Sunday, 27 December 2009

Newsworthy Transhumanism?


A guy tries to blow up another aeroplane, and the news networks both mainstream and alternative have something to talk about for the next month. Yet the massive and accellerating breakthroughs in science and technology rarely get a look in. Is this good or bad?

People being kept in the dark about the true current state of technology keeps them in a false-reality, a world where the possibilities of the singularity and life extension don't even exist, or are at best nothing but science fiction. This illusion they inhabit causes naivety that can lead to the worst consequences; stem cell bans, creationism teaching, even anti-progress activism.

The worst consequence, however, is lack of education. Without awareness or knowledge of the true state of technology, its imminent possibilities, or an appreciation for its accellerating nature, education systems continue to fail in their duties. Burying their heads in the paradigms of history, instead of preparing for the rapidly approaching future, the academia release wave after wave of stagnated students who are not even aware of impending social and technological change.

Without this awareness, how can we possibly hope to develop singularity-focussed solutions in an efficient manner?

Transhumanists are fully aware of the possible future that awaits them; that of longer, healthier lifespans, enhanced intelligence, greater human efficiency, and environmental saviour. With this awareness comes immense frustration at the technical difficulties faced at every step of the way.

These technological difficulties could be solved so much quicker if our children left school with the drive and anticipation fostered from more awareness of future possibilities. Just imagine the passion of a child able to program their own robot, or develop their own stem cell therapies. Also, with more preparation and knowledge of the problems faced, they could focus their skills and knowledge into more practical areas. With more analytical skills, they would have the thinking power and imagination to solve engineering problems more efficiently.

Instead, fear is their focus, and ignorance keeps them in the dark. If things continue this way, we might not have anyone left to create the singularity.

On the other hand, if people become aware of just where technology is headed - if they can see its true benefits and the implications it could have on us all - then things might just speed up.

Image courtesy renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Speed of Life


What is it with cities?

There seems to be a rush to get anywhere. And what are people rushing to? Do they enjoy their job that much? If they’re late, they should leave earlier. Everyone can’t be late every day – can they?

Maybe they’re running from crazy people? If we don’t interact with people, we won’t need to learn about their problems (which we know, aren’t even close to the problems of those kids we see on the news, but they can’t see us through the TV, so it’s ok). Maybe people are worried that if they just stopped to talk with someone, they might actually find the answer.

All around us, things are happening. Interesting things. Yet our headphones and free newspapers protect us from it, keeping us in our self obsessed bubbles.

Are people chasing their dreams, or running from themselves?

Either way, there’ll be another train along any minute.


Image courtest Egan Snow.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Technology: It Might Not Destroy Us


As a (very casual) fiction writer, specifically science fiction, I have had to learn the fundamentals of creating an interesting story. In doing this, I’ve become subject to analytical observation, the kind that tends to dilute the beauty of life by trying to understand it too much.

However, one thing it has taught me is that there can be no story without conflict. I once read a book about a couple who had beaten the trials and tribulations of 80s Northern Ireland (in the previous book) and were now building a home together in the country. Everything went wonderfully for them, as the book documented their “happily ever after”. It was the worst story I had ever read.

Hollywood is a mega-conglomerate story making factory, so it stands to reason that everything they create must contain conflict in one way or another. It’s no surprise then, that we have yet to see a story of man and machine living in harmony. (Even in Short Circuit, the American military did what they do best, and created conflict..)

So it stands to reason that the average member of the general public (which of course, does not include your typical transhumanist) is afraid of our technologically dominated future. Their technophobia is justified – especially for those Californians ruled by their very own terminator.

Yet in the end, technology is happening all around us, and it’s not trying to kill us. Doors open when we approach them. Buses tell us when they’re coming and which stop is next. It might not be glamorous, but it makes our lives easier.

We’re afraid that when there’s too much reliance on technology everything will break down, leaving us with chaos. This is just the product of our Hollywood conditioning and too much exposure to certain operating systems. While of course this is a possibility, it shouldn’t limit us.

Generally, with the exception of certain operating systems, technology doesn’t go wrong. We don’t notice when things run smoothly, only when they break down. Even when things do go wrong, this is usually a symptom of planned obsolescence.

In reality, things are always more complicated than the black and white of Hollywood. Our future is destined to be improved and enlightened by technology, as well as being changed in ways we haven’t even thought of.

It might be mundane, but it could just be a happy ending.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Open Automation Project


The first decade of the 21st century could well see the rise of the affordable and useful domestic mobile robot.

The Open Automaton Project aims to provide some of the building blocks that could make this possible.
The purpose of the project is to engineer modular software and electronic components, from which it is possible to assemble an intelligent PC-based mobile robot suitable for home or office environments.

http://oap.sourceforge.net/

Monday, 10 August 2009

Future Art, Beyond Traditional Concepts


Promises, By Starax Statosky - Image courtesy Sl-Art-News

I was inspired by this recent TED talk about "Art that looks back at you". It seems the potential for expression of art is limited only by our imagination.

Modern technology allows for new forms of art to be created, but by this I don't just mean different painting techniques using sophisticated software, but entirely new concepts. We can now use computers, robotics, and perhaps even biological manipulations to create new expressions and to represent profound ideas.

Where chemistry created the medium of fireworks, biology can now take us on previously unthinkable artistic journeys. Extreme body modification such as this seen in bmezine, shows identical twins who experiment with transplanting each other's limbs in the wrong places on each other's bodies. And you thought your tattoo made you "transhuman".

Imagine glowing implants, far more beautiful and colourful than any tatoo, animating through your skin. Or perhaps circuitry can be connected directly to your nerve endings, performing actions such as flashes or movements when fired by your brain? Why stop at replacing lost limbs when entirely new body parts can be added, not just for functionality, but for aesthetic appeal?

Body modifications and upgrades are just the beginning. Manipulating our cells and DNA can provide all sorts of potential, from reptile skin to the ability to spin spider silk.

However, despite seemingly unlimited potential for body upgrades, the possibilities fade in comparison to the artistic potential opened up by virtual reality. We've already seen body manipulation here, this is nothing new. What is really exciting about virtual reality is its potential to rewrite the very meaning of existence.

In virtual reality, art can be represented in a more interactive way than in reality. Creations that allow interaction can achieve artistic concepts with both their interactive configuration and their feedback. For example, a large virtual book can read out poetry and vary the tone according to the actions of the user.

Yet neither the interaction nor the feedback needs to be confined by the restraints of reality. The book can be replaced by a metaphor, as can the feedback, and even the interaction. Such concepts that we take for granted, such as time and space, need not even apply in virtual art.

In this technological world, a wonderland of possibilities exist to create a whole new paradigm of art.

Monday, 2 March 2009

To Know is to Control

What are the implications of storing a complete record of your life online?

More than likely, you'll be halfway towards this already. Facebook has your friends. Google has your search history, your emails and your documents. Microsoft has your chat history. Last.fm has your taste in music. Delicious has your interests. Twitter has your random thoughts. And all this is voluntary. Imagine what they may be doing with this data, when it's all brought together, what will it tell them about you? It's no surprise that Google is buying everything.

Of course it's worrying, but I suppose it's not the end of the world if some big corporation has your information. It's not even anything new, credit card companies have been doing it for decades.

The issue now though is that the information mined is more detailed and complete than it's ever been before. And it's all owned by American companies. Companies who, thanks to the patriot act, have to hand over any information the US government asks for.

However, the problem is not what they will do with one person's information. It's what they will do with all of it.

Social control is a relatively simple practice. If the government knows enough about its society, it can play off its fears, play up to its desires, and essentially manipulate the populace with counter-information spread via its mainstream media. It's not a new practice, but it is getting a lot easier for those who hold the information.

If you don't think that this is what really happens, you probably think that Obama's success was real. ;-P

Knowledge truly is power.