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Category Archives: Transhumanist
Posted: August 22, 2017 at 11:26 pm
Thursday August 10, 2017
If there werea pill that made yousmarter without studying, stronger without exercising, and happier without trying, would you take it?
That’s the premiseof the 2011movie, Limitless,in which actor BradleyCooper plays astruggling writer who is offered a drug that promises him access to the full capacities of his brain.
Soon enough Cooper’s character hasfinished writinghis book, acquired a wide range of newof skills, and is on his way to becoming one of the richest and most powerfulpeople in the country.
The fictitious scenario isfarfetched, but the idea of using drugs for self-enhancement is completely grounded in reality and it’s possible you’re participating in self-enhancement without even knowing it.
When thinking about LSD, your mind probably conjuresup images of the Beatles oruntethered hallucinations.
But there are also people some of them prestigious jobs with high stakeswho are using LSD to boost their performance at work.Microdosinginvolves taking small doses of LSD far less than you would use to have a full on hallucinatory trip in order to boost productivity and focus.
PJVogt, host of the hitpodcastReply All, and show producer PhiaBennindecided to put microdosing to the test, all while hiding their social experiment from their colleagues to see whether anyone would notice.
Thetales of the paranoia, accidental ‘macrodosing,’ and the very mixed results that ensued are all documented in a hilarious Reply All episode thatyou can listen to here.
Caffeine has been shown to boost athletic performance. (Unsplash/Kyle Meck)
Of course, regular LSD doses, however small, may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
But there’s also a legal, relatively safe drug that has been proven to make athletes perform better. It can also make you more alert and focused,and there’s a pretty good chance some of it is already in your system right now.
If you haven’t guessed yet it’s caffeine.
Terry Graham,professor emeritusat the University of Guelph, spent years studying the effects of caffeine. After Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was disqualified fordoping at the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul, Graham asked for funding to study whether caffeineaffects athletic performance with the hypothesis that its positive effects would be inconsequential.
“I was absolutely, 100 per cent wrong,” he said. “Caffeine was a tremendous stimulant to exercise endurance and performance.”
The boost provided by caffeine occurs within the muscle itself. Muscles are made up of motor units groups of muscle cells that contract all at once. When caffeine is present, each of those units produces a little more tension than usual, making the entiremuscle contractionstronger.
“Many of the substances that athletes can use to promote a better performance only act within acertain window, it could be strength, sprinting, or a prolonged activity. Butcaffeine seems to be able to influence all of these types of activities, so it’s quite universal,” he explained.
If tiny doses ofLSD, and big doses of coffee don’t appeal to you as means of self-enhancement, there’s always transhumanism abroad movement that aims to overcome our human limitations.
People involved with transhumanism believe that humans can be improved through things like smart drugs and gene editing. The three major strands aresuperintelligence, superlongevity, and superhappiness.
As explained by David Pearce, a philosopher and prominent figure in the transhumanist movement, this re-alignment of the basic human conditionshinges on something called the hedonistic imperative.
“Each of us has this approximate hedonic set point, some people are very, by today’s standards, fortunate. They’re pretty cheerful and they vacillate with a relatively high hedonic set point. Other people are more depressive and gloomy, and seem to fluctuate around gradients of ill-being.”
“Nature didn’t intend us to be happy, at least permanently happy, And we’re just starting to decipher the particular genes and alleles associated with having either a high or low hedonic set point. Iwouldvery much hope that every future civilization would be based on everyone enjoying a high hedonic set point.”
If you’re trying to figure out your hedonic set point, Pearcesays toimagine a time in your life where you were happier than usual then imagine if you could feel that way all the time.
“If suffering were a recipe for nobility of character perhaps there would be some kind of case for obtaining it, but … typically prolonged suffering tends to embitter. So we can argue what it actually means to be human. If we abolish suffering, would it have taken away our essential humanity?”
“Nature is exceptionally miserly with pleasure, an I see the challenge ahead isdelivering an extremely rich quality of life for everyone, but doing so in ways that don’t compromise social responsibility or intellectual progress.”
To subscribe to the podcastand hear more episodes of CBC On Drugs, follow the linkhere.
Posted: August 20, 2017 at 5:46 pm
With all its morbid decadence, the richly-layered Gothic imagination and cosmic horror of Bloodborne tends to overshadow some of its more (post)modern influences. Bloodborne isnt a traditionalist, after all, but a punk: or to be more precise, a cyberpunk. It may not havesinister corporations or hackers, yet this sci-fi renegade still conjures the rebellious ghost in the machine.
Most obviously, theres the overpowering presence of that looming megalopolis Yharnam as dependent on monumental, almost brutalist architecture as any good futuristic urban sprawl. The social dynamics within Yharnam echo the politics of cyberpunk, the hegemonic power of the Healing Church pitted against the social outcasts roaming the grimy streets. Dangerous social experiments and unchecked technological advancements have led to a Victorian dystopia. There are even cyberspaces, simulated, subordinate worlds in the form of the Dreams, which can be accessed and even hacked by those who are privy to secret knowledge.
Ridley Scott’sBlade Runner:
And just like cyberpunk, the world of Bloodborne is held captive by the promise of transhumanism the idea that humankind will, one day, be able to transcend our fleshlylimitations and become something more. Whether it is Deus Ex or Bloodborne, the tool for this quasi-religious endeavour is cutting edge research and technology. In Deus Ex, that means body modification through nanotech or even merging consciousnesses with an omnipresent AI. In Bloodborne, its the Healing Church and Byrgenwerth researching into the old ones and their blood that drives this change: aiming to transform humans, in theory, into celestial beings that have entirely discarded their humanity. Not unlike in Blade Runner, the eye becomes an omnipresent symbol of self-directed evolution and the dangerous knowledge necessary to pursue it.
However, Bloodborneisa punk that refuses to slavishly follow in the tracks of those that came before. The differences are the most fascinating thing here. The futuristic vision of transhumanism, whether it is presented as a utopian promise or a dystopian threat, is seen as an evolutionary culmination or perhaps even singularity that severs the umbilical cord that connects us to our evolutionary history. The human is a product of natural processes, distant cousin of the apes. The posthuman the product of transhumanism is something different (strangely, it is our human arrogance that leads to this fallacy of teleological evolution.)
Eye of a Blood-Drunk Hunter
Bloodbornes idea of transhumanism is recognisable, but different. Its still a morally complex idea, both pursued by individuals and institutions while also causing societal upheaval, but its vector is in the opposite direction. The path to transcendence doesnt lead the inhabitants of Yharnam away from humankinds evolutionary history, but confronts it head-on in a retrogressive journey. The first enemies our hunter encounters are beastmen, many of them recognisably human but some, like the werewolves or Vicar Amelia, almost devoid of human characteristics. Theyre hairy and canine, clearly mammalian despite their deformities. So far, this is in keeping with stories like Robert Louis Stevensons The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or H.P. Lovecrafts tales of human degeneracy, such as Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, in which a British nobleman burns himself alive after discovering that one of his ancestors was an ape goddess from the Congo. These stories play with our post-Darwinian revulsion at being the offspring of mere animals.
But as you progress through Bloodborne, the hunter descends deeper down the evolutionary ladder. Soon, enemies resemble snakes, insects, arachnids. Later, they become more alien still, strange variations of squids, snails, slugs (that is, molluscs) or even fungi. They have names like Celestial Emissary, or Celestial Child and are closely related to the Great Ones, some of whom, like Ebrietas or Kos, share similarities with the games mollusc-like creatures. Bloodborne displays a special fascination with mushrooms and molluscs, as well as the creatures of the ocean (especially in The Old Hunters DLC). These creatures are associated with the primordial, the early origins of life on earth, and their strange forms, both beautiful and disturbing, gives them a semblance of otherworldliness. And since they dont seem to belong to this world, perhaps they originally visited earth from unknown regions of the cosmos?
Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos
Nudibranch, Nembrotha Kubaryana. Photo by Nick Hobgood
Nudibranch, Nembrotha Cristata. Photo by Chriswan Sungkono.
Nudibranch, Tritoniopsis Elegans. Photo by Sean Murray.
From this anthropocentric perspective, becoming like these creatures means getting closer to the miraculous origins of life, when the earth and the cosmos had yet to be disentangled. The transhumanism of Bloodborne thus turns the usual teleological view of human evolution on its head; the forces of evolution, whether natural or self-directed, will not bring humans closer to the gods, but have instead distanced them from the celestial spring of life. To fulfil their atavistic yearning to return to the lap of the cosmos, the inhabitants of Yharnam must regress to earlier evolutionary stages. The horror and tragedy of turning into wolf-like beasts, therefore, isnt just due to a revulsion to our animal ancestors or the destruction they cause, but the knowledge that those beastmen didnt regress far enough. If only they hadnt gotten lost in this evolutionary valley, they could have emerged on the other side as transcendental beings, as kin not of the earth, but the cosmos. At least, thats one way of looking at the complex picture Bloodborne paints.
The transcended hunter as slug-like Great One in Bloodbornes true ending
The beautiful thing about this is that it doesnt just fly in the face of transhumanism as it is usually understood, but the most problematic aspects of Lovecrafts work, too. The ugly concept of degeneracy, with all its overt racism, was an integral part of Lovecrafts fictional worlds. The ancient and unambiguously evil powers of the Great Old Ones is tied to primitives and mongrels, marginalised humans seen as genetically impure and degraded. They are easily manipulated by the old gods and worship them in the hidden and remote corners of the earth.
In Bloodborne, the blame of Yharnams ruin is dramatically shifted. The hidden corners of worship arent foreign jungles or secluded villages, but the sacred spaces of a church that is the backbone and centre of a sprawling megalopolis; the mysteries of the Great Ones are still secret knowledge, but secrets of a powerful, manipulative elite (as you would expect in the conspiracy-filled worlds of cyberpunk stories). But while this elites endeavours clearly lead to a horrific dystopia, the moral issues of this regressive transhumanism stay ambiguous throughout. The degenerate beastmen are hapless, unfortunate victims rather than villains. The experiment of transcendence through reverse evolution seems doomed to fail, but it is not at all clear whether that goal is inherently misguided. After all, the Great Ones seem amoral rather than evil (not unlike the people of Yharnam), and the hunter is no stranger to the allure these celestial beings exert through their disturbing kind of beauty. Perhaps their apparent darkness stems purely from the human minds failing to comprehend their true nature? Either way, Lovecrafts ideas of degeneracy doesnt entirely fit into Bloodbornes world.
Being kin to both the Lovecraftian as well as cyberpunk, Bloodborne, too, is a kind of mongrel. But this impurity is precisely what enables it to distinguish itself and comment meaningfully on its ancestral genres. It reshapes its influences by letting disparate ideas collide and creates something fresh from the wreckage. Its not unique in its subversion of transhumanist idealism or Lovecraftian racist tropes, but the way it combines these separate issues in a seamless if ambiguous whole is entirely original.
Bloodborne is both a cyberpunk dystopia in which the end point of self-directed evolution is not a disembodied mind, but a slug or a squid, as well as a tale of cosmic horror where that dubious degeneracy stems not from shady outsiders or social outcasts, but squarely from within organised mainstream religion and science. It shares with cyberpunk an awareness and distaste for the unequal power dynamics in a world governed by the amoral ambitions of hegemonies, but, like Lovecraft, looks backwards to our distant origins rather than to the future. And soBloodborne transcends its influences, and challenges us on new planes of existence.
The rest is here:
Bloodborne, Transhumanism and Cosmic Cyberpunk – Kotaku UK (blog)
Posted: August 18, 2017 at 4:42 am
Last week in TAC, Zoltan Istvan wrote about The Growing World of Libertarian Transhumanism linking the transhumanist movement with all of its featureslike cyborgs, human robots and designer babiesto the ideas of liberty. To say Mr. Istvan is mistaken in his assessment is an understatement. Transhumanism should be rejected by libertarians as an abomination of human evolution.
We begin with Mr. Istvans definition of transhumanism:
transhumanism is the international movement of using science and technology to radically change the human being and experience. Its primary goal is to deliver and embrace a utopian techno-optimistic worlda world that consists of biohackers, cyborgists, roboticists, life extension advocates, cryonicists, Singularitarians, and other science-devoted people.
The ultimate task, however, is nothing less than overcoming biological human death and to solve all humanitys problems. Throughout much of Mr. Istvans work on this issue, he seems to think these ideas are perfectly compatible with libertarianismself-evident evenso he doesnt care to elaborate for his befuddled readers.
While most advocates of liberty could be considered, as Matt Ridley coined it, rational optimistsmeaning that generally we are optimistic, but not dogmatic, about progressit is easy to get into a state in which everything that is produced by the market is good per se and every new technology is hailed as the next step on the path of progress. In this sense, these libertarians become what Rod Dreher has called Technological Men. For them, choice matters more than what is chosen. [The Technological Man] is not concerned with what he should desire; rather, he is preoccupied with how he can acquire or accomplish what he desires.
Transhumanists including Mr. Istvan are a case in point. In his TAC article he not only endorses such things as the defeat of death, but even robotic hearts, virtual reality sex, and telepathy via mind-reading headsets. Need more of his grand ideas? How about brain implants ectogenesis, artificial intelligence, exoskeleton suits, designer babies, gene editing tech? At no point he wonders if we should even strive for these technologies.
When he does acknowledge potential problems he has quick (and crazy) solutions at hand: For example, what would happen if people never die, while new ones are coming into the world in abundance? His solution to the fear of overpopulation: eugenics. It is here where we see how libertarian Mr. Istvan truly is. When his political philosophythe supposedly libertarian onecomes into conflict with his idea of transhumanism, he suddenly drops the former and argues in favor of state-controlled breeding (or, as he says, controlled breeding by non-profit organizations such as the WHO, which is, by the way, state financed). I cautiously endorse the idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different than getting a drivers licence. Parents who pass a series of basic tests qualify and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children.
The most frustrating thing is how similar he sounds to communists and socialists in his arguments. In most articles you read by transhumanists, you can see the dream of human perfection. Mr. Istvan says so himself: Transhumanists want more guarantees than just death, consumerism, and offspring. Much More. They want to be better, smarter, strongerperhaps even perfect and immortal if science can make them that way.
Surely it is the goal of transhumanists that, in their world, the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. You can just edit the genes of the embryo in the way that they are as intelligent as Aristotle, as poetic as Goethe, and as musically talented as Mozart. There are two problems, though: First, the world would become extremely boring, consisting only of perfect human beings who are masters at everything (which perhaps would make human cooperation superfluous). Second, that quote was famously uttered by the socialist Leon Trotsky.
As Ludwig von Mises wrote sarcastically, the socialist paradise will be the kingdom of perfection, populated by completely happy supermen. This has always been the mantra of socialists, starting with utopian thinkers like Charles Fourier, but also being embraced by the scientific ones like Marx, who derived his notion of history in which communism is the final stage of humanity from Hegel. Hegel himself believed in the man-godnot in the way that God became man through Jesus, but that man could become God one day. Intentionally or not, transhumanists sound dangerously similar to that. What they would actually create would be the New Soviet Man through bio-engineering and total environmental control as the highest social goal. In other words, you get inhuman ideological tyranny taken to a whole new level.
It should be noted that sometimes transhumanists recognize this themselvesbut if they do, their solutions only make things worse (much worse). Take Adam Zaretsky as example, who says that these new human beings shouldnt be perfect: Its important to make versions of transgenic human anatomy that are not based on idealism. But his solution is frightening: The idea is that you take a gene, say for pig noses, or ostrich anuses, or aardvark tongue, and you paste that into a human sperm, a human egg, a human zygote. A baby starts to form. And: We could let it flow into our anatomy, and these peoplewho yes, are humansshould be appreciated for who and what they are, after they are forced to be born in a really radically strange way. Its no surprise that Rod Dreher calls Mr. Zaretsky a sick monster, because he truly seems to be one when it comes to his transhumanist vision. He wants to create handicapped human beings on purpose.
If this were what libertarians think should happen, it would be sad (thankfully its mostly not). As Jeff Deist notes, it is important to remember that liberty is natural and organic and comports with human action. It doesnt require a new man. Transhumanists may say that the introduction of their idea is inevitable (in Istvans words, Whether people like it or not, transhumanism has arrived) but that is not true. And in this sense, it is time for libertarians to argue against the notion of extreme transhumanism. Yes, the market has brought it about and yes, the state shouldnt prohibit it (though giving your baby a pig nose could certainly be a violation of rights), but still, one shouldnt be relativist or even nihilist about such frightening developments. It would be a shame if the libertarian maxim of Everyone should be able to do whatever one wants to (as long as no one is hurt by it) becomes Everyone should do whatever one can do just because it is possible.
Finally, it comes as no surprise that transhumanists are largely, if not all, atheists (or as Mr. Istvan says: Im an atheist, therefore Im a transhumanist. This just proves what the classical liberal historian Lord Acton talked about when he said, Progress, the religion of those who have none. In the end, transhumanism is the final step to get God out of the way. It would be the continuation of what Richard Weaver wrote about in Ideas Have Consequences: Instead of seeing nature, the world and life overall as a means to get to know God, humans in the last centuries have become accustomed to seeing the world as something that is only there for humans to take and use for their own pleasures. Transhumanism would be the final step of this process: the conquest of death.
You dont have to be religious to find this abhorrent. As we have seen, it would be the end to all religion, to human cooperation overall, in all likelihood to liberty itself, and even the good-bye to humanity. It would be the starting point of the ultimate dystopia.
Kai Weiss is an International Relations student and works for the Austrian Economics Center and Hayek Institute, two libertarianthink tanks based in Vienna, Austria.
Posted: August 16, 2017 at 5:42 pm
August 16, 2017 By Hal Ostrander and Daryl Smith
Watching my grandkids laugh, explore and have fun, I shake my head and wonder where this culture of ours will take them. Do we realize how fast the future is rushing to meet our posterity, and us? In the days ahead, the contours of civilization likely will radically alter, sacred and secular alike, and in ways staggering to think about.
Consider the past: In 1790, 90 percent of people worked on farms; 1870, 50 percent; today, less than 1 percent. In 1900, 90 percent of the population was rural; today 90 percent is urban. Folks worked 60 hours a week over six days with a life expectancy of 47 years. Three percent of homes had electricity, and 15 percent had flush toilets.
Only one in five households owned a horse, and an eighth-grade education was the norm with college graduates numbering a scant 7 percent. Halfway through 2017, its hard to fathom the scale of change weve undergone and harder still to grasp whats yet to take place.
Just look at computing
In 1965, Gordon Moore, Intels co-founder, predicted transistors on circuits would double roughly every two years. His estimate has held true, but he couldnt have foreseen 2017 as the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. Now we can contact anyone around the world instantly from our pockets!
Remarkably, smart phone circuitry is 150 million times more powerful than the computer NASA used to navigate Apollo 11 safely to the moon in July 1969. At the time, NASA computers stored only a megabyte of memory each, were car-sized, and cost $3.5 million apiece.
If the trend continues
Today theres no stopping things! Forgive the technicality, but the development of carbon-based transistors in hand with quantum/nano-biological computing will take whats listed below and advance things to ever higher levels:
If the trend continues, artificial intelligence (AI) could emerge exponentially, with no turning back! Processing power exceeding the human brain may suddenly slap an unsuspecting public in the face. The brightest minds in the industry are alleging that one day, hopefully soon, machines and robots will simulate human intelligence successfully, solving challenges previously reserved only for conscious thinking.
Weak and strong AI
There are three waves of weak AI. The first solves problems very fast and works very well in video games, Excel sheets, TurboTax, etc. The second is where machines seem to learn via millions of pieces of data Siri, Cortana, Watson, AlphaGo, Microsofts Tay, Twitter, Chatbox and self-driving cars. But none of these can explain the why of things.
Whether third-wave, weak AI is achievable is an open question. Because humans can abstract things based on small amounts of data, third-wave AI tries for the same, operating on minimal information.
The stuff of sci-fi for now, strong AI is what cognitive science is really striving for machines that function with human-like minds, crossing the threshold into self-awareness/consciousness. Eventually downloading human consciousness to a computer is part of the game plan as well.
Whos charting our future?
Some of the smartest and wealthiest people in Silicon Valley, the venture techno-capitalists, are teaming up to invest billions to make strong AI happen. Even Google and NASA are cooperating to this end.
Sanctioning the likes of Ray Kurzweils think-tank, Singularity University, and Zoltan Istvans Transhumanist Party, futurist investors are siding, paradoxically, with an inelegant duo a hyper-optimistic form of scientism (only science can get at truth) and a transhumanist vision striving to achieve omnipotence (as if achieving divinity).
One dissenting voice, Elon Musk, warns his colleagues optimism about AI isnt justified: If our intelligence is exceeded, its unlikely well remain in charge of the planet. Bill Gates himself comments about AI, I dont understand why some people are not concerned.
What is lacking
Coming too fast, Christians must begin thinking soundly about the implications of futurity ASAP! Most techno-futurists assume as true the rationale lying behind philosophical naturalism, which popularizes the universe as a closed system into which nothing god-like can intervene to impose its will.
In the beginning, only particles and impersonal laws of physics reigned, and human beings are just bio-chemical machines without souls. Put crassly, were meat machines. Christians, of course, recognize immediately how short-sighted this is.
It doesnt mean, however, believers wont be influenced or charmed by futurist agendas. Some will! While we know futurists lack an adequately Christian sense of reality, their impact on society may well create a sense of uneasiness about our next cultural steps as followers of Christ.
A google of questions
So, how far will God allow things to go? Theologizing about techno-futures is imperative if were to remain comprehensively Christian throughout. Responding to bizarre worlds in the making is paramount. The choices well make individually when faced with techno-options unavailable to earlier generations will be weighty. The church must push for answers to questions raised by the techno-future, however alarming:
Answering questions related to future shock comes down to the worldview on the table, with profound implications about how individual lives and corporate society should conduct themselves considering the techno-futurist demands coming our way.
Too few Christians and church traditions ask the question, Just because we can, should we? The simple answer is no, but the issues require sophisticated reasoning. According to Scripture, what you see in the mirror is a uniquely ensouled eternal being, created in Gods image and likeness and more than sufficient for the purposes he grants us.
Hal Ostrander is online professor of religion and philosophy at Wayland Baptist University. Daryl Smith is former adjunct professor of religion at Dallas Baptist University and currently an information technology corporate manager.
Follow this link:
Analysis: Future Shock – Baptist Standard
Immortality: Silicon Valley’s latest obsession ushers in the transhumanist era – South China Morning Post
Posted: August 11, 2017 at 5:42 pm
Zoltan Istvan is launching his campaign to become Libertarian governor of the American state of California with two signature policies. First, hell eliminate poverty with a universal basic income that will guarantee US$5,000 per month for every Californian household for ever. (Hell do this without raising taxes, he promises.)
The next item in his in-tray is eliminating death. He intends to divert trillions of dollars into life-extending technologies robotic hearts, artificial exoskeletons, genetic editing, bionic limbs and so on in the hope that each Californian man, woman and AI (artificial intelligence) will eventually be able to upload their consciousness to the Cloud and experience digital eternity.
What we can experience as a human being is going to be dramatically different within two decades, Istvan says, when we meet at his home in Mill Valley, California. We have five senses now. We might have thousands in 30 or 40 years. We might have very different bodies, too.
I have friends who are about a year away from cutting off their arm and replacing it with a prosthetic version. And sure, pretty soon the robotic arm really will be better than a biological one. Lets say you work in construction and your buddy can lift a thousand times what you can. The question is: do you get it?
For most people, the answer to this question is likely to be, Erm, maybe Ill pass for the moment. But to a transhumanist such as Istvan, 44, the answer is, Hell, yes! A former National Geographic reporter and property speculator, Istvan combines the enthusiasm of a child whos read a lot of Marvel comics with a parodically presidential demeanour. Hes a blond-haired, blue-eyed father of two with an athletic build, a firm handshake and the sort of charisma that goes down well in TED talks.
Like most transhumanists (there are a lot of them in California), Istvan believes our species can, and indeed should, strive to transcend our biological limitations. And he has taken it upon himself to push this idea out of the Google Docs of a few Silicon Valley dreamers and into the American political mainstream.
Twenty-five years ago, hardly anybody was recycling, he explains. Now, environmentalism has conditioned an entire generation. Im trying to put transhumanism on a similar trajectory, so that in 10, 15 years, everybody is going to know what it means and think about it in a very positive way.
What were saying is that over the next 30 years, the complexity of human experience is going to become so amazing, you ought to at least see it
I meet Istvan at the home he shares with his wife, Lisa an obstetrician and gynaecologist with Planned Parenthood and their two daughters, six-year-old Eva, and Isla, who is three. I had been expecting a gadget-laden cyber-home; in fact, he resides in a 100-year-old loggers house built from Californian redwood, with a converted stable on the ground floor and plastic childrens toys in the yard. If it werent for the hyper-inflated prices in the Bay Area (Its sort of Facebook yuppie-ville around here, says Istvan) youd say it was a humble Californian homestead.
Still, there are a few details that give him away, such as the forbidding security warnings on his picket fence. During his unsuccessful bid for the presidency last year he stood as the Transhumanist Party candidate and scored zero per cent a section of the religious right identified him as the Antichrist. This, combined with Lisas work providing abortions, means they get a couple of death threats a week and have had to report to the FBI.
Christians in America have made transhumanism as popular as its become, says Istvan. They really need something that they can point their finger at that fulfils Revelations.
Istvan also has a West Wing box set on his mantelpiece and a small Meccano cyborg by the fireplace. Its named Jethro, after the protagonist of his self-published novel, The Transhumanist Wager (2013). And there is an old Samsung phone attached to the front door, which enables him to unlock the house using the microchip in his finger.
A lot of the Christians consider my chip a mark of the beast, he says. Im like, No! Its so I dont have to carry my keys when I go out jogging.
Istvan hopes to chip his daughters before long for security purposes and recently argued with his wife about whether it was even worth saving for a university fund for them, since by the time they reach university age, advances in artificial intelligence will mean they can just upload all the learning they need. Lisa won that argument. But hes inclined not to freeze his sperm and Lisas eggs, since if they decide to have a third child, 10 or 20 or 30 years hence, theyll be able to combine their DNA.
Even if theres a mischievous, fake-it-till-you-make-it quality to Istvan, theres also a core of seriousness. He is genuinely troubled that we are on the verge of a technological dystopia that the mass inequalities that helped fuel US President Donald Trumps rise will only worsen when the digital revolution really gets under way. And he despairs of the retrogressive bent of the current administration: Trump talks all the time about immigrants taking jobs. Bulls**t. Its technology thats taking jobs. We have about four million truck drivers who are about to lose their jobs to automation. This is why capitalism needs a basic income to survive.
And hes not wrong in identifying that emerging technologies such as AI and bio-enhancement will bring with them policy implications, and its probably a good idea to start talking about them now.
Stephen Hawkings question to China: will AI help or destroy the human race?
Certainly, life extension is a hot investment in Silicon Valley, whose elites have a hard time with the idea that their billions will not protect them from an earthly death. Google was an early investor in the secretive biotech start-up Calico, the California Life Company, which aims to devise interventions that slow ageing and counteract age-related diseases. Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel has invested millions in parabiosis: the process of curing ageing with transfusions of young peoples blood.
Another biotech firm, United Therapeutics, has unveiled plans to grow fresh organs from DNA. Clearly, it is possible, through technology, to make death optional, the firms founder, Martine Rothblatt, told a recent gathering of the National Academy of Medicine in Los Angeles.
In attendance were Google co-founder Sergey Brin, vegan pop star Moby and numerous venture capitalists. Istvan fears that unless we develop policies to regulate this transition, the Thiels of this world will soon be hoarding all the young blood for themselves.
Clearly, it is possible, through technology, to make death optional
Istvan was born in Oregon in 1973, the son of Hungarian immigrants who fled Stalins tanks in 1968. He had a comfortable middle-class upbringing his mother was a devout Catholic and sent him to Catholic school and an eye for a story. After graduating from Columbia University, he embarked on a solo round-the-world yachting expedition, during which, he says, he read 500 works of classic literature. He spent his early career reporting for the National Geographic channel from more than 100 countries, many of them conflict zones, claiming to have invented the extreme sport of volcano boarding along the way.
One of the things he shares in common with Americas current president is a fortune accrued from real estate. While he was making films overseas in the noughties, his expenses were minimal, so he was able to invest all of his pay cheques in property.
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So many people in America were doing this flipping thing at the time, explains Istvan. I realised very quickly, Wow! I could make enough money to retire. It was just quite easy and lucrative to do that.
At his peak, he had a portfolio of 19 fixer-upper houses, most of which he managed to sell before the crash of 2008. He now retains nine as holiday rentals and uses the proceeds to fund his political campaigns (he is reluctant to name his other backers). Still, he insists hes not part of the 1 per cent; the most extravagant item of furniture is a piano, and his groceries are much the same as you find in many liberal, middle-class Californian households.
Istvan cant think of any particular incident that prompted his interest in eternal life, other than perhaps a rejection of Catholicism.
Fifty per cent of me thinks after we die we get eaten by worms, and our body matter and brain return unconsciously to the cosmos  The other half subscribes to the idea that we live in a holographic universe where other alien artificial intelligences have reached the singularity, he says, referring to the idea, advanced by Google engineer Ray Kurzweil, that pretty soon we will all merge with AI in one transcendental consciousness.
However, when Istvan first encountered transhumanism, at university via an article on cryonics (the practice of deep-freezing the recently dead in the hope that they can be revived at some point), he was sold. Within 90 seconds, I realised thats what I wanted to do in my life.
After a near-death experience in Vietnam he came close to stepping on a landmine Istvan decided to return to America and make good on this vow. I was nearing 30 and Id done some great work, but after all that time Id spent in conflict zones, seeing dead bodies, stuff like that, I thought it would be a good time to dedicate myself to conquering death.
He spent four years writing his novel, which he proudly claims was rejected by more than 600 agents and publishers. Its a dystopian story that imagines a Christian nation outlawing transhumanism, prompting all the billionaires to retreat to an offshore sea-stead where they can work on their advances undisturbed (Thiel has often threatened to do something similar).
Istvan continued to promote transhumanism by writing free columns for Huffington Post and Vice, chosen because they have strong Alexa rankings (ie, they show up high in Google search results).
I wrote something like 200 articles, putting transhumanism through the Google algorithm again and again, he says. I found it a very effective way to spread the message. I covered every angle that I could think of: disability and transhumanism; LGBT issues and transhumanism; transhumanist parenting.
Hes proud to say hes the only mainstream journalist who is so devoted to the cause. A lot of people write about transhumanism, but I think Im the only one who says, This is the best thing thats ever happened!
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Istvans presidential campaign was an attempt to take all of this up a level. It sounds as if he had a lot of fun. He toured Rust Belt car parks and Deep South mega-churches in a coffin-shaped immortality bus inspired by the one driven by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters to promote LSD in the 1960s.
His platform Make America Immortal Again earned a fair amount of publicity, but Americans seemed ill-prepared for such concepts as the AI imperative (the idea that the first nation to create a true AI will basically win everything, so America had better be the first) and the singularity. At one point, he and his supporters were held at gunpoint by some Christians in Alabama.
The experience taught him a salutary lesson: unless you are a billionaire, it is simply impossible to make any kind of dent in the system. Hence his defection to the Libertarian Party, which vies with the Greens as the third party in American politics. Every town I go to, theres a Libertarian meet-up. With the Transhumanists, Id have to create the meet-up. So theres more to work with.
The Libertarian presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, received 3.27 per cent of the votes last year, including half a million votes in California. About seven or eight million are likely to vote in the California governor race, in which context, half a million starts to become a lot of votes, Istvan explains.
His own politics are somewhere between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, he admits, and he has a hard time converting the right wing of his new party to causes such as basic income. (The general spirit of libertarian America is, Hands off!) But he believes transhumanism shares enough in common with libertarianism for the alliance to be viable; the core precepts of being able to do what you like as long as you dont harm anyone else are the same. And the gubernatorial campaign serves as a primary for the 2020 presidential election, when he believes the Libertarian candidate will have a feasible chance of participating in the television debates.
But whats wrong with death? Dont we need old people to die to make space for new people? And by extension, we need old ideas and old regimes to die, too. Imagine if William Randolph Hearst or Genghis Khan were still calling the shots now. And imagine if Mark Zuckerberg and Vladimir Putin were doing so in 200 years. Innovation would cease, the species would atrophy, everyone would get terribly bored. Isnt it the ultimate narcissism to want to live forever?
Istvan does concede that transhumanism is a very selfish philosophy. However, he has an answer for most of the other stuff.
Im a believer in overpopulation Ive been to Delhi and its overcrowded, he says. But if we did a better job of governing, the planet could hold 15 billion people comfortably. Its really a question of better rules and regulations.
And when discussing the desirability of eternal life, he turns into a sort of holiday rep for the future.
What were saying is that over the next 30 years, the complexity of human experience is going to become so amazing, you ought to at least see it, Istvan says. A lot of people find that a lot more compelling than, say, dying of leukaemia.
Still, it comes as little surprise that hes finding live for ever an easier sell than give money to poor people in 21st-century America.
I cant imagine basic income not becoming a platform in the 2020 election, he insists. And if not then, at some point, someone is going to run and win on it. The Republicans should like it because it streamlines government. The Democrats should like it because it helps poor people. Right now, Americans dont like it because it sounds like socialism. But it just needs a little reframing.
Basic-income experiments are already under way in parts of Canada, Finland and the Netherlands, but how would he fund such an idea in the US? He cant raise taxes libertarians hate that. And he doesnt want to alienate Silicon Valley.
If we did a better job of governing, the planet could hold 15 billion people comfortably
How do you tell the 1 per cent youre going to take all this money from them? It wouldnt work, he says. They control too many things. But Istvan has calculated that 45 per cent of California is government-controlled land that the state could monetise.
A lot of environmentalists are upset at me for that, saying, Woah, Zolt, you want to put a shopping mall in Yosemite? Well, the reality is that the poor people in America will never be able to afford to go to Yosemite. Im trying to be a diplomat here.
And he insists that if Americans miss those national parks when theyve been turned into luxury condos and Taco Bells, theyll be able to replenish them some day if they want.
Theres nanotechnology coming through that would enable us to do that, Istvan argues. We have GMOs [genetically modified organisms] that can regrow plants twice as quick. In 50 or 100 years, were not even going to be worried about natural resources.
Such is his wager that exponential technological growth is around the corner and we may as well hurry it along, because its our best chance of clearing up the mess weve made of things thus far.
The safety of genetically-modified crops is backed by science
Didnt the political developments of 2016 persuade him that progress can be slow and sometimes go backwards? Actually, Istvan argues that what were witnessing are the death throes of conservatism, Christianity, even capitalism.
Everyone says the current pope is the best one weve had for ages, that hes so progressive and whatever. Actually, Catholicism is dying, says Istvan. Nobodys giving it any money any more, so the pope had better moderate its message. As for capitalism, all of this nationalism and populism are just the dying moments.
Its a system that goes against the very core of humanitarian urges. And while its brought us many wonderful material gains, at some point we can say, Thats enough. In the transhumanist age, we will reach utopia. Crime drops to zero. Poverty will end. Violence will drop. At some point, we become a race of individuals who are pretty nice to each other.
But now weve talked for so long that Istvan needs to go and pick up his daughters from childcare. He insists that I join him. What do his family make of all of this?
My wife is a bit sceptical of a lot of my timelines, he says. Lisa comes from practical Wisconsin farming stock, and its a fair bet that her work with Planned Parenthood keeps her pretty grounded. They met on dating website match.com. Does she believe in all this stuff?
I dont want to say shes not a transhumanist, he says, but I dont think shed cryogenically freeze herself tomorrow. I would. Im like, If you see me dying of a heart attack, please put me in a refrigerator. She thinks thats weird.
We arrive at the community centre where Istvans daughters are being looked after. They come running out in summer dresses, sweet and sunny and happy to be alive. Both of them want to be doctors when they grow up, like their mum.
The Times/The Interview People
Posted: at 5:42 pm
Will you be chipped one day? Will you be forced, or strongly encouraged or incentivized, to have a microchip under your skin to make payment, identification and no doubt tracking all that much easier?
Three Square Market, a Wisconsin-based firm specializing in vending machines, recently offered its employees a chance to say goodbye to hard-to-remember log-in codes and the need for ID badges. Employees could sign up to have a dime-sized microchip implanted in their hands. Surprisingly, 50-some employees allowed a tattoo artist to insert the chips. The company hopes to generate enough buzz to sell consumers on one day opting for a wave of their chipped hands in front of its vending machines, instead of pulling out a credit card or using their smart phones.
Technology appears to be charting its course to land within us. This trajectory, I suppose, stands to reason. Tech continues to grow smarter and smaller.
I just want to say one word to you, one word plastics. Thats the advice the know-it-all businessman offers the title character of the 1967 classic The Graduate. Today I have one word for you: miniaturization.
From swarms of mosquito-sized killer drones to phones/augmented-reality tech/passports inside of us, mini could be the word that defines the future. Already in Sweden, according to USA Today, some 3,000 folks have microchips implanted that allow them to board the train with a swipe of their hands.
If you want to be chipped right now, you just need to go to Dangerous Things, a Seattle-based outfit. The company is big on transhumanism: the notion that through genetic and technological enhancement people will soon transcend what it means to be human. We will genetically engineer away disease. We will amp abilities and extend lifetimes to near immortality. We will be posthuman, even (in the words of some transhumanist theorists) homo deus. Ye will be as gods, I remember someone saying once.
There are some things, the company says on its web site (dangerousthings.com), we will likely never achieve through gene modification. The ability to store digital data in our bodies. The ability to compute data and perform cryptography in our bodies. The ability to transmit and receive digital data and talk directly to machines in their digital language.
The interconnected world of the Internet, in other words, will come to us to the point that we will become our phones and laptops. Truly we will live and move and have our being in the Web. We will swim within its currents.
Our bodies are our own, to do what we want with, the company continues on its web site, sounding the clarion call for bio-hacking. Sound familiar? That is the ideological tidal stream one of radical personal autonomy carrying us deeper into the 21st century and what may well be the abyss. This amounts (it is said smugly) to the right side of history. People are what they say they are and what they want to be, and will do what they want with themselves. And if anyone challenges these assertions, she is a bigot. And of course, Nazis were bigots; therefore, anyone who stands in the path of the declared right side of history is a Nazi. And you know what you do with Nazis, dont you?
The company invokes a familiar incantation to ward away any criticism: The socially acceptable of tomorrow is formed by boundaries pushed today, and were excited to be part of it. History, in this paradigm, advances by the knocking down of boundaries. What is socially acceptable in one time becomes regressive in the next, thanks to boundary-pushing radicals like Dangerous Things, and so the dialectical dance makes its way one transgression after another until we reach a utopia where money and sex and identity are as fluid and free as the waters of the ocean.
If this isnt the hijacking of Christian eschatology, that is, how the world will play itself until the end of times, and jury-rigged to disordered human desire bent on casting aside all restraints and becoming as gods onto themselves, Im not sure what it is. I do know it takes a society as wealthy as it is decadent to think history works that way, that progress is engendered by smashing one boundary after another and that, in this chaos, everything will come out swimmingly well.
Boundaries, like the guardrails on a road, can be there for a reason. The ones on roads can be replaced if they are knocked down. Its not so easy with the ones that maintain civilization.
For the ancient Greeks, those who, in their arrogance, confused themselves with the gods garnered the attention of Nemesis. Nemesis in Greek means to give what is due, for she is the agent of inescapable vengeance. By her hand many a civilization has been crippled, dispatched to the graveyard even. In our hubris, in our dreams of self-proclaimed godhood, I dont think a microchip in the hand will be much match for the sword Nemesis carries in hers.
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NEWMAN: A chip in the hand isn’t worth much – Scottsbluff Star Herald
Posted: August 8, 2017 at 3:42 am
Transhumanists are curiosity addicts. If its new, different, untouched, or even despised, were probably interested in it. If it involves a revolution or a possible paradigm shift in human experience, you have our full attention. We are obsessed with the mysteries of existence, and we spend our time using the scientific method to explore anything we can find about the evolving universe and our tiny place in it.
Obsessive curiosity is a strange bedfellow. It stems from a profound sense of wanting something better in lifeof not being satisfied. It makes one search, ponder, and strive for just about everything and anything that might improve existence. In the 21st century, that leads one right into transhumanism. Thats where Ive landed right now: A journalist and activist in the transhumanist movement. Im also currently a Libertarian candidate for California Governor. I advocate for science and tech-themed policies that give everyone the opportunity to live indefinitely in perfect health and freedom.
Politics aside, transhumanism is the international movement of using science and technology to radically change the human being and experience. Its primary goal is to deliver and embrace a utopian techno-optimistic worlda world that consists of biohackers, cyborgists, roboticists, life extension advocates, cryonicists, Singularitarians, and other science-devoted people.
Transhumanism was formally started in 1980s by philosophers in California. For decades it remained low key, mostly discussed in science fiction novels and unknown academic conferences. Lately, however, transhumanism seems to be surging in popularity. What once was a smallish band of fringe people discussing how science and technology can solve all humanitys problems has now become a burgeoning social mission of millions around the planet.
At the recent FreedomFest, the worlds largest festival on liberty, transhumanism was a theme explored in numerous panels, including some I had the privilege of being on. Libertarian transhumanism is one of the fastest growing segments of the libertarian movement. A top priority for transhumanists is to have freedom from the government so radical science experiments and research can go on undisturbed and unregulated.
So why are so many people jumping on the transhumanist bandwagon? I think it has to do with the mishmash of tech inundating and dominating our daily lives. Everything from our smartphone addictions to flying at 30,000 feet in jet airplanes to Roombas freaking out our pets in our homes. Nothing is like it was for our forbearers. In fact, little is like it was even a generation ago. And the near future will be many times more dramatic: driverless cars, robotic hearts, virtual reality sex, and telepathy via mind-reading headsets. Each of these technologies is already here, and in some cases being marketed to billions of people. The world is shifting under our feetand libertarian transhumanism is a sure way to navigate the chaos to make sure we arrive at the best future possible.
My interest in transhumanism began over 20 years ago when I was a philosophy and religion student at Columbia University in New York City. We were assigned to read an article on life extension techniques and the strange field of cryonics, where human beings are frozen after theyve died in hopes of reviving them with better medicine in the future. While Id read about these ideas in science fiction before, I didnt realize an entire cottage industry and movement existed in America that is dedicated to warding off death with radical science. It was an epiphany for me, and I knew after finishing that article I was passionately committed to transhumanism and wanted to help it.
However, it wasnt until I was in the Demilitarized Zone of Vietnam, on assignment for National Geographic Channel as a journalist, that I came to dedicate my life to transhumanism. Walking in the jungle, my guide tackled me and I fell to the ground with my camera. A moment later he pointed at the half-hidden landmine I almost stepped on. Id been through dozens of dangerous experiences in the over 100 countries I visited during my twenties and early thirtieshunting down wildlife poachers with WildAid, volcano boarding in the South Pacific, and even facing a pirate attack off Yemen on my small sailboat where I hid my girlfriend in the bilge and begged masked men with AK47s not to shoot me. But this experience in Vietnam was the one that forced a U-turn in my life. Looking at the unexploded landmine, I felt like a philosophical explosive had gone off in my head. It was time to directly dedicate my skills and hours to overcoming biological human death.
I returned home to America immediately and plunged into the field of transhumanism, reading everything I could on the topic, talking with people about it, and preparing a plan to contribute to the movement. I also began by writing my libertarian-minded novel The Transhumanist Wager, which went on to become a bestseller in philosophy on Amazon and helped launched my career as a futurist. Of course, a bestseller in philosophy on Amazon doesnt mean very many sales (theres been about 50,000 downloads to date), but it did mean that transhumanism was starting to appear alongside the ideas of Plato, Marx, Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, Sam Harris, and other philosophers that inspired people to look outside their scope of experience into the unknown.
And transhumanism is the unknown. Bionic arms, brain implants ectogenesis, artificial intelligence, exoskeleton suits, designer babies, gene editing tech. These technologies are no longer part of some Star Trek sequel, but are already here or being worked on. They will change the world and how we see ourselves as human beings. The conundrum facing society is whether were ready for this. Transhumanists say yes. But America may not welcome that.
In fact, the civil rights battle of the century may be looming because of coming transhumanist tech. If conservatives think abortion rights are unethical, how will they feel about scientists who want to genetically combine the best aspects of species, including humans and animals together? And should people be able to marry their sexbots? Will transhumanist Christians try to convert artificial intelligence and lead us to something termed a Jesus Singularity? Should we allow scientists to reverse aging, something researchers have already had success with in mice? Finally, as we become more cyborg-like with artificial hips, cranial implants, and 3D-printed organs, should we rename the human species?
Whether people like it or not, transhumanism has arrived. Not only has it become a leading buzzword for a new generation pondering the significance of merging with machines, but transhumanist-themed columns are appearing in major media. Celebrity conspiracy theorists like Mark Dice and Alex Jones bash it regularly, and even mainstream media heavyweights like John Stossel, Joe Rogan, and Glenn Beck discuss it publicly. Then theres Google hiring famed inventor Ray Kurzweil as lead engineer to work on artificial intelligence, or J. Craig Ventures new San Diego-based genome sequencing start-up (co-founded with Peter Diamandis of the X-Prize Foundation and stem cell pioneer Robert Hariri) which already has 70 million dollars in financing.
Its not just companies either. Recently, the British Parliament approved a procedure to create babies with material from three different parents. Even President Obama, before he left office, jumped in the game by giving DARPA $70 million dollars to develop brain chip technology, part of Americas multi-billion dollar BRAIN Initiative. The future is coming fast, people around the world are realizing, and theres no denying that the transhumanist age fascinates tens of millions of people as they wonder where the species might go and what health benefits it might mean for society.
At the end of the day, transhumanism is still really focused on one thing: satisfying that essential addiction to curiosity. With science, technology, and a liberty-minded outlook as our tools, the species can seek out and even challenge the very nature of its being and place in the universe. That might mean the end of human death by mid-century if governments allow the science and medicine to develop. It will likely mean the transformation of the species from biological entities into something with much more tech built directly into it. Perhaps most important of all, it will mean we will have the chance to grow and evolve with our families, friends, and loved ones for as long as we like, regardless how weird or wild transhumanist existence becomes.
Zoltan Istvan is the author of The Transhumanist Wager, and a Libertarian candidate for Governor in California.
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The Growing World of Libertarian Transhumanism | The American … – The American Conservative
Posted: August 5, 2017 at 5:42 am
This Dark Matter review contains spoilers.
For longtime viewers of Dark Matter, the story that unfolds in Built, Not Born is one that had been anticipated for quite awhile, and the payoff is quite satisfying. Tying the Dwarf Star transhumanist efforts with Two (whom they know as Rebecca) together with the origins of the Android seems obvious in retrospect, but it was a great resolution to one of the most enduring mysteries of the series so far. Although the season-long arcs were again put on hold just like last week, the interlude was a welcome one, and if previous experience holds true, it may all just relate in the end anyway.
To start off, Threes reluctance to help Androids robot friends must be applauded for several reasons. First, it reflected what would otherwise have been an awkward pivot from seemingly more important matters, like following up on Sixs idea of taking sides in the corporate war. Second, it allowed Three to have an ironic and painful discussion with Sarah about machines not being alive. And third, his later apology to Android for his prejudicial attitude and tendency to speak without thinking gave her the smile-inducing line, Its one of the things I like about you.
Of course, Android borrowed that line from Six who reminds her, and simultaneously the audience, that despite what we learn of her origins in this episode, shes far from an imperfect imitation but rather her own being with unique variations. When Six says, Youre more than just a series of programmed responses. Youre an original. And thats what we love about you, he might as well be speaking on behalf of the viewer.
Thats especially true once we find out that her creator and the creator of Victor and the others looks just like the Android we know and love for a reason. Dr. Irena Shaw was not only a disgruntled Dwarf Star employee who felt the super-soldier program that designed Rebecca was inhumane; she also grew to love the woman she helped create (fans of Zoie Palmer in Lost Girl were likely all a-flutter). That love likely allowed her to see the potential in giving emotional, self-aware androids the one last ingredient they needed to make them people: free will. The mystery of Androids origin could not have been more poignant, a story filled with romance and tragedy.
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The part that Victor plays is also wonderfully nuanced, both in his helpfulness in unlocking some of Androids memories and in his secretive motivation for calling for help in the first place. The first red flag that Victor wasnt telling the whole truth should have been when Ruac, who had been shot in the head, was revived and shouted, It was wrong! Clearly he had objections to Victor killing Anyas former owner. Did he remove Ruacs emotion chip to force the required self-termination? It even throws into doubt whether Anyas suicide was preventable! Does Victor have justification for his actions, or is he going down a dark path?
This is especially troubling given that he now has a Sarah android at his side. It wasnt his idea to use Dr. Shaws technology this way, but he obviously sees it as an opportunity. And the Galactic Authority wouldnt pop away from the corporate war or the conflict between Zairon and Pyr for no reason. So what is it about Sarah having a human mind combined with a stronger superior physical construct that will further Victors cause, whatever it might be? A truly compelling new mystery!
It was also a nice touch to have Dr. Shaws caretaker, Chase, look exactly like Arrian, the diplomatic android who had a bit of a crush on the blonde Five in Dark Matters season 2 finale. Chases suggestion that Android could be tweaked elicits an enjoyable defensiveness in Five, who rightly says that she likes this version better. So do we, Five; so do we.
But what do we make of the memories Victor unlocked for Android? Seeing Portia excited about Emilys nano-virus that initially woke up Androids hidden subroutines is an interesting transition point from the emotional Rebecca to the malevolent outlaw she became in Portia Lin. And Android telling Ryo-of-yore, You and the rest of the crew are self-seeking, ethically deficient, and morally barren, yet youre incongruously kind to me, gives us insightful character moments, but will it mean something more down the road? Time will tell.
In the meantime, this episode of Dark Matter was another welcome distraction from the corporate war and Ryos villainy. With three episodes left, those elements are sure to return with a vengeance, but it will be interesting to see how the time travel story and the android history lesson will inform the impending finale. If they were simply character building and tying up of loose ends from earlier seasons, great; if they end up tying in to what happens next, even better. Either way, Dark Matter fans cant help but be pleased although theyd be even happier with a season 4 renewal.
Posted: August 1, 2017 at 5:42 pm
It would be tempting to fall into a pool of contemporary cliche when describing Generation Gone. It is a story that involves the military-industrial complex, tech geniuses mad with power, transhumanism, broken relationships, societal betrayal, and millennials looking for some measure of justice for the future taken from them. And it would be easy to pick a side and wash the other in judgemental aphorisms about generational misunderstandings and the world in which we live. I have the feeling, however, that this will not be an easy book to cram into a single box, if this debut issue is any indication.
There are pages of Generation Gone #1 where the art and the characters are allowed to just breathe. No dialogue, just portraits of a life stunted by unseen forces, whether that be the cancer striking at a loved one or a mad transhumanist waiting to pounce. In the hard-hitting first issue to this new series, storytellers Ale Kot and Andr Lima Arajo explore the existential crises that come with despair, over confidence, and the loneliness that their main characters feel even when surrounded by those they love.
While working for the secretive governmental organization, known as DARPA, developing the next super weapon of war, tech genius Akio presents his plan to change the human race by using code that, when read, will rewrite the very DNA of the reader, creating true super humans. His Project Utopia is discarded and later confiscated by General West, the seeming head of the program Akio was hired to create, Airstrip One. In his spare time, Akio has tracked three hackers who plan on infiltrating Bank of America to steal back, as Akio puts it to West, what his generation has stolen from them: a future.
The potential for cliche comes to its apex with the disaffected millennial hackers, Elena, Nick, and Baldwin. While their educational history is put into question by West upon learning Akio has tracked the trio, allowing them to hack into a fake DARPA server, it is not remarked upon how these three came by their skills. They come together as longtime friends and lovers, in Nick and Elenas case, each for a different reason, explored in those wordless pages. Elena wakes early, heading to her job as a waitress before going home to care for her cancer-stricken mother. Baldwin, an African-American man, sees the headlines of another black man shot out of unfounded fear. Nick, the narcissist of the group, heads home, walking past pictures of a soldier, perhaps his brother, whose room he passes on his way to a meticulous self-care ritual. Even in their relationships with each other, they are alone.
Our first introduction to Nick and Elena defines their relationship throughout the story. Elena is in love with Nick, but he is concerned with control, wanting to turn her off. Later he threatens to break up with her on the spot should she drop out of the scheme to rob their way out of their troubles. His self-centeredness hurts Elena, but he is her anchor. Whether he is mooring her in the tempest that is her life or dragging her down remains to be seen. Nicks reckless and selfish behavior comes to a head as he nearly costs the team their anonymity while hacking into Akios fake DARPA. He is all about the score, the self, the win. Once behind their computer screens, the three hackers are in their element, but Nick is sucked in by the power he commands literally at his fingertips.
Akio brings up the isolation of technology in his conversations with the essentially analog West, apologizing for ignoring the chain of command, blaming it sitting behind a computer screen. This exploration of the disconnect of technology with reality can be seen as a take on the disconnect we have with each other through social media or as the disconnect between soldiers and the weapons of war through the use of drones and other technology meant to strike from afar.
In the end, as was telegraphed, Akios code infiltrates the trio causing six full pages of Exorcist-level fluid loss. Before the three hackers begin to leak out of their eyeballs, however, the code mesmerizes them. They are pulled to their screens tightly, even when addressing each other, attempting to pull out of the operation. They simply cannot look away. It takes rewriting their genetic code to rip them bodily from their computers and from the malaise that brought them to this point. The desperation, the isolation, the nihilism of the new millennium.
In the end, Generation Gone sets a provocative table. It could have fallen into any number of cliched traps. Instead, it gives the characters a chance to break through the obvious and, for lack of a better word, soar.
Generation Gone #1 review: Patience is a virtue
Is it good?
In the end, Generation Gone sets a provocative table. It could have fallen into any number of cliched traps. Instead, it gives the characters a chance to break through the obvious and, for lack of a better word, soar.
Lets the art do the talking
Gives a generational malaise a purpose
Just the one “they’re millennials” line. It’s a really good book, y’all.
Ales KotAndre Limacomic booksGeneration GoneImagereview
Posted: July 31, 2017 at 9:42 am
On a recent evening at a start-up hub in Spitalfields, London, journalist and author Jamie Bartlett spoke to a small group of mostly under 40, mainly techie or creative professionals about his book Radicals: Outsiders Changing the World. The book, which Bartlett started to research in 2014, before Brexit and Trump, chronicles his time with a series of different radical groups, from the Psychedelic Society who advocate the careful use of psychedelics as a tool for awakening to the unity and interconnectedness of all things to Tommy Robinson, co-founder of the unabashedly far-right English Defence League, to the founder of Liberland, a libertarian nation on unclaimed land on the Serbian/Croatian border, to Zoltan Istvan, who ran as US transhumanist presidential candidate on a platform of putting an end to death. He campaigned by racing around America in a superannuated RV which hed modified to look like a giant coffin, dubbed the Immortality Bus. His efforts were in vain, and illegal, as it turned out: his campaign was in breach of the US Federal Electoral Commission rules.
Bartletts book has been damned with faint praise he has been called surprisingly naive about politics, and defining radical so broadly as to make the term meaningless. The general consensus goes that Bartletts journey through the farthest-flung fringes of politics and society is entertaining and impressively dispassionate, but not altogether successful in making a clear or convincing case for radicals or radicalism. But at the talk that night Bartlett challenged what he sees as the complacent acceptance and defense of our current political and governmental systems, institutions and ideas, of the kind of technocratic centrism that prevailed throughout the global North until very recently. Perhaps they need some radical rethinking. Many of the radicals Bartlett spent time with may be flawed, crazy or wrong literally, legally and morally but they can also hold up mirrors and magnifying glasses to political and social trends. And sometimes, they can prophesize them
Bartlett began the evening by saying, If democracy were a business, it would be bankrupt. A provocative statement, but one that he backs up. He pointed to research showing that only 30% of those born after 1980 believe that it is essential to live in a democracy. That rate drops steadily with age. A closer look at the research around peoples attitudes reveals widespread skepticism towards liberal institutions and a growing disaffection with political parties. Freedom Houses annual report for 2016 shows that as faith in democracy has declined so too have global freedoms 2016 marks the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. While a lot of attention has been given to violent polarization, populism and nationalism rising out of anger at demographic and economic changes, Bartlett suggests that perhaps comfort and complacency are culprits too, and he is not the only one: only last weekFinancial Times columnist Janan Ganesh took up a similar theme.
What are the fringe ideas of today that might become ideas of the future? We cannot, of course, say, but Bartletts point is we should be paying much closer attention to the crazed hinterlands of human thought. In 2015 transhumanist Zoltan Istvan was talking about using technology to fundamentally change what it is to be human to augment our fleshy bodies with steel and silicon. One of Istvans favored refrains is the transformative effect of artificial intelligence on the way that we work, and the way that we live. In the past six months, it has become near-impossible to read a newspaper or a magazine without stumbling across a take on how AI is set to change our economy. Istvans other hobby-horse is immortality, and using technology to drastically expand the human lifespan ultimately to the point where it increases so fast that time cant catch up with us and we reach a kind of escape velocity. Putting Istvans quasi-religious language aside, increases in life expectancy and in our expectations of medical care pose real challenges to which we will need to find practical and political solutions. Kooky as they may seem, fringe movements have ideas, and ideas that may prove proleptic or prophetic.
Perhaps we are too attached to our traditional ways of doing things our political institutions and our centuries-old processes. Technology and society have completely transformed in the past fifty years and the way we engage with politics through technology has changed beyond recognition in the past year alone, but as Bartlett pointed out, our formal politics has not changed in two hundred years: our parliamentary democracies, our two-party systems. Young people today are deeply disdainful of labels of personal style, of sexual identity, and of political leanings; the labels no longer seem to fit. Younger generations are not apolitical on the contrary and likely do not reject the tenets of democracy, but rather, the way it is framed. The core ideas institutionalized 200 years ago are not the wrong ones, but their implementation might benefit from an injection of radical thinking from those firmly outside the mainstream.