Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Humanity+ @Parsons Day 1 Review





A Humanity+ event at a design school sounded tailor made for Natash Vita-More, who co-chaired the event with Ed Keller. As day 1 unfolded it was clear why the transhumanism came first in Transhumanism Meets Design.

Howard Bloom poetically kicked off the event with his vision on how intimate we will communicate with technology in the near future. Comparing it to a best friend, who will be the ONLY one you can talk to after a bad day at work. Stephen Valentine then brought in the design element with his plans for a symbolic laden vitrification facility (the state of the art method in cryonics); Timeship. A few of the speakers have already signed up to be vitrified at already existing cryonic facilities. A few I noticed at the event were Anders Sandberg and Ben Goertzel, who both wore medallions representing they will be cryogenically frozen in the case they expire before achieving radical life extension or backing up their mind files (see Anders Sandberg above left).
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Heather Knight (of
Marilyn Monrobot) emotionally connected us with video demonstrations of her socially acceptable robots. She explained how the culture of the West has a much more pessimistic view of robotics, which translates into research money being poured into developing war machines, rather than robot companions. We at Plus Ultra Tech could not agree more with the Eastern approach Heather is trying to bring to this side of the globe.

Max More on the right
The second panel, Radical Impressions, featured Ben Goertzel, Max More, and Anders Sandberg. Ben Goertzel working on A[G]I (artificial general intelligence) presented an amazing speech theorizing how different an alien intelligence might be if it were to develop in a water world, or, on one of the gas giants. With demonstrations of his A[G]I robot work in China, he explained how programing the action of scratching your ear, would not help if a bug flew into your ear. This example shows the need for real learning in AI, thus the G in A[G]I. While Ben used this example to excuse his slow stumbling robot, we are amazed his work has come this far.

In Designing Death: Refraining and Refusing the End of Life, Philosopher Max More brought into question our standard definition of death. For him, death is when you are completely unretrievable. Back up mind files and cryogenics leave you in a state of being "inactive", but if you come back, were you really dead? I wouldn't be surprised if under Max's sleek black shirt was one of those medallions worn by Ben Goertzel and Anders Sandberg.

Anders Sandberg

Computational Neuroscientist Anders Sandberg speech entitled; Freedom to Explore examined the rise of NEW senses available TODAY through magnetic implants. The possibilites of introducing other human enhancements/extensions in the future may turn out to be really enjoyable, or regrettable. One of the best examples he gave was being able to sense radiation. It may be useful, but it also may result in a pleasurable experience! We got to sit down for an exclusive interview with Dr. Sandberg. Look forward to the transcript in an upcoming blog!
L to R: Francois Roache, Adam Zaretsky, Amy Li, Max More


Amy Li spoke on her innovative iPhone apps and the growth of mobile units overtaking that of computer desktops/laptops. It was nice to see her implementing her nieces with her pet projects, to help her understand how quickly children are adapting to the information age. Soon, we are going to need help keeping up with them!

Artists included at the event were Adam Zaretsky, who believes in open source DNA, and Francois Roche on Instructions for Bio-chemistry Urbanism. While the "shit and vomit" in these artists' speeches riled me at first, it brought out of the cerebral futuristic mindset I usually find myself in, and made me realize that we are still very much human. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that, because its going to stay with us for a while.
Ben Goertzel on the right

Other speakers on day 1 were Ed Keller, Ted Byfield, Peter Watts and Perry Hall in the panel OUT THERE - Self Organizations.
Lightning talk
s included George Dvorsky, Dirky Knemeyer (who's challenge to transhumanism was eloquently rebuttaled during the panel discussion), Moran Cerf, John Lobell, Patrick Millard, Thomas Mc Cabe, and Kristi Scott (who brought attention to how media is perpetuating social stigmas by projecting them onto fictional robots).

After the conference many of the attendees and speakers met at a nice local bar/grill. I made a lot of new transhumanist/futurist friends. It was an honor chatting with Kristi Scott, where we discussed our personal distaste of racism and sexism. I also got to talk quantum consciousness, AI, and other (personal) matters with the down to earth genius Ben Goertzel. Now that is my ideal Saturday night out, wish every weekend could be that damn much fun!

The entire conference should still be available by clicking here.
Day 2 review tomorrow

Help support Humanity+ by becoming a member if you aren't already by clicking here, don't forget to mention me as a referral. That would be great!

Jeremiah Bilas


3 comments:

Guillermo Santamaria said...

Will take care of the typos right away and the technical correction.  Thanks for taking the time to look at it.  

Max said...

You say "vitification facility (not to be confused with cryonics". That's a puzzling statement! Cryonics organization vitrify their patients. At the Alcor Foundation, we've switched from freezing to vitrifying years ago.

Also, some of the photos have my surname incorrectly spelled, though it's correct in the text.

Thanks for writing up your thoughts on the event.

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