Hungry Cannibals and Soft Apocalypses

Robin Hanson recently posted about The Road and cannibals, which is great, because I think about this stuff all the time, and it’s good not to be alone.

The Road is a movie/book about a man and his son traveling south to reach the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in a post-apocalyptic world where the Sun is blocked out by huge dust clouds, and there are no plants or other life except for a few refugees and murderous cannibals. I thought the book was OK because it gave a sneak preview at what daily life could be like when or if the United States gets hit by a massive EMP attack. (The human conflict and desperate lack of food part, not the blocking out the Sun part.)

Prof. Hanson remarks how some reviewers called the movie “realistic”, when it absolutely is not. The story takes place more than seven years after apocalypse, but there are a couple occasions where the characters stumble on stored food supplies, which doesn’t make sense to Hanson. Second, he points …

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Anti-Transhumanist Wesley J. Smith Argues that Yogi Claims of Living Without Food/Water are Evidence Against Scientific Materialism and in Favor of Human Exceptionalism

See here. Really, this is exasperating. Wesley J. Smith wants so bad for humans to have a mystical power that he has to use an obvious hoax as evidence for his point.

Mr. Smith, perhaps for your next citation against scientific materialism and in favor of mystical, metaphysical human exceptionalism, you should go through back issues of Weekly World News.

Does Mr. Smith also believe in the mystical powers of holy Catholic relics such as the bones of saints or fragments of the “True Cross”?

For those who suggest that Smith is a marginal figure, be assured that he is not. He has debated Peter Singer on the issue of robot ethics, and co-authored books with Ralph Nader. My theory is that Mr. Smith would not really mind transhumanism and artificial intelligence so long as they did not inherently mock and contradict the religious view of Homo sapiens as a god-favored being. This is in contrast to some others who seem to detest the prospect of morphological …

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New Paper: Optimal Tooltip Trajectories in a Hydrogen Abstraction Tool Recharge Reaction Sequence for Positionally Controlled Diamond Mechanosynthesis

Robert Freitas alerts me to a new mechanosynthesis paper published by the Nanofactory Collaboration group in the Journal of Computational and Theoretical Nanoscience. Here’s some info:

Denis Tarasov, Natalia Akberova, Ekaterina Izotova, Diana Alisheva, Maksim Astafiev, Robert A. Freitas Jr., “Optimal Tooltip Trajectories in a Hydrogen Abstraction Tool Recharge Reaction Sequence for Positionally Controlled Diamond Mechanosynthesis,” J. Comput. Theor. Nanosci. 7(February 2010):325-353 [29 pages]

It is our first published paper with our Russian collaborators and is now available online. This paper represents the first extensive DMS (Diamond Mechno-Synthesis) tooltip trajectory analysis, examining a wide range of viable multiple degrees-of-freedom tooltip motions in 3D space that could be employed to recharge the hydrogen abstraction tool, a key reaction set in DMS.

Abstract:

The use of precisely applied mechanical forces to induce site-specific chemical transformations is called positional mechanosynthesis, and diamond is an important early target for achieving mechanosynthesis experimentally. A key step in diamond mechanosynthesis (DMS) employs an ethynyl-based hydrogen abstraction tool (HAbst) for the site-specific mechanical dehydrogenation of H-passivated diamond surfaces, creating an isolated radical …

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Yes, We Can Do Better Than This…

The New Atlantis Futurisms blog posted a picture of Audrey Hepburn with the title, “Does Anybody Seriously Think We Can Do Better than This?” Here’s my response. You may have to read the comments thread to gain some background.

The reason that Hepburn seems so great to us is that we’re humans. If lizards could speak, then hundreds of millions of years before humanity, a lizard would be similarly impressed by an image of another, attractive lizard. Does that mean that Creation should have stopped at lizards?

Our evaluations of “goodness” are not objective truths, just subjective facts about the structure of our own minds. The opportunity to modify and enhance those minds will vastly increase the space of things we can understand and appreciate. This will allow us to create new forms of attractiveness and wonder that we lack the facilities to appreciate now.

I disagree with my colleague Eliezer Yudkowsky that civilizations elsewhere in the universe are doing “better” in any absolute sense because evaluations of “better” are necessarily mind-structure-contingent. Humans can arbitrarily …

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Martine Rothblatt in Forbes Magazine

There is a story on Martine Rothblatt, a prominent transhumanist, in the most recent issue of Forbes magazine. It tells the story of how Martine transitioned from being a satellite company executive to a pharmaceutical executive to save her daughter from a rare disease.

Some of you may recall my liveblogging coverage from the 3rd annual Terasem Colloquium on the Law of Transbeman Persons and the 4th annual Terasem Colloquium on the Law of Futuristic Persons, which were hosted in Satellite Beach, Florida, by Martine and her wife Bina. These intimate gatherings gave me the opportunity to speak one-on-one with memorable characters such as Wendell Wallach, Marvin Minsky, and many others.

H/t to Robert Freitas for the link.

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Eliezer Yudkowsky and Massimo Pigliucci Debate the Singularity

Research Fellow Eliezer Yudkowsky of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Philosophy Professor Massimo Pigliucci of the City University of New York debate the meaning of intelligence and the possible limits of AI.

The Singularity and the outer limits of physical possibility (08:38) Do human brains run software? (09:58) Consciousness, intelligence, and computation (03:14) What could minds be made of? (13:08) Is mind-uploading a dualist dream? (19:18) Would the Singularity be a Vonnegut-style catastrophe? (10:56)

From Science Saturday at BloggingHeads, which features a lot of familiar faces, including Mike Treder, Razib Khan, Jamais Cascio, etc.

Eliezer (in response to Pigliucci invoking the idea of “limits”): “Just because there are physical limits doesn’t mean that those physical limits are low. There is a limit to the power output of a supernova, but you wouldn’t want to jump into one wearing only a flame-retardant jumpsuit.”

At 10:00, Pigliucci appears to claim that the distinction between hardware and software in the brain means nothing, and that the hardware the human brain runs on is irrelevant.

I recently read …

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2010 H+ Summit @ Harvard

Remember, the 2010 H+ Summit is coming up on June 12-13… here is a blurb.

The 2010 H+ Summit: Rise of the Citizen Scientist (hplussummit.com) is an important 2-day conference that imagines the role of technology in developing the future, with consideration of various emerging technologies and transhumanist ideas.

This innovative summit, to be hosted on June 12-13th, 2010 at Harvard University Science Center by the Harvard College Future Society, with assistance from Humanity+, will feature over 60 incredible speakers, including futurist Ray Kurzweil, inventor Stephen Wolfram, and scientist Aubrey De Grey among many others.

Topics considered will include Human Enhancement, Artificial (General) Intelligence, Longevity, Whole Brain Emulation (“Mind Uploading”), Technology and Democracy, Bioethics, Science Fiction and Science, and Neuroscience among many others.

To learn more and register, visit hplussummit.com. Registration fees are structured to reward early adopters.

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Phil Bowermaster Responds to Annalee Newitz: “Five Arguments Against Four Arguments Against Immortaility”

Phil Bowermaster responds here. Me, I can appreciate the io9 post as a masterpiece of generalization from fictional evidence; including images, I count eleven specific appeals to fictional evidence. This appears to be an early form of co-processing, where content from an external device (in this case, poor television shows) heavily intertwines itself with the thinking processes of the writer, to the point where reality cannot be distinguished from fiction.

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Cryonics Will Scare Your Head Off

Annalee Newitz apparently thinks cryonics is creepy.

Her favorite comment on the photo collection of dewars (scary!) was this articulate one:

Profound.

Question: is cryonics any more “creepy” than what we already do with bodies where metabolism has ceased?

Human beings are largely unaware about the gruesome nature of “death”.

Humans also shy away from the mutilation that occurs during hospital surgery.

Hollywood films portray cryonics in a glamorous high-tech manner that makes it appear that one’s body can easily be placed into a capsule and frozen for future revival.

Reality is that cryopreservation involves complex surgery whereby tubes are inserted into major arteries and veins in order to deliver special anti-freeze solutions into the brain. The purpose is to reduce or eliminate freezing damage and other types of damage to brain cells. The process involves introducing stabilizing drugs and a special solution in the field and a major procedure in an operating room.

There’s nothing pretty about human cryopreservation, but as you’ll read, the alternatives are truly ghastly–and every alternative involves …

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