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Category : Transhumanism

AI and Transhumanism: Could Quest for Super-intelligence and Eternal Life Lead to a Dystopian Nightmare? – Newsweek

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The rapid development of so-called NBIC technologiesnanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive scienceare giving rise to possibilities that have long been the domain of science fiction. Disease, aging and even death are all human realities that these technologies seek to end.

They may enable us to enjoy greater morphological freedomwe could take on new forms through prosthetics or genetic engineering. Or advance our cognitive capacities. We could use brain-computer interfaces to link us to advanced artificial intelligence (AI).

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Nanobots could roam our bloodstream to monitor our health and enhance our emotional propensities for joy, love or other emotions. Advances in one area often raise new possibilities in others, and this convergence may bring about radical changes to our world in the near-future.

Transhumanism is the idea that humans should transcend their current natural state and limitations through the use of technologythat we should embrace self-directed human evolution. If the history of technological progress can be seen as humankinds attempt to tame nature to better serve its needs, transhumanism is the logical continuation: the revision of humankinds nature to better serve its fantasies.

As David Pearce, a leading proponent of transhumanism and co-founder of Humanity+, says:

If we want to live in paradise, we will have to engineer it ourselves. If we want eternal life, then well need to rewrite our bug-ridden genetic code and become god-like only hi-tech solutions can ever eradicate suffering from the world. Compassion alone is not enough.

But there is a darker side to the naive faith that Pearce and other proponents have in transhumanismone that is decidedly dystopian.

There is unlikely to be a clear moment when we emerge as transhuman. Rather technologies will become more intrusive and integrate seamlessly with the human body. Technology has long been thought of as an extension of the self. Many aspects of our social world, not least our financial systems, are already largely machine-based. There is much to learn from these evolving human/machine hybrid systems.

Artificial intelligence GLAS-8/Flickr

Yet the often Utopian language and expectations that surround and shape our understanding of these developments have been under-interrogated. The profound changes that lie ahead are often talked about in abstract ways, because evolutionary advancements are deemed so radical that they ignore the reality of current social conditions.

In this way, transhumanism becomes a kind of techno-anthropocentrism,in which transhumanists often underestimate the complexity of our relationship with technology. They see it as a controllable, malleable tool that, with the correct logic and scientific rigour, can be turned to any end. In fact, just as technological developments are dependent on and reflective of the environment in which they arise, they in turn feed back into the culture and create new dynamicsoften imperceptibly.

Situating transhumanism, then, within the broader social, cultural, political, and economic contexts within which it emerges is vital to understanding how ethical it is.

A customs officer in Bulgaria displays Captagon pills in Sofia, 12, 2007. Pills could give advantages to peoplebut only those who can afford them. Reuters/Nikolay Doychinov

Max More and Natasha Vita-More, in their edited volume The Transhumanist Reader, claim the need in transhumanism for inclusivity, plurality and continuous questioning of our knowledge."

Yet these three principles are incompatible with developing transformative technologies within the prevailing system from which they are currently emerging: advanced capitalism.

One problem is that a highly competitive social environment doesnt lend itself to diverse ways of being. Instead it demands increasingly efficient behaviour. Take students, for example. If some have access to pills that allow them to achieve better results, can other students afford not to follow? This is already a quandary. Increasing numbers of students reportedly pop performance-enhancing pills. And if pills become more powerful, or if the enhancements involve genetic engineering or intrusive nanotechnology that offer even stronger competitive advantages, what then? Rejecting an advanced technological orthodoxy could potentially render someone socially and economically moribund (perhaps evolutionarily so), while everyone with access is effectively forced to participate to keep up.

Going beyond everyday limits is suggestive of some kind of liberation. However, here it is an imprisoning compulsion to act a certain way. We literally have to transcend in order to conform (and survive). The more extreme the transcendence, the more profound the decision to conform and the imperative to do so.

The systemic forces cajoling the individual into being upgraded to remain competitive also play out on a geo-political level. One area where technology R&D has the greatest transhumanist potential is defence. DARPA (the US defense department responsible for developing military technologies), which is attempting to create metabolically dominant soldiers," is a clear example of how vested interests of a particular social system could determine the development of radically powerful transformative technologies that have destructive rather than Utopian applications.

U.S. army soldiers in a joint military drill together with Serbian and Bulgarian soldiers, at Koren military training ground, Bulgaria, July 15, 2017. DAPRA is currently working to create metabolically dominant soldiers. Stoyan Nenov/Reuters

The rush to develop super-intelligent AI by globally competitive and mutually distrustful nation states could also become an arms race. In Radical Evolution, novelist Verner Vinge describes a scenario in which superhuman intelligence is the ultimate weapon." Ideally, mankind would proceed with the utmost care in developing such a powerful and transformative innovation.

There is quite rightly a huge amount of trepidation around the creation of super-intelligence and the emergence of the singularitythe idea that once AI reaches a certain level it will rapidly redesign itself, leading to an explosion of intelligence that will quickly surpass that of humans (something that will happen by 2029 according to futurist Ray Kurzweil). If the world takes the shape of whatever the most powerful AI is programed (or reprograms itself) to desire, it even opens the possibility of evolution taking a turn for the entirely banalcould an AI destroy humankind from a desire to produce the most paperclips for example?

Its also difficult to conceive of any aspect of humanity that could not be improved by being made more efficient at satisfying the demands of a competitive system. It is the system, then, that determines humanitys evolutionwithout taking any view on what humans are or what they should be. One of the ways in which advanced capitalism proves extremely dynamic is in its ideology of moral and metaphysical neutrality. As philosopher Michael Sandel says: markets dont wag fingers. In advanced capitalism, maximizing ones spending power maximizes ones ability to flourishhence shopping could be said to be a primary moral imperative of the individual.

Philosopher Bob Doede rightly suggests it is this banal logic of the market that will dominate:

If biotech has rendered human nature entirely revisable, then it has no grain to direct or constrain our designs on it. And so whose designs will our successor post-human artefacts likely bear? I have little doubt that in our vastly consumerist, media-saturated capitalist economy, market forces will have their way. So the commercial imperative would be the true architect of the future human.

Whether the evolutionary process is determined by a super-intelligent AI or advanced capitalism, we may be compelled to conform to a perpetual transcendence that only makes us more efficient at activities demanded by the most powerful system. The end point is predictably an entirely nonhumanthough very efficienttechnological entity derived from humanity that doesnt necessarily serve a purpose that a modern-day human would value in any way. The ability to serve the system effectively will be the driving force. This is also true of natural evolutiontechnology is not a simple tool that allows us to engineer ourselves out of this conundrum. But transhumanism could amplify the speed and least desirable aspects of the process.

For bioethicist Julian Savulescu, the main reason humans must be enhanced is for our species to survive. He says we face a Bermuda Triangle of extinction: radical technological power, liberal democracy and our moral nature. As a transhumanist, Savulescu extols technological progress, also deeming it inevitable and unstoppable. It is liberal democracyand particularly our moral naturethat should alter.

The failings of humankind to deal with global problems are increasingly obvious. But Savulescu neglects to situate our moral failings within their wider cultural, political and economic context, instead believing that solutions lie within our biological make up.

Yet how would Savulescus morality-enhancing technologies be disseminated, prescribed and potentially enforced to address the moral failings they seek to cure? This would likely reside in the power structures that may well bear much of the responsibility for these failings in the first place. Hes also quickly drawn into revealing how relative and contestable the concept of morality is:

We will need to relax our commitment to maximum protection of privacy. Were seeing an increase in the surveillance of individuals and that will be necessary if we are to avert the threats that those with antisocial personality disorder, fanaticism, represent through their access to radically enhanced technology.

Such surveillance allows corporations and governments to access and make use of extremely valuable information. In Who Owns the Future, internet pioneer Jaron Lanier explains:

Troves of dossiers on the private lives and inner beings of ordinary people, collected over digital networks, are packaged into a new private form of elite money It is a new kind of security the rich trade in, and the value is naturally driven up. It becomes a giant-scale levee inaccessible to ordinary people.

Crucially, this levee is also invisible to most people. Its impacts extend beyond skewing the economic system towards elites to significantly altering the very conception of liberty, because the authority of power is both radically more effective and dispersed.

Foucaults notion that we live in a panoptic societyone in which the sense of being perpetually watched instills disciplineis now stretched to the point where todays incessant machinery has been called a superpanopticon." The knowledge and information that transhumanist technologies will tend to create could strengthen existing power structures that cement the inherent logic of the system in which the knowledge arises.

This is in part evident in the tendency of algorithms toward race and gender bias, which reflects our already existing social failings. Information technology tends to interpret the world in defined ways: it privileges information that is easily measurable, such as GDP, at the expense of unquantifiable information such as human happiness or well-being. As invasive technologies provide ever more granular data about us, this data may in a very real sense come to define the world and intangible information may not maintain its rightful place in human affairs.

Existing inequities will surely be magnified with the introduction of highly effective psycho-pharmaceuticals, genetic modification, super intelligence, brain-computer interfaces, nanotechnology, robotic prosthetics, and the possible development of life expansion. They are all fundamentally inegalitarian, based on a notion of limitlessness rather than a standard level of physical and mental well-being weve come to assume in healthcare. Its not easy to conceive of a way in which these potentialities can be enjoyed by all.

A man moves his finger toward a robotic hand at the IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots in Madrid on November 19, 2014. AFP

Sociologist Saskia Sassen talks of the new logics of expulsion," that capture the pathologies of todays global capitalism."The expelled include the more than 60,000 migrants who have lost their lives on fatal journeys in the past 20 years, and the victims of the racially skewed profile of the increasing prison population.

In Britain, they include the 30,000 people whose deaths in 2015 were linked to health and social care cuts and the many who perished in the Grenfell Tower fire. Their deaths can be said to have resulted from systematic marginalization.

Unprecedented acute concentration of wealth happens alongside these expulsions. Advanced economic and technical achievements enable this wealth and the expulsion of surplus groups. At the same time, Sassen writes, they create a kind of nebulous centerlessness as the locus of power:

The oppressed have often risen against their masters. But today the oppressed have mostly been expelled and survive a great distance from their oppressors The oppressor is increasingly a complex system that combines persons, networks, and machines with no obvious centre.

Surplus populations removed from the productive aspects of the social world may rapidly increase in the near future as improvements in AI and robotics potentially result in significant automation unemployment. Large swaths of society may become productively and economically redundant. For historian Yuval Noah Harari the most important question in 21st-century economics may well be: what should we do with all the superfluous people?

We would be left with the scenario of a small elite that has an almost total concentration of wealth with access to the most powerfully transformative technologies in world history and a redundant mass of people, no longer suited to the evolutionary environment in which they find themselves and entirely dependent on the benevolence of that elite. The dehumanizing treatment of todays expelled groups shows that prevailing liberal values in developed countries dont always extend to those who dont share the same privilege, race, culture or religion.

In an era of radical technological power, the masses may even represent a significant security threat to the elite, which could be used to justify aggressive and authoritarian actions (perhaps enabled further by a culture of surveillance.)

In their transhumanist tract, The Proactionary Imperative, Steve Fuller and Veronika Lipinska argue that we are obliged to pursue techno-scientific progress relentlessly, until we achieve our god-like destiny or infinite powereffectively to serve God by becoming God. They unabashedly reveal the incipient violence and destruction such Promethean aims would require: replacing the natural with the artificial is so key to proactionary strategy at least as a serious possibility if not a likelihood [it will lead to] the long-term environmental degradation of the Earth.

The extent of suffering they would be willing to gamble in their cosmic casino is only fully evident when analysing what their project would mean for individual human beings:

A proactionary world would not merely tolerate risk-taking but outright encourage it, as people are provided with legal incentives to speculate with their bio-economic assets. Living riskily would amount to an entrepreneurship of the self [proactionaries] seek large long-term benefits for survivors of a revolutionary regime that would permit many harms along the way.

Progress on overdrive will require sacrifices.

The economic fragility that humans may soon be faced with as a result of automation unemployment would likely prove extremely useful to proactionary goals. In a society where vast swaths of people are reliant on handouts for survival, market forces would determine that less social security means people will risk more for a lower reward, so proactionaries would reinvent the welfare state as a vehicle for fostering securitised risk taking while the proactionary state would operate like a venture capitalist writ large.

At the heart of this is the removal of basic rights for Humanity 1.0," Fullers term for modern, non-augmented human beings, replaced with duties towards the future augmented Humanity 2.0. Hence the very code of our being can and perhaps must be monetised: personal autonomy should be seen as a politically licensed franchise whereby individuals understand their bodies as akin to plots of land in what might be called the genetic commons.'"

The neoliberal preoccupation with privatization would extend to human beings. Indeed, the lifetime of debt that is the reality for most citizens in developed advanced capitalist nations, takes a further step when you are born into debtsimply by being alive you are invested with capital on which a return is expected."

Socially moribund masses may thus be forced to serve the technoscientific super-project of Humanity 2.0, which uses the ideology of market fundamentalism in its quest for perpetual progress and maximum productivity. The only significant difference is that the stated aim of godlike capabilities in Humanity 2.0 is overt, as opposed to the undefined end determined by the infinite progress of an ever more efficient market logic that we have now.

Some transhumanists are beginning to understand that the most serious limitations to what humans can achieve are social and culturalnot technical. However, all too often their reframing of politics falls into the same trap as their techno-centric worldview. They commonly argue the new political poles are not left-right but techno-conservative or techno-progressive (and even techno-libertarian and techno-sceptic). Meanwhile Fuller and Lipinska argue that the new political poles will be up and down instead of left and right: those who want to dominate the skies and became all powerful, and those who want to preserve the Earth and its species-rich diversity. It is a false dichotomy. Preservation of the latter is likely to be necessary for any hope of achieving the former.

Transhumanism and advanced capitalism are two processes which value progress and efficiency above everything else. The former as a means to power and the latter as a means to profit. Humans become vessels to serve these values. Transhuman possibilities urgently call for a politics with more clearly delineated and explicit humane values to provide a safer environment in which to foster these profound changes. Where we stand on questions of social justice and environmental sustainability has never been more important. Technology doesnt allow us to escape these questionsit doesnt permit political neutrality. The contrary is true. It determines that our politics have never been important. Savulescu is right when he says radical technologies are coming. He is wrong in thinking they will fix our morality. They will reflect it.

Alexander Thomasis aPhD Candidate at theUniversity of East London.

Read more here:
AI and Transhumanism: Could Quest for Super-intelligence and Eternal Life Lead to a Dystopian Nightmare? - Newsweek

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

Transhumanism: Can technology help mankind transcend its natural limitations? – Scroll.in

The rapid development of so-called NBIC technologies nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science are giving rise to possibilities that have long been the domain of science fiction. Disease, ageing and even death are all human realities that these technologies seek to end.

They may enable us to enjoy greater morphological freedom we could take on new forms through prosthetics or genetic engineering. Or advance our cognitive capacities. We could use brain-computer interfaces to link us to advanced artificial intelligence.

Nanobots could roam our bloodstream to monitor our health and enhance our emotional propensities for joy, love or other emotions. Advances in one area often raise new possibilities in others, and this convergence may bring about radical changes to our world in the near-future.

Transhumanism is the idea that humans should transcend their current natural state and limitations through the use of technology that we should embrace self-directed human evolution. If the history of technological progress can be seen as humankinds attempt to tame nature to better serve its needs, trans-humanism is the logical continuation: the revision of humankinds nature to better serve its fantasies.

As David Pearce, a leading proponent of transhumanism and co-founder of Humanity+, says:

If we want to live in paradise, we will have to engineer it ourselves. If we want eternal life, then well need to rewrite our bug-ridden genetic code and become god-like only hi-tech solutions can ever eradicate suffering from the world. Compassion alone is not enough.

But there is a darker side to the naive faith that Pearce and other proponents have in transhumanism one that is decidedly dystopian.

There is unlikely to be a clear moment when we emerge as transhuman. Rather, technologies will become more intrusive and integrate seamlessly with the human body. Technology has long been thought of as an extension of the self. Many aspects of our social world, not least our financial systems, are already largely machine-based. There is much to learn from these evolving human/machine hybrid systems.

Yet the often Utopian language and expectations that surround and shape our understanding of these developments have been under-interrogated. The profound changes that lie ahead are often talked about in abstract ways, because evolutionary advancements are deemed so radical that they ignore the reality of current social conditions.

In this way, transhumanism becomes a kind of techno-anthropocentrism, in which transhumanists often underestimate the complexity of our relationship with technology. They see it as a controllable, malleable tool that, with the correct logic and scientific rigour, can be turned to any end. In fact, just as technological developments are dependent on and reflective of the environment in which they arise, they in turn feed back into the culture and create new dynamics often imperceptibly.

Situating transhumanism, then, within the broader social, cultural, political, and economic contexts within which it emerges is vital to understanding how ethical it is.

Max More and Natasha Vita-More, in their edited volume The Transhumanist Reader, claim the need in transhumanism for inclusivity, plurality and continuous questioning of our knowledge.

Yet these three principles are incompatible with developing transformative technologies within the prevailing system from which they are currently emerging: advanced capitalism.

One problem is that a highly competitive social environment doesnt lend itself to diverse ways of being. Instead it demands increasingly efficient behaviour. Take students, for example. If some have access to pills that allow them to achieve better results, can other students afford not to follow? This is already a quandary. Increasing numbers of students reportedly pop performance-enhancing pills. And if pills become more powerful, or if the enhancements involve genetic engineering or intrusive nanotechnology that offer even stronger competitive advantages, what then? Rejecting an advanced technological orthodoxy could potentially render someone socially and economically moribund (perhaps evolutionarily so), while everyone with access is effectively forced to participate to keep up.

Going beyond everyday limits is suggestive of some kind of liberation. However, here it is an imprisoning compulsion to act a certain way. We literally have to transcend in order to conform (and survive). The more extreme the transcendence, the more profound the decision to conform and the imperative to do so.

The systemic forces cajoling the individual into being upgraded to remain competitive also play out on a geo-political level. One area where technology R&D has the greatest transhumanist potential is defence. DARPA (the US defence department responsible for developing military technologies), which is attempting to create metabolically dominant soldiers, is a clear example of how vested interests of a particular social system could determine the development of radically powerful transformative technologies that have destructive rather than Utopian applications.

The rush to develop super-intelligent AI by globally competitive and mutually distrustful nation states could also become an arms race. In Radical Evolution, novelist Verner Vinge describes a scenario in which superhuman intelligence is the ultimate weapon. Ideally, mankind would proceed with the utmost care in developing such a powerful and transformative innovation.

There is quite rightly a huge amount of trepidation around the creation of super-intelligence and the emergence of the singularity the idea that once AI reaches a certain level it will rapidly redesign itself, leading to an explosion of intelligence that will quickly surpass that of humans (something that will happen by 2029 according to futurist Ray Kurzweil). If the world takes the shape of whatever the most powerful AI is programmed (or reprograms itself) to desire, it even opens the possibility of evolution taking a turn for the entirely banal could an AI destroy humankind from a desire to produce the most paperclips for example?

Its also difficult to conceive of any aspect of humanity that could not be improved by being made more efficient at satisfying the demands of a competitive system. It is the system, then, that determines humanitys evolution without taking any view on what humans are or what they should be. One of the ways in which advanced capitalism proves extremely dynamic is in its ideology of moral and metaphysical neutrality. As philosopher Michael Sandel says: markets dont wag fingers. In advanced capitalism, maximising ones spending power maximises ones ability to flourish hence shopping could be said to be a primary moral imperative of the individual.

Philosopher Bob Doede rightly suggests it is this banal logic of the market that will dominate:

If biotech has rendered human nature entirely revisable, then it has no grain to direct or constrain our designs on it. And so whose designs will our successor post-human artefacts likely bear? I have little doubt that in our vastly consumerist, media-saturated capitalist economy, market forces will have their way. So the commercial imperative would be the true architect of the future human.

Whether the evolutionary process is determined by a super-intelligent AI or advanced capitalism, we may be compelled to conform to a perpetual transcendence that only makes us more efficient at activities demanded by the most powerful system. The end point is predictably an entirely nonhuman though very efficient technological entity derived from humanity that doesnt necessarily serve a purpose that a modern-day human would value in any way. The ability to serve the system effectively will be the driving force. This is also true of natural evolution technology is not a simple tool that allows us to engineer ourselves out of this conundrum. But transhumanism could amplify the speed and least desirable aspects of the process.

For bioethicist Julian Savulescu, the main reason humans must be enhanced is for our species to survive. He says we face a Bermuda Triangle of extinction: radical technological power, liberal democracy and our moral nature. As a transhumanist, Savulescu extols technological progress, also deeming it inevitable and unstoppable. It is liberal democracy and particularly our moral nature that should alter.

The failings of humankind to deal with global problems are increasingly obvious. But Savulescu neglects to situate our moral failings within their wider cultural, political and economic context, instead believing that solutions lie within our biological make up.

Yet how would Savulescus morality-enhancing technologies be disseminated, prescribed and potentially enforced to address the moral failings they seek to cure? This would likely reside in the power structures that may well bear much of the responsibility for these failings in the first place. Hes also quickly drawn into revealing how relative and contestable the concept of morality is:

We will need to relax our commitment to maximum protection of privacy. Were seeing an increase in the surveillance of individuals and that will be necessary if we are to avert the threats that those with antisocial personality disorder, fanaticism, represent through their access to radically enhanced technology.

Such surveillance allows corporations and governments to access and make use of extremely valuable information. In Who Owns the Future, internet pioneer Jaron Lanier explains:

Troves of dossiers on the private lives and inner beings of ordinary people, collected over digital networks, are packaged into a new private form of elite money...It is a new kind of security the rich trade in, and the value is naturally driven up. It becomes a giant-scale levee inaccessible to ordinary people.

Crucially, this levee is also invisible to most people. Its impacts extend beyond skewing the economic system towards elites to significantly altering the very conception of liberty, because the authority of power is both radically more effective and dispersed.

Foucaults notion that we live in a panoptic society one in which the sense of being perpetually watched instils discipline is now stretched to the point where todays incessant machinery has been called a superpanopticon. The knowledge and information that transhumanist technologies will tend to create could strengthen existing power structures that cement the inherent logic of the system in which the knowledge arises.

This is in part evident in the tendency of algorithms toward race and gender bias, which reflects our already existing social failings. Information technology tends to interpret the world in defined ways: it privileges information that is easily measurable, such as GDP, at the expense of unquantifiable information such as human happiness or well-being. As invasive technologies provide ever more granular data about us, this data may in a very real sense come to define the world and intangible information may not maintain its rightful place in human affairs.

Existing inequities will surely be magnified with the introduction of highly effective psycho-pharmaceuticals, genetic modification, super intelligence, brain-computer interfaces, nanotechnology, robotic prosthetics, and the possible development of life expansion. They are all fundamentally inegalitarian, based on a notion of limitlessness rather than a standard level of physical and mental well-being weve come to assume in healthcare. Its not easy to conceive of a way in which these potentialities can be enjoyed by all.

Sociologist Saskia Sassen talks of the new logics of expulsion, that capture the pathologies of todays global capitalism. The expelled include the more than 60,000 migrants who have lost their lives on fatal journeys in the past 20 years, and the victims of the racially skewed profile of the increasing prison population.

In Britain, they include the 30,000 people whose deaths in 2015 were linked to health and social care cuts and the many who perished in the Grenfell Tower fire. Their deaths can be said to have resulted from systematic marginalisation.

Unprecedented acute concentration of wealth happens alongside these expulsions. Advanced economic and technical achievements enable this wealth and the expulsion of surplus groups. At the same time, Sassen writes, they create a kind of nebulous centrelessness as the locus of power:

The oppressed have often risen against their masters. But today the oppressed have mostly been expelled and survive a great distance from their oppressors The oppressor is increasingly a complex system that combines persons, networks, and machines with no obvious centre.

Surplus populations removed from the productive aspects of the social world may rapidly increase in the near future as improvements in AI and robotics potentially result in significant automation unemployment. Large swaths of society may become productively and economically redundant. For historian Yuval Noah Harari the most important question in 21st-century economics may well be: what should we do with all the superfluous people?

We would be left with the scenario of a small elite that has an almost total concentration of wealth with access to the most powerfully transformative technologies in world history and a redundant mass of people, no longer suited to the evolutionary environment in which they find themselves and entirely dependent on the benevolence of that elite. The dehumanising treatment of todays expelled groups shows that prevailing liberal values in developed countries dont always extend to those who dont share the same privilege, race, culture or religion.

In an era of radical technological power, the masses may even represent a significant security threat to the elite, which could be used to justify aggressive and authoritarian actions (perhaps enabled further by a culture of surveillance).

In their transhumanist tract, The Proactionary Imperative, Steve Fuller and Veronika Lipinska argue that we are obliged to pursue techno-scientific progress relentlessly, until we achieve our god-like destiny or infinite power effectively to serve god by becoming god. They unabashedly reveal the incipient violence and destruction such Promethean aims would require: replacing the natural with the artificial is so key to proactionary strategy at least as a serious possibility if not a likelihood [it will lead to] the long-term environmental degradation of the Earth.

The extent of suffering they would be willing to gamble in their cosmic casino is only fully evident when analysing what their project would mean for individual human beings:

A proactionary world would not merely tolerate risk-taking but outright encourage it, as people are provided with legal incentives to speculate with their bio-economic assets. Living riskily would amount to an entrepreneurship of the self [proactionaries] seek large long-term benefits for survivors of a revolutionary regime that would permit many harms along the way.

Progress on overdrive will require sacrifices.

The economic fragility that humans may soon be faced with as a result of automation unemployment would likely prove extremely useful to proactionary goals. In a society where vast swaths of people are reliant on handouts for survival, market forces would determine that less social security means people will risk more for a lower reward, so proactionaries would reinvent the welfare state as a vehicle for fostering securitised risk taking while the proactionary state would operate like a venture capitalist writ large.

At the heart of this is the removal of basic rights for Humanity 1.0, Fullers term for modern, non-augmented human beings, replaced with duties towards the future augmented Humanity 2.0. Hence the very code of our being can and perhaps must be monetised: personal autonomy should be seen as a politically licensed franchise whereby individuals understand their bodies as akin to plots of land in what might be called the genetic commons.

The neo-liberal preoccupation with privatisation would so extend to human beings. Indeed, the lifetime of debt that is the reality for most citizens in developed advanced capitalist nations, takes a further step when you are born into debt simply by being alive you are invested with capital on which a return is expected.

Socially moribund masses may thus be forced to serve the technoscientific super-project of Humanity 2.0, which uses the ideology of market fundamentalism in its quest for perpetual progress and maximum productivity. The only significant difference is that the stated aim of godlike capabilities in Humanity 2.0 is overt, as opposed to the undefined end determined by the infinite progress of an ever more efficient market logic that we have now.

Some transhumanists are beginning to understand that the most serious limitations to what humans can achieve are social and cultural not technical. However, all too often their reframing of politics falls into the same trap as their techno-centric worldview. They commonly argue the new political poles are not left-right but techno-conservative or techno-progressive (and even techno-libertarian and techno-sceptic). Meanwhile Fuller and Lipinska argue that the new political poles will be up and down instead of left and right: those who want to dominate the skies and became all powerful, and those who want to preserve the Earth and its species-rich diversity. It is a false dichotomy. Preservation of the latter is likely to be necessary for any hope of achieving the former.

Transhumanism and advanced capitalism are two processes which value progress and efficiency above everything else. The former as a means to power and the latter as a means to profit. Humans become vessels to serve these values. Transhuman possibilities urgently call for a politics with more clearly delineated and explicit humane values to provide a safer environment in which to foster these profound changes.

Where we stand on questions of social justice and environmental sustainability has never been more important. Technology doesnt allow us to escape these questions it doesnt permit political neutrality. The contrary is true. It determines that our politics have never been important. Savulescu is right when he says radical technologies are coming. He is wrong in thinking they will fix our morality. They will reflect it.

Alexander Thomas, PhD Candidate, University of East London.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

Read more from the original source:
Transhumanism: Can technology help mankind transcend its natural limitations? - Scroll.in

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

How the death of EDM brought pop music one step closer to eternal life – Washington Post

Today, well be discussing how a Selena Gomez song might foreshadow humanitys triumph over biological death but first, raise your hand if you remember EDM. It was short for electronic dance music, a style once poised to eat the planet for lunch and then eat itself for dessert. Five summers ago, as a new league of superstar DJs were being paid astronomical amounts of money to perform at packed festivals the world over, the musics sustainability didnt appear to be at the forefront of anyones mind. In 2015, Forbes reported that the EDM bubble was about to burst . In 2016, Pitchfork made the case that it had .

But this unofficial collapse hasnt forced the star producers of EDM to unplug their laptops and register for the GRE. In fact, plenty are faring exceptionally well this summer, taking up residence on the Billboard Hot 100 after partnering with an array of willing pop vocalists Calvin Harris with Pharrell Williams, the Chainsmokers with Coldplay, David Guetta with Justin Bieber. These kinds of genre-splicing collaborations arent anything new, but with EDM now in decline, theyve quietly reversed their polarity. Instead of making dance tracks that behave like pop songs, these producers appear to be making pop songs that behave a little more like dance tracks.

In most instances, the result is just a mirror-image of the same old thing, but for a certain class of pop singers, it seems to be changing the way they apply their physicality to a geometric dance rhythm. You can hear it on the radio this summer whenever Gomez goes hopscotching across the grid of Kygos It Aint Me, or when Alessia Cara leans hard against the right-angles of Zedds Stay, or in the way Halsey seems to be gasping for air in the digital vacuum of her solo single Now or Never. All three songs are delivered with mechanical clarity, with all three vocalists making direct lyrical references to eternity. Are they singing about transhumanism?

Not long after our species learned how to dream, we were probably dreaming of ways to exceed the limitations of our bodies. Its the stuff of religions and comic books. Now, its the work of Silicon Valley, where a growing number of transhumanists believe that mankinds next evolutionary leap will occur once we figure out how to convert consciousness into code, allowing for a digital transmigration of souls. In his recent book, To Be a Machine, author Mark OConnell describes transhumanism as a liberation movement advocating nothing less than a total emancipation from biology itself. That emancipation means eternal life inside a supercomputer. Heaven is a hard drive.

The idea isnt so shocking if you watch Black Mirror or if you listen to pop music. For well over a decade now, Auto-Tune software has been narrowing the musical gap between humans and machines, generating signature hooks for everyone from T-Pain to Future. However, whether we as listeners embrace Auto-Tune as a tool or denounce it as a crutch often depends on whos singing through it. When Kanye West uses computer software to manipulate his voice, hes an artist. When Britney Spears does the same thing, shes a girl who cant sing.

That double standard helps to explain why Ellie Goulding hasnt been recognized as one of the more significant pop vocalists of our time. The British singer always had bright ideas about phrasing, but it wasnt until she loaned her voice to a few juggernaut EDM singles that her singing began to feel totally frictionless. And it had more to do with Gouldings inflection than whatever digital processing she was applying to it. By the time she released her 2015 album, Delirium, Goulding was weaving the curves of her voice through a world of clean-edged rhythms as if drawing a map to the future.

[Ellie Goulding is singing from inside the pop machine]

With Now or Never, Halsey has that map folded up in her back pocket. Its a slower, stronger, smarter, more spacious song than Closer, her massive EDM hit with the Chainsmokers, and it gives the 22-year-old the opportunity to do some captivating things with her breath. When shes breathing in, shes all human, taking sharp little hits of oxygen that dramatize the ballads sustained romantic ache. But when shes breathing out, shes at least half-machine, singing about pain with precision. Listen close to how she lingers on the words now, time and forever. The grain in her voice sounds like its pixelating.

Alessia Caras Stay a collaboration with the German EDM producer Zedd addresses the gap between data and soul in the form of a simple duet, with a refrain thats delivered in two parts. First comes Cara pushing her voice especially hard into the songs rigid architecture. Then comes a gush of synthesized melodies pantomiming what the 21-year-old just sang. Its a game of call and response, but the call sounds big-hearted, and the response sounds no-hearted, giving the dialogue a sinister glint. Cara is singing about forestalling a separation, but she might as well be teaching the HAL 9000 how to sing Daisy.

With It Aint Me, Norwegian producer Kygo isnt playing a game so much as conducting a test one in which Gomez must first coo alongside a gently plucked guitar and then over the relentless thuds of sub-woofing bass. As the song builds its graceless crescendo, the coffee shop turns into a rave, with the most promising 25-year-old in pop showing us how she can make her voice feel artificial in an intimate setting and expressive in an anonymous one.

That so-real-it-sounds-fake quality in Gomezs singing is put to far better use over the uncluttered beat of Bad Liar, a hit single about an affection that cant be suppressed. The song radiates such indomitable charm, even its bad lyrics ooze weird charisma. In the first verse, Gomez asserts, just like the Battle of Troy, theres nothing subtle here. Sure. In the second verse, she purrs, If youre the art, Ill be the brush. If she says so. And does she? Are these malformed bits of poetry the result of human error, or were they written by a buggy algorithm? Its hard to know for sure, and the pleasure is in the not-knowing.

Youll want to savor that confusion until Gomez reaches the bridge and blurts out the most metaphysical romantic advance to grace the radio in years: Oh, baby, lets make reality. Amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing. The nature of her proposition depends entirely on whether shes pretending to be a machine, but either way, whos going to sayno?

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How the death of EDM brought pop music one step closer to eternal life - Washington Post

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

The MetroSpiritual: Creating super-humans through Transhumanism is becoming a reality – New York Daily News

Super humans created by design will be a reality in the near future.

Imagine if we could create the perfect President Trump by simply upgrading him a little from a "Of the people, for the people" ethical point of view. Throw in an anti-collusion, Don Jr. malware system and weve already got ourselves a better America.

This is not fake news, so saddle up: It's called Transhumanism. If you're thinking, "Wow, this sounds like a new culture whose goal is to evolve humans physically and intellectually in order to create life extension through genetic engineering with eternal life at the core," then you are correct. Good job!

Tranhumanistic thinking means you believe that you can upgrade yourself with a little help from nanotech, which honestly sounds good to meI already bought the headphones! (I wouldn't frown at a little time management and decision making skills improvements. I freely admit I have a list of complaints for my brain's manufacturer. I'm ready for some upgrades.)

The MetroSpiritual: Does your DNA code prove youre part alien?

The general public believes we are a good 100 years away from this type of technology, but surprisewe are already there. They can already genetically create superior human beings.

One way, but not the only way, is by using CRISPR Cas- 9 kits. It is a fairly inexpensive, already available system for genome editing. The bare-bones for beginners explanation: It targets and modifies gene sequences and can be used for cloning and reproducing preferred traits as well as reprogramming our current DNA to seek out and destroy traits we don't like.

Transhumanism manipulates energy waves, which is what we and everything and anything at its core is made up of, the entire universe included. For example, running weak electrical currents through certain areas of the brain speeds up reaction time. It's called transcranial direct current stimulation, or TDCS, and is already used by the U.S. military to train snipers.

As a Metro-Spiritual, there's a layered but unique perspective that comes to mind. What if higher beings are already using a form of Transhumanism on millions of humans already and have been for some time?

The MetroSpiritual: Make meditation part of your daily journey

Scientists from the Human Genome project say that our DNA was not written on this planet and is a complex mathematical code. What if we have the ability to upgrade, but haven't in a while because we didn't know that we even could?

Without updating the How to be Human software, life would be more confusing and run much slower, don't you think? Perhaps many of us were born with semi- superhuman abilities by virtue of our past but still can't warp our minds around the system upgrades. Stay with me

If advanced entities and let's face it, there are smarter ones then us in this galaxy and universe have already encoded our DNA to allow for upgrades, unarguably this seems like a good anti- corruption software program.

But if available technology for human advancement is just a matter of simple software, is humanity better or worse off? There is likely a built-in level of accountability that is necessary for spiritual growth. I assume expecting anything less always needs to be updated.

The MetroSpiritual: 10 ways to stay spiritually balanced in 2017

Curiously, in the oldest of texts, extraterrestrials have had this Transhumanism thing down since forever ago. Biblical texts even talk about ancient Abraham having his first child when he was 80 years old, because humans supposedly lived for upwards of 200 years way back then. Eternal life might just be sophisticated technology which history, and now science, supports.

Erich von Dniken, who wrote Chariots of the Gods, was one of the first to talk about the ancient alien theory. His research and studies state that thousands of years ago space travelers from other planets visited Earth and taught humans about technology, and influenced their beliefs on religion.

The late Zecharia Sitchin was the first to decode the most ancient texts from the Sumerians. According to his translations, a race of extraterrestrials called the Anunnaki, which means those who are from heaven, came to Earth from a planet beyond Neptune called Nibiru. They have been here long before humans and are the ones responsible for creating the human race. Or so they say

The Greeks, Indians, Mayans, Romans the list goes on all believed in gods who visited Earth and advanced humanity. Their recorded history supports the ancient alien theory. (Are those who learned how to live forever considered gods? Lord help us!)

The MetroSpiritual: How to connect with extraterrestrials

Perhaps the Anunnaki were space travelers. Some believe their home planet was destroyed and their race was dying and so they began to interbreed with humans way, way back then ago. Some believe they created humans. Biblical texts support all this. There are cave drawings dating back more than 5,000 years of alien beings with tall bodies, big heads and big hands interacting with humans. An unnamed source says one looks just like Trump too. Fake news?

Ancient texts talk about the Lyrian Wars and today you can see actual NASA footage of modern day space wars on the internet. Perhaps times don't change that much when it comes to history repeating itself.

Let's skip thousands of years ahead and go to the 1930s to the 1980s. UFO sightings were at an all-time high. The scoop was hundreds of everyday common folk being abducted by aliens. Roswell helped top it off with a cherry.

Scientific evidence from notable cases where taken seriously by the general public and for the first time in ages, the taboo subject began to regain acceptance. Abductees usually described little grey humanoids with skinny bodies and big heads with bug-looking eyes. Sound familiar? They seemed to be most interested in the human reproductive organs.

The MetroSpiritual: Why finding your true soulmate is so hard

Biblical texts do talk about the fallen angels always mating with female humans. Even Enoch, Noah's great grandfather, talked about being abducted by higher beings, but he said that it was spectacular.

But that was then and this is now, and you don't really hear about those scary abduction stories anymore, right? It's more of an Enoch connection these days. So why?

Did they complete interbreeding their DNA with ours? Are they back with upgraded models of their creations, aka, us? Help from ETs is not a new thing, but it seems to be back on a familiar rise these days.

Maybe the little grey aliens we always here about are the result of robotic Transhumanism from eons ago, and humans will make similar versions in the future. We are well on our way, if not already there. Maybe the result of yesterdays abductions are the currently updated versions of human hybrid star-seeds, and maybe you are one of them!

Humanitys advancement might be included in our DNA. It does not mean you will be richer or smarter, it only means you can download universal information, once you figure it out. Maybe that will lead to your desires, but there is always a catch!

Many of the ETs are currently described as looking like us and not like the grey, bug-eyed beings described in the past. So is the future now? Time seems all messed up these days. It might be due to the modern day form of Transhumanism from the past that some of us are currently experiencing.

Downloading our brains into a computer and growing body parts for replacement is happening today in all sorts of forms. Google it! To live forever is in the works, but do we want everyone to live forever? What about the mean people?

Maybe higher intelligences are a step ahead of us, using ET-made natural selection via DNA. You can only upgrade if you get it and are worthy. Personally, I might have some cosmic figuring out to do.

If we could live forever how would most people even react? If you can get around to doing anything tomorrow, luxury nap facilities would certainly become popular establishments: the anti-Starbucks!

Then again, even forever would eventually become a race against time. Who will get there first? I doubt me. I'll be too busy daydreaming about where the finish line is at one of the many napping facilities I hopefully have some stock in.

Maija Polsley began having otherworldly experiences at a young age and began attending metaphysics classes with her mother at age 12. She has since been dedicated to finding the truth and has not stopped exploring. Co-producer of the ghost investigation web series "Paranormal Pursuit" and founder of TheMetroSpiritual.com, Maija is a natural-born, city-dwelling, soul-seeking, independent former teen mom and single woman who is also a dimensionally educated, spiritually empathic writer, actor, poet, standup comic, tarot card reader, Earth lover and quintessential MetroSpiritual.

For more DAILY VIEWS, The News' contributor network, click here. nydailynews.com/tags/daily-views

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The MetroSpiritual: Creating super-humans through Transhumanism is becoming a reality - New York Daily News

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

Super-intelligence and eternal life: transhumanism’s faithful follow it blindly into a future for the elite – The Conversation UK

The rapid development of so-called NBIC technologies nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science are giving rise to possibilities that have long been the domain of science fiction. Disease, ageing and even death are all human realities that these technologies seek to end.

They may enable us to enjoy greater morphological freedom we could take on new forms through prosthetics or genetic engineering. Or advance our cognitive capacities. We could use brain-computer interfaces to link us to advanced artificial intelligence (AI).

Nanobots could roam our bloodstream to monitor our health and enhance our emotional propensities for joy, love or other emotions. Advances in one area often raise new possibilities in others, and this convergence may bring about radical changes to our world in the near-future.

Transhumanism is the idea that humans should transcend their current natural state and limitations through the use of technology that we should embrace self-directed human evolution. If the history of technological progress can be seen as humankinds attempt to tame nature to better serve its needs, transhumanism is the logical continuation: the revision of humankinds nature to better serve its fantasies.

As David Pearce, a leading proponent of transhumanism and co-founder of Humanity+, says:

If we want to live in paradise, we will have to engineer it ourselves. If we want eternal life, then well need to rewrite our bug-ridden genetic code and become god-like only hi-tech solutions can ever eradicate suffering from the world. Compassion alone is not enough.

But there is a darker side to the naive faith that Pearce and other proponents have in transhumanism one that is decidedly dystopian.

There is unlikely to be a clear moment when we emerge as transhuman. Rather technologies will become more intrusive and integrate seamlessly with the human body. Technology has long been thought of as an extension of the self. Many aspects of our social world, not least our financial systems, are already largely machine-based. There is much to learn from these evolving human/machine hybrid systems.

Yet the often Utopian language and expectations that surround and shape our understanding of these developments have been under-interrogated. The profound changes that lie ahead are often talked about in abstract ways, because evolutionary advancements are deemed so radical that they ignore the reality of current social conditions.

In this way, transhumanism becomes a kind of techno-anthropocentrism, in which transhumanists often underestimate the complexity of our relationship with technology. They see it as a controllable, malleable tool that, with the correct logic and scientific rigour, can be turned to any end. In fact, just as technological developments are dependent on and reflective of the environment in which they arise, they in turn feed back into the culture and create new dynamics often imperceptibly.

Situating transhumanism, then, within the broader social, cultural, political, and economic contexts within which it emerges is vital to understanding how ethical it is.

Max More and Natasha Vita-More, in their edited volume The Transhumanist Reader, claim the need in transhumanism for inclusivity, plurality and continuous questioning of our knowledge.

Yet these three principles are incompatible with developing transformative technologies within the prevailing system from which they are currently emerging: advanced capitalism.

One problem is that a highly competitive social environment doesnt lend itself to diverse ways of being. Instead it demands increasingly efficient behaviour. Take students, for example. If some have access to pills that allow them to achieve better results, can other students afford not to follow? This is already a quandary. Increasing numbers of students reportedly pop performance-enhancing pills. And if pills become more powerful, or if the enhancements involve genetic engineering or intrusive nanotechnology that offer even stronger competitive advantages, what then? Rejecting an advanced technological orthodoxy could potentially render someone socially and economically moribund (perhaps evolutionarily so), while everyone with access is effectively forced to participate to keep up.

Going beyond everyday limits is suggestive of some kind of liberation. However, here it is an imprisoning compulsion to act a certain way. We literally have to transcend in order to conform (and survive). The more extreme the transcendence, the more profound the decision to conform and the imperative to do so.

The systemic forces cajoling the individual into being upgraded to remain competitive also play out on a geo-political level. One area where technology R&D has the greatest transhumanist potential is defence. DARPA (the US defence department responsible for developing military technologies), which is attempting to create metabolically dominant soldiers, is a clear example of how vested interests of a particular social system could determine the development of radically powerful transformative technologies that have destructive rather than Utopian applications.

The rush to develop super-intelligent AI by globally competitive and mutually distrustful nation states could also become an arms race. In Radical Evolution, novelist Verner Vinge describes a scenario in which superhuman intelligence is the ultimate weapon. Ideally, mankind would proceed with the utmost care in developing such a powerful and transformative innovation.

There is quite rightly a huge amount of trepidation around the creation of super-intelligence and the emergence of the singularity the idea that once AI reaches a certain level it will rapidly redesign itself, leading to an explosion of intelligence that will quickly surpass that of humans (something that will happen by 2029 according to futurist Ray Kurzweil). If the world takes the shape of whatever the most powerful AI is programmed (or reprograms itself) to desire, it even opens the possibility of evolution taking a turn for the entirely banal could an AI destroy humankind from a desire to produce the most paperclips for example?

Its also difficult to conceive of any aspect of humanity that could not be improved by being made more efficient at satisfying the demands of a competitive system. It is the system, then, that determines humanitys evolution without taking any view on what humans are or what they should be. One of the ways in which advanced capitalism proves extremely dynamic is in its ideology of moral and metaphysical neutrality. As philosopher Michael Sandel says: markets dont wag fingers. In advanced capitalism, maximising ones spending power maximises ones ability to flourish hence shopping could be said to be a primary moral imperative of the individual.

Philosopher Bob Doede rightly suggests it is this banal logic of the market that will dominate:

If biotech has rendered human nature entirely revisable, then it has no grain to direct or constrain our designs on it. And so whose designs will our successor post-human artefacts likely bear? I have little doubt that in our vastly consumerist, media-saturated capitalist economy, market forces will have their way. So the commercial imperative would be the true architect of the future human.

Whether the evolutionary process is determined by a super-intelligent AI or advanced capitalism, we may be compelled to conform to a perpetual transcendence that only makes us more efficient at activities demanded by the most powerful system. The end point is predictably an entirely nonhuman though very efficient technological entity derived from humanity that doesnt necessarily serve a purpose that a modern-day human would value in any way. The ability to serve the system effectively will be the driving force. This is also true of natural evolution technology is not a simple tool that allows us to engineer ourselves out of this conundrum. But transhumanism could amplify the speed and least desirable aspects of the process.

For bioethicist Julian Savulescu, the main reason humans must be enhanced is for our species to survive. He says we face a Bermuda Triangle of extinction: radical technological power, liberal democracy and our moral nature. As a transhumanist, Savulescu extols technological progress, also deeming it inevitable and unstoppable. It is liberal democracy and particularly our moral nature that should alter.

The failings of humankind to deal with global problems are increasingly obvious. But Savulescu neglects to situate our moral failings within their wider cultural, political and economic context, instead believing that solutions lie within our biological make up.

Yet how would Savulescus morality-enhancing technologies be disseminated, prescribed and potentially enforced to address the moral failings they seek to cure? This would likely reside in the power structures that may well bear much of the responsibility for these failings in the first place. Hes also quickly drawn into revealing how relative and contestable the concept of morality is:

We will need to relax our commitment to maximum protection of privacy. Were seeing an increase in the surveillance of individuals and that will be necessary if we are to avert the threats that those with antisocial personality disorder, fanaticism, represent through their access to radically enhanced technology.

Such surveillance allows corporations and governments to access and make use of extremely valuable information. In Who Owns the Future, internet pioneer Jaron Lanier explains:

Troves of dossiers on the private lives and inner beings of ordinary people, collected over digital networks, are packaged into a new private form of elite money It is a new kind of security the rich trade in, and the value is naturally driven up. It becomes a giant-scale levee inaccessible to ordinary people.

Crucially, this levee is also invisible to most people. Its impacts extend beyond skewing the economic system towards elites to significantly altering the very conception of liberty, because the authority of power is both radically more effective and dispersed.

Foucaults notion that we live in a panoptic society one in which the sense of being perpetually watched instils discipline is now stretched to the point where todays incessant machinery has been called a superpanopticon. The knowledge and information that transhumanist technologies will tend to create could strengthen existing power structures that cement the inherent logic of the system in which the knowledge arises.

This is in part evident in the tendency of algorithms toward race and gender bias, which reflects our already existing social failings. Information technology tends to interpret the world in defined ways: it privileges information that is easily measurable, such as GDP, at the expense of unquantifiable information such as human happiness or well-being. As invasive technologies provide ever more granular data about us, this data may in a very real sense come to define the world and intangible information may not maintain its rightful place in human affairs.

Existing inequities will surely be magnified with the introduction of highly effective psycho-pharmaceuticals, genetic modification, super intelligence, brain-computer interfaces, nanotechnology, robotic prosthetics, and the possible development of life expansion. They are all fundamentally inegalitarian, based on a notion of limitlessness rather than a standard level of physical and mental well-being weve come to assume in healthcare. Its not easy to conceive of a way in which these potentialities can be enjoyed by all.

Sociologist Saskia Sassen talks of the new logics of expulsion, that capture the pathologies of todays global capitalism. The expelled include the more than 60,000 migrants who have lost their lives on fatal journeys in the past 20 years, and the victims of the racially skewed profile of the increasing prison population.

In Britain, they include the 30,000 people whose deaths in 2015 were linked to health and social care cuts and the many who perished in the Grenfell Tower fire. Their deaths can be said to have resulted from systematic marginalisation.

Unprecedented acute concentration of wealth happens alongside these expulsions. Advanced economic and technical achievements enable this wealth and the expulsion of surplus groups. At the same time, Sassen writes, they create a kind of nebulous centrelessness as the locus of power:

The oppressed have often risen against their masters. But today the oppressed have mostly been expelled and survive a great distance from their oppressors The oppressor is increasingly a complex system that combines persons, networks, and machines with no obvious centre.

Surplus populations removed from the productive aspects of the social world may rapidly increase in the near future as improvements in AI and robotics potentially result in significant automation unemployment. Large swaths of society may become productively and economically redundant. For historian Yuval Noah Harari the most important question in 21st-century economics may well be: what should we do with all the superfluous people?

We would be left with the scenario of a small elite that has an almost total concentration of wealth with access to the most powerfully transformative technologies in world history and a redundant mass of people, no longer suited to the evolutionary environment in which they find themselves and entirely dependent on the benevolence of that elite. The dehumanising treatment of todays expelled groups shows that prevailing liberal values in developed countries dont always extend to those who dont share the same privilege, race, culture or religion.

In an era of radical technological power, the masses may even represent a significant security threat to the elite, which could be used to justify aggressive and authoritarian actions (perhaps enabled further by a culture of surveillance).

In their transhumanist tract, The Proactionary Imperative, Steve Fuller and Veronika Lipinska argue that we are obliged to pursue techno-scientific progress relentlessly, until we achieve our god-like destiny or infinite power effectively to serve God by becoming God. They unabashedly reveal the incipient violence and destruction such Promethean aims would require: replacing the natural with the artificial is so key to proactionary strategy at least as a serious possibility if not a likelihood [it will lead to] the long-term environmental degradation of the Earth.

The extent of suffering they would be willing to gamble in their cosmic casino is only fully evident when analysing what their project would mean for individual human beings:

A proactionary world would not merely tolerate risk-taking but outright encourage it, as people are provided with legal incentives to speculate with their bio-economic assets. Living riskily would amount to an entrepreneurship of the self [proactionaries] seek large long-term benefits for survivors of a revolutionary regime that would permit many harms along the way.

Progress on overdrive will require sacrifices.

The economic fragility that humans may soon be faced with as a result of automation unemployment would likely prove extremely useful to proactionary goals. In a society where vast swaths of people are reliant on handouts for survival, market forces would determine that less social security means people will risk more for a lower reward, so proactionaries would reinvent the welfare state as a vehicle for fostering securitised risk taking while the proactionary state would operate like a venture capitalist writ large.

At the heart of this is the removal of basic rights for Humanity 1.0, Fullers term for modern, non-augmented human beings, replaced with duties towards the future augmented Humanity 2.0. Hence the very code of our being can and perhaps must be monetised: personal autonomy should be seen as a politically licensed franchise whereby individuals understand their bodies as akin to plots of land in what might be called the genetic commons.

The neoliberal preoccupation with privatisation would so extend to human beings. Indeed, the lifetime of debt that is the reality for most citizens in developed advanced capitalist nations, takes a further step when you are born into debt simply by being alive you are invested with capital on which a return is expected.

Socially moribund masses may thus be forced to serve the technoscientific super-project of Humanity 2.0, which uses the ideology of market fundamentalism in its quest for perpetual progress and maximum productivity. The only significant difference is that the stated aim of godlike capabilities in Humanity 2.0 is overt, as opposed to the undefined end determined by the infinite progress of an ever more efficient market logic that we have now.

Some transhumanists are beginning to understand that the most serious limitations to what humans can achieve are social and cultural not technical. However, all too often their reframing of politics falls into the same trap as their techno-centric worldview. They commonly argue the new political poles are not left-right but techno-conservative or techno-progressive (and even techno-libertarian and techno-sceptic). Meanwhile Fuller and Lipinska argue that the new political poles will be up and down instead of left and right: those who want to dominate the skies and became all powerful, and those who want to preserve the Earth and its species-rich diversity. It is a false dichotomy. Preservation of the latter is likely to be necessary for any hope of achieving the former.

Transhumanism and advanced capitalism are two processes which value progress and efficiency above everything else. The former as a means to power and the latter as a means to profit. Humans become vessels to serve these values. Transhuman possibilities urgently call for a politics with more clearly delineated and explicit humane values to provide a safer environment in which to foster these profound changes. Where we stand on questions of social justice and environmental sustainability has never been more important. Technology doesnt allow us to escape these questions it doesnt permit political neutrality. The contrary is true. It determines that our politics have never been important. Savulescu is right when he says radical technologies are coming. He is wrong in thinking they will fix our morality. They will reflect it.

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Super-intelligence and eternal life: transhumanism's faithful follow it blindly into a future for the elite - The Conversation UK

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

Salvation in Transhumanism: Humanity merges with machines and lives for ever – ZDNet

From left: Chris Conatser, Allison Page, Kevin Whittinghill, Zoltan Istvan and Allen Saakyan

Zoltan Istvan ran for President of the US as a "Transhumanist" with a campaign that called for massive government funding to eliminate human mortality. Donald Trump won with a much crazier campaign.

Earlier this week on the Eureka science show he talked about Transhumanism and his campaign to become California Governor in 2018.

Digital Transformation: A CXO's Guide

Reimagining business for the digital age is the number-one priority for many of today's top executives. We offer practical advice and examples of how to do it right.

The hosts Allen Saakyan and Kevin Whittinghill were joined by comedians Chris Conatser and Allison Page. The show uses comedy to educate its audience about important scientific issues.

No foodies...

You can tell by the expressions on their faces (photo above) that Istvan's description of Transhumanism and the chance to live hundreds of years wasn't very appealling. Especially the part when he said that we won't need sex or food in a future Transhumanist world.

Istvan looks like a TV presenter because he used to be one -- at National Geographic. And it was on assignment in Vietnam when he almost stepped on a landmine that he vowed to work on ending human mortality.

Excerpts from Istvan's talk:

- Initially we'll be able to extend our lifespans by 500 years or so. [Like Zeno's paradox we won't catch up with our mortality]

- Ageing will be treated and eliminated like any other chronic disease.

- Our organs will be replaced with fresh ones grown from our own cells so there is no rejection and no lifetime medications.

- Machines of various types and sizes will be embedded in our bodies to protect, heal and augment our senses.

- A bionic eye will replace one of our natural eyes and allow us to see beyond the tiny 1% of the light spectrum so that we can see things like carbon monoxide gas - useful for avoiding pollution.

- CRISPR will allow people to change their DNA to look like the people in the Star Wars bar scene - with tails and fur. [Costume shops - the disruption is coming.]

- Sex won't be anything like as we know it and might not even require other people.

- Eating and food won't be the same. Some Transhumanists want skin with chlorophyll. Lunchtime won't require a sandwich -- slip your shirt off and take a walk in the sun.

- Life extending technologies will come down in price and trickle down to the poorest of the poor.

I asked Istvan what will we be doing during our extra 500 years of life especially since our prime motivators of food and sex won't be present. He said this is the million dollar question, "We don't know."

I rephrased it and asked how will you spend the time? He said he would head back to school and pick up four doctorates and also learn how to play a bunch of musical instruments. That leaves 470 years to go...

Life is cheap...

As the last people were leaving the event a 42 year old man was shot dead outside the club. Transhumanism needs to address morality as well as mortality.

What an ironic commentary: we talk about the need for expensive transhumanist technologies to extend a person's life -- but a bullet bought for pennies has the final say. Stopping gun violence extends lives.

- - -

More info:

http://www.zoltanistvan.com/

600 Miles in a Coffin-Shaped Bus, Campaigning Against Death Itself

Eureka show

Eureka Youtube channel

See the article here:
Salvation in Transhumanism: Humanity merges with machines and lives for ever - ZDNet

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

SIMPLE CREATURE Review – Film Pulse

2.5 Film Pulse Score

Release Date: July 25, 2017 (DVD and VOD platforms)Director:Andrew FinniganMPAA Rating: NRRuntime: 92 mins

The very concept of transhumanism, the belief that the human body can be pushed past its physical and mental limitations through an incorporation of technology, seems like a narrative concept that is almost impossible to make mundane and stale. The implications, possibilities and risks of the wavering status of humanity transhumanism challenges would supply even the most basic science fiction writer with a wealth of existential questions.

Simple Creature, however, never bothers to ask any of these questions in its Bionic Woman-like fable because, beyond skimming the surface of the possibilities of mechanical augmentation, director Andrew Finnigan shows he hasnt the drive or perhaps the budget to delve any further.

Bearing its catchpenny budget on its shoulders with sets of laughably barren mise-en-scne, the film unfolds uneasily as if confused to what particular issue related to the transhuman debate it wants to address. Millennial college student Em (Carollani Sandberg), whose supposed mastery of modern technology is marked by her dependence on a smartphone, is involved in a near-fatal bus accident that prompts her father to rebuild her because of course we have the technology.

Mind you, we never actually see any of this technology due to budgetary constraints, but the script poorly fills us in with its bizarre, layman techno jargon, making one doubt that Finnigan, who along with directing and writing this dreck is also responsible for the screenplay, hasnt the slightest clue about medical technology. Hes more comfortable with employing buzzwords like nanotechnology as insipid catchalls to the process to ensure no one could be intellectually stimulated by his story.

As Em recovers from her condition, Finnigan demonstrates how uninterested he was in transhumanism to begin with by diverting the films attention to her boyfriend, Seth (DAngelo Midili), and his struggle to keep his family farm operational after his fathers passing. For some unknown reason, Finnigan thought it was prescient to draw parallels between human augmentation and corporate farms infringing on the family-owned business under Simple Creatures blanket thesis: technology does not equal humanity. These scenes before Ems reintegration into the films narrative are only useful to highlight its atrocious sense of pacing.

Half of the film is presented in flowing montage, which dances around things like character building and story through excessive cutting, while the other half is comprised of monotonous dialogue exchanges that played more like the actors building a demo reel, seeing how much personality they could cram into their blank characters.

It is as if the film is permanently stuck its own Kickstarter promotional video, trying to secure enough budget to have makeup effects beyond Em sticking an iPhone cord into her arm to check her vitals. Filming, as he does, from natural light obstructing long shots of utter apathy, Finnigans inconsistent aesthetic practically broadcasts the fresh-out-of-film-school pretensions that one harbors when they earnestly think they can be the next Shane Carruth.As the film goes on, it spirals into a lackluster conspiracy thriller involving the facility in which Em was transformed and the farmers plotting to expose them before limply petering out. Simple Creature is a surprising film in that it somehow made transhumanism boring. Not sure where it wants to place its mistrust of technological advancement that stems from its own ignorance of the topic, Simple Creature spins its wheels futilely without a solid point to make or the means to do so.

Simple Creature review

Written by: Chris Luciantonio

Date Published: 07/25/2017

2.5 / 10 stars

Link:
SIMPLE CREATURE Review - Film Pulse

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

Ana Matronic: ‘Robots confuse the boundaries between life and death’ – Siliconrepublic.com

Robotophile and transhumanist Ana Matronic took to the Inspirefest stage predicting a future where gender doesnt matter when were all cyborgs.

If you couldnt tell, the name Ana Matronic is a sure sign that someone has not just an interest in robots, but an outright fascination and love for them.

That was made clear on stage at Inspirefest 2017 when the Scissor Sisters singer, DJ and author took us back through her life from an obsession with the cult 70s TV show The Bionic Woman and writing her first self-published zine about robots, to dressing as a robot at a burlesque show in San Francisco.

However, the real focus of her talk was the fascinating philosophical questions posed to us in a present and future where the line between human and robot is becoming increasingly blurred.

And if so, what role does gender play if any when our brains are in robots or uploaded to the cloud?

During those days of creating her fanzine in college for The Bionic Woman, played by Jaime Sommers, Matronic went as far as to create her own robot-infused religion, called Bionic Love, based on the philosophies of Joseph Campbell and with Sommers as its muse and messiah.

My religion playfully painted the caring and compassionate Ms Sommers as the union of opposing forces of science and nature, she said. Shes the embodiment of the future and herald of the coming technological age and a reminder to never lose your humanity in the face of it.

It was the work of academic and writer Donna Haraway, however, that roused Matronics real interest in the topic of cyborgs and where the concept fits in with human constructs.

What triggered Matronics many philosophical questions was Haraways surprising revelation that, for her, we dont have to wait to be a cyborg in the future, as we already are cyborgs.

She wrote [a book] confirming my deification of The Bionic Woman and transformed my love of robots into something more, Matronic said.

According to Haraways argument, a cyborg doesnt have to be a half-human, half-machine entity with bionic limbs, but anyone who has had science alter their body in some capacity, such as getting a vaccination.

Quoting Haraway: In the tradition of Western science and politics, the relation between organism and machine has been a border war. The cyborg manifesto is an argument for the pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and the responsibility for their construction and a world without gender and world without end.

It was in reading this that Matronics discovery and interest in the topic of transhumanism began.

An example of transhumanism would be the uploading of a persons consciousness online so that they can continue on, something that is already underway with early brain emulation software.

Unlike things like time travel and inter-dimensional travel, Matronic said, robots are here and theyre real not just as physical robots, but artificial intelligence as well.

Robots confuse the boundaries between life and death, human and machine, male and female, master and servant, thinking and feeling, ability and disability, creation and destruction, she said.

I take pleasure in the confusion of these boundaries and, as an artist, I have a unique platform to share and study these stories; and, as a transhumanist, I take responsibility of this examination and the construction of new boundaries.

So what are these boundaries being broken down and built again in a cyborg future?

For people like Martine Rothblatt working on brain emulation software and as a transgender person robots and robot bodies offer a way to detach ourselves the limitations of anatomy. Or, more simply, personhood is about equity, not equipment.

We have an opportunity in this moment to be prepared for the arrival of mechanical and digital people and I believe it is our responsibility to be prepared, Matronic said.

When robots do occupy space in our society. When robot rights and robo-sexuality is not just spoken about in an episode of Futurama.But when its actually here, humans will be forced to look around and ask how well we have done for the rights of our fellow humans.

She continued: If you dont do that before the robo-demonstrations, we are going to have problems and not just with the robots.

In a sense, Matronic argued, the rise of robots offers humans the chance to reboot our operating system in every sense.

It certainly seems as if we are moving into a brave new world.

Read the original post:
Ana Matronic: 'Robots confuse the boundaries between life and death' - Siliconrepublic.com

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

Who do we think we are? – New Scientist

We long to transcend the human condition

baona/Getty

By Joanna Kavenna

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou thinkst thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

Here we are discussing transhumanism, defined by evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley in 1957 as the belief that the human species can and should transcend itself by realizing new possibilities of and for human nature. What relevance could the poet John Donne have to such a discussion?

A more recent explanation of transhumanism, by Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom, calls it a loosely defined movement that has developed gradually over the past two decades Attention is given to both present technologies, like genetic engineering and information technology, and anticipated future ones, such as molecular nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. This formulation resembles the poetry of English clerics even less than Huxleys did.

But though Bostrom does not express himself in quite the same fashion as Donne, the overarching sentiment is not dissimilar: Death, thou shalt die, or at least thou shalt be postponed as far as possible. Bostrom continues: Transhumanists view human nature as a work-in-progress, a half-baked beginning that we can learn to remold in desirable ways.

In other words, before death postponed or otherwise, life might be made considerably nicer: less fraught with disease and suffering, and altogether less half-baked. This is a metaphor from cooking, and transhumanist rhetoric is awash with such, at times treacherous, metaphors.

Transhumanists hope that by responsible use of science, technology, and other rational means we shall eventually manage to become posthuman, beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have. Bostroms lovely sentiment that the half-baked human must be improved by the responsible use of science has driven humanity for millennia, ever since we began using technologies of flint and fire and so on, and through innumerable and utterly vital developments in medicine and science. So one key question that we must pose and seek to discuss is how, specifically, the transhumanist movement will depart from or further enhance this consistent strain in human history?

Transhumanisms signature ambition, that we may become posthuman, leads us to a baroque and venerable question: what does it mean to be human, anyway? If we want to go beyond something, to transcend it, it is clear we must understand our starting point, the point beyond which we desire to go. The quest to fathom the self, to understand what it means to be human, is fundamental to almost every civilisation known to us. It defines one of the earliest works of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh from ancient Mesopotamia, in which our protagonist embarks on a quest to understand who on earth he is and what hes meant to do with his mortal span of years. In ancient religious texts such as the Upanishads, all creation begins with the moment of becoming: I am! That is, the world comes from mind itself.

In many global religions, the human self is divided into body and soul, a material and an immaterial part. During the Enlightenment, Descartes famously tried to reconcile this ancient distinction and also placate the church by proposing that the material and immaterial somehow communicated or mingled via the pineal gland.

Skipping boldly through a few centuries of thought, we might arrive (blinking in surprise) at the philosophical novels of Philip K. Dick and his brilliant Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? This poses the ancient question again: what does it mean to be human? When is someone/something convincingly human and when are they not? Is your version of being human the same as mine? Or the same as the next humans?

As the Australian philosopher David Chalmers has said, consciousness this mysterious thing that every human possesses or feels they possess remains the hard problem of philosophy. We lack a unified theory of consciousness. We dont understand how consciousness is generated by the brain, or even whether this is the right metaphor to use. We speak of such mysteries in a funny system of squeaks and murmurs that we call language and that swiftly drops into the blackness of prehistory when we seek to trace its origins. We dont know who the first humans were: that fascinating quest likewise drives us straight into a great void of unknowing.

There is nothing wrong with unknowing: it is the ordinary condition of all humanity, so far. Yet, undeterred, we devise bold, elegant theories and advance them in many disciplines of thought. We develop beautiful and exciting almost-human machines and speculate about uploading consciousness. And in so doing, we are consistently rebaking, reheating or refrying the ancient philosophical dilemma: what does it mean to be human?

Pace Bostrom, transhumanism has not developed over the past few decades. Its predilections and concerns have developed over several millennia, and possibly further back, within civilisations we no longer recall. To go back in time to Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. We are still here, and human, with our paradoxical longing to transcend the human condition.

More on these topics:

Link:
Who do we think we are? - New Scientist

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

Transhumanism: A Culture of Self-Worship, Defying God and Nature – Breaking Israel News

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker, as a potsherd with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him that fashioned it: What makest thou? Or: Thy work, it hath no hands? Isaiah 45:9 (The Israel Bible)

Photo: Shutterstock

Transhumanism, an intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to improve human mental and physical characteristics and capacities, a concept once limited to the realm of science-fiction, is now becoming more of a reality than ever before. The once outlier philosophy is quickly becoming mainstream, an accepted part of the social conscience that is the new religion for the anti-religious, including its own Messianic vision.

There are many aspects to the transhumanism philosophy, often abbreviated as H+ or h+, including physical longevity through medical breakthroughs and/or merging mankind with machines. Many transhumanists advocate transferring the sum total of a persons knowledge and experiences into a computer and recreating the individual as a form of artificial intelligence (AI) in order to extend an individuals life.

In its most extreme form, transhumanism advocates limiting human population. This extreme philosophy is criticized for being eugenicist master-race ideology and infringing on basic reproductive rights.

Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman, director of Ohr Chadash Torah Institute, noted that as in any social reform, the driving intention behind the movement is the key element, the factor that decides whether it will be a positive or negative influence on human history.

There is an aspect of this movement that is a culture of Me, Rabbi Trugman told Breaking Israel News. Individual freedom has become a form of self-idol worship. For example, having children for many people today does not fit into this emphasis on the individual as it necessarily limits ones personal freedom.

With technology as a central element of transhumanism, Rabbi Trugman noted that Torah is compatible with science and technology within certain limits.

Science allows us a certain control, ruling over the natural world, Rabbi Trugman said. But the verse that says we can rule over the world comes along with the commandment to be fruitful and multiply.

And God blessed them; and God said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth. Genesis 1:28

Many environmentalists blame religion for ruining the environment, Rabbi Trugman explained. But the Bible commands us to rule over the destructive aspects of nature, not to destroy the very earth that supports and nurtures us.

The synergy of science and Torah is a positive thing, but it requires limits, continued Rabbi Trugman. Technology cannot trump everything. There is an aspect of hubris, taking the place of God, when people set out to create a new being, which is forbidden by Torah law. Or ruling over creation and life through euthanasia or selective eugenics, choosing who reproduces.

Many of the new techno-billionaires are attracted to transhumanism: Peter Thiel, the founder of Paypal, adheres to a form of the philosophy called immortalism and invests heavily in projects to extend life indefinitely. Rabbi Trugman explained that this aspect of transhumanism is an exaggeration of love of self, a necessary and positive attribute.

The rabbi warned, however, that this trait can be exaggerated to the point where it becomes harmful to the individual and to the culture.

Zoltan Istvan, known for his endorsement of transhumanism as his political party and own philosophy, puts forth the idea that all humans desire to reach a state of perfect personal power, to be omnipotent in the universe. In this, the movement is a form of alternate Messianic movement. And therein lies a much larger danger.

I am sure that some of them have good intentions, to fix humanity and solve the economic and social problems of the planet, Rabbi Trugman said. But as we have seen throughout history, science, guided just by human nature, can run amok. A higher morality is required as a guide to ensure that technology doesnt end up being hijacked by those who would use science for less than benevolent purposes.

Read more:
Transhumanism: A Culture of Self-Worship, Defying God and Nature - Breaking Israel News

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson


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