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Category Archives: Transhumanism
Posted: January 20, 2020 at 5:48 am
Well, 2020 officially kickstarted a new decade and with it, speculations on what the future promises. It has only been a couple of weeks, and yet we find ourselves witnessing changes on a global scale. Video games, much like real life, convey the same level of change, mostly depicting our reality in a darker and bleaker fashion. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one title that comes across as a pure model, more than most games on the market today. After revisiting this game recently in my spare time, Ive come to realize that a lot of elements mimic that of our inevitable future. So how does this cyberpunk action RPG foretell the direction in which humanity is going? Well, were here to take a look and make our analysis.
The most noticeable first pick would be the increasing rise of augmentations and prosthetics. By recent analysis, 7.00% of the global population is categorized as being born with a defect. One of the most common is that of congenital amputation, a birth defect of lacking a limb or two. As with the growth of this percentage, prosthetics are more and more massively produced. However, while this is nothing unheard of, science is continuing to innovate with prosthetics much more than before. Innovations in the field of robotics opened up new frontiers.
The possibility of commanding enhanced prosthetics with a mere thought was something unheard of. Companies like Open Bionic, Cyberdyne, and DEKA are some of the most well known, that continue to experiment and research the possibilities of prosthetics. Much like the protagonist of Deus Ex, these sorts of bionics are set to evolve with the coming tide. A chance for all to live a regular life, despite of their defect.
Deus Exs most recurring theme is that of Transhumanism. If by any chance, you havent come to terms with this movement, we will indulge you. The simplest explanation on the matter is that basically, Transhumanism is a philosophical movement that supports human enhancements. In Human Revolution, players are introduced to a variety of companies, which deal in research and manufacturing of augmentations.
Sarif Industries is one such company that mimics that of Japans Cyberdyne. While they, unlike their video game counterpart, do not openly support this movement, they strive for the same goals. A better, faster, stronger future for all. Then they are companies like BiChip in Denmark, which are promoting their chip implants. Now with the idea of reading medical records, identification, and even connecting to wifi. Their most recent update was a built-in cryptocurrency reader, allowing payment via microchip.
The BBC made a lengthy article on this topic in late 2019, discussing how everyday items, such as car keys, are now portable via this method. Who knows, maybe in time, these things will become mandatory. And with more users each year, who knows, perhaps we will all be soon connected by a much similar AI algorithm. However, with each significant change, humanity rebels, and the case is the same in the game.
One of the biggest things that marked 2019, in terms of global trends, was civil unrest. The Arab protests, France, Catalonia, Latin America, and most notably, Hong Kong. These protests were mostly to show dislike of the current regimes in these countries. Yet, if people are more open about protesting then ever before, who says that it cant happen when it comes to Transhumanism. As shown in Deus Ex, people are afraid of rapid change, especially at its climax.
In the game, the epilogue focuses on the corruption of augmentation chips. Augmented humans become hostile and openly attack non-augmented ones. In the wake of such a disaster, how could humanity not step up and present their concerns? Governments are known to manipulate their countries into unspeakable acts, and humankind, on countless occasions, fights back. In the wake of significant evolution, especially one that is rapid and forced upon, people also tend to revolt. Much like in the game, it will inevitably lead to that. The only question is, will it resolve more peacefully, or turn into all-out urban chaos?
We are going slightly back to the topic of robotics, specifically Artificial Intelligence. By now, everybody knows that it all started with Alan Turing. A man who left a legacy behind that shaped the future generations and is still continuing to evolve to this day. From primitive computers to elaborate algorithms that think on their own, AI will play a prominent role in the future, that much is certain. When it comes to global media, AI has now evolved to a point where it has access to all information. In the game, a certain anchorwoman shows our protagonist the power of the news industry and how she feeds off different data.
Eliza Cassan is the primary example of how AI would work in the future. As an artificial intelligence, she displays uncanny skills of gathering news to peak precision. She is more than just a simple machine, demonstrating compassion and feelings, just like any individual. And like any human being, can lie, which she does on occasion to the protagonist. News media also relies on this a lot, and this card tends to be played, now more than ever.
The final piece of proof comes not in what one can see, but what one can feel. The primary focus in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is powerplay, be that of the Illuminati, or major corporations. Casting a shadow and rising, way above their respective governments, one cannot help but feel that there is a larger scheme here. While it is no secret agent villain scheming, its most definitely sinister. Call it superstition, or a conspiracy. But one thing is clear. Monopolies of large industries tower over government positions.
And while seats of power rise and fall over a single night, major players with vast industries standstill. You need not look far from Sarif Industry, Darrow Industries, Tai Yong Medical, and VersaLife. Examples of in-game organizations that pull all the string in the Human Revolution. And yet, there always seems like there is a third hand guiding and ushering new ideas and power seats. While there are other games that represent what humanity could be like, Human Revolution manages that way too realistic. A possibility, or near-perfect example of what the world could look like?
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Posted: December 18, 2019 at 9:31 pm
Transgender ideology wasnt invented in the 2010s, but this was the decade when it gripped our culture in its venomous maw and refused to let go. Heres how trans grew from fringe oddity to a massive force affecting schools, parenting, prisons, policy, academia, sports, law enforcement, language and the arts.
In 2009, Susie Green, who will become Chair of UK gender clinic Mermaids, takes her son to Thailand for vaginoplasty. Jackie Green becomes the youngest person in the world to undergo a sex change operation, at age 16. Meanwhile, trans woman and trans humanist Martine Rothblatt foresees the end of our species as we know it, andclaimsthat transhumanism builds on transgenderism, broadening the driving mindset from a gender ideal to a human development ideal.
Trans began the decadeas an outlier. It became something tolerated out of compassion. It has become a medical-legal monster, with activists claiming to redefine woman as a feeling, with self-identification trumping the basic facts of biological sex.And if you disagree, youre transphobic. Welcome to the 2020s!
At 10 years old,Jazz Jenningsis already out as trans.
Children become the subject ofmedical experimentation. Britains National Health Service approves medical experiments which will chemically castrate gay children in attempt to correct gender-nonconformity.
We now being told that affirmation of trans individuals is all about compassion. We need to knowwhat trans gender meansand how important surgery is.New York magazinesays that it takes a powerful act of imagination to understand what a transgender child, in his perfect little body on the changing table, might be feeling, or why he might become terrified as adolescence approaches.
The American Psychiatric Associationupdates its manual, to replace gender identity disorder with gender dysphoria.
Now 13 years old and wearing dental braces as well as female dress, Jazz Jennings isparadedon ABC News.
In Britain, the gender clinic at theTavistock Clinic gives 12 year-olds hormone blockers to prepare for transition. The treatment halts the onset of puberty preventing children from developing the sexual characteristics of the gender they were born.
Trans woman Parker Molloy writes amissive:I am a woman, but on such a frequent basis, Im told this is not true. Im told that Im genetically or biologically male. Im told that Im not a real woman. I have to ask: What constitutes a real woman? How am I not one? Is it because of my chromosomes? I dont think thats fair
The splendidly surnamed trans actress Laverne Cox, the first trans person to grace the cover ofTIMEmagazine, explains that most of us are insecure about our gender.
IntheNew Yorker, Michelle Goldberg sits on the fence: Trans women say that they are women because they feel femalethey have womens brains in mens bodies. Radical feministsbelieve that if women think and act differently from men its because society forces them to.
Facebook offers56 gender optionsfor users to choose from.
Susie Greens trans daughter Jackie is now 21, and Green speaks out against those who call her parentingabusive. She claims that even before she could speak my daughter had made her preferences clear.
Bruce Jenner becomes Caitlyn, and graces the cover ofVanity Fair. Trans MMA fighterFallon Foxdefeated her opponent, Tamikka Brents, by TKO at 2:17 of the first round of their match. Brents eye injury resulted in a damaged orbital bone that required seven staples. Now thats equality.
Michelle Goldberg is back. InSlate, she reminds us that, Most progressives now take it for granted that gender is a matter of identity, not biology, and that refusing to recognize a persons gender identity is an outrageous offense.
In the UK, theParliamentary Women and Equalities Committee Reportremoves sex-based protections.My Transgender Kidappears on the BBC. Itsreported that the Tavistock and Portman gender clinic has seen referrals increase by 50 percent every year since 2009.
Rachel Dolezal claims to betransracial.Trans abledturns out to be a thing.
Teen girls protest trans girls use of girlslocker room.
The year of the bathroom. A North Carolina law ispasseddisallowing trans people from using the bathroom of their choice. The State issuedby Obamas Department of Justice, whichtellsevery public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.
The director of the ACLU in Georgialeaves her postrather than fight for trans bathroom rights.
Male bodied trans studentscompeteagainst girls in high school sports. Female bodied transpregnant personsare lauded as the first male mothers.
The National Institute of Healthlaunchesthe largest-ever study of transgender youth, but also only the second to track the psychological effects of delaying puberty. Its notable that theres no control group.
Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy speaks out against the lack of debate. Because representation matters, a call goes outnot to castcis women as trans.
Jill SollowaysTransparentcomes underfirefor not being woke enough.
A male to female detransitionerspeaks. TheNew York Timesadmitsthat scientists have no conclusive explanation for what causes some people to feel dissonance between their gender identity and aspects of their anatomy.
Philosopher Slavoj iek gets called out for his claimthat the vision of social relations that sustains transgenderism is the so-called postgenderism: a social, political and cultural movement whose adherents advocate a voluntary abolition of gender, rendered possible by recent scientific progress in biotechnology and reproductive technologies.
The Womens March takes to the streets in Washington, DC, wearingtransphobic, pink pussy hats. Bill Maher and Milo Yiannopoulos misgender Jenner and are slammedby Dan Savage.Neuterbecomes a thing, so does drilling down into biology to determine that sex is not binary in otherspecies. Which it is, really.
Stonewall UKs Rachel Steinconfirmsthat being trans is about an innate sense of self. To imply anything other than this is reductive and hurtful to many trans people who are only trying to live life as their authentic selves.
Trans advocatessuggestthatprevious restrictions on transing kids be eased so that children under 16 years old can begin hormone therapy in order to physically transform their bodies.
Teachers socially trans kidswithout parents consent. Jazz Jenningss book I Am Jazzis acontroversialpick for kindergarten story time.
Radical feministsspeak outagainst transing kids. One lady istrans species.And trans affirmation is noweveryones job.Topshopopensfitting rooms to trans women. Theres money in them there trans.
The Department of Justice reverses the Obama era directives andsaysthat sex means only biologically male or female.
Katie Herzogwritesabout detransitioners, and gets intense heat for it. Debra Sohsaysthat the entire gender conversation has brain science wrong.
We will change our bodies however we want, theTrans Health Manifestoinsists. We will have universally accessible and freely available hormones & blockers, surgical procedures, and any other relevant treatments and therapies.
The real question is: how does a female bodied gay mannavigate Grindr?
Who could have guessed, even a decade ago, that in 2018 the word woman would be treated as an expletive? asks Joanna Williams in Britains PC-bible theNew Statesman.
The Gender Recognition Act allows for self-ID in the UK. The NHSmust offerfertility services to those looking to remove their genitals.Britain;s Labour party alienates gender-critical feminists by stating that self-ID is all thats required to be on Laboursshort listof women candidates. Women try to meet and talk about this mess, but their events arecanceleddue to trans protests.
UK Schools policy comes underfirefor insisting that all kids have a gender identity. Girl Guides inclusion policycalled outas anti-girl. Amother of fouris interrogated by the police for referring to male to female trans surgery as castration on Twitter. The mere concept ofdebating trans becomes transphobic.
Jess Bradley, the first elected Trans Officer in the UK National Union of Student, says I self-identify as a non-binary woman, I dont believe there is such a thing as a real woman. Male bodied trans person Rachel McKinnonwinsa womens cycling race.
Bill B-16 isadoptedin Canada. This effectively redefines what it means to be a woman from something biological to something defined by external appearance. A Toronto womens shelter admits a male bodied trans person, and an abused womansues.
In academia, Camille Paglia says sex change is impossible. Jordan Peterson is almost fired from the University of Toronto for refusing to go along with compelled speech for pronouns. There are callsfor colleges to let trans athletes play on their chosen gender.
Heather Brunskell-Evans and Michele Moores bookTransgender Children and Young People: Born In Your Own Bodyisrejectedby trans activists. Oxfordbansgender critical voices. Lisa Littmans academic paper on Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria is pulled from Plos One for being transphobic. Jesse Singal writes about gender confused youth inthe Atlantic, and takes masses of abuse for it. Reports emerge on the danger in the drugs used tocastratechildren, and concerns thattransing is homophobia.
TheParis Reviewadvocates for atrans literary canon. No one buys theParis Review.
Trans surgeries dont always have an amazingresult.YettheAmerican Academy of Pediatriciansasserts thattransgender kids know their genderas clearly and consistently as their developmentally equivalent peers and that theres no need for watchful waiting.Trans toyscome to market.
TheNew York Timessayssex doesnt have anything to do with reproductive organs. Researchclaimsthat gender dysphoric kids show functional brain characteristics that are typical of their desired gender.
US prisonsopposetrans inmates in womens prisons. Canadian prisonsallowprisoners to be housed according to gender identity.
How much longer must transgender people continue to participate in public conversations about whether or not we know our own souls? Jennifer Finney Boylanasksin theNew York Times equating gender to a religious belief. Quillettemakes a splash by publishing opposition to the trans agenda, even fromtrans persons.
The question of how tofuck trans lesbiansis a thing. So isgirldick,how to eat out a non-op trans woman, andrewriting gay historyto be trans. Andrea Long Chu says shewont be happywith her new coochie, but she should get one anyway. Andtrans lesbiansreally have trouble dating.
Cis women areasked to do more for trans women, becauseit costs you zero dollars to be nice. Cis peoplewont date trans people, and lesbians decide to get the L outof LGBT.
Twitterprohibitsmisgendering and deadnaming to curtail anti-trans abuse. Meghan Murphy isbanned from Twitter for misgendering Jessica Yaniv, a male-bodied trans woman a transvestite, in traditional terms who wants to force immigrant women to wax her balls.
Trans English arrives, withtonsof new words for gender.Trans kidsknowwho they are, and its eitheraffirmationor death if you disagree.
Self-IDcomes to New Hampshire. Trans model Munroe Bergdorf ischosento speak by the London chapter of the globalWomens March. New York goesall-inon bathrooms and the abolition of women only spaces. South Dakotasayslet trans kids compete in sports
The Vancouver Rape Relief and Womens Shelterloses municipal funding after refusing to accept trans women. Morgane Oger wins a Human Rights Tribunal againstChristian activist Bill Whatcott after he distributedflyers disparaging herfor being a trans woman. A woman isarrestedfor referring to a transgender woman as a man online.
Liberal womenspeak on trans issues atthe Heritage Foundation, because they have beenabandonedby the left.
Butfacial recognitiondoesnt get trans. Neither dostraight men. Tennis legend Marina Navratilovaopposesmen in womens sports.
Even though thequick transingof kids is obviously a terrible idea, itsnot OKto talk about detransitioning. But girls start pushingbackon the locker room thing. So dograndmothers.
Students in the English town of Brighton are issued with stickers on which they write their preferredpronouns. Transtoolkitsarrive. Experts say that there has been aglobal surgein young people presenting to gender clinics. This mirrors the huge rise in referrals to the Gids, up from 94 to 2,519 since 2010.
Cosmopublishes a detailed account ofbottom surgery.
Trans advocatesdecrymental health screening prior to accessing cross-sex hormones. Trans offendersseek rightto remove crimes committed under previous gender. Hayden Patterson, held in womens prison in Canada, doesnt think she should have toact femaleto stay.Womb transplantsso men can bear children might be a thing. Elizabeth Warrenstatesher pronouns.
The firsttrans prison unitopens in the UK. In the US, a trans sex offender ismovedto womens prison. The World Health Organizationreclassestrans as not actually a mental health condition. Jessica Yaniv brings acasein Human Rights Tribunal against independent aestheticians who wouldnt wax her balls. She loses.
The winners of womens high school track and fieldcompetitionsin Connecticut are male bodied. In Australia, newguidelines encourage sporting organizationsto permit transgender and non-binary athletes to compete against members of the opposite sex. Laurel Hubbard wins gold in womens weightlifting in the Pacific Games, to the dismayof the president of Samoa.
The International Olympic Commissionconsidersrule changes to allow men to compete as women, but hits asnag. Womens rugby is toodangerousfor women once men get involved. A male runner is the female NCAAathlete of the week. But girlsspeak out: Female athletes around the globe feel that womens sports is no longersustainable.
Trans employment case goes to theSupreme Court. Trans guides come out for kids inQuebecandNew York City, as well as thegender unicorn. As domedical riskson chest binding, and thepushbackagainst that. Parental rights are chucked byAustralia, and courts in the US fromArizonatoTexastoVermont.
Puberty blockers arenota panacea. But kids are still beingfast trackedin the UK. Gender cliniciansrevealthey have tried to raise the alarm. Detransitioners start to make somenoise. Parents areaskedto resist the doctors.
It turns out the rhetoric about the trans murder epidemic isnot exactly true. Trans is apony tail. Not onlywomenget periods. Theresno such thingas biological sex. And not dating trans people isdiscriminatory.
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Posted: at 9:31 pm
Information is now easily and rapidly accessible. It is possible to say that being indifferent to new information is actually a success. However, knowing how we can actually use the information, well, that is the challenging part. Jason Silva, who gained millions of followers with his "Shots of Awe" video series seven years ago, when there was no "influencer" concept on social media, has managed to do this very well today, especially as a familiar "face of screens and internet influencer" widely known by young people.
As the world transforms with technology, Silva is turning everyone's heads with his unique, characteristic and literary expression style. Describing the relationship between technology and philosophy, Silva transforms himself in the meantime. As the star of National Geographic's Brain Games series, Silva takes his curiosity, which is his greatest motivation, everywhere he travels, adding depth to his "journey" that he started in 2012 as a storyteller on social media. Silva is now a futurist speaker answering the question "how?"
We talked to Silva in Qatar at the 2019 World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), which was held in November under the theme "Unlearn, Relearn: What it means to be human." Silva focuses on "futurism and disruptive innovation, the physical and psychological effects of awe on the human body, and leaving the mind to the flow." What Silva wants to arrive at is to discover ways to maintain mental and physical health and to find out how the issues he contemplates stimulate creativity to tell people "how."
Silva has been invested in consciousness and staying in the flow lately. When asked if there was a particular reason, he said one of things he is passionate about is people's capacity to overcome limitations.
Silva said sometimes these limitations can come down to technical or practical reasons, but they can sometimes also just be our own minds. Pointing out that the number of suicide-related deaths nowadays is higher than the number of deaths due to natural disasters or conflict, he said the issue of mental health is a pressing matter.
Staying in the flow
When asked how he protects his sanity and looks after his mental health, Silva said: "I take care of myself. I rest and sleep very well. Sleep and exercise have a great place in my life."
"Besides that, I am actively meditating. Staying in the flow is an active type of meditation. So is going for a walk, swimming, traveling, making art, reading and watching movies," he added.
"If you have watched my videos, I describe them as a 'free flow of consciousness without written text.' I get into a flow while making videos. When you are in the flow, your brain tries to guess what you are going to say, while being completely insecure on the other hand," he said, adding that the beauty of this state of mind is that it silences your inner critic.
He said brain scans of free-flowing rappers and jazz musicians have revealed that parts of their brains shut down when they are really "in the flow."
He stressed that people often have the misconception that to get into a flow is to let it go, but it actually has a lot to do with planning and discipline.
"You have to surrender after you have worked on it," he added.
Advising everyone to find their own flow path, he said: "Flow brings focus. You need to find out what hinders your focus, what distracts you and what draws you in. This may be sports or music for some. For me, it is making videos and being on stage."
Are we living in a simulated universe?
The idea that the world around us is not real and that we are trapped inside some video game or computer like The Sims or The Matrix has become the subject of serious academic debate. SpaceX chief Elon Musk has been one of the many high-profile proponents of the "simulation hypothesis" a theory that proposes the Earth and the universe, and all reality is actually an artificial simulation and he recently explained his thoughts on the subject in a podcast.
Silva said he agreed with Musk to a degree, but in a different way.
"I think we live in an environment where everything is virtual. It is like you are in a perception field. What you think and your identity stand in virtual reality. None of this is physical or unchangeable. If you look at our planet from space, you do not see lines separating countries. These lines are our virtual reality," he said.
"(Yuval Noah) Harari, in his book Sapiens, says that society cannot exist without useful stories. A dream that only one person has is a dream, but a dream that everyone has becomes a reality. So, in a simulation where everyone moves together, these dreams are practically real," he added.
On the topic of transhumanism, Silva called it "an extension of natural life."
"We can extend and expand our capacity in natural life, just like tools. We came from Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago, and we used the tools to reach something physically. If we could not reach fruit, we got sticks, for example. Thanks to sticks, we were able to extend our arm. This process of extension was the extension of our intentions and our brains. From this point of view, I believe that being human is trans-human."
With the rapid development of technology, a lot of people fear the new and unknown. Silva said he believed people weren't exactly afraid of technology but rather afraid of change and resistant to it.
"It's because change brings uncertainty, which in turn spurs this biological effect of the uncertainty (our ancestors felt) thousands of years ago when we thought a lion would come out and eat us," he said.
He said this feeling of uncertainty should be embraced as it "allows us to dream and build the life we want."
According to Silva, this is very much in line with Wise's theme, which suggests that we are in an era, a process of "unlearning what we already know and relearning it."
What we want to do in the future and what we want to reveal is to inspire people to think bigger than ever.
Tips to overcome anxiety
Silva said he likes to think of himself as a software program with "bad coding." "Sometimes I have a lot of anxiety. I know what triggers this situation and I find where my bad programming is," he said.
"Sometimes I stop while reacting to something, I watch my reaction and try to figure out how I feel. Then, I decide how I want to move forward. When I react to something, there is always an element I take into account."
How our screen stories of the future went from flying cars to a darker version of now – The Conversation AU
Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:50 pm
Fans of Ridley Scotts 1982 masterpiece Blade Runner returned to cinemas last month for an unusual milestone: history catching up with science fiction.
Blade Runner opens in Los Angeles, in November 2019. Furnaces burst flames into the perennial night and endless rain. Flying cars zoom by. The antihero film-noir detective, Deckard (Harrison Ford) has seen too much, drinks too much, and misses his mother between retiring replicants.
As in Back to the Future day, (October 21, 2015), which marked Marty McFlys journey into the future in the 1989 film, the Blade Runner screenings came with a flurry of discussion about what the filmmakers got right and wrong. Environmental collapse, yes. But where are our flying cars?
So: what now that the future is here?
Our current versions of near future stories - namely the television series Black Mirror (now on Netflix) and SBSs Years and Years - explore more extreme versions of the present.
Charlie Brookers Black Mirror is an anthology of standalone episodes, produced between 2011 and 2019, each set in a slightly different, undated, near future.
Years and Years, written by Russell T. Davies, bravely spans 2019 to 2034 with each episode leaping forward a few years through striking montages of fictional news events: the collapse of the European Union, the US leaving the United Nations, catastrophic flooding, mass migration, widespread homelessness.
We are in a very familiar world. The near is depicted in a realistic way through identifiable locations, documentary-style visuals, news footage, and lifelike dialogue.
Back in the real world, the future in the 21st century is unfolding in the palm of our hands. Elections are won and lost on social media, Sydney is covered in smoke. The rate at which technology is altering our lives is rivalled only by the rate were transforming our planet.
These shows explore these rates of change. In a 2016 episode of Black Mirror, Nosedive, every interpersonal interaction becomes a transaction: an extreme version of Uber Ratings with Chinas Social Credit System.
Read more: Chinas Social Credit System puts its people under pressure to be model citizens
Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) is an ambitious young professional excited by the opportunities higher ratings open up, such as discounts on luxury apartments, but being pleasant to her barista and workmates only gets her so far. So begins a perilous spiral of trying too hard to be liked, echoing the personality-as-product phenomenon of social media influencers around the world.
The standalone episode format of Black Mirror means it can be challenging to develop empathy for characters, consequently the interest often rests on the single concept or final twist. The episode Striking Vipers explores the possibility of extra-marital love between best mates in Virtual Reality; Hang the DJ envisions dating apps as an authoritarian apparatus.
Most episodes are neatly wrapped up for viewers to escape to for pure entertainment but also to escape from each dystopian possibility.
In Years and Years, we follow one Mancunian family over 19 years. The series opens with Trump re-elected for a second term. In the UK, the unconventional populist Four Star Party, led by straight-speaking Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson), rides to success on the back of social instability.
Sci-fi concepts are introduced early on so we can explore their evolution and implications. In the first episode, teenager Bethany declares herself trans. As progressive parents, Stephen and Celeste immediately comfort their child, who they presume is transsexual.
Bethany shrugs, Im not transsexual Im transhuman. A concept not lost on Blade Runner fans who may be aware of transhumanist gatherings in Los Angeles in the 1980s, transhumanism is premised on the idea that humans have breached evolutionary constraints through science and technology. Biology is a restriction to the possibility of eternal life.
Read more: Super-intelligence and eternal life: transhumanism's faithful follow it blindly into a future for the elite
Disgust and dismay ensue from parents unable to comprehend why their child wants to rid her flesh and live forever as data. Through the course of the series we see how Bethanys transhuman ambitions influence her personal relationships, health, career trajectory, and political activism.
It even starts to feel normal.
Years and Years delicately resists portraying a dystopia, allowing room for technology to demonstrate a positive influence on society. Seor, the ubiquitous virtual assistant, connects the Lyons family whenever they wish. Like Alexa or Siri, Seor is always at hand to answer questions but more importantly, facilitates an intimacy that could easily be lost to technological isolation.
In 2029, grandmother Muriel digs up the dusty digital assistant Seor because she misses its company. By now, virtual assistants are embedded into the walls and omnipresent digital cloud but the Luddite grandmother resists.
I like having something to look at, Im not talking to the walls like Shirley Valentine, she says.
Its moments like these that remind us of our agency over technology and hint at its revolutionary potential to connect us all.
While classics like Blade Runner looked to the future to ignite our technological desires, near-future fiction reveals how new technologies are injected into our lives with little choice as to whether we should adopt them and little thought to their long-term appropriateness and sustainability.
These shows ask us to be critical of what might seem like minor developments in technology and politics. In an age of rapidly changing political landscapes and the climate catastrophe, it can feel like we are approaching the final frontier. In creating stories set in the near, instead of the far, future, science fiction provides valuable lessons for the present.
In other words: the choices we fail to stand up for in the near-future may prevent us from having a distant future at all.
Posted: at 11:50 pm
Exclusive: Ted Atherton Explains the Pathology of Beauty in RABID
To my fellow entertainment journalists and bloggers, take this advice: Dont let the ink dry on your Best Horror Movies of 2019 lists until youve seenRabid, the remake of David Cronenbergs seminal body horror classic remade by Jen and Sylvia Soska (aka The Twisted Twins). Its not only the first (and so far only) remake of a Cronenberg movie, its a gruesome and engaging romp that will leave moviegoers rapt and devastated.
Rabidarrives in US theaters and VOD this Friday, December 13th. Give the trailer a spin at the top of the article and peep the synopsis below.
Synopsis:Horribly disfigured after a freak accident, doctors perform a radical medical procedure on an aspiring young fashion designer. But when the bandages come off, the side effects soon cause her to develop an insatiable appetite for human blood.
Related Article: EXCLUSIVE: TRISTAN RISK PROMISES HER CHARACTER IN RABID WILL CAUSE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS
Yesterday, we shared an interview with the incomparable, multi-talented Tristan Risk, who explained what makes Rabid truly Canadian, and promising one of her three roles will lead to sleepless nights for many! Today, we continue our Week of Rabid with an interview with Ted Atherton. Atherton plays Dr. William Burroughs (a nod to the American Beat Poet of the same nameand Cronenbergs adaptation of Naked Lunch). Give it a read below.
Dread Central: Lets talk about the preparations you made for playing this character, Dr. William Burroughs, in Rabid. Did you look into the current state of human cloning and transhumanism in science?
Ted Atherton: Yeah, the Soskas sent a number of research bits regarding that, that were really wild about that particular sort of rabbit hole, and then I pulled it down on the internet a little bit. Although, what I really found kind of interesting about the movie, like all good horror movies, its about some deep, dark truth about the human psyche and Rabid has it. And I also watched the original Cronenberg movie and in this re-imagining, as conceived by the Soska sisters, this cultural obsession with a certain standard of beauty leads to a kind of pathologization of anything that falls short of that standard, do you know what I mean? As if to not be beautiful or fit means youre in need of a cure. And I found that particularly interesting from the character I was playing, Dr. William Burroughs, (with that nod to Cronenbergs obsession with William Burroughs of Naked Lunch fame).
The fact that Laura Vanderboots character Rose works for a fashion designer (really played beautifully in a darkly comic way by my friend Mackenzie Gray, whose new line is called Schadenfreude, the German word for the dark pleasure we take in anothers misfortune) really dramatizes the moral sickness at the heart of this obsession with physical beauty, particularly physical beauty thats competitive. And Rose is not a model but shes not ugly; shes average looking, or as average looking that hair and makeup can make you when youre starting with Laura Vanderboot! But average isnt good enough and it actually holds Rose back in events in her career. When this horrific traffic accident that drives Laura Vanderboots character into the hands of Dr. William Burroughs, its seen as a kind of good fortune because it provides the occasion for a complete physical transformationa cure for the sickness of her mediocre looks and the cost, of course. becomes a growing and unknowing hunger, a special diet.
She gets transformed from a human being, a member of society, with all the connections of human society, into this solitary predator. Thats what I found most interesting. Dr. Burroughs, he comes across as very kind, sort of paternalistic, that was a kind of a father figure. And Rose is ultimately his creation, his child in a way. But what hes transforming her into this child thats going to have no connection with anything else in the world, because anyone that gets anywhere near her, who comes close enough to care about her, shes going to destroy and turn into that same kind of lone predator.
Related Article:INTERVIEW: JEN AND SYLVIA SOSKA TALK RABID, DAVID CRONENBERG, AND TRANSHUMANISM
DC: Youve done a lot of sci-fi and drama but is it safe to say that Rabid is the most gruesome, brutal movie youve been in?
TA: Oh my god, absolutely. Ive seen all of those prosthetics and practical effects close up and I have to tell you, were absolutely disgusting.
Are you excited to check outRabidthis weekend? What do you think of our exclusive interview with Tristan Risk? Let us know in the comments below or onFacebook,Twitter, orInstagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter@josh_millican.
Posted: December 4, 2019 at 9:41 am
A new report published on Tuesday alleges that former Democrat President Bill Clinton and two-time failed Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visited the New Mexico ranch of convicted pedophile and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein nearly every year since Clinton left office at the end of his second term.
Bill and Hillary Clinton stayed at Jeffrey Epsteins notorious baby-making ranch almost every year after they left the White House, according to the disgraced financiers estate manager, The Daily Mail reported. The former president was Epsteins closest celebrity mate and the Clintons, along with daughter Chelsea, visited Zorro Ranch a whole bunch of times, a former contractor who ran the IT system at the property told DailyMailTV in an exclusive interview.
The Daily Mail reported that the Clintons never stayed in the main mansion on the massive 10,000 acre property but did stay in one of the guest houses.
This is all according to security expert Jared Kellogg, who was brought in by long-standing ranch manager Brice Gordon to improve security and set up a camera system at the main house and cowboy village, The Daily Mail continued. Kellogg said that at the time of his site walk of Epsteins property, he had barely any knowledge of Epsteins reputation but he said Gordon spent most of the time boasting about the Clintons frequent appearance at the estate.
Kellogg told The Daily Mail: My access was very controlled. During the site walk, it was dictated where I could and couldnt go. There were certain facilities I wasnt allowed to go in, which was odd, as they were boarded up, and they looked like they could have big parties in them, but I didnt think much of it.They wanted to put very, very limited camera coverage on the main house itself.
The New York Times reported over the summer that Epstein allegedly wanted to turn his ranch into a place where he would impregnate vast numbers of women in what the Times described as transhumanism, which critics have likened transhumanism to a modern-day version of eugenics, the discredited field of improving the human race through controlled breeding.
Once, at a dinner at Mr. Epsteins mansion on Manhattans Upper East Side, Mr. Lanier said he talked to a scientist who told him that Mr. Epsteins goal was to have 20 women at a time impregnated at his 33,000-square-foot Zorro Ranch in a tiny town outside Santa Fe. Mr. Lanier said the scientist identified herself as working at NASA, but he did not remember her name, the Times reported. According to Mr. Lanier, the NASA scientist said Mr. Epstein had based his idea for a baby ranch on accounts of the Repository for Germinal Choice, which was to be stocked with the sperm of Nobel laureates who wanted to strengthen the human gene pool.
Epstein was arrested by federal law enforcement officials on sex trafficking charges in early July after returning to the United States and subsequently committed suicide in a New York City prison approximately a month later.
When asked for comment by The Daily Mail, the Clintons pointed to a statement that they released over the summer which deniedhe had ever visited any of Epsteins residences, apart from once at Epsteins home in New York City.
Posted: November 18, 2019 at 6:44 pm
Even if you havent heard the term biohacking before, youve probably encountered some version of it. Maybe youve seen Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey extolling the benefits of fasting intermittently and drinking salt juice each morning. Maybe youve read about former NASA employee Josiah Zayner injecting himself with DNA using the gene-editing technology CRISPR. Maybe youve heard of Bay Area folks engaging in dopamine fasting.
Maybe you, like me, have a colleague whos had a chip implanted in their hand.
These are all types of biohacking, a broad term for a lifestyle thats growing increasingly popular, and not just in Silicon Valley, where it really took off.
Biohacking also known as DIY biology is an extremely broad and amorphous term that can cover a huge range of activities, from performing science experiments on yeast or other organisms to tracking your own sleep and diet to changing your own biology by pumping a younger persons blood into your veins in the hope that itll fight aging. (Yes, that is a real thing, and its called a young blood transfusion. More on that later.)
The type of biohackers currently gaining the most notoriety are the ones who experiment outside of traditional lab spaces and institutions on their own bodies with the hope of boosting their physical and cognitive performance. They form one branch of transhumanism, a movement that holds that human beings can and should use technology to augment and evolve our species.
Some biohackers have science PhDs; others are complete amateurs. And their ways of trying to hack biology are as diverse as they are. It can be tricky to understand the different types of hacks, what differentiates them from traditional medicine, and how safe or legal they are.
As biohacking starts to appear more often in headlines and, recently, in a fascinating Netflix series called Unnatural Selection its worth getting clear on some of the fundamentals. Here are nine questions that can help you make sense of biohacking.
Depending on whom you ask, youll get a different definition of biohacking. Since it can encompass a dizzying range of pursuits, Im mostly going to look at biohacking defined as the attempt to manipulate your brain and body in order to optimize performance, outside the realm of traditional medicine. But later on, Ill also give an overview of some other types of biohacking (including some that can lead to pretty unbelievable art).
Dave Asprey, a biohacker who created the supplement company Bulletproof, told me that for him, biohacking is the art and science of changing the environment around you and inside you so that you have full control over your own biology. Hes very game to experiment on his body: He has stem cells injected into his joints, takes dozens of supplements daily, bathes in infrared light, and much more. Its all part of his quest to live until at least age 180.
One word Asprey likes to use a lot is control, and that kind of language is typical of many biohackers, who often talk about optimizing and upgrading their minds and bodies.
Some of their techniques for achieving that are things people have been doing for centuries, like Vipassana meditation and intermittent fasting. Both of those are part of Dorseys routine, which he detailed in a podcast interview. He tries to do two hours of meditation a day and eats only one meal (dinner) on weekdays; on weekends, he doesnt eat at all. (Critics worry that his dietary habits sound a bit like an eating disorder, or that they might unintentionally influence others to develop a disorder.) He also kicks off each morning with an ice bath before walking the 5 miles to Twitter HQ.
Supplements are another popular tool in the biohackers arsenal. Theres a whole host of pills people take, from anti-aging supplements to nootropics or smart drugs.
Since biohackers are often interested in quantifying every aspect of themselves, they may buy wearable devices to, say, track their sleep patterns. (For that purpose, Dorsey swears by the Oura Ring.) The more data you have on your bodys mechanical functions, the more you can optimize the machine that is you or so the thinking goes.
Then there are some of the more radical practices: cryotherapy (purposely making yourself cold), neurofeedback (training yourself to regulate your brain waves), near-infrared saunas (they supposedly help you escape stress from electromagnetic transmissions), and virtual float tanks (which are meant to induce a meditative state through sensory deprivation), among others. Some people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on these treatments.
A subset of biohackers called grinders go so far as to implant devices like computer chips in their bodies. The implants allow them to do everything from opening doors without a fob to monitoring their glucose levels subcutaneously.
For some grinders, like Zoltan Istvan, who ran for president as head of the Transhumanist Party, having an implant is fun and convenient: Ive grown to relish and rely on the technology, he recently wrote in the New York Times. The electric lock on the front door of my house has a chip scanner, and its nice to go surfing and jogging without having to carry keys around.
Istvan also noted that for some people without functioning arms, chips in their feet are the simplest way to open doors or operate some household items modified with chip readers. Other grinders are deeply curious about blurring the line between human and machine, and they get a thrill out of seeing all the ways we can augment our flesh-and-blood bodies using tech. Implants, for them, are a starter experiment.
On a really basic level, biohacking comes down to something we can all relate to: the desire to feel better and to see just how far we can push the human body. That desire comes in a range of flavors, though. Some people just want to not be sick anymore. Others want to become as smart and strong as they possibly can. An even more ambitious crowd wants to be as smart and strong as possible for as long as possible in other words, they want to radically extend their life span.
These goals have a way of escalating. Once youve determined (or think youve determined) that there are concrete hacks you can use by yourself right now to go from sick to healthy, or healthy to enhanced, you start to think: Well, why stop there? Why not shoot for peak performance? Why not try to live forever? What starts as a simple wish to be free from pain can snowball into self-improvement on steroids.
That was the case for Asprey. Now in his 40s, he got into biohacking because he was unwell. Before hitting age 30, he was diagnosed with high risk of stroke and heart attack, suffered from cognitive dysfunction, and weighed 300 pounds. I just wanted to control my own biology because I was tired of being in pain and having mood swings, he told me.
Now that he feels healthier, he wants to slow the normal aging process and optimize every part of his biology. I dont want to be just healthy; thats average. I want to perform; thats daring to be above average. Instead of How do I achieve health? its How do I kick more ass?
Zayner, the biohacker who once injected himself with CRISPR DNA, has also had health problems for years, and some of his biohacking pursuits have been explicit attempts to cure himself. But hes also motivated in large part by frustration. Like some other biohackers with an anti-establishment streak, hes irritated by federal officials purported sluggishness in greenlighting all sorts of medical treatments. In the US, it can take 10 years for a new drug to be developed and approved; for people with serious health conditions, that wait time can feel cruelly long. Zayner claims thats part of why he wants to democratize science and empower people to experiment on themselves.
(However, he admits that some of his stunts have been purposely provocative and that I do ridiculous stuff also. Im sure my motives are not 100 percent pure all the time.)
The biohacking community also offers just that: community. It gives people a chance to explore unconventional ideas in a non-hierarchical setting, and to refashion the feeling of being outside the norm into a cool identity. Biohackers congregate in dedicated online networks, in Slack and WhatsApp groups WeFast, for example, is for intermittent fasters. In person, they run experiments and take classes at hacklabs, improvised laboratories that are open to the public, and attend any one of the dozens of biohacking conferences put on each year.
Certain kinds of biohacking go far beyond traditional medicine, while other kinds bleed into it.
Plenty of age-old techniques meditation, fasting can be considered a basic type of biohacking. So can going to a spin class or taking antidepressants.
What differentiates biohacking is arguably not that its a different genre of activity but that the activities are undertaken with a particular mindset. The underlying philosophy is that we dont need to accept our bodies shortcomings we can engineer our way past them using a range of high- and low-tech solutions. And we dont necessarily need to wait for a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, traditional medicines gold standard. We can start to transform our lives right now.
As millionaire Serge Faguet, who plans to live forever, put it: People here [in Silicon Valley] have a technical mindset, so they think of everything as an engineering problem. A lot of people who are not of a technical mindset assume that, Hey, people have always been dying, but I think theres going to be a greater level of awareness [of biohacking] once results start to happen.
Rob Carlson, an expert on synthetic biology whos been advocating for biohacking since the early 2000s, told me that to his mind, all of modern medicine is hacking, but that people often call certain folks hackers as a way of delegitimizing them. Its a way of categorizing the other like, Those biohackers over there do that weird thing. This is actually a bigger societal question: Whos qualified to do anything? And why do you not permit some people to explore new things and talk about that in public spheres?
If its taken to extremes, the Whos qualified to do anything? mindset can delegitimize scientific expertise in a way that can endanger public health. Luckily, biohackers dont generally seem interested in dethroning expertise to that dangerous degree; many just dont think they should be locked out of scientific discovery because they lack conventional credentials like a PhD.
Some biohacks are backed by strong scientific evidence and are likely to be beneficial. Often, these are the ones that are tried and true, debugged over centuries of experimentation. For example, clinical trials have shown that mindfulness meditation can help reduce anxiety and chronic pain.
But other hacks, based on weak or incomplete evidence, could be either ineffective or actually harmful.
After Dorsey endorsed a particular near-infrared sauna sold by SaunaSpace, which claims its product boosts cellular regeneration and fights aging by detoxing your body, the company experienced a surge in demand. But according to the New York Times, though a study of middle-aged and older Finnish men indicates that their health benefited from saunas, there have been no major studies conducted of this type of sauna, which directs incandescent light at your body. So is buying this expensive product likely to improve your health? We cant say that yet.
Similarly, the intermittent fasting that Dorsey endorses may yield health benefits for some, but scientists still have plenty of questions about it. Although theres a lot of research on the long-term health outcomes of fasting in animals and much of it is promising the research literature on humans is much thinner. Fasting has gone mainstream, but because its done so ahead of the science, it falls into the proceed with caution category. Critics have noted that for those whove struggled with eating disorders, it could be dangerous.
And while were on the topic of biohacking nutrition: My colleague Julia Belluz has previously reported on the Bulletproof Diet promoted by Asprey, who she says vilifies healthy foods and suggests part of the way to achieve a pound a day weight loss is to buy his expensive, science-based Bulletproof products. She was not convinced by the citations for his claims:
What I found was a patchwork of cherry-picked research and bad studies or articles that arent relevant to humans. He selectively reported on studies that backed up his arguments, and ignored the science that contradicted them.
Many of the studies werent done in humans but in rats and mice. Early studies on animals, especially on something as complex as nutrition, should never be extrapolated to humans. Asprey glorifies coconut oil and demonizes olive oil, ignoring the wealth of randomized trials (the highest quality of evidence) that have demonstrated olive oil is beneficial for health. Some of the research he cites was done on very specific sub-populations, such as diabetics, or on very small groups of people. These findings wouldnt be generalizable to the rest of us.
Some of the highest-risk hacks are being undertaken by people who feel desperate. On some level, thats very understandable. If youre sick and in constant pain, or if youre old and scared to die, and traditional medicine has nothing that works to quell your suffering, who can fault you for seeking a solution elsewhere?
Yet some of the solutions being tried these days are so dangerous, theyre just not worth the risk.
If youve watched HBOs Silicon Valley, then youre already familiar with young blood transfusions. As a refresher, thats when an older person pays for a young persons blood and has it pumped into their veins in the hope that itll fight aging.
This putative treatment sounds vampiric, yet its gained popularity in the Silicon Valley area, where people have actually paid $8,000 a pop to participate in trials. The billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel has expressed keen interest.
As Chavie Lieber noted for Vox, although some limited studies suggest that these transfusions might fend off diseases like Alzheimers, Parkinsons, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis, these claims havent been proven.
In February, the Food and Drug Administration released a statement warning consumers away from the transfusions: Simply put, were concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of plasma from young donors as cures and remedies. Such treatments have no proven clinical benefits for the uses for which these clinics are advertising them and are potentially harmful.
Another biohack that definitely falls in the dont try this at home category: fecal transplants, or transferring stool from a healthy donor into the gastrointestinal tract of an unhealthy recipient. In 2016, sick of suffering from severe stomach pain, Zayner decided to give himself a fecal transplant in a hotel room. He had procured a friends poop and planned to inoculate himself using the microbes in it. Ever the public stuntman, he invited a journalist to document the procedure. Afterward, he claimed the experiment left him feeling better.
But fecal transplants are still experimental and not approved by the FDA. The FDA recently reported that two people had contracted serious infections from fecal transplants that contained drug-resistant bacteria. One of the people died. And this was in the context of a clinical trial presumably, a DIY attempt could be even riskier. The FDA is putting a stop to clinical trials on the transplants for now.
Zayner also popularized the notion that you can edit your own DNA with CRISPR. In 2017, he injected himself with CRISPR DNA at a biotech conference, live-streaming the experiment. He later said he regretted that stunt because it could lead others to copy him and people are going to get hurt. Yet when asked whether his company, the Odin, which he runs out of his garage in Oakland, California, was going to stop selling CRISPR kits to the general public, he said no.
Ellen Jorgensen, a molecular biologist who co-founded Genspace and Biotech Without Borders, two Brooklyn-based biology labs open to the public, finds antics like Zayners worrisome. A self-identified biohacker, she told me people shouldnt buy Zayners kits, not just because they dont work half the time (shes a professional and even she couldnt get it to work), but because CRISPR is such a new technology that scientists arent yet sure of all the risks involved in using it. By tinkering with your genome, you could unintentionally cause a mutation that increases your risk of developing cancer, she said. Its a dangerous practice that should not be marketed as a DIY activity.
At Genspace and Biotech Without Borders, we always get the most heartbreaking emails from parents of children afflicted with genetic diseases, Jorgensen says. They have watched these Josiah Zayner videos and they want to come into our class and cure their kids. We have to tell them, This is a fantasy. ... That is incredibly painful.
She thinks such biohacking stunts give biohackers like her a bad name. Its bad for the DIY bio community, she said, because it makes people feel that as a general rule were irresponsible.
Existing regulations werent built to make sense of something like biohacking, which in some cases stretches the very limits of what it means to be a human being. That means that a lot of biohacking pursuits exist in a legal gray zone: frowned upon by bodies like the FDA, but not yet outright illegal, or not enforced as such. As biohackers traverse uncharted territory, regulators are scrambling to catch up with them.
After the FDA released its statement in February urging people to stay away from young blood transfusions, the San Francisco-based startup Ambrosia, which was well known for offering the transfusions, said on its website that it had ceased patient treatments. The site now says, We are currently in discussion with the FDA on the topic of young plasma.
This wasnt the FDAs first foray into biohacking. In 2016, the agency objected to Zayner selling kits to brew glow-in-the-dark beer. And after he injected himself with CRISPR, the FDA released a notice saying the sale of DIY gene-editing kits for use on humans is illegal. Zayner disregarded the warning and continued to sell his wares.
In 2019, he was, for a time, under investigation by Californias Department of Consumer Affairs, accused of practicing medicine without a license.
The biohackers I spoke to said restrictive regulation would be a counterproductive response to biohacking because itll just drive the practice underground. They say its better to encourage a culture of transparency so that people can ask questions about how to do something safely, without fear of reprisal.
According to Jorgensen, most biohackers are safety-conscious, not the sorts of people interested in engineering a pandemic. Theyve even generated and adopted their own codes of ethics. She herself has had a working relationship with law enforcement since the early 2000s.
At the beginning of the DIY bio movement, we did an awful lot of work with Homeland Security, she said. And as far back as 2009, the FBI was reaching out to the DIY community to try to build bridges.
Carlson told me hes noticed two general shifts over the past 20 years. One was after 2001, after the anthrax attacks, when Washington, DC, lost their damn minds and just went into a reactive mode and tried to shut everything down, he said. As of 2004 or 2005, the FBI was arresting people for doing biology in their homes.
Then in 2009, the National Security Council dramatically changed perspectives. It published the National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, which embraced innovation and open access to the insights and materials needed to advance individual initiatives, including in private laboratories in basements and garages.
Now, though, some agencies seem to think they ought to take action. But even if there were clear regulations governing all biohacking activities, there would be no straightforward way to stop people from pursuing them behind closed doors. This technology is available and implementable anywhere, theres no physical means to control access to it, so what would regulating that mean? Carlson said.
Some biohackers believe that by leveraging technology, theyll be able to live longer but stay younger. Gerontologist Aubrey de Grey claims people will be able to live to age 1,000. In fact, he says the first person who will live to 1,000 has already been born.
De Grey focuses on developing strategies for repairing seven types of cellular and molecular damage associated with aging or, as he calls them, Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. His nonprofit, the Methuselah Foundation, has attracted huge investments, including more than $6 million from Thiel. Its aim is to make 90 the new 50 by 2030.
Wondering whether de Greys goals are realistic, I reached out to Genspace co-founder Oliver Medvedik, who earned his PhD at Harvard Medical School and now directs the Kanbar Center for Biomedical Engineering at Cooper Union. Living to 1,000? Its definitely within our realm of possibility if we as a society that doles out money [to fund research we deem worthy] decide we want to do it, he told me.
Hes optimistic, he said, because the scientific community is finally converging on a consensus about what the root causes of aging are (damage to mitochondria and epigenetic changes are a couple of examples). And in the past five years, hes seen an explosion of promising papers on possible ways to address those causes.
Researchers who want to fight aging generally adopt two different approaches. The first is the small molecule approach, which often focuses on dietary supplements. Medvedik calls that the low-hanging fruit. He spoke excitedly about the possibility of creating a supplement from a plant compound called fisetin, noting that a recent (small) Mayo Clinic trial suggests high concentrations of fisetin can clear out senescent cells in humans cells that have stopped dividing and that contribute to aging.
The other approach is more dramatic: genetic engineering. Scientists taking this tack in mouse studies usually tinker with a genome in embryo, meaning that new mice are born with the fix already in place. Medvedik pointed out thats not very useful for treating humans we want to be able to treat people who have already been born and have begun to age.
But he sees promise here too. He cited a new study that used CRISPR to target Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a genetic disorder that manifests as accelerated aging, in a mouse model. It wasnt a total cure they extended the life span of these mice by maybe 30 percent but what I was very interested in is the fact that it was delivered into mice that had already been born.
Hes also intrigued by potential non-pharmaceutical treatments for aging-related diseases like Alzheimers for example, the use of light stimulation to influence brain waves but those probably wont help us out anytime soon, for a simple reason: Its not a drug. You cant package and sell it, he said. Pharma cant monetize it.
Like many in the biohacking community, Medvedik sounded a note of frustration about how the medical system holds back anti-aging progress. If you were to come up with a compound right now that literally cures aging, you couldnt get it approved, he said. By the definition weve set up, aging isnt a disease, and if you want to get it approved by the FDA you have to target a certain disease. That just seems very strange and antiquated and broken.
Not everyone whos interested in biohacking is interested in self-experimentation. Some come to it because they care about bringing science to the masses, alleviating the climate crisis, or making art that shakes us out of our comfort zones.
My version of biohacking is unexpected people in unexpected places doing biotechnology, Jorgensen told me. For her, the emphasis is on democratizing cutting-edge science while keeping it safe. The community labs shes helped to build, Genspace and Biotech Without Borders, offer classes on using CRISPR technology to edit a genome but participants work on the genome of yeast, never on their own bodies.
Some people in the community are altruistically motivated. They want to use biohacking to save the environment by figuring out a way to make a recyclable plastic or a biofuel. They might experiment on organisms in makeshift labs in their garages. Or they might take a Genspace class on how to make furniture out of fungi or paper out of kombucha.
Experimental artists have also taken an interest in biohacking. For them, biology is just another palette. The artists Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr from the University of Western Australia were actually the first people to create and serve up lab-grown meat. They took some starter cells from a frog and used them to grow small steaks of frog meat, which they fed to gallery-goers in France at a 2003 art installation called Disembodied Cuisine.
More recently, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg has used old floral DNA to recreate the smell of flowers driven to extinction by humans, enabling us to catch a whiff of them once more.
And this summer, a London museum is displaying something rather less fragrant: cheese made from celebrities. Yes, you read that right: The cheese was created with bacteria harvested from the armpits, toes, bellybuttons, and nostrils of famous people. If youre thoroughly grossed out by this, dont worry: The food wont actually be eaten this bioart project is meant more as a thought experiment than as dinner.
When you hear about people genetically engineering themselves or trying young blood transfusions in an effort to ward off death, its easy to feel a sense of vertigo about what were coming to as a species.
But the fact is weve been altering human nature since the very beginning. Inventing agriculture, for example, helped us transform ourselves from nomadic hunter-gatherers into sedentary civilizations. And whether we think of it this way or not, were all already doing some kind of biohacking every day.
The deeper I delve into biohacking, the more I think a lot of the discomfort with it boils down to simple neophobia a fear of whats new. (Not all of the discomfort, mind you: The more extreme hacks really are dangerous.)
As one of my colleagues put it to me, 40 years ago, test tube babies seemed unnatural, a freak-show curiosity; now in vitro fertilization has achieved mainstream acceptance. Will biohacking undergo the same progression? Or is it really altering human nature in a more fundamental way, a way that should concern us?
When I asked Carlson, he refused to buy the premise of the question.
If you assert that hackers are changing what it means to be human, then we need to first have an agreement about what it means to be human, he said. And Im not going to buy into the idea that there is one thing that is being human. Across the sweep of history, its odd to say humans are static its not the case that humans in 1500 were the same as they are today.
Thats true. Nowadays, we live longer. Were taller. Were more mobile. And we marry and have kids with people who come from different continents, different cultures a profound departure from old customs that has nothing to do with genetic engineering but thats nonetheless resulting in genetic change.
Still, biohackers are talking about making such significant changes that the risks they carry are significant too. What if biohackers upgrades dont get distributed evenly across the human population? What if, for example, the cure for aging becomes available, but only to the rich? Will that lead to an even wider life expectancy gap, where rich people live longer and poor people die younger?
Medvedik dismissed that concern, arguing that a lot of interventions that could lengthen our lives, like supplements, wouldnt be expensive to produce. Theres no reason why that stuff cant be dirt-cheap. But that depends on what we do as a society, he said. Insulin doesnt cost much to produce, but as a society weve allowed companies to jack up the price so high that many people with diabetes are now skipping lifesaving doses. Thats horrifying, but its not a function of the technology itself.
Heres another risk associated with biohacking, one I think is even more serious: By making ourselves smarter and stronger and potentially even immortal (a difference of kind, not just of degree), we may create a society in which everyone feels pressure to alter their biology even if they dont want to. To refuse a hack would mean to be at a huge professional disadvantage, or to face moral condemnation for remaining suboptimal when optimization is possible. In a world of superhumans, it may become increasingly hard to stay merely human.
The flip side of all this is the perfect race or eugenics specter, Jorgensen acknowledged. This is a powerful set of technologies that can be used in different ways. Wed better think about it and use it wisely.
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Josiah Zayner is a biohacker whos famous for injecting himself with the gene-editing tool CRISPR. At a time when the technology exists for us to change (or hack) our own DNA, what are the ethics of experimenting on ourselves, and others, at home? On the launch episode of this new podcast, host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks to Zayner about how hes thinking about human experimentation today. Plus: new efforts to come up with a code of conduct for biohackers, from legislation to self-regulation.
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Posted: November 2, 2019 at 9:41 am
It was 3 a.m. on a typical Saturday in Geneseo. UHots was closing and there was nothing to domy alumni friend was visiting, so we trudged through the rain back to my place for an early morning catch-up. His life is a lot more exciting than mine, so I listened intently as he told me of his post-grad misadventures.
Did I ever tell you about the time I was almost recruited into a cult? he said casually. No, he had not. I listened intently as he told me of a private subreddit he had been added to and the pseudo-intellectual who ran the page, inviting people who had like-minded views to join.
This got me thinkingthis subreddit cant be the only page like this on the internet. Since then, I have uncovered similar communities and ideas (i.e. places where spiritual thought meets modern politics and personal musings) grasping for meaning in the digital age. I believe the new frontier for religious thought lies not in the worship spaces of yesteryear, but in online forums and other digital spaces where one can make their beliefs heard and gain a following.
Spiritual groups born and bred online occupy a space somewhere between absurdism and grave sincerity. There is a whole spectrum of those who believe, dont believe or are simply curious about a given sect of online spiritual thought.
In conducting research, I came across the website for The Church of Google, a parody religion founded in 2009 with the goal of creating commentary about the sophistication and increasing symbiotic relationship that technologies like Google play in our lives. I also came across online forums such as MySpiritualgroup, which is self-described as an online spiritual group which seeks to gather all genuine truth seekers from around the world and focuses on metaphysics and esoteric thought.
Additionally, there are countless Reddit forums, like the one my friend joined, focused on the interplay between religion and psychedelics, anarchy and the alt-rightto name a few topics that have been brought into the conversation via dedicated subreddits.
One of the most intriguing online spiritual movements is one called H+, or Transhumanism. According to H+pedia, an online Wikipedia-esque transhumanist encyclopedia, transhumanism can be defined as a belief or movement in favour of human enhancement, especially beyond current human limitations and with advanced technology such as artificial intelligence, life extension and nanotechnology.
While prescribers to the philosophy might describe themselves as post-religious, there is something fundamentally spiritual about their way of thinking, which combines the concept of human transcendence with modern technological advancement. I may add that transhumanists are the same people in favor of gene modifying and strong AI technology, as well as proponents of the concept of technological singularity.
The internet is chaos, and so it only makes sense that spiritual communities that have formed from the internet are chaotic as well. The wide range of content, from intellectual to idiotic, underscores the wide range of beliefs being vocalized. Not only have we been ushered into a new age with technology providing platforms to express opinions, but the very opinions themselves have also been altered and shifted due to the emergence of the internet and what that means for human development.
As spiritual discussion online continues to mold the worldviews of many internet users, it is important that we attempt to broaden our understanding of this emerging intellectual discourse in order to better understand its real-world implications.
You can call Hayley Jones a metamorphosis rock because they do well under pressure!
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Posted: October 24, 2019 at 11:01 am
Asad J. Malik wearing the HoloLens 2
The studio behind Terminal 3 and A Jesters Tale just inked a seven-figure investment deal, recruited veteran Executive Producer Ela Topcuoglu, and established offices in Los Angeles, CA.
When asked what most excites me about the XR industryparticularly in the wake of industry cool-downs and troughsmy response always circles back to the people who comprise it. Spatial media unite a diverse spectrum of technologies, studies, and art formsand the resulting collection of professionals is equally wide-ranging.
One such person is Asad J. Malik, a director whose holographic narratives have tapped the Augmented Reality format to shape and deepen conversations around immigration, transhumanism, and the ethics of AI.
New industries like XR are spheres where the rules of creation and participation are established in real time, and Malik recognized this early on in his careerproducing holographic work like a Harry Potter HoloLens experience and Holograms from Syria in 2017 from his dorm room at Bennington College in Vermont. Through these experiences, he also launched 1RIC, an AR studio dedicated to holographic narrative content.
In partnership with RYOT, 1RIC was the studio behind festival standouts Terminal 3 and A Jesters Tale, the latter of which featured Poppy and was named the Best Augmented Reality experience at Sundance by The Verge. Each deepened Maliks understanding ofand appreciation forholographic immersive narratives.
During that time, 1RIC was effectively a vehicle for Maliks directorial efforts, with the technical expertise of studio partner Jack Daniel Gerrard, a collaborator since early Bennington days.
Building on the successes of that work, Malik moved to Los Angeles post-graduation this spring and used the summer to establish a larger frameand visionfor the studio.
The first major announcement for 1RIC is a seven-figure investmentthe specifics of which wont be announced until later this year.
1RIC is hardly the first content studio to parlay creative accomplishments to scalability, but the vision and approach indicate possible success vectors for other startups in the industry. Unlike many content or visual effects studios, which seek to showcase a wide range of capability, 1RIC is specifically an AR studioand within that, focused on producing interactive volumetric narratives.
Poppy, Titanic Sinclair and Asad J. Malik on the set of A Jesters Tale at Metastage volumetric ... [+] studio.
In a phone interview with the author, Malik explained how 1RIC will continue to lean into the disruptive potential of AR as a storytelling medium able to match the appetite of its audience.
Our focus is not on commercializing as soon as possible, there are enough people focused on that; in this time of widespread cultural anxiety, we find value in initiating creative chaos, Malik said. Whenever new tech like this comes up, it presents the opportunity to instigate change. The world, especially younger generations, are craving experiential storytelling that moves them and presents ideas that deviate from pre-existing social structures.
For at least the next few projects, 1RICs scope is even narrower, focusing on interactive educational content.
XR content in general is in a proving phasecan any given piece rise up and capture enough of the existing audience to prove financial viability? So far, only a handful major titles have been successful enough to be called a hitor even merit continuing efforts.
Maliks approach began as an impulse to create high-quality narrativesbut as word spread about his projects, this approach also managed to prove financial viability on a small scale. Since Terminal 3 left the festival circuit in 2018, professors and researchers in higher education institutions have been reaching out to license it.
Theres no website or pitch deck or contact, but people somehow find [Terminal 3] and seek me out to license it for universities, Malik said. I was honestly surprised how many people have gone out of their way to show it to their students.
The experience, produced with volumetric capture solution Depthkit, puts participants in the position of an immigration officer screening six different people for entry into the United States. The range of people hoping to license Terminal 3 for practical purposes at universities led Malik to realize that 1RIC could fill a present need.
They show it in game design departments, in journalism classes, in literature... Malik said. These narratives apply to so many verticals in education; we realized we could have an impact by building even more experiences like that.
The disruptive component also means that an AR studio focused in storytelling (and largely documentary) content has the capability of busting social structures that have left out certain voices. And, as an interactive medium, this emphasis on democratizing access also stands to inspire creators among these same populations who traditionally have felt barred from participation.
These funds will allow us to build volumetrically captured interactive characters that take up space in a way that hasnt been possible in the past and bring them to underserved communities, Malik said. Our education projects will end up in schools where kids are on lunch programs, giving them access to these narratives before anyone else.
Volumetric refers to three-dimensional video, captured through stages (such as Intel Studios and Metastagethe latter of which is where 1RIC projects capture content) that have cameras mounted all around subjects.
Where content produced in a game engine is able to offer more by way of realtime interactivity, volumetric video reads to the eye as real rather than computer-generated. In working with holographic narrative over the past three years, Malik has realized that this aspect of reality is vital to his vision with 1RIC.
Our particular brand of storytelling is interactive volumetric narrativespeople who are actually captured in real life, Malik said. Its not generative, but that allows us to focus on narrative and the dramatic arc, which is what we do best.
Within this process of story creation, which Malik says will be largely documentary in approach for its coming projects, volumetrically captured holograms lend an intuitive grounding in reality that, in turn, gives him more flexibility as a director in how he presents stories.
In this time when people have so much anxiety around simulation and fakeness and what is true, we want to present immersive subjects that were capturedwhat they say and do happened in real life.
And new innovations to the form are allowing the ability to subtly edit volumetric output to deepen the presence participants feel in an immersive context.
Now we can do things like head-retargeting, so characters look at you with their eyes, Malik said.
By keeping 1RICs focus so narrow, Malik has become one of the worlds premier volumetric directors. As new technologies and updates roll out, 1RIC has a running start in using them not just as experiments, but as powerful narrative tools.
Ela Topcuoglu is joining 1RIC as its Executive Producer
Part of 1RICs scaling involved hiring a bigger team, which now numbers at five, notably including Executive Producer Ela Topcuoglu, who Malik first worked with during her tenure as Manager of Immersive Content Development at RYOT, when she helped produce A Jesters Tale.
Elas experience producing a wide variety of projects, both fiction and nonfiction, is a huge asset to us at 1RIC, Malik said. Shes also very seriously engaged with questions around what it means to live a good life and how immersive media fits into that equation. That is exactly the kind of thinking new mediums need to develop with the most consideration possible.
Topcuoglu cited alignment in mission as a deciding factor in joining 1RIC.
I make it my goal with each project I produce to challenge expectations of how technology can be used to tell an effective story, Topcuoglu said in a statement. That is exactly what 1RIC has done time and time again with their AR work. I look forward to working with Asad as we pave the path for a new generation of storytellers and represent what AR is capable of as a medium.
Jack Daniel Gerrard and Julia Greenburger working in the 1RIC offices.
In addition to increasing the number and scope of projects at 1RIC, Malik also hopes these new offices will serve as a new gathering space in the LA community.
Im excited to have a space like this in Mid-City where we can do events to have real conversations around this stuff, Malik said. Were not a corporation or typical startup eithertheres a lot of power to have important conversations, whether its around the future of volumetric or face filters.
Newly opened 1RIC offices on Venice Blvd in Los Angeles
Ultimately, the ability to spark conversation is the charge of any good artist. But being able to foster ongoing discourse around hard, often unanswerable questions is what colleagues cite as one of the Maliks important talents within the industry.
Having worked with countless XR creators, what makes Asads work so unique is his ability to explore polarizing topics such as AI and immigration with incredible nuance, said Jake Sally, head of immersive development at RYOT. He wraps these complex societal issues into a compelling narrative shell that empowers audiences to learn through interaction, ultimately forcing them to think critically about topics that rarely, if ever, have a simple answer.
More news, such as upcoming projects, investment figures, and event listings at 1RIC offices, is forthcoming later in the year. For more information, visit the studios official website.
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Posted: October 6, 2019 at 4:41 pm
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Winter Mraz says she loves having her keys in her hand but she does not mean holding them. She has actually had her door key implanted into her left hand in the form of a microchip.
In her right hand, she has had another microchip implant that acts as her business card but could also be used to store important medical information for use in the case of an emergency.
The 31-year-old engineer also has a magnet in one finger that allows her to sense electro-magnetic fields, which she says helps in her work.
But not all her body upgrades are practical. Her latest procedure is to have two LED implants, that turn on when a magnet is passed above them, illuminating her skin from inside.
Why? "Because they are sparkly and I'm a magpie," she says. "I like things that light up."
Winter is one of a growing number of people who call themselves "transhumanists".
It is the belief that the humans can improve beyond their physical and mental limitations and "upgrade" their bodies by incorporating technology.
For Winter, her first "cyber-enhancements" were not voluntary, they were through the hospital after a serious car crash in the United States that fractured her back, both her ankles and her knees.
Her back was bolted together by surgeons and one of her kneecaps was replaced with one that was 3D-printed, on the NHS.
"If it was not for my cybernetic kneecap I would not be able to walk," she told BBC Scotland's The Nine.
After her accident she moved on to voluntary personal modifications such as the microchips in her hands.
The RFID (radio-frequency-identification) chip in her left hand works on the lock in her house door in the same way as many workplace security cards operate. This means she does not have to carry keys and keeps her hand free for her walking cane.
The NFC (near-field communication) chip in her right hand has many potential uses. It is the same type of chip that allows phones and tablets to easily share data with each other.
Winter says: "I think saying that you should not alter your body and you should not change your body is a very ableist way to go about living. People who are disabled don't have that choice. It is made for us."
Steven Ryall, a 26-year-old technical operator from Manchester, says he wants to have chips implanted to make "smart hands".
"We have smart TVs, smart phones, everything is smart," he says. "Why can't I be smart?"
Steven believes that transhumanism is the logical next step in human development. He wants be able to programme the technology in his body to respond to his personal biology.
His "technological baptism" was at a private clinic in Leicester, where he had his first implant.
The microchips are usually delivered by a syringe into the back of the hand.
"I am slowly turning myself into part machine," he says. "I don't mind being biological but if I could be part mechanical that is so much more awesome than just my plain self."
Steven says the chip is "essentially" like those in a contactless bank card. "I can get an RFID or NFC reader and hook it up to a chip that I programme and then get that chip to recognise the chip in my hand and do whatever I want," he says.
Steven is an evangelist for humans "upgrading" themselves but he can understand why people might think it is an extreme thing to do. He says friends and family think it is "weird and kooky" but he believes that in the next five years they will start getting into it too.
Winter says wearable tech such as the Apple watch and Fitbit and other "doctor on your wrist" health monitors have taken off in the past few years and she believes that implants are the next logical step.
She says: "I don't think implants are inevitable but I think they are getting better, longer-lasting, cooler and have more functionality. It's going to be one more option people have."
Steven says he can easily see a time when companies are asking employees to have implants for security ID to access building or computer networks.
"I think that people would see it as an extreme thing because they are looking from a historical perspective, they are not looking forward," he says.
At the moment there are loose regulations on who can do it and most implants are done by tattoo artists and body piercers.
There are some people who are taking things into their own hands by buying the tools off websites to perform the procedure themselves.
Bio-hacker Jenova Rain, who implanted Steven's chip at her Leicester practice, said she was doing five implants a week and the numbers were rising as interest grows.
Although regulations on bio-hacking specifically are sparse, Jenova says she is covered to do implants as a tattoo artist and piercer.
Even though she promotes the idea of upgrading yourself through her YouTube channel and website she has no chips or "upgrades" herself. She says they would be "useless" for her.
Dr Mary Neal, professor of medicine and ethics at Strathclyde University, said she was "not surprised" more people were getting involved but there needed to be better regulation.
She said the procedure was similar to other body modification such as botox but there were many ethical discussions that needed to be had around bodily autonomy and regulation.
Dr Neal also said there were safety risks with people buying the equipment from online sites and doing the procedures from home.
The Scottish government told BBC Scotland's The Nine it intended to regulate procedures carried out by non-healthcare professionals and it was consulting on how this could be done.
A spokesman said it was looking at the "most proportionate and appropriate measures" and the government's priority was the safety of those involved.
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