SciFi.com Site of the Week: Accelerating Future

From here:

“Transhumanism” is, according to Accelerating Future, a philosophy that assumes that humanity’s current form may not be its ultimate one—that nanotechnology, biological engineering and other scientific achievements may allow us to enhance our lifespans, increase our intelligence and alter our abilities beyond the limits set down by nature and already stretched by our medical capabilities.

Visitors dissatisfied with that definition can choose from six others that are posted on this site, a thought-provoking blog that focuses not only on humanity’s next evolutionary stage but on the technologies likely to trigger it. The brainchild of science writer Michael Anissimov, Accelerating Future offers the curious a wealth of intriguing links, reviews and interviews. Web surfers interested in everything from the feasibility of developing sentient machines to the prospect of genetically engineering humans who can thrive at the north and south poles can read about these concepts here.

Lest this all sound far-fetched—more the stuff of fiction than of science—another area of the site is devoted to quotes and speeches by well-known individuals who have taken the prospect of …

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Taking Global Risk and WWIII Seriously

I have realized that the best way for people around the world to take catastrophic global risk seriously would be to stage a localized demonstration of a very powerful post-nuclear weapon. Other methods are of course worth pursuing (and far less expensive), but too abstract. The weapon would be tested in an entirely unpopulated area, of course. The Sahara and areas of northeast Siberia would be two good targets.

In this context, “post-nuclear” means a weapon with more destructive power than a nuclear weapon, in terms of destruction of ground targets. Matching the energy output of a nuclear weapon might be difficult without using nuclear energy as the source, however. (Yet, a large orbital mirror could exceed the power output of nuclear weapons.)

In Missouri, they have a saying: “show me”. Unless leaders and citizens alike are shown the power of the next generation of destructive technology, it will continue to be “science fiction” to the vast majority of people. After a test, it becomes real overnight, even if thousands of scientists already knew it was possible decades …

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Nanotech: Yay or Nay?

At the Los Angeles Times, Aatish Salvi and George Kimbrell will be discussing the promises and ethics of nanotechnology all week. An excerpt from today’s article:

“A common misconception about nanotech is that it is a single technology. Unlike biotechnology (which focuses on genes and DNA) or information technology (which focuses on microchips and software), nanotechnology encompasses a collection of methods and tools for dealing with all matter at the nano scale. It is best thought of as a new approach to building things. Working at the nano scale allows us to manufacture with unparalleled precision and efficiency. Rather than mining tons of ore at a great cost to the environment to find a handful of diamonds, nanotechnologists can start with carbon and build a flawless diamond one atom at a time. Because they are so precise, nanotech processes waste less material, consume less energy and produce better results.”

(Emphasis added.) My point here is that while some may argue that today’s nanotechnologists dismiss Drexlerian molecular manufacturing, it simply isn’t so. References to molecular manufacturing pop …

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Human Arrogance

Humanity. We think we’re the shit. The other day my gf Sarah Rose mentioned a story about a classmate that admitted his reasoning for why humanity is superior: “we’re capable of wiping out other species en masse“. Maybe so, but it’s a pretty sad reason for why we’re the best. If you have a problem with that, why not ask the passenger pigeon… oh wait, it’s extinct.

Humanity is the first species on Earth capable of bending the entire environment to its will in a complex fashion. Wait — detect the human bias — a “complex fashion”? According to a superintelligence, the fashion in which we have manipulated our external environment might be quite simple, reminiscent of the Oxygen Catastrophe initiated by cyanobacteria 2.7 billion years ago. Manipulations orders of magnitude more complex should be possible.

Anyone can admit humanity is the most successful species on the planet, in terms of its ability to understand its surroundings, reproduce exponentially, improve its quality of life, and, well, I don’t know, be the first organism since the dawn of life …

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Max More and Natasha Vita-More

I was originally inspired to formally join the transhumanist movement in 2001 by Max More, the true founder, and his multi-talented wife Natasha Vita-More. They are pictured above chatting up William Shatner at Transvision 2007 in Chicago.

Basically, Max and Natasha demonstrated to me that discussing futuristic technologies is not necessarily a nerdy endeavor limited to the hacker in the basement. Other inspiring figures were Anders and Eliezer, but I’ll leave that to another post.

In my opinion, the writings of Max and Natasha are quite significant, and every geek should have exposure to the ideas.

Max More: “The Extropian Principles: a Transhumanist Declaration” Natasha Vita-More: Nanofactory or AGI: Which technology could cure humanity’s many problems?

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AI & Society 2008

Read Jeriaska’s coverage of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s talk at the Artificial Intelligence and Society event at Santa Clara University. (Pictured: Ben Goertzel, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Melanie Swan.) This is similar to a talk he gave at the Singularity Summit. Excerpt:

“This is “The Human Importance of the Intelligence Explosion.” The term “intelligence explosion” was invented by I.J. Good, who is a fairly famous mathematician. The core idea goes something like this: suppose you could invent brain-computer interfaces that would substantially augment human intelligence. What might these augmented humans do with their newfound intelligence? Medical research? Play the stock market? One fairly good guess is that they would turn their intelligence toward designing the next generation of brain-computer interfaces. Then, having become even smarter the next generation, they could invent the third generation of brain-computer interfaces. Lather, rinse, repeat.”

Continue.

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Christianity and Advanced Technologies

Here we go with another Christianity-related post. This one solicits Christian responses to issues brought up by technological advancement. Atheists, I know you might think there’s no point in asking these questions, and if so, there’s really no point in you commenting in this thread. Let me ask my questions without dismissive or bitter comments.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this post is meant to be pro-Christian or anti-Christian. I am just asking hypothetical questions. The views expressed in this post, if any, are not necessarily the position of any organization or individual associated with the author.

Questions:

1) If man was created in God’s image, would it be blasphemous for people to radically alter their body and brain as it becomes technologically possible, through genetic engineering or nanotechnology? (See “What I want to be when I grow up, is a cloud” by J. Storrs Hall.)

2) Would it be a sin to extend someone’s lifespan indefinitely using anti-aging therapies, because that would forever prevent them from getting into Heaven? Or would indefinite life extension merely be God’s will, …

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World Transhumanist Association Feb. 2008 Update

Recently I was voted onto the Board of Directors of one of the coolest organizations around, the World Transhumanist Association (WTA). To everyone who voted for me — thank you! To everyone who didn’t, you will pay! Or maybe not. Whatever.

This is especially exciting because the WTA recently raised actual money… in excess of $50,000. All that money could be used to buy a lot of candy, or a fine automobile, but instead of that, it’s going towards something far more worthwhile — boosting transhumanism. So, as the Board of Directors, we get to decide how to spend that money.

As advertised on the fundraising page, the money will go towards four main objectives:

Student Outreach Identity & Website Update Transvision 2008 H+ Digital Magazine

The digital magazine project will be helmed by cyberculture icon RU Sirius, who happens to be a member of our very own local transhumanist chapter, BA-Trans. RU Sirius can be described vaguely as a cross between Timothy Leary and Howard Stern, although this certainly doesn’t do …

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A New Age of Torture

In my opinion, the most despicable thing in the world is physical torture. Not death, nor disease, nor eating junk food for breakfast. Torture, that fearful spectre that’s been haunting humanity since the dawn of time.

Torture makes me so angry that I believe national sovereignty is worth overruling to prevent it. For instance, North Korea is running a network of gulags observable by spy satellites. Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering there, with at least a few tens of thousands undergoing actual torture every year, if not many more. Punishment cells, and worse.

Why not march soldiers right into North Korea, free people from the camps, and set up a government that doesn’t imprison and torture its own people for political reasons? Well, as we’ve seen with Iraq, it’s not so easy. But if we had the money, the manpower, and reason to believe we could set up a stable government after the invasion, would it be worth it? It warrants thinking about. My answer is yes. (Assume we did actually have reason to believe we …

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