Biotechnology

Singularity Occurs As Unsuspecting Transhumanists Attend Conference At Nearby Office Park

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Post-hensile humans prepare to say goodbye to the pre-accelerando world.

The 2009 "Humanity+ Summit" kicked off this morning to a sellout crowd and an overflowing conference room.

Empathy is in the air this year, with tachyons of fellow feeling racing across the conference space—the graciously provided offices of Eon Reality in sunny Irvine, California— and embedded nanobots of the milk of human kindness busily recalibrating the hedonic processing centers of seemingly all the transhumanists.

David Pearce recalibrates the hedonic treadmill.

Negative utilitarian philosopher David Pearce, for example, seen at right with Galactus the devourer of worlds, calls for empathy as the building block of a future in which suffering has been abolished.

Yesterday, this correspondent stank up the joint during a Q&A session at the "Biopolitics and Popular Culture Seminar" by asserting that empathy for a robot that gets kicked is wasted empathy, no matter how much pathos the robot's reaction evokes. Annalee Newitz, unflappable imperatrix of the great Io9 blog, put me in my place by pointing out that empathy is not a zero-sum emotion: You can apparently feel sorry for the steel and the hand that wields it. So go ahead and weep for that discarded lamp.

These people are not waiting for the restrooms. The conference room is packed to overflowing.

All the empathy talk may seem surprising. This is a crowd that inclines more toward family-outliving extreme life spans; long, lonely cryofreezes; and at best a sort of hive-mind feeling for their fellow meat packages. (In fact, the transhumanists' confidence in a collaboratively filtered fourth wave of collective intellect makes them a refreshing break from libertarians. Several speakers have already called for an end to selfishness, if not self-consiousness, on the path toward a better life under a post-mammalian queen bee. Where do I plug in?) I don't know whether we're talking about a general quality of mercy that droppeth down to the third ventricle of every post-human heart, or if "empathy" is just code for giving equal rights to the scientifically augmented or differently socialized.  

For my money, the best show of the day has been University of California, Santa Barbara's Joann Kuchera-Morin's CG-powered presentation "Using the Creative Process to Map N-Dimensions: Quantum Information at your Fingertips," during which stunned audience members were able to see giant carbon atoms and hear the actual sound of electrons. You too may be able to hear the sound of electrons by turning to the "Soundscapes" Music Choice channel, available in the 900s with most cable packages. You can watch live webcast of the conference here.

We can all agree that Ron Bailey defecates better transhumanism coverage than I can ever hope to produce, and I appreciate your patience with my humble efforts. If all goes well, I hope to bring you an extended-lifetime achievement award, Fashion Catastrophes®, and a Miss Congeniality prize later this weekend.

NEXT: We-Don't-Want-To-Talk-About-It-Gate

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  1. While I agree that libertarian discussions can become tediously earnest and repetitive, these transhumanists and singularity freaks a just lunatics. Sure the future will be different, and in ways that we can’t predict, but will it be Eden? These guys are completely credulous.

    1. Lunatics, perhaps, but a not-insignificant part of me suspects that they are probably right.

  2. Call me when I can fly and leap over buildings.

  3. I overdosed on ‘nerd’ by the 4th paragraph.

  4. My whole problem is, how can you try to transcend nature without just ending up more human than human?

      1. I think you mean Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott. That entire song lyric was made up of quotes from Bladerunner.

        1. That’s cool. It makes sense because Rob Zombie is a cinema fanatic.

  5. That was Metallica’s dilemma as well.

  6. “during which stunned audience members were able to see giant carbon atoms and hear the actual sound of electrons”

    This clueless rube plays with scientific metaphors but real science is, to quote Chaucer, “to hire unknowe.” What the hell is a giant carbon “atom”? And what does it mean to say the “actual sound of electrons”. Why not listen to the sound of actual air? Oh, right, it sounds less sciency.

    Why don’t we get more articles about something really important, like the pinheads at the Ponds Institute who study the Science of Silkience or the grease studies from Dermatological Review Panel. There’s a lot more entertaining BS than Transhumanists or Singularists, try the Rosicrucians for example, or Free Masonry.

    1. Joann Morin’s “sound” of carbon atoms has a hell of a lot more merit than you are giving it. I’ve personally had the pleasure of seeing it in action, at UCSB’s Allosphere. In the particular scenario I saw, it was human neurons and their vibrating noise: All data was collected from a state-of-the-art fMRI.

      1. These people make art not science. What I object to, and very strongly, is the arrogation of some sort of scientific validity for what they do.

        From the web site:

        The H+ Summit (Organized by Humanity +) is a two day, interactive event that will explore how humanity will be radically changed by technology in the (possibly quite near) future.. Over 30 visionary speakers will explore how to enhance your body, mind, life, and world…

        So they are not performing at some music festival or art show but at the Humanity+Summit, which is very grand but leaves no question that they want to appear ‘sciencey’.

        But how well do they understand technology? What understanding of quantum mechanics do you suppose was required to create the piece entitled “Using the Creative Process to Map N-Dimensions: Quantum Information at your Fingertips” by a composer with a Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music?

        This is all just word magic. They don’t dismiss science, they embrace it. They think that they’re a bit smarter than the general run of modern artists and style themselves as a group of cutting edge researchers who are contributing to science. In reality, they are just ill-informed kibitzers. Liberal Arts graduates without the anti-science anti-tech attitude.

        Here’s an example that might make the point: in an interview the actor Amanda Tapping, who played Colonel Samantha Carter on the Sci-Fi series Stargate SG-1, once said that she considered herself to be a physicist because she really had to understand the physics of wormholes in order to pretend to be a physicist on TV. IMO this bit of idiocy is no more blatant than that of the transhumanists.

        1. “But how well do they understand technology? What understanding of quantum mechanics do you suppose was required to create the piece entitled “Using the Creative Process to Map N-Dimensions: Quantum Information at your Fingertips” by a composer with a Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music? ”

          Umm, I’d say the same level of understanding possessed by researchers at the University of California where the facility was built in. Care to argue with them?

          Run a search on google for “Allosphere”, the name of the instrument this lady helped build. You’d be hard pressed to call that an art “piece”… it’s nothing less than a full-on research facility.

  7. As I look around at the libertarian scene, I think I see a strong correlation between libertarianism and a rather different subcategory of transhumanism than what that conference represents. Many libertarians are atheists, but some are attracted to the mystical, world-denying, quasi-Hindu or -Buddhist type of spirituality. For example, I’ve noticed that Reason.tv’s own Drew Carey is a student of A Course in Miracles, and so am I. ACIM is effectively a redefinition of Christianity in mystical terms (i.e. this world is an illusion in which we merely dream of having separate egos within separate bodies). Although the rationale and proposed methods are different from those of that conference, it’s still another effort to transcend the limits of the human condition.

    So, are we libertarians greedy for liberation from all restraints, be they political, physical, or metaphysical? It’s an idle sociological question of mine.

  8. a redefinition of Christianity in mystical terms (i.e. this world is an illusion in which we merely dream of having separate egos within separate bodies)

    So, you’re basically Christian Scientists.

    Wake up and smell the reality – you’re living in it.

    1. Dreams usually seem real — until you wake up. I’m just saying.

      1. No, Morpheus tells you that you’ve felt something was wrong with the world.

        1. Are you telling Brian he can dodge bullets? Because when he’s ready, he won’t have to.

          1. Brian knows what you are trying to do, Epi. Free his mind.

      2. Not if you dream in cartoon.

        Yes I know. I have issues.

      3. Then just kill yourself so you can end the dream. That way, we won’t have to deal with your senseless babble about “a greater being.”

        Whether a “god” exists or not is not worth debating. Why even bring this kind of bullshit up? Nothing can be gained by either side of the argument.

        My theory is that self-indulgent assholes that bring god up want to convert you to their collectivist ways. Otherwise, they’d realize there’s never a point in discussing it.

  9. Empathy is in the air this year, with tachyons of fellow feeling racing across the conference space — the graciously provided offices of Eon Reality in sunny Irvine, California — and embedded nanobots of the milk of human kindness busily recalibrating the hedonic processing centers of seemingly all the transhumanists.

    What?

    Why do i have to root through Tim’s articles to try and find combinations of words that have any sence to them?

    Where the fuck is Matt?

    Hey welch! Be an editor and tell Tim to write his articles using the English language…not just randomizing words and phrases cut and pasted from Neuromancer.

    1. it’s not your fault you hate creativity, josh. it’s probably your parents’ fault.

      1. “Tachyons of fellow feeling”, huh? Someone put acid in TC’s drink, I’m assuming.

        1. That or he’s been reading Dan Simmons novels again.

      2. rewriting “Naked Lunch” badly is not creativity.

        1. there’s a distinct lack of sodomy in most of cavanaugh’s writing – to his discredit – and i’ve not noticed any extended routines on hangings.

          to be fair we should find out what he calls the counterman at nedick’s.

    2. Quibble with the choice of topics, but I think Cavanaugh is a great writer.

    3. I agree. I felt like I was trying to make a sentence out of shit while reading this article.

      Creativity is good; butchering the english language is bad.

  10. I have absolutely no fucking idea what I just read.

    1. JLM, “I have absolutely no fucking idea what I just read.”

      ME Too. That’s why I like it. It’s called thinking.

  11. that’s what happens when you hang out with futurists: you speak in tongues and cease making sense in your native language. Tim’s been infected.
    remember folks, the future is…… now?

  12. i’m apparently too stupid to understand…

    1. I often have that problem.

      1. good to know. i felt so alone… and cold.

  13. I can’t tell what Kuchera-Morin might have been talking about, but there has been a lot of work on using senses other than sight for molecular modelling.

    An important early system, using haptic (touch) feedback was developed by Ming Ouh-young as part of Fred Brooks’s Project Grope.

    Also, what is a libertarian trans humanist? Deirdre McCloskey?

  14. I can’t tell what Kuchera-Morin might have been talking about, but there has been a lot of work on using senses other than sight for molecular modelling.

    An important early system, using haptic (touch) feedback was developed by Ming Ouh-young as part of Fred Brooks’s Project Grope.

    Also, what is a libertarian trans humanist? Deirdre McCloskey?

    1. Haptic feedback could be more intuitive in a way.

  15. The 2009 “Humanity+ Summit” kicked off this morning to a sellout crowd and an overflowing conference room.

    Hopefully, they had a funky neon sign–like this.

    1. elizabeth montgomery was allot hotter in b&w.

        1. I would allot that your change in feelings for Elizabeth was due to you being a lot younger.

          1. She had nothing on Jeannie .

            1. Cousin Serena in Bewitched was the best.

              1. cousin serena was also e montgomery.

                1. WHAT? Next you are going to tell me that Rock Hudson was gay.

                  1. don’t know how happy he was, but he liked it in the ass…

  16. If you try ROT-13 on the article it makes much more sense.

  17. I could practice my gobbledegookery for years and I still be no match for the great Natasha Vita-More, who is up there now talking about “Distributed identities … The inherent next step of human is matter in motion … This is a motion movement that we’re in …of course, the metaverse … how our old self will compete with our new self, and how that will lead to an optimal neo-normal … how do we become optimal neo-normal? I’ve been thinking a lot about normalicy … approaching some history in the evolution of the human, and bringing in some transhumanist augmentation, which brings in reproduction…”

    She’s the best, I tells ya!

    1. Don’t sell yourself short, Tim. You are a master of the gobbledegookery in your own right.

    2. Business meeting for geeks.

      Same silly yapping.

  18. Twenty years from now, I predict that computers will be twice as powerful, seven times larger, and so expensive only the wealthiest kings and queens of Europe will be able to afford them!

  19. All I want to do is fly and jump over buildings.

    Maybe eat White Castle without having my ass explode, that would be nice.

  20. Isn’t transhumanism the religion of libertarians, just like Gaianism is the religion of the left?

    1. Isn’t trolling the religion of the tards?

      1. Good call, 2999.

      2. Don’t blaspheme the ur-Kobold. I suggest you read the gospel of Dan T before you embarrass yourself further.

    2. One day I will be super smart and super good looking and can kick super ass…

      just like everyone else.

    3. transhumanists? gaiaists? should civilisation come to an end, I won’t bother to tell the difference between them when I’m taking their stuff…

  21. Oh wow dude, now that looks like a LOT of fun!

    RT
    http://www.be-invisible.ua.tc

    1. I will end you.

  22. “Living in today’s complex world of the future is a little like having bees live in your head. But, there they are.”

  23. NERDS

    1. :::swivels head around suddenly:::

      Where!?

    2. A Revenge of the Nerds joke? Really? Really freak me out and do a Short Circuit joke. NUMBER 5 IS ALIVE

      I think Steve Guttenberg needs a Travolta/Pulp Fiction level career resurgence.

      1. HELP ME RHONDA HELP HELP ME RHONDA HELP ME RHONDA HELP HELP ME RHONDA . . .

      2. Guttenberg is the anon bot, Epi. I thought you knew that.

        1. Impossible. Not nearly enough Police Academy quotes.

          1. There is a consensus, Epi. Get with the program. What are you? Some kind of denier? Denialist!

            1. Sleeping Denialism is for fags, Naga.

      3. You know what many people are liking? Headlights!

  24. “…their fellow meat packages.”

    Louis-Ferdinand Celine called humans, “sacks of lukewarm, rotting meat.” Incidentally, he was both the ultimate individualist and very empathetic (though a bit of an asshole), proving that these qualities are not mutually exclusive.

    1. How empathic in relation to Jews? He was a nutcase and a monster, and a too highly regarded writer.

  25. Can we vote California out of the Union now, please?

  26. Satire, certainly.

  27. …empathy for a robot that gets kicked is wasted empathy, no matter how much pathos the robot’s reaction evokes.

    This sentence is hilarious. I’m imagining a robot lying on the ground, kicking its legs pathetically and emitting a synthesized wailing sound.

    1. And me with this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side.

  28. All I want to know is when can I get my prehensile tail? ‘Cause you know that would be awesome.

    Also, it’s like a necktie for your butt.

  29. Yadaa Yadaa on the column. write as if you wanted to reach everyone, and inform, not expand your ego with clever phrases.

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