Yet of all the projects currently under development, the most revolutionary is the attempt to devise a direct two-way brain-computer interface that will allow computers to read the electrical signals of a human brain, simultaneously transmitting signals that the brain can read in turn. What if such interfaces are used to directly link a brain to the Internet, or to directly link several brains to each other, thereby creating a sort of Inter-brain-net? What might happen to human memory, human consciousness and human identity if the brain has direct access to a collective memory bank? In such a situation, one cyborg could, for example, retrieve the memories of another – not hear about them, not read about them in an autobiography, not imagine them, but directly remember them as if they were his own. Or her own. What happens to concepts such as the self and gender identity when minds become collective? How could you know thyself or follow your dream if the dream is not in your mind but in some collective reservoir of aspirations?

Such a cyborg would no longer be human, or even organic. It would be something completely different. It would be so fundamentally another kind of being that we cannot even grasp the philosophical, psychological or political implications.

SAPIENS by Yuval Noah Harari
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The way you tell it is that we’re at a point of inflection: that we’re on the cusp of perhaps the greatest change for the human race ever?
“Probably, yes. I mean the one thing that has remained constant in history was humans themselves. Homo sapiens, you and me, we are basically the same as people 10,000 years ago. The next revolution will change that.”
The “next revolution”, as Harari sees it, the latest in a line that began with the cognitive revolution and takes in the agricultural revolution and the scientific revolution, is what is happening in the biotech field, in artificial intelligence.
“When people talk about merging with computers to create cyborgs, it’s not some prophecy about the year 2200. It’s happening right now. More and more of our reality exists within computers or through them.”
But this is only the start of it. For the first time in history, “we will see real changes in humans themselves – in their biology, in their physical and cognitive abilities”. And while we have enough imagination to invent new technologies, we are unable to foresee their consequences.
“It was the same with the agricultural revolution about 10,000 years ago. Nobody sat down and had a vision: ‘This is what agriculture is going to be for humankind and for the rest of the planet.’ It was an incremental process, step by step, taking centuries, even thousands of years, which nobody really understood and nobody could foresee the consequences.”

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INTERSTELLAR PANSPERMIA HUNTERS

An excerpt from the latest (De)Extinction Club Newsletter: It’s tough times if you’re a crater hunter. The glory days are gone. On Earth at least. All the major impact sites that can be found have been found. All the big game are gone. Nothing but small fry left. Oh sure, there’s plenty of those around. […]

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An excerpt from: Uplifting Civilisation 2: The Atemporal People’s Republic

Excerpt from: Uplifting Civilisation 2: The Atemporal People’s Republic:

Some final thoughts then, to both close things out and close the loop for the argument I’ve presented here. We’ve managed to derive some lessons from our previous cultural depictions of a society featuring humans, uplifted animals and machine intelligences. We’ve taken a brief overview of the current legal situation, as it pertains to this matter, and a more in-depth technical survey of some of the science involved. Now let’s sum things up with a few more observations.

At the beginning of this post I talked about how our ancestors teamed up with the wolf, and how that partnership led to both our species prospering. That in time led to a point in history known as the Neolithic Transition. When a combination of three things led to the dawn of the Agricultural Age: domestication of cattle and horses, wheeled vehicles and a genetic mutation for lactose tolerance (known as the ‘LP allele’). The prevailing theory now seems to be that it was a people known as the Yamnaya, steppe herders from what’s now Russia and the Ukraine, that had the winning combination of all three, and five thousand years ago swept across Europe, outcompeting the existing hunter-gather populations there.

Once the LP allele appeared, it offered a major selective advantage. In a 2004 study, researchers estimated that people with the mutation would have produced up to 19% more fertile offspring than those who lacked it. The researchers called that degree of selection “among the strongest yet seen for any gene in the genome”.

Compounded over several hundred generations, that advantage could help a population to take over a continent. But only if “the population has a supply of fresh milk and is dairying”, says Thomas. “It’s gene–culture co-evolution. They feed off of each other.”

The factors that enabled the dawn of the Bronze Age could apply equally to the coming of a true Space Age; partnership / co-evolution with animals, a new means of transport, new habitats and transforming ourselves in the process.

The billionaire space enthusiasts are set to work building us a real interplanetary transport infrastructure, in concert with those nations still possessing a functional space program.

We’re figuring out how to use the increasingly powerful gene editing technology CRISPR, something that could be used to create astronauts capable of surviving long term on Mars or in zero gee, or wherever the off-world colonies end up being.

As for what that genetic enhancement might be, we turn to a fictional universe for some advice one last time. In the manga/anime series Knights of Sidonia the remnant human population, facing starvation as they flee a destroyed Earth with limited supplies, decides to engineer all future generations to have the ability to draw energy via photosynthesis. Eliminating the need for food, as we knew it. Giving them a selective advantage as remarkable as the ability to digest the milk of another animal. Just one of many imagined advances given to this space faring posthuman evolution of the human species.

Also, for no clear reason that I’ve been able to determine – other than it’s implicit when envisaging the future, tying us back to Ark II – there’s at least one Uplifted Bear amongst their population (who SPOILER ALERT was part of the ruling committee, so was no junior partner, unlike poor old Adam):

image

Which is the final part of the Bronze Age to Space Age analogy. As I’ve hopefully amply demonstrated, we could perform a whole new level of “domestication” as co-evolution as Uplift.

(If you’re wondering, by the way… China is the nation with the winning combination of all three attributes. A growing space program that will probably leap-frog the US and Russia by the decades’ end, and pioneering work at Beijing Genomics Institute that covers the other two. Firefly/Serenity was probably half-right, in the space faring future every person just speaks Mandarin.)

The other thing the Bronze Age had was the emergence of writing; “proto-writing”. A communication protocol that enabled the functioning of a true human civilisation. We might also map our idea of a multi-species, borg-like, group mind here. The communication protocol enabling the functioning of a true posthuman civilisation. This is where we meet the very edge of popular culture – the idea of posthuman group minds are explored in the new tv show, Sense8, from the Wachowskis and the Nexus series from Ramez Naam.

To repeat, the overall message is this: as we continue this process of co-evolution and mutual aid with upgraded companion species both machine and animal we will all prosper. We as in: those who choose to come aboard for this Grand Extropian Adventure. Continuing to thrive and extend the boundaries of the Atemporal People’s Republic to the stars, as the first post in this series also talked about.

We are both the Monolith and the Star Child.

Read it in full at the Daily Grail: Uplifting Civilisation 2: The Atemporal People’s Republic:

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Excerpt from “Nightmares of the Future: Deconstructing TRANSCENDENCE”

An excerpt from my latest at the Daily Grail, Nightmares of the Future: Deconstructing TRANSCENDENCE:

This theme – fear of extinction, fear of erasure and replacement – is common to everything from Warren Ellis’ newuniversal comic to the Brookings Report…

It’s an existential threat; but it’s psychological, not physical. This isn’t an asteroid about to crash into the Earth or a bomb, poison or plague. This is a mental category about to collapse. The most important of all: what it means to be human. It represents the end of everything they know, everything they are, and it scares the shit out of them. And as any amateur student of human psychology will tell you, fear is a hell of a motivator. The transhuman community and their posthuman leader aren’t killing people, aren’t conquering lands or launching missile strikes, they are quite simply being. But their very existence is frightening enough to the regular, baseline folks. The Neanderthal’s in our tale. Faced with this dilemma, they don’t choose to process their feelings, overcome their initial reaction, interbred and in the process merge cultures, as it now looks certain our hominid cousins did. They fight with certainty and conviction that its the only rational thing to do.

Fear of change, fear of loss of control. The idea that the AI could be running things without them even being aware of it…

The Anthropocene is the idea that the planet we inhabit has been completely reshaped by the activities of human civilisation. That no part of our world has been left unchanged. Most obviously, this is climate change; but it’s more than just a change in weather patterns. It’s things like the concentration of CO2 in sea ice we’ve never set foot on and the addition of “plastiglomerate” to geology – rocks made from plastic melted in fires.

Awesome, right? We changed the world. Humans rule! But what if it went all horribly wrong and completely out of control? (You know, worse than climate chaos even.) Overt and undeniable.

That’s the Gray Goo scenario – nanotechnology unleashed on the world, out-competing natural systems…

Another existential threat. Physical, not metaphysical this time. But where the Neanderthal Dilemma is a negative reaction, classic fear of the other, to a change in progress – the coming of a new race – this is the nightmare of an out-of-control technology. What’s frightening isn’t the destruction of Platonic ideals, but the radical transformation of the earthly plane. The Gray Goo is the sentient ooze of an unknowable posthuman world affecting its own agenda on the Earth.

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