Zapping Elderly People’s Brains Supercharges Their Working Memory

Electrically stimulating the brains of people in their 60s and 70s allowed them to perform as well on working memory tasks as 20-somethings.

Memory Games

Stimulating the brains of elderly people with electrical currents allowed them to perform just as well on a memory test as people in their 20s — a sign that researchers may have found a noninvasive way to turn back the hands of time when it comes to human memory.

“It’s opening up a whole new avenue of potential research and treatment options,” researcher Rob Reinhart said in a press release regarding the study, “and we’re super excited about it.”

All Ages

In a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience on Monday, researchers from Boston University detail how they asked a group of 20-somethings and a group of people in their 60s and 70s to complete a task designed to test their working memory, which is the part of our short-term memory that we use for reasoning and decision-making.

Working memory typically begins declining around the time we hit 30 years old, so as expected, the people in their 20s outperformed the older group on the memory task.

Remembrall

However, after the members of the older group received 25 minutes of mild stimulation via scalp electrodes, they performed just as well as the younger participants — and the memory boost still hadn’t subsided by the time the experiment ended 50 minutes later.

According to the researchers, the benefits of this noninvasive treatment could extend beyond those whose working memory has started to succumb to age, too. They found that stimulating the brains of the younger people who performed poorly on the task boosted their memories as well.

READ MORE: As Memories Fade, Can We Supercharge Them Back to Life? [Boston University]

More on memory: Can a Brain Zap Really Boost Your Memory?

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Zapping Elderly People’s Brains Supercharges Their Working Memory

Tesla Says Autopilot Is Statistically Safer Than a Human Driver

A new Tesla safety report reveals an increase in Tesla crashes, but engaging Autopilot cuts the likelihood of a fender bender.

Good News/Bad News

Tesla’s latest quarterly safety data report is a mixed bag of good and bad news.

According to the report, which Tesla released this week, crashes involving the company’s vehicles are on the rise. Not great.

However, when Autopilot is engaged, Teslas are less likely to get into crashes, signaling that human drivers may benefit from an artificial intelligence safety boost. And even with Autopilot switched off, the likelihood of a Tesla getting into a crash is still less than the national average — a sign that Tesla’s efforts to make its cars the safest in the world appear to be paying off.

Crunched Number

In the fourth quarter of 2018, Tesla reported one accident for every 2.91 million miles driven with Autopilot engaged. The first Tesla safety report of 2019 shows that rate increasing slightly, to one accident every 2.87 million miles.

However, both of those figures are better than the statistics for Teslas without Autopilot engaged: one accident for every 1.76 million miles driven in Q4 2018 and one every 1.58 million miles driven in Q1 2019.

Teslas with or without Autopilot engaged also appear substantially safer than the average car, based on the new Tesla data. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s most recent data, there’s an auto crash every 436,000 miles driven in the United States.

READ MORE: Tesla releases new Autopilot safety report: more crashes but still fewer than when humans drive [Electrek]

More on Autopilot: Elon Musk: Teslas Should Have “Full Self-Driving” by End of 2019

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Tesla Says Autopilot Is Statistically Safer Than a Human Driver

Undersea Robots Are Helping Save the Great Barrier Reef

Australian scientists are preparing to deliver millions of coral larvae to the Great Barrier Reef using an autonomous drone called

RoboStork

A team of Australian scientists built an underwater robot that can deliver larval coral to the Great Barrier reef, where they hope it will help restore the reef to some of its former glory, before it was ravaged by climate change.

The delivery drone, LarvalBot, is a more hospitable version of the underwater drone that has previously been used to hunt and kill off the coral’s predators — yet another experiment in using robotics to protect and help recover the world’s coral reefs.

Fertilizing The Lawn

The scientists behind the project consider their work similar to fertilizing a lawn, according to Particle. Except instead of grass, it’s working on a beautiful and complex underwater ecosystem.

In order to re-seed the coral reef with larvae, scientists first need to gather that seed in the first place. Back in November, the researchers gathered millions of coral sperm and egg cells for what they called at the time “IVF for coral.”

Planning In Advance

LarvalBot made its first delivery back in December. Now the researchers are planning a second expedition to coincide with the reef’s natural mass spawning period, which will happen in October into November.

When that happens, LarvalBot will dive down, dropping millions of larvae that the researchers hope will be able to take root as brand new coral.

READ MORE: ROBOTS TO THE RESCUE OF THE GREAT BARRIER REEF [Particle]

More on the coral reef: To Protect Endangered Coral Reefs, Researchers Need Legal Recourse

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Undersea Robots Are Helping Save the Great Barrier Reef

Walmart Is Rolling Out Floor-Cleaning Robots in 1,500 Stores

Walmart is sending autonomous custodial robots to 1,500 stores in a play to cut down on the tasks human employees have to face.

Clean Many Robots

Walmart is about to bring worker robots to a third of its stores.

Of the corporation’s 4,600 U.S. locations, 1,500 are about to start using floor-cleaning custodial robots and 300 will use the bots to spot empty shelves, according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s a move that could save human employees a lot of time, but also one that signals that Walmart considers sees human employees and their salaries as circumventable expenses.

Time To Pivot

“With automation, we are able to take away some of the tasks that associates don’t enjoy doing,” Mark Propes, a Walmart operations director, told the WSJ. “At the same time, we continue to open up new jobs in other things in the store.”

Those other jobs are likely related to e-commerce, WSJ reports, as Walmart plans to pivot to more online sales in an attempt to challenge Amazon.

READ MORE: Walmart Is Rolling Out the Robots [The Wall Street Journal]

More on Walmart: Walmart Is About to Deploy Hundreds of Robot Janitors

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Walmart Is Rolling Out Floor-Cleaning Robots in 1,500 Stores

China Is Trying to Scrub Bikinis and Smoking From the Internet

A new story reveals how Chinese live-streaming company Inke uses a combination of human moderators and AI to facilitate government censorship.

Cleaning Cyberspace

On Monday, the South China Morning Post published a story about the content moderation operations at Inke, one of China’s largest live-streaming companies.

The piece offers a rare glimpse at how China’s private sector helps facilitate government censorship. In some cases, that means flagging streams of people smoking or wearing bikinis — content that would likely seem fairly innocuous to an American audience — but in others, it means preventing internet viewers from seeing streams of people committing acts of terrorism or violence.

That’s the same kind of content multinational corporations such as Facebook have had trouble moderating — raising questions about what these Chinese companies have figured out that American ones haven’t.

Evolving Censorship

Inke tasks a team of 1,200 moderators with policing the streams of its 25 million users, according to SCMP.

The moderators watch streams 10- to 15-seconds before they actually go live, and in that time, they’re expected to catch anything “that is against the law and regulations, against mainstream values, and against the company’s values,” Zhi Heng, Inke’s content safety team leader, told the SCMP.

Inke defers to guidelines published by the China Association of Performing Arts to know what content falls under that umbrella, and according to the SCMP story, it ranges from politically sensitive speech and violence to people smoking or wearing bikinis.

The document is updated weekly, however, meaning content that might be acceptable one week could be censored the next, or vice versa.

To make this massive task of censoring content a little more manageable on its human moderators, Inke also employs algorithms and recognition software capable of filtering content into different risk categories.

The company sometimes dedicates just one human reviewer to watching streams considered “low-risk,” such as cooking shows, according to SCMP, while higher-risk streams receive closer scrutiny.

Learning Opportunity

The idea of censoring streams of people smoking cigarettes or wearing bikinis might seem ridiculous to a Western audience.

However, if Inke’s combination of human and AI moderators is effective at flagging the content deemed objectionable in China, it’s worth considering what it’s doing that others, such as Facebook, aren’t. Are Inke’s algorithms better in some discernible way? Has it stumbled upon the optimum human moderator-to-user ratio?

You might not agree with the content China is censoring, but content moderation isn’t by default objectionable — even Facebook’s own execs believe the company should have prevented the horrific livestream of the Christchurch shooting from reaching its audience, for example.

So perhaps there’s something Facebook and others could learn from how Inke is managing the job of filtering out undesirable online content, even if we don’t agree with China’s definition of undesirable.

READ MORE: No smoking, no tattoos, no bikinis: inside China’s war to ‘clean up’ the internet [South China Morning Post]

More on censorship: China Is Censoring “Genetically Edited Babies” on Social Media

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China Is Trying to Scrub Bikinis and Smoking From the Internet

Scientists Find a New Way to Kickstart Stable Fusion Reactions

A new technique for nuclear fusion can generate plasma without requiring as much space-consuming equipment within a reactor.

Warm Fusion

Scientists from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory say that they’ve found a new way to start up nuclear fusion reactions.

The new technique, described in research published last month in the journal Physics of Plasmas, provides an alternate means for reactors to convert gas into the superhot plasma that gets fusion reactions going with less equipment taking up valuable lab space — another step in the long road to practical fusion power.

Out With The Old

Right in the center of a tokamak, a common type of experimental nuclear fusion reactor, there’s a large central magnet that helps generate plasma. The new technique, called “transient coaxial helical injection,” does away with the magnet but still generates a stable reaction, freeing up the space taken up by the magnet for other equipment.

“The good news from this study,” Max Planck Institute researcher Kenneth Hammond said in a press release, “is that the projections for startup in large-scale devices look promising.”

READ MORE: Ready, set, go: Scientists evaluate novel technique for firing up fusion-reaction fuel [Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory newsroom via ScienceDaily]

More on nuclear fusion: Scientists Found a New Way to Make Fusion Reactors More Efficient

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Scientists Find a New Way to Kickstart Stable Fusion Reactions

The Israeli Moon Lander Is About to Touch Down

SpaceIL's Moon lander, Beresheet, is expected to touch down on the lunar surface on Thursday, landing Israeli a place in the history books.

Lunar Lander

If all goes according to plan, Israel will earn a place in history on Thursday as the fourth nation ever to land a spacecraft on the Moon — and unlike any craft that came before it, this Moon lander was privately funded.

Beresheet is the work of SpaceIL, a nonprofit Israeli space company. On Feb. 21, the company launched its $100 million spacecraft on a journey to the Moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and on April 4, it settled into the Moon’s orbit.

The next step in the mission is for Beresheet to attempt to land on the surface of the Moon sometime between 3 and 4 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Watch Along

Beresheet’s target landing site is in the northeastern part of Mare Serenitatis, also known as the Sea of Serenity.

“On the basis of our experience with Apollo, the Serenitatis sites favor both landing safety and scientific reward,” SpaceIL team member Jim Head said in a press release.

SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, the company that built Beresheet, will live-stream Thursday’s touch-down attempt, so the world will have a chance to watch along as Israel tries to land itself a spot in the history books.

READ MORE: Israel’s Beresheet space probe prepares for historic moon landing [NBC News]

More on Beresheet: Israel’s Moon Lander Just Got Photobombed by the Earth

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The Israeli Moon Lander Is About to Touch Down

Some People Are Exceptionally Good at Predicting the Future

Some people are adept at forecasting, predicting the likelihood of future events, and a new contest aims to suss them out.

Super-Forecasters

Some people have a knack for accurately predicting the likelihood of future events. You might even be one of these “super-forecasters” and not know it — but now there’s an easy way to find out.

BBC Future has teamed up with UK-based charity Nesta and forecasting services organization Good Judgement on the “You Predict the Future” challenge. The purpose is to study how individuals and teams predict the likelihood of certain events, ranging from the technological to the geopolitical.

All Winners

Anyone interested in testing their own forecasting skills can sign up for the challenge to answer a series of multiple-choice questions and assign a percentage to how likely each answer is to come true.

“When you’re part of the challenge, you’ll get feedback on how accurate your forecasts are,” Kathy Peach, who leads Nesta’s Centre for Collective Intelligence Design, told BBC Future. “You’ll be able to see how well you do compared to other forecasters. And there’s a leader board, which shows who the best performing forecasters are.”

Collective Intelligence

You’ll also be helping advance research on collective intelligence, which focuses on the intellectual abilities of groups of people acting as one.

Additionally, as Peach told BBC Future, “New research shows that forecasting increases open-mindedness, the ability to consider alternative scenarios, and reduces political polarisation,”  — meaning even if you don’t find out you’re a “super-forecaster,” you might just end up a better person after making your predictions.

READ MORE: Could you be a super-forecaster? [BBC Future]

More on forecasting: Forecasting the Future: Can the Hive Mind Let Us Predict the Future?

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Some People Are Exceptionally Good at Predicting the Future

Amazon Is Fighting South American Govs to Control “.Amazon” Domains

Amazon and a coalition of nations in South America are duking it out over who gets the coveted

Ongoing Battle

The deadline has passed for Amazon and a coalition of eight governments in South America to settle a seven-year dispute over the coveted “.amazon” top-level domain.

Both groups want dibs, and neither Amazon nor the countries through which the iconic river runs have agreed to various compromises, according to BBC News. Above all else, the dispute highlights how Amazon has become powerful that it’s becoming embroiled in geopolitical disputes.

Back And Forth

The eight nations, which together form the Amazon Cooperation Treat Organization (ACTO), blocked Amazon’s attempt to claim the domain outright. In ACTO’s proposed deal, Amazon would be allowed to use relevant sites like “kindle.amazon,” but most addresses would be reserved for member nations.

Amazon essentially proposed the opposite, in which each country would get a modified version of the “.amazon” domain.

Not Budging

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) gave Amazon and ACTO until April 7 to settle the dispute. But Business Insider reports that neither group submitted a deal to ICANN by the deadline, which has now been pushed back to April 21.

In 2018, Amazon tried to garner favor by offering $5 million worth of Kindles and web hosting, which ACTO declined.

“We are not looking for financial compensation,” Ecuadorian ambassador Francisco Carrión wrote to ICANN. “Nor are we after ex-gratia concessions to use one or a few second-level domains.”

READ MORE: The nations of the Amazon want the name back [BBC News]

More on Amazon: Lawmakers Don’t Know How to Regulate Amazon’s Delivery Robots

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Amazon Is Fighting South American Govs to Control “.Amazon” Domains

MIT Prof: If We Live in a Simulation, Are We Players or NPCs?

An MIT scientist asks whether we're protagonists in a simulated reality or so-called NPCs who exist to round out a player character's experience. 

Simulation Hypothesis

Futurism readers may recognize Rizwan Virk as the MIT researcher touting a new book arguing that we’re likely living in a game-like computer simulation.

Now, in new interview with Vox, Virk goes even further — by probing whether we’re protagonists in the simulation or so-called “non-player characters” who are presumably included to round out a player character’s experience.

Great Simulation

Virk speculated about whether we’re players or side characters when Vox writer Sean Illing asked a question likely pondered by anyone who’s seen “The Matrix”: If you were living in a simulation, would you actually want to know?

“Probably the most important question related to this is whether we are NPCs (non-player characters) or PCs (player characters) in the video game,” Virk told Vox. “If we are PCs, then that means we are just playing a character inside the video game of life, which I call the Great Simulation.”

More Frightening

It’s a line of inquiry that cuts to the core of the simulation hypothesis: If the universe is essentially a video game, who built it — and why?

“The question is, are all of us NPCs in a simulation, and what is the purpose of that simulation?” Virk asked. “A knowledge of the fact that we’re in a simulation, and the goals of the simulation and the goals of our character, I think, would still be interesting to many people.”

READ MORE: Are we living in a computer simulation? I don’t know. Probably. [Vox]

More on the simulation hypothesis: Famous Hacker Thinks We’re Living in Simulation, Wants to Escape

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MIT Prof: If We Live in a Simulation, Are We Players or NPCs?

Here’s How Big the M87 Black Hole Is Compared to the Earth

The black hole that scientists imaged is a stellar giant. It would take millions of Earths lined up side-by-side to span its length.

Pale Black Dot

On Wednesday, a team of scientists from around the world released the first ever directly-observed image of the event horizon of a black hole.

The black hole, M87*, is found within the constellation Virgo — and as the webcomic XKCD illustrated, it’s as big as our entire solar system.

Stellar Giant

The gigantic black hole, not counting the giant rings of trapped light orbiting it, is about 23.6 billion miles (38 billion kilometers) across, according to Science News.

Meanwhile, the Earth is just 7,917 miles in diameter — meaning our planet wouldn’t even be a drop in the bucket of the giant, black void. Based Futurism’s calculations, it would take just over 2.98 million Earths lined up in a row to span the length of M87*. For a sense of scale, that’s about how many adult giraffes it would take to span the diameter of Earth.

Paging Pluto

Our entire solar system is just about 2.27 billion miles wide, meaning we could just barely fit the whole thing into the newly-imaged black hole’s event horizon.

Thankfully, M87* is about 55 million light years away — so while we could readily fit inside its gaping maw, we’re way too far to get sucked in.

READ MORE: Revealed: a black hole the size of the solar system [Cosmos]

More on M87*: Scientists: Next Black Whole Image Will Be Way Clearer

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Here’s How Big the M87 Black Hole Is Compared to the Earth

Amazon Workers Listen to Your Alexa Conversations, Then Mock Them

A new Bloomberg piece shared the experiences of Amazon workers tasked with listening to Alexa recordings, and what they hear isn't always mundane.

I Hear You

Amazon pays thousands of workers across the globe to review audio picked up by its Echo speakers — and their behavior raises serious concerns about both privacy and safety.

Bloomberg recently spoke with seven people who participated in Amazon’s audio review process. Each worker was tasked with listening to, transcribing, and annotating voice recordings with the goal of improving the ability of Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant to understand and respond to human speech.

But sometimes, according to Bloomberg, they share private recordings in a disrespectful way.

“I think we’ve been conditioned to the [assumption] that these machines are just doing magic machine learning” University of Michigan professor Florian Schaub told Bloomberg. “But the fact is there is still manual processing involved.”

Listen to This

The job is usually boring, according to Bloomberg’s sources. But if they heard something out of the ordinary, they said, sometimes they’d share the Alexa recordings with other workers via internal chat rooms.

Occasionally, it was just because they found the audio amusing — a person singing off-key, for example — but other times, the sharing was “a way of relieving stress” after hearing something disturbing, such as when two of Bloomberg’s sources heard what sounded like a sexual assault.

When they asked Amazon how to handle cases like the latter, the workers said they were told “it wasn’t Amazon’s job to interfere.” Amazon, meanwhile, said it had procedures in place for when workers hear something “distressing” in Alexa recordings.

READ MORE: Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa [Bloomberg]

More on Echo: Thanks, Amazon! Echo Recorded and Sent Audio to Random Contacts Without Warning

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Amazon Workers Listen to Your Alexa Conversations, Then Mock Them

Scientists Say New Quantum Material Could “‘Download’ Your Brain”

A new type of quantum material can directly measure neural activity and translate it into electrical signals for a computer.

Computer Brain

Scientists say they’ve developed a new “quantum material” that could one day transfer information directly from human brains to a computer.

The research is in early stages, but it invokes ideas like uploading brains to the cloud or hooking people up to a computer to track deep health metrics — concepts that until now existed solely in science fiction.

Quantum Interface

The new quantum material, described in research published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications, is a “nickelate lattice” that the scientists say could directly translate the brain’s electrochemical signals into electrical activity that could be interpreted by a computer.

“We can confidently say that this material is a potential pathway to building a computing device that would store and transfer memories,” Purdue University engineer Shriram Ramanathan told ScienceBlog.

Running Diagnostics

Right now, the new material can only detect the activity of some neurotransmitters — so we can’t yet upload a whole brain or anything like that. But if the tech progresses, the researchers hypothesize that it could be used to detect neurological diseases, or perhaps even store memories.

“Imagine putting an electronic device in the brain, so that when natural brain functions start deteriorating, a person could still retrieve memories from that device,” Ramanathan said.

READ MORE: New Quantum Material Could Warn Of Neurological Disease [ScienceBlog]

More on brain-computer interface: This Neural Implant Accesses Your Brain Through the Jugular Vein

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Scientists Say New Quantum Material Could “‘Download’ Your Brain”

Report: Tesla Doc Is Playing Down Injuries to Block Workers’ Comp

Former Tesla and clinic employees share how doctors blocked workers' compensation claims and put injured people back to work to avoid payouts.

Here’s A Band-Aid

Tesla’s on-site clinic, Access Omnicare, has allegedly been downplaying workers’ injuries to keep the electric automaker off the hook for workers’ compensation.

Several former Tesla employees, all of whom got hurt on the job, and former employees of Access Omnicare, told Reveal News that the clinic was minimizing worker injuries so that the automaker wouldn’t have to pay workers’ comp — suggesting that the barely-profitable car company is willing to do whatever it takes to stay out of the red and avoid negative press.

Back To Work

Reveal, which is a project by the Center for Investigative Reporting, described cases in which employees suffered electrocution, broken bones, and mold-related rashes while working in a Tesla factory — only for Omnicare to deny that the injuries warranted time off work.

The clinic’s top doctor “wanted to make certain that we were doing what Tesla wanted so badly,” former Omnicare operations manager Yvette Bonnet told Reveal. “He got the priorities messed up. It’s supposed to be patients first.”

Missing Paperwork

Meanwhile, employees who requested the paperwork to file for workers’ comp were repeatedly ignored, according to Reveal.

“I just knew after the third or fourth time that they weren’t going to do anything about it,” a former employee whose back was crushed under a falling Model X hatchback told Reveal. “I was very frustrated. I was upset.”

The automaker is on the hook for up to $750,000 in medical payments per workers’ comp claim, according to Reveal‘s reporting.

Meanwhile, both Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Laurie Shelby, the company’s VP of safety, have publicly praised Access Omnicare, Reveal found. Musk even recently announced plans to extend it to other plants, “so that we have really immediate first-class health care available right on the spot when people need it.”

READ MORE: How Tesla and its doctor made sure injured employees didn’t get workers’ comp [Reveal News]

More on Tesla: Video Shows Tesla Autopilot Steering Toward Highway Barriers

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Report: Tesla Doc Is Playing Down Injuries to Block Workers’ Comp

Infertile Couple Gives Birth to “Three-Parent Baby”

A Greek couple just gave birth to a three-parent baby, the first conceived as part of a clinical trial to treat infertility.

Happy Birthday

On Tuesday, a couple gave birth to what researchers are calling a “three-parent baby” — giving new hope to infertile couples across the globe.

After four cycles of in vitro fertilization failed to result in a pregnancy, the Greek couple enrolled in a clinical trial for mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) — meaning doctors placed the nucleus from the mother’s egg into a donor egg that had its nucleus removed. Then they fertilized the egg with sperm from the father and implanted it into the mother.

Due to this procedure, the six-pound baby boy has DNA from both his mother and father, as well as a tiny bit from the woman who donated the egg.

Greek Life

The Greek baby wasn’t the first “three-parent baby” born after his parents underwent MRT — that honor goes to the offspring of a Jordanian woman who gave birth in 2016.

However, in her case and others that followed it, doctors used the technique to prevent a baby from inheriting a parent’s genetic defect. This marked the first time a couple used MRT as part of a clinical trial to treat infertility.

“Our excellent collaboration and this exceptional result will help countless women to realise their dream of becoming mothers with their own genetic material,” Nuno Costa-Borges, co-founder of Embryotools, one of the companies behind the trial, said in a statement.

READ MORE: Baby with DNA from three people born in Greece [The Guardian]

More on three-parent babies: An Infertile Couple Is Now Pregnant With a “Three-Parent Baby”

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Infertile Couple Gives Birth to “Three-Parent Baby”

NASA Is Funding the Development of 18 Bizarre New Projects

Through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, NASA funds projects that go

Nurturing the Bizarre

NASA isn’t afraid to take a chance on the weird. In fact, it has a program designed for that specific purpose, called NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) — and on Wednesday, the agency announced 18 bizarre new projects receiving funding through the program.

“Our NIAC program nurtures visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions by investing in revolutionary technologies,” NASA exec Jim Reuter said in a press release. “We look to America’s innovators to help us push the boundaries of space exploration with new technology.”

Sci-Fi to Sci-Fact

The 18 newly funded projects are divided into two groups: Phase I and Phase II.

The 12 recipients of the Phase I awards will each receive approximately $125,000 to fund nine month’s worth of feasibility studies for their concepts. These include a project to beam power through Venus’ atmosphere to support long-term missions, a spacesuit with self-healing skin, and floating microprobes inspired by spiders.

The six Phase II recipients, meanwhile, will each receive up to $500,000 to support two-year studies dedicated to fine-tuning their concepts and investigating potential ways to implement the technologies, which include a flexible telescope, a neutrino detector, and materials for solar surfing.

“NIAC is about going to the edge of science fiction, but not over,” Jason Derleth, NIAC program executive, said in the press release. “We are supporting high impact technology concepts that could change how we explore within the solar system and beyond.”

READ MORE: NASA Invests in Potentially Revolutionary Tech Concepts [Jet Propulsion Laboratory]

More on bizarre NASA plans: New NASA Plan for Mars Is Moderately-Terrifying-Sounding, Also, Completely-Awesome: Robotic. Bees.

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NASA Is Funding the Development of 18 Bizarre New Projects

Transhuman – Wikipedia

Not to be confused with “trans” used as an abbreviation for “transsexual” or “transgender” in the terms trans man, trans woman.

Transhuman, or trans-human, is the concept of an intermediary form between human and posthuman.[1] In other words, a transhuman is a being that resembles a human in most respects but who has powers and abilities beyond those of standard humans.[2] These abilities might include improved intelligence, awareness, strength, or durability. Transhumans sometimes appear in science-fiction as cyborgs or genetically-enhanced humans.

The use of the term “transhuman” goes back to French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who wrote in his 1949 book The Future of Mankind:

Liberty: that is to say, the chance offered to every man (by removing obstacles and placing the appropriate means at his disposal) of ‘trans-humanizing’ himself by developing his potentialities to the fullest extent.[3]

And in a 1951 unpublished revision of the same book:

In consequence one is the less disposed to reject as unscientific the idea that the critical point of planetary Reflection, the fruit of socialization, far from being a mere spark in the darkness, represents our passage, by Translation or dematerialization, to another sphere of the Universe: not an ending of the ultra-human but its accession to some sort of trans-humanity at the ultimate heart of things.[4]

In 1957 book New Bottles for New Wine, English evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley wrote:

The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way, but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature. “I believe in transhumanism”: once there are enough people who can truly say that, the human species will be on the threshold of a new kind of existence, as different from ours as ours is from that of Peking man. It will at last be consciously fulfilling its real destiny.[5]

One of the first professors of futurology, FM-2030, who taught “new concepts of the Human” at The New School of New York City in the 1960s, used “transhuman” as shorthand for “transitional human”. Calling transhumans the “earliest manifestation of new evolutionary beings”, FM argued that signs of transhumans included physical and mental augmentations including prostheses, reconstructive surgery, intensive use of telecommunications, a cosmopolitan outlook and a globetrotting lifestyle, androgyny, mediated reproduction (such as in vitro fertilisation), absence of religious beliefs, and a rejection of traditional family values.[6]

FM-2030 used the concept of transhuman as an evolutionary transition, outside the confines of academia, in his contributing final chapter to the 1972 anthology Woman, Year 2000.[7] In the same year, American cryonics pioneer Robert Ettinger contributed to conceptualization of “transhumanity” in his book Man into Superman.[8] In 1982, American Natasha Vita-More authored a statement titled Transhumanist Arts Statement and outlined what she perceived as an emerging transhuman culture.[9]

Jacques Attali, writing in 2006, envisaged transhumans as an altruistic vanguard of the later 21st century:

Vanguard players (I shall call them transhumans) will run (they are already running) relational enterprises in which profit will be no more than a hindrance, not a final goal. Each of these transhumans will be altruistic, a citizen of the planet, at once nomadic and sedentary, his neighbor’s equal in rights and obligations, hospitable and respectful of the world. Together, transhumans will give birth to planetary institutions and change the course of industrial enterprises.[10]

In March 2007, American physicist Gregory Cochran and paleoanthropologist John Hawks published a study, alongside other recent research on which it builds, which amounts to a radical reappraisal of traditional views, which tended to assume that humans have reached an evolutionary endpoint. Physical anthropologist Jeffrey McKee argued the new findings of accelerated evolution bear out predictions he made in a 2000 book The Riddled Chain. Based on computer models, he argued that evolution should speed up as a population grows because population growth creates more opportunities for new mutations; and the expanded population occupies new environmental niches, which would drive evolution in new directions. Whatever the implications of the recent findings, McKee concludes that they highlight a ubiquitous point about evolution: “every species is a transitional species”.[11]

See the article here:

Transhuman – Wikipedia

What is Transhumanism?

The human desire to acquire posthuman attributes is as ancient as the human species itself. Humans have always sought to expand the boundaries of their existence, be it ecologically, geographically, or mentally. There is a tendency in at least some individuals always to try to find a way around every limitation and obstacle.

Ceremonial burial and preserved fragments of religious writings show that prehistoric humans were deeply disturbed by the death of their loved ones and sought to reduce the cognitive dissonance by postulating an afterlife. Yet, despite the idea of an afterlife, people still endeavored to extend life. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (approx. 2000 B.C.), a king embarks on a quest to find an herb that can make him immortal. Its worth noting that it was assumed both that mortality was not inescapable in principle, and that there existed (at least mythological) means of overcoming it. That people really strove to live longer and richer lives can also be seen in the development of systems of magic and alchemy; lacking scientific means of producing an elixir of life, one resorted to magical means. This strategy was adopted, for example, by the various schools of esoteric Taoism in China, which sought physical immortality and control over or harmony with the forces of nature.

The Greeks were ambivalent about humans transgressing our natural confines. On the one hand, they were fascinated by the idea. We see it in the myth of Prometheus, who stole the fire from Zeus and gave it to the humans, thereby permanently improving the human condition. And in the myth of Daedalus, the gods are repeatedly challenged, quite successfully, by a clever engineer and artist, who uses non-magical means to extend human capabilities. On the other hand, there is also the concept of hubris: that some ambitions are off-limit and would backfire if pursued. In the end, Daedalus enterprise ends in disaster (not, however, because it was punished by the gods but owing entirely to natural causes).

Greek philosophers made the first, stumbling attempts to create systems of thought that were based not purely on faith but on logical reasoning. Socrates and the sophists extended the application of critical thinking from metaphysics and cosmology to include the study of ethics and questions about human society and human psychology. Out of this inquiry arose cultural humanism, a very important current throughout the history of Western science, political theory, ethics, and law.

In the Renaissance, human thinking was awoken from medieval otherworldliness and the scholastic modes of reasoning that had predominated for a millennium, and the human being and the natural world again became legitimate objects of study. Renaissance humanism encouraged people to rely on their own observations and their own judgment rather than to defer in every matter to religious authorities. Renaissance humanism also created the ideal of the well-rounded personality, one that is highly developed scientifically, morally, culturally, and spiritually. A milestone is Giovanni Pico della Mirandolas Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486), which states that man does not have a ready form but that it is mans task to form himself. And crucially, modern science began to take form then, through the works of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo.

The Age of Enlightenment can be said to have started with the publication of Francis Bacons Novum Organum, the new tool (1620), in which he proposes a scientific methodology based on empirical investigation rather than a priori reasoning. Bacon advocates the project of effecting all things possible, by which he meant the achievement of mastery over nature in order to improve the condition of human beings. The heritage from the Renaissance combines with the influences of Isaac Newton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Marquis de Condorcet, and others to form the basis for rational humanism, which emphasizes science and critical reasoning rather than revelation and religious authority as ways of learning about the natural world and the destiny and nature of man and of providing a grounding for morality. Transhumanism traces its roots to this rational humanism.

In the 18th and 19th centuries we begin to see glimpses of the idea that even humans themselves can be developed through the appliance of science. Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire speculated about extending human life span through medical science. Especially after Darwins theory of evolution, atheism or agnosticism came to be seen as increasingly attractive alternatives. However, the optimism of the late 19th century often degenerated into narrow-minded positivism and the belief that progress was automatic. When this view collided with reality, some people reacted by turning to irrationalism, concluding that since reason was not sufficient, it was worthless. This resulted in the anti-technological, anti-intellectual sentiments whose sequelae we can still witness today in some postmodernist writers, in the New Age movement, and among the neo-Luddite wing of the anti-globalization agitators.

A significant stimulus in the formation of transhumanism was the essay Daedalus: Science and the Future (1923) by the British biochemist J. B. S. Haldane, in which he discusses how scientific and technological findings may come to affect society and improve the human condition. This essay set off a chain reaction of future-oriented discussions, including The World, the Flesh and the Devil by J. D. Bernal (1929), which speculates about space colonization and bionic implants as well as mental improvements through advanced social science and psychology; the works of Olaf Stapledon; and the essay Icarus: the Future of Science (1924) by Bertrand Russell, who took a more pessimistic view, arguing that without more kindliness in the world, technological power will mainly serve to increase mens ability to inflict harm on one another. Science fiction authors such as H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon also got many people thinking about the future evolution of the human race. One frequently cited work is Aldous Huxleys Brave New World (1932), a dystopia where psychological conditioning, promiscuous sexuality, biotechnology, and opiate drugs are used to keep the population placid and contented in a static, totalitarian society ruled by an elite consisting of ten world controllers. Huxleys novel warns of the dehumanizing potential of technology being used to arrest growth and to diminish the scope of human nature rather than enhance it.

The Second World War changed the direction of some of those currents that result in todays transhumanism. The eugenics movement, which had previously found advocates not only among racists on the extreme right but also among socialists and progressivist social democrats, was thoroughly discredited. The goal of creating a new and better world through a centrally imposed vision became taboo and pass; and the horrors of the Stalinist Soviet Union again underscored the dangers of such an approach. Mindful of these historical lessons, transhumanists are often deeply suspicious of collectively orchestrated change, arguing instead for the right of individuals to redesign themselves and their own descendants.

In the postwar era, optimistic futurists tended to direct their attention more toward technological progress, such as space travel, medicine, and computers. Science began to catch up with speculation. Transhumanist ideas during this period were discussed and analyzed chiefly in the literary genre of science fiction. Authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Stanislaw Lem, and later Bruce Sterling, Greg Egan, and Vernor Vinge have explored various aspects of transhumanism in their writings and contributed to its proliferation.

Robert Ettinger played an important role in giving transhumanism its modern form. The publication of his book The Prospect of Immortality in 1964 led to the creation of the cryonics movement. Ettinger argued that since medical technology seems to be constantly progressing, and since chemical activity comes to a complete halt at low temperatures, it should be possible to freeze a person today and preserve the body until such a time when technology is advanced enough to repair the freezing damage and reverse the original cause of deanimation. In a later work, Man into Superman (1972), he discussed a number of conceivable improvements to the human being, continuing the tradition started by Haldane and Bernal.

Another influential early transhumanist was F. M. Esfandiary, who later changed his name to FM-2030. One of the first professors of future studies, FM taught at the New School for Social Research in New York in the 1960s and formed a school of optimistic futurists known as the UpWingers. In his book Are you a transhuman? (1989), he described what he saw as the signs of the emergence of the transhuman person, in his terminology indicating an evolutionary link towards posthumanity. (A terminological aside: an early use of the word transhuman was in the 1972-book of Ettinger, who doesnt now remember where he first encountered the term. The word transhumanism may have been coined by Julian Huxley in New Bottles for New Wine (1957); the sense in which he used it, however, was not quite the contemporary one.) Further, its use is evidenced in T.S. Elliots writing around the same time. And it is known that Dante Alighieri referred to the notion of the transhuman in historical writings.

In the 1970s and 1980s, several organizations sprung up for life extension, cryonics, space colonization, science fiction, media arts, and futurism. They were often isolated from one another, and while they shared similar views and values, they did not yet amount to any unified coherent worldview. One prominent voice from a standpoint with strong transhumanist elements during this era came from Marvin Minsky, an eminent artificial intelligence researcher.

In 1986, Eric Drexler published Engines of Creation, the first book-length exposition of molecular manufacturing. (The possibility of nanotechnology had been anticipated by Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman in a now-famous after-dinner address in 1959 entitled There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom.) In this groundbreaking work, Drexler not only argued for the feasibility of assembler-based nanotechnology but also explored its consequences and began charting the strategic challenges posed by its development. Drexlers later writings supplied more technical analyses that confirmed his initial conclusions. To prepare the world for nanotechnology and work towards it safe implementation, he founded the Foresight Institute together with his then wife Christine Peterson in 1986.

Ed Regiss Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition (1990) took a humorous look at transhumanisms hubristic scientists and philosophers. Another couple of influential books were roboticist Hans Moravecs seminal Mind Children (1988) about the future development of machine intelligence, and more recently Ray Kurzweils bestselling Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), which presented ideas similar to Moravecs. Frank Tiplers Physics of Immortality (1994), inspired by the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a paleontologist and Jesuit theologian who saw an evolutionary telos in the development of an encompassing noosphere, a global consciousness) argued that advanced civilizations might come to have a shaping influence on the future evolution of the cosmos, although some were put off by Tiplers attempt to blend science with religion. Many science advocates, such as Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Douglas Hofstadter, have also helped pave the way for public understanding of transhumanist ideas.

In 1988, the first issue of the Extropy Magazine was published by Max More and Tom Morrow, and in 1992 they founded the Extropy Institute (the term extropy being coined as an informal opposite of entropy). The magazine and the institute served as catalysts, bringing together disparate groups of people with futuristic ideas. More wrote the first definition of transhumanism in its modern sense, and created his own distinctive brand of transhumanism, which emphasized individualism, dynamic optimism, and the market mechanism in addition to technology. The transhumanist arts genre became more self-aware through the works of the artist Natasha Vita-More. During this time, an intense exploration of ideas also took place on various Internet mailing lists. Influential early contributors included Anders Sandberg (then a neuroscience doctoral student) and Robin Hanson (an economist and polymath) among many others.

The World Transhumanist Association was founded in 1998 by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce to act as a coordinating international nonprofit organization for all transhumanist-related groups and interests, across the political spectrum. The WTA focused on supporting transhumanism as a serious academic discipline and on promoting public awareness of transhumanist thinking. The WTA began publishing the Journal of Evolution and Technology, the first scholarly peer-reviewed journal for transhumanist studies in 1999 (which is also the year when the first version of this FAQ was published). In 2001, the WTA adopted its current constitution and is now governed by an executive board that is democratically elected by its full membership. James Hughes especially (a former WTA Secretary) among others helped lift the WTA to its current more mature stage, and a strong team of volunteers has been building up the organization to what it is today.

Humanity+ developed after to rebrand transhumanism informing Humanity+ as a cooperative organization, seeking to pull together the leaders of transhumanism: from the early 1990s: Max More, Natasha Vita-More, Anders Sandberg; the late 1990s: Nick Bostrom, David Pearce, James Hughes; the 2000s: James Clement, Ben Goertzel, Giulio Prisco and many others. In short, it is based on the early work of Extropy Institute and WTA.

In the past couple of years, the transhumanist movement has been growing fast and furiously. Local groups are mushrooming in all parts of the world. Awareness of transhumanist ideas is spreading. Transhumanism is undergoing the transition from being the preoccupation of a fringe group of intellectual pioneers to becoming a mainstream approach to understanding the prospects for technological transformation of the human condition. That technological advances will help us overcome many of our current human limitations is no longer an insight confined to a few handfuls of techno-savvy visionaries. Yet understanding the consequences of these anticipated possibilities and the ethical choices we will face is a momentous challenge that humanity will be grappling with over the coming decades. The transhumanist tradition has produced a (still evolving) body of thinking to illuminate these complex issues that is unparalleled in its scope and depth of foresight.

See the article here:

What is Transhumanism?

Transhuman by Jonathan Hickman

This book uses gorgeous artwork to tell an original story about the rise of Transhumanism as a corporate pissing match, and it embodies everything that is wrong with Jonathan Hickman as a writer.

Don’t get me wrong, Hickman is incredibly creative and kind of a mad genius he’s just a terrible storyteller. I’ve come to accept this fact. TRANSHUMAN is told as a “documentary” about the rise of the 3 largest Transhumanist corporations, which I guess is a clever conceit, except (1) why make a fiction

Don’t get me wrong, Hickman is incredibly creative and kind of a mad genius he’s just a terrible storyteller. I’ve come to accept this fact. TRANSHUMAN is told as a “documentary” about the rise of the 3 largest Transhumanist corporations, which I guess is a clever conceit, except (1) why make a fictional documentary as a graphic novel? Why not, ya know, write a screenplay? and (2) the nature of those “60 Minutes”-style factual reporting documentary is, by nature, a summary, and therefore not a story. The story is told through interviews with a narrator and the people involved in the story, but they are literally just TELLING the reader what happened. It’s almost remarkable that a graphic novel a medium which is visual by nature could rely so much on telling and not showing, and therefore breaks one of the cardinal rules of fiction writing.

Sure, there are some interesting characters, and probably some cool dramatic, personal moments between them namely, the divorced couple who end up working together on the Transhumanist project despite their mutual hatred for one another, who ultimately backstab each other again but frankly, it’s not very interesting to just see someone tell you that. I want to see it happen, I want to witness their interpersonal relations. If these were a real-life documentary from 50 years from now, and it aired on 60 Minutes or whatever, it would probably be great, because investigative journalism can get away with digging deep and just reciting facts (although I’d argue that most award-winning works of investigative journalism still manage to find a compelling human angle, something for the audience to emotionally engage with that makes them follow the story through to the end). In TRANSHUMAN, we just get a bunch of talking heads telling us what already happened, and a narrator / director to steer us away from any unreliable sources. There is literally nothing compelling or human to pull you through the story.

When Hickman first broke out onto the comics scene, I thought he was fantastic, but the truth is, he’s good at creating the ILLUSION of good story telling. Everything he writes is done in summary, with a few cool moments in between to make it feel human. A friend of mine summed it up well as citing the difference between “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Silmarillion” one is a story about characters that we care about, the other is a play-by-play history book, and Hickman writes the latter. I think Hickman would be better off as an idea man, leaving other people to actually execute these epic stories of his. Because the worlds he creates are always unique and fascinating, full of complex politics and otherworldly visions. But saying “HERE’S THIS CRAZY WORLD I CREATED AND THERE ARE THESE GUYS AND THEN THESE TWO FOUGHT AND THEN THIS GUY BETRAYED THIS GIRL AND THEN THIS PERSON WON, THE END” is really not a fun story to read.

See the original post:

Transhuman by Jonathan Hickman

Calls for papers Conferences taking place in May 2019

Urban Otium: Materialities, Practices, RepresentationsUniversity of Freiburg, Germany, 2-4 May 2019Deadline for proposals: 31 October 2018

CRC 1015 Otium. Boundaries, Chronotopes, Practices

Speed, acceleration, the perceived intensification of time, expediency and efficiency are all recurring catchphrases of our present time, which are closely linked to the urban experience. The hustle and bustle of city life, hectic and busyness are central characteristics of the urban space, which supposedly subject the citys inhabitants to an increasingly functional logic. And yet it becomes apparent how fragile this domination is in characters like the flneur who moves calmly through the bustle of the city. We can even identify seemingly opposite tendencies: places like urban parks, museums and other recreational spaces, as well as a growing leisure industry suggest to be refuges of deceleration. But at the same time such opportunities can be subject to utilitarian rationality and self-improvement.In the interdisciplinary collaborative research centre 1015 on Otium at the University of Freiburg, these contradictory aspects are being discussed and at the conference on Urban Otium: Materiality, Practices, Representations they are going to be analysed in more detail. In interdisciplinary dialogue, free spaces of otium in the urban space can be identified, and through them a discussion on the relation of urbanity and otium can be initiated. In the context of the collaborative research centre, the term otium is not understood as being primarily tied to particular actions or spaces, but rather as the experience of a free being-in-time, an end in itself not identified with the logic of purpose-oriented achievement. The notion can be made more palpable with the help of paradoxical expressions such as productiveunproductiveness or active inactivity, which emphasise its social dimension. Against this background, otium and work are no polar opposites, nor can otium and free time (as well as an understanding of free time in the sense of leisure activity) be understood as synonyms. Moreover, there is a transgressive potential in this understanding of otium: even in situations of the greatest hectic and time pressure moments of otium can arise which enable the individual to free her- or himself of these circumstances.The connection of the concept of otium with the thematic field of urbanity raises multiple questions: How do opportunities for otium manifest themselves in the urban space as well as in the social fabric in general? Can we establish differences between different kinds of urban spaces (e.g. small town, city or metropolis) and the forms of otium specific to them? Is the traditional dichotomy between city and nature at all tenable in the context of experiences of otium? How does the concept relate to recent developments like the forming of global cities or the specific context of postcolonial cities? How can the tension between, on the one hand, structures furthering inequality and, on the other, social autonomy in the city be applied to otium? In what way is gender relevant for urban otium?These questions will be at the core of the conference, which will consist of contributions from different disciplines, so that perspectives from the humanities, cultural studies and social sciences can complement one another. Already the categories mentioned in the conference title incorporate this idea: (urban) otium manifests itself in the material form of the urban space, in the actions of its agents as well as in differently mediated representations.The aim of the conference is to connect historical-diachronic observations with reflections on the present, and thus to discuss possible cultural histories of urban otium. Above that, the conference topic should not be approached from a purely Eurocentric or Western viewpoint, but instead the debate should do justice to the global variety of cultures of otium.

The conference will be structured along the following thematic emphases:

Two possible formats are intended: Papers (max. 30 minutes) and shorter contributions (max. 15 minutes)Exposs of one page (approx. 500 words) as well as a short CV are requested by 31.10.2018.Please send both to Ren Wamer: rene.wassmer@sfb1015.uni-freiburg.dePeter Philipp Riedl will be happy to answer any questions you may have: peter.riedl@sfb1015.uni-freiburg.de

(posted 19 September 2018)

We invite you to our symposium to understand scientists, educators, principals, experts, teachers, graduate students and those who are passionate about education, to share, to contribute and to address the theme profoundly. In this symposium to take place in Buca Faculty of Education in which science and nature meet, participants will have chance to benefit from keynote speechs, oral presentations, workshops and panels.

Proceedings which will be reviewed and accepted by judges will be published as an abstract booklet in the symposium website and will be published as full-text in 1st International Science, Education, Art & Technology Symposium Proceedings book after the symposium.

We will be pleased to welcome you in zmir, the pearl of Aegean.

Keynote speakers:

The scope of the symposium is not limited with the ones listed below and all teacher education related subjects are included in the symposium.

Important Dates:

More information is available on the Symposium Website: https://www.bestsempozyum.org/BEST2018/sempozyum-cagrisi

(posted 6 January 2019)

We invite abstracts for 20-minute presentations on literary and linguistic issues that relate to the conference topic.Brexit and Beyond: Nation and IdentityDebates about national identity have received new currency in recent years in a context of demonstrations of national self-assertion, which has resulted for example in the Brexit decision in Britain, in significant changes in American international policies, and the introduction of authoritarian measures in some member states of the European Union. Shortly after Britain will most probably have left the European Union, the conference will address the developments outlined above and the cultural discourses surrounding them. As regards Brexit, we argue that many attempts at explaining the Leave victory and current British Euroscepticism focus quite narrowly on economic, legal and political factors, underestimating more fuzzy phenomena such as cultural myths, narratives and images which circulate in literature, travel writing, visual arts and other media, influencing people on a visceral level, sometimes against their better judgement. During our conference, we will examine the construction and negotiation of cultural identities in language, literature and the media with a focus on cultural memory and the cultural imaginary as well as stereotyping, mythmaking, peoples shared fictions and the impact of the resulting policies on peoples lives. We believe that literary studies and linguistics can make an important contribution to our understanding of current political developments, and to a critique of jingoistic populism. Topics addressed at the conference could include:

Keynote Speakers:

Deadline for abstracts: January 13, 2019Submit to: sauteconference2019@unibas.chAbstracts of no more than 500 words should be sent together with a brief bio-blurb and contact details to the above e-mail address in one PDF document. Notifications of acceptance will be issued from February 17, 2019.Conference website: https://english.philhist.unibas.ch/en/research/conferences-and-colloquia/saute-conference-2019/A selection of papers will be published in the Swiss Papers in English Language and Literature (SPELL).

(posted 4 September 2018)

All of the subdisciplines of English Studies address issues of exchange, transformation and communication: ranging from the temporal development, regional variation and functional properties of language; through the societal interactions examined in history and cultural studies; to the permutations of plot, negotiations of character and voice, and evolutions of genre within literature, film, and other aesthetic forms. Exchange, transformation and communication are crucial to an understanding of English as a humanistic discipline; to its international role in political, institutional and market-driven contexts; and to the mediation between English(es) and other languages that is performed by textual and cultural translation.

In Etc. we intend to find space for all of the above-mentioned areas of study, and for the transformative possibilities that may arise from communication and exchange between them. Furthermore, we will consider exchange, transformation and communication not only as objects of study within English Studies but also as characterising the structure, roles and processes of English Studies itself as an international academic field, especially in relation to the meeting between national and institutional traditions and experiences sometimes similar, sometimes very different that a forum such as this conference permits.

Plenary speakers will include Michael Eaton, MBE (playwright and scriptwriter) and Prof. Alastair Pennycook (Distinguished Professor of Language, Society and Education, University of Technology, Sydney). Further speakers to be announced.

Possible focus areas include:

Abstracts for 20-minute papers must be submitted via the NAES2019 website https://events.au.dk/naes2019/about.html by 30 November 2018.

(posted 8 October 2018)

K.N. Panikkar in his article Literature as History of Social Change made the following statement:

Despite the distinction between literature and history, their relationship is characterised by a close interface between the two. History is invariably the subject matter of literature as its universe is humanity, and humanity has no existence without its history. In other words, history is the inspiration and source of literature. The commonly used term historical literature is a misnomer, as there is no literature devoid of history. History intercedes in literature not only when history is invoked, as in the case of Walter Scott or Leo Tolstoy, or, closer home, Brindavan Lal Verma or C.V. Raman Pillai, but it is embedded in all social situations and hence reflected in literary representations.

It seems that the question of the relation between literature and history is still current and widely discussed among academics, scholars and writers throughout the world. Literature undoubtedly shapes our understanding of the past. No one can truly deny the contribution of Charles Dickens to our perception of Victorian Britain, the role of Mark Twains works in building our comprehension of the 19th century American South, or Shakespeares role in reviving the historical figures of Richard III or Henry V. Likewise, nobody denies the significance and salience of Thomas Paines Common Sense in triggering the American War of Independence or the role of John Drydens political poems in shaping the public opinion in the Restoration England. It seems challenging a task to grasp the historical epoch and its consequent events without remembering about its literary representatives and so it is hardly feasible to fully appreciate a work of literature without being familiar with its historical, social or cultural backdrop.

Literature can undeniably serve as a historical source, whereas history can act as a source of inspiration for literary achievements.

The aim of the conference LITERATURE IN HISTORY HISTORY IN LITERATURE is to provide academic forum for established scholars, early career researchers, doctoral students and independent scholars who, in their work, strive to find the interface between literary and historical studies.

The Conference will prioritize the following thematic areas although proposals referring to other related issues are welcome:

Please send paper proposals of approximately 250 words, complete with a short bio note and your academic affiliation to ujkconference@gmail.com.Selected papers will be published in a monograph.

Important dates:New extended deadline for sending proposals: 30 March 2019Notification of acceptance: 5 April 2019Payment of registration fee: 20 April 2019

Registration fee: 350z/ 80 euro, doctoral students: 250z/ 60 euro

Further information on conference website: http://www.ujk.edu.pl/ifo/conference/

(posted 28 December 2018, updated 9 Mach 2019)

Organised by London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research

London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Sydney, Shanghai, Dubai are leading global hubs of finance and commerce, research and development, education and media, art and culture, entertainment and tourism. They consist of an intriguing and yet irresistible mixture of past and present, history and commercialism, monuments and leisure culture. Contrasts and paradoxes present these megacities as exceptional phenomena of artificiality and naturalness, livelihood and unpredictability, whose horizontal and vertical mobility has imposed an unmistakable tempo upon the course of the world and has shaped particular physical and mental geographies.

The conference will explore the singular nature of the symbols that represent the worlds cosmopolitan metropoles. It will also focus on the fascination exerted by these large urban areas and their complex character as unrivalled sites of self-confidence and assertiveness, progress and sophistication.

The main objective of the event is to bring together all those interested in examining the intersections between their professions and/or interests and some distinct aspects of metropolitan life, providing an integrated approach for the understanding of the mechanisms that lie behind the undisputed global centres.

Topics include but are not limited to several core issues:

Paper proposals up to 250 words and a brief biographical note should be sent by1 February, 2018to: urbanstudies@lcir.co.uk.

Please download Paper proposal form.

Registration fee 100 GBP

Provisional conference venue:Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1E 7HX

(posted 22 October 2018)

Following the conference Metaphor: retrospect and prospects organised in Genoa in May 2016, the research group won a PRIN (Progetto di Ricerca di Interesse Nazionale) award from the Italian government to further our work in the area of Cognitive Metaphor and the intense debate surrounding it, regarding the nature of metaphor, types of metaphor, classification of metaphors, metaphor and psychological theory, modes of research into metaphor, including corpus-based methodologies, concrete applications of metaphor theory to text and multimedial analysis. Just as the theoretical domains are extremely wide-ranging, so are the domains of application, with every area of language having been treated literary, conversation, advertising, politics, classroom, art, medicine, law, economics, the world-wide web and other modes of multimedial communication, to name but a few.

Papers are therefore invited from all disciplines, including literature, linguistics, psychology, sociology, criminology, anthropology, communication studies, medicine, the hard and soft sciences, on any aspect of metaphor theory and its applications. Papers are also welcome which trace the development of metaphor theory and how developments in metaphor theory are related to more general developments in the field of scientific discovery.

Work in progress which is already under way and which is at a stage where progress made can provide valuable insights will also be given due consideration.

The conference languages are English and French. Publication(s) will follow, details of which will be announced at the end of the conference. When submitting their proposal, authors should indicate which of the two conference languages they will be delivering their paper in.

Scholars who have accepted to give a keynote lecture are:Marc BonhommeJonathan Charteris-BlackMonika FludernikRay GibbsZoltan KovecsesGerard SteenRita Temmerman

Submitting proposals:We invite proposals for 20-minute presentations (followed by 10 minutes for discussion). Please note that all the rooms will be equipped with computer, DVD player and overhead projector so you can project all supported documents, spreadsheets, presentations and films. Should you require any special equipment beyond these standard applications, please specify these requirements in your abstract.

Please send an abstract of no more than 400 words to the Conference email address: metaphorgenoa2019@gmail.com

Abstracts should be sent as email attachments in .doc format and should be named Surname_Abstract_Metaphor 2019. They should contain the following structural elements: (a) your full name, academic position, academic affiliation, email address, postal address, (b) a recognisable thesis/statement or research question, (c) an explanation of the methodology, (d) a short reference to emerging results (if applicable), (e) a list of keywords, (f) a short list of key references (max. 5).

The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31st January 2019. Notifications of acceptance will be sent within two weeks of receipt of a proposal.

Detailed information on the conference, travel, accommodation etc. may be found at the conference website at http://www.lcm.unige.it/CALL/?op=cfp

The standard information and an automatic enrolment system will be running ASAP.

The Organising Committee: Michele Prandi, John Douthwaite, Micaela Rossi, Elisabetta Zurru, Ilaria Rizzato

(posted 6 August 2018)

The American Civil War may have ended in 1865, but in many respects it is still being fought today, over 150 years later. Ongoing battles over the Confederate flag and the recent Confederate monument controversy suggest that many of the wounds of the war, especially those related to race, class and gender, are still far from being healed. Clearly, what led to the Civil War is still dividing the nation: Americans are not only grappling with a future vision for the country, but are also struggling with the past. What are considered by some to be markers of cultural heritage are for many others painful symbols of the violent history of the United States, a nation that was built on the exploitation of African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and other minority groups. As William Faulkner expresses in his 1951 novel Requiem for a Nun, The past is never dead. Its not even past. It lingers like a ghost over the present and the future, haunting Americans and urging them to come to terms with its countless meanings and manifestations.

If we are what we remember then who are Americans exactly? Is what we remember just as important as how we remember it? American identity is closely invested in commemoration; national holidays, for example, construct a common past in a country of immigrants without a common past. They help make sense out of distant events, reinforce collective values in the present, and theoretically map out a shared future. Yet, those aspects of history that are (or are not) chosen for display in a museum, preservation in an archive, depiction in a work of art, or narration in a work of literature also speak volumes about a nation and its people. They remind us that there are always many competing, and often contradictory, histories, and that the past is truly never dead.

ASAT invites the submission of individual abstracts, panels, and workshop/ roundtable proposals that explore all aspects of this theme. Possible subthemes may include, but are not limited to:

Proposals should be sent to the American Studies Association of Turkey (info@asat-jast.org) and should consist of a 250300 word abstract, five keywords, and a short (200 word) biography for each participant. The time allowance for presentations is 20 minutes. An additional 10 minutes will be provided for discussion.

Submission deadline: December 1, 2018

Selected papers will be included in a special issue of the Journal of American Studies of Turkey (JAST) based on the conference theme.

More information will be posted on our website as it becomes available: http://www.asat-jast.org

(posted 20 April 2018)

Under the auspices of the Research Project Orientation: Towards a Dynamic Understanding of Contemporary Fiction and Culture (1990s-2000s) (ref. FFI2017-86417-P), funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness https://orionfiction.org this conference addresses past, present and future orientations of (neo-) Victorian literature and culture.

Ann Heilmann and Mark Llewellyns acclaimed The Victorians in the Twenty-First Century, 1999-2009 (2010) offered insight into how neo-Victorianism had evolved as a historical sub-genre in the first decade. Now, nearly two decades into the twenty-first century, neo-Victorianism has consolidated into a literary genre and cultural phenomenon that continues to gain both in popularity and critical appraisal, and current trends in neo-Victorianism continue expanding and diversifying. Thus, we perceive that we have reached a point of reflection and, therefore, we wish to explore new paths and intersections of (neo-)Victorianism.

This conference examines (neo-)Victorian diversifications into the twenty-first century exploring the notion of orientation, a dialogical concept itself because it indicates ones position in relation to something or someone. We aim to conceptualise the current interest in dynamic processes, notions of becoming, fluidity and multilayering in the neo-Victorian mode through the lens of orientation. We would like to develop this idea in close relationship to the dynamic interplay between the past and the present, the Victorians and us. This way, this notion bears similarities to the polytemporality of the trace in that it underlines the dynamic interplay and interrelations between past, present, and future as modes of temporal orientation (Victoria Browne). In addition, Sarah Ahmeds concept of orientation, inspired by Maurice Merleau-Pontys philosophy, has explored the spatial quality of the term in relation to queer phenomenology and embodied situatedness. Therefore, we wish to examine orientation as place, habitation and space in different senses in that it directs itself towards the space in between bodies and objects, but also in the sense of the individuals orientation towards the Other. Ultimately, we would like to address the concept orientation from these interrelated perspectives (1) orientation as an apt critical tool to analyse time, as the passage of the trace, polytemporal and dynamic, and (2) orientation as a spatial notion, which serves to address questions of mobility, movement, and the in-between space that exists between bodies and objects, in phenomenological terms, as well as the I-you relationship that emerges in the encounter with the other.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers in the following topics (but not limited to) on (neo-) Victorian Orientations: Theoretical approaches and conceptualisations of orientation Passages, processes and the dynamic continuums between the Victorian past and the contemporary period. (Neo-)Victorianism oriented towards the past, the present and the future Time and temporality in neo-Victorian fiction; (multiple) temporality; Polytemporality Future incursions into the nineteenth century Situatedness, embodiment and the senses The Victorians Unbound Spatial orientations: spatial conceptions, dynamic spaces, geographical orientations Neo-Victorianism and the ethical encounter with the other; Orientations towards Otherness and the Other Neo-Victorianism and queer orientations Neo-Victorian orientations and orientalism; cultural cross points Multicultural, cross-cultural and global neo-Victorianism Neo-Victorian literature oriented towards Children and Young Adults New orientations towards the Victorians: digital humanities and (neo-) Victorianism

Confirmed Keynote Speakers: Professor Ann Heilmann (University of Cardiff, UK) Dr. Marie-Luise Kohlke (University of Swansea, UK) Professor Susana Onega (Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain) Professor Patricia Pulham (University of Surrey, UK)

Main Organisers: Professor Rosario Arias and Dr Lin PetterssonPlease send a 250-word abstract to orientationliterature@gmail.com by 30 November 2018 (new extended deadline). Abstracts should include a short biographical note. All submissions will be peer-reviewed.

(posted 11 September 2018, updated 15 October 2018)

The JRAAS team is pleased to announce the third JRAAS Conference New Perspectives, which aims to give students and young researchers the opportunity to present papers on subjects connected to Anglo-American studies. We offer a platform where new ideas can be shared and discussed openly, in order to lay the foundations for an engaged dialogue between the next generation of scholars.

We strongly believe in the value of well-connected interdisciplinary research, employing various methodologies. Young scholars and students wishing to contribute should, therefore, feel free to bring their ideas to the table, from any domain found in present-day Anglo-American Studies.

The III JRAAS Conference New Perspectives will take place at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Porto, Portugal, on the 16th and 17th of May 2019.

Anyone interested might find guidance in the following (not restrictive) list of topics, based on the academic focus of our research center and team:

We invite you to send a 250 words proposal, in form of a word document, to jraascetaps@gmail.com until the 31st of March 2019. The eventual conference contributions are expected to consist of 20-minute presentations preferably in English, although Portuguese may also be considered upon deliberation. A short bio-note should be included (150 words at max.).

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS:

IMPORTANT DATES

REGISTRATION FEES(cover folder, certificate, and coffee breaks)

Early bird registration: until May 3rd, 2019Fee: 10,00Student Fee: 5,00

After May 3rd, 2019Fee: 15,00Student Fee: 10,00

For any queries, please e-mail us at jraascetaps@gmail.com

(posted 11 February 2019, updated 9 March 2019)

Plenary speakers:

Presentations (20 min) and workshops (60 min) are invited in the following sections:

Abstract submission

Please submit 60word abstracts, which will be included in the conference programme:

Deadline:15 February 2019

Conference fee:

Conference website:https://bas.events.uvt.ro

For additional information, please contact:

(posted 16 september 2018)

Organised by London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research

History is written by the victors according to a popular quote. Regardless of the accuracy of this statement, the fact is that history is commonly written by people with authority and bias, thus impeding any attempt to distill one single, objective, definitive truth and record it in immutable books. Moreover, history telling and analysis inevitably comes with different facets, based on context and the historians background. Nevertheless, perspective cannot be regarded as a mere thorn for the discipline, but instead can provide invaluable material to enrich, retrospect and constructively investigate past events, so long as proper mechanisms are in place to guarantee the mitigation of deceitful behaviors.

Recently there has been a rise of distributed systems as a viable means to democratise various aspects of our society. Blockchain has gained attention as the main technology behind Bitcoin and Ethereum, creating their own currency and promising simpler transactions that will replace the status quo financial systems. However, Blockchain potential is not limited to crypto-currencies and creating money out of thin air in an attempt to become rich overnight. Blockchain is the technology that maysignificantly benefit our lives in the near future by decentralizing governance, allowing peers to directly interact in a reliable and secure manner and empowering communities with the privilege and responsibility of defining their operation and evolution.

Adopting Blockchain technologies appeals as a very promising direction towards the democratisation of History. As the name implies, Blockchain is a chain of blocks, each registered at some point in time, which is in line with Historys linearity in terms of timeliness of events. What is written in each block, is a product of interactions among peers of the blockchain, who can all have access to the system, in a deterministic manner based on agreed predefined processes. How can History writing be mapped into a conversational process with the conclusions, as well as the reviews, discussions and links to facts, being printed on blocks of the Blockchain? How can access of all users to History reading and writing benefit the panoramicity and cultural inclusiveness into preserving our heritage? To which extent can a single reference system foster historical knowledge and awareness, while unleashing freedom of speech in event reporting and shedding light into the patterns of historical events?

We invite proposals from various disciplines including history, political sciences, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, IT, media and communication, literature, linguistics, etc.

Paper proposals up to 250 words and a brief biographical note should be sent by 1 February, 2019to: digital.humanities@lcir.co.uk. Please download Paper Proposal Form.

Read the original:

Calls for papers Conferences taking place in May 2019