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Archive for the ‘homo sapiens’ category

Sep 21, 2019

Greta Thunberg: Most Important Message Ever

Posted by in categories: climatology, education, energy, environmental, existential risks, geopolitics, government, homo sapiens, lifeboat, policy, treaties

If you are a Lifeboat subscriber or have been reading these pages for awhile, you may know why it’s called “Lifeboat”. A fundamental goal of our founder, board, writers and supporters is to sustain the environment, life in all its diversity, and—if necessary—(i.e. if we destroy our environment beyond repair, or face a massive incoming asteroid), to prepare for relocating. That is, to build a lifeboat, figuratively and literally.

But most of us never believed that we would face an existential crisis, except perhaps a potential for a 3rd World War. Yet, here we are: Burning the forests, killing off unspeakable numbers of species (200 each day), cooking the planet, melting the ice caps, shooting a hole in the ozone, and losing more land to the sea each year.

Regading the urgent message of Greta Thunberg, below, I am at a loss for words. Seriously, there is not much I can add to the 1st video below.

Information about climate change is all around us. Everyone knows about it; Most people understand that it is real and it that poses an existential threat, quite possibly in our lifetimes. In our children’s lives, it will certainly lead to war, famine, cancer, and massive loss of land, structures and money. It is already raising sea level and killing off entire species at thousands of times the natural rate.

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Jun 24, 2019

Is artificial consciousness the solution to AI?

Posted by in categories: computing, driverless cars, Elon Musk, ethics, evolution, futurism, homo sapiens, human trajectories, information science, law enforcement, machine learning, science, Skynet, supercomputing

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an emerging field of computer programming that is already changing the way we interact online and in real life, but the term ‘intelligence’ has been poorly defined. Rather than focusing on smarts, researchers should be looking at the implications and viability of artificial consciousness as that’s the real driver behind intelligent decisions.

Consciousness rather than intelligence should be the true measure of AI. At the moment, despite all our efforts, there’s none.

Significant advances have been made in the field of AI over the past decade, in particular with machine learning, but artificial intelligence itself remains elusive. Instead, what we have is artificial serfs—computers with the ability to trawl through billions of interactions and arrive at conclusions, exposing trends and providing recommendations, but they’re blind to any real intelligence. What’s needed is artificial awareness.

Elon Musk has called AI the “biggest existential threat” facing humanity and likened it to “summoning a demon,”[1] while Stephen Hawking thought it would be the “worst event” in the history of civilization and could “end with humans being replaced.”[2] Although this sounds alarmist, like something from a science fiction movie, both concerns are founded on a well-established scientific premise found in biology—the principle of competitive exclusion.[3]

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Dec 15, 2018

Bioquark — Bustle — 7 Creepy Things A Dead Body Can Do — Ira Pastor

Posted by in categories: aging, biological, biotech/medical, complex systems, cryonics, fun, futurism, genetics, health, homo sapiens

https://www.bustle.com/p/7-creepy-things-a-dead-body-can-do-…e-13550864

Jul 22, 2018

An Introduction to the Future with Oxford VSI

Posted by in categories: climatology, education, evolution, existential risks, futurism, general relativity, homo sapiens, philosophy, transhumanism

“The Future: A Very Short Introduction” (OUP, 2017) by Dr. Jennifer M Gidley.


Oxford University Press has just released a wonderful little animation video centring on my book “The Future: A Very Short Introduction” published in 2017. In an entertaining way it shows how the concept of the future or futures is central to so many other concepts — many of which are the subject of other OUP Very Short Introductions. The VSI Series now has well over 500 titles, with ‘The Future’ being number 516.

To watch the video click here.

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Jan 19, 2018

WEF Global Future Council — Human Enhancement / AARP Survey

Posted by in categories: aging, bioengineering, biological, bioprinting, biotech/medical, chemistry, cryonics, disruptive technology, DNA, futurism, homo sapiens

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/what-ameri…hnologies/

https://www.weforum.org/communities/the-future-of-human-enhancement

Dec 27, 2017

What’s Love got to do with Education?

Posted by in categories: complex systems, education, ethics, evolution, futurism, health, homo sapiens, human trajectories, innovation, philosophy, sustainability

[This article is drawn from Ch. 8: “Pedagogical Love: An Evolutionary Force” in Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures.]

“There is nothing more important in this world than radical love” as Paolo Freire told Joe Kincheloe over dinner.

- Joe Kincheloe. Reading, Writing and Cognition. 2006.

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Oct 12, 2017

Contrasting Human Futures: Technotopian or Human-Centred?*

Posted by in categories: complex systems, cyborgs, education, homo sapiens, human trajectories, philosophy, posthumanism, robotics/AI, singularity, Singularity University, transhumanism

[*This article was first published in the September 2017 issue of Paradigm Explorer: The Journal of the Scientific and Medical Network (Established 1973). The article was drawn from the author’s original work in her book: The Future: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2017), especially from Chapters 4 & 5.]

We are at a critical point today in research into human futures. Two divergent streams show up in the human futures conversations. Which direction we choose will also decide the fate of earth futures in the sense of Earth’s dual role as home for humans, and habitat for life. I choose to deliberately oversimplify here to make a vital point.

The two approaches I discuss here are informed by Oliver Markley and Willis Harman’s two contrasting future images of human development: ‘evolutionary transformational’ and ‘technological extrapolationist’ in Changing Images of Man (Markley & Harman, 1982). This has historical precedents in two types of utopian human futures distinguished by Fred Polak in The Image of the Future (Polak, 1973) and C. P. Snow’s ‘Two Cultures’ (the humanities and the sciences) (Snow, 1959).

What I call ‘human-centred futures’ is humanitarian, philosophical, and ecological. It is based on a view of humans as kind, fair, consciously evolving, peaceful agents of change with a responsibility to maintain the ecological balance between humans, Earth, and cosmos. This is an active path of conscious evolution involving ongoing psychological, socio-cultural, aesthetic, and spiritual development, and a commitment to the betterment of earthly conditions for all humanity through education, cultural diversity, greater economic and resource parity, and respect for future generations.

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Aug 8, 2017

Cancer Care in the Future

Posted by in categories: biological, complex systems, disruptive technology, environmental, existential risks, health, homo sapiens, science

The future of cancer care should mean more cost-effective treatments, a greater focus on prevention, and a new mindset: A Surgical Oncologist’s take

Multidisciplinary team management of many types of cancer has led to significant improvements in median and overall survival. Unfortunately, there are still other cancers which we have impacted little. In patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma and hepatocellular cancer, we have been able to improve median survival only by a matter of a few months, and at a cost of toxicity associated with the treatments. From the point of view of a surgical oncologist, I believe there will be rapid advances over the next several decades.

Robotic Surgery

There is already one surgery robot system on the market and another will soon be available. The advances in robotics and imaging have allowed for improved 3-dimensional spacial recognition of anatomy, and the range of movement of instruments will continue to improve. Real-time haptic feedback may become possible with enhanced neural network systems. It is already possible to perform some operations with greater facility, such as very low sphincter-sparing operations for rectal adenocarcinoma in patients who previously would have required a permanent colostomy. As surgeons’ ability and experience with new robotic equipment becomes greater, the number and types of operation performed will increase and patient recovery time, length of hospital stay, and return to full functional status will improve. Competition may drive down the exorbitant cost of current equipment.

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Feb 11, 2017

Value Conflicts surrounding the Meaning of Life in the Trans/Post/Human Future

Posted by in categories: biological, cryonics, cyborgs, economics, environmental, ethics, futurism, governance, health, homo sapiens, law, mobile phones, policy, posthumanism, security, theory, transhumanism

Posthumanists and perhaps especially transhumanists tend to downplay the value conflicts that are likely to emerge in the wake of a rapidly changing technoscientific landscape. What follows are six questions and scenarios that are designed to focus thinking by drawing together several tendencies that are not normally related to each other but which nevertheless provide the basis for future value conflicts.

  1. Will ecological thinking eventuate in an instrumentalization of life? Generally speaking, biology – especially when a nervous system is involved — is more energy efficient when it comes to storing, accessing and processing information than even the best silicon-based computers. While we still don’t quite know why this is the case, we are nevertheless acquiring greater powers of ‘informing’ biological processes through strategic interventions, ranging from correcting ‘genetic errors’ to growing purpose-made organs, including neurons, from stem-cells. In that case, might we not ‘grow’ some organs to function in largely the same capacity as silicon-based computers – especially if it helps to reduce the overall burden that human activity places on the planet? (E.g. the brains in the vats in the film The Minority Report which engage in the precognition of crime.) In other words, this new ‘instrumentalization of life’ may be the most environmentally friendly way to prolong our own survival. But is this a good enough reason? Would these specially created organic thought-beings require legal protection or even rights? The environmental movement has been, generally speaking, against the multiplication of artificial life forms (e.g. the controversies surrounding genetically modified organisms), but in this scenario these life forms would potentially provide a means to achieve ecologically friendly goals.

  1. Will concerns for social justice force us to enhance animals? We are becoming more capable of recognizing and decoding animal thoughts and feelings, a fact which has helped to bolster those concerned with animal welfare, not to mention ‘animal rights’. At the same time, we are also developing prosthetic devices (of the sort already worn by Steven Hawking) which can enhance the powers of disabled humans so their thoughts and feelings are can be communicated to a wider audience and hence enable them to participate in society more effectively. Might we not wish to apply similar prosthetics to animals – and perhaps even ourselves — in order to facilitate the transaction of thoughts and feelings between humans and animals? This proposal might aim ultimately to secure some mutually agreeable ‘social contract’, whereby animals are incorporated more explicitly in the human life-world — not as merely wards but as something closer to citizens. (See, e.g., Donaldson and Kymlicka’s Zoopolis.) However, would this set of policy initiatives constitute a violation of the animals’ species integrity and simply be a more insidious form of human domination?

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Aug 24, 2016

Steve Fuller’s Review of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Posted by in categories: big data, bioengineering, biological, bionic, cyborgs, disruptive technology, energy, evolution, existential risks, futurism, homo sapiens, innovation, moore's law, neuroscience, philosophy, policy, posthumanism, robotics/AI, science, singularity, theory, transhumanism

My sociology of knowledge students read Yuval Harari’s bestselling first book, Sapiens, to think about the right frame of reference for understanding the overall trajectory of the human condition. Homo Deus follows the example of Sapiens, using contemporary events to launch into what nowadays is called ‘big history’ but has been also called ‘deep history’ and ‘long history’. Whatever you call it, the orientation sees the human condition as subject to multiple overlapping rhythms of change which generate the sorts of ‘events’ that are the stuff of history lessons. But Harari’s history is nothing like the version you half remember from school.

In school historical events were explained in terms more or less recognizable to the agents involved. In contrast, Harari reaches for accounts that scientifically update the idea of ‘perennial philosophy’. Aldous Huxley popularized this phrase in his quest to seek common patterns of thought in the great world religions which could be leveraged as a global ethic in the aftermath of the Second World War. Harari similarly leverages bits of genetics, ecology, neuroscience and cognitive science to advance a broadly evolutionary narrative. But unlike Darwin’s version, Harari’s points towards the incipient apotheosis of our species; hence, the book’s title.

This invariably means that events are treated as symptoms if not omens of the shape of things to come. Harari’s central thesis is that whereas in the past we cowered in the face of impersonal natural forces beyond our control, nowadays our biggest enemy is the one that faces us in the mirror, which may or may not be able within our control. Thus, the sort of deity into which we are evolving is one whose superhuman powers may well result in self-destruction. Harari’s attitude towards this prospect is one of slightly awestruck bemusement.

Here Harari equivocates where his predecessors dared to distinguish. Writing with the bracing clarity afforded by the Existentialist horizons of the Cold War, cybernetics founder Norbert Wiener declared that humanity’s survival depends on knowing whether what we don’t know is actually trying to hurt us. If so, then any apparent advance in knowledge will always be illusory. As for Harari, he does not seem to see humanity in some never-ending diabolical chess match against an implacable foe, as in The Seventh Seal. Instead he takes refuge in the so-called law of unintended consequences. So while the shape of our ignorance does indeed shift as our knowledge advances, it does so in ways that keep Harari at a comfortable distance from passing judgement on our long term prognosis.

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