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
Read more

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.”

Read more

the endless immensity of the sea

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Read more "the endless immensity of the sea"

“But wait – what is Dark Extropianism anyway, m1k3y?”
Short version: clone Ray Kurzweil, feed this clone only LSD-laced Soylent for a year. Initiate this clone into a secret eternal mystic order – which totally isn’t an asteroid death cult – then sit him on a mountain top with a stack of cyberpunk novels, spy craft manuals, esoteric texts, crackly recordings of Terence McKenna lectures, high resolution astrobiology conference videos, legitimately acquired ecological academic papers, printouts of rewilding pamphlets, de-extinction manifestos and a never-ending background soundtrack of witch haus and dark ambient musics. Behind him the whole time sits a resurrected Mammoth. And the whole thing is rendered in that western anime Korra/Ang universe style. How’s that for a scatter map to project onto?

Read more

On using modified extremophiles to seed new worlds

Synthetic biology has the potential to make organisms more resistant to radiation or temperature extremes,” she said. “You can mix and match genes and do all sorts of things that if you were breeding [organisms] would take forever.”
These modified extremophiles can shed light on a variety of astrobiological questions, including whether or not a planet is potentially habitable. “Say we find a planet, and it has a certain pH, temperature, and radiation regime,” Rothschild told me.
“That’s where we take up the challenge and go into the lab,” she continued. “We’ll say, ‘All right, let’s start with this one that can live at low pH and high temperature. Can we add the radiation resistance?’ Then, we can go back to the astronomers and say [habitability] is not impossible, because we just made something in the lab like that last week.

From We Might Create Alien Life in a Lab Before We Find It in Space

Read more "On using modified extremophiles to seed new worlds"

Wormhole Engineering For Beginniners

Specifically, they suggested that wormholes are each pairs of black holes that are entangled with one another.

Entangled black holes could be generated in a number of ways. For instance, a pair of black holes could in principle be made simultaneously, and these would automatically be entangled. Alternatively, radiation given off by a black hole could be captured and then collapsed into a black hole, and the resulting black hole would be entangled with the black hole that supplied the ingredients for it.

Maldacena and Susskind not only suggested that wormholes are entangled black holes, but they argued that entanglement in general was linked to wormholes. They conjectured that entangled particles such as electrons and photons were connected by extraordinarily tiny wormholes.

Jensen and Karch found that if one imagined entangled pairs in a universe with four dimensions, they behaved in the same way as wormholes in a universe with an extra fifth dimension. Essentially, they discovered that entanglement and wormholes may be one and the same.

“Entangled pairs were the holographic images of a system with a wormhole,” Jensen said. Independent research from theoretical physicist Julian Sonner at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology supports this finding.

Read more "Wormhole Engineering For Beginniners"

The ability to create unifying myths (used here as powerful, defining stories, not fictions) is our most powerful, distinguishing characteristic as a species.

Harari consigns all those myths to the realm of fiction — not only religions but the whole enterprise of humanistic, rights-based liberalism: “There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings.” With a kind of courageous consistency, he argues that the life sciences reveal sapiens as nothing more than a bundle of neurons, blood and bile. And that, he concedes, destroys the whole basis for ethics, law and democracy.

Harari shrugs where he should shudder. It is not a minor thing to assert that the main evolutionary advantage of sapiens — their capacity to produce meaning — is a cruel and pointless joke. There is at least one other alternative: that the best of our stories are not frauds but hints, and that the whole unlikely story has led sapiens to a justified belief in their own dignity and purpose.

In this case, the myths produced by Homo sapiens would be not the lies we tell ourselves but the truths we dimly perceive.

Read more

“If you want to make your fiction universal, go small.”

Science fiction shows are traditionally about the gimmick or the gadget and tend to be emotionally cool to the touch. We thought, “We’re going to have these big, huge action moments, so, we need to have the quieter, more human moments to say what this is all about.” You can’t always relate to the big action things, but you can relate to small moments. I worked with James Cameron, a few years ago, on a remake of Forbidden Planet, which is still sitting at Warner Bros., and he said one of the smartest things I’ve ever heard about science fiction. He said, “I thought science fiction was about familiar characters in unfamiliar settings. It took me ten years to realize that was wrong. It’s about relationships and not settings.” Terminator 2 was a father-son relationship, even though it’s not. Aliens was a mother-daughter relationship, even though it’s not. You don’t buy into huge car chases or sensates or interstellar warfare, but you can buy into a loving relationship or a father-son relationship, and you can buy into the small humor. If you want to make your fiction universal, go small. That’s the best way to do it.

Read more "“If you want to make your fiction universal, go small.”"

In Babylonia the return of the spirits of the dead was greatly dreaded. Ishtar once uttered the terrible threat: “I will cause the dead to rise; they will then eat and live. The dead will be more numerous than the living.” When a foreign country was invaded, it was a common custom to break open the tombs and scatter the bones they contained. Probably it was believed, when such acts of vandalism were committed, that the offended spirits would plague their kinsfolk. Ghosts always haunted the homes they once lived in, and were as malignant as demons. It is significant to find in this connection that the bodies of enemies who were slain in battle were not given decent burial, but mutilated and left for birds and beasts of prey to devour.

The demons that plagued the dead might also attack the living. A fragmentary narrative, which used to be referred to as the “Cuthean Legend of Creation”,[262] and has been shown by Mr. L.W. King to have no connection with the struggle between Merodach and the dragon,[263] deals with a war waged by an ancient king against a horde of evil spirits, led by “the lord of heights, lord of the Anunaki (earth spirits)”. Some of the supernatural warriors had bodies like birds; others had “raven faces”, and all had been “suckled by Tiamat”.

For three years the king sent out great armies to attack the demons, but “none returned alive”. Then he decided to go forth himself to save his country from destruction. So he prepared for the conflict, and took the precaution of performing elaborate and therefore costly religious rites so as to secure the co-operation of the gods. His expedition was successful, for he routed the supernatural army. On his return home, he recorded his great victory on tablets which were placed in the shrine of Nergal at Cuthah.

This myth may be an echo of Nergal’s raid against Eresh-ki-gal. Or, being associated with Cuthah, it may have been composed to encourage burial in that city’s sacred cemetery, which had been cleared by the famous old king of the evil demons which tormented the dead and made seasonal attacks against the living.

Read more

Some worry too much about asteroid impacts, which are among the natural risks that are best understood and easiest to quantify. Moreover, it will soon be possible to reduce that risk by deflecting the path of asteroids heading for the earth. That’s why I support the B612 Sentinel project.

Read more