Monday, November 23, 2009

Some musings on morality (all mine)

If you hurt others, they will hurt you.

Ideologies just get people killed.

You're better off doing what you think is right, emphasis on "think"

as in don't just do what you've been programmed to do.

You are more than just the memes you've been infected with.

Why are you listening to an Aspergarian biology student from Wisconsin?

Seriously, who are you?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Avatars and Surrogates: A new theme in Science-fiction?

Three movies this year involve technology that has been practically non-existent in Hollywood, teleoperation. First there was Gamer in September, where people were mind-controlled and used as players in video game like bloodsports. Then a couple weeks later came Surrogates, which was a more realistic portrayal of teleoperation, where people stayed at home and used remotely controlled "Surrogates" to live life. Next month is Avatar, about marines using genetically engineered "avatars" to conquer an alien planet. How did Hollywood learn about this?

My guess is the popularity of MMORG's, especially Second Life. Surrogates in particular seems to be referencing the internet. It could be a suggestion that people are increasingly trying to escape real life through the net, that would of course be the obvious one. Well, Gamer and Avatar are trying to emphasize the whole Humans are Bastards meme that is so popular now.

Friday, October 23, 2009

There's no such thing as Perfection

I have concluded that there is no such thing as perfect or imperfect, there are only things that work most ideally for the situation. It's like evolution (to both creationists and transhumanists, there's no such thing as Evolutionary levels), survival of the fittest doesn't mean that the strongest or smartest survive, just those best adapted to their particular environment. Everyone has a different idea of what perfection means. Even with governments there is no one type that will work for everyone, one society might work perfectly fine as an anarcho-socialist commune while another might only be able to function as a totalitarian military dictatorship. The closest thing to a world government that could possibly exist would be a loose confederation or maybe a federation of states that would be left to their own devices as long as they did not attempt to coerce of dominate other members (with one of the treaty terms being that all other members gang up on a violator). With that I officially will stop giving advice on politics (not).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Socrates Knew About Democracy

In my Philosophy 100 class we are reading and discussing Plato's Dialogues chronicling the trial and execution of Socrates. Socrates, as many know was an ancient Greek philosopher from the city-state of Athens, who was executed for "corrupting the youth", mostly because he had become unpopular with the people of Athens for his criticisms. In Apology, Socrates recounts why one of the oldest rumors about him started, he was told by an oracle that he was the wisest man in the world and he set out to disprove her by going to other men who claimed themselves to be wise. First he went to the politicians (Athens was the first democracy), then the poets, and finally to the craftsmen. But he found that the politicians and poets were completely ignorant and refused to admit it, while the craftsmen were quite knowledgeable about their craft but nothing else. That was one of the reasons he was unpopular, he told people that they elected fools and that the people at the bottom of the social ladder (aside from slaves) were the least ignorant.

It still holds today that the vast majority of politicians know next to nothing about what the *bleep* they're talking about. Which is one of the main reasons why I think that a meritocracy would be better than a democracy, the people in charge have proven themselves competent at their job. Unfortunately so many people are convinced that democracy is the best form of government and the majority rules so probably the closest thing we could get would be a futarchy as suggested by fellow transhumanist blogger Roko Mijic here. Futarchy would be a form of government where elected representatives formally define and manage national welfare, but the policies themselves would be determined based on what a group of market speculators and other experts think would benefit us the most.

Webcomics that feature Transhumanist technologies

I haven't really had anything to write about for a while so I might as well make a list of some webcomics I read that feature technologies associated with transhumanism. Webcomics, in case you couldn't figure that out already are comics that are posted online, usually viewed for free, instead of or in addition to being sold on print. They include both newspaper style strips (though usually better written) and graphic novels uploaded one page at a time. Also at least half of webcomics feature anthropomorphic animals or "furries". Anyway here are six science-fiction webcomics I read and the technologies they feature, in order from hardest to softest.

Freefall by Mark Stanley: One of the most "realistic" space operas I've seen other than Firefly, this is about a non-humanoid alien, an uplifted wolf, and a childlike robot who live on a human colony world in the final stages of terraforming and own an in-system cargo spaceship. The wolf, Florence, was uplifted as a proof of concept model for a planned (but canceled) attempt to colonize a planet with a biosphere based on isomeric proteins by uplifting a native species. The terraforming process involves millions of semi-sapient robots, and the robots on the planet this strip takes place on are unusually intelligent due to the colonists using the brain structures that were used to uplift Florence to design their neural nets. Unfortunately all AIs, including biological ones, are legally property (though some robots buy themselves), meaning that the only member of the main cast with full rights is the one who isn't Terran (and has a massive criminal record). In relation to human enhancement life extension drugs are widely available and it's implied that the average life expectancy is over 160 years. In addition one of the minor human characters has "spacer genes" allowing him to live in microgravity for extended periods of time. Aside from that the author has tried to keep "magic" technology to a minimum, there is no artificial gravity (hence the name), no transporter beams, not even the word nanotechnology is used, but there is a very limited form of faster than light travel.

Schlock Mercenary by Howard Taylor: Following the adventures of an interstellar mercenary company in the 31st century, is less realistic than Freefall due to artificial gravity and casual interstellar travel (after the Teraport Wars arc). Nearly all of the human characters have super soldier mods that give them better physical abilities than average but there are more extreme modifications such as cybernetic prosthetics, germ-line genetic engineering (resulting in sub-races with photosynthetic skin among other things), and nanorobots that that make their host nearly immortal. In addition chimps, gorillas, and elephants have been uplifted, and AIs ranging in intelligence from "sub-turinggrade" to "god" are present. One artificial intelligence formed a gestalt with hundreds of other AIs to form an entity that considers itself the closest thing to God in this galaxy.

Umlaut House 2 by Allan Ecker: Takes place in an alternate reality where humans are furries for some unspecified reason, in the year 2040. Is about the children (including the genetically engineered daughter of two men) and students of the first Umlaut House's characters and features more advanced technology (and a better plot). Cybernetics are fairly common, in particular brain-computer interfaces known as "eye-fis", and there is an ongoing attempt by one character to create a collective consciousness. Also this is one of the few comics to mention the Singularity, which is going to happen a few years into this comics future and will involve rewriting the laws of physics. However the first Umlaut House featured the invention of gravity manipulation and time travel in the 2020s, making this even softer than you'd expect.

S.S.D.D. by Alan Foreman: This furry comic didn't become science-fiction until the S.S.D.F. arc where it was revealed that one of the main characters (a semi-psychotic anarchist) will be manipulated by an AI into starting a revolution and becoming a dictator following an economic collapse. The future as presented in this comic features an anarchist society that is really an AIcracy taking over much of the world using an army of robots and clones. The opposing force mostly uses ordinary people as soldiers but many are cybernetically "upgraded" and one of the characters is an experimental super soldier with nanotechnological enhancements that include a brain-computer interface that allows her to communicate telepathically with other cyborgs and machines. Also many of the wealthy can afford implants that keep them young until their inevitable fatal accident, and AIs are used as advisers by all of the factions (even the fundamentalist Texans). But there is no explanation for why everyone is an animal (aside from the author's drawing skills) and time travel is involved.

Pure by Tiffany Ross: Either a post-apocalyptic world or a lost colony where almost everyone has super powers, most likely not due to genetic engineering but this comic does show something that could happen. You see, people who don't have powers or genius level intelligence are killed at the age of 17, supposedly because their quality of life would be less. The main character is the least favorite son of New America's "Supreme Judge" who helps a "subber" escape into the wastelands after his girlfriend is killed for using cybernetics to hide her lack of natural ability. The author also writes several other comics, at least two of which involve alien races that are actually genetically engineered from humans and use a number of other transhumanist technologies (medical nanites, biological uplift, cybernetics). Alien Dice is a deconstruction of the "mons" genre, and The Cyantian Chronicles are a series of furry comics based around the planet Cyantia.

Dresden Codak by Aaron Diaz: A very odd comic, mostly one-shot comics involving philosophy and/or transhumanism. There is one story arc so far, dealing with time travelers from the other side of the Singularity who claimed that they had barely survived it (in reality the superintelligence had given them all that they needed and a bunch of Luddites had attempted to destroy it), and a Singularitarian roboticist who is one of the few recurring characters. At the bottom of the list due to the general inconsistency and metaphysics.

Oh, and in case you were wondering whether furries could really be made using genetic engineering, GENES ARE NOT LEGOS.

For further information it's a lot quicker to read the TVtropes pages for Freefall, Schlock Mercenary, Umlaut House, S.S.D.D., The Cyantian Chronicles, and Dresden Codak.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why a single system cannot work (aka, why the Democrats would have to be idiots if the conservatives were telling the truth about them)

One of the things that the Right in this country is saying about Health Care reform is that it will abolish private health insurance and require everyone to be on the government's one system. Aside from the fact that the actual bill says that they are only providing an option it would be moronic to force everyone to use the same system (a quick search on wikipedia shows that England and Canada still have private insurance despite most using the public option). People are different, what works for one person won't necessarily work for another.

I have realized this not because of my experience with health insurance (though my family has experienced difficulty getting approved because of my autism, my mother's pituitary, and my brother's wrists), but because of my University's policies on antivirus software. The school provides a variation of Symantec corporate edition free of charge and it seems to work for most people but for some reason it doesn't on my computer (I had it my first semester and I needed to get my computer wiped twice because of the connectivity and start-up problems it caused). But the real problem is that a program called Cisco Clean Access Agent is also required, if your antivirus software is not approved it doesn't let you access the internet, however it ceases to recognize a program that isn't the school provided one after a major update (for example, Norton Internet security going from v.16.5 to v.16.7 over the summer). So I'm going to sign out and watch Babylon 5 before my guest access ends now.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Techlepathy, how cybernetics could assist the mentally disabled

"I don't know what you're thinking Paul, you have to tell me," something I've heard in many of my conversations with my mom, I'm trying to explain something but can't describe it in words. As many of you know I have Asperger's Syndrome, essentially a very high-functioning form of autism, and one of my symptoms is that I find it difficult to put my thoughts into words because many of my thoughts take the form of images or sounds instead of words. During one of my difficult conversations I recalled the Cyberpunk anime Ghost in the Shell, where telepathic communication via neural implants or techlepathy is common.

I began to think that since communication over the internet isn't solely text one with a brain-computer interface could hypothetically send more than just words to others with similar interfaces, but also images of what they are thinking and their emotional states. One of the difficulties that autistics have with communication is a lack of empathy, they cannot pick up other's feelings as easily as neurotypicals can, a BCI or possibly just some sort of wearable computer could help them with that. This could have the disadvantage that autistics with BCIs would only be able to effectively communicate with people who also had BCIs, but if computer technology becomes small enough it might be possible for a worn or implanted computer to host an AI program designed to "interpret" for the user. Unfortunately, we have no idea when any of those technologies will become available, most Cyberpunk takes place in the 2030's or 40's but that is an optimistic guess, if the Singularity happens BCI's will either become necessary for humans to keep up with AI or unnecessary as humanity's biological existence comes to an end.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Singularity, what I think about it.

The Singularity is a common concept in transhumanism, in twenty to thirty years we will create an Artificial Intelligence that is more intelligent than humans and it will create an even more powerful AI and that AI will create an even more powerful AI, and so forth until an entity that is utterly incomprehensible to humans is created and then society changes completely. The branch of transhumanism known as Singularitarianism treats this event, the Singularity, like it was the rapture or something. I think that the Singularity will happen, whether it's in twenty years, a hundred years, or a thousand years, but it is unlikely to benefit humanity. Once a superintelligence forms it will probably seek to expand itself, and humanity will be obsolete, and obsolete hardware gets recycled. I would expect a completely logical superintelligence to break down all life on earth into raw materials, it might upload the consciousnesses of some or all of the destroyed organisms but as you should know I find that unacceptable. Compared to machines organic life is an inefficient collection and storage device, a lot of the solar energy gathered by plants is lost when the plant is consumed by an animal, and even more energy is lost when that animal is eaten by another animal. You can see why a machine would conclude that they are more efficient. Perhaps if we introduced the first human level AIs to Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human they might decide that there is a reason to keep us alive when the Singularity comes.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Why a Robot Revolution is unlikely to happen.

It is a common theme in Hollywood movies, robots rising against their masters and attempting to exterminate humanity. But why would we make laborers smart enough to rebel in the first place? Robots that are no-where near sentient are already used with great effectiveness in manufacturing, and both construction and agriculture make extensive use of machines that could easily be run on autopilot. The only jobs that sentience would be needed for in those fields are design and supervision, which would likely be filled by humans. Essentially the only things that near-sentient automatons could be used for would be personal assistants and millitary. Note that the robots designed for the purposes below could be bioroids instead of completely metal or plastic automatons if biological components turn out to be cheaper.
Japan is currently interested in humanoid robots mostly because of their lack of population growth, so that they can fill the gaps in their workforce caused by the aging population, and to help the increasing proportion of their population that is retired. Assisting an elderly or disabled person might require a significant amount of decision-making, but it is unlikely that human-level intelligence would be necessary. This would probably lead to android companions owned by perfectly healthy people and at least some would probably be Sexbots, so gynoids would probably be more common than androids. The problem is that there would be the potential for abuse of these androids and some manufacturers might make them more intelligent to seem more realistic. If abused androids were able to communicate with one another and able to feel pain they could organize and attempt to get back at their owners, possibly obtaining upgrades to make them more intelligent.
Military robots would be a far greater risk, combat situations often require more problem-solving ability than following a blueprint so robots designed for combat would either have intelligence compareable to a human or be remote controlled by human soldiers. It is inevitable that robots will be used for war as humans don't like to be killed, the problem is that if the robots are smart enough they might decide they don't like being destroyed either. For that reason it might be recommended that robots be designed with something like Isaac Asimov's three laws and only used for non-lethal force, and the only robots designed for lethal force would be teleoperated. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if human soldiers with cybernetic enhancements or power armor saw more use with the military than fully autonomous robots capable of lethal force.
Overall there is little threat of a robotic revolution due to the fact that there simply wouldn't be very many robots with the intelligence to rebel.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dysgenics vs. the Flynn Effect, which is accurate?

Intelligence quotients have largely been proven to be an accurate assessment of cognitive abilities, but there is some disagreement as to whether IQ is hereditary or environmental and whether average IQ is increasing or increasing. Many eugenicists believe that IQ is largely genetic and since people with lower IQs are less likely to use birth control that the percentage of stupid people is increasing (like in Idiocracy), they call this phenomenon a dysgenic event. However there is much more documentation suggesting that average IQ, especially towards the lower end of the scale, is increasing by at least 3 points every 30 years, known as the Flynn effect. It is known that some genes such as FADS2 and CHRM2 have an influence on IQ, but children from lower income families also tend to score lower on IQ tests. Studies seem to show that environment is a bigger influence in lower income families and genetics is a bigger influence in higher income families, in all cases biological siblings show less variation in IQ than adopted ones. Since living conditions tend to be better (or at least more stable) in higher income households this seems to suggest that IQ might be like height, the upper limit is determined by genes but poor living conditions may prevent one from reaching that limit. It is certainly undeniable that nutritional and educational standards have increased (at least in the west) over the past century, which would account for the Flynn effect. But if there is a genetic upper limit the increase should at least be slowing down, which some think is happening in Denmark and some other developed nations.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The difference between Nietzsche and Transhumanism

On a few occasions Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of the Uebermensch (over-human) has been mistakenly identified with the Transhumanist concept of the Posthuman. This mistake largely stems from the following quote from Thus Spoke Zarathustra: "All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment…" While Posthumans could be described as being as far beyond humans as humans are beyond apes or even insects, most transhumanists do not hold the same values as Nietzsche did, in fact many of them seem to prefer something closer to the Last Man than the Uebermensch. The Last Man in Nietzschean philosophy was what Nietzsche believed that European society was currently headed towards instead of the Uebermensch, the Last Man is a weak-willed individual who is tired of life, takes no risks, and seeks only comfort and security, instead of developing new values he embraces nihilism. Whereas the Uebermensch would be almost the exact opposite, one who lives life to the fullest and develops new values to fill the void left by the death of god. Many transhumanists seek a post-scarcity society (no need to work) where people can live as long as they want (free of risks, may result in one getting bored with life). In addition, Singulatarianism is almost a religion, promising escape from this world through the rapture of the singularity, and relief from the suffering of mortal existence by uploading. Those who have been reading here know Nietzsche's attitude on suffering, what you probably don't know is that one of his problems with religion was its denigration of human existence and otherworldliness, which some currents of transhumanism have taken on. This is overall, why I no longer call myself a transhumanist, I have found too many of them to be hopeless idealists or deluded new agers. It probably goes without saying that I would find the Uebermensch a much more preferable future than a post-scarcity society full of Last Men or a relapse into Christo-Buddhist thinking hiding behind the guise of science.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Uplift, Why Do it?

One idea that many transhumanists support is the idea of biological uplift, the possible modification of non-human animals so that they become at least as intelligent as humans. The concept was popularized, and named, by David Brin with his Uplift series of novels, where humanity has not only uplifted Dolphins and Chimpanzees but also discovered that almost every sapient species in the galaxy was uplifted by another species. Brin technically wasn't the first one to come up with the concept, H.G. Wells wrote about beasts vivisected to become men in The Island of Doctor Moreau back in the Victorian era (guess how it ended), in addition the hard sci-fi webcomics Freefall and Schlock Mercenary both involve characters that are genetically engineered animals and the Orion's Arm universe includes both provolves (they couldn't use Uplift for legal reasons) and splices. Now there are a number of transhumanists (such as Abolitionists) that think it is our moral duty to improve the quality of all sentient life, which includes most animals not just humans and maybe extraterrestrials.

But what they are not taking into account is whether animals would want to be uplifted, or even if humanity would have a practical reason to uplift others. Aside from attempting to colonize environments that humans couldn't survive in like in Freefall, I don't see much reason why anyone other than the military/police (and maybe Furry fans) would have a use for a talking animal. Maybe someone will think that society could benefit from having different points of view from multiple species or people will start wanting pets that can hold a conversation with them. But if you do think that non-humans should be uplifted to our level, you should consider whether a species would want to be uplifted. In some cases, such as great apes, it might be possible to simply ask a non-uplifted individual (using sign language or a computer) if they would like their kids to be able to talk like humans or be as smart as one. But for most other species it would be very difficult for them to understand the concept of intelligence and language, uplift would effectively create a completely different species so you might as well just uplift at least a few individuals and ask them what they think. So, if you think uplift sounds like a good idea, think it over a little more.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Defense of Suffering, or a Nietzschean Explanation for the Emo Subculture

This past week, abolitionist David Pearce has been guest blogging on Sentient Developments. For those who don't recall my first posts abolitionism is a current of transhumanism that is devoted to eliminating all suffering in sentient organisms. Pearce's posts have suggested going so far as to alter predatory animals so that they can not inflict pain on their food (probably by making them into herbivores). Anyone who's taken Biology in high school knows that an ecosystem with no carnivores or parasites is unsustainable so I will not comment on that here. I am posting to state why I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that suffering should be eliminated.

In case you haven't read enough of my blog to realise it, I am a fan of the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche, and am probably one of the few transhumanists who admits to it, one of his ideas was the Will to Power, the concept that the most basic instinct of all life was to not only live but to succeed. Related to that concept he speculated that without external challenges for man to strive to overcome, man would turn inwards and become self-destructive. As for his specific ideas on suffering, he didn't state it as so but it can be summed up simply: suffering allows one to appreciate the better parts of life. Which brings me to my hypothesis on the origin of the "emo" subculture, they don't know how good they've got it.

Our general quality of life improves with each generation, it's gotten to the point where many teenagers (who make up the majority of "emos") barely have to do any work outside of school in order to go to college, as opposed to the 19th century when only the upper classes needed that little effort. Without sufficient challenges in life and fairly little suffering to provide perspective they come to feel that their comparatively care-free lives are harsh and cruel, or at least that's what they claim in their ridiculously whiny blogs. Fortunately it's just a stereotype that emo kids cut themselves or commit suicide at a higher than normal rate (and just so you know, the emotional disorders that result in self-cutting and suicide are completely different), but the suicide rate among teenagers is still one of the highest for the Western world. I think that if all high school students were required to spend a week or two living like pre-industrial farmers, the emo subculture would die out in less than a generation.

Abolitionists want to engineer humans and other animals so that they can no longer suffer, they would also have to completely remove the Will to Power for this to work. To me this seems like it would result in what Nietzsche called the Last Man, a weak-willed individual who takes no risks and seeks nothing more than comfort and security, not to mention being incredibly lazy. In order for a society to be able to move forward at least some members of a society would need to retain the Will to Power or some equivalent drive, these Uebermensch need not necessarily be human, they would more likely be posthumans or super intelligent AI (I suspect that this is the role that the Minds in Iain M. Bank's The Culture stories fulfill). I would prefer that all members of society retain their drives to succeed, as it would make life a little more interesting if anyone could at least try to become the leader.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Five Ways to Live Forever

Physical immortality is a common goal of many futurists and transhumanists, for that reason I've written a list of probable ways for one to live at least a very long time.

1. Anti-aging midication: The use of advanced medicine to stave off the effects of aging by rejuvenating mitochondria and lengthening telomeres, as well as reducing wrinkles and holding senility at bay. Would involve the least changes of any of the techniques on this list, but would not be viable over the long term as there are many different effects of aging and the human brain only has enough memory for a couple centuries of experiences at most. Also, it's likely that someone using this form of longevity would require organ transplants every few years.

2. Genetic immortality: Using genetic engineering to design a person born with the effects of anti-aging drugs, unfortunately this is unlikely to happen any time soon and would require a near complete re-design of the human body. In addition making an already fully-developed person immortal this way would require highly advanced nanotechnology, which brings us to the next option.

3. Rejuvenation: Periodically using stem cells and/or nanomachines to repair damage caused by aging and "reset" one's cellular clocks and effectively make them decades younger. May also include memory alteration, one could selectively "delete" certain memories in order to make room for new ones and only keep particularly notable ones.

4. Cyborgization: This method could range from simply hosting permanent nanomachine symbiont's to continuously repair and rejuvenate the body, to replacing almost all of one's biological body with mechanical parts. Machines are noticeably easier to repair than biological systems, and can also increase the amount of physical memory available to a person, eventually as even the brain is replaced this could cross over into Uploading.

5. Mind Uploading: In this option, as I stated in my August 17th post, the data contained in a person's brain is copied onto a different substrate. This does pose some existential problems but if you do accept that the copy is the same person as the original then uploading is the best way to achieve immortality. The other options don't make the person immune to accidents or murder, while a backup copy could be easily made as insurance against those situations. Heck, one could have an implant in their head that could transmit their consciousness to a cloning facility at the exact moment of death and be downloaded into a new body.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On the Prevalence of Asperger's

A comment on my last post reminded me of something, the frequency of autism and Asperger's syndrome being diagnosed has increased greatly over the past century. This might lead some people to believe that these disorders are fairly recent additions to the human genome and are becoming more commonplace. Well, they're not.

Asperger's and autism, or at least the traits associated with those mental states, have been present in the hominid family for millions of years, if anything neurotypicalness is a recent abnormality and autism is the original mental state of humanity. In my opinion the only reason why autism-spectrum disorders are being diagnosed more and more frequently is because psychologists are widening the criteria and getting better at identifying them. Also our population has increased by several orders of magnitude in the last 10 millenia so there are more people in general. In short there have been auties and Aspies since before "neurotypical" humans evolved and it's only recently that Psychology has noticed that some people think differently than others. In addition there are people with "shadow syndromes" that have carried the genes for autism-spectrum disorders during times when people with the full disorders might have been easily noticed and persecuted (like the Middle Ages).

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Lessons You Can Learn From "Idiocracy"

Last night the movie Idiocracy premiered on Comedy Central. In it the Army's most average man is cryogenically frozen in an experiment, and is thawed out 500 years later in a world where he is the smartest man on Earth. Due to natural selection favoring people who don't use birth control and rampant consumerism the average IQ has dropped immensely. Most people seem barely able to read, they water crops with Gatorade (in fact water is just used in toilets), the landscape is a giant dust bowl covered with mountains of trash, and they spend their days watching pornos and "Oh, My Balls!" (a show consisting solely of a guy suffering groin injuries). Also Joe was ridiculed for being reasonable and "talking like a girl", up until they realized he was right about water being needed for plants and elected him president.

The scary thing is that this could actually happen, I know this sounds classist but people who have higher IQs and are better off tend not to reproduce as much as people who have lower IQs and are worse off. I'm sure you've noticed that lower class people tend to have more kids than upper and middle class people, largely due to the use of birth control. And I know how offensive it sounds but higher class people tend to be smarter than lower class people, unless they just inherited their wealth of course. Unfortunately there is no politically correct solution to this problem, eugenics has been just out of the question since the Holocaust and encouraging people with higher than average IQs to have more kids won't be enough. We could require mandatory genetic manipulation of all human embryos but that isn't technologically feasible yet and some will inevitably slip through the cracks (plus fundamentalists are unlikely to let it happen). Frankly the best thing we can do is encourage people with high IQs to donate sperm or eggs and use them exclusively for fertility treatments. Oh, wait, it's mostly upper and middle class people who can afford fertility treatments, we're screwed.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Transhumanism and the Third Frontier

For my Anthropology 101 class I was required to read an excerpt from Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods about American culture's changing relationship with nature. This particular chapter was about what he called the third frontier.

Basically, he stated that America has gone through two frontiers and each one changed how we interacted with nature, from direct utilitarianism during the first, to romantic attachment during the second, and now intellectual detachment during the third. He attributed the third frontier mainly to the rise of urbanism and suburbia, but that wasn't what intrigued me, it was the role of technology in this new frontier. As people become less personally attached to nature but know more about it, biotechnology is blurring the lines between humans and animals, and life-forms and machines. At least that is what he said.

Personally, I don't see why he's so concerned. So what if people have less of a connection to nature, it's because we are able to create our own environments and are reducing our need for nature every year. In a few decades it's likely that people will start living in arcologies, artificial ecologies/self-contained cities that will be even more isolated from nature than modern cities, and in a couple centuries we'll have colonies in outer space. As for the supposed lines dividing humanity from animals and machines, what lines? Humanity is nothing special really, we're just really smart social animals capable of using tools, if, for example wolves had hands and more complex brains they might have done what we have. Also organisms are really just complex chemical machines, why not improve them with silicon and metal, or vice-versa.