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Category Archives: Transhuman

XCOM: Enemy Within Review: Of MECs and Men

Posted: November 12, 2013 at 5:40 am

Firaxis has elevated XCOM: Enemy Unknown's intensity through the bulkier risk-reward strategy system in its expansion, XCOM: Enemy Within. The expansion's potency is at worst intriguing and at best traumatic. Its net effect is as captivating as its launch pad with new items, juiced-up soldiers, alien mechs, a new branching series of side quests, and 47 fresh battlegrounds ripe with opportunities for tactical excision.

Enemy Within's single-player campaign starts the same way as Enemy Unknown -- bunkered in an underground military base at the brink of the end of the world, following the escalating war with the aliens to its climax. Think of the expansion as a lateral addition to a core game and mission list that remains unchanged. It's possible to play Enemy Within almost exactly like Enemy Unknown, but Enemy Within adds an optional quest line early on: Defend the XCOM nations and XCOM itself from a transhuman threat... an organization called Exalt.

To further humanity's evolution, Exalt attempts to disrupt XCOM operations and promote the assimilation of alien technology into human biology. Thick with narrative irony, XCOM simultaneously develops two tracks of transhuman upgrades, the exact kind of alien-human integration that Exalt wants: MECs and gene mods. Each unlocks after the construction of cybernetics or genetics labs, respectively, enabling the manufacture of XCOM super soldiers to combat both Exalt and the Sectoids' breed of elite soldiers.

For the first ten or so hours, Meld abounds and players are free to explore the potential of MECs and gene mods. To balance this advance, dedicating a soldier to one excludes him or her from the other. MECs lose their class-specific abilities, beef up on armor, and gain the potential use of flamethrowers, kinetic strikes, healing spray, grenade launchers, proximity mines and electric fields. Their robotic metal shells can also serve as cover or bullet sponges, opening up opportunities for some devastating close-quarter attacks.

Thankfully, it's not always enough. The design temptation here might be to add content and then just turn players loose. Firaxis resists, and complicates each level with advanced enemy units and cleverly placed enemy spawns. I say "cleverly placed" in hindsight; at the time, a rush of three Chrysalids could not have been more terrifying, especially on Classic difficulty, without auto-save. Note that multiple auto-saves are disabled by default on Normal. Classic and Ironman continue to be brutal tests of willpower and patience. You've been warned.

Just as Meld upgrades the XCOM soldiers, it's also responsible for a host of new enemy units. The Mechtoid, a Sectoid mounted in an oversized metal rig sporting two piercing plasma rifles for arms, parallels the human MEC in size, health, and damage dealt. Meld-enhanced Exalt agents have access to the same buffs as gene-modded soldiers. And the Seeker, a floating, tentacled stealth squid, cloaks and face hugs to take soldiers out of action. A few late-game surprises also dial up the challenge, particularly in Council Missions and Exalt Covert Extracts.

If all this permadeath sounds like a bit too much, rest assured that there's always Normal difficulty and the option to reload auto-saves. If, however, you balk in the face of unidentified flying Armageddon, Enemy Within offers the chance to mix up play variables with new Second Wave options like Save Scum, which reseeds the random number generator that determines how percentage shots are executed, allowing players to play from the same save until the shot lands. Itchy Trigger Tentacle causes some aliens to open fire automatically on sight, leading to sneakier tactical play. Add 47 new maps to that permutation and your roads to death grow exponentially in number.

In response to claims of unbalance or inefficiency in the single player campaign, Firaxis has also tweaked some of the interfaces and abilities for the soldiers. New items like Reaper Rounds and the Gas Grenade make full use of the dual item slot upgrade from Officer Training School, while a much-needed "Make Items Available" button streamlines the process of equipping items to the rotating roster of healthy soldiers. In Enemy Unknown, to ready a fresh squad for battle, players would have to navigate to the item inventory for each out-of-action soldier, release the item, weapon, or armor, and then manually assign that to the new units. The "Make Items Available" frees up any items not being used by active squad members during preparation, turning a tedious task into a simple and efficient one.

The gamble here rests less on in-match strategy and more on complementary loadouts, to its credit and discredit. Credit is due for the revived multiplayer mode's turning focus towards the tactical mind game during battle preparation. You could find yourself nervously hoping that the enemy forgets to equip snipers with respirators and their MEC with jet-boosting boots so your Seekers can take out their roof support without interference from the MEC, then move in your plasma-wielding sniper to finish the job. The addition of Seekers does, however, present the opportunity for some world-class griefing, like if a team of all Seekers strangles every enemy unit simultaneously, ending the match. You can counter that kind of tactic, but only if you've spent the resources on respirators or bio-electric stealth detection or battle scanners. The fight in multiplayer has clearly moved to the shadows; a challenge that requires some thoughtful planning and a little paranoia to conquer.

Enemy Within makes even clearer the goal set out by Firaxis in Enemy Unknown: to use consequence as a means of creating value for player agency. Choices matter, but they matter even more when the stakes are higher. With 30+ hours of your time resting on your mortal soldiers' melded bodies, you're only ever one misfortune away from an expensive checkmate.

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Maybe We're Making It Too Easy For The Machines To Take Over

Posted: November 7, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Machines that can think for themselves attached to a global brain with the ability to self replicate? Yeah, we're making that happen.

This article is part of ReadWrite Future Tech, an annual series in which we explore how technologies that will shape our lives in the years to come are grounded in the innovation and research of today.

We have seen the future, and it's starting to look a lot likeSkynet.

That self-aware computer systemyes, the one that tries to exterminate the human race in the Terminator movies (and one TV show)is a potent symbol of Frankensteinian hubris. It is mirrored in the Singularity, the idea that technological progress will soon hit exponential growth, leading to self-aware robots and artificial intelligence that seize control of their own destiny, rendering humans irrelevant if not extinct. (Unless people go transhumanfirst, although that's another article entirely.)

The Singularity may never happen. Artificial intelligencelong predicted, never realizedmay be much harder to achieve than we think. An emerging computer consciousness might pass through a period of infancy, during which humanity might be able to take countermeasures of one sort or another. Self-aware robots might turn out to be benevolent, or even completely uninterested in humanity. It's impossible to predict.

Here, we'll just assume the worst comes to pass. And this scenario is based on technologies that we're feverishly developing today.

What if computer code could write itself? What if robots could think for themselves and continuously learn from their environment while being fed contextual information from a vast global network of data? What if the machines could build themselves and propagate, much in the same way that mammals give birth to new mammals?

Scientists are alreadyresearching computer chips and networks that act like the human brain. These chips could allow computers to learn and act on their own in ways that we never thought possible. I saw researchers demonstrate a simple robot with one of these chips that was given an order to stand up. It squirmed, it stumbled and it stood, having learned that behavior on its own.

We may look back one day and see this as the first step towards our doom. Matt Grob, executive vice president of Qualcomm Technologies, wondered whether it was ethical to turn the robot off after having imbued it with a certain degree of sentience.

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'Biohacker' puts chip in arm

Posted: November 4, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Kids, don't try this at home: A self-described "biohacker" had a big electronic chip almost as large as a deck of cards inserted beneath the skin of his arm. Without a doctor's help. And without anesthetics.

Tim Cannon is a software developer from Pittsburgh and one of the developers at Grindhouse Wetware, a firm dedicated to "augmenting humanity using safe, affordable, open source technology," according to the group's website. As they explain it, "Computers are hardware. Apps are software. Humans are wetware."

The device Cannon had inserted into his arm is a Circadia 1.0, a battery-powered implant that can record data from Cannon's body and transmit it to his Android mobile device. Because no board-certified surgeon would perform the operation, Cannon turned to a DIY team that included a piercing and tattoo specialist who used ice to quell the pain of the procedure. [Super-Intelligent Machines: 7 Robotic Futures]

Now that the device is inserted and functioning, Cannon is one step closer to achieving a childhood dream. "Ever since I was a kid, I've been telling people that I want to be a robot," Cannon told The Verge. "These days, that doesn't seem so impossible anymore."

The Circadia chip isn't particularly advanced: All it does is record Cannon's body temperature and transmit it to his cellphone over a Bluetooth connection. While this isn't a huge improvement over an ordinary thermometer how analog! it does represent one small step forward in what will undoubtedly be a continuing march toward greater integration of electronics and biology.

Cannon is hardly the first individual to have technology implanted into his or her body just ask former vice president Dick Cheney (who had a battery-powered artificial heart implanted), or any dog with a microchip.

Some are referring to biohacking as the next wave in evolution. "I think that's the trend, and where we're heading," according to futurist and sci-fi author James Rollins.

"There's a whole 'transhuman' movement, which is the merging of biology and machine," Rollins told LiveScience in an earlier interview. "Google Glass is one small step, and now there's a Japanese scientist who's developed the contact lens equivalent of Google Glass. And those are two things you put right on, if not in, your body. So I think we're already moving that way, and quite rapidly."

Cannon sees future refinements as being able to do more than just passively transmit information. "I think that our environment should listen more accurately and more intuitively to what's happening in our body," Cannon told Motherboard. "So if, for example, I've had a stressful day, the Circadia will communicate that to my house and will prepare a nice relaxing atmosphere for when I get home: dim the lights, [draw] a hot bath."

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Virtuous Retail creates magnificent Kandeel art to launch ‘Dilwaali Diwali’

Posted: October 30, 2013 at 8:43 am

As a testament of Virtuous Retails commitment to public art and celebration, VR Surat, Gujarats only communitycentric world class lifestyle destination, today unveiled the countrys largest Kandeel art piece - Irony in Balance, which is installed at theRunway. The concept, which is inspired by the kinetic work of the legendary artiste Alexander Calder, comprises more than 200 specially-customised lanterns of varying sizes with striking Ikat prints balanced in an asymmetrical pattern and the entire installation moving in arotational manner.

Commenting on the installation, Anupam Yog, Director, Marketing, Virtuous Retail, said, Public art can not only enhance and transform a spacebut can also bring people together to fulfill a social and educational purpose. At Virtuous Retail, its a tradition to celebrate festivities in style. We are committed to using public art to engage, sensitise, and bring a community together to celebrate festivals differently.

'Irony in Balance' has been created by Virtuous Retail in collaboration with Transhuman Collective and a team of over82 student artistes from Veer NarmadSouth Gujarat University, School of Architecture and Fine Arts, Suratand Faculty of Fine Arts Maharaja Sayaji Rao University,Baroda. They collectively put in over 200 hours in making 200 handmade Kandeels for this project while a team of50including artistes, student artistes, technicians and labourers were involved in creating the installation at The Runway.

This festive season, VR Surat launches the Dilwaali Diwali campaign to encourage Surtis to shop from their heart (giving equal importance toDil) while taking advantage of the attractive deals being offered by the premium lifestyle brands at the Community Center. Part of the proceeds will be given away by VR Surat to the identified charities that support underprivileged children and education-related causes.

Packed with unique outdoor and indoor experiences, VR Surat is anchored by Zara, Marks & Spencer, Shoppers Stop, Westside and INOX, and will openin 3 phases. VR Surat's Phase I and Phase II opening saw the launch of over 100 brands, many of which have debuted in Surat and Gujarat.

Alongside its Phase-II retail launch during the festive season, VR Surat with its retail partners showcases the best of Indian and international premium brands such as Zara (to launch in November), Marks & Spencer (to launch in October), Zodiac, Peter England, Clarks, Helios, SVM Bowling &Gaming, Being Human, MAC, Sisley, Monte Carlo, Jade Blue, Ethos, Clinique, Nautica, GANT, BIBA, Pizza Hut, Subway, McDonalds, Punjab Street, andWok on Fire, among others.

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Encephalon – The Transhuman Condition – Video

Posted: October 28, 2013 at 10:41 am


Encephalon - The Transhuman Condition
The title track on The Transhuman Condition.

By: Aurora Glasslight

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transhuman demo preview – Video

Posted: October 17, 2013 at 11:42 am


transhuman demo preview
One of 3 tracks in the working for the next EP from Cornwall based progressive djentleman Transhuman.

By: Adam Chinner

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Transhuman EP 3 pre production – Video

Posted: at 11:42 am


Transhuman EP 3 pre production
Adam jamming a few pre production riff ideas for new material (May or May not be used)

By: Adam Chinner

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Vladimir Putin against the new Carthaginian civilization

Posted: at 11:42 am

My high charms work,

And these mine enemies are all knit up

in their distractions.

The Tempest

By Nicolas Bonnal

Vladimir Putin recently spoke of the Euro-Atlantic forces that want to push the Christian roots out of Europe and the West. I thought his expression had an almost esoteric dimension. First there is the Heartland, the Christian Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals - and beyond - as de Gaulle said. A land rich in traditions, proud of its high and ancient civilization, which had managed to transform and renew its culture and inheritance for thousands of years.

Then there is the other side: the dark forces of the modern Euro-Atlantic world, devourer of time, and space eater. As Putin said, it is not that this world is purely satanic, it is that it puts on the same level the one who claims his allegiance to Christianity and the one who claims his allegiance to Satanism. That means Mozart and Tolstoy against Lady Gaga in your Android and Tim Burton in a Blue Ray.

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More Transhuman than Human | theVAULTmagazine

Posted: October 16, 2013 at 1:40 am

BY MARY WARREN

Humans have evolved into a state of self-ascribed superiority in comparison to the rest of the animal kingdom, so what is the next rung on the ladder of humanity? Transhumanists believe its to shed the human condition with the help of science and technology.

Transhumanism is a movement aimed at transforming or modifying the human body and mind into something far more advanced. As a species, weve all had transhumanist thoughts at least once, where we imagined the benefits to being smarter, more athletic, or more psychologically stable. With the ideals of personal enhancement in mind, transhumanism seems like a logical and beneficial progression for humanity, but some naysayers warn that transhumanism could be one of the worlds most dangerous ideas.

On the exterior, the motives behind transhumanism appear to be fundamentally for the good, and humanitys desire for transhumanist progression can even be traced as far back as the tale of the quest for the fountain of youth. However, when ethics enters the field all the potential good has to be immediately questioned. Unlike many other movements, transhumanists dont value the preservation of natural systems and instead see the natural as problematic. Another glaring issue with transhumanism would be the division of people. Much like the division of social classes, transhumanism could create an unfair divide between the technologically enhanced and those who remain au naturel.

With a disregard for the natural state of humanity, those who choose (or could afford) to enhance themselves would be at a great advantage over those who chose to maintain their natural traits or simply couldnt afford to rise above the human condition. To draw from the wise words of Spidermans Uncle Ben With great power, comes great responsibility. However, we cant rely on an entire population to be as moral as Spider-man, especially when humans have a tendency to disregard those with a differing ideology.

It would be incredibly likely for the transhumanist class to feel a sense of superiority over their natural counterparts as warned by G. Annas, L. Andrews and R. Isasi in their paper Protecting the Endangered Human: Toward an International Treaty Prohibiting Cloning and Inheritable Alteration:

The new species, or posthuman, will likely view the old normal humans as inferior, even savages, and fit for slavery or slaughter. The normals, on the other hand, may see the post-humans as a threat and if they can, may engage in a pre-emptive strike by killing the post-humans before they themselves are killed or enslaved by them. It is ultimately this predictable potential for genocide that makes species-altering experiments potential weapons of mass destruction, and makes the unaccountable genetic engineer a potential bioterrorist.

Its also been argued that a transhumanist society would be left vulnerable due to a lack of the need for dissent and dissatisfaction. Physician, scientist and intellectual Leon Kass warns what will become of us if we decide to dehumanize ourselves:

The final technical conquest of his own nature would almost certainly leave mankind utterly enfeebled. This form of mastery would be identical with utter dehumanization. Read Huxleys Brave New World, read C. S. Lewiss Abolition of Man, read Nietzsches account of the last man, and then read the newspapers.

Homogenization, mediocrity, pacification, drug-induced contentment, debasement of taste, souls without loves and longingsthese are the inevitable results of making the essence of human nature the last project of technical mastery. In his moment of triumph, Promethean man will become a contented cow.

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More Transhuman than Human | theVAULTmagazine

Posted: October 13, 2013 at 10:41 pm

BY MARY WARREN

Humans have evolved into a state of self-ascribed superiority in comparison to the rest of the animal kingdom, so what is the next rung on the ladder of humanity? Transhumanists believe its to shed the human condition with the help of science and technology.

Transhumanism is a movement aimed at transforming or modifying the human body and mind into something far more advanced. As a species, weve all had transhumanist thoughts at least once, where we imagined the benefits to being smarter, more athletic, or more psychologically stable. With the ideals of personal enhancement in mind, transhumanism seems like a logical and beneficial progression for humanity, but some naysayers warn that transhumanism could be one of the worlds most dangerous ideas.

On the exterior, the motives behind transhumanism appear to be fundamentally for the good, and humanitys desire for transhumanist progression can even be traced as far back as the tale of the quest for the fountain of youth. However, when ethics enters the field all the potential good has to be immediately questioned. Unlike many other movements, transhumanists dont value the preservation of natural systems and instead see the natural as problematic. Another glaring issue with transhumanism would be the division of people. Much like the division of social classes, transhumanism could create an unfair divide between the technologically enhanced and those who remain au naturel.

With a disregard for the natural state of humanity, those who choose (or could afford) to enhance themselves would be at a great advantage over those who chose to maintain their natural traits or simply couldnt afford to rise above the human condition. To draw from the wise words of Spidermans Uncle Ben With great power, comes great responsibility. However, we cant rely on an entire population to be as moral as Spider-man, especially when humans have a tendency to disregard those with a differing ideology.

It would be incredibly likely for the transhumanist class to feel a sense of superiority over their natural counterparts as warned by G. Annas, L. Andrews and R. Isasi in their paper Protecting the Endangered Human: Toward an International Treaty Prohibiting Cloning and Inheritable Alteration:

The new species, or posthuman, will likely view the old normal humans as inferior, even savages, and fit for slavery or slaughter. The normals, on the other hand, may see the post-humans as a threat and if they can, may engage in a pre-emptive strike by killing the post-humans before they themselves are killed or enslaved by them. It is ultimately this predictable potential for genocide that makes species-altering experiments potential weapons of mass destruction, and makes the unaccountable genetic engineer a potential bioterrorist.

Its also been argued that a transhumanist society would be left vulnerable due to a lack of the need for dissent and dissatisfaction. Physician, scientist and intellectual Leon Kass warns what will become of us if we decide to dehumanize ourselves:

The final technical conquest of his own nature would almost certainly leave mankind utterly enfeebled. This form of mastery would be identical with utter dehumanization. Read Huxleys Brave New World, read C. S. Lewiss Abolition of Man, read Nietzsches account of the last man, and then read the newspapers.

Homogenization, mediocrity, pacification, drug-induced contentment, debasement of taste, souls without loves and longingsthese are the inevitable results of making the essence of human nature the last project of technical mastery. In his moment of triumph, Promethean man will become a contented cow.

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