Abstract – Rationalism, Transhumanism and the Technological Singularity – Meredith Doig

At first reading, these concepts sound far-fetched and somewhat ‘out of this world’.  But as rationalists, we have an obligation to keep an open mind to new ideas and to evaluate them on their merits.  Are these ideas just wacky or are they the extrapolation of a particular line of scientific research?  And if the latter, what moral implications are there?
The Rationalist Society is in favour of science and evidence, as opposed to superstition and bigotry. When Transhumanism hits the general public, what sort of moral support and moral opposition might be encountered?  If it looks as though the Singularity is really about to happen, what sort of public mood is likely to be encountered?

This discussion will raise issues of rational evaluation of Transhumanism and the Technological Singularity, and the implications for those in the H+ and Singularity ‘communities of interest’ if these ideas really hit the public consciousness.

Lev Lafayette

Lev Lafayette is a sociologist by profession, a systems administrator by vocation and a old-school gamer for recreation. He is a doctoral candidate at the Ashworth Centre for Social Theory at the the University of Melbourne with a thesis entitled “A Social Theory of the Internet”, as well as being an MBA (Technology) student at the Chifley Business School, and is an honours graduate from Murdoch University in Politics, Philosophy and Sociology.

He works at the Victorian Partnership for Advanced Computing (VPAC), a registered research agency specialising established by a consortium of universities. He has worked for the Parliament of Victoria as a database administrator and trainer, and for East Timor’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as their ICT Advisor in their first year of independence. He is the public officer Linux Users Victoria, and founding president of the Isocracy Network.

Lev presented at the Singularity Summit AU in 2010.

Social Formations in a Transhumanist World

A theoretical analysis of social formations assigns qualitative differences to social structures in socio-historical structures and in terms of individual development along formal pragmatics and action, differentiating between social systems and cultural lifeworlds. In the former, broad social formations (primitive, traditional and modern), correlated with means of communication (speech, writing, print), means of production (gathering, agriculture, industry), institutional means (kinship, the state, the corporation), systematic differentiation (kinship, political rank, economic class) and a mode of consciousness (mythic, religious, secular). In the latter, biological evolution of the self (infancy, early childhood, late childhood, adolescence and adulthood) correlates with neurological and social development of the person along cognitive, moral, identity and expressive dimensions.
Positing a technological self-transformation of the species through genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, prosthetics and animal uplifting, or a combination thereof, will also witness changes in cultural mores and social systems. Speculation on the social structural content of a transhuman, post-modern social formation poses some difficulty, due to ontological differences. Nevertheless expressions can be made based on elaborations of best current knowledge which suggest qualitative changes of thought-transference, information economics, collegial management of economic rent, and a universalistic mode of consciousness, challenged by the cognitive capability to adapt mature thought with an accelerated growth phase. The probable postmodern social formation of transhuman life has strong collectivist and environmentalist orientations which may be contrary to the desires of many of its advocates.

I’m just going to back-up my brain – Article in local MX newspaper

I'm just going to backup by brain
Click for larger picture
Another media appearance for techno-progressive related ideas. “I’m just going to back-up my brain” was the title of the article found in the mX newspaper, which reaches over 310,000* people in Sydney*, 307,000 people in Melbourne and 112,000* people in Brisbane every afternoon. * Panorama National Survey (July 2009 – june 2010) Survey 5

People will be able to back-up the human brain, including all the memories it contains, within the next two decades, a leading scientist has claimed. Award-winning futurist Raymond Kurzweil, 62, told 500 guests at a sponsored ‘‘future talk’’ event in Vienna, Austria, the human brain back-up was already technically possible.
‘‘I believe that within the next 20 years we will have thousands of nanobot computer machines in our blood that will heal our bodies, improve our performance, and even be able to back-up all the contents of our brains, just as you back-up your files on a computer,’’ he said.
‘‘That means they would back-up every thought, every experience, everything that makes us an individual.
‘‘It may sound far-fetched, but in the early 1980s, people thought I was crazy for predicting the emergence of the world-wide web by the middle of the 1990s. But it happened, and on the schedule I predicted.’’

At the age of 15, Kurzweil created a program that could re-create music in the style of the great composers, which earned him a visit to the White House and an interview with then US President Lyndon B. Johnson. He also built the first machine that could read written speech for the blind for musician Stevie Wonder – for whom he also later made a revolutionary musical synthesizer capable of re-creating real instruments. Kurzweil has 19 honorary doctorates and advises governments, scientists, military and business people across the world and is currently working with Google on a project about how to solve the world’s energy problems.

*Thanks to Stuart Dobson for the heads up!

P.s. if anyone knows of any other media coverage on related subjects, please let us know!

60 Minutes Mini Documentary on the Singularity University

Spend the next 15 minutes watching a 60 Minutes documentary with reporter reporter Rod Vaughan who visits the Singularity University,” a university unlike any other”. It is a great introduction to future possibilities. And it is great to watch these concepts weave their way into mainstream.


Singularity University on 60 Minutes New Zealand from Luke Hutchison on Vimeo.

Nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, the main aim of the curriculum is to develop the technology of the future, which includes a way to download the contents of an individual’s brain to a computer.

For the last two years the university has nurtured a carefully hand-picked group of graduates. And among those brightest minds are two brothers from Auckland – Luke and David Hutchison.

I really like the animations. Looking at creating a documentary myself, and have approached a few people about doing some medical/scientific style animations, but costs are prohibitive.