Dreamers of a Better Future, Unite!

March 13 2008 / by GuestBlogger / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Space   Year: General   Rating: 16 Hot

By Athena Andreadis

This piece was originally posted here on the blog Starship Reckless.

Views of space travel have grown increasingly pessimistic in the last decade. This is not surprising: SETI still has received no unambiguous requests for more Chuck Berry from its listening posts, NASA is busy re-inventing flywheels and citizens even of first-world countries feel beleaguered in a world that seems increasingly hostile to any but the extraordinarily privileged. Always a weathervane of the present, speculative fiction has been gazing more and more inwardly – either to a hazy gold-tinted past (fantasy, both literally and metaphorically) or to a smoggy rust-colored earthbound future (cyberpunk).

The philosophically inclined are slightly more optimistic. Transhumanists, the new utopians, extol the pleasures of a future when our bodies, particularly our brains/minds, will be optimized (or at least not mind that they’re not optimized) by a combination of bioengineering, neurocognitive manipulation, nanotech and AI. Most transhumanists, especially those with a socially progressive agenda, are as decisively earthbound as cyberpunk authors. They consider space exploration a misguided waste of resources, a potentially dangerous distraction from here-and-now problems – ecological collapse, inequality and poverty, incurable diseases among which transhumanists routinely count aging, not to mention variants of gray goo.

And yet, despite the uncoolness of space exploration, despite NASA’s disastrous holding pattern, there are those of us who still stubbornly dream of going to the stars.


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Natasha Vita-More: Transhumanism on the Rise

March 07 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 10

Artificial intelligence, super-extended lifespans, colonies in outer space – the future seems like a weird (and sometimes, scary) place. Then again, it’s all about perspective. From a transhumanist point of view, the advances in technology and intelligence will give us the opportunity to be more fully human than ever before in history. To explore these views, we tracked down the authority: Natasha Vita-More, the “first female philosopher of transhumanism”, according to the New York Times.

A media artist and normative futurist, Natasha splits her time between lecturing internationally, heading up Transhumanist Arts & Culture, and serving as an advisor for several future-focused non-profit organizations. Her current research interest investigates the multiple interpretations and values concerning the human 2.0 as regenerative existence, and human 3.0 as an emerging connective intelligence. She took the time to participate in an interview with me, and explained what transhumanism is all about and why we should seek to improve the human condition.

NVM: “Transhumanism is a set of ideas which represents a worldview to improve the current situation that we as humanity are facing, which includes short lifespan, limited cognitive abilities, limited sensoral abilities, erratic emotions…starvation, lack of housing, or lack of, basically, getting any of the necessary fundamental needs met. We look ardently at how technologies, including the NBIC technologies – nanoscience, bioscience, information science, and cognitive science – can possibly be used to help solve some of the problems in the world that address humans being stuck in a state of stasis.”

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Video: Basic Tenets of Transhumanism

March 25 2008 / by Marisa Vitols / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 7

Ever wonder what transhumanism is really about? The video below, produced by the German Transhumanist Association, serves as a pretty good primer on the basic tenets of this increasingly popular philosophy.

The video asserts that transhumanists ponders the question “what does it mean to be human?” and believe that “scientific and technological process may give humans the unique possiblility to overcome their own natural physical, cognitive, and psychological limitations.” The piece also touches on the potential dangers of advanced technology, such as increased inequality and worldwide destruction, as well as the positives, such as enhanced quality of life.

Plus, the music takes it to a whole new level. ;)

Any die-hard transhumanists reading this post? Please add any basic principles you think this video failed to mention in the comment thread below.

Why Mind Over Matter ... Matters

May 29 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2018   Rating: 7 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Yesterday, the journal Nature reported researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine had successfully tested a robotic arm which was controlled using only the signals from a monkey’s arm. (A good overview of the technology can be read in this article: “Mind over Matter: Monkey Feeds tself using its Brain”.)

The test was not the first such test but it does suggest that the technology is getting better and will likely someday soon be used to aide people with spinal cord injuries or other debilitating diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease or MS.

I would, however, encourage people to think beyond these immediate applcations. Michael Berger of Nanowerk recently had a very thoughtful – and thought-provoking – piece entitled Nanotechnology, transhumanism and the bionic man, in which he discusses how technologies which were initially created for the disabled could become a platform for “the acceptance of transhumanist ideas and products.”

He is right and the aforementioned brain-neural technology is a perfect case in point. In the beginning, it will be sold as a tool for the disabled but as the technology continues to improve it will eventually be viewed by some people (but not all) as a way to perform at a higher level—both mentally and physically. I discussed this idea briefly in this piece entitled “Pong and the President’s Brain” a few months ago, but the issue is worth thinking about in greater detail. (cont.)

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Fearless Futurist Mac Tonnies Goes Off On Mars

February 29 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Space   Year: 2008   Rating: 6

“A futurist is someone who can take a look at a strip-mall and experience instinctual fear.”

Exemplifying that role is Mac Tonnies, a futurist and sci-fi author who enjoys exploring everything from post-humanity to the paranormal. Armed with zingers like the quote at top and a keen sense of wit, Mac enjoys walking the line between reality and science fiction, much like contemporary Vernor Vinge (who also happens to be featured on the site today).

“A futurist’s job is to live in the future, to experience it,” points out Mac, “That can sometimes make the present a lonely place, but it can also make it exhilarating.”

Tonnies’ imagination stretches far indeed, frequently frolicking into the realm of outer space:

“We’re already seeing some exciting new thinking about democratized space travel,” say Tonnies, “for example: this could lead to a large-scale colonization of space and, ultimately, the effective end of the nation-state. As William Burroughs said, ‘we’re here to go.’ I’d personally like to see humanity become a space-faring species.”

Tonnies’ most recent book, After the Martian Apocalypse , focuses on intelligence on Mars. So, I asked him, “Where are all the extra terrestrials?”

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Human-machine merge could provide future paradise

June 11 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 6

By Dick Pelletier

We are entering the first stages of a robotic society that futurists believe will not end until man and machine join forces. Today, artificial pets act as companions to children and seniors, and self-operating machines clean homes and mow lawns.

By 2015, robots will perform a variety of household chores; by 2020, many human jobs will be filled by robots; and by 2030, robots will be competent in most human activities.

This trend will peak in the mid-2030s when machines laden with strong AI surpass human intelligence and begin making copies of themselves, with each generation smarter than the last. This will cause an information explosion unlike anything the world has ever experienced and will result in the development of machine-to-human brain interface systems.

Some people will scan their minds capturing all of the memories, emotions, and thought processes that describe them as a human being – and upload that data into a robot and become the machine. Others will download the vast stream of machine intelligence directly into their brains and become an intelligence-enhanced human.

Over the next few years, molecular nanotechnology and the number-crunching abilities of quantum computing will enable humans and human/machines to redesign their bodies and brains to increase efficiency until they both morph into a replica of each other. At that time, society may consider both machines and humans as “transhumans.”

With nano-neuron upgrades, future human minds will run at speeds up to 1 billion times faster than today’s slow mushy biological brains. We will possess unimaginable abilities in vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch; and sport new capabilities like the magnetic sense that birds possess, and pre-cognition – the ability to see immediate future events before they happen. (cont.)

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Transhumanism vs. Trans-Systemism

May 09 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

An editorial piece.

Fueled by accelerating change, transhumanism (H+), the belief that humans can and should consciously evolve past our current limitations, is on the rise. It’s a safe bet that over the coming years this budding philosophy, or memeplex, will make its way into the minds of millions of humans, maybe more. However it lines up with reality, transhumanism will exert a big impact on our future (barring a near-term cataclysmic event, of course).

Certain aspects of transhumanism appeal to my logical and emotional parts. Logically, I can see that accelerating change will transform the human body and the human brain, perhaps enabling immortality, telekinesis, teleportation, possibly even “transcendence.” Emotionally, I like the idea of establishing greater control over my environment in order to best externalize my imagination (fostering peace, health, happiness), transform my existence and, essentially, play in the universe however I damn well choose.

However, when attempting to simulate the future, particularly a hyper-fast Kurzweilian future or Ted Modismoderately slower future , I’ve found that I cannot embrace a wholly transhumanist-compatible view of the years to come because transhumanism, unsurprisingly, fails to provide an adequate definition of the term “human”. (cont.)

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Half Empty, Half Full. Or both.

October 16 2008 / by Peltaire / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: Beyond   Rating: 3 Hot

Nuclear aftermath is just another way of life.

Hope and change? How about mostly change.

Interview: Natasha Vita-More (full length audio transcript)

March 07 2008 / by memebox / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 1

This interview was conducted by Venessa Posavec 12/20/07

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