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Category Archives: Transhumanism

The transhumanists who are ‘upgrading’ their bodies – BBC News

Posted: October 6, 2019 at 4:41 pm

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Winter Mraz says she loves having her keys in her hand but she does not mean holding them. She has actually had her door key implanted into her left hand in the form of a microchip.

In her right hand, she has had another microchip implant that acts as her business card but could also be used to store important medical information for use in the case of an emergency.

The 31-year-old engineer also has a magnet in one finger that allows her to sense electro-magnetic fields, which she says helps in her work.

But not all her body upgrades are practical. Her latest procedure is to have two LED implants, that turn on when a magnet is passed above them, illuminating her skin from inside.

Why? "Because they are sparkly and I'm a magpie," she says. "I like things that light up."

Winter is one of a growing number of people who call themselves "transhumanists".

It is the belief that the humans can improve beyond their physical and mental limitations and "upgrade" their bodies by incorporating technology.

For Winter, her first "cyber-enhancements" were not voluntary, they were through the hospital after a serious car crash in the United States that fractured her back, both her ankles and her knees.

Her back was bolted together by surgeons and one of her kneecaps was replaced with one that was 3D-printed, on the NHS.

"If it was not for my cybernetic kneecap I would not be able to walk," she told BBC Scotland's The Nine.

After her accident she moved on to voluntary personal modifications such as the microchips in her hands.

The RFID (radio-frequency-identification) chip in her left hand works on the lock in her house door in the same way as many workplace security cards operate. This means she does not have to carry keys and keeps her hand free for her walking cane.

The NFC (near-field communication) chip in her right hand has many potential uses. It is the same type of chip that allows phones and tablets to easily share data with each other.

Winter says: "I think saying that you should not alter your body and you should not change your body is a very ableist way to go about living. People who are disabled don't have that choice. It is made for us."

Steven Ryall, a 26-year-old technical operator from Manchester, says he wants to have chips implanted to make "smart hands".

"We have smart TVs, smart phones, everything is smart," he says. "Why can't I be smart?"

Steven believes that transhumanism is the logical next step in human development. He wants be able to programme the technology in his body to respond to his personal biology.

His "technological baptism" was at a private clinic in Leicester, where he had his first implant.

The microchips are usually delivered by a syringe into the back of the hand.

"I am slowly turning myself into part machine," he says. "I don't mind being biological but if I could be part mechanical that is so much more awesome than just my plain self."

Steven says the chip is "essentially" like those in a contactless bank card. "I can get an RFID or NFC reader and hook it up to a chip that I programme and then get that chip to recognise the chip in my hand and do whatever I want," he says.

Steven is an evangelist for humans "upgrading" themselves but he can understand why people might think it is an extreme thing to do. He says friends and family think it is "weird and kooky" but he believes that in the next five years they will start getting into it too.

Winter says wearable tech such as the Apple watch and Fitbit and other "doctor on your wrist" health monitors have taken off in the past few years and she believes that implants are the next logical step.

She says: "I don't think implants are inevitable but I think they are getting better, longer-lasting, cooler and have more functionality. It's going to be one more option people have."

Steven says he can easily see a time when companies are asking employees to have implants for security ID to access building or computer networks.

"I think that people would see it as an extreme thing because they are looking from a historical perspective, they are not looking forward," he says.

At the moment there are loose regulations on who can do it and most implants are done by tattoo artists and body piercers.

There are some people who are taking things into their own hands by buying the tools off websites to perform the procedure themselves.

Bio-hacker Jenova Rain, who implanted Steven's chip at her Leicester practice, said she was doing five implants a week and the numbers were rising as interest grows.

Although regulations on bio-hacking specifically are sparse, Jenova says she is covered to do implants as a tattoo artist and piercer.

Even though she promotes the idea of upgrading yourself through her YouTube channel and website she has no chips or "upgrades" herself. She says they would be "useless" for her.

Dr Mary Neal, professor of medicine and ethics at Strathclyde University, said she was "not surprised" more people were getting involved but there needed to be better regulation.

She said the procedure was similar to other body modification such as botox but there were many ethical discussions that needed to be had around bodily autonomy and regulation.

Dr Neal also said there were safety risks with people buying the equipment from online sites and doing the procedures from home.

The Scottish government told BBC Scotland's The Nine it intended to regulate procedures carried out by non-healthcare professionals and it was consulting on how this could be done.

A spokesman said it was looking at the "most proportionate and appropriate measures" and the government's priority was the safety of those involved.

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The transhumanists who are 'upgrading' their bodies - BBC News

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Insight: Transhumanists believe in the bionic body beautiful – The Scotsman

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No of course there shouldnt really be a religion based on The Bionic Woman that would require you to watch the show and it is cheesy and definitely for kids, laughs Ana Matronic, pop diva and Jaime Sommers obsessive.

We are having this conversation because, in her teens, she turned her fictional hero into a quasi deity the combination of the forces of science and nature and placed her at the centre of a belief system called Bionic Love. While she may now mock her fanzine flights of fancy, she still has faith in technology to transform humanity.

Matronic has been captivated by robots and cyborgs since C-3PO squeaked into her life at the age of three. Her right arm is a declaration of love a half-sleeve tattoo which began as a mishmash of cogs and springs, la Sommers, but now incorporates other favourites such as R2-D2 and Maria, the female robot from Fritz Langs 1927 film Metropolis.

Matronic, who was originally called Ana Lynch, has always been attracted to the blurring of boundaries. This is the woman who was once the only female drag queen in San Franciscos The Trannnyshack. That was before she became lead singer of the self-consciously flamboyant Scissor Sisters: a band that revelled in its own campness.

Today, she has lost none of that flamboyance; she still hosts the BBC Radio 2 programme Dance Devotion. But, an academic at heart, she also tours the country evangelising about transhumanism the merging of human and machine as well as warning of the dangers.

Later this month, she will be appearing at an event in the Dundee University Festival of the Future, along with Graeme Gerard Halliday, aka Hallidonto, a Scottish-born, London-based artist, who creates images of cyborgs, and Kadine James, Creative Tech Lead with Hobs 3D, a company that specialises in 3D printing.

Im really interested in all aspects of technology, from the three-minute pop song to AI [Artificial Intelligence] and advances in medical treatment, says Matronic.

I am interested in how things work and how they affect humanity. Technology holds so much promise, but it moves faster than governments. Thats a dangerous thing and something we ought to talk about.

The Dundee University event is timely. Not long ago, cyborgs were of mostly hypothetical interest, explored in science and speculative fiction, but not generally regarded as a contemporary reality impacting on everyday behaviour.

In the past year or so, however, transhumanism appears to have entered the mainstream; every day seems to bring a news story that could have come straight from Charlie Brookers Black Mirror; a story that challenges our preconceptions about what it means to be human.

Some of the technology we are seeing changes us physically. Blade prostheses that allow amputee athletes to run as fast as able-bodied ones for example, and power-suits that strengthen the muscles of elderly people, mean cyborgs are already in our midst.

Just last week, we learned a Frenchman paralysed in a nightclub accident had walked again thanks to a mind-controlled exo-skeleton suit. Recording devices implanted either side of his head between the skin and the brain read brainwaves and send them to a nearby computer, where they are converted into instructions for controlling the exo-skeleton.

Technology is developing so rapidly that both scientists and philosophers are pondering the possibility that we may eventually be able to transform ourselves into beings with abilities so great as to merit the label post-human.

The extent to which the concept of transhumanism (if not the word itself) has entered the public consciousness could be seen in the recent Russell T Davies drama Years And Years in which one of the main characters, Bethany, wants to become part-machine.

She has mobile phone implants in her hands, camera implants in her eyes and brain implants that allow her to make a mental connection with the internet. Set just a few years hence, and building on existing technology, the interesting thing about the series is not how futuristic it seems, but how feasible. Even when, towards the end, her aunt Edith uploads her consciousness to the cloud so she can continue to exist after death, it does not feel too far-fetched.

Martine Rothblatt, the founder of SiriusXM Satellite Radio, a super-fascinating person No 1 on my fantasy dinner party list is already developing the technology to create a mind file, says Matronic. The idea is you gather as much information on yourself as you can so that when you die your mind-file can be downloaded into a phone or into a robot and you or rather a facsimile of you can live on for your family. There are also people working on substrate independent minds brains that dont need a body to function. And people who are trying to extend life or eradicate death.

But if death becomes an option then the fairy tale of unlimited economic growth becomes even more of a fairy tale. And thats before we start thinking about storage. If you are a digital person, where do you live? And if the storage facility is so big it can store digital people then the computational power of that facility is not a what but a who. The whole thing is a crazy, crazy rabbit hole I love to jump down.

The first robot

Matronics right; it is a rabbit hole, and the further you go down it the more you lose yourself in an ethical maze.

At its best, technology has the power to tap into human potential; to make us the best we can be. When Makoto Nishimura created Japans first robot, Gakutensoku (the name means learning from natural law), he was conceived as an ideal.

At an exhibition to mark Emperor Hirohitos ascension to the throne in 1926 the year before Metropolis was released spectators were awe-struck as the God-like bronze figure appeared before them clutching a mace and arrow and smiled beatifically. Nishimura believed robots were a continuum of humanity a natural evolution. If humans are the children of nature, then robots are the grandchildren of nature, he said.

Yet, ever since the industrial revolution, western society has tended to have an adversarial attitude towards machines, viewing them as sleekit creatures who will steal our jobs or turn against us, like Frankensteins monster. In literature too, we are accustomed to the idea of scientific progress producing dystopias such as Airstrip One in 1984 or the boarding school for clones in Kazuo Ishiguros Never Let Me Go.

Overemphasising the downsides of technological advance may be discriminatory, says Matronic. When we have conversations about the evils of technology, we are being ablist. If you say, social media is bad, I will show you someone with locked-in syndrome or crippling social anxiety for whom it has opened up the possibility of friendship.

Technology could also eradicate paralysis; there would be no more quadriplegics. Also, at present we only use 10 per cent of our brains. If we have machines that can help us explore more of that, then its amazing.

Even so, neither Matronic nor Hallidonto is naive. They understand the potential pitfalls of transhumanism in a capitalist society where efficiency and profits are the most powerful drivers.

Technology initially developed for positive purposes may be subverted for negative ones, while the push to create a super-race of better, fitter, more cognitively capable humans veers perilously close to eugenics.

And then there is the question of marginalisation. We are already living in a world where those who do not own a smartphone are disadvantaged. How much greater will that socio-economic inequality become once it is possible to pay for superior physical strength and brain power?

Professor Kevin Warwick, the worlds leading expert in cybernetics, has been called the first cyborg. In the late 1990s/early 2000s, he experimented with his own body. First, he had an RIFD transmitter implanted under his skin which allowed him to control doors, lights, heaters and other devices. Then he had a BrainGate electrode array fitted which allowed him to control a robotic arm on the other side of the Atlantic a feat that conjures up the image of Thing in the Addams Family. Finally, he linked his nervous system electrically to his wifes in such a way that every time she closed her hand, his brain received a pulse. Was that not freaky? It was very intimate, he says. You are getting signals from someone elses body and nobody else knows.

The link cannot yet be made brain to brain, but when it can, it will be the basis of thought communication: telepathy, but for real.

Back in the 90s, Warwick faced criticism, not technically, just people saying: Youre a buffoon, because they didnt understand what I was doing. In the end, of course, the joke was on them.

Yet today, some people are still dubious, not about the science, but about the morality. The ethical dilemmas sparked by some of these developments are huge. For example, if you can control an arm miles from where you are, then presumably you can use it to commit crimes. Meanwhile the linking up of brains if achieved would be a useful way to communicate with someone who couldnt speak but, in the wrong hands, it could be used for coercive control.

Warwick accepts all this, but seems unperturbed. As a scientist, you are aware of things potentially going in a negative way, but you hope society will look at applications and say: Yes, this one is great it will help people and No, we dont think this one should be allowed.

Asked if it would be ethical to amputate a normal human leg in order to replace it with blades that allowed an athlete to run faster, he says yes.

I cant see a problem. We have to look to the future. At the moment, we have a body. The body does things OK and the brain controls it and its all a pretty limited package. But we have the possibility of redefining what our body and our brains can do. Why should anyone lag behind with ordinary human body parts when they could have something thats much better?

When I suggest this will exacerbate the disenfranchisement of the most vulnerable, he implies a degree of inequality is a social inevitability and points out that wealthy people can already pay for physical enhancements through cosmetic surgery.

Not everyone is this sanguine. Hallidonto is as passionate about robots as Matronic. Growing up in the 80s, the first cyborg he encountered was the one in The Terminator. I remember sitting on the sofa with my dad at three years old and being completely traumatised by it, he says. Later, I had Darth Vader toys and I would pretend I was wearing a robotic suit. I would feel quite powerful.

When he was 12, Hallidonto suffered a collapsed lung. He was put in a machine and experienced visceral, morphine-induced dreams about babies with wires coming out of their eyes. Then when he was 25, he had a brain injury on a holiday in Germany and it changed how he saw the world.

A graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College in Dundee, his work has always featured robots. At the launch of his exhibition, Cyborg Cadavers, in London last week, he explored some of the pitfalls. I spoke about the Anthropocene and the Promethean allegory and pointed out that if we dont watch what we are doing we may end up, not with the body we desire, but with the body that is required, he says.

With technology developing so rapidly, Matronic believes there is an urgent need for tech companies and governments to talk about ethics before it is too late.

Most of the negative stories about robots/cyborgs, from Frankenstein on, involve someone with a God complex thinking they can do what the Creator does. Those stories are a warning against hubris.

So we definitely need to have conversations about morality and every tech company should have its own ethicist. They should be saying things like: Dear Elon Musk loving the SpaceX stuff, but do we really need a flamethrower?

Matronic says some of her worst fears, technologically speaking, are already being realised with Facebooks lack of transparency and peoples identities and data being turned into a commodity.

I am really concerned about autonomous weapons too, she says. Mines are horrible enough, but guns that can walk and speak? That is a terrifying prospect. I dont think they should be allowed to exist.

The potential for technology to reinforce inequality will have to be addressed too because otherwise only some people will lag behind. It will be: Oh my God did you get the brain update? No, I am still working with version 2.4. Well, version 3 just came out and its amazing.

Chair of the Dundee University event, Karen Petrie, associate dean for learning and teaching in science and engineering, is developing educational software that can adapt to the learning speed of individual students.

Her biggest fear is the one feminist activist Caroline Criado Perez touches on in her book Invisible Women: that as computers take over more and more tasks, they will replicate existing biases.

Most AIs are built on machine learning, she says. That means they take a large quantity of data, mine that data and learn behaviour. Unfortunately, if theres any bias in that data, even if it is implicit bias, then the machine will learn it. A good example of this is a big tech firm that was trying to use a machine learning algorithm to scan CVs and work out who they should or shouldnt employ.

However, until now this tech firm has employed 95 per cent men, so when this algorithm was used it pretty much screened out all the women.

Body hacktivism

For all the potential problems, the notion that technology could transform us aesthetically, cognitively, spiritually cannot fail to excite the imagination. The myriad possibilities it throws up are proving a rich source of inspiration for both artists and philosophers.

Indeed they have engendered a new art form: body hacktivism. Tight restrictions on the kinds of surgery that can be done on humans has led to a school of DIY body modification artists, who carry out work on themselves or others. There is Neil Harbisson, who sees the world in black and white, but wears an antennae that translates the frequency of colours into sounds; Tim Cannon, who had magnets implanted in his fingers; Lukas Zpira, author of the body hacktivism manifesto, who offers tongue splitting, implants, and subincision (the splitting of the penis); and Steve Haworth, who specialises in subdermal and transdermal implants, such as the Metal Mohawk a row of spikes inserted into the head to replicate a punk haircut.

Despite her fixation with cyborgs, Matronic is a late adopter of new technology. I am last to everything I never even have the latest smartphone. But she believes the future will be more fluid. Others have connected this fluidity to transgenderism; after all, if you can change the human body at will, then sex and gender become less important. And if your consciousness can exist without corporeal form then, arguably, they cease to matter at all.

If you see yourself as a religious person and you believe in the soul, then, when your soul leaves, is it male or female? says Matronic.

You have just your body you can be anything. Gender really is a construct something that is mandated by society. Different societies have different expressions of gender and different codes. I think as we expand as humans, we understand there are different ways of being and definitions loosen, so we are going to have new words and new definitions and new genders.

Everything will be new, new, new. It might be scary for some people and difficult conversations will have to be had but I believe that us humans learn to human better as we evolve and I look to the future with hope.

How Robots Are Shaping the World We Live In, 6.30pm, October 19, Juniper Auditorium, V&A, Dundee

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Hereticon, From Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Is a ‘Conference for People Banned From Other Conferences’ – The Daily Beast

Posted: at 4:41 pm

Being cancelled getting you down? Well now theres a conference for youand everyone else booted from mainstream political discourse for thoughtcrimes.

Imagine a conference for people banned from other conferences, the announcement for Founders Funds exclusive new three-day event reads. Imagine a safe space for people who dont feel safe in safe spaces.

Imagine indeed.

Hereticon (yes, its actually called that) promises to include many of our cultures most important troublemakers, specifically ones committed to improving civilization. That might rule out a few names, but wed expect Founders Fund to highlight at least a handful of thinkers from its portfolio companies.

Palantir will probably show up, given recent protests and the decision by both the Grace Hopper Celebration and the Lesbians Who Tech conference to remove the company, which contracts with ICE, as a sponsor.

Retiring Texas Rep. Will Hurd also seems like a natural choice, after being disinvited to keynote the Black Hat security conference due to his political record on abortion. Hurd is also friendly with Founders Fund portfolio company Anduril.

Unlike gatherings of right-leaning online provocateurs that the event resembles, Hereticon will draw a more pedigreed set. The invite-only conference in May 2020 will likely attract attendees from the much-grumbled about liberal strongholds of American tech, and perhaps others whove been cast out of the silicon gates already.

From Galileo to Jesus Christ, heretical thinkers have been met with hostility, even death, and vindicated by posterity, the blog post grandly opens, going on to declare that troublemakers are essential to mankinds progress, and so we must protect them.

The topics that will take center stage at Hereticon? Theyre a doozy. Conversations will center on a smorgasbord of libertarian micro-obsessions, including transhumanism, the abolition of college (a favorite of Founders Fund partner Peter Thiel), the benefits of starvation a la Jack Dorseys fasting diet, the softer side of doomsday prepping, and immortality, naturally.

While its no surprise to see such an event emerge from the crowd that sees eye-to-eye with a man seen as Silicon Valleys seastead-loving deep-pocketed free press assassin, its interesting to see Founders Fund throw the event themselves. Some of the firms investments, like defense-friendly Palantir and Anduril, are considered controversial in techs left-leaning circles, but many of its portfolio companies are more quotidian utilities like Stripe, Facebook, and Credit Karma. Not exactly heretical.

Its likely a strategic choice for a venture firm that could benefit from drawing the self-identified misfits stalking tech's fringes in toward the center and giving them something to feel collectively persecuted and intellectually invigorated about.

Then again, they might just come together to chatter about UFOs and wax poetic about corporate counterculture. Either way, well be staying tuned to see which technocrats and/or heretics get the invite nod.

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Hereticon, From Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, Is a 'Conference for People Banned From Other Conferences' - The Daily Beast

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Man meets machine: 21st century is age of the upgradeable human, says expert –

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And by the time people are in a position to begin colonising other planets, mankind will be a technologically-augmented species, Bob Flint, the technology director with BPs Digital Innovation Organisation, predicted. The recent BBC One drama series Years and Years touched on such concepts, with one character voicing her desire to become transhuman - in other words, dramatically enhanced by technology - and Mr Flint said the concept was perhaps not as far-fetched as it might sound. Mr Flint, who will present his ideas during a talk entitled The Upgradeable Human at the New Scientist Live festival at Londons ExCel centre, said: Humankinds development is a story of using technology to add to our capabilities think clothing and spectacles, or more recently pacemakers and laser eye surgery.

We can imagine augmenting our strength, stamina, senses and even intelligence

Bob Flint

Now, with technology becoming incredibly powerful through digital, the possibilities are becoming exponentially greater. We can imagine augmenting our strength, stamina, senses and even intelligence.

It was yesterday announced that a French man, known has Thiabault, had managed to walk in the exoskeleton in a pioneering experiment carried out by scientists at the University of Grenoble in France.

As a result, the next few decades could see an increasing blurring of the lines between man and machine, Mr Flint said.

He explained: Wearables are an early example of this trend, but new technology is emerging which can be incorporated more seamlessly into the body, heralding an era where humans and machines will be closely integrated.

Eventually, its possible humans may be able to move beyond the evolutionary process by selecting digital upgrades that overcome the constraints of biology and allow each of us to choose powerful new abilities, which can be used in our personal and working lives.

Such concepts have been featured in modern sci-fi shows including Charlie Brookers Black Mirror, and the aforementioned Years and Years, written by Russell T Davies and even as far back as the Six Million Dollar Man in the 1970s.

Mr Flint said: I loved Years and Years, and thought it was great to see TV drama exploring some very futuristic concepts.

Personally, I think were some way from the transhumanism that is mentioned (one of the characters wanted to upload her personality and experiences to become a purely digital being, which would need huge advances in computing).

Im actually talking about the opposite idea, using digital technology to give our human selves greater powers - this is possible now.

READ MORE: Jet suit breakthrough: Buck Rogers in the 21st Century

Im just predicting it will become easier, cheaper and much less noticeable in the near future.

I think the bigger issue is not so much whether this will be technically possible there are lots of research projects and early products which signpost the direction of travel.

Its more whether upgrading ourselves will be seen as socially acceptable. This is hard to call, but I think that if it gives us an advantage, maybe in work, sport or socially, then eventually it will simply be regarded as a normal thing to do.

There are all sorts of major ethical questions here, some of the ones weve come across are: will human upgrades only be available to the very rich? How will the most deserving get hold of necessary technology even if they dont have the means to pay for it?

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What does privacy mean in an age where technology can collect lots of personal information on our physical or mental state? How do we hang onto the rights to our own data?

If a company is looking to hire a new member of staff, how should they treat the technically augmented versus the non-augmented applicants? Is the playing field ever going to be level again?

We really need a public conversation on these issues, so we can decide what regulation or legal change we may need in this area.

For example, the Royal Society has recently kicked off a public dialogue on neural interfaces, which is a great start.

Looking further into the future, Mr Flint believed technological enhancements may also help humans conquer space.

He explained: I know theres a big debate about whether its preferable for humans to lead the exploration of other worlds, or robots.

Certainly, robotic methods are going to be easier (and less costly) in the short term, as you dont need to create habitable conditions on board the spacecraft or on the planet you land on.

But eventually, if humankind is going to become an interplanetary species, well need to get good at moving life across vast tracts of space.

I actually dont think that having an upgraded human is mandatory to enable this. But I do think that the timescales will coincide in other words, we will be a technologically-augmented species anyway, by the time we seriously attempt to colonise other worlds.

The Upgradeable Human is on the Humans stage on October 10 between 10.45am and 11.25am.

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Peter Thiel’s Promised Land For Intellectual Troublemakers –

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For all of those people who feel they have become victims of an ideological witch hunt or have been evicted from all forms of intellectual debate, theres a new Promised Land to share with other like-minded individuals.

Even crazy Uncle Mike, or someone like the best friend of the Oklahoma City bomber, or Aunt Lily who is obsessed with building survival bunkers and keeping an eye out for unmarked, black helicopters would be welcome with open arms.

This coming May in New Orleans, the Founders Fund, run by billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, will host a three-day event called Hereticonand the turnout promises to be unusually decent.

Imagine a conference for people banned from other conferences. Imagine a safe space for people who dont feel safe in safe spaces, the fund wrote.

The main reason for hosting the conference? The organizers believe that these apparent intellectual troublemakers are essential to mankinds progress.

We must protect them, opines the Fund. Butwhile our culture is fascinated by the righteousness of our historical heretics, it is obsessed with the destruction of the heretics among us today.

In an announcementfor the event, the fund compares potential attendees to martyrs like Galileo and Jesus Christ, and poses the question: Are our heretics the first in history who deserve to be burned?

There is no doubt that the event will attract many banned outcasted opinion havers, from all fields, since the event will welcome intellectuals from all walks of life that have been banned from other conferences.

Topics including, but are not limited to: biological self-determination, geo-engineering, transhumanism, the abolition of college, transgressive media, sex, the softer side of doomsday prepping, constitutional monarchy, immortality, drag culture, and building nations. Related: The Doodle Frenzy Is Earning Unethical Breeders Top Dollar

And at the end of the day, on the top floor of hotel, in a hidden room plastered in newspaper clippings of sightings and secret bases, there may be a talk or two on UFOs.

Though the organizers failed to include any information as to who might be presenting on this conference of heretics, media is already speculating as to who might show up. The event is invite-only, but members of the general public can apply for a spot.

While his mainstream ventures include PayPal and Facebook, many of Thiels other activities are naturally leading to something like Hereticon.

Hes been known, for instance, forusing controversial blood transfusion therapiesin pursuit of his dream of living forever.He also signed up with cryogenics company Alcor, which will freeze the ailing body in the hopes of unfreezing it in the future when there is a cure.

However, what apparently makes Thiel an intellectual outcast most is his negative attitude towards Silicon Valley. According to the Wall Street Journal, last year herelocated his home, personal funds, 50-person staff and his foundation from Silicon Valley to Los Angelesapparently because Silicon Valley was too liberal.

Thiel is one of the most vocal supporters Trump has ever enjoyed.

More recently, he accused the Google of treason for operating an artificial intelligence lab in China, which Trump promptly tweeted:

As the impeachment proceedings gain momentum, Hereticon may just gain more requests for attendance that it was planning on.

By Josh Owens for

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Peter Thiel’s VC Fund to Host Conference for Ideological ‘Heretics,’ Maybe Summon a Ghost or Two – Gizmodo UK

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Ideological outcasts who have been banned from other conferences surely the most beleaguered minority can soon find a home with other like-minded individuals at Hereticon, a three-day conference being planned by the Founders Fund venture capital firm.

Thats the same Founders Fund run by billionaire Peter Thiel, a kindred soul in the world of supposed ideological witch-hunt victims. (Disclosure: Thiel secretly financed the lawsuit that bankrupted Gizmodo US former parent company, Gawker Media, back in 2016.) In an announcement for the event, the fund compares potential attendees to martyrs like Galileo and Jesus Christ and boldly asks, are our heretics the first in history who deserve to be burned?

This coming May in the US city of New Orleans, Louisiana, event attendees will be treated to discussions on a number of ominous topics, ranging from the abolition of college and the benefits of starvation to constitutional monarchy (what?!) and revisionist demography. Thiel, who has identified as libertarian and supported Donald Trumps presidential election bid, in 2009 wrote that he believed freedom and democracy are incompatible and has reportedly explored the potential of injecting ones self with youths blood to stave off death, so this tracks.

Per the Founders Fund post, after attendees are done discussing the intricacies of becoming immortal, biologically modified monarchs, they may lighten it up by summoning a ghost:

Topics including but not limited to: biological self-determination (modification, design), geo-engineering, transhumanism, the abolition of college, transgressive media, sex, the softer side of doomsday prepping, the nature of conspiracy, the benefits of starvation, constitutional monarchy (what?!), revisionist demography, immortality, drag culture, and building nations. After dark, on the top floor of our hotel, in a hidden room plastered in newspaper clippings of sightings and secret bases, there may be a talk or two on UFOs and literally a sance.

Which ghost Founders Fund hopes to summon is perhaps a question best not asked.

We believe dissent is essential to human progress and hope Hereticon will spark important conversations within our community and beyond thats really the only goal, Founders Fund vice president Michael Solana told Business Insider.

Thiel, an early Facebook investor, sold off almost all his shares in the company, while Founders Fund has totally cashed out, Reuters reported in August 2019. Hes remained on the Facebook board of directors, despite reportedly feeling that his views are unwelcome there and continual calls for his removal. Thiels other business ventures include cyberintelligence company Palantir, whose software has reportedly aided US federal immigration authorities with detention and deportation operations, and a large stake via Founders Fund in Palmer Luckeys Anduril, a virtual wall company that inked a border surveillance deal with US Customs and Border Protection.

More recently, Thiel accused Google of treason and being infiltrated by the Chinese government, which dovetails nicely with the Trump administrations continual claims that the search giant is part of a far-ranging conspiracy to undermine his constitutional monar... err, presidency.

Featured image: Alex Wong (Getty Images)

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Peter Thiel's VC Fund to Host Conference for Ideological 'Heretics,' Maybe Summon a Ghost or Two - Gizmodo UK

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Long live candidate Harris, Milwaukee’s US Transhumanist Party presidential hopeful – Milwaukee Record

Posted: September 25, 2019 at 11:48 am

If the election of Donald Trump has proven anything, its that anything is possible. Could a Milwaukee candidate, part of a fringe party thats main interest is prolonging human life expectancy, be our next President of the United States? Absolutely not, but the U.S. Transhumanist Party, a mix of ideas that include libertarianism and sci-fi sounding future tech, hopes their campaign will draw attention to their platform.

The U.S. Transhumanism Party was founded in 2014 by Zoltan Istvan, who ran as the partys first candidate in the 2016 election. Zoltans vision was a party that would advocate for significant life extension achieved through the process of science and technology so people could live for hundreds and thousands of years, eventually making a breakthrough where we would be able to live to the age of forrrrrevvvvvvver years old. Imagine limbs being replaced with robotic parts, cloned organs being swapped out like an oil change, and an external hard drive for your brain.

Milwaukees Kristan T. Harris is one of the nine candidates competing to be the partys nominee for presidential candidate. Harris says that besides eternal life, Transhumanists are also interested in genome biohacking, cryptocurrency, weather modification, and creating designer babies.

All of these issues will bring up questions of ethics, which Harris hopes will lead to a healthy debate amongst Transhumanists in discussions about who will have access to eternal life, and how far we will go with artificial intelligence.

What the U.S. Transhumanist Party does is bring awareness of a very autonomous and robotic future thats on its way, Harris says. Its trying to develop ideas about what were going to do about those scenarios before we get there.

Harris works for a tech company by day and bartends at The Salty Dog, a tavern in Cudahy (and his sort of unofficial headquarters), where hes known by regulars for his passion in creating the perfect Bloody Mary with infused vodkas. In his spare time, Harris has developed an online following as the passionate co-host of talk radio show The Rundown Live, and his own program American Intelligence Report. Hes covered everything from ancient aliens to secret societies and government corruption. Milwaukee Record reported how hed found alleged occult symbolism in Veterans Park. All this has led Harris to be labelled as a conspiracy theorist, a term he shrugs off.

I always thought the term conspiracy theorist was a thought-terminating clich. It prevents people from recognizing their own cognitive dissonance or recognizing logical fallacies and its been shown in history that the term has been used mostly to cover up things they dont want people to look into, Harris argues. If someone calls you a conspiracy theorist, then nothing you say should be considered relevant.

Before Harris hits the road to the White House to challenge Trump and whoever the Dems push through, he will have to outlive his eight USTP opponents, including San Franciscan cyberpunk Rachel Haywire, St. Louiss Jon Schattke (owner of Schattke Advanced Nuclear Engineering), and an extraterrestrial-human hybrid from Los Angeles named Vrillon. Not quite as crowded and eclectic as the Democratic lineup, but close.

Harris says hes gotten along well with his fellow Transhumanists for the most part, but in the past week he has developed a rivalry with Arizonas Johannon Ben Zion, who has an institute that focuses largely on left-libertarian and techno-optimist market solutions to contemporary problems. Harris says he got along with Candidate Zion until he decided to call me a technophobe cause I wanted to question ethics of Transhumanism and he says Ill ruin the party. The two candidates clashed on the ethics of designer babies and Harriss talk of naturally extending life. Thats the key word, I said naturally, then he said I was a technophobe, that I wasnt a Transhumanist. Harris challenged Zion to a one-on-one debate, which Zion declined.

Harris held his own in an online virtual debate on September 14 between five of the partys candidates, and is spending the rest of the week campaigning in preparation for September 21, when the USTP Electronic Presidential Primary opens online. Card-carrying (or e-mail-confirmed in this caseit takes about 10 seconds to join the party by filling out a simple form on their website) members who sign up by the 21st will have a week to vote for their representative for president.

If Harris doesnt seal his partys nomination, hell be able to try again in 2024. And if the Transhumanist agenda moves forward, hell also have a chance to run again in 3024, 4024whatever millennium seems like the right fit.

You can find Kristan T. Harriss Official U.S. Transhumanist Party candidate bio page HERE.


Long live candidate Harris, Milwaukee's US Transhumanist Party presidential hopeful - Milwaukee Record

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Author Mark OConnell awarded 10,000 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature 2019 – The Irish Times

Posted: at 11:48 am

Irish author Mark OConnell has been awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature 2019 at Trinity College Dublin this evening. He was presented with the prize for his debut To Be a Machine, an exploration of transhumanism. This is the first time the 10,000 award has been made for a work of nonfiction.

Announcing the 2019 winner, member of the prize jury Prof Michael Cronin said: In his book which takes a personal look at the transhumanist movement a movement which hopes through technology to enhance human capacities and eventually overcome human mortality Mark OConnell shows himself to be a writer of the first rank. His faultless characterisation, his deep interest in the humanity of his transhumanists, his engagingly precise but poetic style, his richly insightful observations on questions which are literally life and death issues, marked out him as a writer of unquestionable promise.

The prize is awarded for a body of work by emerging Irish writers that shows exceptional promise. The author joins the auspicious ranks of former winners such as Colin Barrett, Sara Baume, Anne Enright and Frank McGuinness among many others.

Being presented with the award in Trinity had a particular relevance for the Kilkenny-born author, who is a graduate of Trinity from where he obtained an undergraduate degree in English and Philosophy and a PhD in English.

OConnell said: Its a delight, and a real surprise, to be chosen as the winner of this years Rooney Prize for Irish literature. Its especially thrilling to be the first writer of non-fiction to be awarded the prize. Im deeply grateful to the prize committee and to the Rooney family for this wonderful honour.

OConnells book, To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death, was published by Granta in 2017. The Irish Times review called it brilliant A terrifying, fascinating and often funny insight into a brave new world.

OConnell, a books columnist for Slate and a staff writer at The Millions, won the prestigious 30,000 Wellcome Book Prize last year. It celebrates exceptional works that illuminate how health and medicine touch our lives. His next book, Notes from an Apocalypse: a personal journey to the end of the world and back, will be published by Granta next April. OConnell set out to meet the men and women preparing for the end of the world. In the remote mountains of Scotland, in high-tech bunkers in South Dakota and in the lush valleys of New Zealand, small groups of determined men and women are getting ready. They are environmentalists who fear the ravages of climate change; billionaire entrepreneurs dreaming of life on Mars; and right-wing conspiracists yearning for a lost American idyll. One thing unites them: their certainty that we are only years away from the end of civilization as we know it.

The prize benefactor, Dr Peter Rooney, said: I am delighted to see the award go to a writer of such original and fresh writing. The vision for it has always been to reward new talent and Mark is most deserving of this years award.

The prize was set up by his uncle, the former US ambassador to Ireland and President Emeritus of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dan Rooney who died two years ago. The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature is administered by the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing at the School of English at Trinity.

Mark OConnell interview with Patrick Freyne

Why Silicon Valley billionaires are prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand

Speech by Prof Michael Cronin on behalf of the prize juryAscending Errisbeg Hill in Co Galway, the cartographer and essayist Tim Robinson reflects on the dual perspectives of climbing: Any hill suggests a progression from close-up observations of what is immediately under the climbers hands and feet, through rests for breath-catching and retrospection and glances ahead at intermediate delusive skylines that hide the ultimate goal, to the triumphal horizon-sweeping outlook from the summit.

Judges of literary prizes often feel like Robinsons hill climbers. Gazing intently at the book currently under review and then moving swiftly on to the next, always hoping for that moment when they can finally reach the the triumphal horizon-sweeping outlook from the summit and decide on a winner.

This was my first year on the prize jury and I was deeply impressed by the thoroughness, the scrupulousness, the openness of my fellow judges as they gave equal consideration to the works submitted for consideration. From the slimmest volume of poetry to the door-stopping brick of prose, all of the books were objects of the same generous, free-ranging spirit of enquiry and sympathetic analysis.

What became quickly apparent as we hauled our bulging plastic bags and overstuffed tote bags to the Oscar Wilde Centre in Westland Row was the extraordinary vitality of the contemporary writing scene in Ireland. We found writers who were deeply committed to their craft, constantly alert to the news from elsewhere and who were not afraid to experiment with new forms or ideas.

What makes the Rooney Prize such a valuable and distinctive prize in the Irish literary landscape is its commitment to recognise emergence and promise. It is a prize which does not have to labour under the shadow of established reputation but can reward originality, freshness and distinctness. As even the most cursory look at the list of previous prizewinners will show, the writers have again and again delivered on this promise.

What is exciting for the prize jury is that each time you have a blank slate, complete freedom to recognise promise, whatever its source, whatever its form. But you do eventually have to get to the top of that hill and when we did we were unanimous in our choice. Surveying that rich landscape of writing there was one book that stood out for its boldness, its vivacity and its craft. The winner of the 2019 Rooney Prize for Literature is Mark OConnell for To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death (Granta, 2017).

In awarding the prize to Mark OConnell the jury was mindful of the need to extend the concept of literature to take in all forms of writing that pay particular attention to the quality and reach of language.

In his book which takes a personal look at the transhumanist movement a movement which hopes through technology to enhance human capacities and eventually overcome human mortality Mark OConnell shows himself to be a writer of the first rank. His faultless characterisation, his deep interest in the humanity of his transhumanists, his engagingly precise but poetic style, his richly insightful observations on questions which are literally life and death issues, marked out him as a writer of unquestionable promise.

He is also corrosively funny. Never mocking or disrespectful of his subjects, he has a dry, teasing wit which makes irony the subtlest of devices in his repertoire as when he describes a futurist at a meeting in London, fumbling and dropping a pistachio nut down the neck of his shirt open to the ideally entrepreneurial three-to-four buttons or how one transhumanist, went by the name T.O. Morrow, but since the late 1990s he has reverted to the less hurtlingly dynamic Tom W. Bell.

Towards the end of the book, he gives an account of a journey on board the Immortality Bus with a transhumanist and American Presidential hopeful Zoltan Istvan. There is a comic brilliance in his evocation of the mechanically challenged Zoltan accompanied by his acolyte Roen who believed that dying was so mainstream as they make their way across Texas in a forty-three foot recreational vehicle in the shape of a giant coffin.

In awarding the prize to Mark OConnell, the jury is also mindful of the richness of emerging forms of writing in Ireland that blend the personal, the factual and the reflective. Emilie Pine, Ian Maleney, Kevin Breathnach, Sinad Gleeson are just some of the names that could be mentioned in this context. They demonstrate a continued desire to explore the varied potentials of writing and see how emerging voices can offer new perspectives on questions, both contemporary and ancient.

There is no theme, of course, more central to human engagement with art than the human attempt to come to terms with mortality, which is one of the main preoccupations of To Be a Machine.

We would like to thank all the publishers who submitted works for consideration and to the School of English in Trinity College Dublin and the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing for their administrative support. On behalf of my fellow judges I would also like to thank Jonathan Williams who was such a capable and supportive organising presence throughout the judging process. Once again, we would like to commend Mark OConnell on his exemplary commitment to the art of writing and we feel that his promise as an emerging literary talent makes him a most worthy winner of the 2019 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Congratulations.Members of the prize jury are: Jonathan Williams, Dr Rosie Lavan, Carlo Gebler, Riana ODwyer, Eilan N Chuileanin and Professor Michael Cronin, Professor of French & Director of the Trinity Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation at Trinity College Dublin

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Author Mark OConnell awarded 10,000 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature 2019 - The Irish Times

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David Goldman on Gelernter’s Darwin Apostasy – Discovery Institute

Posted: at 11:48 am

Yale computer scientist David Gelernters recent confession in theClaremont Review of Books, rejecting Darwinism, continues to pick up notices from the most interesting writers out there. The economist and philosopher David Goldman, aka Spengler, notes it in an essay, Pseudo-science, the Bible and human freedom.

Goldman points out that even as the popularity of scientific determinism has jumped, the limits of scientific arguments for a purely material basis to reality have become ever clearer. Materialists assume that physics and biology make their case for them, yet physics has lost its ability to make grand statements about the nature of reality, and biology hasnt fared any better.

The evidence for unguided evolution, a central pillar for any materialist ethos, doesnt add up:

The new science of DNA proves mathematically that the odds of a random mutation leading to an improvement in the adaptability of a living organism are effectively zero, Gelernter shows. Even a small protein molecule has a chain of 150 amino acids. If we rearrange them at random we mostly obtain gibberish. In fact, of all 150-link amino acid sequences, 1 in 1074 will be capable of folding into a stable protein. To say that your chances are 1 in 1074 is no different, in practice, from saying that they are zero. Its not surprising that your chances of hitting a stable protein that performs some useful function, and might therefore play a part in evolution, are even smaller, Gelernter explains. That is Establishment science, not the murmurings of the Creationist fringe.

In short, the evolutionary biologists cant explain how animal life made the great leap from protozoans to arthropods in the Cambrian Explosion, let alone how natural selection through random mutation might have shaped the human mind. Biologists do brilliant and important research, to be sure, and the profession should not be blamed for the exaggerated claims made by a few publicists like [Yuval] Harari or Harvards Steven Pinker.

So then, against the backdrop of materialist sciences failure, what accounts for the rise of modern determinist mythologies, led by astrology and transhumanism, that have captured the imagination of Generation X and Silicon Valley? Read Goldmans article, but Ill try to summarize: Behind the phenomenon is a resurgent paganism, with its shamans like Yuval Harari, this strange little vegan who spends two hours a day in meditation, exciting the tech elite because he visualizes them as a new class of demigods, and with its repellant, narcissistic moral perspective: The New Atheism turns out to be the old idolatry packaged into a smartphone app.

The choices before modern man are not so different from the choices that faced ancient man. In fact, underneath the wrappings of contemporary life, theyre almost exactly the same. Goldman dismisses nave proofs for God. The theist today makes a boldcommitment just as the atheist does in his own way: the premise of biblical religion requires a leap of faith no greater than that of the atheists. Its consequence is the birth of human freedom, by making human beings free moral agents. The consequences of the old idolatry as well as the new paganism, by contrast, are repugnant.

The book of Psalms advises, taste and see that the Lord is good. That the new paganism is not good, but twisted and terrible, is also a matter to be tasted and seen. See Michael Egnors powerful reflections from earlier today, Jeffrey Epstein and the Silence of the Scientists. Can anyone who experiences our world, and follows its news, really doubt this?

Photo: David P. Goldman, by Elekes Andor [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Mark O’Connell wins Rooney Prize for Irish Literature Books –

Posted: at 11:48 am

Author Mark O'Connell has been announced as the winner of this year'sRooney Prize for Irish Literature, for his book To Be a Machine -the first time the 10,000 award has been made for a work of nonfiction.

Announcing the 2019 winner at Trinity College, Dublin, on Monday night, prize jury member Prof Michael Cronin said: "In his book which takes a personal look at the transhumanist movement a movement which hopes through technology to enhance human capacities and eventually overcome human mortality Mark O'Connell shows himself to be a writer of the first rank. His faultless characterisation, his deep interest in the humanity of his transhumanists, his engagingly precise but poetic style, his richly insightful observations on questions which are literally life and death issues, marked out him as a writer of unquestionable promise."

Mark O'Connell, winner of the 2019 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, talks to RT Arena

Subtitled Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death,To Be a Machinewas published by Granta in 2017. The bookexplores the philosophical and scientific roots of transhumanism; a movement that believes we can and should use technology to control the future evolution of our species. The book won the prestigious 30,000 Wellcome Book Prize in 2018.

"It's a delight, and a real surprise, to be chosen as the winner of this years Rooney Prize for Irish literature," says Mark O'Connell."Its especially thrilling to be the first writer of non-fiction to be awarded the prize. Im deeply grateful to the prize committee and to the Rooney family for this wonderful honour."

The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature was established by former US ambassador to Ireland and President Emeritus of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the late Dan Rooney, andis administered by the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing at the School of English at Trinity. The prize is awarded for a body of work by an emerging Irish writer that shows exceptional promise - previous winners include Kevin Barry, Colin Barrett,Doireann N Ghrofa, Sara Baume and Anne Enright, among many others.


Mark O'Connell wins Rooney Prize for Irish Literature Books -

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