The Singularity

Review: Transcendence — The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity

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Review: Transcendence — The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity

Share By: Peter Rothman        December 19, 2014 Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity is a new book by former h+ Magazine editor R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell that will bring transhumanism to the masses. The title might be confusing; this isn’t just a book about spirituality, but is an encyclopedia of short articles on a wide range of topics related to transhumanism. The book clearly reflects R.U.’s personal take on the topic, which is brimming with cynical and somehow still fun optimism, and which is clearly influenced by the psychedelic side of the house. R.U.’s vision for a future transhuman world is a freaky party and we’re all invited. The book is organized around a list of words similarly to an encyclopedia or dictionary, and therefore each of the topics is presented in alphabetical order. This makes it relatively easy to find a topic of interest, or return to an old favorite, but the book is still fun to read linearly as well. In addition, each chapter includes one or more links to other chapter titles at the outset, a crude hypertext feature that sort of works. You will find some well known topics of interest like artificial general intelligence, cryonics, and nanotechnology that will be familiar to h+ Magazine reader,  as well as some somewhat less well known ideas such as “The Methuselarity”. My main quibble with this book is the title. The use of the title Transcendence seems like a decision from an SEO consultant looking to scarf hits from the movie release, and it has less to do with the content than the secondary title. It’s set up like an encyclopedia. But still, while this work is a fun and easy introduction to transhumanism, calling it an “encyclopedia” is a bit of an exaggeration. The book is neither large enough nor complete enough to earn this description I think, but perhaps a future version will be expanded to move in that direction. I would expect an encyclopedia to be more comprehensive and technical than this book, which is to say “encyclopedic”, but for now, this encyclopedia is fun but certainly not complete. Nevertheless, I expect that transhumanists will call this book simply “The Encyclopedia” and it will be widely read and enjoyed. Move over Ray Kurzweil. Of course any “encyclopedia” about transhumanism printed on paper is destined to be outdated rapidly or arguably immediately in the modern world. An annual update would be welcomed in addition to expanded and more technical coverage of some topics. The use of the wiki like text features here also suggests the benefits of an electronic version. But I like books too. The Encyclopedia includes a variety of short interviews or comments from well known, and some less well known, transhumanists which add a lot of expert knowledge and narrative flavor to what could have been a monologue. Readers of h+ Magazine will recognize many of them of course. Some of the best parts of The Encyclopedia are these commentaries. However some of it also diverges into what might be called “industry gossip”. I don’t think most readers are interested in transhumanist micropolitics or will even get most of these references. While perhaps of historical interest, I would have left this sort of thing out. Each section introduces and focuses on a topic, e.g. the NBIC technologies, but many also include a critical reality check of the idea...

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Those Unattended: A short sci-fi film by Brian Garvey

Posted by on 3:34 pm in Bio Phreak, The Singularity, Transhumanism | 0 comments

Those Unattended: A short sci-fi film by Brian Garvey

Shareby Socrates          December 18, 2014 It’s a situation we’re either celebrating or condemning… this situation of the singularity. Put simply, technology is advancing at such exponential rates it’ll soon eclipse our human intellect. What that will look like is what this short film by first time director Brian Garvey attempts to answer. Those Unattended centers on a family gathering for dinner in the not too distant future. All appears normal, despite the look of the food they’re about to eat, an homage to the 1970’s sci fi film, “Soylent Green.” As the family settles in for their meal, we see a rigid formality about them, smiles plastered on their faces. Looking through the point of view of the mother, we see her digital operating system. A HUD, (heads up display) of search engines, social network platforms, and augmented 3D reality systems. She operates her system through an inner monologue which sounds exhausted and bored. This is her digital consciousness. Our smart devices will no longer be hand held objects we gaze at, heads down, but rather operating systems implanted into our consciousness. Perhaps the hard-drives of the future will be so powerful and small, microscopic even, they’ll be injected into our blood stream to link up with the synapses or our minds. The digital consciousness feels like a phenomenon we see evolving all around us. Wearable technology and our increasing dependence on being connected digitally all suggest this. But what about the glitches… Back at the dinner table, Dad starts to ramble incoherently, the onset of a digital stroke. His operating system is crashing and something needs to be done about it, fast. If not, he’ll lose the digital crutch he’s grown to depend on and will have to rely on his human consciousness alone, with all it’s imperfections… This is a horrifying situation in our society less than one hundred years from now. Writer, Director, Producer : Brian Garvey Director of Photography : Kevin Wong csc Production Designer : Gustavo Franco Picture Editor : Thomas Lieu Motion Graphics Animator : Julian Ablaza Compositor : Colin Berry Via Singularity Weblog More Socrates on The Singularity…   Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the...

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The Scientist planning to upload his brain to a computer

Posted by on 11:21 pm in Bio Phreak, The Singularity, Transhumanism, Virtual Reality | 0 comments

The Scientist planning to upload his brain to a  computer

ShareBy MARK PRIGG FOR MAILONLINE It is a plan taken straight from the pages of a science fiction novel – and potentially a way to exist forever. A San Francisco inventor has revealed plans for a system to upload his brain to a computer.He hopes to be able to replicate the human brain as a mechanical system. Randal Koene says the key to this is the SIM – a ‘Substrate-Independent Mind.’By mapping the brain, reducing its activity to computations, and reproducing those computations in code, Koene argued, humans could live indefinitely, emulated by silicon. ‘When I say emulation, you should think of it, for example, in the same sense as emulating a Macintosh on a PC,’ he told a recent San Francisco conference. ‘It’s kind of like platform-independent code.’The thing that makes all of this possible is a ‘Substrate-Independent Mind.’This, according to Koene, is not merely an artificial intelligence, but a human mind downloaded to a computer. Neuroscientists are 99.9% percent convinced that the brain is a mechanism, he says. It is something that computes, something that carries out functions. If you can figure out how it works, you can build a replacement for it. ‘The idea that you can take a small piece of the brain and build a replica for it is very mainstream and well understood,’ he recently told Vice. ‘Why not do that with the whole brain? And then why not upload that to a computer so that we can process more data and store it better, the way a computer does, organizing thoughts into folders that we can access whenever we choose?’ ‘It would be interesting to inhabit a more virtual world. ‘Or perhaps bodies that aren’t built to survive in this environment, but somewhere else, like space.’ He has set up an organisation, carboncopies to work on the technical and ethical issues around the project. ‘We support practical approaches toward what we descriptively term “advanced substrate-independent minds (ASIM), i.e. transferring mind functions from the biological substrate to another substrate on which those functions can be performed,’ it says. ‘Carboncopies initially takes a technology agnostic stance. We organise workshops and conferences where interested parties can exchange ideas, network with others, and keep updated on the latest developments in the field’ HOW IT WILL WORK According to Koene’s site, :‘The functions of mind that we experience are originally implemented through neurobiological mechanisms, the neural circuitry of our brains. ‘If the same functions are implemented in a different operating substrate, populated with parameters and operating such that they produce the same results as they would in the brain, then that mind has become substrate-independent. ‘It is a substrate-independent mind (SIM) by being able to function in different operating substrates. The popular term ‘mind uploading’ can refer to the process of transfer, moving a specific substrate-independent mind from one operating substrate (e.g., the biological brain) to another. Source: Daily...

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Man Successfully Controls 2 Prosthetic Arms With Just His Thoughts

Posted by on 3:35 pm in Bio Phreak, Featured, News, Transhumanism | 0 comments

Man Successfully Controls 2 Prosthetic Arms With Just His Thoughts

ShareBy Alexis Kleinman  via The Huffington Post A Colorado man can now control two prosthetic arms with his mind. Les Baugh lost both his arms in an electrical accident 40 years ago. But with the help Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), he’s able to control a set of Modular Prosthetic Limbs with his nerves. All he has to do is think about moving his arms, and they move. Nothing is permanently attached to him; Baugh wears what is called a “socket,” which connects the prosthetics to his body. The researchers measured the way his muscles and nerves react when Baugh thinks about moving his arms. Then, when he thinks about moving his arms and hands in a certain way, the prosthetics move. Baugh is the first bilateral shoulder-level amputee to wear two Modular Prosthetic Limbs at once, according to the researchers. He’s spending a lot of time practicing different tasks. “Maybe I’ll be able to — for once — be able to put change in a pop machine and get the pop out of it,” Baugh said in a video about the breakthrough. “Simple things like that that most people never think of.” He can only use the arms in the lab for now, but someday he will have two of his own. “I think we’re just getting started at this point. It’s like the early days of the Internet,” Mike McLoughlin, the program manager at Johns Hopkins’ Revolutionizing Prosthetics, said in the video. “There’s just a tremendous amount of potential ahead of us, and we just started down this road. I think the next five, 10 years are going to bring some really phenomenal advancements.” Check out a video of Baugh and the researchers here: Via The Huffington Post   Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the...

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How Technology Brought Us Closer to the Future in 2014

Posted by on 11:45 pm in News, Technology, The Singularity | 0 comments

How Technology Brought Us Closer to the Future in 2014

ShareBY JASON DORRIER       DECEMBER 17 2014 As the year draws to a close, it’s worth glancing over our shoulder. What technologies and themes were brightest in 2014? Read on. (And keep in mind, attempting such a summation is ambitious to the extreme—let us know what we missed!) Illumina Breaks DNA Reading ‘Sound Barrier’  In January, Illumina announced that their latest DNA sequencing machine can transcribe 18,000 human genomes a year for $1,000 each—down from hundreds of millions a decade ago. The $1,000 genome enables broad genomic studies that may yield insights into the origins of disease. To date, some 225,000 genomes have been sequenced, and genomic pioneer Craig Venter believes we’ll sequence 5 million by 2020. Next steps include perfecting intelligent software to analyze all that data. Mars Ambitions, Reusable Rockets, and 3D Space Printers According to Elon Musk, billionaire space entrepreneur, humans have to become a multi-planetary species if we’re to survive. Musk hopes to begin colonizing Mars in the 2030s, but we’ll have to first reduce the cost of space travel. He believes reusable rockets, which the firm began testing in 2014, may slash launch costs by a factor of 100. Beyond cutting cost, space explorers need greater independence from the ground. Singularity University space startup, Made In Space launched, installed, and began testing the first 3D printer in orbit this year. Astronauts will use the printer to make tools and parts—kicking off space manufacturing and setting a 3D printing precedent for future space explorers. Wearables Struggle, Virtual Reality Attracts Big Bets Tech is officially searching for the next big computer interface, the next smartphone revolution. Despite high expectations, Google Glass struggled to find its footing. Glass is half price on eBay, lost its lead developer (and others), app developers are losing interest—and even Sergey Brin forgot to wear his at a big tech event. Though Glass is finding niche uses (hospitals, for example, are adopting Glass for use by surgeons), the lesson seems to be miniaturization isn’t sufficient for the mainstream. Design and practicality matter. Glass may need a redesign, a must-have use, or both. Other wearables also searched for the golden formula. Though everyone seemed to release a smartwatch, none wowed. A recent poll found only 20% of respondents wanted a smartwatch. The most common reason (51%) folks weren’t interested? They didn’t see the point. Apple weighed in with the much-anticipated Apple Watch. The watch is expensive and isn’t particularly novel (though well designed)—out next year, its success remains uncertain. Meanwhile, thanks to its virtual reality Rift headset (still under development), 18-month-old Oculus was acquired by Facebook for a whopping $2 billion. Google made its own VR contribution—a stripped down, smartphone-basedcardboard headset—while Oculus worked with Samsung to finish its more polished smartphone-based Gear VR goggles (now on sale). Will Oculus release their eagerly awaited consumer VR goggles in 2015? It’s unclear, but many people, from game developers to filmmakers, are already anticipating the impending VR revolution. Body 2.0: Drop-of-Blood Diagnosis and Skin-Based Stem Cells Portable health devices are approaching the Star Trek tricorder in size and cability. The XPRIZE Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE winning device, rHEALTH, is a handheld machine that can diagnose hundreds of diseases using 1,500 times less blood. Cheap, regular testing may help doctors catch and treat disease before it’s too late. And devices may shrink more. Google, for example, unveiled experimental contact lenses to measure blood glucose in diabetics. Regenerative medicine gained steam too. Once the poster child for controversy, stem...

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Proof that The End of Moore’s Law is Not The End of The Singularity

Posted by on 11:13 pm in Technology, The Singularity | 0 comments

Proof that The End of Moore’s Law is Not The End of The Singularity

Share Posted by Eric Klien During the last few years, the semiconductor industry has been having a harder and harder time miniaturizing transistors with the latest problem being Intel’s delayed roll-out of its new 14 nm process. The best way to confirm this slowdown in progress of computing power is to try to run your current programs on a 6-year-old computer. You will likely have few problems since computers have not sped up greatly during the past 6 years. If you had tried this experiment a decade ago you would have found a 6-year-old computer to be close to useless as Intel and others were able to get much greater gains per year in performance than they are getting today. Many are unaware of this problem as improvements in software and the current trend to have software rely on specialized GPUs instead of CPUs has made this slowdown in performance gains less evident to the end user. (The more specialized a chip is, the faster it runs.) But despite such workarounds, people are already changing their habits such as upgrading their personal computers less often. Recently people upgraded their ancient Windows XP machines only because Microsoft forced them to by discontinuing support for the still popular Windows XP operating system. (Windows XP was the second most popular desktop operating system in the world the day after Microsoft ended all support for it. At that point it was a 12-year-old operating system.) It would be unlikely that AIs would become as smart as us by 2029 as Ray Kurzweil has predicted if we depended on Moore’s Law to create the hardware for AIs to run on. But all is not lost. Previously, electromechanical technology gave way to relays, then to vacuum tubes, then to solid-state transistors, and finally to today’s integrated circuits. One possibility for the sixth paradigm to provide exponential growth of computing has been to go from 2D integrated circuits to 3D integrated circuits. There have been small incremental steps in this direction, for example Intel introduced 3D tri-gate transistors with its first 22 nm chips in 2012. While these chips were slightly taller than the previous generation, performance gains were not great from this technology. (Intel is simply making its transistors taller and thinner. They are not stacking such transistors on top of each other.) But quietly this year, 3D technology has finally taken off. The recently released Samsung 850 Pro which uses 42 nm flash memory is competitive with competing products that use 19 nm flash memory. Considering that, for a regular flat chip, 42 nm memory is (42 × 42) / (19 × 19) = 4.9 times as big and therefore 4.9 times less productive to work with, how did Samsung pull this off? They used their new 3D V-NAND architecture, which stacks 32 cell layers on top of one another. It wouldn’t be that hard for them to go from 32 layers to 64 then to 128, etc. Expect flash drives to have greater capacity than hard drives in a couple years! (Hard drives are running into their own form of an end of Moore’s Law situation.) Note that by using 42 nm flash memory instead of 19 nm flash memory, Samsung is able to use bigger cells that can handle more read and write cycles. Samsung is not the only one with this 3D idea....

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5 Very Smart People Who Think Artificial Intelligence Could Bring the Apocalypse

Posted by on 11:03 pm in AI, The Singularity | 0 comments

5 Very Smart People Who Think Artificial Intelligence Could Bring the Apocalypse

ShareVictor Luckerson   Dec. 2, 2014 Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking poses for a picture ahead of a gala screening of the documentary ‘Hawking’, a film about the scientist’s life.AFP/Getty Images ‘The end of the human race’ On the list of doomsday scenarios that could wipe out the human race, super-smart killer robots rate pretty high in the public consciousness. And in scientific circles, a growing number of artificial intelligence experts agree that humans will eventually create an artificial intelligence that can think beyond our own capacities. This moment, called the singularity, could create a utopia in which robots automate common forms of labor and humans relax amid bountiful resources. Or it could lead the artificial intelligence, or AI, to exterminate any creatures it views as competitors for control of the Earth—that would be us. Stephen Hawking has long seen the latter as more likely, and he made his thoughts known again in a recent interview with the BBC. Here are some comments by Hawking and other very smart people who agree that, yes, AI could be the downfall of humanity. Stephen Hawking “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” the world-renowned physicist told the BBC. “It would take off on its own and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.” Hawking has been voicing this apocalyptic vision for a while. In a May column in response to Transcendence, the sci-fi movie about the singularity starring Johnny Depp, Hawking criticized researchers for not doing more to protect humans from the risks of AI. “If a superior alien civilisation sent us a message saying, ‘We’ll arrive in a few decades,’ would we just reply, ‘OK, call us when you get here—we’ll leave the lights on’? Probably not—but this is more or less what is happening with AI,” he wrote. Elon Musk Known for his businesses on the cutting edge of tech, such as Tesla and SpaceX, Musk is no fan of AI. At a conference at MIT in October, Musk likened improving artificial intelligence to “summoning the demon” and called it the human race’s biggest existential threat. He’s also tweeted that AI could be more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Musk called for the establishment of national or international regulations on the development of AI. Nick Bostrom The Swedish philosopher is the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, where he’s spent a lot of time thinking about the potential outcomes of the singularity. In his new book Superintelligence, Bostrom argues that once machines surpass human intellect, they could mobilize and decide to eradicate humans extremely quickly using any number of strategies (deploying unseen pathogens, recruiting humans to their side or simple brute force). The world of the future would become ever more technologically advanced and complex, but we wouldn’t be around to see it. “A society of economic miracles and technological awesomeness, with nobody there to benefit,” hewrites. “A Disneyland without children.” James Barrat Barrat is a writer and documentarian who interviewed many AI researchers and philosophers for his new book, “Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era.” He argues that intelligent beings are innately driven toward gathering resources and achieving...

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With Mindware Upgrades and Cognitive Prosthetics, Humans Are Already Technological Animals

Posted by on 11:12 pm in Bio Phreak, Featured, The Singularity, Transhumanism | 0 comments

With Mindware Upgrades and Cognitive Prosthetics, Humans Are Already Technological Animals

ShareBY JASON DORRIER   OCT 19, 2014   In recent years, the surprising idea that we’ll one day merge with our technology has warily made its way into the mainstream. Often it’s couched in a combination of snark and fear. Why in the world would we want to do that? It’s so inhuman. That the idea is distasteful isn’t shocking. The imagination rapidly conjures images of Star Trek’s Borg, a nightmarish future when humans and machines melt into a monstrosity of flesh and wires, forever and irrevocably leaving “nature” behind. But let’s not fool ourselves with such dark fantasies. Humans are already technological animals; tight integration with our inventions is in our nature; and further increasing that integration won’t take place in some distant future—it’s happening now. To observe our technological attachment, we need simply walk out the door. It’s everywhere, all around us—on the bus or train, at work, at home, in the bathroom, in bed—people gazing into screens, living digital lives right next to their ordinary ones. In the Matrix, the experience is involuntary, a tool of control and oppression. In our world, it’s voluntary, and mostly about freedom, expansion, and expression. As Jason Silva recently noted, our devices augment our brains, like cognitive prosthetics. In his latest video, Silva says we should go easy on those fervent fans lining up for the latest smartphone, “These are not trivial things, these are not fashion accessories—these are mindware upgrades.” The newest smart devices speed information processing, better organize our thoughts, more efficiently connect us with others. Silva says a simple telephone collapses time and geography in a kind of “technologically mediated telepathy” as termed by David Porush. Smartphones and other connected devices do the same thing, of course, and at very nearly the speed of light. But the word smartphone fails to convey that the phone part is far less than half the equation. Referring to Andy Clark’s book Natural-Born Cyborgs, Silva says, “The modern mind emerges in the feedback loops between brains and these tools that we create and the environment in which we create them. We’re thinking through our iPhones and Samsung phones. We’re thinking on the internet. We’re thinking on the page.” This isn’t a physical merger with technology, but it is surely a psychological one. And this deepening union of brains and devices—Silva’s feedback loops and mindware upgrades—is just the latest round. Man has been “merging” with technology since the beginning. It’s more or less our modus operandi. We exude technology. We live in it. It lives in us. So, why is the concept so foreign? When technology is accepted and absorbed into the culture, we no longer think of it as technology. Consider the café I’m sitting in as I write. What do I see? Plates, cups, utensils, backpacks as extensions of our arms, hands, fingers. Chairs and bicycles extend and augment our legs and backs. Clothes as prosthetic fur—in the name of modesty, but also for warmth, camouflage, or sexual signaling. Glasses are eye prosthetics. Newspapers, books, and notepads are cognitive prosthetics. All this without noting the most obvious items—laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Why are these latter so much more obviously technological? Because the older the technology, the more completely we’ve incorporated it, and the harder it is to see. This techno-blindness is apparent in the way we approve of some technologies and...

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The singularity is coming — are you ready? | Dr. Jonathan White | TEDxEdmonton

Posted by on 3:19 pm in Featured, The Singularity | 0 comments

The singularity is coming — are you ready? | Dr. Jonathan White | TEDxEdmonton

ShareThis talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Would you upload your personality if you could? What do you think of the possibility of living without a physical body? Dr. White addresses a reality that is not so far off as we might think – and what the ethical and philosophical implications of this future might be. Dr. Jonathan White, originally from Northern Ireland, is a surgeon at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Dr. White is a renowned teacher, and has won numerous awards for his innovative and creative approach, including being the first surgeon ever selected as a 3M National Teaching Fellow, an honor bestowed in 2014. At TEDx, Dr. White will point out the unforeseen consequences of the rapid technological change we are experiencing – the unexpected societal, medical, and philosophical issues that we now must consider. He will introduce us to the concept of the “singularity”, a possibility which has enormous potential but also carries immense uncertainty. As we enter the next phase of human evolution, Dr. White will pose provocative questions that will challenge our ideas of what the future holds. About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and...

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Welcome to Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers

Posted by on 2:54 pm in Featured, The Singularity, Virtual Reality | 0 comments

Welcome to Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers

ShareBy Tom Scott   A science fiction story about what you see when you die. Or: the Singularity, ruined by lawyers…   If you liked this, you may also enjoy two novels that provided inspiration for it: Jim Munroe’s Everyone in Silico, where I first found the idea of a corporate-sponsored afterlife; Rudy Rucker’s trippy Postsingular, which introduced me to the horrifying idea of consciousness...

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