Technology and human evolution are developing exponentially, entering the steep of an asymptotic curve. Unfortunately, so is the possibility of setting back human evolution hundreds if not millions of years. Which will prevail? It's a nail biter!
If and when we finally encounter aliens, they probably won’t look like little green men, or spiny insectoids. It’s likely they won’t be biological creatures at all, but rather, advanced robots that outstrip our intelligence in every conceivable way. While scores of philosophers, scientists and futurists have prophesied the rise of artificial intelligence and the impending singularity, most have restricted their predictions to Earth. Fewer thinkers—outside the realm of science fiction, that is—have considered the notion that artificial intelligence is already out there, and has been for eons.
Susan Schneider, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, is one who has. She joins a handful of astronomers, including Seth Shostak, director of NASA’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, program, NASA Astrobiologist Paul Davies, and Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick in espousing the view that the dominant intelligence in the cosmos is probably artificial. In her paper “Alien Minds," written for a forthcoming NASA publication, Schneider describes why alien life forms are likely to be synthetic, and how such creatures might think.
When you think about it, the brain is really nothing more than a collection of electrical signals. If we can learn to catalogue those then, in theory, you can upload someone’s mind onto a computer, allowing them to live forever as a digital form of consciousness, just like in the Johnny Depp film Transcendence.
But it’s not just science fiction...but now an international team of researchers have managed to do just that with the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans.
The ultimate goal of the project is to completely replicate C. elegans as a virtual organism, but for now, they’ve only managed to simulate its brain, and they’ve now uploaded that into a simple Lego robot.
Scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York have implaneted human brain cells to create a part-human “supermouse.” The modified mouse is said to be four times as smart as a normal mouse.
"When Kevin Kelly looked up the definition of “superorganism” on Wikipedia, he found this: “A collection of agents which can act in concert to produce phenomena governed by the collective.” The source cited was Kevin Kelly, in his 1994 book, Out of Control. His 2014 perspective is that humanity has come to dwell in a superorganism of our own making on which our lives now depend."
The digitization of biology is driving massive disruption in the life sciences field. Human genome sequencing is the single best example of faster, better, cheaper. Previously confined to research tools, these new solutions are now entering the clinical and consumer markets.
The Asymptotic Leap's insight:
A particularly interesting section in this talk is about the rapid emergence of open-source DNA maker and hacker projects that are helping to loosen the grip of corporate control of genetics.
"Humans are the 3D bio-printer for the imagination. 3D printers allow us a perspective of what we do as humans. As Jason Silva said “we take in matter of low organization, put it through our mental filters and extrude it in the form of space shuttles and iPhones”. We have 3-D modeling software inside of our heads; a neuronal AutoCAD that renders objects through high precision, seven dimensional, organic, self healing arms and hands."
As we create these simulated humans inside virtual reality — and then trick our brains into thinking they are real — what kinds of experiences will we build in five, 10 or 20 years? And will the people driving those experiences have very specific motives or agendas? Does virtual reality have the power to manipulate?
The popular physicist sees two major trends in the world today: the first is toward a multicultural, planetary, scientific, tolerant society; the other is monocultural, fundamentalist, controlling, and likely to destroy itself in its efforts to maintain the status quo. Whichever one wins out will determine the fate of mankind.
Carl Zeiss is primarily known for optics; while in truth that only accounts for a small fraction of a multibillion-dollar corporation, it’s the company’s camera lenses we’re most familiar with. Now a small team within the company is leveraging that reputation into a $99 headset called the VR One. And in a move straight out of Oculus’ playbook, Zeiss is entrusting its growth to the developer community.
Everything about it is open, in fact, from the SDK to the smartphone you use it with—as long as it’s iOS or Android and has a display between 4.7 inches and 5.2 inches. (Sorry, Cortana.)
The extension of "the internet of things" to "the internet of biology" e.g., bacteria, molds, plants and crops is likely possible in the near future -- in fact all living things could potentially be networked and online....
"Among the hacker community an alternative way of running the internet is being built already: an internet where no one is in control, where no one can shut you down, where no one can manipulate your content. A decentralised internet."
"A walking molecule, so small that it cannot be observed directly with a microscope, has been recorded taking its first nanometre-sized steps.
'In the future we can imagine tiny machines that could fetch and carry cargo the size of individual molecules, which can be used as building blocks of more complicated molecular machines; imagine tiny tweezers operating inside cells,' said Dr Gokce Su Pulcu of Oxford University's Department of Chemistry"
Researchers have successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain connection between pairs of people as part of a scientific study following the team's initial demonstration a year ago. In the newly published study, which involved six people, researchers were able to transmit the signals from one person's brain over the Internet and use these signals to control the hand motions of another person within a split second of sending that signal.
A new way of looking at the mind's activity may give insight into how psychedelic drugs produce their consciousness-altering effects.
Normal brains have a well-ordered correlation state. There’s not much cross-linking between networks. That changes after the psilocybin dose. Suddenly the networks are cross-linking like crazy, but not in random ways. New types of order emerge.
"A new paradigm is organically evolving: new economic systems, sustainable communities, solar energy, organic farming, liquid democracy, worker co-ops and new media. For all the problems we are confronted by, there are existing viable solutions. There is much to feel positive about. A decentralized global uprising is undermining systems of centralized and consolidated power. A new world is being born.
However, as exciting as the evolution presently occurring is, after extensive research I am forced to confront the fact that I do not see how emerging solutions will reach a critical mass and create the needed change before the affects of inequality, poverty and the overall deterioration of society will lead to widespread chaos and violence. As much as I wish this wasn’t the case, as much as I want to just disengage from the status quo and focus on the implementation of local solutions, we cannot ignore the urgent need for significant systemic change on a mass scale now."
Twenty year olds nowadays feel the pressure from their family, friends, and society, to do something ‘worthwhile’ with their future. So they find solace in the only place they know they don’t have to fear external and unwanted expectations, they don’t have to change who they are to ‘fit in’. And that place is the internet. YouTube. Tumblr. Alternative websites like Collective Evolution. We are secretly hoping we somehow find a way out of all this mess. That somehow, somewhere, we will find a person, a video, a phrase, that triggers an idyllic revelation, and will tell us exactly what we have to do.
In this age of constant social, environmental and galactic change, it is not surprising we feel lost, stressed, insignificant, and somewhat detached from the world ‘out-there’. It’s a natural consequence of our evolution. The paradigms of the past are out-dated, they don’t fit in with how we feel inside. Someone else’s expectations of ourselves, although sometimes based on good intentions, can be a great source of stress.
Technology is evolving us, says Amber Case, as we become a screen-staring, button-clicking new version of homo sapiens. We now rely on "external brains" (cell phones and computers) to communicate, remember, even live out secondary lives. But will these machines ultimately connect or conquer us? Case offers surprising insight into our cyborg selves.