Across the AbyssWilliam Sims Bainbridge, Ph.D.
Humanity is poised on a rope over an abyss, and it has no choice but to cross. Most people in modern society lead comfortable and seemingly secure lives. Few realize that their civilization is doomed. The proof is the collapse in fertility experienced by most advanced nations, with the exception of the United States. America stands a real chance of becoming a fundamentalist empire, demographically viable but uncivilized. Other obvious problems are resource depletion, global warming, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the emergence of aggressive countercultures like radical Islam. Crosscutting these issues is the apparent decline in the rate of scientific progress. This is where Transhumanism becomes the crucial player on the world stage. Transhumanists must show the way to the other side of the abyss and undertake a range of projects to accomplish the great journey to a new civilization.
Is Life Extension an Enhancement?Aubrey de Grey, Ph.D., University of Cambridge, UK
Transhumanists often consider it obvious that the defeat of aging is one of the enhancements that humanity will eventually achieve in its endless quest to transcend what being human currently means. Indeed, from a sociological point of view a post-aging world will probably be much more different from today's world than, for example, a world in which aging was as it is now but those who wanted to had wings. But in technological, nuts-and-bolts terms, preservation for an unnatural amount of time of functions that we all possess for a certain amount of time naturally is very different than acquisition of a function that no one yet has. This may be an important reason why humanity is insatiably fascinated by life extension but much less so by most of the other enhancements that transhumanists discuss. In my talk I will begin by exploring the various ways in which life extension is a bona fide enhancement and those in which it is not. I will then discuss why this combination of features may form the basis for a hitherto neglected approach to convincing skeptics first of the merits of life extension and then of the merits of enhancements in general.
The Future of the Human MachineTimo Airaksinen, Ph.D., University of Helsinki
I will argue that Humans are machines, in a special sense. What makes us so special, as machines? It seems that emotions are crucial, more so than apparently immaterial thoughts. I explain why this is so.
Vitrification in physics and cryonicsAnatoli Bogdan, Ph.D., University of Helsinki
Vitrification is a process of solidification of aqueous solutions without ice formation. It can be fulfilled either by fast cooling (in physics) or by adding some chemical solutions called by cryoprotectant (in cryonics). In both cases, on warming crystallization of ice may occur. How to prevent it?
An Evolutionary Heuristic for Identifying Promising Human EnhancementsNick Bostrom, Ph.D., Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University
The human organism is an extremely complex and not very well-understood system. In general, manipulating such a system is difficult and risky even when we are merely trying to correct disease, and enhancement will often be much harder than therapy. This paper presents a new practically useful heuristic, based on evolutionary considerations, for identifying human enhancement opportunities. The heuristic enables us to more easily find and evaluate potential interventions that are are expected to be relatively technologically easy, safe, and free from long-term side effects.
Transhumanism and the Freedom of Scientific Research in the EURichardo Campa, Ph.D., University of Cracow
The WTA should act in collaboration with other cultural and political organization in order to guarantee at all levels the freedom of scientific research, such as it is defined in Article 13 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, without which it is not possible to have progress. In Europe, the WTA should oppose the initiative of some 60 MEPs, who asked the Commission not to support embryonic stem cell research, and therapeutic cloning with European funds.
Technological EvolutionJose Cordeiro, ACUNU Millenium Project
Since the Big Bang, the universe has been in constant evolution and continuous transformation. First there were physical and chemical processes, then biological evolution, and finally now technological evolution. As we begin to ride the wave into human redesign, the destination is still largely unknown but the opportunities are almost limitless.
Biological evolution continues but it is just too slow to achieve the goals now possible thanks to technological evolution. Natural selection with trial and error can now be substituted by technical selection with engineering design. Humanity's monopoly as the only advanced sentient life form on the planet will soon come to an end, supplemented by a number of posthuman incarnations. Moreover, how we re-engineer ourselves could fundamentally change the ways in which our society functions, and raise crucial questions about our identities and moral status as human beings.
Philosophy of Immortality And Revival of N. FedorovAnastasiya Gacheva, Ph.D., Memorial library-museum of Nikolaj Fedorov, Moscow
The Russian philosopher Nikolaj Fedorovich Fedorov (1829-1903), the founder of the Russian cosmism, an important scientific and philosophical movement in Russia, offered in his works a project-oriented philosophy of immortality and revival.
Virtue Engineering: Applications of Neurotechnology to Improve Moral BehaviorJames Hughes, Ph.D., World Transhumanist Association
In the near future we will have many technologies that will allow us to modify and assist our emotions and reasoning. One of the purposes we will put these technologies to is to assist our adherence to self-chosen moral codes and citizenship obligations. For instance we will be able to suppress unwelcome desires, enhance compassion and empathy, and expand our understanding our social world and the consequences of actions. So, contrary to the bioconservative accusation that neurological self-determination and human enhancement will encourage more selfishness in society, it will probably permit people to be even more moral and responsible than they currently are.
Popular Attitudes to Enhanced IdentitiesSky Marsen, Ph.D., Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Altered, enhanced and virtual identities are increasingly gaining attention in popular culture texts, from film to science journalism. Following an interdisciplinary approach informed mainly by narratology (Genette, Prince), semiotics (Grodal, Marsen), and postmodern text theory (Bukatman, Malmgren) this paper outlines a typology of themes that deal with technologically modified identities in a variety of popular texts. Enhanced identity induces us to re-consider conventional approaches to causality, and creates the possibility of new forms of subjectivity, alternative to the ones associated with a culturally and biologically inherited self. These subjectivities enable new kinds of agency, and allow the performance of activities that would be improbable or impossible in the real world - this way commenting on and re-negotiating the conventions and limitations of reality. Some questions that arise from this, and that the paper addresses, are: can we trace patterns in the stories that popular texts tell about the possibilities of these identities, and the subjectivities they entail? Assuming that the answer is yes, can we outline a typology of story-telling patterns that would helps us to understand society’s desires and fears better? Can we trace an approach in popular culture that deals with these issues in innovative, and optimistic ways, or does the reactionary, pessimistic, attitude predominate? The corpus analyzed consists of selected popular culture texts produced since 1990.
Information Technologies, Methods and Practices for Mind EnhancementDanila Medvedev, Ph.D., Russian Transhumanist Movement, KrioRus
In the future transhumanists foresee a merger between the human mind and AIs. This will be a gradual development, starting with existing information technologies. Possible paths from the present to expected transhuman future are outlined in the presentation.
Transhumanism in the MetaverseGuilio Prisco, FutureTAG Ltd.
Several cultural, educational, and even political projects have been started in the virtual world of Second Life. This presentation will include a review of some of the most interesting on-going initiatives and a more detailed review of transhumanist projects in Second Life. Technology issues related to Second Life and other virtual environments as venues for "real" work will be discussed. The presentation will be given as a live feed from the transhumanist island in Second Life, with the virtual presence of transhumanists who could not attend the conference.
A Cognitive Divide or a Mind-Meld? : Scenarios of Cognitive EnhancementAnders Sandberg, Ph.D., Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University
Various technologies for improving human cognition are emerging, ranging from memory-, attention- and wakefulness-improving drugs, genetic modifications and neural implants over wearable computing and software agents to social problem solving systems like the WWW, ideas markets and the blogosphere. Within bioethics much work has looked at the ethics of particular interventions based on assumed social consequences: the complex interactions between emerging technology, economics, culture and policy have not been explored. This paper performs a scenario modelling analysis of the effects of emerging cognitive enhancement in society, trying to find the critical issues. In particular, when are increased social divisions a likely consequence? What kinds of enhancement are likely to increase or decrease stability? What influence mechanisms do different stakeholder groups hold?
Wisdom through AGI and MacrosensingNatasha Vita-More, Extropy Institute
The acquisition of wisdom has been recognized as one of the noblest goals of humanity. (Aristotle, Buddha) People aspire to this state of sapience by relying upon religious, spiritual, and meditative practices separately, or combining them as models for defining moral codes and heightened awareness. In today's era of blending technology with human biology, speculation and exploratory engineering are bringing about alternative methods for helping us understand ourselves and our desire to interconnect with others. Is it possible to combine technologies to assist our brain in acquiring wisdom?
One approach is to couple two distinct emerging technologies, that of AGI (artificial general intelligence) and "neural macrosensing." AGI is developing as a reaction to recent trends toward narrowly focused AI, and returning to artificial intelligence's original idea of building machines with human-level and even superhuman intelligence. "Neural macrosensing," a term created by scientist Robert A. Freitas Jr., is the hypothetical "ability to detect individual neural cell electrical discharges non-invasively … [and] offers the possibility of indirect neural macrosensing of complex environmental stimuli by eavesdropping on the body's own regular sensory signal traffic." This means that nanorobots would listen to, or eavesdrop on, the body's sensory organs.
These two different spheres of technology have yet to be explored as a means for bringing about a wiser, more humane humanity. Both technologies are based on exploratory engineering, much like the imaginative inventions Leonardo da Vinci sketched out long before they could be realized. Yet, the coupling of AGI and neural macrosensing is based on tangible advances in their respective fields.
Engineers at Adaptive AI are building AGI for improving human intelligence, and in theory for exploring partial, physically integrated personal silicon "oracles." According to engineer Peter Voss of Adaptive AI, "Once we have human level AGI, we will essentially possess our own personal AGI to integrate with us and advise us." Voss claims that our new silicon partner would develop rationality, wisdom, and knowledge through a relatively loose integration with our brain. This non-invasive approach to augmenting the brain would at first appears as mundane as a black box, and later as streamlined as light-activated ion channels for remote control of neural activity. (Richard H. Kramer) The oracle assistant would also be a new, emotional part of ourselves to bounce ideas off of; similar, but far more advanced than a Remembrance Agent (RA), designed by Bradley Rhodes at MIT Media Lab, computer that watches over a our shoulder and suggests information relevant to what we are reading or writing.
But how would we secure a cooperative relationship between the oracle and its human counterpart? The most likely approach would be to build generic oracles with a large skill set and ability to bond quickly with their counterparts. This bonding would require more than technically-driven intellectual motivation; it would require strong sensory capabilities for, essentially, sniffing out the environment. And this is where macrosensing comes in; to "allow us to become exquisitely sensitive, like 'super-senses" to fine details in our environment." (Freitas) Macrosensing could provide the needed sensorial feedback for both assisting the brain and developing elevated acuity.
The Mind-boggling Future of the Mobile Phone - Learning from an Example of Accelerated TechnologyDavid Wood, Symbian Ltd.
The improvements in mobile phones over the last twenty years have been phenomenal. The next ten years will see even more remarkable changes, with increasingly powerful, increasingly convenient smartphones becoming ubiquitous, extending and enhancing our native intelligences. Interestingly, humans are coping remarkably well with these swift technology changes. This talk will suggest some of the important lessons to be learned from the smartphone industry for other cases of accelerating technology.