Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies is an astonishing book with an alarming thesis: Intelligent machines are “quite possibly the most important and most daunting challenge humanity has ever faced.” In it, Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom, who has built his reputation on the study of “existential risk,” argues forcefully that artificial intelligence might be the most apocalyptic technology of all.
When it comes to technological advances that could reduce human suffering, improve health and reduce disease, we are generally all in favour. But recent advances in procedures that tinker with reproductive cells are often seen as an exception. They attract fierce opposition from people who believe they are unethical and should be treated as serious criminal offences – which in some jurisdictions they are already. I don’t think these arguments are decisive, however. Indeed some of them are not convincing at all.
Ethical debates about changing the human genome make a distinction between two different types of cells. All cells except those involved in reproduction are known as somatic. These have been the subject of less controversial research for a number of years now – for example editing a type of white blood cell known as T-cells has become a major area of enquiry in cancer research.
Cells involved in reproduction are called germ cells. Changing them, which is sometimes described as germline editing, can have effects that can be inherited by the offspring of the people whose bodies are amended. In other words, the changes can enter the gene pool.
A few neurologists and brain scientists are proposing that the secret underlying all conscious activity must lie with the way cells respond to stimuli they receive from their environment. In a response to this suggestion, Christof Koch asserts that much more is required for a full theory of consciousness
Humans have been chasing immortality for millennia. In some cultures, you attain a kind of immortality by doing great deeds, which people will talk about long after you pass away. Several religions feature some concept of immortality -- the body may die but some part of you will exist forever. But what if science made it possible to be truly immortal? What if there were a way for you to live forever?
That's the basic concept behind digital immortality. Some futurists, perhaps most notably inventor Ray Kurzweil, believe that we will uncover a way to extend the human lifespan indefinitely. They've identified several potential paths that could lead to this destination. Perhaps we'll identify the genes that govern aging and tweak them so that our bodies stop aging once they reach maturity. Maybe we'll create new techniques for creating artificial organs that combine organic matter with technology and then replace our original parts with the new and improved versions. Or maybe we'll just dump our memories, thoughts, feelings and everything else that makes us who we are into a computer and live in cyberspace.
Speaking at the 2015 TED conference in Vancouver, Canada, MIT professor Neri Oxman has displayed what is claimed to be the world’s first 3D-printed photosynthetic wearable prototype embedded with living matter. Dubbed "Mushtari," the wearable is constructed from 58 meters (190 ft) of 3D-printed tubes coiled into a mass that emulates the construction of the human gastrointestinal tract. Filled with living bacteria designed to fluoresce and produce sugars or bio-fuel when exposed to light, Mushtari is a vision of a possible future where symbiotic human/microorganism relationships may help us explore other worlds in space.
Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian
I was jubilant the US Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of gay marriage. Events that lead to more freedom and equality are positive progress.
However, what doesn’t seem to be making the news is the fact that marriage—especially to many young people—isn’t as attractive as it once was.
There are a number of reasons for this. People want to focus on their careers, not spouses. Getting married and having a traditional wedding costs a lot of money (besides, around 40 percent of those who wed will go through at least one divorce in their lives, causing potential harm to their ideals, children, and finances). Finally, having kids out of wedlock is becoming more socially acceptable.
But there’s another reason that is increasingly relevant. It has to do with transhumanism.
In the transhumanist age of extended lifespans, where many people will live beyond 100 years of age, the question of being married until “death does us part” has real consequence.
In the future, humans are going to be artificially intelligent.
That's the prediction of Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google (GOOGL, Tech30), who spoke Wednesday at the Exponential Finance conference in New York.
Kurzweil predicts that humans will become hybrids in the 2030s. That means our brains will be able to connect directly to the cloud, where there will be thousands of computers, and those computers will augment our existing intelligence. He said the brain will connect via nanobots -- tiny robots made from DNA strands.
"Our thinking then will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking," he said.
The bigger and more complex the cloud, the more advanced our thinking. By the time we get to the late 2030s or the early 2040s, Kurzweil believes our thinking will be predominately non-biological.
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