How Biohacking, Body Modification, and 3D Printing Will Change the World

Q&A with futurists R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell.


This story was first published on March 11, 2015. Here's the original writeup:

"One of the reason that the authorities tend to be anxious about the future is that things are, in a sense, getting out of control," says Jay Cornell, co-author of the new book The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity.

Reason TV interviewed Cornell and co-author R.U. Sirius, who both worked as editors of the transhumanist/futurist magazine h+. They discussed the future of of biohacking, body modification, and the effects that decentralizing technologies such as 3-D printing will have on the future of scientific innovation in America.

Approximately 7 minutes. Interview by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Justin Monticello. Music by Lee Rosevere and Psilopat.

NEXT: Peter Suderman: The History of Science Fiction Robots

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Seven minutes to see if someone self-named R.U. Serious is worth listening to? Not me.

    1. Actually….i seem to remember this guy being kind of a ‘thing’ back like 20 years ago. He was ‘cyber’ before there was an internet. A ‘futurist’? something like that.

      “Sirius appeared in the films Synthetic Pleasures (1995) and Conceiving Ada (1997). His mid-1990s techno-rock band Mondo Vanilli recorded an unreleased CD titled IOU Babe for Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records.[citation needed] The music was available on the internet for several years and is currently available on bandcamp [3].

      Sirius has been a speaker at many events, such as the Starwood Festival[4]. He delivered the Keynote address for the Virtual Reality conference, Oslo VR, in 1994″

      1. IOU Babe for Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records is a better title than the citation challenged reality.

        1. Who are you????

          1. Well, since I am using this handle because of possible tech support issues, I am not myself anymore, apparently.

      2. GILMORE|3.14.15 @ 7:31PM|#
        “Actually….i seem to remember this guy being kind of a ‘thing’ back like 20 years ago. He was ‘cyber’ before there was an internet.”

        Yeah, that rings a bell, but I’m still not wading through 7 minutes of vid to see if there’s anything there.
        Remember Sun Ra? I got talked into attending one of his concerts at the Palace of Fine Arts since he was ‘edgy’ or whatever the term was at the time (’70s – yeah, I’m an old fart). I lasted ~15 minutes to see if it was going to turn into anything worth listening to; off to dinner at Marina Joe’s.

        1. I recall in the early 90 when he was an editor at a artsy future science magazine named Mondo 2000. They were based in San Francisco, where I was also involved in a different magazine at the time. I ran into Sirius once in awhile at industry happy hours. I remember better Mondo’s hot production lady, she shot me down when I asked her out.

    2. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do

  2. There are always feedback loops. If someone genetically creates a “super smallpox or super ebola in their garage”, I’m going to guess that by that time, it’ll be just as easy to create a super smallpox or super ebola anti-virus.

    1. “Super” smallpox or Ebola is already a retarded idea. They’re actually already sort of “super” when it comes to pathogens, considering that they affect a much larger percentage of the population and have a much higher mortality rate than most other pathogens. And there’s a reason for that: human genetic variation just makes it extremely difficult for there to be any kind of “super bug”. So pants-shitting, progress-retarding fears about such things are just that: pants-shitting fears. The instant you hear someone bring that up to oppose new technologies, feel safe in dismissing them as morons.

      1. I don’t know Epi. I saw “I am legend” and I’m not sure if I want to try to bang a mannequin. Although Andrew McCarthy seemed to enjoy it. I’ll have to think on it.

        1. Hey man, if the mannequin looks like a young Kim Cattrall, it’s something to consider.

          Gracie: I’d go with you but…

          Jack Burton: I know, there’s a problem with your face.

          1. I’ve never seen “big trouble in little China”. I’ll add it to the que.

            1. Seriously? Oh, you are in for a treat. And don’t tell me you haven’t seen The Thing.

              1. I was 1 year old when “the thing” came out, so I missed it. I’ll check it too. I love 80’s movies.

                1. Episiarch is an old man.

                  1. Not exactly a man anymore. More of a thing, a hatful evil thing.

                2. That’s no excuse Florida Man, I was like negative eight when it came out and I still love that movie.

                  1. Why do you have such an old name? I thought you were in your 50s.

                    1. Sumthin, sumthin…pot…kettle.

                    2. Sumthin, sumthin…pot…kettle.

                    3. Haven’t done that in a while.

      2. Why assume that any natural organism is already optimum? If people can create GMO crops that are heartier, etc., why couldn’t the same thing be done with a pathogen? Or modify a pathogen to cause it to remain non-symptomatic for a long time? Anything can infect more people if it has a longer period during which it is contagious but not symptomatic.

        Yes, human genetic variation would probably make it very difficult to create something that killed 100% of those infected, but it doesn’t have to be 100% to be very bad.

        The authors are obviously not simply “opposing new technologies.” They worked at a very pro-technology magazine. They are just trying to be even-handed and point out potential upsides and potential downsides. And of course recorded interviews are usually edited, so who knows what else they said beyond those seven minutes.

        1. “Optimum” is not a word that even makes sense here. GMO crops are given specific traits to help them be more useful to humans in a variety of ways, but these are not “optimizations” but rather human-interest-specific enhancements like increased Vitamin A levels or resistance to certain pests, etc. You’re talking about trying to make a pathogen more…lethal? Faster-acting? Slower-acting? These are not “optimizations”, they would be human-interest-specific enhancements that would only be of interest to a mad scientist or psychopath.

          But nature is also a mad scientist, and it produces potentially “enhanced” variants of pathogens literally every day (this is how they become antibiotic resistant, etc). If there were variants on smallpox that could occur that were super-lethal, etc, we probably would have seen them by now. The reason we haven’t is that almost nothing, especially something bacterial/viral, is capable of being lethal to a higher percentage of the population than we’ve seen, so attempting to create one is probably going to be fruitless. And that’s because of genetic variation in humans.

          The reason the government uses known, existing pathogens for its biological warfare programs is because engineering a better one isn’t very feasible. I mean, has there ever been, in all of recorded history, a plague that took out more than ~35% of the population affected (the ranges for the Black Death were 30-60% of Europe but I’m always skeptical of the higher ranges of these)?

          1. These are not “optimizations”, they would be human-interest-specific enhancements that would only be of interest to a mad scientist or psychopath.

            That’s the point. I didn’t mean optimum from the point of view of humanity or the organism or evolution, but from the terrorist/psychopath point of view. I’m no expert, but it seems like common sense that smallpox and Ebola have weak points like any other organism: e.g Ebola can’t survive on exposed surfaces for long. But genetic engineering can fix weak points, so why not those?

            And genetic variation cuts both ways. Some pathogens already target specific genetic factors, so why couldn’t one be engineered that way, and target Jews or blacks or whites or men or whatever? Yes, it might not be 100% perfect, but it wouldn’t have to be in order to be pretty bad.

            Yes, biowarfare research always started with existing pathogens, AFAIK. But didn’t it involve selecting the “best” strains, breeding and refining them? Again, that’s the point: there seems to be no inherent reason why GMO techniques can’t apply to pathogens, and as the technology becomes cheaper and the knowledge more widespread, it becomes more likely that some nut is going to try something in his basement.

            1. “But genetic engineering can fix weak points, so why not those?”
              Maybe, but it may require compromise elsewhere. It is “engineering”.

          2. a plague that took out more than ~35% of the population affected

            The Columbian Exchange has some pretty massive death estimates for New World natives in regards to diseases like smallpox, I’ve seen figures between 70 and 90% over a hundred year period. Of course, that was due to natives lacking acquired immunity.

            1. Pretty sure those estimates have been questioned, although I don’t know where to look right now.

              1. 1491 by Charles Mann was pretty convincing about the first explorers of North America finding a great many large villages, and within a few decades, the villages were empty.

    2. There are always feedback loops. If someone genetically creates a “super smallpox or super ebola in their garage”, I’m going to guess that by that time, it’ll be just as easy to create a super smallpox or super ebola anti-virus.

      This is a core principle for those of us who abhor government control of these technologies.

      *Secrecy* is a far greater threat than openness.

      Just look at computer security – security through obscurity just doesn’t work. What does work is openness where thousands, millions, of people can test your software for vulnerabilities, cross-post findings and posit solutions.

      Or take a look at our national security apparatus – secrecy leads to unaccountability and known exploits are left in existence because there’s no-one to take the security managers to task.

  3. I’m loving the Dr. Oz ads on the sidebar. You know me too well, Reason.

    1. I’m getting an ad for a Nissan Titan. *looks uncomfortably at playa* I’m going to go hang some sheet rock now.

        1. It’s in the social contract.

      1. That’s not unreasonable. You buy a nissan, you get a car. Buy Dr. Oz shit, and you’re not getting real medicine.

        The ads think I’m stupid or something.

        1. If I could get my wife to stop watching that douchebag’s show I would consider it a minor victory.

          There are two things I’ve taken away from the times I’ve seen it 1. He’s a bit of a poop fetishist and 2. His prop department has mad skills. The things they make to illustrate whatever point he is making are almost always amazing.

          1. It’s remarkable. If I needed open heart surgery, I would trust him to do it. Anything thing else, and he’s just crazy or a liar (I’m not sure which).

            A highschool classmate of mine took his weight loss supplements, and within a week, she was in the hospital with liver failure. She almost died, and a transplant saved her life. His legal representatives showed up in the hospital where she had the transplant. They made a lowball offer, and luckily, her dad was there (a civil trial attorney) to tell them to fuck off.

            Oz must have a huge gambling or drug problem to do what he’s doing. He is a very highly respected heart surgeon, and for some reason, he’s selling snake oil in the back of magazines.

            1. How many “secret” berries are out there anyway? And the number of “it just takes five minutes a day to ____” is mindboggling. No one has time for that shit.

              His show and the insistence that if you perform these easy things you’ll get whatever reminds me of when I first encountered a Shaklee family (Shaklee is an early MLM scheme featuring “wellness” products.) Their poor kid had to swallow about thirty supplements a day.

              I had known this family for a few years prior and so it was a shock when this shit started. Their kid went from normal to a hyper-frantic bully in just about a year. I don’t know if there was a connection to his behavior change and the supplements but I would not be surprised.

              1. Uh. I hope he at least has a side piece.

                1. Have to admit, I didn’t know WIW the guy is. Got it.

  4. I want to add tentacles so I can be the world’s first practitioner of Hentai Chi.

    1. Okey dokey.

      1. I see you don’t like ballet, you uncultured swine.

        1. My MIL tries to get me to go to the nut cracker every X-mas, I’m proud to say I’m still ballet free.

          1. I’ve engaged in sexual relations with a ballerina. I do my part to support the arts.

            1. Pl?ya Manhattan.|3.14.15 @ 4:38PM|#
              “I’ve engaged in sexual relations with a ballerina.”

              They’re not paid for intelligence or boobs.

          2. An ex-girlfriend was a ballerina when she was younger.

            She hated The Nutcracker and wanted nothing to do with it. She danced in it, playing the part of a snowflake, every Christmas when she was a ballerina.

            1. I dated a couple of ballerinas. Talk about mad skills.

              1. I am married to a ballet teacher literally half my age.

                The downside is that I can never get out of bed thinking that I “tore that shit up”.

                The upside is everything else that involves being married to someone who loves you.

    2. He’s probably just enjoying this heat wave at his dacha.

      I’ll keep the page up on one of the big screens in my war room just in case.

      1. We can reboot him.

        1. We can make him more expensive than he was.

      2. I don’t know why they are bothering. I was a fan of the show as a kid but it holds no nostalgia value.

        I’ve never heard anyone in my generation talking about it in some wistful way. And anyone younger will have never heard of it as for some reason it didn’t have the same kind of syndication success that other shows did.

        So who is the market for this reboot? Or is this part of “we’ve run out of ideas and we have to produce something” mentality that’s taken over Hollywood?

        Apparently the books the show was based off of were much darker than the show so maybe they’re going back to the source material. That might work.

        1. hey its a story about a guy working of a governmet imposed debt for lifesaving treatmnts he didnt ask for libertopia ftw!!

        2. Hey at least they’re not doing The Fall Guy.

    1. I’ll be happy when they finish shooting all of the Marvel movies.

  5. I’ve been saying for years that the future of humanity will be a melding of man and machine. Think what could be accomplished by implanting an upgradable computer in the brain using organic material as an energy source. “Telepathy”, learn by downloading information directly, control machines wirelessly through thought…

    Sign me up.

    1. “Titanium Penis”

      1. I shall name it Cyclops!

      2. I shall name it Cyclops!

        1. So nice you named it twice?

          1. He’s got two. Biotech marches on!

            1. Some girls are into that.

    2. Spam.

      In your mind.

      Or imagine your eyesight being locked by a version of Cryptolocker.

      1. I’m quite certain it would be designed so you could always turn it off.

    3. I strongly suspect that learning by downloading will be close to impossible. It’s trivial to access and update all of the information stores we’ve invented (ok, clay tablets and stone carvings aside), but the way the brain stores information is so radically different that I suspect we’ll never be able to just overwrite/re-write it with the type of precision and accuracy needed.

      Bulk erasing (no, not something involving metal moving at high speed) seems to be a different matter, but that’s not what you mentioned.

      1. NotAnotherSkippy|3.14.15 @ 10:50PM|#
        “I strongly suspect that learning by downloading will be close to impossible. It’s trivial to access and update all of the information stores we’ve invented (ok, clay tablets and stone carvings aside), but the way the brain stores information is so radically different that I suspect we’ll never be able to just overwrite/re-write it with the type of precision and accuracy needed.”

        ‘Taxonomy is the bane of mankind!’
        But it’s also the method by which mankind progresses. And computer-stored taxonomy is a product of mankind.
        I’m uncertain, wondering if there isn’t a synthesis between the organic taxonomy and the ‘mechanical’.
        But just to limit the argument, I still see no true AI derived from algorithms.

  6. Well, I’m headed out, but before I go, there are two articles I found interesting.

    1. Theodore Dalrymple’s view of the New York Times is awesome.

    This is to writing what T-shirts are to dress: sloppy and inelegant. The style is not always the man himself, but it sometimes is.

    Please share this article by using the link below. When you cut and paste an article, Taki’s Magazine misses out on traffic, and our writers don’t get paid for their work.

    However, one does not expect elegance of the New York Times, a journal that somehow manages to combine the utmost dullness and earnestness with frivolity, and whose front page resembles a particularly verbose Victorian tombstone.

    2. Matt Groening and friend are idiots.

    “You think L.A. is Hell, this awful place of corruption and anti-creativity, and when I look at Wisconsin?”

    “It’s its own kind of Hell,” Barry said. She described it as “colder than Scott Walker’s tit.” She went on, “When I look at your place in Malibu, and you can see the ocean, I just think, I’d rather die than live here.”

    I’m surprised progressives don’t immediately boo, hiss, and make the sign of the cross when Scott Walker’s name is mentioned. They might as well.

    1. Fuckin’ Wisconsin milksops, you come up here to northern Ontario and I’ll show you what cold is. Cold is having your anti-freeze literally freeze. Cold is wearin’ this with pride. Cold is turnin’ your front lawn into your beer fridge. You think Walker’s tits are cold, you ain’t never seen Katherine Wynne’s. And thank God for that.

      1. “John Titor|2015/03/14 19:27:18|#5155410

        Fuckin’ Wisconsin milksops, you come up here to northern Ontario…”

        “That’s not a knife”

    2. This is my favorite passage. It kind of hits me right there, you know, right there. Almost like I could have written it myself… at least in my mind:

      Mr. Carr, apparently, had been a cocaine addict and dealer earlier in his life, but out of this nettle, addiction, he managed to pluck this flower, a regular column in the New York Times. But by the words “escaped the clutches” is really meant “decided to stop taking,” and good for him, say I, well done, though it was not so well done to have addicted himself in the first place.…..z3UQw1rzsN

  7. 3D-printed firearms is where it’s at. I can’t wait to see the ATF shit its existential pants when we can all arm ourselves with the press of a button.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.