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This is a result for those looking into Transhumanism. Here are links I've dropped into a comment today; I'll track back and write more about them sometime.
Transhumanism, to me:
First off, I don't see any reason we need to die.
A fundamental issue we must address is the self-centeredness preventing us from collectively solving relevant biotechnological issues. Get the doctors off the golf courses, pay them like the French do, and put them and our cash to work.
All doctors != evil but don't pretend the false limit kept on their numbers via med school admissions, the according insult of U.S. health costs, and other aspects of the system are not dehabilitating issues in violation of their collective oath of service. All doctors share responsibility for the collectively selfish disservice they render on those they "care" for
<transhumanism comments, tracking back to write more>
Transhumanism is living forever, and more: never mind being "healthy," the idea here is to be "better than well." The incremental improvements we experience already foretell the promise of better than wellness. We are acquiring better eyes, better ears, generally better strength and endurance. We've even better memories, if most of these enhancements are extrasomatic to date. We are becoming better humans.
Transhumanism goes further, yet: natural bodies or avatars in the human form, however improved, are not our best foot forward. Why inhabit a fragile form in which we can without warning and at any time be deleted? At a minimum, we should port minds to inactive (unconscious) databases and back ourselves up!
Why struggle to maintain human life in a human body, as we encounter now and later require the sterile, hostile environs beyond earth? As 2005 reminded anyone living in the First World who had forgotten, Earth itself is plenty hostile, and the continuity of human existence in human form has only probability to guide it -- no "God" plays any hand, whatsoever in it when a tsunami or other calamity reminds us of our fragility.
I would suppose that in the ultimate we each end up as networks within nodes on the network, able to wield more sensory sources than we can singularly process. In this we might be vastly interdependent if still in some regards, individual, because of the value inherent in our differences. We may be individually overwhelmed by the number of cameras we could have for eyes; in such a state, only by joining with other minds will we comprehend the vision of our world our technology enables, and here in 2006 has already enabled.
One thing which should make your IT parts tingle: when our Selves are on the line, we'll all be more religious about backing up
I've opined a mixed lot about individualism and identity on the presumed inter-human-intellect-net (I'm sure Al Gore is working on a better name). I first logged this entry in 02/05, expanding it in 10/05, and still in 08/06 it seems more likely that our individualism will be overwhelmed as soon as it is technically possible. We are barreling in that direction at an incredible pace as it is. Remember Riemann Sums?
When minds are ported to machines, we will soon network beyond recognition as individuals. An explanation of this prediction requires two terms: "digital immigrants" and "digital natives" as Marc Prensky first illuminated. Digital immigrants did not live as children, mature, then live as adults online; digital natives have always lived online. You could go back to Johnny von Neumann et al. and start arguing that even some in The Greatest Generation are digital natives, but you'd be stretching. Some forthcoming examples will flesh out the definitions I intend.
Never mind the (distant?) future, digital natives already live in an editable world. From fan fiction and remixes to wikis and wares, we claim and respect less individual ownership than our elders. This is equally true of all property, creation, and ideas.
We blab ever more freely to the entire online world ever more intimate details of our "personal" lives, our personal and professional lives are ever less separate, we freely expose ever more details of our presence, our purpose, our thoughts, ourselves. What was still somewhat private for my "computer club" friends and I, on bulletin boards in the 80s and 90s, became incredibly public when we hit the Web.
Digital immigrants find these actions and concepts offensive, shocking, immoral, and illegal. Digital immigrants don't just dislike digital natives, they take digital natives to court and spank them with fines and prison sentences. Digital immigrants use the ancient human socioeconomic power structure (the man, uses the system) to keep bottom up efforts on the bottom.
No less, however, the elder generations emmigrating online are powerless against the shifting sands beneath them. As a whole people, not only as digital natives, humanity gives in unprecedented amounts and haste to relieve the suffering of millions we would never have personally met in a world of just five years ago. Consider the tsunami disaster. It is not unprecedented, but our response to it is unprecedented.
I grew up as a boy in 1980s Ohio; my neighborhood was defined as the distance my two feet could take me. "Long distance telephone calls" were themselves prohibitively expensive. An unthinkable two decades later, our neighborhood is defined as the distance our thoughts can travel, streaming freely (and with incredible clarity) in VOIP (in Google Talk).
Since it's starting to seem more relevant to my thesis -- my own claim to digital nativism is staked in: being on the machines my Dad (one of the older guys at MSFT, thanks Dad) built in our basement, an Atari 2600 or two, coding in BASIC on the earliest PCs, available to me at the wonderful grade school my parents slaved to get my siblings and me into
<sorry for the aside, back to the future>
The billions living in Asia are as much a part of my community as anyone, anymore. More than half my colleagues in the U.S. are from the other half of the planet, and my next job might very well be on their turf. I hear the weather's great in Bangalore. My wife is a native of Gujarat (India), and I met her online. This would all have been unbelievable, had someone tried to convince me of it, when I was a boy playing hide and seek in cornfields -- even though I already had at my fingertips most of what was becoming the Web.
Nowadays, anyone can now publish anything, anytime, to anyone else reading it anywhere, anytime. Personally, I'd rather not be the only author, and that's true for all digital natives. I'd rather not pay for access to others' thoughts and creations, and I'd rather not charge for access to my own.
Digital natives are intellectual socialists, but clearly it's a mindset which is not only intellectual. Digital immigrants, including many here on
Let's talk about profit. There is a lot of discussion on
Digital natives see information as air. We see access as a utility. We do not expect to pay on demand for access, nor for information itself, just like we do not expect to pay on demand for clean air or water, except in uncommon or "backward" circumstances. We realize there are parts of the world in which clean air and water can only be bought, but we don't believe that is the way it ought to be.
For digital natives, information is air, and participation is assumed. Humanity is still biotechnologically, primarily separate from our machines, but already: Information is air. Participation is assumed. (I think Jonathan Schwartz and Scott McNealy are the two who began calling this the "participation age.")
More context is required to understand the importance of the divide between digital immigrants and natives. On the order of 10,000 years ago, humankind first effectively wrote. Writing was the beginning of history itself. It was the first step away from our biological humanity, the physical capabilities with which we walked from the seas. Writing was our way of recreating ourselves, it was our way of creating an extrasoma. In its first version, our extrasoma was merely recording transactions between farmers on tokens, it was not "moving" literature. This was in what we now call "China," again, 10,000 or so years back, while it took thousands of years to catch on around the world. I'm quite sure we wrote something down sometime earlier than that, but we don't have any record of it. Therefore, it doesn't matter. Get it? The only things that "matter" are things which do not die. See where this is going?
1,000 years or so ago, we effectively published, taking one more step away from ourselves, moving more of our minds outside of our brains and bodies. Specifically, it was in 1041 when movable clay type was invented, again in what we now call "China." This took a ridiculous hundreds of years to catch on; "the West" didn't publish anything until something like 500 years ago.
100 or so years ago, we jumped into cars, we recorded real images, we recorded audio, we recorded video, and we began putting it all together. We left more of ourselves behind, expressed ourselves and learned and experienced more extrasomatically. We began living more through machines.
This step forward was denser and more significant by an order of magnitude, as had been the case between the earlier two steps. We wrote; anyone who walked by that might later experience our extrasoma. We published; anyone, anywhere might experience our extrasoma. Thirdly, we captured and recapitulated reality, our place in it, and our experience of it, in more ways than words alone could describe. How many words does a picture speak? Moving pictures? Moving pictures with sound? Now, anyone, anywhere might experience our extrasoma in a manner which was nearly indistinguishable from our original soma. The extrasoma could be better than our soma ever was. Even while still living, we could experience the world at speeds and in environments we could never have created or survived in, before, with the advent of machine experience (automobiles and other industrialism).
Did I mention how much denser this third step was than the two before it? 100 years or more on, it's still difficult to describe in words alone. Perhaps this attempt is in itself ridiculously Caveman of me -- I should be using poetry to reach beyond the power of words, I should embed in this entry some images, some audio, some video. More perfectly for where this entry is leading, we ought to just "mind meld" like a bunch of Vulcans, or Borg
Let's try a mathematical metaphor, a model. The first dimension of our extrasoma was writing, the point of existence of the extrasoma carried infinitely along a line of all imaginable thoughts being written. We penetrated the second dimension when our thoughts were spread across a plane of all existing minds possibly accessing all imaginable thoughts. That was publishing. At that point, we went from individual knowledge of other human experiences (the world is a line) to collective knowledge of all human experiences (the world was flat). This has less to do with how it all panned out -- in fact, most people were illiterate, for example -- and more to do with the technological breakthrough. This model is not physics people, this is mathematics, so it's all about the potential and the perfection
Thirdly, the extrasoma became more than the ideas represented by words. We began to show what we meant, to photorealistically capture and edit, to create whole, new worlds in whole, new ways. This is a third dimension, in which we record all imaginable ideas with all conceivable means, accessible to all existing minds.
Another mathematical element, the calculus of its growth, will shape an understanding of the extrasoma. My estimations of these events' occurrence in history are imprecise, because they were not singular events in spacetime. No one year, calendar or real, is comprised of the entire occurence of these events. Like electrons through closely guarded doors they were all smeary and new mathy -- don't ask me the name of the Alpha Geek who first wrote something down, or the according IP and timestamp on EarthLog.
The amount of time each event took to occur parallels the progression of their occurrence over time. It took thousands of years for us to realize what began 10,000 years ago -- writing. It took hundreds of years to realize what began 1,000 years ago -- publishing. It took decades to realize what began roughly 100 years ago -- technorealism. (whew! didn't think i'd have one word to cover all that stuff, did u?! "technorealism," not bad
Each of these few steps away from our biological selves occurred over several generations, each required fewer generations to comprehend, but each required more than one such generation. Our latest step(s), however, have occurred in less than a single generation, and this is the significance of the divide between digital immigrants and natives. This is why our latest "generation gap" is at the same time more gaping than any other generation gap, ever, and as well it is not a generational gap at all. Happening in less than a biological generation, between generations in fact, humanity's latest extrasomatic step is tearing apart our socioeconomic fabric like the Earth has not seen.
What has been the fourth step? What is the fifth? How many licks till you reach the middle of the
10 years ago began the Web. A collective self, the ability to contribute to it, and the ability to browse it, was ported to what has become a signficant portion of humanity.
As an immediate result, we are less somatic than ever. We stand today at the precipice, dipping our toes in the ocean of our collective, digital self, some of us swimming in it more deeply and for longer stretches than others. Some of us are too afraid or live too far away from the shore, to have ever entered the water. Most of us have at least seen it. Even most tribals living in the most remote corners of Earth now know of the rest of the world, they have been touched by the information age, they have gazed however briefly upon the sea of our common future.
It has been said before that "the future is now." We don't need to perfectly port minds to machines to see transhumanism. Individuals are merging already into a collective, with only a minority of the world online regularly, and only Riemannian Sums of shared experience among the connected.
When minds are ported, when we are wholly online, the integral of connectivity will swiftly overwhelm whatever remaining essence of the ancient, the organic, the fragile, human individual.
Only relative Luddites will insist on their intellectual independence. Their inferiority will ensure both their irrelevance, and the irrelevance of any concept of lifespan, of death. Will humans cease to be born, too? Certainly. Will this scare 99% of humanity's current minds? Certainly -- as would all great advances, were we to learn of them now.
These trends are easily visible now, to anyone whose mentality is digitally native. I'm extrapolating, sure, but only after digging deeply into the soils from which we grow. The points of information from our history, long ago and recent, show a clear trend toward the extrasoma.
We have been busy leaving our bodies ever since we realized we were in them. Consciousness abhors the need to sleep. Our intellects despise interruptions from our feelings of physical hunger, fatigue, longings and pains. We see more difficult problems, and we see that to solve these problems we must overcome the limitations of our biological selves. We build vast parallel networks, we design quantum networks, we type and type, we reach and reach. We gain confidence being offland (online), outside ourselves, and we swim more deeply, more freely, in the future we have long admired: transhumanity.
If I were to "write" what the ancients call a "book" and then "have it published" so I could "earn" a profit from all the (four) people on Earth who would buy but never read it except when trying to look smart on planes, then I might entitle this book "Into the Deep." Into the digital future, the inter-human-intellect-net, the transhuman, the common self, the singularity
Into the Deep
Just a quick jot, for anyone querying
My wonderful wife worked in IT during college, when she double majored in Math and Econ. I met her at Lavalife, and if you yearn for a Girl Geek who has a clue what you're all about, I suggest you do likewise. (I am a software developer.)
Having logs of chats, threads, and mails throughout the initial months we were not geospacially together did several things for us: 1) It let us explore each other's thoughts and personalities more honestly and more deeply than we probably would have in-person. If you've read about or tried meeting someone online, you've heard that before. 2) Having a digital trail also kept us honest and 3) better informed. There are plenty of ways to hide online, but what you do or say online "with" another person is hard to misrepresent at a later time as it is sufficiently corroborated. People will interpret things differently of course, but on what was said, when, where you agree -- and it's much easier to remember important info / moments / dates when you can look them up
As for being better informed -- I think it helps to see the evidence of your relationship clearly in the data. You can see duration, intensity, context, etc. of a relationship online in ways that maybe you'd lose sight of meeting someone offline.
By all means, when it's time and/or when you can, meet offline. But if you want to meet a She Geek, _find_ her online. She will appreciate all the geeky ways you can spend time together. If she doesn't, then it's certainly worth reconsidering her. Frankly, you can be a lot more honest about your chances for long term happiness if you're not completely out of your mind just from looking at her. You'll have a photo or two (or 100) to look at; I'm not saying this should be black box dating.
Whether you are compatible intellectually will be put to a better test, something I'm told will matter a lot more in the future. We've been married just a short time; for now, this is just one entry with some fairly obvious advice, and I don't mean to sound like I know all about marriage. As for finding the one you'll (occasionally) log off for though, I can advise you to look no further than your screen.
I believe most Geeks to be of above-average integrity anyway, or to descend into cynicism: maybe we can more easily see the karma coming around when we're tempted, or perhaps this has something to do with our increased ability to keep tabs on each other