Scientists, futurists, and other experts describe how we've begun to blur the lines between humans and technology.
the complex, abstract concept of the singularity, which predicts a moment when technology will give rise to intelligence beyond the scope of human imagination. It sounds like sci-fi but, Wolens and others argue, there's no denying the sweeping impact of technology on human existence and the implications are worth thinking about. In the trailer for the film, below, scientists, futurists, and other experts describe what the singularity might have in store. How will we get there? Advancements in neurotechnology and the rise of brain-machine interfaces might contribute, according to the short excerpt of the film, below. "In some ways we're doing that today," the futurist Ray Kurzweil says, holding up a mobile phone. "The fact that I can take this out of my pocket and access all of human knowledge is an extension of my brian, even if this isn't quite inside my brain yet." In an interview below, Wolens describes the long process of putting this documentary together and some of the challenges along the way.
In the Stigmergy chart below, all workers have full autonomy to create as they wish; the power of the user group is in the ability to accept or reject the work. Since there is no officially designated person to perform a task the users are free to create alternatives if they do not like what they are offered. Workers are free to create regardless of acceptance or rejection; in the chart below some work may be accepted by the largest group, some alternatives for a different user group, some only by a small group, and sometimes the worker will be alone with their vision. In all cases the worker is still free to create as they wish. History has shown no drastically innovative ideas that received instant mainstream acceptance and history also shows that radically new ideas are most often the result of solitary vision; to leave control of work to group consensus only is to cripple innovation.
In a competitive environment, a new idea is jealously guarded, legally protected and shrouded in secrecy. Great effort is expended in finding supporters for the idea while also ensuring that the idea remains covered by legal protections such as non-disclosure agreements. The idea remains inextricably bound to the creator until it is legally transferred to another owner and all contributors work for the owner, not the idea. Contributors must then be rewarded by the owner which further limits the potential for development and wastes more resources in legal agreements, lawsuits, etc. Contributors have no interest in whether the project succeeds or fails and no motivation to contribute more than they are rewarded for.
If the idea is instead developed cooperatively, it must first be pitched by the originator, who will attempt to persuade a group to adopt the idea. The group must be in agreement with the idea itself and with every stage of its development. The majority of energy and resources are spent on communication, persuasion, and personality management, and the working environment is fraught with arguments and power struggles. Because the project is driven by a group, albeit a cooperative one, the group is still competitive with other similar outside projects, and still wastes resources and energy on secrecy, competitive evangelizing, etc. Both competitive and cooperative projects will die if the group that runs the project leaves and both will attract or repel contributors based on the personalities of the existing group. Both are hierarchical systems where individuals need to seek permission to contribute. Both focus on the authority of personalities to approve a decision instead of focusing on the idea or action itself.
h+ Magazine is a new publication that covers technological, scientific, and cultural trends that are changing human beings in fundamental ways.
’m going to talk a bit about language, and how it relates to mind and reality … and about what may come AFTER language as we know it, when mind and reality change dramatically due to radical technological advances. Language is, obviously, one of the main things distinguishing humans from other animals. Dogs and apes and so forth, they do have their own languages, which do have their own kinds of sophistication — but these animal languages seem to be lacking in some of the subtler aspects of human languages. They don’t have the recursive phrase structure that lets us construct and communicate complex conceptual structures.Dolphins and whales may have languages as sophisticated as ours — we really don’t know — but if so their language may be very different. Their language may have to do with continuous wave-forms rather than discrete entities like words, letters and sentences. Continuous communication may be better in some ways — I can imagine it being better for conveying emotion, just as for us humans, tone and gesture can be better at conveying emotion than words are
New developments in neurology and genetics could give rise to new breeds of biologically-enhanced troops possessing what one expert in the field calls "mutant powers." For Andrew Herr, that future can't come soon enough.
Greater strength and endurance. Enhanced thinking. Better teamwork. New classes of genetic weaponry, able to subvert DNA. Not long from now, the technology could exist to routinely enhance — and undermine — people’s minds and bodies using a wide range of chemical, neurological, genetic and behavioral techniques.
It’s warfare waged at the evolutionary level. And it’s coming sooner than many people think. According to the futurists at the U.S. National Intelligence Council, by 2030, “neuro-enhancements could provide superior memory recall or speed of thought. Brain-machine interfaces could provide ‘superhuman‘ abilities, enhancing strength and speed, as well as providing functions not previously available.”
Qualities that today must be honed by years of training and education could be installed in a relative instant by, say, an injection or a targeted burst of electricity to the brain. Rapid advancements in neurology, pharmacology and genetics could soon make such installations fairly easy.
These modifications could give rise to new breeds of biologically enhanced troops possessing what one expert in the field calls “mutant powers.” But those troops may not American. So far, the U.S. military has been extremely reluctant to embrace human biological modification, or “biomods.” And that could result in a veritable mutant gap. In this new form of biological warfare, the U.S. could find itself outgunned.
It is uncontroversial that the human brain has capabilities that are, in some respects, far superior to those of all other known objects in the cosmos. It is the only kind of object capable of understanding that the cosmos is even there, or why there are infinitely many prime numbers, or that apples fall because of the curvature of space-time, or that obeying its own inborn instincts can be morally wrong, or that it itself exists. Nor are its unique abilities confined to such cerebral matters. The cold, physical fact is that it is the only kind of object that can propel itself into space and back without harm, or predict and prevent a meteor strike on itself, or cool objects to a billionth of a degree above absolute zero, or detect others of its kind across galactic distances.
To call the economy ‘human’ is to insist on putting people first, making their thoughts, actions and lives our main concern. Such a focus should also be pragmatic: making economy personally meaningful to students or readers, relating it to ordinary people’s practical purposes. ‘Humanity’ is a moral quality, implying that, if we want to be good, we should treat other persons, people like ourselves, kindly. Since theoretical abstraction is impersonal and leaves no room for morality, a human economy would have to pay attention to the personal realm of experience; but it would be a mistake to leave it there. Humanity is also a collective noun, meaning all the people who have existed or ever will. So the human economy is inclusive, in the sense reinforced by our contemporary witness to the formation of the new human universal that is world society.
Anthropologists and sociologists have long rejected the impersonal model of money and markets offered by mainstream economics. Viviana Zelizer (1994), for example, shows that people refuse to treat the cash in their possession as an undifferentiated thing, choosing rather to ‘earmark’ it — reserving some for food bills, some as holiday savings and so on. Her examples generally come from areas that remain invisible to the economists’ gaze, especially domestic life. People everywhere personalize money, bending it to their own purposes through a variety of social instruments. This was the message too of Money and the morality of exchange (Parry and Bloch 1989). When money and markets are understood exclusively through impersonal models, awareness of this neglected dimension is surely significant. But the economy exists at more inclusive levels than the person, the family or local groups. This is made possible by the impersonality of money and markets, where economists remain largely unchallenged. Money, much as Durkheim (1912) argued for religion, is the principal means for us all to bridge the gap between everyday personal experience and a society whose wider reaches are impersonal.
An ‘all over the place’ somewhat organized selection of that which was interesting and worthwhile noting in 2012. Covering Science, Technology, Poetry, Philosophy, Art, Sustainability and all that inspired, before I enter hiatus*.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
“Synthetic biology is saying at the molecular level – at the chemical level – all life is just a matter of putting together chemistry. And, in fact, DNA in carbon-based life forms are all based on the production and interaction of proteins,” explains Zoloth.
“If you think about the world as a series of chemical interactions,” she says, “there is the potential to rethink and redo the world in ways that are quite interesting.”
One such game-changer would involve using the exciting technological possibilities enabled by synthetic biology to address some of the technical problems related to health care, particularly in regions of the world where
The origin of life is arguably one of the greatest unanswered questions in science. A primary challenge is that without a proper definition for life -- a notoriously challenging problem in its own right -- the problem of how life began is not well posed. Here we propose that the transition from non-life to life may correspond to a fundamental shift in causal structure, where information gains direct, and context-dependent, causal efficacy over matter, a transition that may be mapped to a nontrivial distinction in how living systems process information.
Dr. Walker will discuss potential measures of such a transition, which may be amenable to laboratory study, and how the proposed mechanism corresponds to the onset of the unique mode of (algorithmic) information processing characteristic of living systems
Freeman’s new book, Managing for Stakeholders: Survival, Reputation and Success, published by Yale University Press, enables current and future business leaders to develop a critical competency for our globalized economy—the ability to successfully manage stakeholder relationships. He is also writing Stakeholder Theory: The State of the Art. He is the author or editor of over twenty volumes in the areas of stakeholder management, business strategy and business ethics as well as more than eighty articles in a wide variety of publications. Freeman is perhaps best known for his award-winning book: Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach, published in 1984, in which he suggested that businesses build their strategy around their relationships with key stakeholders.
Researchers discover surprising complexities in the way the brain makes mental maps Spatial location is closely connected to the formation of new memories. Until now, grid cells were thought to be...
patial location is closely connected to the formation of new memories. Until now, grid cells were thought to be part of a single unified map system. New findings from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology demonstrate that the grid system is in fact composed of a number of independent grid maps, each with unique properties. Each map displays a particular resolution (mesh size), and responds independently to changes in the environment. A system of several distinct grid maps (illustrated on left) can support a large number of unique combinatorial codes used to associate new memories formed with specific spatial information (illustrated on right).
“At first glance, the emergence of a Global Brain and the engineering of advanced Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) systems might seem to be two orthogonal approaches to the origination of intelligence beyond the human level. But closer inspection reveals great synergetic potential. An AGI or community thereof, studying content and activity on the Internet, could serve as the “central conscious theater” of a distributed global brain, allowing a global brain with a more unified and explicitly goal-directed form of cognition.
This would also benefit the AGI, allowing it to increase its own intelligence via leveraging its interactions with the content, software and humans on the Net. Existing proto-AGI architectures such as OpenCog (http://opencog.org) may have potential for use in this sort of way. Eventually such an AGI could serve as a sort of “global AI nanny”, helping society to monitor its own behavior with global safety in mind (although, the caveats as well as the benefits of this sort of application are clear).” - GlobalBrainInstitute
In his documentary film, The Singularity, director Doug Wolens interviewed leading futurists, computer scientists, artificial intelligence experts, and philosophers examine the question of what will humanity look like in the future.
EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes wrote on December 22: “We must invest in the growth sectors of the future now, to fight the crises. The Internet Sector in Europe grows with 12%/year and has the ...
Problem however is that not many people have a clue what Internet is or if they do think about different things, like the World Wide Web of Apps & Cloud services. And they have a wide variety of views how “Internet” should be governed. Recently at the ITU world conference on international telecommunications (WCIT-12) in Dubai these different views came to a conflict where a number of member countries refused to sign the treaty. On the one side nation states expressed their sovereign right to regulate ( and if necessary block) internal and external Internet traffic; and on the other side countries who express the view that the Internet is by design is a transnational structure with a “multi-stakeholder” organisation to run it and further develop it. I subscribe to this latter view and will explain in this blog why and how this can and will be done.
"Freicoin is a decentralized, distributed electronic currency designed to address the grievances of the 99% movement and correct the excesses of the 1%. Whereas inflationary currency like the U.S. Dollar or Euro are controlled by central bankers under rules that benefit the establishment, Freicoin would be completely decentralized and self-regulating, with fees on stagnant or hoarded money (demurrage) paid in proportion to those community members who contribute work to secure the currency. It is an opt-in alternative currency to be used first by Occupy-supporting businesses and supply chains, then spread to the surrounding community across the globe. It includes a downloadable client for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, and an electronic network for transferring funds denominated in Freicoin world-wide." (http://www.indiegogo.com/freicoin)
"Unlike Bitcoin, Freicoin has a demurrage fee that ensures its circulation and bearers of the currency pay this fee automatically. This demurrage fee was proposed by Silvio Gesell to eliminate the privileged position held by money compared with capital goods, which is the underlying cause of the boom/bust business cycle and the entrenchment of the financial elite, and has been tested several times with positive results." (http://freico.in/)
Matthew Taylor explores the meaning of 21st century enlightenment, and how the idea might help us meet the challenges we face today.
At the heart of this talk about the future prospects for the human race is the question ‘can we go on like this?’ Will the ideas and values which transformed our world in the last two centuries be sufficient to find solutions to the challenges we now face or do we need new ways of thinking?
The focus on 21st century enlightenment invites us to return to core principles of autonomy, universalism and humanism, restoring dimensions which have been lost and seeing new ways to fulfill these ideals.
Scientific American has posted an interview and podcast with Portland State University anthropologist Cameron Smith about the ways in which humans might evolve during extended missions in space.
The fundamental problem with Smith's argument is his assumption that natural selection will continue to apply during extended missions in space. While he's right by suggesting that we'll have to adapt to our new environments (whether they be in space or on a new planet), he's completely wrong about the mechanism that will bring this about. It won't be Darwinian selection that will cause these changes, but rather the deliberate application of human biotechnologies instead.
After recent studies show that implants could repair lost brain function, Martin W. Angler asks whether we can use this technology for creating enhanced humans.
For the first time in over 15 years, Cathy Hutchinson brought a coffee to her lips and smiled. Cathy had suffered from the paralysing effects of a stroke, but when neurosurgeons implanted tiny recording devices in her brain, she could use her thought patterns to guide a robot arm that delivered her hot drink. This week, it was reported that Jan Scheuermann, who is paralysed from the neck down, could grasp and move a variety of objects by controlling a robotic arm with her mind.
In both cases the implants convert brain signals into digital commands that a robotic device can follow. It’s a remarkable achievement, one that could transform the lives of people debilitated through illness.
Yet it’s still a far cry from the visions of man fused with machine, or cyborgs, that grace computer games or sci-fi. The dream is to create the type of brain augmentations we see in fiction that provide cyborgs with advantages or superhuman powers. But the ones being made in the lab only aim to restore lost functionality – whether it’s brain implants t
In a recent talk, recorded at the Winchester School of Art, Alexander Galloway constructs a wide-ranging critical engagement with cybernetics that nicely resonates with Andrew Pickering’s alt...
Galloway offers a talk that addresses the aftermath of the ‘Cybernetic Hypothesis‘, pace Tiqqun’s critique of cybernetics and perhaps Deleuze’s ‘Control Societies’, which functioned as a vast experiment that has swallowed the planet in an impervious logic of administration and connectivity. Galloway begins from the premise, following Tiqqun, that cybernetics is a new fable for our contemporary milieu that proposes that (our) biological, social and physical behaviour is conceived as fully programmed and reprogrammable. For those conversant with recent debates around ‘neurophilosophy‘ this is, of course, striking familiar with some of the populist arguments around the nature of neuroplasticity [for example by Nicholas Carr] and the resulting critiques, provided by philosophers such as Catherine Malabou.
In developed countries, aging is the ultimate cause of 90% of all human deaths; thus, treating aging is a form of preventive medicine for all of the diseases of old age.
De Grey believes that even modest progress in this area over the coming decade could lead to a dramatic extension of the human lifespan. All we need to do is reach what he calls “longevity escape velocity” – that is, the point at which we can extend life sufficiently to allow time for further scientific progress to permit additional extensions, and thus further progress and greater longevity. Speaking recently at Princeton University, de Grey said: “We don’t know how old the first person who will live to 150 is today, but the first person to live to 1,000 is almost certainly less than 20 years younger.”
Computer processors keep getting faster and faster and memory gets cheaper and cheaper. But the motors and actuators that move robots aren’t improving nearly as fast.
Robots, all of a sudden, are all over the news. Mitsubishi has just announced that it’s built a robot specially designed to help clean up the Fukushima nuclear power plant; NASA is working on a robotic handyman suitable for use in outer space. The past two weeks have also seen the release of a new iPad guide to robots (featuring a hundred and twenty-six robots from nineteen countries), and a fresh investment in a Web site called robotappstore.com, in which you can download apps for your Roomba. Romo, one of the latest hits on Kickstarter, and slated to ship in March, 2
Kevin Warwick studies the relatively new area of culturing neural tissue and embodying them into robot platforms—essentially giving a robot a biological brain. This work has a potential major impact with regard to society and ethical issues. - Kevin Warwick is well known for his work in integrating electronics with biology. He has even implanted devices on himself for his Project Cyborg. His research now centers around using biological neurons to control robots.
His team at the University of Reading anticipates that the behavior of the rat neurons controlling robots will provide insight into how brains store data, which could lead to a better understanding of disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and strokes.
The rat neurons are housed in a small vat of nutrients and antibiotics, where they make connections and generate electrical signals. A multi-electrode array (MEA), equipped with approximately 60 electrodes, picks up the signals and transmits them to the robot via Bluetooth.
New technologies, dwindling resources and explosive population growth in the next 18 years will alter the global balance of power and trigger radical economic and political changes at a speed unprecedented in modern history, says a new report by...