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Category Archives: Transhumanist

The transhuman future is here – Dazed

Posted: November 9, 2019 at 11:45 pm

The future isnt an accident, its something we create and it seems our goal is to hack what it means to be human. What was once science fiction is now reality: the first cyborgs are here. A revolution is unfolding in operating rooms, labs, artist, and designer studios across the world.

Scientists and entrepreneurs are on a quest to unlock the secrets of the human brain through implantable technology. The documentary I am Human by Elena Gaby follows three people with varying degrees of disabilities who have been implanted with brain-computer interfaces allowing them to achieve what was once impossible. Programmes such as BrainGate, Synchron, and Neuralink are among the neurotech organisations working to restore communication, mobility, and independence in people who have lost movement due to paralysis, limb loss, or neurodegenerative disease.

In the documentary, Stephen, who is blind, has a retinal implant which connects to electrodes in his brain. Elsewhere, Anne who suffers from Parkinsons Disease is considering whether to have deep brain stimulation through inserted electrodes. These brain implants come with great societal implications as groundbreaking neurotechnologies could gradually branch out into the general population when people adopt how transformational they can be.

A future where we can type or control our cars with our mind is within reach and if the technology were to make it outside the medical domain, the future is one of brain-to-brain communication, enhanced memory, and cognition where even speaking to each other may not be as necessary. In her recent article for the Guardian, Zoe Corbyn features Dennis Degray, a paraplegic man who was able to send text messages, shop on Amazon, and stack blocks by controlling a robotic arm through the neurons of his mind. Brain implants could revolutionise the way we connect to the world around us. If harnessed, for example, in the military, in retail, the workplace or train stations, they could become the new standard for interactions between people, machines, and products.

But cognitive enhancements, although still in experimental stages, should make us question the deep implications of self-governance and privacy. In our cyber future, will humans or technology prevail? Daniela Skills short film featured on Nowness portrays a future where humanity battles with cyborgs and robots in a quest for co-existence. This appears to be a far-fetched scenario, but if we observe the signals of today and operate as cultural listeners, we can see a tipping point between humanity and machines through the rise of neurotechnology.

Bionic humans and intelligent robots are here, and you better get used to them; you might even become one of them in the future. Companies such as Youbionic aims to democratise smart prosthetics in an effort to enhance the human intellect and physiology its recent invention, the Youbionic Paw Arm, is now available through open sourcing. Another open-source, artificially intelligent prosthetic leg designed by scientists Levi Hargrove and Elliott Rouse at the University of Michigan and Shirley Ryan Ability Lab will be released to the public and scientific community. This naturally redefines the changing boundaries between the human and the machine, the animate and inanimate, controller and controlled, and how accessible this may all become.

In our quest to merge the physical, digital and machine, ancient themes of Animism dating from ancient civilisations and religions such as the Golem are being played out with todays toolbox. Creatives like Princess Gollum illustrate our fascination with giving life to non-living things. Humans cannot help but explore their power and their fears in a bid to take control of the inevitable: the degradation of the human body and mind. This need for eternity has inspired us to create human-like creatures with special abilities from Frankenstein to todays alien Avatars such as Galaxia.

In her art installation Homemade RC Toy, Geumhyung Jeong questions our relationship with machines by interacting naked with homemade robotic sculptures. Flowing Water Standing Time by fashion designer Ying Pao is a robotic garment which moves according to colour and is inspired by the work of neurologist Oliver Sacks. We could see the development of garments that can be a tool for navigation, communication, and as an amplifier for VR spaces with projects like Ava Aghakouchaks soft wearable Sovar.

Meanwhile, Ai-Da, the worlds first humanoid robot artist, has had her first solo exhibition of eight drawings, twenty paintings, four sculptures and two video works. There was debate about granting personhood to AI in the EU courts in 2017. This was ultimately rejected; however, recently two professors from the University of Surrey filed patents on behalf of an AI system. They are arguing it should be recognised as inventor, and although the Patents offices in the UK, EU and US insist innovations are attributed to humans only, this now seems to be an outdated notion.

So, what does this mean for the human body, intelligence and emotions? In What humans will look like in the next 100 years, we discussed the acceptance of baby androids in our society and the manufacturing of cyborgs by 2048. The project Replika by Pleun Van Dijk, commissioned by Roskilde Festival, echoes this transhumanist concept. By staging a human production-line, designers act as gods and stage a future where human shells are reshaped by industry and capital. New research shows that we may also be able to regenerate human tissue and body parts, as scientists have discovered the human body can renew like salamanders.The paper, published in Science Advances, explains we have the same healing process as amphibians and this previously unknown ability might be exploited to enhance joint repair and establish a basis for human limb regeneration.

Science fiction artistEsmay Wagemans explores a parallel concept of re-creating body parts in a race to res-culpt humanity. This idea, paired with the developments of soft computers such as the Octobot, a chemically powered robot which can essentially take any shape, points to the potential for merging soft wearables with Augmented Reality, social media, and Artificial intelligence. This could lead to a new way of communicating and representing ourselves in which our skins would become screens reflected in Aposema, a facial prosthesis which acts as an external emotional indicator. The project speculates on our ability to empathise in an age where people prefer technological devices over in-person interactions. Built using soft robotics prosthetics, biometric sensors and an augmented reality digital layer, Aposema would translate facial expressions when we are no longer able to understand emotions.

How we relate to other humans and our own physicality is changing deeply as we race to virtualise and reinvent our body. The democratisation of technologies ranging from robotic limbs to mixed realities, coupled with the progress of 3D scanning and modelling, are suggesting the possibility of a human body that is modifiable, customisable and open source. New beauty standards will emerge out of this transhumanist scenario in which mutant creations would colonise our current traditional sense of reality.

We are creating another dimension, another human nature before our eyes. The speculative design studio Imprudence explores future beauty products with their online store selling items ranging from cat eye DNA, nano filter make-up to a skin scanning soap. Face filters are a key illustration of the viral desire for wearing 3D makeup as seen in Ines Alphas recently launched collaboration with the fashion brand Bimba y Lola.Through her digital creations, digital artist Ksenia Trifonova engages with a future where images will be projected onto our faces and give us the ability to transform and communicate data, style, social media posts on our skins.

Our clothing will not be immune to the changes in our reality paradigm. Rflctv Studios streetwear collection transforms into interactive hyperreal dichroic garments through augmented reality. Moin Roberts-Islam of the London-based Fashion Innovation Agency recently featured a prototype scanner for human body augmentation and customisation created by Cyberpunk 3D artist Rafe Johnson. It could offer new ways of trying on jewellery, accessories and tattoos.

And with Virtual humans, avatars will not only populate our feeds, but they will also enter customer service applications as we are now able to replicate human emotion and mimic meaningful and authentic interactions. Soul Machines enables highly realistic Autonomous Animations of humans through an AI-powered Digital Brain. The avatars are already planned to be rolled out in customer service for Natwest. Concurrently, Facebook has outlined its plans to turn us into holograms in a future communication where instead of using Skype, we could be teleported to our parents living room for dinner across the world. The holographic avatar in Blade Runner or the loveable operating system in Her are here.

Western philosophy makes an absolute distinction between the living and the non-living. We presumed that humans were the only thinking things but now machines think, they will sense, feel, reflect, even have a sense of self, through avatars like Josefin Jonssons virtual humans, cyborgs and humanoids. As we use advanced technologies to push the edges of humanity, machines are becoming like us. The question now is, where do we end and where do they begin? And is this a true advancement for society?

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The transhuman future is here - Dazed

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Transhumanism, AI, gaming and human biology to feature at Mumbrella MSIX with new session announced – mUmBRELLA*

Posted: at 11:45 pm

Learn how transhumanism and artificial intelligence are changing the way we acquire users as software engineer for PALO IT and co-founder of Transhumanism Australia, Alyse Sue, speaks at Mumbrella MSIX to lift the lid on transhumanist technologies.

Sue, a full stack Node.js and C# software developer has co-founded three ventures focusing on health and emerging technology. Shes also had vast experience working with AI and blockchain and has previously spent nearly four years at KPMG focusing on finance and technology.

Sue will speak at Mumbrella MSIX on transhumanism and artificial intelligence

At Mumbrella MSIX, Sue will discuss using artificial intelligence to completely tailor content to passers-by, while also revealing how to target digital humans living in virtual worlds created by Facebook and other tech giants.

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In addition, shell uncover ways to plant messages directly in peoples brains using brain-computer-interfaces.

Also confirmed is Forethought group CEO, Ken Roberts, who will reveal how to avoid the big idea lottery. The former associate professor at Melbourne Business School and now managing partner of Forethought Research (formerly Roberts Research Group) will assert that there is still extreme ineffectiveness in advertising and that the origin of the issues is the intuition-based big idea.

Roberts will explain a scientifically proven way of forming a foundation for creative briefs and big ideas

He will share with delegates Prophecy Thoughts & Feelings, a scientifically proven, marketing science-based, method for identifying the rational and emotional motivations for category and brand-specific consumer behaviour and show how these motivational drivers should form the foundations of the creative brief and the big idea.

Meanwhile, Dr Juliette Tobias-Webb will lead an interactive session explaining the psychological reasons why consumers enjoy games and how certain structural characteristics of games elicit beliefs and behaviours that lead to continued engagement.

Tobias-Webb will reveal the real benefits of gaming and how it affects consumer thinking

Tobias-Webb, who has worked for Commonwealth Bank, Ogilvy & Mather and lectured at the University of Cambridge has spent her career focusing on understanding human behaviour and decision making and applying insight from neuroscience, psychology, and economics to create real-world, measurable behavioural change.

Curated by Adam Ferrier, consumer psychologist and chief thinker at Thinkerbell, Mumbrella MSIX (Marketing Sciences Ideas Xchange) explores the intersection of marketing, behavioural science, creativity, and everything in between.

It takes place on February 20 in Sydney with tickets on sale now.

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Transhumanism, AI, gaming and human biology to feature at Mumbrella MSIX with new session announced - mUmBRELLA*

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The Big Read Poppy: Human After All, the NME interview – NME.com

Posted: at 11:44 pm

Think you know Poppy, the robo-pop sensation and maker of mesmerising YouTube videos, all in the guise of a sentient Artifical Intelligence? So did NME Deputy Editor Dan Stubbs when he went to meet the LA-based star at a London fetish dungeon, only to find Poppy is more human than we might have thought. Breaking character for the first time, Poppy reveals more than ever before about her work, her life and why she wants to bring down the internet. PHOTOS: JENN FIVE

Have you ever been browsing the help page of a website when a text box pops up inviting you to a live chat with a customer service operative? You click and enter your query, only for it to quickly become apparent that youre talking to a chatbot. Its a bit like a normal conversation, except the voice on the other end picks from a selection of vacuous, tangential phrases and keeps asking you if youre happy, as if youre speaking to a Love Island contestant whos coming up on ecstasy.

That experience is pretty much what Id geared myself up for when it came to interviewing Poppy for her first NME Big Read. For those not already familiar, Poppy is many things: a pop star, an actor, a director, a composer of ambient music, a religious leader (at her own Church Of Poppy), a DJ, a comic-book character, a smash hit YouTuber, a provocateur, a performance artist and a master of multiple media. One thing she is not, she has previously insisted, is human.

Until now.

We meet at a torture dungeon in Walthamstow, North-East London. And no, I dont remember stumbling upon one of those in the Yellow Pages either. Its best thought of as a gymnasium designed by Pinhead from Hellraiser, dark and leathery and full of metal hooks, and all the apparatus is disconcertingly greasy to the touch. Hanging around there for a few hours while Poppys NME photoshoot takes place, you find yourself idly leaning on some piece of kit or other only to realise its a sex gurney with stirrups and bondage rings.

Poppy, it must be said, is perfectly at home here: shes arrived accompanied by her collaborator and creative partner, Titanic Sinclair (real name Corey Mixter), a selection of PVC outfits and a massively oversized, sculptural leather overcoat that her friend Marilyn Manson might wear. Thats right, her friend Marilyn Manson, whose 50th birthday she attended this year. What do you get the goth rock icon who has everything? My presence, she replies.

That friendship and NMEs, er, sexhorror photoshoot make sense if youve been following Poppys career lately. Last year on Halloween the American singer put out Am I A Girl?, an album of candy-flavoured robo-pop that, sonically, put her in league with the PC Musics of the world. Stylistically it presented her as the real-life Ashley O months before Black Mirror and Miley Cyrus got there.

Poppy claims to have not seen that particular episode of the dystopian Netflix drama, despite the fact that the story about a transhuman pop star who covers Nine Inch Nails tracks seems directly influenced by her own career. Ive heard about it a lot, she says. Curiosity hasnt got the better of you? I dont really like shows that lots of people like, she says. If someone suggests a certain thing then Ill intentionally not watch it. Its just me being stubborn.

Am I A Girl? and the preceding Poppy.Computer, from 2017 were seemingly targeted at people who fetishise Japanese kawaii culture and futurism equally. Her forthcoming album, I Disagree, due on January 10 next year, promises to be a different beast: specifically, one with devil horns. It finds Poppy embracing the tinnitus-inducing thrash of heavy metal alongside those cute, catchy choruses.

Its a stylistic shift that follows testing times, including a lawsuit, a high profile beef, and a second bad record deal more of which later. This, then, is heavy metal as catharsis. I try to channel all of my anger steam into my artand maintain some form of composure, even when I feel I want to end everything, she says, troublingly. End herself or end the world? The world.

So you were feeling quite angry about some things? Yeah, but I would say it feels natural too. When we were making Am I A Girl? we were driving to the studio and listening to a lot of heavier music. I would go in and write a rainbows and butterflies song and I was like, OK, theres a disconnect here

Poppys reinvention is the kind of gear-change that might cost an artist a portion of their audience, but fans on YouTube seem to be getting the right idea. I run Poppy through some of their comments on her recent track Concrete, which is probably the best example of Poppys new direction, as its both sweet and heavy with deeply, deeply disturbing lyrics fetishising the idea of being buried alive in concrete. Poppy says she would kill time with a lot of thumb twiddling if that happened in real life.

So here goes with the comments:

This song makes me comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. Im confused.

Poppy: Ive become comfortable with being uncomfortable. If things are comfortable, I get anxiety.

Another: This is what having bipolar disorder feels like.

Poppy: That makes sense.

Shes clearly a victim of MK Ultra mind control, guys.

Poppy: Clearly. I like conspiracy theories. Ive seen one or two videos online about (CIA experiment) MKUltra. I know a thing or two.

And another: Its like if Slipknot, Babymetal, Queen and The Beach Boys made a song together. I dont hate it.

Poppy: I like that one.

Theres an example of Poppys self-confessed stubbornness when she and I are walking from the photoshoot to a nearby pub. Poppy drags a shiny black suitcase with one hand and holds a polystyrene head in the other. On the head is a blonde wig, which Titanic Sinclair has just named Moppy. Poppy rejects the offer of help in carrying either, which causes problems when a fan spots her Poppeeeeeeeee! comes the shout and she very quickly picks up the pace, suitcase bouncing behind her.

When we make it into the pub, she heads for a table in the furthest, quietest corner. On the way there, making chit-chat about her interests (she loves fail videos and crime documentaries, she says, and rarely sleeps), I had broached the subject: when, exactly, is she going to start pretending to be a robot? Well, she says. Well see.

Previous interviewers particularly the infamous US shock-jock Howard Stern have made a sport of trying to get Poppy to break character, or even simply to laugh. Even out of the public eye, Poppy carries herself with an air of almost supernatural composure. She sits bolt upright, doesnt slouch, and speaks carefully and with great consideration in a soft, southern American accent. Shes fiercely intelligent and quietly assured. She drinks black coffee and frequently cracks her knuckles, which snap so loudly you wonder if theres a metal skeleton in there after all.

An exaggeration of this emotionally guarded person is the one that Poppys fans have become obsessed with. In some of her YouTube videos, she asks endless questions of the viewer about their relationship with social media, and whether they validate themselves through followers. In others, she experiences crises about the nature of her own existence. In some, black goo oozes from her mouth. Theyre videos that challenge the viewer in a number of ways: not much happens, it happens very slowly, and though theyre absolutely PG rated you probably wouldnt want to be caught watching them at work. Theyre much like the trend for ASMR videos, in which people whisper and click and generally make the viewer feel a bit strange in a way they cant quite put their finger on.

Theres a supporting cast, too: Poppy has an occasional enemy, Charlotte, whos a mannequin, and a friend, whos a plant. I remind her of the latter as she tucks into vegetable crudites in the pub. People keep pet pigs and still eat pork, comes the response.

That stupid question about the ethics of eating salad when your sole companion is a houseplant and about a zillion others like it are essentially rendered moot when it becomes apparent that Poppy is breaking character today. I find myself feeling the weight of trying to work out the things fans would most like to know and the things Ive always wondered about this singular artist.

Poppy likens her stylistic shift naive pop AI to rock hellion to David Bowie killing off Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Apollo, reasoning its an artists prerogative to change. Is this interview set to be Poppys big reveal: a kind of Pinocchio moment where she declares herself a real life girl? I feel the same [as before], she says. I just feel more certain.

Information about the person behind Poppy isnt exactly a state secret. Wikipedia has her as Moriah Rose Pereira, born January 1, 1995. When I ask her about her age, its one of the few times shes guarded. I dont know, you know. I dont know. Its not what my Wikipedia says.

So what else is wrong on your Wikipedia page?

I think the dates are weird. Most of the rest, its OK.

Youre not tempted to change it?

No. Theres an element to Wikipedia that I think you know how they ask you for donations on the homepage? Im just like, Just let it go. We dont need it. I dont think the general public should be able to change information like that. I had a Google Home for a short time and of course, I had to ask it, Hey Google, whos Poppy? And it would rattle off all this information just from Wikipedia and it was all wrong, and I thought it was really funny.

So, OK, you switch the Google Home on how far down your list of questions is that one? Be honest.

It was after a little while, she says. Theres a video that Titanic and I shot where Im smashing my Google Home afterwards. I thought it would smash a lot easier than it did.

Do you trust that kind of technology?

No.

But the Poppy we know loves AI and the idea of computer learning, right?

Im trying to move backwards. Im trying to get rid of my technology. In turn its going to make it harder to get a hold of me and my friends mad at me but its OK.

Are they going to have to fax you?

Im thinking carrier pigeon.

When previous interviewers have asked where Poppy lives, the reply would be the internet. Actually, she confirms, she grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and lives, not-quite-alone, in Los Angeles, California. I have a Sphynx cat. Hes the demon man of my home. His name is Pi and he I think he was sent to ruin my life, she says.

Its easy to imagine Poppy being an outsider in Nashville, typically the home of country music and cowboys rather than robots, and a place she describes as having that small town feeling. Its equally easy to see her being on the fringes in Hollywood. She describes her life there as feeling like Im in the middle of a lot of things, but with my journal out, just watching. So youre an anthropologist? I guess so, she says. I think everybody would say that about me. When Im in a room, Im looking everywhere. I think I would be a spy if I wasnt a singer.

Though a keen dancer, Poppy spent much of her childhood alone in her bedroom. I would intentionally isolate myself from a lot of things, she says. She did half of her education in public school, where she was bullied, and completed her studies early in homeschool. I didnt have a positive experience [at public school], says Poppy. I barely said any words, so that kind of opened me up, in a way, to be the target of everyones teasing.

For what things?

Being skinny and quiet.

Homeschool conjures images of a parent playing the teacher role. Actually, says Poppy, she did her studies alone in her bedroom, where the internet was my teacher. When you consider that image a slight, quiet girl, sat alone in a room with only the internet for company, diligently racing through the curriculum its not too difficult to join the dots to Poppys character on YouTube. Yeah, it does actually make sense when you think about it, she says, as if this might, improbably, be a fresh thought. I like that. If I could just have that be my legacy famous for being alone in a white room Id be happy with that.

The move to LA came when Pereira signed her first record contract, a major label deal under the name ThatPoppy. Having already left the family home, she relocated without telling a soul. I kept everyone in the dark because I didnt want anyone to get in the way, she says.

Poppy met Titanic Sinclair, an artist, musician and director, through a mutual friend within a few months of moving to LA, and instantly hit it off. At the photoshoot, Sinclair had described his first encounter with Poppy as being like meeting David Bowie, so shook was he by her creative force.

Meanwhile, Poppys frustration with her music career was growing. I went through the circus at that label, the changing of the representatives or whatever, and I was coming to find out I was actually just in a really bad deal, she says.

When Poppy and Sinclair began making YouTube videos together, it caused further friction with the label. I was being discouraged from making the videos, and in turn, Titanic and I were like, Were not gonna listen, so we made twice or triple the amount, she says. And that was when [the label] started to react. They were like, Hey, we dont think we should make these videos. Why are you making these videos? I was like, Why are you working at a record label?!

Whether or not they had approval, Poppy and Sinclair had hit on something with their channel. Theres an element of Kubricks 2001 A Space Odyssey about the videos, in their glacial pacing, ambient soundscapes, medical lighting and stark visuals. Though they share DNA with your average YouTuber content, they subvert the conventions: there are no jump cuts, theres no begging for likes and follows. Where your average YouTuber goes to pains to welcome the viewer into their world, Poppys videos make you feel like youre peering into a world you shouldnt be seeing. Yet by incrementing the play count by one, or liking, or commenting the viewer becomes part of the piece.

Poppys character fascinated by the world, a model of pure innocence partly came from her interest in the Myers-Briggs test, a personality test that encourages respondents to answer as they would when they were a child, which she has completed multiple times. I would say that [the Poppy character] is directly linked to how I was when I was untouched by the world, the most innocent way of thinking, she says.

I put it to Poppy that if any of her clips were exhibited in a gallery, it would be considered differently. But because its on YouTube, its considered

YouTube content?

Yes.

Which is a little bit frustrating because YouTube is just the medium that we chose to put it on, you know? We could have been on Vimeo, or PornHub, or whatever it may be, but YouTube was the one. And this goes into a bigger conversation about how social media is ruining everything.

Sorry, what? Poppy, the character, is fascinated by social media, isnt she? Obsessed with it even.

I think that at the beginning, social media was a good thing, but as of recent times, the angry internet mobs and misinformation and X, Y and Z, I think its now its a pendulum, so it started out good, now its bad and I think it will fall somewhere in the middle, hopefully. Otherwise well just need to create a new internet, which I hope I can do one day.

What would the PoppyNet look like?

Thered be a nominal fee. Thered be a screening process. You know, What are your intentions here? And no memes.

No memes?!

They just clog the servers.

Poppys own pendulum has swung from good to evil lately. Allowing that to happen meant listening to her gut more. I wanted to put forward this very composed and refined body of work and I so strongly believed in that that I wasnt really willing to listen to this other part of me, you know? Like the devil and the angel on [my] shoulders, she says. Im working more on impulse than before.

The shift is understandable because, in the past year, life has thrown Poppy its fair share of digital lemons. Having struggled on a major, Poppys subsequent label home proved an awkward fit, too. It wasnt really a functioning label, which I can say now, she says. It was more of a tax write-off. There wasnt a lot of consistency going on there. The partnership has now been dissolved, and Poppy is currently signed to prog metal label Sumerian Records.

Meanwhile, the dynamic between Poppy and Sinclair has been under scrutiny. Some taking the pairs artistic creations a little too seriously have been questioning whether theres an issue of coercion there. Actually, says Poppy, the opposing characters: her as the naif, him as the sinister svengali, are just part of the storyline. The narrative that we created in order to tell the story of the first album was very much Titanic is the bad guy and hes the leader, which I think is funny because its not true, says Poppy. It is very much 50:50, the effort.

In April 2018, a former creative and romantic partner of Titanic Sinclair, who goes by the name Mars Argo (real name Brittany Sheets), claimed that Poppys character was ripped off from her, and that Sinclair had been emotionally and physically abusive to her following their relationship. In May, Poppy issued a statement describing Argos actions as a desperate grab for fame, and in September the case was settled out of court, with no money exchanging hands and none of the parties acknowledging liability of wrongdoing.

Later that year Poppy had a run-in with the highly respected Canadian artist Grimes over their Am I A Girl? collaboration Play Destroy. Poppy said shed been bullied into submission by [Grimes] and her team of self-proclaimed feminists. Grimes responded publicly, posting a message saying, Poppy you dragged me into a disgusting situation and wont stop punishing me for not wanting to be part of it, I dont want to work with you, you leaked the song anyway.

Oddly, Grimess subsequent single, We Appreciate Power, sung from the perspective of an ambitious AI, seemed to be a land grab for Poppys own turf. Poppy is reluctant to dredge any of it up again today.

Its kind of dead news, she says. And my new album is good, so

It does seem like you probably admire Grimes in some ways. Is it quite sad when that sort of thing happens publicly, her posting about your professional behaviour on the internet?

I think Im just used to the way the internet works and the lifespan of the news cycle.

What was your learning from Mars Argos lawsuit last year?

I just learned more about Hollywood.

Did it make you like Hollywood more or less?

It solidified my view of Hollywood.

Will you elaborate on that?

Everything is not as it seems. That can be your headline.

If Poppys recent experiences led to the end of her wide-eyed AI innocence, you hope it might lead to her being recognised for the furiously creative force she is. Playing devils advocate, I put it to Poppy that it would be easy to look at some of her previous work and think, This is willfully vacuous. A track on Am I A Girl?, the Diplo collaboration Time Is Up, is absolutely on point with the 2019 zeitgeist of climate change activism and, coming from another artist, it may have been hailed as a culturally important moment. Coming from Poppy, it went unnoticed as the musings of a robo-girl.

Poppy agrees that the concept may have clouded the message. With pop music and my experience with it, it was interesting to like with the first album, to me its pop, but lyrically the subject matter of the songs is not digestible to anyone whos not understanding of why this album exists, you know, she says. I think with the new album, you could come out of nowhere and listen to it for the first time and get what you want from it.

I ask if her character, demeanour and gender led to her not being taken seriously in dealings with labels and collaborators, the business side of music. Not to go into gendering it and having it be about being male or female, but typically in a situation like that [people] would look at Titanic for the ideas and the commands, she says. But I find it funny, because thats not actually the case. Its very collaborative. People would be surprised.

Three weeks later, on October 31, Poppy returns to the UK to play a special show for NME. Shes on tour in the US, and has come over on an off-day especially for us. Yesterday she was, improbably, performing in the ring at a World Wrestling Entertainment event in Florida; tomorrow she plays a headline show in Texas. Tonight, shes at the Shacklewell Arms in Dalston playing a headline DJ set at NMEs Ghouls To The Front the Halloween edition of our Girls To The Front series, which celebrates female and non-binary artists.

Her associate arrives first to scope out the venue. He quickly deems the grungy dressing room not Poppys vibe, which, considering we last had her in an S&M dungeon, speaks volumes about The Shacklewell Arms, and says shell arrive just before stage time instead of hanging around. And sure enough, at 9pm Poppy turns up in a black-and-white PVC catsuit, face painted like the nightmarish clown Pierrot, pitch black lips emphasising a fixed smile.

Making no bones about the lack of live DJing going on, Poppy spends much of the set reading a graphic novel handed to her by a fan, making a sport of very slowly, very purposefully turning the pages as banging techno and quotes from horror films blast out of the speakers. Poppy doesnt dance or speak, preferring to let a sample of her saying Im Poppy do the latter for her.

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The Big Read Poppy: Human After All, the NME interview - NME.com

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‘Rick and Morty’ Season 4 Episode 1 review: The most mind-bending yet – Inverse

Posted: at 11:44 pm

Cryptozoic and Cartoon Network Enterprises announced a new board game called Rick and Morty: The Morty Zone Dice Game Wednesday, confirming that its based on the premiere. Oh boy, youve done it now, the description reads. You grabbed a Death Crystal and can see all of your potential fates.

Death Crystals are indeed the main plot hook for the episode introduced almost immediately, allowing anyone who touches them to perceive how theyll die. But every decision a person makes alters their fate, so their death is always changing. Collecting these crystals is another shameless business venture of Ricks, but things go off the rails very quickly.

The cover of the dice game depicts Morty with a crystal on his forehead and eyes aglow with the same vest and gear on his body as we see in the Akira-type situation featured in the Season 4 trailer. Mortys transformation comments on toxic masculinity and why someone who hasnt even fully matured yet should never get too much power.

The way the episode incorporates this Death Crystal mechanic feels earth-shattering once things jump into high gear, but the story course-corrects to a sense of normalcy by the end as Rick and Morty often does making good on Beths promise in the final moments of the Season 3 finale that things will be like Season 1 but more streamlined.

Season 3 explored how Beth and Jerrys separation impacted their children, but after they reconciled with one another in the Season 3 finale, we began to see them in a happier marriage for the first time (in this reality, anyway).

Jerry moved back into the house, Beth found peace of mind despite doubts that she might be a clone, and a more wholesome vibe developed between all members of the family except for Rick. Everyone presents a united front against their mad scientist grandpa.

Dad, you cant talk to Jerry that way anymore, Beth said at the end of Season 3. Were a real family now. In many ways, things will be like Season 1 but more streamlined. Now Jerry and I are happily married parents, and the idea that I was motivated by a fear of you leaving can be eschewed.

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Publishers are going to live or die based on their relationship with readers: How Quartz is rethinking its membership offerings – Nieman Journalism…

Posted: October 20, 2019 at 4:46 am

It has been a bumpy stretch for Quartz, one of the most lauded digital news startups of the past decade.

Not long after the Atlantic Media site was sold for $86 million to Japanese company Uzabase, web traffic started going in the wrong direction. Quartz says its monthly uniques were down 11 percent year over year between 2018 and 2019. Its membership program, launched nearly a year ago, didnt seem to generating as much traction as desired. It put up a paywall in May after building its business on free distribution across all channels.

Then came last week. On Monday, anticipated leadership changes replaced co-CEOs Kevin Delaney and Jay Lauf with chief product officer Zach Seward (as CEO) and chief commercial officer Katie Weber (as president). The New York Times reported that Quartz lost more than $16 million on less than $12 million in revenue through the first half of 2019. On Wednesday, its iOS app was removed from the App Store in China after its reporting on the uprising in Hong Kong. And on Thursday, it debuted a new homepage and a refined, more member-focused vision of its future.

The way I think about Quartzs evolution is: We just turned seven years old and thats 50 years in internet years. In that time Quartz has gone through several different eras of digital media, said Seward, who, full disclosure, worked here at Nieman Lab a decade ago.

There was this era at the beginning when it was considered smart and prescient to be mobile-first. Then there was the Facebook era where we and a whole lot of other digital publishers were able to really dramatically expand our audience and introduce our brands to the world on the backs of this distribution of social media. That era is clearly over. The way I would describe the new era weve entered is one where publishers are going to live or die based on their relationship with readers.

Seward said Lauf and Delaney had decided to leave Quartz by early September, as 2020 budgeting and planning commenced. (Weber, Sewards new leadership partner, is currently on parental leave. Lauf is staying on as chairman and Delaney will be an advisor.)

Quartz is far from the only outlet to be focusing more on members these days (reader revenue, reader revenue, reader revenue). One of the biggest questions is how to convince a reader to support your specific outlet over another in a world of finite personal budgets for journalism and broad competition. Especially since the biggest reader-revenue success stories (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal) are all broad general-interest publications that overlap in subject matter with, well, everyone at one time or another.

The sticker price for Quartzs membership program $100 a year is also higher than that of some of its non-newspaper peers, like The Atlantic ($50), New York ($50), Wired ($10), Vanity Fair ($15), and The Athletic ($60).

Weve tracked many of Quartzs strategies and changes since launch because the outlet has been an unusually bold innovator in the industry. Its Quartz Daily Brief was one of the first email newsletters to show the mediums potential for media companies. At a time of mostly interchangeable mobile news apps, it built one entirely around a GIF-heavy chat interface. Its invested in augmented reality, news-breaking bots, and an AI studio.

Throughout all those twists, though, the more revenue model was mostly unchanged: Quartz makes money from advertising mostly high-quality, high-cost bespoke advertising for high-end brands (Prada! Infiniti! Credit Suisse! Boeing!). That model typically requires the kind of scale you get with relatively friction-free distribution social-friendly, mobile-friendly, and outside any paywalls.

Our revenue is still predominantly advertising, although within advertising theres a lot of nuance to that business, Seward said. At this point, reader revenue the membership business accounts for a small percentage of our revenue. Thats precisely why were putting such a focus on it. Subscription businesses are a very different kind of business and the faster we can build up that business the more that will pay off in the long term. He wouldnt share any specific numbers [cmon Zach, not even for Nieman Lab? Ed.] but said theyre closely watching the total number of members and daily active users across Quartzs email newsletters and apps. Uzabase financial filings say the company expects Quartzs traditional ad-driven business to be profitable for the full year 2019 (anticipating the usual holidays bump in Q4), but that investments in the membership program will fuel that large expected overall loss.

Membership was a key part of Uzabases plans for Quartz; this was our Ken Doctors take on the sale last year:

At the core of this transaction: a lack of overlap and a promise of synergy. Quartz brings a big English-language audience and sophisticated ad selling and event marketing. Uzabase emerging in Japan and more widely in Asia with both B2B and B2C business news products opens up possibilities for faster Quartz expansion

The move also clears the way for Quartz itself to move into the digital subscription space, a plan that has been awaiting execution as its audience grew. With its high-rate ad business, Lauf has told me the company wanted to move carefully as it added another leg of revenue. Now, it looks the time may be right.

Lauf told me today that the company had already accelerated its subscription plans earlier this year, before the sale became likely. Could Quartz offer a subscription product within 18 months. Yes, he said.

(It barely took four.)

While Quartz now has a traditional metered paywall, its membership offering is pitched differently than most outlets more as an investment in the readers career, almost an educational product. Along with no paywall, it promises:

Its meant to be a core part of the Quartz user experience rather than a premium-content add-on, Seward says. Quartz is focused on repackaging its journalism into longer-lasting resources for members like field guides and slide decks (it is a business audience, after all). Thats how he sees the outlet breaking out of the rest of the business reporting pack. Quartz is best at is providing a guide to the global economy with a particular focus on how businesses and industries are changing, he said.

For example: Every week we produce a really deep dive on a company or industry or business trend that weve identified as really for you to understand if you want to understand the global economy. Weve done nearly 50 of them at this point. Those are very unlike news coverage, in that all 50 of the news guides weve produced remain valuable today. As members you get access to all of it. In that sense its more similar to an Audible.com subscription, where youre getting access to this huge library of journalism, than it is to a daily news subscription. Members can also tune into conference calls with Quartz reporters digesting the issues or watch mini-documentaries about them.

Quartz has probably changed its homepage more than any other major digital outlet: It launched without a traditional homepage at all you were thrown straight into the top story of the moment launched without a homepage at all, later turned it into a web version of its morning Daily Brief email, and eventually an artier version of something more traditional.

Quartzs new homepage looks less like a news site and more like a personal dashboard, greeting members by name with a time-appropriate Good afternoon and offering a briefing-like experience covering what Quartz sees as the top stories of the moment, usually grouped into larger topics. To emphasize its members, a selection of their comments appear right on the homepage itself underneath stories. (Members are usually identified by their titles; some highlighted on the homepage today include a Futurist, Strategist, Philosopher, someone Spearheading the Transhumanist Movement, and a Founder at Virgin Group. That would be Richard Branson.)

(Its also being a bit more aggressive on pricing, offering a 40-percent-off coupon that lowers a new subscribers first-year price to $60.)

Quartz announced a key hire this morning, bringing Walt Frick (a former Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow here) aboard as membership editor, coming over from Harvard Business Review.

In the meantime, Quartz is also working on strengthening the journalism as well as broadening the perks. It recently launched its first-ever investigations team, which isnt usually a short-term, small expense. John Keefe will lead the four-person reporting team digging into online advertising and political influence ahead of the U.S. presidential election, leaning on the grant-funded Quartz AI Studio to infuse more machine learning-powered reporting into the investigations. Seward said it wasnt a hard choice as an investment:

As we focus on membership and our relationship to members, a number one thing that members and potential members want from Quartz is our journalism. So it becomes a pretty easy calculus.

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Stronger, smarter, happier – what if a drug could make you a better version of yourself? – CBC.ca

Posted: August 22, 2017 at 11:26 pm

Thursday August 10, 2017

If there werea pill that made yousmarter without studying, stronger without exercising, and happier without trying, would you take it?

That's the premiseof the 2011movie, Limitless,in which actor BradleyCooper plays astruggling writer who is offered a drug that promises him access to the full capacities of his brain.

Soon enough Cooper's character hasfinished writinghis book, acquired a wide range of newof skills, and is on his way to becoming one of the richest and most powerfulpeople in the country.

The fictitious scenario isfarfetched, but the idea of using drugs for self-enhancement is completely grounded in reality and it's possible you're participating in self-enhancement without even knowing it.

When thinking about LSD, your mind probably conjuresup images of the Beatles oruntethered hallucinations.

But there are also people some of them prestigious jobs with high stakeswho are using LSD to boost their performance at work.Microdosinginvolves taking small doses of LSD far less than you would use to have a full on hallucinatory trip in order to boost productivity and focus.

PJVogt, host of the hitpodcastReply All, and show producer PhiaBennindecided to put microdosing to the test, all while hiding their social experiment from their colleagues to see whether anyone would notice.

Thetales of the paranoia, accidental 'macrodosing,' and the very mixed results that ensued are all documented in a hilarious Reply All episode thatyou can listen to here.

Caffeine has been shown to boost athletic performance. (Unsplash/Kyle Meck)

Of course, regular LSD doses, however small, may not be everyone's cup of tea.

But there's also a legal, relatively safe drug that has been proven to make athletes perform better. It can also make you more alert and focused,and there's a pretty good chance some of it is already in your system right now.

If you haven't guessed yet it's caffeine.

Terry Graham,professor emeritusat the University of Guelph, spent years studying the effects of caffeine. After Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was disqualified fordoping at the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul, Graham asked for funding to study whether caffeineaffects athletic performance with the hypothesis that its positive effects would be inconsequential.

"I was absolutely, 100 per cent wrong," he said. "Caffeine was a tremendous stimulant to exercise endurance and performance."

The boost provided by caffeine occurs within the muscle itself. Muscles are made up of motor units groups of muscle cells that contract all at once. When caffeine is present, each of those units produces a little more tension than usual, making the entiremuscle contractionstronger.

"Many of the substances that athletes can use to promote a better performance only act within acertain window, it could be strength, sprinting, or a prolonged activity. Butcaffeine seems to be able to influence all of these types of activities, so it's quite universal," he explained.

If tiny doses ofLSD, and big doses of coffee don't appeal to you as means of self-enhancement, there's always transhumanism abroad movement that aims to overcome our human limitations.

People involved with transhumanism believe that humans can be improved through things like smart drugs and gene editing. The three major strands aresuperintelligence, superlongevity, and superhappiness.

As explained by David Pearce, a philosopher and prominent figure in the transhumanist movement, this re-alignment of the basic human conditionshinges on something called the hedonistic imperative.

"Each of us has this approximate hedonic set point, some people are very, by today's standards, fortunate. They're pretty cheerful and they vacillate with a relatively high hedonic set point. Other people are more depressive and gloomy, and seem to fluctuate around gradients of ill-being."

"Nature didn't intend us to be happy, at least permanently happy, And we're just starting to decipher the particular genes and alleles associated with having either a high or low hedonic set point. Iwouldvery much hope that every future civilization would be based on everyone enjoying a high hedonic set point."

If you're trying to figure out your hedonic set point, Pearcesays toimagine a time in your life where you were happier than usual then imagine if you could feel that way all the time.

"If suffering were a recipe for nobility of character perhaps there would be some kind of case for obtaining it, but ... typically prolonged suffering tends to embitter. So we can argue what it actually means to be human. If we abolish suffering, would it have taken away our essential humanity?"

"Nature is exceptionally miserly with pleasure, an I see the challenge ahead isdelivering an extremely rich quality of life for everyone, but doing so in ways that don't compromise social responsibility or intellectual progress."

To subscribe to the podcastand hear more episodes of CBC On Drugs, follow the linkhere.

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Bloodborne, Transhumanism and Cosmic Cyberpunk – Kotaku UK (blog)

Posted: August 20, 2017 at 5:46 pm

With all its morbid decadence, the richly-layered Gothic imagination and cosmic horror of Bloodborne tends to overshadow some of its more (post)modern influences. Bloodborne isnt a traditionalist, after all, but a punk: or to be more precise, a cyberpunk. It may not havesinister corporations or hackers, yet this sci-fi renegade still conjures the rebellious ghost in the machine.

Most obviously, theres the overpowering presence of that looming megalopolis Yharnam as dependent on monumental, almost brutalist architecture as any good futuristic urban sprawl. The social dynamics within Yharnam echo the politics of cyberpunk, the hegemonic power of the Healing Church pitted against the social outcasts roaming the grimy streets. Dangerous social experiments and unchecked technological advancements have led to a Victorian dystopia. There are even cyberspaces, simulated, subordinate worlds in the form of the Dreams, which can be accessed and even hacked by those who are privy to secret knowledge.

Yharnham:

Ridley Scott'sBlade Runner:

And just like cyberpunk, the world of Bloodborne is held captive by the promise of transhumanism the idea that humankind will, one day, be able to transcend our fleshlylimitations and become something more. Whether it is Deus Ex or Bloodborne, the tool for this quasi-religious endeavour is cutting edge research and technology. In Deus Ex, that means body modification through nanotech or even merging consciousnesses with an omnipresent AI. In Bloodborne, its the Healing Church and Byrgenwerth researching into the old ones and their blood that drives this change: aiming to transform humans, in theory, into celestial beings that have entirely discarded their humanity. Not unlike in Blade Runner, the eye becomes an omnipresent symbol of self-directed evolution and the dangerous knowledge necessary to pursue it.

However, Bloodborneisa punk that refuses to slavishly follow in the tracks of those that came before. The differences are the most fascinating thing here. The futuristic vision of transhumanism, whether it is presented as a utopian promise or a dystopian threat, is seen as an evolutionary culmination or perhaps even singularity that severs the umbilical cord that connects us to our evolutionary history. The human is a product of natural processes, distant cousin of the apes. The posthuman the product of transhumanism is something different (strangely, it is our human arrogance that leads to this fallacy of teleological evolution.)

Blade Runner

Eye of a Blood-Drunk Hunter

Bloodbornes idea of transhumanism is recognisable, but different. Its still a morally complex idea, both pursued by individuals and institutions while also causing societal upheaval, but its vector is in the opposite direction. The path to transcendence doesnt lead the inhabitants of Yharnam away from humankinds evolutionary history, but confronts it head-on in a retrogressive journey. The first enemies our hunter encounters are beastmen, many of them recognisably human but some, like the werewolves or Vicar Amelia, almost devoid of human characteristics. Theyre hairy and canine, clearly mammalian despite their deformities. So far, this is in keeping with stories like Robert Louis Stevensons The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or H.P. Lovecrafts tales of human degeneracy, such as Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, in which a British nobleman burns himself alive after discovering that one of his ancestors was an ape goddess from the Congo. These stories play with our post-Darwinian revulsion at being the offspring of mere animals.

But as you progress through Bloodborne, the hunter descends deeper down the evolutionary ladder. Soon, enemies resemble snakes, insects, arachnids. Later, they become more alien still, strange variations of squids, snails, slugs (that is, molluscs) or even fungi. They have names like Celestial Emissary, or Celestial Child and are closely related to the Great Ones, some of whom, like Ebrietas or Kos, share similarities with the games mollusc-like creatures. Bloodborne displays a special fascination with mushrooms and molluscs, as well as the creatures of the ocean (especially in The Old Hunters DLC). These creatures are associated with the primordial, the early origins of life on earth, and their strange forms, both beautiful and disturbing, gives them a semblance of otherworldliness. And since they dont seem to belong to this world, perhaps they originally visited earth from unknown regions of the cosmos?

Kos

Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos

Celestial Child

Nudibranch, Nembrotha Kubaryana. Photo by Nick Hobgood

Nudibranch, Nembrotha Cristata. Photo by Chriswan Sungkono.

Nudibranch, Tritoniopsis Elegans. Photo by Sean Murray.

From this anthropocentric perspective, becoming like these creatures means getting closer to the miraculous origins of life, when the earth and the cosmos had yet to be disentangled. The transhumanism of Bloodborne thus turns the usual teleological view of human evolution on its head; the forces of evolution, whether natural or self-directed, will not bring humans closer to the gods, but have instead distanced them from the celestial spring of life. To fulfil their atavistic yearning to return to the lap of the cosmos, the inhabitants of Yharnam must regress to earlier evolutionary stages. The horror and tragedy of turning into wolf-like beasts, therefore, isnt just due to a revulsion to our animal ancestors or the destruction they cause, but the knowledge that those beastmen didnt regress far enough. If only they hadnt gotten lost in this evolutionary valley, they could have emerged on the other side as transcendental beings, as kin not of the earth, but the cosmos. At least, thats one way of looking at the complex picture Bloodborne paints.

The transcended hunter as slug-like Great One in Bloodbornes true ending

The beautiful thing about this is that it doesnt just fly in the face of transhumanism as it is usually understood, but the most problematic aspects of Lovecrafts work, too. The ugly concept of degeneracy, with all its overt racism, was an integral part of Lovecrafts fictional worlds. The ancient and unambiguously evil powers of the Great Old Ones is tied to primitives and mongrels, marginalised humans seen as genetically impure and degraded. They are easily manipulated by the old gods and worship them in the hidden and remote corners of the earth.

In Bloodborne, the blame of Yharnams ruin is dramatically shifted. The hidden corners of worship arent foreign jungles or secluded villages, but the sacred spaces of a church that is the backbone and centre of a sprawling megalopolis; the mysteries of the Great Ones are still secret knowledge, but secrets of a powerful, manipulative elite (as you would expect in the conspiracy-filled worlds of cyberpunk stories). But while this elites endeavours clearly lead to a horrific dystopia, the moral issues of this regressive transhumanism stay ambiguous throughout. The degenerate beastmen are hapless, unfortunate victims rather than villains. The experiment of transcendence through reverse evolution seems doomed to fail, but it is not at all clear whether that goal is inherently misguided. After all, the Great Ones seem amoral rather than evil (not unlike the people of Yharnam), and the hunter is no stranger to the allure these celestial beings exert through their disturbing kind of beauty. Perhaps their apparent darkness stems purely from the human minds failing to comprehend their true nature? Either way, Lovecrafts ideas of degeneracy doesnt entirely fit into Bloodbornes world.

Being kin to both the Lovecraftian as well as cyberpunk, Bloodborne, too, is a kind of mongrel. But this impurity is precisely what enables it to distinguish itself and comment meaningfully on its ancestral genres. It reshapes its influences by letting disparate ideas collide and creates something fresh from the wreckage. Its not unique in its subversion of transhumanist idealism or Lovecraftian racist tropes, but the way it combines these separate issues in a seamless if ambiguous whole is entirely original.

Bloodborne is both a cyberpunk dystopia in which the end point of self-directed evolution is not a disembodied mind, but a slug or a squid, as well as a tale of cosmic horror where that dubious degeneracy stems not from shady outsiders or social outcasts, but squarely from within organised mainstream religion and science. It shares with cyberpunk an awareness and distaste for the unequal power dynamics in a world governed by the amoral ambitions of hegemonies, but, like Lovecraft, looks backwards to our distant origins rather than to the future. And soBloodborne transcends its influences, and challenges us on new planes of existence.

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Transhumanism Is Not Libertarian, It’s an Abomination – The American Conservative

Posted: August 18, 2017 at 4:42 am

Last week in TAC, Zoltan Istvan wrote about The Growing World of Libertarian Transhumanism linking the transhumanist movement with all of its featureslike cyborgs, human robots and designer babiesto the ideas of liberty. To say Mr. Istvan is mistaken in his assessment is an understatement. Transhumanism should be rejected by libertarians as an abomination of human evolution.

We begin with Mr. Istvans definition of transhumanism:

transhumanism is the international movement of using science and technology to radically change the human being and experience. Its primary goal is to deliver and embrace a utopian techno-optimistic worlda world that consists of biohackers, cyborgists, roboticists, life extension advocates, cryonicists, Singularitarians, and other science-devoted people.

The ultimate task, however, is nothing less than overcoming biological human death and to solve all humanitys problems. Throughout much of Mr. Istvans work on this issue, he seems to think these ideas are perfectly compatible with libertarianismself-evident evenso he doesnt care to elaborate for his befuddled readers.

While most advocates of liberty could be considered, as Matt Ridley coined it, rational optimistsmeaning that generally we are optimistic, but not dogmatic, about progressit is easy to get into a state in which everything that is produced by the market is good per se and every new technology is hailed as the next step on the path of progress. In this sense, these libertarians become what Rod Dreher has called Technological Men. For them, choice matters more than what is chosen. [The Technological Man] is not concerned with what he should desire; rather, he is preoccupied with how he can acquire or accomplish what he desires.

Transhumanists including Mr. Istvan are a case in point. In his TAC article he not only endorses such things as the defeat of death, but even robotic hearts, virtual reality sex, and telepathy via mind-reading headsets. Need more of his grand ideas? How about brain implants ectogenesis, artificial intelligence, exoskeleton suits, designer babies, gene editing tech? At no point he wonders if we should even strive for these technologies.

When he does acknowledge potential problems he has quick (and crazy) solutions at hand: For example, what would happen if people never die, while new ones are coming into the world in abundance? His solution to the fear of overpopulation: eugenics. It is here where we see how libertarian Mr. Istvan truly is. When his political philosophythe supposedly libertarian onecomes into conflict with his idea of transhumanism, he suddenly drops the former and argues in favor of state-controlled breeding (or, as he says, controlled breeding by non-profit organizations such as the WHO, which is, by the way, state financed). I cautiously endorse the idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different than getting a drivers licence. Parents who pass a series of basic tests qualify and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children.

The most frustrating thing is how similar he sounds to communists and socialists in his arguments. In most articles you read by transhumanists, you can see the dream of human perfection. Mr. Istvan says so himself: Transhumanists want more guarantees than just death, consumerism, and offspring. Much More. They want to be better, smarter, strongerperhaps even perfect and immortal if science can make them that way.

Surely it is the goal of transhumanists that, in their world, the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. You can just edit the genes of the embryo in the way that they are as intelligent as Aristotle, as poetic as Goethe, and as musically talented as Mozart. There are two problems, though: First, the world would become extremely boring, consisting only of perfect human beings who are masters at everything (which perhaps would make human cooperation superfluous). Second, that quote was famously uttered by the socialist Leon Trotsky.

As Ludwig von Mises wrote sarcastically, the socialist paradise will be the kingdom of perfection, populated by completely happy supermen. This has always been the mantra of socialists, starting with utopian thinkers like Charles Fourier, but also being embraced by the scientific ones like Marx, who derived his notion of history in which communism is the final stage of humanity from Hegel. Hegel himself believed in the man-godnot in the way that God became man through Jesus, but that man could become God one day. Intentionally or not, transhumanists sound dangerously similar to that. What they would actually create would be the New Soviet Man through bio-engineering and total environmental control as the highest social goal. In other words, you get inhuman ideological tyranny taken to a whole new level.

It should be noted that sometimes transhumanists recognize this themselvesbut if they do, their solutions only make things worse (much worse). Take Adam Zaretsky as example, who says that these new human beings shouldnt be perfect: Its important to make versions of transgenic human anatomy that are not based on idealism. But his solution is frightening: The idea is that you take a gene, say for pig noses, or ostrich anuses, or aardvark tongue, and you paste that into a human sperm, a human egg, a human zygote. A baby starts to form. And: We could let it flow into our anatomy, and these peoplewho yes, are humansshould be appreciated for who and what they are, after they are forced to be born in a really radically strange way. Its no surprise that Rod Dreher calls Mr. Zaretsky a sick monster, because he truly seems to be one when it comes to his transhumanist vision. He wants to create handicapped human beings on purpose.

If this were what libertarians think should happen, it would be sad (thankfully its mostly not). As Jeff Deist notes, it is important to remember that liberty is natural and organic and comports with human action. It doesnt require a new man. Transhumanists may say that the introduction of their idea is inevitable (in Istvans words, Whether people like it or not, transhumanism has arrived) but that is not true. And in this sense, it is time for libertarians to argue against the notion of extreme transhumanism. Yes, the market has brought it about and yes, the state shouldnt prohibit it (though giving your baby a pig nose could certainly be a violation of rights), but still, one shouldnt be relativist or even nihilist about such frightening developments. It would be a shame if the libertarian maxim of Everyone should be able to do whatever one wants to (as long as no one is hurt by it) becomes Everyone should do whatever one can do just because it is possible.

Finally, it comes as no surprise that transhumanists are largely, if not all, atheists (or as Mr. Istvan says: Im an atheist, therefore Im a transhumanist. This just proves what the classical liberal historian Lord Acton talked about when he said, Progress, the religion of those who have none. In the end, transhumanism is the final step to get God out of the way. It would be the continuation of what Richard Weaver wrote about in Ideas Have Consequences: Instead of seeing nature, the world and life overall as a means to get to know God, humans in the last centuries have become accustomed to seeing the world as something that is only there for humans to take and use for their own pleasures. Transhumanism would be the final step of this process: the conquest of death.

You dont have to be religious to find this abhorrent. As we have seen, it would be the end to all religion, to human cooperation overall, in all likelihood to liberty itself, and even the good-bye to humanity. It would be the starting point of the ultimate dystopia.

Kai Weiss is an International Relations student and works for the Austrian Economics Center and Hayek Institute, two libertarianthink tanks based in Vienna, Austria.

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Analysis: Future Shock – Baptist Standard

Posted: August 16, 2017 at 5:42 pm

August 16, 2017 By Hal Ostrander and Daryl Smith

Watching my grandkids laugh, explore and have fun, I shake my head and wonder where this culture of ours will take them. Do we realize how fast the future is rushing to meet our posterity, and us? In the days ahead, the contours of civilization likely will radically alter, sacred and secular alike, and in ways staggering to think about.

Consider the past: In 1790, 90 percent of people worked on farms; 1870, 50 percent; today, less than 1 percent. In 1900, 90 percent of the population was rural; today 90 percent is urban. Folks worked 60 hours a week over six days with a life expectancy of 47 years. Three percent of homes had electricity, and 15 percent had flush toilets.

Only one in five households owned a horse, and an eighth-grade education was the norm with college graduates numbering a scant 7 percent. Halfway through 2017, its hard to fathom the scale of change weve undergone and harder still to grasp whats yet to take place.

Just look at computing

In 1965, Gordon Moore, Intels co-founder, predicted transistors on circuits would double roughly every two years. His estimate has held true, but he couldnt have foreseen 2017 as the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. Now we can contact anyone around the world instantly from our pockets!

Remarkably, smart phone circuitry is 150 million times more powerful than the computer NASA used to navigate Apollo 11 safely to the moon in July 1969. At the time, NASA computers stored only a megabyte of memory each, were car-sized, and cost $3.5 million apiece.

If the trend continues

Today theres no stopping things! Forgive the technicality, but the development of carbon-based transistors in hand with quantum/nano-biological computing will take whats listed below and advance things to ever higher levels:

If the trend continues, artificial intelligence (AI) could emerge exponentially, with no turning back! Processing power exceeding the human brain may suddenly slap an unsuspecting public in the face. The brightest minds in the industry are alleging that one day, hopefully soon, machines and robots will simulate human intelligence successfully, solving challenges previously reserved only for conscious thinking.

Weak and strong AI

There are three waves of weak AI. The first solves problems very fast and works very well in video games, Excel sheets, TurboTax, etc. The second is where machines seem to learn via millions of pieces of data Siri, Cortana, Watson, AlphaGo, Microsofts Tay, Twitter, Chatbox and self-driving cars. But none of these can explain the why of things.

Whether third-wave, weak AI is achievable is an open question. Because humans can abstract things based on small amounts of data, third-wave AI tries for the same, operating on minimal information.

The stuff of sci-fi for now, strong AI is what cognitive science is really striving for machines that function with human-like minds, crossing the threshold into self-awareness/consciousness. Eventually downloading human consciousness to a computer is part of the game plan as well.

Whos charting our future?

Some of the smartest and wealthiest people in Silicon Valley, the venture techno-capitalists, are teaming up to invest billions to make strong AI happen. Even Google and NASA are cooperating to this end.

Sanctioning the likes of Ray Kurzweils think-tank, Singularity University, and Zoltan Istvans Transhumanist Party, futurist investors are siding, paradoxically, with an inelegant duo a hyper-optimistic form of scientism (only science can get at truth) and a transhumanist vision striving to achieve omnipotence (as if achieving divinity).

One dissenting voice, Elon Musk, warns his colleagues optimism about AI isnt justified: If our intelligence is exceeded, its unlikely well remain in charge of the planet. Bill Gates himself comments about AI, I dont understand why some people are not concerned.

What is lacking

Coming too fast, Christians must begin thinking soundly about the implications of futurity ASAP! Most techno-futurists assume as true the rationale lying behind philosophical naturalism, which popularizes the universe as a closed system into which nothing god-like can intervene to impose its will.

In the beginning, only particles and impersonal laws of physics reigned, and human beings are just bio-chemical machines without souls. Put crassly, were meat machines. Christians, of course, recognize immediately how short-sighted this is.

It doesnt mean, however, believers wont be influenced or charmed by futurist agendas. Some will! While we know futurists lack an adequately Christian sense of reality, their impact on society may well create a sense of uneasiness about our next cultural steps as followers of Christ.

A google of questions

So, how far will God allow things to go? Theologizing about techno-futures is imperative if were to remain comprehensively Christian throughout. Responding to bizarre worlds in the making is paramount. The choices well make individually when faced with techno-options unavailable to earlier generations will be weighty. The church must push for answers to questions raised by the techno-future, however alarming:

Will Christians:

Brief conclusion

Answering questions related to future shock comes down to the worldview on the table, with profound implications about how individual lives and corporate society should conduct themselves considering the techno-futurist demands coming our way.

Too few Christians and church traditions ask the question, Just because we can, should we? The simple answer is no, but the issues require sophisticated reasoning. According to Scripture, what you see in the mirror is a uniquely ensouled eternal being, created in Gods image and likeness and more than sufficient for the purposes he grants us.

Hal Ostrander is online professor of religion and philosophy at Wayland Baptist University. Daryl Smith is former adjunct professor of religion at Dallas Baptist University and currently an information technology corporate manager.

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Analysis: Future Shock - Baptist Standard

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Immortality: Silicon Valley’s latest obsession ushers in the transhumanist era – South China Morning Post

Posted: August 11, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Zoltan Istvan is launching his campaign to become Libertarian governor of the American state of California with two signature policies. First, hell eliminate poverty with a universal basic income that will guarantee US$5,000 per month for every Californian household for ever. (Hell do this without raising taxes, he promises.)

The next item in his in-tray is eliminating death. He intends to divert trillions of dollars into life-extending technologies robotic hearts, artificial exoskeletons, genetic editing, bionic limbs and so on in the hope that each Californian man, woman and AI (artificial intelligence) will eventually be able to upload their consciousness to the Cloud and experience digital eternity.

What we can experience as a human being is going to be dramatically different within two decades, Istvan says, when we meet at his home in Mill Valley, California. We have five senses now. We might have thousands in 30 or 40 years. We might have very different bodies, too.

I have friends who are about a year away from cutting off their arm and replacing it with a prosthetic version. And sure, pretty soon the robotic arm really will be better than a biological one. Lets say you work in construction and your buddy can lift a thousand times what you can. The question is: do you get it?

For most people, the answer to this question is likely to be, Erm, maybe Ill pass for the moment. But to a transhumanist such as Istvan, 44, the answer is, Hell, yes! A former National Geographic reporter and property speculator, Istvan combines the enthusiasm of a child whos read a lot of Marvel comics with a parodically presidential demeanour. Hes a blond-haired, blue-eyed father of two with an athletic build, a firm handshake and the sort of charisma that goes down well in TED talks.

Like most transhumanists (there are a lot of them in California), Istvan believes our species can, and indeed should, strive to transcend our biological limitations. And he has taken it upon himself to push this idea out of the Google Docs of a few Silicon Valley dreamers and into the American political mainstream.

Twenty-five years ago, hardly anybody was recycling, he explains. Now, environmentalism has conditioned an entire generation. Im trying to put transhumanism on a similar trajectory, so that in 10, 15 years, everybody is going to know what it means and think about it in a very positive way.

What were saying is that over the next 30 years, the complexity of human experience is going to become so amazing, you ought to at least see it

Zoltan Istvan

I meet Istvan at the home he shares with his wife, Lisa an obstetrician and gynaecologist with Planned Parenthood and their two daughters, six-year-old Eva, and Isla, who is three. I had been expecting a gadget-laden cyber-home; in fact, he resides in a 100-year-old loggers house built from Californian redwood, with a converted stable on the ground floor and plastic childrens toys in the yard. If it werent for the hyper-inflated prices in the Bay Area (Its sort of Facebook yuppie-ville around here, says Istvan) youd say it was a humble Californian homestead.

Still, there are a few details that give him away, such as the forbidding security warnings on his picket fence. During his unsuccessful bid for the presidency last year he stood as the Transhumanist Party candidate and scored zero per cent a section of the religious right identified him as the Antichrist. This, combined with Lisas work providing abortions, means they get a couple of death threats a week and have had to report to the FBI.

Christians in America have made transhumanism as popular as its become, says Istvan. They really need something that they can point their finger at that fulfils Revelations.

Istvan also has a West Wing box set on his mantelpiece and a small Meccano cyborg by the fireplace. Its named Jethro, after the protagonist of his self-published novel, The Transhumanist Wager (2013). And there is an old Samsung phone attached to the front door, which enables him to unlock the house using the microchip in his finger.

A lot of the Christians consider my chip a mark of the beast, he says. Im like, No! Its so I dont have to carry my keys when I go out jogging.

Istvan hopes to chip his daughters before long for security purposes and recently argued with his wife about whether it was even worth saving for a university fund for them, since by the time they reach university age, advances in artificial intelligence will mean they can just upload all the learning they need. Lisa won that argument. But hes inclined not to freeze his sperm and Lisas eggs, since if they decide to have a third child, 10 or 20 or 30 years hence, theyll be able to combine their DNA.

Even if theres a mischievous, fake-it-till-you-make-it quality to Istvan, theres also a core of seriousness. He is genuinely troubled that we are on the verge of a technological dystopia that the mass inequalities that helped fuel US President Donald Trumps rise will only worsen when the digital revolution really gets under way. And he despairs of the retrogressive bent of the current administration: Trump talks all the time about immigrants taking jobs. Bulls**t. Its technology thats taking jobs. We have about four million truck drivers who are about to lose their jobs to automation. This is why capitalism needs a basic income to survive.

And hes not wrong in identifying that emerging technologies such as AI and bio-enhancement will bring with them policy implications, and its probably a good idea to start talking about them now.

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Certainly, life extension is a hot investment in Silicon Valley, whose elites have a hard time with the idea that their billions will not protect them from an earthly death. Google was an early investor in the secretive biotech start-up Calico, the California Life Company, which aims to devise interventions that slow ageing and counteract age-related diseases. Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel has invested millions in parabiosis: the process of curing ageing with transfusions of young peoples blood.

Another biotech firm, United Therapeutics, has unveiled plans to grow fresh organs from DNA. Clearly, it is possible, through technology, to make death optional, the firms founder, Martine Rothblatt, told a recent gathering of the National Academy of Medicine in Los Angeles.

In attendance were Google co-founder Sergey Brin, vegan pop star Moby and numerous venture capitalists. Istvan fears that unless we develop policies to regulate this transition, the Thiels of this world will soon be hoarding all the young blood for themselves.

Clearly, it is possible, through technology, to make death optional

Martine Rothblatt

Istvan was born in Oregon in 1973, the son of Hungarian immigrants who fled Stalins tanks in 1968. He had a comfortable middle-class upbringing his mother was a devout Catholic and sent him to Catholic school and an eye for a story. After graduating from Columbia University, he embarked on a solo round-the-world yachting expedition, during which, he says, he read 500 works of classic literature. He spent his early career reporting for the National Geographic channel from more than 100 countries, many of them conflict zones, claiming to have invented the extreme sport of volcano boarding along the way.

One of the things he shares in common with Americas current president is a fortune accrued from real estate. While he was making films overseas in the noughties, his expenses were minimal, so he was able to invest all of his pay cheques in property.

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So many people in America were doing this flipping thing at the time, explains Istvan. I realised very quickly, Wow! I could make enough money to retire. It was just quite easy and lucrative to do that.

At his peak, he had a portfolio of 19 fixer-upper houses, most of which he managed to sell before the crash of 2008. He now retains nine as holiday rentals and uses the proceeds to fund his political campaigns (he is reluctant to name his other backers). Still, he insists hes not part of the 1 per cent; the most extravagant item of furniture is a piano, and his groceries are much the same as you find in many liberal, middle-class Californian households.

Istvan cant think of any particular incident that prompted his interest in eternal life, other than perhaps a rejection of Catholicism.

Fifty per cent of me thinks after we die we get eaten by worms, and our body matter and brain return unconsciously to the cosmos [] The other half subscribes to the idea that we live in a holographic universe where other alien artificial intelligences have reached the singularity, he says, referring to the idea, advanced by Google engineer Ray Kurzweil, that pretty soon we will all merge with AI in one transcendental consciousness.

However, when Istvan first encountered transhumanism, at university via an article on cryonics (the practice of deep-freezing the recently dead in the hope that they can be revived at some point), he was sold. Within 90 seconds, I realised thats what I wanted to do in my life.

After a near-death experience in Vietnam he came close to stepping on a landmine Istvan decided to return to America and make good on this vow. I was nearing 30 and Id done some great work, but after all that time Id spent in conflict zones, seeing dead bodies, stuff like that, I thought it would be a good time to dedicate myself to conquering death.

He spent four years writing his novel, which he proudly claims was rejected by more than 600 agents and publishers. Its a dystopian story that imagines a Christian nation outlawing transhumanism, prompting all the billionaires to retreat to an offshore sea-stead where they can work on their advances undisturbed (Thiel has often threatened to do something similar).

Istvan continued to promote transhumanism by writing free columns for Huffington Post and Vice, chosen because they have strong Alexa rankings (ie, they show up high in Google search results).

I wrote something like 200 articles, putting transhumanism through the Google algorithm again and again, he says. I found it a very effective way to spread the message. I covered every angle that I could think of: disability and transhumanism; LGBT issues and transhumanism; transhumanist parenting.

Hes proud to say hes the only mainstream journalist who is so devoted to the cause. A lot of people write about transhumanism, but I think Im the only one who says, This is the best thing thats ever happened!

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Istvans presidential campaign was an attempt to take all of this up a level. It sounds as if he had a lot of fun. He toured Rust Belt car parks and Deep South mega-churches in a coffin-shaped immortality bus inspired by the one driven by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters to promote LSD in the 1960s.

His platform Make America Immortal Again earned a fair amount of publicity, but Americans seemed ill-prepared for such concepts as the AI imperative (the idea that the first nation to create a true AI will basically win everything, so America had better be the first) and the singularity. At one point, he and his supporters were held at gunpoint by some Christians in Alabama.

The experience taught him a salutary lesson: unless you are a billionaire, it is simply impossible to make any kind of dent in the system. Hence his defection to the Libertarian Party, which vies with the Greens as the third party in American politics. Every town I go to, theres a Libertarian meet-up. With the Transhumanists, Id have to create the meet-up. So theres more to work with.

The Libertarian presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, received 3.27 per cent of the votes last year, including half a million votes in California. About seven or eight million are likely to vote in the California governor race, in which context, half a million starts to become a lot of votes, Istvan explains.

His own politics are somewhere between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, he admits, and he has a hard time converting the right wing of his new party to causes such as basic income. (The general spirit of libertarian America is, Hands off!) But he believes transhumanism shares enough in common with libertarianism for the alliance to be viable; the core precepts of being able to do what you like as long as you dont harm anyone else are the same. And the gubernatorial campaign serves as a primary for the 2020 presidential election, when he believes the Libertarian candidate will have a feasible chance of participating in the television debates.

But whats wrong with death? Dont we need old people to die to make space for new people? And by extension, we need old ideas and old regimes to die, too. Imagine if William Randolph Hearst or Genghis Khan were still calling the shots now. And imagine if Mark Zuckerberg and Vladimir Putin were doing so in 200 years. Innovation would cease, the species would atrophy, everyone would get terribly bored. Isnt it the ultimate narcissism to want to live forever?

Istvan does concede that transhumanism is a very selfish philosophy. However, he has an answer for most of the other stuff.

Im a believer in overpopulation Ive been to Delhi and its overcrowded, he says. But if we did a better job of governing, the planet could hold 15 billion people comfortably. Its really a question of better rules and regulations.

And when discussing the desirability of eternal life, he turns into a sort of holiday rep for the future.

What were saying is that over the next 30 years, the complexity of human experience is going to become so amazing, you ought to at least see it, Istvan says. A lot of people find that a lot more compelling than, say, dying of leukaemia.

Still, it comes as little surprise that hes finding live for ever an easier sell than give money to poor people in 21st-century America.

I cant imagine basic income not becoming a platform in the 2020 election, he insists. And if not then, at some point, someone is going to run and win on it. The Republicans should like it because it streamlines government. The Democrats should like it because it helps poor people. Right now, Americans dont like it because it sounds like socialism. But it just needs a little reframing.

Basic-income experiments are already under way in parts of Canada, Finland and the Netherlands, but how would he fund such an idea in the US? He cant raise taxes libertarians hate that. And he doesnt want to alienate Silicon Valley.

If we did a better job of governing, the planet could hold 15 billion people comfortably

Zoltan Istvan

How do you tell the 1 per cent youre going to take all this money from them? It wouldnt work, he says. They control too many things. But Istvan has calculated that 45 per cent of California is government-controlled land that the state could monetise.

A lot of environmentalists are upset at me for that, saying, Woah, Zolt, you want to put a shopping mall in Yosemite? Well, the reality is that the poor people in America will never be able to afford to go to Yosemite. Im trying to be a diplomat here.

And he insists that if Americans miss those national parks when theyve been turned into luxury condos and Taco Bells, theyll be able to replenish them some day if they want.

Theres nanotechnology coming through that would enable us to do that, Istvan argues. We have GMOs [genetically modified organisms] that can regrow plants twice as quick. In 50 or 100 years, were not even going to be worried about natural resources.

Such is his wager that exponential technological growth is around the corner and we may as well hurry it along, because its our best chance of clearing up the mess weve made of things thus far.

The safety of genetically-modified crops is backed by science

Didnt the political developments of 2016 persuade him that progress can be slow and sometimes go backwards? Actually, Istvan argues that what were witnessing are the death throes of conservatism, Christianity, even capitalism.

Everyone says the current pope is the best one weve had for ages, that hes so progressive and whatever. Actually, Catholicism is dying, says Istvan. Nobodys giving it any money any more, so the pope had better moderate its message. As for capitalism, all of this nationalism and populism are just the dying moments.

Its a system that goes against the very core of humanitarian urges. And while its brought us many wonderful material gains, at some point we can say, Thats enough. In the transhumanist age, we will reach utopia. Crime drops to zero. Poverty will end. Violence will drop. At some point, we become a race of individuals who are pretty nice to each other.

But now weve talked for so long that Istvan needs to go and pick up his daughters from childcare. He insists that I join him. What do his family make of all of this?

My wife is a bit sceptical of a lot of my timelines, he says. Lisa comes from practical Wisconsin farming stock, and its a fair bet that her work with Planned Parenthood keeps her pretty grounded. They met on dating website match.com. Does she believe in all this stuff?

I dont want to say shes not a transhumanist, he says, but I dont think shed cryogenically freeze herself tomorrow. I would. Im like, If you see me dying of a heart attack, please put me in a refrigerator. She thinks thats weird.

We arrive at the community centre where Istvans daughters are being looked after. They come running out in summer dresses, sweet and sunny and happy to be alive. Both of them want to be doctors when they grow up, like their mum.

The Times/The Interview People

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Immortality: Silicon Valley's latest obsession ushers in the transhumanist era - South China Morning Post

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