. To get rid of blood. To get rid of breathing air. To get rid of eating and pooing. I mean if you were to create a machine, you had all the power in the world, you would never create a human being. You would never create the human mind, three pounds of meat. It’s nowhere near as sophisticated as the Empire State building having servers lined up to the windows. Here, in just a few years we’re gonna see exactly how complex a machine we can create.
The human mind is something that’s just evolved over a period of 150,000 years from being essentially apes and we think we’re really smart, but we have no idea the sophistication we can get to. If you look at the trajectory of how intelligence is increasing in the machine world. If you take that out a hundred years, just on that trajectory, the artificial intelligence would probably be approximately one trillion times smarter than a human being. We have no idea what a trillion times smarter than our brains would look like. I think we should do the best to be that change and go with it rather than be left behind.
Hah, house pets would be lucky! We would be much more like ants! If an ant sees a human being it has no idea what that human being is. It just sees something moving in its vision. In fact I’ve often speculated that this is why we have never made contact with any other species out there or any other kinds of intelligence. Any other intelligence out there is almost certainly going to be some kind of machine, perhaps even more complex than we even know.
Elon Musk is 100 percent right. That is why the Transhumanist Party never advocated for artificial intelligence to go beyond the human being. I would not be surprised whatsoever if machines suddenly decided, why would we want to keep humans around?
What I have advocated is that we need to spend more time working on neural prosthetics so that when we create an AI that can become smarter than us we can directly tie ourselves into that AI and become an intrinsic part of it. So that anywhere the AI goes, we also go. That’s the only way I’d like to let loose a machine like that, where we were a huge part tied directly into it.
Just finally, is there a specific area of research or technological development that is happening right now that excites you?
To me, the most important development of the last decade, or even century, is genetic editing. It’s here, it’s real and it’s now. It’s not just about giving babies blue eyes or brown eyes or blonde hair or black hair. It’s about going in and eliminating cancer before you ever get it. It’s going in and saying, this is something that Einstein had in his brain and we’re going to create a genetic component so that you have it and then all of a sudden you are 20 percent better in physics than you would have been.
And this is something that the Chinese have been working on and leading the way. They’re moving forward on it in ways that America is totally stopped on because we have all these laws in place. So we’re very much stuck at a point where the most important science, being genetic editing, we could lose our entire teeth on it while Asia takes the lead.
What does it matter if a couple of hundred million Chinese kids have augmented intelligence that makes them twenty to thirty percent smarter than us, but for religious reasons Americans aren’t? What happens in the 15 years after that? There is no way to compete against them.
It becomes a great controversy not only between rich and poor, but between Chinese citizenry and American citizenry. This is a very real civil rights debate that America and the world has to have. Everybody knows how thorny it is, but none of the politicians want to discuss it because it is so thorny. There is no right way about it and yet the technology is here and we all know it has the potential to completely change human nature.
Ed’s note: This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Read more from the original source:
Zoltan Istvan on transhumanism, politics and why the human body has to go – New Atlas
Posted: at 3:41 am
The world is getting hotter, as the scientists predicted. Not a week seems to go by without some new temperature record being set or some new sign emerging that the climate and other natural systems are changing more rapidly than they should be. The strong correlation between our excessive burning of fossil fuels and global warming is becoming a more compelling argument every day. Despite this, however, arguments over anthropogenic climate change and what to do about it continue with seemingly little progress being made in some countries.
The current national governments in the USA and Australia, for example, are making the case for increasing fossil fuel consumption and creating and developing new sources. They are at the same time actively obstructing action to address climate change. They are doing this on several fronts; the science is un-proven, it is not politically expedient, any action will retard economic growth and the latest, lack of base-load power will compromise energy security.
I argue, however, that the argument is not primarily about science, politics, the economy or energy security, but whether we are mature enough to deal with it. This is a deep philosophical argument, thousands of years old, over what we understand to be the best trajectory of development for human beings.
One side of the argument sees our best trajectory to be transcendence of nature. This has long been a position of several religious traditions but is now also represented by the secular philosophy of transhumanism. The other sees our best trajectory to be an eventual re-connection with nature. This is also a position held by some religious traditions and is also represented by several secular, holistic philosophies. Which side prevails in this age old debate will largely determine our future.
The fact that we have an anthropogenic warming problem at all indicates that it is the transhumanist position which is currently prevailing and has been for some time. In its current manifestation, this position represents the dream of what philosopher Isiah Berlin called negative freedom; freedom from all constraints as opposed to positive freedom, or freedom to, which recognizes constraints as the condition for freedom.
Transhumanism is generally regarded as a fringe philosophy promoted by extremists such as Max More and Ray Kurzweil. They predict and welcome a future technological singularity in which our machines will become self-conscious and in doing so, exceed our own intelligence. This will necessitate us fusing with our machines in order to survive, becoming omnipotent, immortal cyborgs in the process (if the machines let us).
It is this wet dream which inspired the controversial novel, The Transhumanist Wager, written by self-declared transhumanist, Zoltan Istvan. In this story, the protagonist, transhumanist philosopher, Jethro Knights, goes about creating his own omnipotence at the expense of anyone who chooses to obstruct him. The novel has been described as a modern version of Atlas Shrugged, the infamous novel written by the philosopher of selfishness, Ayn Rand.
For Jethro Knights, the height of human development is total self-interest and the ability to use any means which will ensure ones own autonomy and immortality. Any concern for others, including other species and future generations, is considered irrational. Knights, a scientific materialist and crude utilitarian sees nature, purely as a resource to be utilized to provide for his needs. In this, he and transhumanism in general, continues the destructive utilitarian tradition of 16th Century philosopher, Francis Bacon.
To regard transhumanists as a lunatic fringe would be a serious mistake. Thinkers such as Katherine Hayles, Philip Mirowski and Australian philosopher, Arran Gare, reveal transhumanism to be the dominant philosophy of our time with links to computer science, scientific management, neo-liberalism, supply-side economics and anti-democratic corporatocracies. It is transhumanist philosophy which is driving the human quest for omnipotence, through for example, the generation of high energy demanding abstract electronic virtual worlds created at the expense of natural systems, such as climate systems.
The problem with transhumanisms ideal development goal, however, is that it is a form of retarded development. It aspires to the ego-centric cognitive level of a three or four year old child and remains there (what psychologists term the pre-operational stage). Rather than a new utopia, it is creating an all too familiar dystopia run by self-centered and self-deluded brats. This has been revealed by a long history of developmental psychology examining stages of moral and consciousness development.
Perhaps the best synopsis and synthesis of this history is provided by the enigmatic philosopher and psychologist, Ken Wilber. He links the perennial philosophies associated with the axial period to the more modern theories of those such as Kohlberg, Loevinger, Maslow, Piaget, Gilligan and Habermas, as well as modern neuroscience. What emerges is a convergent story of what constitutes a good human development process. This is one which involves the integration and transcendence of ego-centrism and the continual de-centering of the self. It involves an expansion of consciousness over time to include larger wholes, from understanding your immediate primary relationships to understanding yourself as one with the universe.
A key component of this story is our relationship with technologies, particularly information technologies. At an early age human beings enter the semiotic realm of information technologies augmenting our abilities to think abstractly and synchronically. This is a condition for the development of our self-consciousness, but one which also has an alienating effect separating us from our worlds and each other. Much of our lives are then spent trying to understand this alienation and the nature of our relationships with everything.
In the holistic process tradition I represent, which has similarities to Buddhist views such as Wilbers, maturity comes through the ability to re-connect. It is the ability to create a coherent narrative out of the fragments of a life and create a sense of wholeness. It is coming to understand that the feelings of separateness we suffer are abstract and that we always were, and are, connected with everything and everyone. One does not transcend nature; one transcends the abstractions which alienate us from it.
Human-generated climate change, therefore, is not the product of super beings but of under-developed ones, also known as transhumanists. The obstructions to effectively dealing with it are being produced by ego-centric three-year-olds living small and fragmented lives and throwing tantrums whenever adults try to impose constraints on their bad behavior. As I said, it is the dream of negative freedom; freedom from constraints such as responsibility for anything other than yourself. But as some of our more mature philosophers have understood as well as any responsible parent, there can be no freedom without suitable constraints, such as a narrow global temperature range suitable for life.
Humanity, therefore, has a choice: do we end our lives as we live them, alienated and dissatisfied, using the resentment this creates to destroy all life in our self-interest, or, do we seek to re-connect to feel at home in our world and universe? Those few mature people left in our society have come to understand their co-dependent nature and the natural limits to human progress. They have learned that what gives life meaning does not generate much greenhouse gas. Our experiment with giving power to children is failing. In order to avoid the worst of climate change, we must put our trust again in the wisdom that only comes with maturity and re-connection.
Featured image by Karlostachys Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Posted: February 19, 2017 at 10:42 am
So, you dont want to die? I asked Zoltan Istvan, then the Transhumanist candidate for president, as we sat in the lobby of the University of Baltimore one day last fall.
No, he said, assuredly. Never.
Istvan, an atheist who physically resembles the pure-hearted hero of a Soviet childrens book, explained that his life is awesome. In the future, it will grow awesomer still, and he wants to be the one to decide when it ends. Defying aging was the point of his presidential campaign, the slogan of which could have been Make Death Optional for Once. To (literally) drive the point home, he circled the nation in the Immortality Bus, a brown bus spray-painted to look like a coffin.
He knew hed lose, of course, but he wanted his candidacy to promote the cause of transhumanismthe idea that technology will allow humans to break free of their physical and mental limitations. His platform included, in part, declaring aging a disease. He implanted a chip in his hand so he could wave himself through his front door, and he wants to get his kids chipped, too. Hed be surprised, he told me, if soon we dont start merging our children with machines. Hed like to replace his limbs with bionics so he can throw perfectly in water polo. Most of all, he wants to stick around for a couple centuries to see it all happen, perhaps joining a band or becoming a professional surfer, a long white beard trailing in his wake.
Istvan made his fortunes in the real-estate business, but in 2003, he was working as a reporter for National Geographic in Vietnam when he almost tripped a landmine. The experience shook him so badly he quit journalism and devoted his life to transhumanism. I thought, death is horrible, he told me. How can we get around it?
But his central goalpushing the human lifespan far beyond the record 122 years and possibly into eternityis one shared by many futurists in Silicon Valley and beyond. Investor Peter Thiel, who sees death as the great enemy of man, is writing checks to researchers like Cynthia Kenyon, who doubled the life-spans of worms through gene-hacking, as the Washington Post reported last April. Oracle founder Larry Ellison has thrown hundreds of millions toward anti-aging research, according to Inc magazine, and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched the Google subsidiary Calico specifically with the goal of curing death. Under President Donald Trump, the quest for immortality might pick up steam: Among the candidates he is reportedly considering to head the Food and Drug Administration is Jim ONeill, who sits on the board of the anti-aging SENS Research Foundation.
Some life-extension endeavors are already here. Several companies already offer cryogenic freezing to people who wish to have their dead bodies cooled with liquid nitrogen and stored for centuries, with the hope that new medical technologies will by then be available to re-animate them. A British teenager who sued for the right to be cryogenically frozen after her death from cancer in October now floats in frosty slumber in a Michigan cryostat facility.
Meanwhile, scientists in California are expected to launch a clinical trial in which participants will have their blood cleaned of age-related proteins, the Guardian reported, with the goal of helping them live longer and healthier lives. A drug called rapamycin, which extended the lives of mice by a quarter, is also being tested. The thinking is, if we figure out what chemical event signals to the body that its time to wrap things up, said Sheldon Solomon, a psychology professor at Skidmore College, you could be at a certain age for a long time.
The billionaire technologists obsession with living forever can approach a sort of parody. Oracles Ellison once said, Death makes me very angry”suggesting this pillar of nature is just another consumer pain-point to be relieved with an app.
But lets assume, for the sake of argument, that it can be. Lets say human lives will soon get radically longeror even become unending. The billionaires will get their way, and death will become optional.
If we really are on the doorstep of radical longevity, its worth considering how it will change human society. With no deadline, will we still be motivated to finish things? (As a writer, I assure you this is difficult.) Or will we while away our endless days, amusing ourselves towell, the Process Formerly Known as Deathwhile we overpopulate the planet? Will Earth become a paradise of eternally youthful artists, or a hellish, depleted nursing home? The answers depend on, well, ones opinion about the meaning of life.
I didnt realize how much mainstream support there was for eternal life until I had dinner with a friend who, its worth noting, is even more traditional than I amhes not even on Twitter.
I interviewed this guy who wants to live forever, I said. Isnt that wild?
What do you mean? my friend asked. You dont want to live forever?
If he never died, he explained, he could finally pursue all the hobbies and dreams hes never had time for. Even alternate careers, like architecture. (Hes a lawyer.) Hes never quite understood calculus, but with all the time in the world, he could master it. He would take a sabbatical every four years to travel the world.
Ill admit, his passion for a long life of solving integrals and kayaking through rainforests did drag me closer to the immortality corner. Even if I extended my life by just a few years, I could finally get to the bottom of my Netflix and Pocket queues.
And I had been silently dismissing life-extension enthusiasts spiels about seeing their great-great-grandkids grow up, since I dont have kids and probably never will.
Butbutif I was certain I could stay sharp and energetic well into my 90s, maybe my stance on motherhood would change. I wouldnt worry so much about kids cutting into my productivity if my ability to produce was limitless. Sure, Id probably have a few sleepless nights and groggy days in the early years. (Unless, of course, Silicon Valley really gets cracking on those robot wet-nurses.) But once Olga Jr. was out of the house and working as a Martian News correspondent or whatever, I could more than make up for lost time.
This feeling of abundant possibility is one of the chief motivations of the pro-longevity crowd. Projects and ambitions like mastering every musical instrument in the orchestra, writing a book in each of all the major languages, planting a new garden and seeing it mature, teaching ones great-great-grandchildren how to fish, traveling to Alpha Centauri, or just seeing history unfold over a few hundred years are not realistic: there is simply not enough time to achieve them given current life expectancy, wrote Nick Bostrom, an Oxford philosopher and grand-daddy of life-extension (so to speak), with fellow philosopher Rebecca Roache in 2008. But, they continue, if we could reasonably expect from an early age to live indefinitely, we could embark on projects designed to keep us occupied for hundreds or thousands of years.
Among the many downsides of dying is the prospect of never reaching ones full potential. Right now, Im projected to die when Im about 82. But what if it takes me until I’m 209 to write the great American blog post?
Still, a common fear about life in our brave, new undying world is that it will just be really boring, says S. Matthew Liao, director of the Center for Bioethics at New York University. Life, Liao explained, is like a partyit has a start and end time. We get excited because the partys going on for an hour, and we dont want to miss it. We try to make the most of it while were there.
But imagine theres a party that doesnt end, he continued. It would be bad, because youd think, I could go there tomorrow, or a month from now. Theres no urgency to go to the party anymore.
The Epicureans of ancient Greece thought about it similarly, Solomon said. They saw life as a feast: If you were at a meal, youd be satiated, then stuffed, then repulsed, he said. Part of what makes each of us uniquely valuable is the great story. We have a plot, and ultimately it concludes.
Dan McAdams, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, explains that people make sense of their lives through narrative arcs. Without an ending, there cant be a story. How would we process life events differently, given infinite do-overs? For example, because we have a vague sense that people are supposed to die at roughly 80, we now grieve people who die at 20 more than those who die at 78. But if people began living to 500, that might change, McAdams pointed out. There might be far more tragedy in the world if were mourning the loss of every 90-year-old the way we now would a child. Were just so much trained by evolution and culture to know that our life is going to be relatively short and constrained, he said, and to be somewhat cautious so we dont screw it all up. (Of course, if technology also makes us smarter as it makes us live longer, who knows what types of new arcs well construct for ourselves.)
Bostrom dismisses the thought that theres something about impending death that adds meaning or motivation to our days. It often seems the young are most energetically pursuing different kinds of activities, and the closer you get to death, the more people lean back, he told me. Partly its due to their reduced energy and health.
Which, of course, he hopes we can fix.
Once living longer becomes possible, who will get to do it? Istvan believes life-extension technology should be available to everyone, not just the wealthy. He supports a universal health-care system with life extension as one of its core benefits. (Health-care costs wouldnt spiral out of control, he and some others think, because the longer-living humans would also be healthier. Istvan plans to pay for this universal Zoltancare by selling government land in the western United States.)
Others believe that soon after life-extending technology becomes available, the price will drop rapidly and it will become attainable by mostjust as occurred with personal computers.
But the worry in the short-term, is what happens? The rich could get richer and the poor could get poorer, Liao said. Because the rich could afford to extend their lives first, and life-extenders could amass more resources over the course of their long lives, income inequality could grow even more profound.
Then again, thats how things work now. If someone comes up with a new cancer drug, we dont say lets not use it until every person has access to it, Bostrom told me. By that logic, we should stop kidney transplants.
Even if eternal life gets equitably distributed, theres still the problem of what to do with all the excess centenarians running around. Eventually, were going to run out of room here on Earth. One solution would be to dramatically curtail reproduction, focusing instead on the health and longevity of those already here. As the philosopher Jan Narveson put it, we are in favor of making people happy, but neutral about making happy people. That might mean, though, that you wont have a great-great-great-grandkid to attend the dance-recitals of.
There is a chance that worrying less about death might short-circuit our naturally tribalist natures, easing resource-allocation issues in the process. Solomon, the Skidmore psychologist, researches terror management theory, which suggests the knowledge of our eventual demise makes people psychologically retrench. Being reminded of death causes study subjects to adhere more firmly to their existing worldview, mistrust outsiders more, and even to, ahem, support charismatic leaders who may not be very qualified. So in some ways, eliminating the prospect of death might make us want to ratify all the climate treaties and equitably divvy up the worlds food supply.
… That is, of course, unless immortality has the opposite effect, making us paranoid that well die too soon for no reason. After all, even if we can eliminate aging, we cant eliminate chance. Lets say you expected to live to 5,000 and your heads being frozen, theres a power outage, and it turns into a pile of mush, Solomon said. We might become even more hyper-vigilant.
Liao and others think one answer to the overcrowding problem might be interstellar space travelwhich, they assume, will be invented by then. When Earth turns into an overpopulated dump, Liao says, the immortal can just hop between planets.
I told him an eternity spent on Venus among youthful billionaires does not appeal to me.
What if all your friends go to Venus? he asked. He offered an earthly comparison: Youll be here while everyones in Brooklyn?
(Everyones already in Brooklyn, though, and Im still here in Northern Virginia.)
Space travel is also how Liao envisions us overcoming the boredom problem. Right now, the journey between solar systems is too long for a human to accomplish in a normal lifespan, but with life extension, that wont be a concern anymore. We wont run out of things to do, the thinking goes, because there will always be another planet to explore. Well all cheerfully grow old aboard our interstellar minivan.
And in general, Liao explained, humans engage in lots of pleasures that arent repetitive, like forming new relationships, making music, learning things, and experiencing natural wonders.
If thats what human existence is about, and you can continue to do that, why not be able to live longer? he asked me.
I guess I do like hiking, I said.
You might even enjoy hiking on Mars, he said.
Eh, dont push it.
* * *
The somber side to the debate is whether life extension will cause us to lose our appreciation for natural human vulnerability. In other words, society might begin to preference those who have swallowed anti-aging drugs, making un-enhanced humans a sort of rotting underclass.
Parents who have babies with mild disabilities might be blamed for not doing Gattaca, as Liao puts it. (Istvans platform reads, Develop science and technology to be able to eliminate all disabilities in humans who have them.) Well have to wrestle with whether those who dont take fountain-of-youth pills should be charged more for health insurance. Worse yet, by jetting off to a new planet, the enhanced and immortal could abandon Earth to mere mortals, the cruelest and most extreme form of segregation.
Life-extensionists zeal for perfect cells does, to some, sound like an invective against uniqueness. Thats what Melinda Hall, a philosophy professor at Stetson University and author of a recent book about transhumanism, takes issue with. People with disability are saying, this is a primary part of my identity, she told me, so when youre saying you want to get rid of disability, it sounds genocidal.
Istvan dismisses disability-rights advocates as a fringe minority, saying I would bet my arm that the great majority of disabled people will be very happy when transhumanist technology gives them the opportunity to fulfill their potential. (Betting your arm is, of course, no biggie when you can just get a bionic one.)
In general, Hall said, the transhumanists have the wrong idea about the problems facing humanity. People are going to be starving and dying, but were going to build a colony on Mars? she said, Thats going to cost billions of dollars, and I think that should be spent somewhere else.
Of course, that wont stop the billionaires from following their dreams. Perhaps our best hope is that on the path to immortality, theyll discover something useful to broader swathes of society. Metformin, an old diabetes drug recently shown to extend the life of animals, is now being tested as an anti-aging pill. If it really does allow people to stay healthy in old age, some would regard it a public health revolutioneven if it fails to help Peter Thiel meet his cyborg-descendants in 2450.
In that way, todays life extensionists might follow the proud tradition of other explorers who shot for another galaxy and ended up straddling the moon. The alchemists write about trying to find elixirs of gold and immortality. They never find that, but they discovered chemistry, Solomon said. Ponce de Leon never found the fountain of youth, but he found Florida.
See the article here:
Zoltan Istvan, Nick Bostrom, and the Anti-Aging Quest – The Atlantic – The Atlantic
Posted: February 15, 2017 at 8:42 pm
We must all become cyborgs if we are to survive the inevitable robot uprising. That’s the message from Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the entrepreneur who wants to send the human race to Mars. At the World Government Summit in Dubai, Musk argued that to avoid becoming redundant in the face of artificial intelligence we must merge with machines to enhance our own intellect. The merging of humans and machines is happening now
“Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence,” Musk said at a Tesla launch in Dubai, according to a report in CNBC. “It’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.”
Transhumanism, the enhancement of humanitys capabilities through science and technology, is already a living reality for many people, to varying degrees. Documentary-maker Rob Spence replaced one of his own eyes with a video camera in 2008; amputees are using prosthetics connected to their own nerves and controlled using electrical signals from the brain; implants are helping tetraplegics regain independence through the BrainGate project. At the lo-fi end of the spectrum, aspiring cyborgs have been implanting magnets under their skin for years. In the February issue of WIRED, former director of the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arati Prabhakar, wrote: From my perspective, which embraces a wide swathe of research disciplines, it seems clear that we humans are on a path to a more symbiotic union with our machines.
But the theory isn’t new. In March 2013, Zoltan Istvan published a novel called The Transhumanist Wager. The book asks a simple question: how far would you go to fight an anti-science world in order to live indefinitely through transhumanism? Protagonist Jethro Knights would start a world war – and does so in the book. It is seen, by some, as a political manifesto and 18 months after publishing it, Istvan announced he was running for the US presidency.
“Transhumanism will lead humanity forward to understand what seems like a simple truth: that the spectre of ageing and death are unwanted, and we should strive to control and eliminate them,” Istvan said last year. “Today, the idea of conquering death with science is still seen as strange. So is the idea of merging with machines – one of transhumanists’ most important long-term goals. But once bionic eyes are better than human eyes – something that will likely happen within the next decade or so – the elective upgrades will start. So will using robots for household chores and getting chip implants (I have one in my hand). So will CRISPR genetic editing create a new age of curing of disease and enhancing our physical form.”
These separate, yet parallel, views suggest Musks claims are not particularly far-fetched. For many people, phones, tablets and laptops are near to hand through most of the day – the Tesla boss simply believes we will need to integrate that processing power, rather than keep it exterior. The resulting potential of this would be extraordinary. At the Dubai Summit, Musk compared our current communication capability (typing) of 10 bits per second, to that of a computers, at a trillion bits per second.
“Some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem.”
According to the CNBC report, Musk went on to call the future of AI, at a time when it eventually outsmarts humanity, as dangerous. The founder is part of the Future of Life Institute, a group of academics, activists, scientists and technologists that have tasked themselves with safeguarding life and developing optimistic visions of the future. In 2015 the group, which includes Stephen Hawking and Morgan Freeman, warned that a global robotic arms race would be “virtually inevitable” unless a ban were to be imposed on autonomous weapons. Meet Earth’s Guardians, the real-world X-men and women saving us from existential threats
Musks seemingly pessimistic outlook is not at odds with the optimism of his own work, but a reasoned prediction of what could come to be if human oversight is not at the heart of artificial intelligence progress. His latest statement seems to imply that to keep on top of that role, we will need to become the machine. He is not alone in his concerns, either. At WIRED2016, pioneer in deep learning neural networks Jrgen Schmidhuber warned that robots will eventually colonise our galaxy
Despite being at the launch of his own semi-autonomous car brand, Musks statements were designed to encourage society to ensure tech like his does not put everyone out of a job, predicting that 12-15 per cent of the global workforce will be unemployed 20 years from now as a result of AI. Autonomous cars will be spearheading that change. It was a kind of, sorry, not sorry, statement from the billionaire.
There are many people whose jobs are to drive. In fact, I think it might be the single largest employer of people…driving in various forms. So we need to figure out new roles for what do those people do, but it will be very disruptive and very quick.”
Posted: at 8:42 pm
Few people want to die. Nevertheless, like taxes and The Big Bang Theory reruns, death is an inevitability of the modern human condition. Its the status quo. And tech-sector eccentrics adore little more than disrupting the status quo, which is why Slate books columnist Mark OConnell zagged from a dingy warehouse full of surly biohackers in Pittsburgh to various Bay Area dive bars to a tour bus shaped like a coffin, surveying Americas subcultures devoted to living forever. The result is To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death, a travelogue through the well-funded fringe communities seeking to live forever.
OConnells book is skeptical but not cynical, and it functions as a witty overview of transhumanism, a movement defined by the desire to use technology to enhance and eventually transcend the mortal body, as well as a meditation on how people deal with death. Last summer, I attended an immortality conference, and my experience there made To Be a Machine mandatory reading.
Many of the same people I saw at the conference showed up as subjects of OConnells book, including excessively bearded scientist Aubrey de Grey, who has proclaimed that the first person who will live to be 1,000 years old is alive today. Theres also hardbody transhumanist Max More, who sells the chance to live forever as the CEO of the Arizona-based cryonics company Alcor, which charges people to freeze their bodies and brains, with the assumption that science will figure out a way to revive them later.
I called up OConnell, who lives in Dublin, to learn more about what happened on his raucous reporting journey for To Be a Machine. This interview has been edited and condensed.
One of the reasons I loved your book is that it uses philosophy, literature, and mythology to illustrate the ideas that transhumanists and life extensionists have. Even though they can seem like new-fangled science-fiction, theyre really manifestations of the old human desire to live forever. I know you have a background in writing about literature, so Im curious what sparked your interest to go on this journey of writing about transhumanism and life-extension movements, specifically?
I was intrigued by this stuff for a really long time before it occurred to me that I might be able to write a book about it. I used to work for a magazine in Ireland, years ago, after I left college. I stumbled across transhumanism on some website and I wrote a short piece about it. I went back and read it while I was writing the book, and its a frivolous, crappy pieceyou know the pieces you wrote years ago and youre kind of ashamed ofbut it never went away, I was always thinking about the topic.
I dont want to say Im preoccupied with death, but, like everyone else, I think about it a lot. I think about how weird it is that were alive and dying, and we all know this is happening to us, and we dont ignore it, but we sublimate it in various ways. I like literature that approaches that. Not only does transhumanism come from the same place as religion, but a lot of art comes from the same place as well. Its this sense that this is unacceptable; its a bullshit situation that we have to die.
I think whats weird and interesting and crazy about transhumanism is that, while I dont want to characterize it as very American, it has this American, can-do, capitalist attitude, where you roll up your sleeves and you attack the problem and throw money at it and think, We can do this thing. [The book] rolled together all these things I was fascinated with anyways, like salesmanship. Theres a lot of really great, eccentric salesmen in the movement. Ive always been drawn to people who are great at selling stuff. And I think the salesmanship aesthetic is very American, and Im interested in that aspect of American culture. It was a way to write about America that wasnt just European guy goes to America and just walks around in wide-eyed bafflement at American culture, but a way that was more oblique and specific than that.
I attended an immortality conference last year, and I found it upsetting how much of the immortality movement that I saw on that weekend was focused around buying products and services. I saw people who seemed like true believers, but at the same time they were also selling stuff. It made me concerned that it was just a big grift. I was wondering, since you met with a lot of the same people, like [transhumanist presidential candidate] Zoltan Istvan and Max More, what you think of their motivations. Do you think most of them are true believers?
There were moments where I felt it was just a sales pitch, a grift. But I think the true salesman is someone who is not a grifter. They believe absolutely in what theyre selling. I dont think, on any level, for any of those people, its just snake oil. I think it goes much deeper than that, and in a very personal way theyre obsessed with these technologies and possibilities. In a way they are unable to see the extent to which it looks like a bunch of baloney to most people. But it is fascinating how smoothly this stuff segues into money-making.
Peter Thiel is not a huge figure in my book. I never met with him, and hes mostly lurking in the background throughout the book, but in almost all of the major technologies that I looked into, his money was there, or thereabouts. I think he sees a way to make massive amounts of money with all of these technologies. Whether hes right or not, I have no idea. Its definitely that, but its also a true belief that this is a way to address the problems of the human condition. And I think thats the truth for most of these people. Ive never met anyone who was at once such an amazing salesman and someone who clearly believes absolutely in everything hes selling as Aubrey de Grey. So, yeah, I think the two things arent mutually exclusive.
Aubrey de Grey ended up moving from London to Silicon Valley because it was a better culture fit for his life-extension project. A lot of time in the book is spent in Silicon Valley, and it seems like a hub for transhumanism and the life-extension movement. I think that follows from the overall Silicon Valley culture of techno-utopianism. Did your feelings about Silicon Valleys culture change over the course of this book? Did you become more of a believer or more of a skeptic as you were researching?
Im not sure Id be comfortable saying it went in either direction completely. I went into it definitely very skeptical. But I also really did not want to go in with a skeptical attitude and come out having my skepticism confirmed. I wanted to emerge slightly different from the experience of reporting and writing the book than I went in. I dont know if that actually happened. Id love to be converted to radical techno-optimism, but it was never going to happen. Im not wired that way, to use a slightly transhumanist-sounding term. But I wanted to at least be open to the possibility. While my attitude never really changed, I became more open to people who have those attitudes. I could see what it meant to them, whereas before I would have just seen a bunch of rubes or grifters or wide-eyed, nave optimists. In every case I saw something much more complex than that, much more human and sophisticated and messy.
I both loved and was afraid of your discussion of artificial intelligence, where you go over how some of the figures in the book believe that AI is a potential key to immortality, since it could possibly allow people to upload their consciousness. But then you talk to other people who believe that AI could destroy humanity, because the artificial intelligence would end up killing humans as part of its programming imperative. And those are such different, extreme conclusions of what AI can do.
You get people who believe both at the same time. Which is not completely irrational. But you get people who think that AI could or very likely will destroy us all. Most of them believe if that doesnt happen, well be setwell be uploaded to the cloud and be powerful and intelligent and itll be great. We just have to forestall the annihilation issue.
Thats a really strong example of where I would be speaking to people who were incredibly rational, and in most cases were so far ahead of my intelligence that I could barely keep up, but at the same time I was thinking, This is crazy, and these people are nuts. As a journalist, its kind of uncomfortable to be the dumbest person in the room, but there were so many situations when I was writing that book where I felt like a bit of a dud. I probably shouldve done a crash course in basic coding or formal logic before I embarked on the book. Didnt happen.
In the chapter The Wanderlodge of Eternal Life you describe riding around in a coffin-shaped tour bus with Zoltan Istvan, who is this transhumanist figurehead. You also describe Roen Horn, Zoltans sidekick, who is saving himself for a sex bot. He doesnt eat or drink that much, and I was honestly not sure if he was going to be OK based on your depiction of him. Im wondering if you kept in touch.
Were friends on Facebook, and Ive talked to him since. That chapter was excerpted on The New York Times Magazine [February 9], so I know he read that. Youre always wary of how people will react to their depictions, and people might read about Roen in the book and in the excerpt and think, Wow, this guy is off the charts completely. So I wondered if he was going to see a distorted version of himself in that depiction. You try not to do that, but its impossible not to reflect people in different ways than they see themselves. But he was fine with it! He thought it was good promotion for his eternal life racket. Hes still doing what he was doing when I hung out with him. Hes still doing the Eternal Life Fan Club and hes living with his parents.
He subsequently, and this shouldnt have surprised me at all, but he became a really vocal Trump supporter at a certain point after the election, after the coffin-bus episode. Hes a very eccentric guy who knows what his motivations were, but at some point he started to see Trump as the vehicle who will deliver eternal life. I think hes still there; Im not sure. He seems to have adopted his philosophy to the current political climate.
Maybe hes taking his cues from Peter Thiel.
Who knows, if youre susceptible to the sales pitch of eternal life, you might certainly be open to the pitch of making America great again.
Whats your relationship like with the other people you wrote about in the book? Was Zoltan happy with his depiction in the New York Times Magazine excerpt?
Yes, Zoltan was super happy; he was delighted. Hes obviously a guy who likes to promote himself in whatever way he can. You try to represent someone as accurately as you can, and there are certain comic elements to Zoltan as a person that you cant ignore. There was always the possibility that hed be uncomfortable with it, but he was thrilled. So thats good. Im not sure what his next move is, I think hes doing quite well [from the] self-promotion that hes getting from the tour, so hell continue to capitalize on that. There may be more political gambits.
As far as the other people I wrote about, I havent really been in touch with them since stopping reporting beyond checking up on things here and there. I dont really do that. Its not like I spent all that much time with them. I wasnt living with any particular person for a long period of time. Id hope that theyre not going to be disgusted about it, or sue me or my publishers, but you never know. People have different reactions to things.
I want to talk about the grinder community [a group of people who want to augment their bodies with technology to live extended or infinite lives as cyborgs]. When you went to Pittsburgh to meet biohackers, I thought it was interesting that the grinder subculture seems a lot grittier and DIY-focused and much less into the idea of courting corporate interests and Peter Thiel than, say, the artificial intelligence research community. Do you have any theories on why the grinders are less interested in going corporate, why theyre rougher around the edges?
Grinders are inherently quite extreme people. Theyre dedicated, and they were much different from the other transhumanists Id met. Most of the people I spent time with were very scientific people, and they had much more in common with any other kind of scientist than with the grinders. Theyre an anomaly within transhumanism. They dont have that much connection to the overall movement; theyre not really that big a part of the community. They do call themselves transhumanists, but theyre sort of punk. What theyre doing is literally and physically so extreme. They get a kick out of that in the same way extreme body-piercing people would. So theres a visceral element to it thats absent from transhumanism more generally. The DIY element attracts a particular kind of person, and the personalities were completely different. I guess most transhumanists are fascinated by the idea of grinders and becoming cyborgs but they dont want to do the disgusting stuff, where you put a giant whatever under your skin. I regretted not getting to see implants being done. That wouldve been a thing I missed out on in the book, but Im kind of glad I didnt as well. Im sort of squeamish.
I was going to ask, what would it take for you to get technology implanted in your body?
I did think about it. At a certain point I thought it might be a good thing for the book, if I had that kind of extreme, edgy experience. But I dont think I cared about the book that much, to be honest.
I dont think you needed to get cut open for it. Ive seen photographs of [book subject Tim Cannons body-monitoring] implant and they still haunt my dreams.
It was enough for me, in terms of extreme experiences, to see video of Tim getting the implant done. I mean, people have done it. In a way its an obvious thing for a writer to do, and I think a guy who wrote for Vice did that, and a German magazine. So I didnt go down that road, nor would I have, probably. I wouldve come up with some medical excuse.
On the other end of the spectrum of people you interviewed, you went to a religious service for a group called Terasem. They dont do anything to their bodies, but they believe in the spiritual side of transhumanism. Im not sure where the meeting was happening. Was it in a church? How parallel was it to a traditional mosque or church or temple experience?
It was in a room in a veterans hall in Piedmont, California, which is where a transhumanist conference I was at was happening. Id been at the thing all day, and although this part comes late in the book, it was the first bit of reporting I did. So, it was my first experience with actual transhumanism. Itd been a really long day, and the conference was mostly quite boring, as conferences tend to be, and it was 9 oclock and I was thinking about getting out of there when the organizer told me that the Terasem thing was happening. We were in this makeshift room, and it was nothing like an actual religious meeting Ive ever been to, but my experience with religion is exclusively Catholicism and the Church of Ireland, where its grandiose. I imagine it might have something in common with Protestant church meetings, maybe Quakerism, in an odd way. It was one of the weirdest experiences I had writing the book. And it was the first thing that I did.
Did anyone else you talked to while reporting ever bring Terasem up? Did it seem like something most transhumanists even knew about? I went to its website and it hadnt been updated recently. The only updates from 2016 were posts that say Hacked By GeNErAL.
That was one of the things I noticed early on, that transhumanists are a group that is so deeply embedded in the culture of technology and futurism, but their websites are universally shitty and bad. The web design looks like it was made in the late 1990s and left to fester. It is surprisingly low-tech. But yeah, its very niche, even within the overall niche of transhumanism its a tiny niche. The conference [about religion and transhumanism] I went to was very badly attended, because while the overlap between transhumanism and religion does exist, within the movement its taboo. They in no way want to be connected to religion, they dont want to be seen as a cult at all, so things like Terasem are sort of noncanonical, if you know what I mean.
At the same time, Terasem comes from the writings and philosophies of [biotechnology CEO and Sirius XM founder] Martine Rothblatt, who is a significant figure in transhumanism. Shes a very wealthy woman who funds a lot of transhumanist endeavors, so its not completely obscure. People are curious about it, but its so obviously out there, even within the context of transhumanism. I could never get a grip on what it was, and I think my complete bafflement is obvious in the book. I had no idea what was happening in that meeting, and I dont think anyone else does either. I dont even think the guy who was holding the meeting knew what was happening. And its so full of obvious nonsense language, with no reference to anything in the world, that it was almost like a parody of religion in a way that was completely sincere.
Im curious how involved Martine is now in Terasem. Did you try to talk to her?
I reached out a couple times but never heard anything back. There was a big profile in New York magazine around the same time I started writing, and it was amazing. But I didnt get to meet her, and its a shame, but at the same time she didnt quite fit into any of the major things I was hoping to look at in the book. There were a couple people I tried to talk to who just werent into it, like Peter Thiel. You can imagine the channels you have to go [through] to get to him. I didnt hear back from him at all. [Ray] Kurzweil wasnt into talking either. Fair enough! I was always more interested in talking to the less-prominent people anyways.
I was also wondering if you had any luck talking to anyone who worked for Googles life-extension wing, Calico. Ive tried many times to get them to talk to me and have never had success.
Nor did I, so its not just you. It seems like a closed shop. They have no need to talk to the press. I guess they will at some point, when they have something to sell, but thats probably very far off. There was some writing around the margins, because Calico is the most interesting thing happening in that area. It sucks not to be able to write about that in a direct way. But I wouldve been getting their media pitch anyways, and thats not interesting.
Id always rather talk to regular employees instead of the press people. Its the only way to get information.
I guess I couldve gotten a car and driven up there and broken the door down. Maybe a better journalist would go do that, but I never got to that.
I think that would have been a really quick way to get arrested.
But it might have been interesting for the book!
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Mark O’Connell’s Journey Among the Immortalists – The Ringer (blog)
Posted: February 14, 2017 at 10:42 am
“We need leadership that is willing to use radical science, technology, and innovationwhat California is famous for–to benefit us all,” he wrote in a Newsweek article. “We need someone with the nerve to risk the tremendous possibilities to save the environment through bioengineering, to end cancer by seeking a vaccine or a gene-editing solution for it, to embrace startups that will take California from the world’s 7th largest economy to maybe even the largest economy–bigger than the rest of America altogether.”
When we spoke to him in November, Istvan made it clear that he would be looking at the Libertarian Party if he were to run for president again. Not only does he identify as libertarian, he also saw the benefit of working with a more established political party, instead of starting one from the ground up.
“The most important thing I learned from my presidential campaign is that this is a team sport,” Istvan said in an email. “Without the proper managers, volunteers, spokespeople, and supporters, it’s really impossible to make a dent in an election. That’s part of the reason I joined the Libertarian Party for my governor run. They have tens of thousands of active supporters in California alone, so my election begins with real resources and infrastructure to draw upon. That’s a large difference from my Presidential campaign, where we essentially were shoe-stringing it the whole time.”
While Istvan says he considered running for local positions around the Bay Area, he described the competition as “fierce.” He believes there’s a better shot at snagging Republican and disgruntled Democrat votes by running against California Governor Gavin Newsom, who’s already declared that he’s running in the next gubernatorial election.
Istvan also sees the need for a pro-science and technology candidate today, especially given the Trump campaign’s disdain for science. “This idea that we should drop environmental science, or be cautious on genetic engineering, or focus on the revitalization of nuclear weaponry is something I disagree with,” he said. “I believe we should bet the farm on various radical technologies: artificial intelligence, gene therapies, 3D printed organs, driverless cars, drones, robots, stem cell tech, exoskeleton tech, virtual reality, brain wave neural prosthetics, to name a few. This is the way to grow an economy–with much creative innovation, what California is famous for.”
Of course, just because Istvan wants to run doesn’t mean he’ll actually score the Libertarian Party nomination. His announcement, at this point, is basically just a statement of intent.
Posted: at 10:42 am
Though Blade Runner is coming back this fall, Ghost in the Shell will give it a run for its cyberpunk money. As the Major (Scarlett Johansson) regains her quasi-human memories, her story doesnt just dabble in cyberpunk, it revels in it.
The arresting new trailer for Ghost in the Shell makes previous cyborg or transhumanist cyberpunk movies like The Matrix seem quaint. Literally everyone in in this trailer sports some kind of biohacking or cyborg accoutrements. But Scarlett Johanssons the Major mashes up visual cyberpunk cues with a convincing and totally immersive aesthetic. Its not just that the new Ghost in the Shell trailer looks cool; its that it looks believable.
Giving audiences the most extensive visual details yet, the trailer also introduces what will probably be the films primary baddie: the mysterious Kuze. In the narrative of previous iterations of Ghost in the Shell (a manga and an anime movie), the Majors human consciousness is put inside of robot body, making her a spiritual cyborg. In the new film, Kuze is seemingly at the center of the conspiracy surrounding her complex origin.
Ghost in the Shell opens on March 31.
Photos via Paramount/Dreamworks
Posted: February 11, 2017 at 7:41 am
For the latest in the newish series, Small Studio Snapshots, Nicholas Korody chatted with Los Angeles-based studio MILLINS. Daniel Elmorefelt “these guys sound legit in their intentions and I’m looking forward to seeing what they produce in the future…The rest of the article is uncommonly decipherable for architects”.
Plus, Stefano Colombo,Luca MarulloandEugenio Cosentino went “Looking for a picture that represents something related to the internet and ending up thinking about the desert.”Max Headroom, F.AIA got excited “the phrase ‘last existing encrypted space is genius on many many levels. exciting work!”
News In an interview with NPRs MarketPlace Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, explained how computers are superior (in some things) to human designers.JamesJoist got serious
“Spoken like true transhumanist scum; I often think AutoCAD was one of the worst things to happen to architecture. As you might expect the overall reception was poor.”
Reacting to the all-female lineup for the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture’s Spring ’17 lecture series, b3tadine[sutures] quipped “Now I understand why SCI-Arc couldn’t get any women to lecture, there aren’t any left. Is SCI-Arc being run by former Jay Leno bookers?”
Steven Holl Architects released plansfor a, pair of white concrete buildings, new Cultural and Health Center in Shanghai.
With I am sure tongue firmly in cheek, archanonymous offered up Mr. Holl some advice “i love your work but if you don’t do an emergency shelter and social housing in the next 5 years you’re never going to get that Pritzker.”tduds chimed in “Really, though, this is beautiful. Holl was a tough sell for me when I was younger but he’s really won me over lately.”
The AIA’s Equity in Architecture Commission Releases Report, with its eleven priority recommendations for action, is required reading.
Mayfair House in London, UK by Squire and Partnersand Charles Street Car Park in Sheffield, UK by Allies and Morrison, are just two of the great projects from the latest Ten Top Images on Archinect’s “Fancy Facades” Pinterest Board.
Firms/Work Updates Farzam Kharvaristarted Radio Architecture a new blog, and introduced himself.
Meanwhile, over at his blog Elemental Urbanism, James Pereirawrote about MaMuCre. Which led Max Headroom, F.AIAto note “David Ruy once said in my grad class Algorithms are recipes. The cooking analogy is great, always thought that was the best analogy and real portrayal of detailing in architecture.”
For anyone looking for a new job and wanting to live in New Orleans,Eskew+Dumez+Rippleis looking to hire a Sustainability Enabler. Or the City and County of San Francisco needs an Urban Designer/Architect.
Anton Romashovbegan sharing photos of architecture (both modern and ancient) in Peru.
Due to an unexpected surge in applications, the Free School of Architecture (FSA) will significantly increase its inaugural class size for 2017.
For a theory course at UIC, Jamie Evelyn Goldsboroughand her fellow students are researching an architectural typology that has been disrupted / effected by American capitalism. She selected Motels / Hotels. The project is heavily rooted in Eisenman’s Frankfurt Rebstock Competition project of “the Fold.” Jamie also posted a process drawing.
For those interested in a job in academia, University of Kentucky is accepting applications for either an Associate or Full Professor in Interior Design. Or an Associate or Full Professor, Director of Design Technology, with a focus on “developing, implementing and conducting courses that integrate technology within the curriculum.”
UCLAAUD6 put out the call for POOL Issue No.2., submissions of communicative media surrounding the authorities that prescribe, the bodies that obey, and the administrators who implement rules. The deadline is February 20, 2017.
johnshoe was looking for thoughts on the use of anADA Cheat Sheet. The earliest commenters recommended just learning ANSI A117.1 “Learn the code as it’s written. You’ll be more valuable to your firm, the profession, and the general public.”senjohnblutarsky reminded folks of the Adobe “search function”. As tintt sees it “Construction documents are supposed to be clear and concise and not have redundancies or conflicting information.”
mbcube2 is in need of some career advice.Josh Mingsinitial response “I never would have taken such a pay cut. Volunteer is on point.”gruen thought the story sounded familiar “Oh, is NBBJ still up to their old tricks? LOL, legendary.”Contrary to manyshellarchitect counseled sticking it out “Having the local manager on your side is a great ally…I have a hard time believing that people would be purposely deceitful (wishful thinking?)…More likely the decision makers have changed.”
Finally, daerquestioned how to structurally support his staircase, for a school project. Andrew.Circle expanded upon earlier suggestions from archanonymous and Non Sequitur. He also called attention to a deficient for the US guardrail, in the rendering. mightyaa answered the original question simply “Basic Physics” Later randomised posted an example from japan of a gorgeous staircase. (yet tduds nightmare) without a railing.
ICYMI, back in November of last year, Keefer Dunn dove “into the failed thinking about the ways in which architecture creates change in order to unpack some of the lessons valuable to architects who are becoming activists and wondering what to do now.”
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Editor’s Picks #463 – Archinect