Immortal Life has complied an edited volume of essays, arguments, and debates about Immortalism titled Human Destiny is to Eliminate Death from many esteemed ImmortalLife.info Authors (a good number of whom are also Lifeboat Foundation Advisory Board members as well), such as Martine Rothblatt (Ph.D, MBA, J.D.), Marios Kyriazis (MD, MS.c, MI.Biol, C.Biol.), Maria Konovalenko (M.Sc.), Mike Perry (Ph.D), Dick Pelletier, Khannea Suntzu, David Kekich (Founder & CEO of MaxLife Foundation), Hank Pellissier (Founder of Immortal Life), Eric Schulke & Franco Cortese (the previous Managing Directors of Immortal Life), Gennady Stolyarov II, Jason Xu (Director of Longevity Party China and Longevity Party Taiwan), Teresa Belcher, Joern Pallensen and more. The anthology was edited by Immortal Life Founder & Senior Editor, Hank Pellissier.
This one-of-a-kind collection features ten debates that originated at ImmortalLife.info, plus 36 articles, essays and diatribes by many of IL’s contributors, on topics from nutrition to mind-filing, from teleomeres to “Deathism”, from libertarian life-extending suggestions to religion’s role in RLE to immortalism as a human rights issue.
The book is illustrated with famous paintings on the subject of aging and death, by artists such as Goya, Picasso, Cezanne, Dali, and numerous others.
The book was designed by Wendy Stolyarov; edited by Hank Pellissier; published by the Center for Transhumanity. This edited volume is the first in a series of quarterly anthologies planned by Immortal Life
This Immortal Life Anthology includes essays, articles, rants and debates by and between some of the leading voices in Immortalism, Radical Life-Extension, Superlongevity and Anti-Aging Medicine.
A (Partial) List of the Debaters & Essay Contributors:
Martine Rothblatt Ph.D, MBA, J.D. — inventor of satellite radio, founder of Sirius XM and founder of the Terasem Movement, which promotes technological immortality. Dr. Rothblatt is the author of books on gender freedom (Apartheid of Sex, 1995), genomics (Unzipped Genes, 1997) and xenotransplantation (Your Life or Mine, 2003).
Marios Kyriazis MD, MSc, MIBiol, CBiol. founded the British Longevity Society, was the first to address the free-radical theory of aging in a formal mainstream UK medical journal, has authored dozens of books on life-extension and has discussed indefinite longevity in 700 articles, lectures and media appearances globally.
Maria Konovalenko is a molecular biophysicist and the program coordinator for the Science for Life Extension Foundation. She earned her M.Sc. degree in Molecular Biological Physics at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. She is a co-founder of the International Longevity Alliance.
Jason Xu is the director of Longevity Party China and Longevity Party Taiwan, and he was an intern at SENS.
Mike Perry, PhD. has worked for Alcor since 1989 as Care Services Manager. He has authored or contributed to the automated cooldown and perfusion modeling programs. He is a regular contributor to Alcor newsletters. He has been a member of Alcor since 1984.
David A. Kekich, Founder, President & C.E.O Maximum Life Extension Foundation, works to raise funds for life-extension research. He serves as a Board Member of the American Aging Association, Life Extension Buyers’ Club and Alcor Life Extension Foundation Patient Care Trust Fund. He authored Smart, Strong and Sexy at 100?, a how-to book for extreme life extension.
Eric Schulke is the founder of the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE). He was a Director, Teams Coordinator and ran Marketing & Outreach at the Immortality Institute, now known as Longecity, for 4 years. He is the Co-Managing Director of Immortal Life.
Hank Pellissier is the Founder & Senior Editor of ImmortaLife.info. Previously, he was the founder/director of Transhumanity.net. Before that, he was Managing Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology (ieet.org). He’s written over 120 futurist articles for IEET, Hplusmagazine.com, Transhumanity.net, ImmortalLife.info and the World Future Society.
Franco Cortese is on the Advisory Board for Lifeboat Foundation on their Scientific Advisory Board (Life-Extension Sub-Board) and their Futurism Board. He is the Co-Managing Director alongside of Immortal Life and a Staff Editor for Transhumanity. He has written over 40 futurist articles and essays for H+ Magazine, The Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, Immortal Life, Transhumanity and The Rational Argumentator.
Gennady Stolyarov II is a Staff Editor for Transhumanity, Contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator.
Brandon King is Co-Director of the United States Longevity Party.
Khannea Suntzu is a transhumanist and virtual activist, and has been covered in articles in Le Monde, CGW and Forbes.
Teresa Belcher is an author, blogger, Buddhist, consultant for anti-aging, life extension, healthy life style and happiness, and owner of Anti-Aging Insights.
Dick Pelletier is a weekly columnist who writes about future science and technologies for numerous publications.
Joern Pallensen has written articles for Transhumanity and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
1. In The Future, With Immortality, Will There Still Be Children?
2. Will Religions promising “Heaven” just Vanish, when Immortality on Earth is attained?
3. In the Future when Humans are Immortal — what will happen to Marriage?
4. Will Immortality Change Prison Sentences? Will Execution and Life-Behind-Bars be… Too Sadistic?
5. Will Government Funding End Death, or will it be Attained by Private Investment?
6. Will “Meatbag” Bodies ever be Immortal? Is “Cyborgization” the only Logical Path?
7. When Immortality is Attained, will People be More — or Less — Interested in Sex?
8. Should Foes of Immortality be Ridiculed as “Deathists” and “Suicidalists”?
9. What’s the Best Strategy to Achieve Indefinite Life Extension?
1. Maria Konovalenko:
I am an “Aging Fighter” Because Life is the Main Human Right, Demand, and Desire
2. Mike Perry:
Deconstructing Deathism — Answering Objections to Immortality
3. David A. Kekich:
How Old Are You Now?
4. David A. Kekich:
Live Long… and the World Prospers
5. David A. Kekich:
107,000,000,000 — what does this number signify?
6. Franco Cortese:
Religion vs. Radical Longevity: Belief in Heaven is the Biggest Barrier to Eternal Life?!
7. Dick Pelletier:
Stem Cells and Bioprinters Take Aim at Heart Disease, Cancer, Aging
8. Dick Pelletier:
Nanotech to Eliminate Disease, Old Age; Even Poverty
9. Dick Pelletier:
Indefinite Lifespan Possible in 20 Years, Expert Predicts
10. Dick Pelletier:
End of Aging: Life in a World where People no longer Grow Old and Die
11. Eric Schulke:
We Owe Pursuit of Indefinite Life Extension to Our Ancestors
12. Eric Schulke:
Radical Life Extension and the Spirit at the core of a Human Rights Movement
13. Eric Schulke:
MILE: Guide to the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension
14. Gennady Stolyarov II:
The Real War and Why Inter-Human Wars Are a Distraction
15. Gennady Stolyarov II:
The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences — turning the tide for life extension
16. Gennady Stolyarov II:
Six Libertarian Reforms to Accelerate Life Extension
17. Hank Pellissier:
Wake Up, Deathists! — You DO Want to LIVE for 10,000 Years!
18. Hank Pellissier:
Top 12 Towns for a Healthy Long Life
19. Hank Pellissier:
This list of 30 Billionaires — Which One Will End Aging and Death?
20. Hank Pellissier:
People Who Don’t Want to Live Forever are Just “Suicidal”
21. Hank Pellissier:
Eluding the Grim Reaper with 23andMe.com
22. Hank Pellissier:
Sixty Years Old — is my future short and messy, or long and glorious?
23. Jason Xu:
The Unstoppable Longevity Virus
24. Joern Pallensen:
Vegetarians Live Longer, Happier Lives
25. Franco Cortese:
Killing Deathist Cliches: Death to “Death-Gives-Meaning-to-Life”
26. Marios Kyriazis:
Environmental Enrichment — Practical Steps Towards Indefinite Lifespans
27. Khannea Suntzu:
Living Forever — the Biggest Fear in the most Audacious Hope
28. Martine Rothblatt:
What is Techno-Immortality?
29. Teresa Belcher:
Top Ten Anti-Aging Supplements
30. Teresa Belcher:
Keep Your Brain Young! — tips on maintaining healthy cognitive function
31. Teresa Belcher:
Anti-Aging Exercise, Diet, and Lifestyle Tips
32. Teresa Belcher:
How Engineered Stem Cells May Enable Youthful Immortality
33. Teresa Belcher:
Nanomedicine — an Introductory Explanation
34. Rich Lee:
“If Eternal Life is a Medical Possibility, I Will Have It Because I Am A Tech Pirate”
‘Let there be light,’ said the Cgi-God, and there was light…and God Rays.
We were out in the desert; barren land, and our wish was that it be transformed into a green oasis; a tropical paradise.
And so our demigods went to work in their digital sand-boxes. Then, one of the Cgi-Gods populated the land with Dirrogates –Digital people in her own likeness.
Welcome to the world… created in Real-time.
A whole generation of people are growing up in such virtual worlds, accustomed to travelling across miles and miles of photo-realistic terrain on their gaming rigs. An entire generation of Transhumans evolving (perhaps even un-known to them). With each passing year, hardware and software under the command of human intelligence, gets even closer to simulating the real-world, down to physics, caustics and other phenomena exclusive to the planet Earth. How is all this voodoo being done?
Enter –the Game Engine.
All output in the video above is in real-time and from a single modern gaming PC. That’s right…in case you missed it, all of the visuals were generated in real-time from a single PC that can sit on a desk. The “engine” behind it, is the CryEngine 3. A far more customized and amped up version of this technology called Cinebox is a dedicated offering aimed at Cinematography. It will have tools and functions that film makers are familiar with. It is these advances in technology… these tools that film-makers will use, that will acclimatize us to the virtual world they build with human performance capture and digital assets; laser scanned pointclouds of real-world architecture… this is the technology that will play its part and segue us into Transhumanism, rather than a radical crusade that will “convert” humanity to the movement.
Mind Uploads need a World to roam in:
Laser scanned buildings and even whole neighborhood blocks are now common place in large budget Hollywood productions. A detailed point cloud needs massive compute power to render. Highend Game Engines when daisy chained can render and simulate these large neighborhoods with realtime animated atmosphere, and populate the land with photo-realistic flora and fauna. Lest we forget… in stereoscopic 3D, for full immersion of our visual cortex.
Real World Synced Weather:
Game Engines have powerful and advanced TOD (time of day) editors. Now imagine if a TOD editor module and a weather system could pull data such as wind direction, temperature and weather conditions from real-world sensors, or a real-time data source.
If this could be done, then the augmented world running on the Game Engine could have details such as leaves blowing in the correct direction. See the video above at around the 0.42 seconds mark for a feeler of what I’m aiming for.
Also: The stars would all align and there would be no possible errors in the night sky, of the virtual with the real, though there would be nothing stopping “God” from introducing a blue moon in the sky.
At around the 0:20 second mark, the video above shows one of the “Demi-Gods” at work: populating Virtual Earth with exotic trees and forests… mind-candy to keep an uploaded mind from home-sickness. As Transhumans, either as full mind uploads or as augmented humans with bio-mechanical enhancements or indeed, even as naturals, it is expected that we will augment the real world with our dreams of a tropical paradise — Heaven, can indeed be a place on Earth.
We were tired of our mundane lives in an un-augmented biosphere. As Transhumans, some of us booted up our mind-uploads while yet others ventured out into the desert of the real world in temperature regulated nano-clothing, experiencing a tropical paradise… even as the “naturals” would deny it’s very existence.
Recently, scientists have said we may really be living in a simulation after all. The Mayans stopped counting time not because they predicted Winter Solstice 2012 would be the end of the world… but it might be because they saw 2013 heralding the dawn of a new era. An era that sees the building blocks come into place for a journey heading into eventual…‘Singularity’
Dir·ro·gate : A portmanteau of Digital + Surrogate. Borrowed from the novel “Memories with Maya“ Authors note: All images, videos and products mentioned are copyright to their respective owners and brands and there is no implied connection between the brands and Transhumanism.
If the picture header above influenced you to click to read more of this article, then it establishes at least part of my hypothesis: Visual stimuli that trigger our primal urges, supersede all our senses, even over-riding intellect. By that I mean, irrespective of IQ level, the visual alone and not the title of the essay will have prompted a click through –Classic advertising tactic: Sex sells.
Yet, could there be a clue in this behavior to study further, in our quest for Longevity? Before Transhumanism life extension technology such as nano-tech and bio-tech go mainstream… we need to keep our un-amped bodies in a state of constant excitement, using visual triggers that generate positive emotions, thereby hopefully, keeping us around long enough to take advantage of these bio-hacks when they become available.
Emotions on Demand — The “TiVo-ing” of feelings:
From the graphic above, it is easy to extrapolate that ‘positive’ emotions can contribute significantly to Longevity. When we go on a vacation, we’re experiencing the world in a relaxed frame of mind and encoding these experiences, even if sub-consciously, in our brains (minds?). Days, or even years later we can call on these experiences, on-demand, to bring us comfort.
Granted, much like analog recordings… over time, these stored copies of positive emotions will deteriorate, and just as we can today digitize images and sounds, making for pristine everlasting copies… can we digitize Emotions for recall and to experience them on-demand?
How would we go about doing it and what purpose does it serve?
Digitizing Touch: Your Dirrogate’s unique Emotional Signature:
Can we digitize Touch; a crucial building block that contributes to the creation of Emotions? For an answer, we need to look to the (and to some, the questionable) technology behind Teledildonics.
While the tech to experience haptic feed-back has been around for a while, it’s been mostly confined to Virtual Reality simulations and for training purposes. Crude haptic-force feedback gaming controllers are available on the market, but advances in actuators, and nano-scale miniaturization are soon to change that, even going as far as to give us tactile imaging capability — “Smart Skin”
Recently, Durex announced “Fundawear”. It’s purpose? To experience the “touch” of your partner in a fun light-hearted way. Yet, what if a Fundawear session could be recorded and played back later? The unique way your partner touches, forever digitized for playback when desired… allowing you to experience the emotion of joy and happiness at will?
Fundawear can be thought of as a beta v1.0 of something akin to smart-skin in reverse, which could eventually allow a complete “feel-stream” to be digitized and played back on-demand.
Currently we are already able to digitize some faculties that stimulate two of our primary senses:
Sight — via a video camera.
Sound — via microphones.
So how do we go about digitizing and re-creating the sense of Touch?
Solutions such as the one from NuiCapture shown in the video above, in combination with off the shelf game hardware such as the Kinect, can Digitize a whole body “performance” — Also known as performance capture.
Dirrogates and 3D Printing a Person:
In the near future if we get blue-prints to 3D print a person, ready for re-animation and complete with “smart-skin”… such a 3D printed surrogate could reciprocate our touch.
It would be an exercise in imagination, to envision 3D printing your partner, if they couldn’t be with you when you wanted them, or indeed it could raise moral and ethical issues such as ‘adultery’ if an un-authorized 3D printed copy was produced of a person, and their “signature” performance files was pirated.
But with every evil, there is also the good. 3D printers can print guns, or as seen in the video above: a prosthetic hand, allowing a child to experience life the way other children do — That is the ethos of Transhumanism.
Loneliness can kill you:
Well maybe not exactly kill you, but it can negatively impact your health, says The World of Psychology. That would be counterproductive in our quest for Longevity.
A few years ago, companies such as Accenture introduced family collaboration projects. I recommend clicking on the link to read the article, as copyright restrictions prevent including it in this essay. In essence, it allows older relatives to derive emotional comfort from seeing and interacting with their families living miles away.
At a very basic level, we are already Transhuman. No stigma involved… no religious boundaries crossed. This ethical use of technology, can bring comfort to an aging section of society, bettering their condition.
In a relationship, the loss of a loved one can be devastating to the surviving partner, even more so, if the couple had grown old together and shared their good and bad times. Experiencing and re-living memories that transcend photographs and videos, could contribute towards generating positive emotions and thus longevity in the person coping with his/her loss.
While 3D printing and re-animating a person is still a few years away, there is another stop-gap technology: Augmented Reality. With AR visors, we can see and interact with a “Dirrogate” (Digital Surrogate) of another person as though they were in the same room with us. The person’s Dirrogate can be operated in real-time by another person living thousands of miles away… or a digitized touch stream can be called on… long after the human operator is no more.
In the story: “Memories with Maya”, the context and it’s repercussion on our evolution into a Transhuman species, is explored in more detail.
The purpose of this essay is to seed ideas only, and is not to be taken as expert advice.
Transhumanism is all about the creative and ethical use of technology to better the human condition. Futurists, when discussing topics related to transhumanism, tend to look at nano-tech, bio-mechanical augmentation and related technology that, for the most part, is beyond the comprehension of lay-people.
If Transhumanism as a movement is to succeed, we have to explain it’s goals and benefits to humanity by addressing the common-man. After all, transhumanism is not the exclusive domain, nor restricted to the literati, academia or the rich. The more the common man realizes that (s)he is indeed already transhuman in a way — the lesser the taboo associated with the movement and the faster the law of accelerating returns will kick in, leading to eventual Tech Singularity.
Augmented Reality Visors: Enabling Transhumanism.
At the moment, Google Glass is not exactly within reach of the common man, even if he want’s to pay for it. It is “invite only”, which may be counter productive to furthering the Transhumanism cause. Now, to be fair, it may be because the device is still in beta testing, and once any bugs have been ironed out, the general public will benefit from both, a price drop and accessibility, because if Google does not do it, China will.
Google Glass: A Transhumanist’s Swiss Knife
Glass is the very definition of an augmented human, at least until the time hi-tech replaceable eye-balls, or non-obtrusive human augmentation technology becomes common-place. Glass is a good attempt at a wearable computing device that is practical. While it does lend a cyborg look to it’s wearer, future iterations will no doubt, bring the “Matrix” look back into vogue.
Above: Companies such as Vuzix, already have advanced AR capable visors that are aesthetically pleasing to look at and wear. So how is Google Glass (and similar AR visors) the Swiss Army Knife of Transhumanists?
Augmented Human Memory:
Wearing glass, allows a Transhuman to offload his/her memory to glass storage. Everyday examples follow…
- Park your car in a multi-story parking lot, step back a few steps and blink your eyes once. Instant photographic memory of the location via Glass’s wink activated snapshot feature.
- Visited a place once and don’t remember? Call on your “expanded” memory to playback a video recording of the path taken, or display a GPS powered visual overlay in your field of view.
Previously, this was done via a cellphone. In both cases, one is already Transhuman. This is what the common man needs to be made aware of and there will be less of a stigma attached to: The World’s most dangerous idea.
Life Saver — “Glass Angel”
Every one is said to have a “Guardian Angel” watching over them, yet an app named “Glass Angel” would be an apt name for a collection of potentially life saving modules that could run on Google Glass.
- CPR Assist: How many people can honestly say they know CPR? or even the Heimlich maneuver? Crucial moments can be saved when access to such knowledge is available… while freeing up our hands to assist the person in distress. In future iterations of Google glass (glass v2.0?) if true augmented reality capability is provided, a CGI human skeleton can be overlaid on the live patient, giving visual cues to further assist in such kinds of situations.
- Driver Safety: There are some states in the US looking at banning the use of Google Glass while driving. Yet, it is interesting to note that Glass could be that Guardian Angel watching over a driver who might nod off at the wheel after a long day at work. (DUI is not an excuse however to use Glass). The various sensors can monitor for tilt of head and sound an alarm, or even recognize unusual behavior of the wearer by analyzing and tracking the live video feed coming in through the camera…sounding an alarm to warn the wearer.
Augmented Intelligence — or — Amplified Intelligence:
How many times a day do we rely on auto-spell or Google’s auto correct to pop up and say “Did you mean” to warn us of spelling errors or even context errors? How many times have we blindly trusted Google to go ahead and auto-correct for us? While it can be argued that dependence on technology is actually dulling our brains, it is an un-arguable fact that over the coming years, grammar, multi-lingual communication, and more advanced forms of intelligence augmentation will make technology such as Google Glass and it’s successors, indispensable.
Possibly, the Singularity is not all that far away… If the Singularity is the point when Technology overtakes human intelligence… I see it as the point when human intelligence regresses to meet technology, mid-way.
On a more serious note: Should we be alarmed at our increasing dependence on Augmented Intelligence? or should we think of it as simply a storage and retrieval system.
If a lecturer on-stage, addressing a gathering of intellectuals, uses his eyeballs to scroll up a list of synonyms in real time on his Google glass display, to use a more succinct word or phrase when making a point, does that make him sound more intelligent?… how about if he punctuates the point by calling up the german translation of the phrase?
These are questions that I leave open to you…
Digital Bread Crumbs- Quantum Archeology and Immortality.
Every time we share a photo, a thought… an emotion as a status update: we are converting a biological function into a digital one. We are digitizing our analog stream-of-consciousness.
These Digital Breadcrumbs that we leave behind, will be mined by “deep learning” algorithms, feeding necessary data that will drive Quantum Archeology processes… that may one day soon, resurrect us — Digital Resurrection. This might sound like a Transhumanist’s Hansel and Gretel fairy-tale… but not for long.
How does Google Glass fit in? It’s the device that will accelerate the creation of Digital Bread-crumbs. I’d saved this most radical idea for last: Digital Resurrection.
Glass is already generating these BreadCrumbs — transhumanizing the first round of beta testers wearing the device.
The next version of Google Glass, if it features true see-through Augmented Reality support, or indeed a visor from a Google competitor, will allow us to see and interact with these Digital Surrogates of immortal beings. It’s described with plausible hard science to back it up, in Chapter 6 of Memories with Maya — The Dirrogate.
I’d like to end this essay by opening it up to wiki like input from you. What ideas can you come up with to make Google Glass a swiss army knife for Transhumanists?
(This article was originally posted on the Science behind the story section on Dirrogate.com)
A widely accepted definition of Transhumanism is: The ethical use of all kinds of technology for the betterment of the human condition.
This all encompassing summation is a good start as an elevator pitch to laypersons, were they to ask for an explanation. Practitioners and contributors to the movement, of course, know how to branch this out into specific streams: science, philosophy, politics and more.
We are in the midst of a technological revolution, and it is cool to proclaim that one is a Transhumanist. Yet, many intelligent and focused Transhumanists are asking some all important questions: What road-map have we drawn out, and what concrete steps are we taking to bring to fruition, the goals of Transhumanism?
Transhumanism could be looked at as culminating in Technological Singularity. People comprehend the meaning of Singularity differently. One such definition: Singularity marks a moment when technology trumps the human brain, and the limitations of the mind are surpassed by artificial intelligence. Being an Author and not a scientist myself, my definition of the Singularity is colored by creative vision. I call it Dirrogate Singularity.
I see us humans, successfully and practically, harnessing the strides we’ve made in semiconductor tech and neural networks, Artificial intelligence, and digital progress in general over the past century, to create Digital Surrogates of ourselves — our Dirrogates. In doing so, humans will reach pseudo-God status and will be free to merge with these creatures they have made in their own likeness…attaining, Dirrogate Singularity.
So, how far into the future will this happen? Not very far. In fact it can commence as soon as today or as far as, in a couple of years. The conditions and timing are right for us to “trans-form” into Digital Beings; Dirrogates.
I’ll use excerpts from the story ‘Memories with Maya’ to seed ideas for a possible road-map to Dirrogate Singularity, while keeping the tenets of Transhumanism in focus on the dashboard as we steer ahead. As this text will deconstruct many parts of the novel, major spoilers are unavoidable.
Dirrogate Singularity v/s The Singularity:
The main distinction in definition I make is: I don’t believe Singularity is the moment when technology trumps the human brain. I believe Singularity is when the human mind accepts and does not discriminate between an advanced “Transhuman” (effectively, a mind upload living in a bio-mechanical body) and a “Natural” (an un-amped homo sapien)
This could be seen as a different interpretation of the commonly accepted concept of The Singularity. As one of the aims of this essay is to create a possible road-map to seed ideas for the Transhumanism movement, I choose to look at a wholly digital path to Transhumanism, bypassing human augmentation via nanotechnology, prosthetics or cyborg-ism. As we will see further down, Dirrogate Singularity could slowly evolve into the common accepted definitions of Technological Singularity.
What is a Dirrogate:
A portmanteau of Digital + Surrogate. An excerpt from the novel explains in more detail:
“Let’s run the beta of our social interaction module outside.”
Krish asked the prof to follow him to the campus ground in front of the food court. They walked out of the building and approached a shaded area with four benches. As they were about to sit, my voice came through the phone’s speaker. “I’m on your far right.”
Krish and the prof turned, scanning through the live camera view of the phone until they saw me waving. The phone’s compass updated me on their orientation. I asked them to come closer.
“You have my full attention,” the prof said. “Explain…”
“So,” Krish said, in true geek style… “Dan knows where we are, because my phone is logged in and registered into the virtual world we have created. We use a digital globe to fly to any location. We do that by using exact latitude and longitude coordinates.” Krish looked at the prof, who nodded. “So this way we can pick any location on Earth to meet at, provided of course, I’m physically present there.”
“I understand,” said the prof. “Otherwise, it would be just a regular online multi-player game world.”
“Precisely,” Krish said. “What’s unique here is a virtual person interacting with a real human in the real world. We’re now on the campus Wifi.” He circled his hand in front of his face as though pointing out to the invisible radio waves. “But it can also use a high-speed cell data network. The phone’s GPS, gyro, and accelerometer updates as we move.”
Krish explained the different sensor data to Professor Kumar. “We can use the phone as a sophisticated joystick to move our avatar in the virtual world that, for this demo, is a complete and accurate scale model of the real campus.”
The prof was paying rapt attention to everything Krish had to say. “I laser scanned the playground and the food-court. The entire campus is a low rez 3D model,” he said. “Dan can see us move around in the virtual world because my position updates. The front camera’s video stream is also mapped to my avatar’s face, so he can see my expressions.”
“Now all we do is not render the virtual buildings, but instead, keep Daniel’s avatar and replace it with the real-world view coming in through the phone’s camera,” explained Krish.
“Hmm… so you also do away with render overhead and possibly conserve battery life?” the prof asked.
“Correct. Using GPS, camera and marker-less tracking algorithms, we can update our position in the virtual world and sync Dan’s avatar with our world.”
“And we haven’t even talked about how AI can enhance this,” I said.
I walked a few steps away from them, counting as I went.
“We can either follow Dan or a few steps more and contact will be broken. This way in a social scenario, virtual people can interact with humans in the real world,” Krish said. I was nearing the personal space out of range warning.
“Wait up, Dan,” Krish called.
I stopped. He and the prof caught up.
“Here’s how we establish contact,” Krish said. He touched my avatar on the screen. I raised my hand in a high-five gesture.
“So only humans can initiate contact with these virtual people?” asked the prof.
“Humans are always in control,” I said. They laughed.
“Aap Kaise ho?” Krish said.
“Main theek hoo,” I answered a couple of seconds later, much to the surprise of the prof.
“The AI module can analyze voice and cross-reference it with a bank of ten languages.” he said. “Translation is done the moment it detects a pause in a sentence. This way multicultural communication is possible. I’m working on some features for the AI module. It will be based on computer vision libraries to study and recognize eyebrows and facial expressions. This data stream will then be accessible to the avatar’s operator to carry out advanced interaction with people in the real world–”
“So people can have digital versions of themselves and do tasks in locations where they cannot be physically present,” the prof completed Krish’s sentence.
“Cannot or choose not to be present and in several locations if needed,” I said. “There is no reason we can’t own several digital versions of ourselves doing tasks simultaneously.”
“Each one licensed with a unique digital fingerprint registered with the government or institutions offering digital surrogate facilities.” Krish said.
“We call them di-rro-gates.” I said.
One of the characters in the story also says: “Humans are creatures of habit.” and, “We live our lives following the same routine day after day. We do the things we do with one primary motivation–comfort.”
Whether this is entirely true or not, there is something to think about here… What does ‘improving the human condition’ imply? To me Comfort, is high on the list and a major motivation. If people can spawn multiple Dirrogates of themselves that can interact with real people wearing future iterations of Google Glass (for lack of a more popular word for Augmented Reality visors)… then the journey on the road-map to Dirrogate Singularity is to see a few case examples of Dirrogate interaction.
In writing the novel, I took several risks, story length being one. I’ve attempted to keep the philosophy subtle, almost hidden in the story, and judging by reviews on sites such as GoodReads.com, it is plain to see that many of today’s science fiction readers are after cliff hanger style science fiction and gravitate toward or possibly expect a Dystopian future. This root craving must be addressed in lay people if we are to make Transhumanism as a movement, succeed.
I’d noticed comments made that the sex did not add much to the story. No one (yet) has delved deeper to see if there was a reason for the sex scenes and if there was an underlying message. The success of Transhumanism is going to be in large scale understanding and mass adoption of the values of the movement by laypeople. Google Glass will make a good case study in this regard. If they get it wrong, Glass will quickly share the same fate and ridicule as wearing blue-tooth headsets.
One of the first things, in my view, to improving the human condition, is experiencing pleasure… of every kind, especially carnal.
In that sense, we already are Digital Transhumans. Long distance video calls, teledildonics and recent mainstream offerings such as Durex’s “Fundawear” can bring physical, emotional and psychological comfort to humans, without the traditional need for physical proximity or human touch.
(Durex’s Fundawear – Image Courtesy Snapo.com)
These physical stimulation and pleasure giving devices add a whole new meaning to ‘wearable computing’. Yet, behind every online Avatar, every Dirrogate, is a human operator. Now consider: What if one of these “Fundawear” sessions were recorded?
The data stream for each actuator in the garment, stored in a file – a feel-stream, unique to the person who created it? We could then replay this and experience or reminisce the signature touch of a loved one at any time…even long after they are gone; are no more. Would such as situation qualify as a partial or crude “Mind upload”?
Mind Uploading – A practical approach.
Using Augmented Reality hardware, a person can see and experience interaction with a Dirrogate, irrespective if the Dirrogate is remotely operated by a human, or driven by prerecorded subroutines under playback control of an AI. Mind uploading [at this stage of our technological evolution] does not have to be a full blown simulation of the mind.
Consider the case of a Google Car. Could it be feasible that a human operator remotely ‘drive’ the car with visual feedback from the car’s on-board environment analysis cameras? Any AI in the car could be used on an as-needed basis. Now this might not be the aim of a driver-less car, and why would you need your Dirrogate to physically drive when in essence you could tele-travel to any location?
Human Shape Shifters:
Reasons could be as simple as needing to transport physical cargo to places where home delivery is not offered. Your Dirrogate could drive the car. Once at the location [hardware depot], your Dirrogate could merge with the on-board computer of an articulated motorized shopping cart. Check out counter staff sees your Dirrogate augmented in the real world via their visor. You then steer the cart to the parking lot, load in cargo [via the cart’s articulated arm or a helper] and drive home. In such a scenario, a mind upload has swapped physical “bodies” as needed, to complete a task.
If that use made your eyes roll…here’s a real life example:
Devon Carrow, a 2nd grader has a life threatening illness that keeps him away from school. He sends his “avatar” a robot called Vigo.
In the case of a Dirrogate, if the classroom teacher wore an AR visor, she could “see” Devon’s Dirrogate sitting at his desk. A mechanical robot body would be optional. An overhead camera could project the entire Augmented classroom so all children could be aware of his presence. As AR eye-wear becomes more affordable, individual students could interact with Dirrogates. Such use of Dirrogates do fit in completely with the betterment-of-the-human-condition argument, especially if the Dirrogate operator is a human who could come into harm’s way in the real world.
While we simultaneously work on longevity and eliminating deadly diseases, both noble causes, we have to come to terms with the fact that biology has one up on us in the virus department as of today. Epidemic outbreaks such as SARS can keep schools closed. Would it not make sense to maintain the communal ethos of school attendance and classroom interaction by transhumanizing ourselves…digitally?
Does the above example qualify as Mind Uploading? Not in the traditional definition of the term. But looking at it from a different perspective, the 2nd grader has uploaded his mind to a robot.
Dirrogate Immortality via Quantum Archeology:
Below is a passage from the story. The literal significance of which, casual readers of science fiction miss out on:
“Look at her,” I said. “I don’t want her to be a just a memory. I want to keep her memory alive. That day, the Wizer was part of the reason for three deaths. Today, it’s keeping me from dying inside.”
“Help me, Krish,” I said. “Help me keep her memory alive.” He was listening. He wiped his eyes with his hands. I took the Wizer off. “Put it back on,” he said.
A closer look at the Wizer – [visor with Augmented Intelligence built in.]
The preceding excerpt from the story talks about resurrecting her; digital-cryonics.
So, how would Quantum Archeology techniques be applied to resurrect a dead person? Every day we spend hours uploading our stream-of-consciousness to the “cloud”. Photos, videos, Instagrams, Facebook status updates, tweets. All of this is data that can be and is being mined by Deep Learning systems. There’s no prize for guessing who the biggest investor and investigator of Deep Learning is.
Quantum Archeology gets a helping hand with all the digital breadcrumbs we’re leaving around us in this century. The question is: Is that enough information for us to Create a Mind?
Mind Uploading – Libraries and Subroutines:
A more relevant question to ask is, should we attempt to build a mind from the ground up, or start by collecting subroutines and libraries unique to a particular person? Earlier on in the article, it was suggested that by recording a ‘Fundawear’ session, we could re-experience someone’s signature intimate touch. Using Deep Learning, can personality libraries be built?
A related question to answer is: Wouldn’t it make everything ‘artificial’ and be a degraded version of the original? To attempt to answer such a question, let’s look around us today. Aren’t we already degrading our sense of hearing for instance, when we listen to hour after hour of MP3 music sampled at 128kHz or less? How about every time we’ve come to rely on Google’s “did you mean” or Microsoft’s red squiggly line to correct even our simple spellings?
Now, it gets interesting… since we have mind upload “libraries”, we are at liberty to borrow subroutines from more accomplished humans, to augment our own intelligence.
Will the near future allow us to choose a Dirrogate partner with the creative thinking of one person’s personality upload, the intimate skill-set of another and… you get the picture. Most people lead routine 9 to 5 lives. That does not mean that they are not missed by loved ones after they have completed their biological life-cycle. Resurrecting or simulating such minds is much easier than say re-animating Einstein.
In the story, Krish, on digitally resurrecting his father recounts:
“After I saw Maya, I had to,” he said. “I’ve used her same frame structure for the newspaper reading. Last night I went through old photos, his things, his books,” his voice was low. “I’m feeding them into the frame. This was his life for the past two years before the cancer claimed him. Every evening he would sit in this chair in the old house and read his paper.”
I listened in silence as he spoke. Tactile receptors weren’t needed to experience pain. Tone of voice transported those spores just as easily.
“It was easy to create a frame for him, Dan,” he said. “In the time that the cancer was eating away at him, the day’s routine became more predictable. At first he would still go to work, then come home and spend time with us. Then he couldn’t go anymore and he was at home all day. I knew his routine so well it took me 15 minutes to feed it in. There was no need for any random branches.”
I turned to look at him. The Wizer hid his eyes well. “Krish,” I said. “You know what the best part about having him back is? It does not have to be the way it was. You can re-define his routine. Ask your mom what made your dad happy and feed that in. Build on old memories, build new ones and feed those in. You’re the AI designer… bend the rules.”
“I dare not show her anything like this,” he said. “She would never understand. There’s something not right about resurrecting the dead. There’s a reason why people say rest in peace.”
Who is the real Transhuman?
Is it a person who has augmented their physical self or augmented one of their five primary senses? Or is it a human who has successfully re-wired their brain and their mind to accept another augmented human and the tenets of Transhumanism?
“He said perception is in the eye of the beholder… or something to that effect.”
“Maybe he said realism?” I offered.
“Yeah. Maybe. Turns out he is a believer and subscribes to the concept of transhumanism,” Krish said, adjusting the Wizer on the bridge of his nose. “He believes the catalyst for widespread acceptance of transhumanism has to be based on visual fidelity or the entire construct will be stymied by the human brain and mind.”
“Hmm… the uncanny valley effect? It has to be love at first sight, if we are to accept an augmented person huh.”
“Didn’t know you followed the movement,” he said.
“Look around us. Am I really here in person?”
“Point taken,” he said.
While taking the noble cause of Transhumanism forward, we have to address one truism that was put forward in the movie, The Terminator: “It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.”
When we eventually reach a full mind-upload stage and have the ability to swap or borrow libraries from other ‘minds’, will personality traits of greed still be floating around as rogue libraries? Perhaps the common man is right – A Dystopian future is on the cards, that’s why science fiction writers gravitate toward dystopia worlds.
Could this change as we progress from transhuman to post-human?
In building a road-map for Transhumanism, we need to present and evangelize more to the common man in language and scenarios they can identify with. That is one of the main reasons Memories with Maya features settings and language that at times, borders on juvenile fiction. Concepts such as life extension, reversal of aging and immortality can be made to resound better with laypeople when presented in the right context. There is a reason that Vampire stories are on the nation’s best seller lists.
People are intrigued and interested in immortality.
Of the two images above, as a typical Science Fiction reader, which would you gravitate towards? In designing the cover for my book I ran about 80 iterations of 14 unique designs through a group of beta readers, and the majority chose the one with the Green tint. (design credit: Dmggzz)
No one could come up with a satisfying reason on why they preferred it over the other, except that it “looked more sci-fi” I settled for the design on the right, though it was a very hard decision to make. I was throwing away one of the biggest draws to a book — An inviting Dystopian book cover.
As an Author (and not a scientist) myself, I’ve noticed that scifi readers seem to want dystopian fiction –exclusively. A quick glance at reader preferences in scifi on sites such as GoodReads shows this. Yet, from noticing Vampire themed fiction rule the best seller lists, and from box office blockbusters, we can assume, the common man and woman is also intrigued by Longevity and Immortality.
Why is it so hard for sci-fi fans to look to the “brighter side” of science. Look at the latest Star Trek for instance…Dystopia. Not the feel good, curiosity nurturing theme of Roddenberry. This is noted in a post by Gray Scott on the website ImmortalLife.
I guess my question is: Are there any readers or Futurology enthusiasts that crave a Utopian future in their fiction and real life, or are we descending a spiral staircase (no pun) into eventual Dystopia. In ‘The Dirrogate — Memories with Maya’, I’ve tried to (subtly) infuse the philosophy of transhumanism — technology for the betterment of humans.
At Lifeboat, the goal is ‘encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies.’ We need to reach out to the influencers of lay people, the authors, the film-makers… those that have the power to evangelize the ethos of Transhumanism and the Singularity, to paint the truth: Science and Technology advancement is for the betterment of the human race.
It would be naive to think that technology would not be abused and a Dystopia world is indeed a scary and very real threat, but my belief is: We should guide (influence?) people to harness this “fire” to nurture and defend humanity, via our literature and movies, and cut back on seeding or fueling ideas that might lead to the destruction of our species.
It’s not a physical landscape. It’s a term reserved for the new technologies. It’s a landscape in the future. It’s as though you used technology to take you off the ground and go like Alice through the looking glass. John Cage, in reference to his 1939 Imagined Landscape .
In the last installment (see here, here and here) I argued that the increasing prominence and frequency of futuristic aesthetics and themes of empowerment-through-technology in EDM-based mainstream music videos, as well as the increasing predominance of EDM foundations in mainstream music over the past 3 years, helps promote general awareness of emerging-technology-grounded and NBIC-driven concepts, causes and potential-crises while simultaneously presenting a sexy and self-empowering vision of technology and the future to mainstream audiences. The only reason this is mentionable in the first place is the fact that these are mainstream artists and labels reaching very large audiences.
In this installment, I will be analyzing a number of music videos for tracks by “real EDM” artists, released by exclusively-EDM record labels, to show that these futuristic themes aren’t just a consequence of EDM’s adoption by mainstream music over the past few years, and that there is long history of futuristic aesthetics and gestalts in electronic music, as well as recurrent themes of self-empowerment through technology.
In this part I will discuss some of these recurrent themes, which can be seen to derive from a number of aspects shared by Virtual Art (any art created without the use of physical instruments), of which contemporary electronic music is an example because it is created using software. I argue that this will become the predominant means of art production — via software — for all artistic mediums, from auditory to visual to eventual olfactory, somatosensory and proprioceptual artistic mediums. The interface between artist and art will become progressively thinner and more transparent, culminating in a time where Brain-Computer-Interface technology can sense neural operation and translate this directly into an informational form to be played by physical systems (e.g. speakers) at first, but eventually into a form that can be read by given person’s own BCI instantiated phenomenologically via high-precision technological neuromodulation (of which deep brain stimulation is an early form).
In the second part of this installment I will be following this discussion up with a look at some music videos for EDM-tracks that embody and exemplify the themes, aesthetics and general gestalts under consideration here.
The music- videos accompanying many historical and contemporary examples of EDM tracks display consistently futuristic and technoprogressive thematics, aesthetics and plots, as well as positive, self-empowering and often primal-pleasure-appealing depictions of emerging and as-yet-conceptual technologies. Many also exemplify the recurrent theme of human-technology symbiosis, inter-constitution and co-deferent inter-determination. It is not just physical prosthesis – for in a way language is as much prosthetic technology as artificial arm. This definition of prosthesis doesn’t make a distinction between nonbiological systems for the restoration of statistically-normal function and nonbiological systems for the facilitation or instantiation of enhanced functions and/or categorically-new functional modalities. And nor should it. I argue that such a dichotomy is invalid because our functional modalities are always changing. This was true of biological evolution and it is true of mind and of cultural evolution as well. Other recurrent themes depicted in the video include technological autonomy and animacy and the facilitation of seemingly magical or otherwise-impossible feats, either via technology or else against a futuristic background.
These videos are not wrong for picking up on the self-empowering and potential-liberating inherencies of technology, nor their radically-transformative and ability-extending potentials. Indeed, as I argued in brief in the first installment of this series, electronic music exemplifies a general trend and methodology that will become standard for more and more artistic mediums, and to an increasingly large degree in each medium, as we move forward into the future. Contemporary EDM and electronic music is made using software – and this fundamental dissociation with physical instrumentation demonstrates the liberating potentials of what I have called virtuality – the realm of information, the ontics of semiotics, and the ability to readily create, modulate and modify a given informational object to an arbitrarily-precise degree. Not only do artists have the ability to modulate and modify a given sound-wave or sound-wave-ensemble with greater magnitude and precision, but they can do so to create end-result sound-waves that are either impossible with current physical instruments or else significantly harder to produce with physical instruments.
The ability to create without constraint (i.e. if it’s an information-product then we aren’t constrained by the use of physical resources or dependency on materials-processing and system-configuration/component-integration) means that our only limiting factor is available or objective-optimal memory and computation. The ability to readily duplicate an information-product with negligible resource-expenditure (e.g. it doesn’t cost much, in terms of memory or computation, to create and transmit an electronic file) means that any resources expended in the creation (whether computationally or manually by a human programmer) or maintenance (e.g. storage) of the information-product is amortized over the course of all the instances in which it is doubled – that is, it’s cost, or the amount of resources expended, in comparison to the net product is cut in half every time it’s doubled).
Is it coincidence that these de-scarcitizing and constraint-eschewing properties inherent in information-products are paralleled and reflected so perfectly, in thematic, aesthetic and gestalt, by electronic-music videos? Or could such potentials be felt by our raw intuitions, seen in the ways in which technology empowers people, expands their choices, frees possibilities and works once-wonders on a daily basis, and simply amplified through the cultural magnifying-glass of art? After all, if one looks back throughout the history of electronic music one can see many early pioneers and antecedents of electronic music, we can see individuals and movements that acknowledge these de-scarcitizing, possibility-actualizing and self-empowering potentials in various ways. This very virtue of virtuality could be seen, exemplified in embryonic form, in early forms of electronic music as long as 100+ years ago — for instance in the works and manifestos of Italian Futurism, an early 20th century art movement, which embraced (among other artistic sub-genres) Noise Music, an early20th century embodiment of electronic music
It’s not as though EDM came out of nowhere after all (claims to constraintless creation aside); the technological synthesis of sound can be seen as a natural continuation of the trends set out by the creation and development of recording equipment in the early to mid-20th century, and harkened by the explosion of popularity the electric guitar and synthesizers saw in the 1960s. In an interview with Jim Morrison given in 1969 essentially predicts the predominance of electronic music we are seeing today, saying that “I guess in four or five years the new generation’s music will have a synthesis of those two elements [blues and folk] and some third thing, maybe it will be entirely, um, it might rely heavily on electronics, tapes… I can kind of envision one person with a lot of machines, tapes, electronic setups singing or speaking using machines.”
I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the use of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard. Photoelectric, film and mechanical mediums for the synthetic production of music will be explored. John Cage, The Future of Music: Credo, 1937 .
When did these underlying potentialities inherent in virtual or informational-mediation really start to become obvious, or at least detectable in nascent or fledging form?
The de-scarcitizing effects of virtually-mediated art (a class that includes such early embodiments and antecedents of electronic music) seems only to have become obvious on a level beyond intuition when the ability to artificially synthesize sound brought with it a greatly increased ability to directly modulate and modify such sound.
This marked the beginning of the trend that distinguishes this class as categorically different than physically-mediated art. After all, playing an instrument can be considered modulating it just as operating a turn table can, so what constitutes the effective difference? Namely the greatly increased increased range and precision (that is, the precision with which the artist can modulate a given sound or create a given sound to his liking, which corresponds to the degree-of-accuracy between his mental ideal and what he can produce physicality) of modulation made possible by the technologies and techniques that allows us to artificially-synthesize sound in the first place.
Sound-waves can be modulated (i.e. controlled or affected in real-time) or modified (i.e. recorded, controlled or affected in iterations or gradually, and then replayed without modulation in real-time) with greater precision (e.g. ability to modulate a waveform within smaller intervals of time or with a smaller standard-deviation/tolerance-interval/margin-of-error). The magnitude of such changes (e.g. the range of frequencies a given waveform can be made to conform to, or the range of pitches a given waveform can be made to embody, through such methods) is also greater than the potential magnitude available via the modulation of playing a physical instrument. What’s more, fundamentally new categories of sound can be produced as well, whereas in non-virtually-mediated-music such fundamentally new categories of sound would require a whole new physical instrument — if they can be reproduced by physical instrumentation at all.
The earliest synthesizers harkened the future of all art mediums; artificially-created, modulated and modified sound via the user-interface of knobs, dials and keys is one small step away from music produced solely through software – and one giant leap beyond the watered-down and matter-bound paradigm of music and artistic-media in general that preceded it.
 Kostelanetz, Richard. 1986. “John Cage and Richard Kostelanetz: A Conversation about Radio”. The Musical Quarterly.72 (2): 216–227.
Greetings to the Lifeboat Foundation community and blog readers! I’m Reno J. Tibke, creator of Anthrobotic.com and new advisory board member. This is my inaugural post, and I’m honored to be here and grateful for the opportunity to contribute a somewhat… different voice to technology coverage and commentary. Thanks for reading.
This Here Battle Droid’s Gone Haywire There’s a new semi-indy sci-fi web series up: DR0NE. After one episode, it’s looking pretty clear that the series is most likely going to explore shenanigans that invariably crop up when we start using semi-autonomous drones/robots to do some serious destruction & murdering. Episode 1 is pretty and well made, and stars 237, the android pictured above looking a lot like Abe Sapien’s battle exoskeleton. Active duty drones here in realityland are not yet humanoid, but now that militaries, law enforcement, the USDA, private companies, and even citizens are seriously ramping up drone usage by land, air, and sea, the subject is timely and watching this fiction is totally recommended.
It would be nice to hope for some originality, and while DR0NE is visually and means-of-productionally and distributionally novel, it’s looking like yet another angle on a psychology & set of issues that fiction has thoroughly drilled — like, for centuries.
Higher-Def Old Hat? Okay, so the modern versions go like this: one day an android or otherwise humanlike machine is damaged or reprogrammed or traumatized or touched by Jesus or whatever, and it miraculously “wakes up,” or its neural network remembers a previous life, or what have you. Generally the machine becomes severely bi-polar about its place in the universe; while it often struggles with the guilt of all the murderdeathkilling it did at others’ behest, it simultaneously develops some serious self-preservation instinct and has little compunction about laying waste to its pursuers, i.e., former teammates & commanders who’d done the behesting.
Admittedly, DR0NE’s episode 2 has yet to be released, but it’s not too hard to see where this is going; the trailer shows 237 delivering some vegetablizing kung-fu to it’s human pursuers, and dude, come on — if a human is punched in the head hard enough to throw them across a room and into a wall or is uppercut into a spasticating backflip, they’re probably just going to embolize and die where they land. Clearly 237 already has the stereotypical post-revelatory per-the-plot justifiable body count.
Famous Chilean philosopher Humberto Maturana describes “certainty” in science as subjective emotional opinion and astonishes the physicists’ prominence. French astronomer and “Leonardo” publisher Roger Malina hopes that the LHC safety issue would be discussed in a broader social context and not only in the closer scientific framework of CERN.
The latest renowned “Ars Electronica Festival” in Linz (Austria) was dedicated in part to an uncritical worship of the gigantic particle accelerator LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at the European Nuclear Research Center CERN located at the Franco-Swiss border. CERN in turn promoted an art prize with the idea to “cooperate closely” with the arts. This time the objections were of a philosophical nature – and they had what it takes.
In a thought provoking presentation Maturana addressed the limits of our knowledge and the intersubjective foundations of what we call “objective” and “reality.” His talk was spiked with excellent remarks and witty asides that contributed much to the accessibility of these fundamental philosophical problems: “Be realistic, be objective!” Maturana pointed out, simply means that we want others to adopt our point of view. The great constructivist and founder of the concept of autopoiesis clearly distinguished his approach from a solipsistic position.
Given Ars Electronica’s spotlight on CERN and its experimental sub-nuclear research reactor, Maturana’s explanations were especially important, which to the assembled CERN celebrities may have come in a mixture of an unpleasant surprise and a lack of relation to them.
During the question-and-answer period, Markus Goritschnig asked Maturana whether it wasn’t problematic that CERN is basically controlling itself and discarding a number of existential risks discussed related to the LHC — including hypothetical but mathematically demonstrable risks also raised — and later downplayed — by physicists like Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek, and whether he thought it necessary to integrate in the LHC safety assessment process other sciences aside from physics such as risk search. In response Maturana replied (in the video from about 1:17): “We human beings can always reflect on what we are doing and choose. And choose to do it or not to do it. And so the question is, how are we scientists reflecting upon what we do? Are we taking seriously our responsibility of what we do? […] We are always in the danger of thinking that, ‘Oh, I have the truth’, I mean — in a culture of truth, in a culture of certainty — because truth and certainty are not as we think — I mean certainty is an emotion. ‘I am certain that something is the case’ means: ‘I do not know’. […] We cannot pretend to impose anything on others; we have to create domains of interrogativity.”
Disregarding these reflections, Sergio Bertolucci (CERN) found the peer review system among the physicists’ community a sufficient scholarly control. He refuted all the disputed risks with the “cosmic ray argument,” arguing that much more energetic collisions are naturally taking place in the atmosphere without any adverse effect. This safety argument by CERN on the LHC, however, can also be criticized under different perspectives, for example: Very high energetic collisions could be measured only indirectly — and the collision frequency under the unprecedented artificial and extreme conditions at the LHC is of astronomical magnitudes higher than in the Earth’s atmosphere and anywhere else in the nearer cosmos.
The second presentation of the “Origin” Symposium III was held by Roger Malina, an astrophysicist and the editor of “Leonardo” (MIT Press), a leading academic journal for the arts, sciences and technology.
Malina opened with a disturbing fact: “95% of the universe is of an unknown nature, dark matter and dark energy. We sort of know how it behaves. But we don’t have a clue of what it is. It does not emit light, it does not reflect light. As an astronomer this is a little bit humbling. We have been looking at the sky for millions of years trying to explain what is going on. And after all of that and all those instruments, we understand only 3% of it. A really humbling thought. […] We are the decoration in the universe. […] And so the conclusion that I’d like to draw is that: We are really badly designed to understand the universe.”
The main problem in research is: “curiosity is not neutral.” When astrophysics reaches its limits, cooperation between arts and science may indeed be fruitful for various reasons and could perhaps lead to better science in the end. In a later communication Roger Malina confirmed that the same can be demonstrated for the relation between natural sciences and humanities or social sciences.
However, the astronomer emphasized that an “art-science collaboration can lead to better science in some cases. It also leads to different science, because by embedding science in the larger society, I think the answer was wrong this morning about scientists peer-reviewing themselves. I think society needs to peer-review itself and to do that you need to embed science differently in society at large, and that means cultural embedding and appropriation. Helga Nowotny at the European Research Council calls this ‘socially robust science’. The fact that CERN did not lead to a black hole that ended the world was not due to peer-review by scientists. It was not due to that process.”
One of Malina’s main arguments focused on differences in “the ethics of curiosity”. The best ethics in (natural) science include notions like: intellectual honesty, integrity, organized scepticism, dis-interestedness, impersonality, universality. “Those are the believe systems of most scientists. And there is a fundamental flaw to that. And Humberto this morning really expanded on some of that. The problem is: Curiosity is embodied. You cannot make it into a neutral ideal of scientific curiosity. And here I got a quote of Humberto’s colleague Varela: “All knowledge is conditioned by the structure of the knower.”
In conclusion, a better co-operation of various sciences and skills is urgently necessary, because: “Artists asks questions that scientists would not normally ask. Finally, why we want more art-science interaction is because we don’t have a choice. There are certain problems in our society today that are so tough we need to change our culture to resolve them. Climate change: we’ve got to couple the science and technology to the way we live. That’s a cultural problem, and we need artists working on that with the scientists every day of the next decade, the next century, if we survive it.
Then Roger Malina directly turned to the LHC safety discussion and articulated an open contradiction to the safety assurance pointed out before: He would generally hope for a much more open process concerning the LHC safety debate, rather than discussing this only in a narrow field of particle physics, concrete: “There are certain problems where we cannot cloister the scientific activity in the scientific world, and I think we really need to break the model. I wish CERN, when they had been discussing the risks, had done that in an open societal context, and not just within the CERN context.”
Presently CERN is holding its annual meeting in Chamonix to fix LHC’s 2012 schedules in order to increase luminosity by a factor of four for maybe finally finding the Higgs Boson – against a 100-Dollar bet of Stephen Hawking who is convinced of Micro Black Holes being observed instead, immediately decaying by hypothetical “Hawking Radiation” — with God Particle’s blessing. Then it would be himself gaining the Nobel Prize Hawking pointed out. Quite ironically, at Ars Electronica official T-Shirts were sold with the “typical signature” of a micro black hole decaying at the LHC – by a totally hypothetical process involving a bunch of unproven assumptions.
In 2013 CERN plans to adapt the LHC due to construction failures for up to CHF 1 Billion to run the “Big Bang Machine” at double the present energies. A neutral and multi-disciplinary risk assessment is still lacking, while a couple of scientists insist that their theories pointing at even global risks have not been invalidated. CERN’s last safety assurance comparing natural cosmic rays hitting the Earth with the LHC experiment is only valid under rather narrow viewpoints. The relatively young analyses of high energetic cosmic rays are based on indirect measurements and calculations. Sort, velocity, mass and origin of these particles are unknown. But, taking the relations for granted and calculating with the “assuring” figures given by CERN PR, within ten years of operation, the LHC under extreme and unprecedented artificial circumstances would produce as many high energetic particle collisions as occur in about 100.000 years in the entire atmosphere of the Earth. Just to illustrate the energetic potential of the gigantic facility: One LHC-beam, thinner than a hair, consisting of billions of protons, has got the power of an aircraft carrier moving at 12 knots.
This article in the Physics arXiv Blog (MIT’s Technology Review) reads: “Black Holes, Safety, and the LHC Upgrade — If the LHC is to be upgraded, safety should be a central part of the plans.”, closing with the claim: “What’s needed, of course, is for the safety of the LHC to be investigated by an independent team of scientists with a strong background in risk analysis but with no professional or financial links to CERN.” http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/27319/
Australian ethicist and risk researcher Mark Leggett concluded in a paper that CERN’s LSAG safety report on the LHC meets less than a fifth of the criteria of a modern risk assessment. There but for the grace of a goddamn particle? Probably not. Before pushing the LHC to its limits, CERN must be challenged by a really neutral, external and multi-disciplinary risk assessment.
Video recordings of the “Origin III” symposium at Ars Electronica: Presentation Humberto Maturana: