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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Transhumanism
Posted: June 30, 2021 at 2:42 pm
He writes that great care must be taken when humans experiment with transhuman and posthuman techniques. Paul Budde..
For those involved in technology from a government and industry perspective, as well as from a user perspective, we all have a responsibility to monitor the development of this area and ensure that it is being used for the benefit of society.
If you bring people from Stone ageEarly peasants from MesopotamiaWhen the Greek philosopher, the Florentine Renaissance merchant and one of us blindfolded and started chatting around the campfire, we soon realized that we had a lot in common.
After a few pints, we sing together and soon end up in a cheerful hug. At this level, human evolution has changed little.
Benefits and risks of AI and posthuman life
Philosophers involved in the theory of posthumanism and transhumanism are fascinated by the possibilities or dangers that the future brings to the understanding of human life.
What has changed is the environment in which we live using the tools we have developed. If you dig a little deeper here, its amazing to see that with the help of technology, the quality of life for humans has improved significantly. Even more daunting is the fact that most of it has happened in the last 50 years.
Our consciousness is what makes us human. Ongoing unprecedented technological developments allow us to increasingly reduce our dependence on the body, transplant organs, and other tools enhance our biological and cognitive function. can.
If these developments continue, why do we need a body? Aristoteles I asked the same question about 2,500 years ago.
Returning to the meetings around the campfire, even with its various group chats, we still cant find the answer to the big questions in life.
We cannot discover the exact meaning of life, free will, what the truth is, and so on. Nowadays, you can add issues of democracy, fake news, conspiracy theory, social media echo chambers, populism, and totalitarianism to the list. The human mind does not seem ready to tackle them.
What do you need to improve the current situation?
If history is a good measure, it is doubtful that humans 10,000 years from now will be very different from us. But our cognitive limits are already a problem for the great crisis we are facing today, not to mention the future.
It is not technology that prevents us from tackling these major issues, but human cognitive limitations in dealing with these situations.
But we are clearly at the forefront of inflection points as new technologies are being developed that change the meaning of being human.
The increasing number of tools today seems to enhance our cognitive abilities. For centuries and thousands of years, we are certain that our tool manufacturing capabilities will be greater and create a better environment. It would be difficult to claim that humans remain the same.
The tools we are creating and other developments around the corner show a logical and rational direction. Transhumanism..
So far, we have been able to keep control of the technology we have developed. But machine learning, DNA engineering, biotechnology, neurotechnology, and self-learning algorithms and developments of quantum mechanisms related to our consciousness are all opening Pandoras box.
Can we still maintain control? As a global society, there seems to be a lack of cognitive quality needed to manage these processes in the long run.
If we work to improve our cognitive qualities, we need to do this jointly. Alternatives can be catastrophic.
Do you need a crisis first to build a global consensus? Is it too late? Does our innate fighting instinct lead to selected groups of transhumanism?
As both Stephen hawking And Ray Kurzweil As we insist, we need to face these challenges. Otherwise, you will be defeated by transhumans and posthumans arriving at the scene.
Professor Stuart Russell Lists three principles that guide the development of profitable machines. He emphasizes that these principles are not intended to be explicitly coded on the machine. Rather, they are aimed at human developers.
Artificial intelligence is increasing
Paul Budde states that new developments and opportunities are being opened up in artificial intelligence.
The principles are as follows:
Instead of using artificial intelligence or other technologies to solve complex problems, we need to focus on developing better-equipped technologies to solve these problems faster and more effectively. ..
Last week the Australian Government Announcement We want to be a global leader in the development and adoption of responsible artificial intelligence (AI). This has secured $ 124.1 million. For this National Artificial Intelligence Center Within CSIRO, there are four AI and Digital Function Centers and a Next Generation AI Alumni Program.
Expect to adhere to the above principles to further develop unstoppable transhuman and potentially posthuman technologies while humans are still responsible.
Paul Budde Independent Australian columnist and Paul Budde Consulting, An independent telecommunications research and consulting organization. Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde..
Read the original post:
Posted: at 2:42 pm
Extreme caution must be taken when humans experiment with transhuman and posthuman technology, writes Paul Budde.
FOR THOSE INVOLVEDin technology from a government and industry perspective,as well asfrom a users point of view, we all have a responsibility to monitor developments in this space to ensure they're utilised for the benefit of society.
If we brought a person from the Stone Age, an early farmer from Mesopotamia, a Greek philosopher, a Renaissance merchant from Florence and one of us together, blindfolded, and we started chatting around a campfire, we would very quickly find out we have a lot in common.
After a few pints, we will sing together and rapidly end up in some jovial embracing. At this level, very little has changed in the evolution of humans.
What has changed is the environment we live in using the toolswe've developed. To dig a bit deeper here, it is amazing to see that with the assistance of technology, the quality of human life has enormously improved. Even more mindboggling is the fact that most of that happened in the last 50 years.
Our consciousness is what makes us human. With the ongoing and ever faster technologicaldevelopments, we are less and less dependent on our body, organs can be transplanted, and other tools can enhance our biological and cognitive functions.
If these developments continue, why would we need a body? Aristotle asked that same question about 2,500 years ago.
Coming back to the meeting around the campfire, evenwith that varied group chatting, we still would not be able to find answers to the big questions of life.
We wouldn't discover the exact meaning of life, free will, what is truth and so on. In contemporary times, we can add issues of democracy, fake news, conspiracy theories, social media echo chambers, populismand totalitarianism to the list. It looks like the human mind isill-prepared to tackle them.
What is needed for us to improve on our current situation?
If history is a good measure, then it is doubtful that humans in another 10,000 yearstime would be much different from us. Though, our cognitive limitations are already a problem for the big crises facing us today, let alone in the future.
It is not the technology that stops us from addressing these major issues, but the cognitive limitations of humans to deal with these situations.
But we clearly are at the doorstep of an inflection point, as new technology develops to change what it means to be human.
The tools on the rise today would seem to enhance our cognitive capacities. Over centuries and millennia, it is certain that our tool-making capacity will create bigger and better environments. It'll be harder to argue that humans will remain the same.
The tools we are creating and other developments that are around the corner indicate a logical and rational direction towards transhumanism.
So far, we have been able to stay in control of the technology we have developed. However, self-learning algorithms and developments in machine learning, DNA engineering, biotechnics, neuro-technologies and quantum mechanisms relatingto our consciousness are all opening Pandora's box.
Can we still stay in control? It looks like that, as a global society, we seem to lack the cognitive quality needed to manage these processes in the long term.
If we work on lifting our cognitivequalities, we need to do this together, in a collaborative way.The alternative could be catastrophic.
Do we first need a crisis to build global consensus? Will that be too late? Will our innate warring instincts lead to selected groups of transhumans?
As both Stephen Hawkingand Ray Kurzweil have argued, we need to face these challenges, otherwise we will be outcompeted by whatever transhumansor posthumans that'll arrive on the scene.
Professor Stuart Russelllists three principles to guide the development of beneficial machines. He emphasises that these principles are not meant to be explicitly coded into the machines; rather, they are intended for the human developers.
The principles are as follows:
We should not use artificial intelligenceand other technologies to solve our complex problems, instead, we should concentrate on developing technologies that equip us better to solve these problems faster and more effectively.
Last week, the Australian Government announced that it wants to become a global leader in developing and adopting responsible artificial intelligence (AI). For this, $124.1 million has been set aside which includes the establishment of a National Artificial Intelligence Centre within the CSIRO, four AI and digitalcapability centres, and a next generation AI graduates program.
Let us hope that humans, while still in charge, will adhere to thoseprinciples set out above, to further developalready unstoppable transhumanand potentially posthuman technologies.
Paul Buddeis an Independent Australia columnist and managing director ofPaul Budde Consulting, an independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation. You can follow Paul on Twitter@PaulBudde.
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Microdosing, And The Gentrification Of Psychedelic Culture. A Conversation With Sociologist Dimitrios Liokaftos – Forbes
Posted: at 2:42 pm
Fresh and dried psilocybin mushroom, gelcaps and digital pocket scale on black background, top view. ... [+]
Psychedelic use is no longer a relatively small, counterculture phenomenon. Indeed, by microdosing, tech workers and many career strivers seem to be infusing psychedelics into the brave, new, somewhat middle class and much larger world of social and professional ladder climbing.
Microdosing is defined as the regular use of a psychedelic drug (a/k/a hallucinogen) at amounts so tiny as to be impossible to consciously perceive. This generally translates into 1/10 1/20 of a recreational dose. Many enthusiasts swear by microdosings positive effect on mood, insight, and creativity. Studies that rely on self-reporting have tended to bolster such anecdotal claims, but other evidence suggests that the effects of microdosing are illusory. For example, in one double-blind study, microdosing improved users mood, energy, and creativity but so did the placebo.
A 2019 article published in the peer-reviewed journal Pharmacology described the type of person who microdoses. As spelled out in Microdosing Psychedelics: Personality, Mental Health and Creativity Differences in Microdosers, researchers from several Toronto institutions gave psychological questionnaires and a task of creativity to roughly 900 adults. Of these participants 29% were microdosing, 37% had microdosed in the past but had since stopped (former microdosers), 30% were interested in microdosing but had no prior experience, and a shockingly tiny 4% had no prior experience and reported not being interested in microdosing. From the questionnaires and the performance on the creativity task, the researchers concluded that, on average, microdosers had lower negative emotionality, higher wisdom and open-mindedness, higher creativity, and more positively charged emotions.
If the sheer volume of press is any measure, interest in microdosing is surging, and getting a leg up in ones career seems to be a major motivator.
Popular psychedelics being microdosed include LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), magic mushrooms (containing the active ingredient psilocybin), and DMT, also known asDimitri (which is found in ayahuasca tea). The amphetamine known as ecstasy (MDMA,molly, and E), which also has psychedelic effects, can be microdosed.
Dimitrios Liokaftos, Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the Public Health Institute, Liverpool John ... [+] Moores University
Dimitrios Liokaftos is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. In a recentcommentary published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, he placed microdosing in context as an emerging and controversial facet of human enhancement through drugs.
For Forbes.com, Rebecca Coffey met on Zoom with Liokaftos to discuss the culture and sociological implications of microdosing. The interview has been edited for length and clarity, and Liokaftos has suggested links as appropriate.
Rebecca Coffey: In yourInternational Journal of Drug Policyarticle, you mentioned that research shows microdosing tends to be aligned with middle-class or neoliberal values. Can you tell me more about what you mean by that?
Dimitrios Liokaftos: Back in the 1960s and 70s, the typical recreational psychedelics user used full doses and might have been trying for a loss of control and a melting away of the self. Today, people who microdose do so as a means of heightening their control of themselves. Contrary to recreational use in the 60s and 70s that was perceived by many as chaotic, ecstatic and risky, microdosing appears subtle, measured and rational. People seem to be seeking an elusive, very fine experience. Theres nothing tumultuous about it.
RC: When you say that microdosing is elusive, do you mean that this way of using psychedelic drugs has no real effect?
DL: Thats still a subject of investigation. Even though recent research suggests the entire effect may be placebo-generated, microdosers usually attest to a subtle effect that helps them achieve their work, emotional and creative goals. I see many parallels between bodybuilding and microdosing here. Bodybuilders, like microdosers, set very clear goals for themselves. In terms of their recent cultural past, both bodybuilding and psychedelics seem to share a relatively common root. The crazes started in the 60s and 70s. Especially in the United States, they intersected with the human potential movement [in which people sought to unleash their untapped creativity and capabilities and then altruistically help others to do the same]. In a way, they were both an exploration of what it means to be human. The people within those cultures were testing the boundaries of human possibility.
RC: Nicely said.
DL: Of course, from another perspective, bodybuilding culture and psychedelic culture back in the 60s and 70s were almost the exact opposite of each other. Bodybuilding was very much about creating a very strong, solid, visible reflection of ego. Psychedelics users, on the other hand, were often trying to dissolve their egos and break down their defenses.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 10: Dexter Jackson of the USA strikes a pose during the 2007 IFBB ... [+] Australian Bodybuilding Grand Prix VII in, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
RC: In the 60s and 70s, the recreational doses of common psychedelics were much stronger than what a microdoser uses today. Can you talk about the implications of that?
DL: Like bodybuilding, microdosing seems to be about expanding and perfecting ones capabilities. Both groups are sophisticated about how they go about doing that. Bodybuilders will tell you that theyre not just indiscriminately using drugs. They're very precise about what steroids or other image- and performance-enhancing drugs they use for what purposes, about how they time and fine-tune their drug use, and about how they combat side effects. Microdosers will tell you that they dont use very much drug. They often seem proud of how educated and particular they are about their use of psychedelics. Both groups of people would argue they know what they want to achieve and then they very instrumentally go about minimizing potential harms.
RC: And what about these groups in relation to people outside their cultures?
DL: In many ways, people inside these cultures share a view of the outside world as discriminating against them or relying on stereotypes. From their perspective, the lay public has a limited understanding and an abundance of disapproval about what theyre up to. Bodybuilders may assume people will generally look down on them or look with disdain on their freaky bodies. They may assume that people will consider what has been painstakingly built with a fine attention to detail and a doggedness about self-discipline to be the product of drugs and nothing more. So many bodybuilders who are using drugs keep their use secret.
RC: And are microdosers shy about revealing the source of what they believe is their heightened creativity or cognitive flexibility?
DL: Many are, depending on who it is they are talking to. However, norms here may be changing as psychedelics increasingly become more mainstream.
RC: As you said, with microdosing we still don't know exactly how it works or even if it works, so it might be easy for stereotypes about drug users to cloud our view.
DL: As we all learn about microdosing, we may find that psychedelics in general can be approached as a tool for understanding the human brain and the concept of self. Studies with full-dosed psychedelics show that they can have lasting positive effects on mood and some people report life-transformative mystical experiences. This suggests that in some measure these substances can create a fundamental change in the perception of self. Investigating that will have implications not only for brain and neuroscience but also for psychology, philosophy, and sociology.
RC: Do you anticipate any dangerous political or sociological ramifications of microdosing? For example, considering that its reportedly often used in Silicon Valley and throughout the tech world, do you wonder about the creation of a neoliberal, ruling superclass?
DL: Thats a very interesting question. For the sake of argument, let's say that the effect of microdosing turns out to be not all imagined or placebo-generated. Lets say that more people want to use it to increase their performance at work and maybe their social standing. Immediately, I see questions similar to those I see associated with other kinds of human enhancement drugs. For example, will common use lead to an indirect pressure for people to use psychedelics just in order to keep up with colleagues at work and remain competitive in their professional fields? And then theres the potential debate about who gets access to what kinds of drugs. Psychedelics are internationally still highly controlled substances. Who will be able to find them and take them? Who will be able to afford to risk the legal penalties or social ramifications? We could expect people with better connections, more money and better education to have an advantage. This means that, in a sense, by using tiny doses of psychedelics in hopes of improving themselves, todays microdosers may be shaping a new playing field for tomorrow. And right now there is also the question of safety. Because aside from enrolling in a few very tightly controlled studies, most microdosers will be sourcing their psychedelics on the black market. These arent necessarily good-quality drugs. No one can be 100% sure with black market drugs what it is that theyre consuming. In this sense people are taking on real health risks.
A humanoid robot on display at the 2018 Humain Demain (Human Tomorrow) exhibition about technology, ... [+] connected body, ethics, and DNA at the 'Quai des Savoirs' museum in Toulouse, France.
RC: What you're describing here is a new rat race, not an enhancement of the human experience. Is anybody using the word transhumanism by which I mean the development of science fiction-like technologies that could improve health, extend life spans, smooth out emotions, and perfect artistic abilities and cognitive capacity?
D: Transhumanism seems to be mostly about technological enhancements, while most psychedelics are naturally occurring substances. For example, you can just go out in a forest where psychedelic mushrooms grow and pick up some yourself. You dont need to wait for technologies of the future to arrive. But the underlying logic is not dissimilar. Both transhumanism and the use of existing human enhancement drugs are about pushing the boundaries of what it means to be human. Microdosing has a bit of anavant-gardemystique around it, as though it is leading the way towards a new era for humanity. In the 60s, some psychedelics users hoped to change an unjust world in a radical way. Today, people microdose to perfect themselves and meet the demands of what is still an unjust world. Thats an enormous shift in perspective and intention.
RC: I want to thank you for your insight. It's been invaluable to learn about the inroads that psychedelics are making into our society and the ways in psychedelic use today is vastly different from the psychedelic use of yesterday. I, for one, will be fascinated to watch the degree to which microdosing creates a gentrification of psychedelics, with the influx of affluent and ambitious people into a neighborhood of drug use that was once defined by its inhabitants rejection of affluence and ambition.
Liokaftos' current research looks at microdosing psychedelics as a new facet of human enhancement drugs. The Twitter account for the project is @microdresearch.
Posted: at 2:42 pm
Premiering their latest futuristic audiovisual project, JG and the Robots have unveiled the official music video for "Im Thomas Dolby (feat. Deepfake Thomas Dolby)."
Exploring themes of transhumanism and sentience, JG and the Robots is a conceptual EDM multimedia experience that blends AI technologies with dance music performance and film. Its leader performs as a RoboSapien cyborg, accompanied by various other robots. The minds behind the ambitious project have now dropped their newest video, which utilizes "deepfake" artificial intelligence and computer-generated vocals to reconstruct the prominent 80s musician Thomas Dolby.
Dolby, who cooperated with the innovative project, is credited as the vocalist for the track, which is the second in an ongoing series from JG and the Robots to flesh out the project. Check out the official"Im Thomas Dolby" video below, featuring a disco-inspired house beat and vocoded vox from a digitized version of the famed singer.
JG and the Robots'Jay Gillian first achieved recognition as the mind behind synthpop duo T-4-2, a major electronic act out of Texas. Combining synthesizers, drum machines, and computerized production, T-4-2 released their debut album Shockra in 1984.
After the tandem's vocalist Jimron Goff departed in 1988 and was replaced by Will Loconto, they dropped their Hot on Top record to local acclaim in 1989. Oak Lawn Records eventually picked up T-4-2 for the 12 single "Dont Let My Love (Push You Away)" the following year, leading to the duo's signing to Columbia Records and eventually their 1992 Intruder album.
Ultimately Gillian decided to conceptualize and launch JG and the Robots, perhaps his most ambitious project yet. JG and the Robots connected with record label and arts collective eMERGENCY heARTS in 2019, producing a 30th anniversary remix for Lesson Seven before joining the Austin, Texas co-op the following year. Spearheaded by critically acclaimed musician, author, and public speakerscott crow, the eMERGENCY heARTS catalogue spotlights a wide range of both new and vintage electronica.
JG and the Robots are set to make their first live appearance of 2021 at Numbers Nightclub in Houston, Texas, on July 3rd. T-4-2 will also perform at the venue on the 24th and will open for Gary Numan there in September.
Website: jgandtherobots.comFacebook: facebook.com/JgAndTheRobotsSpotify: spoti.fi/2UdRcMY
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Neil Mackay’s Big Read: The dawn of transhumanism – conversations with Dr David Eagleman, the scientist creating a world of real superhumans in his…
Posted: June 28, 2021 at 10:48 pm
Dr David Eagleman is the worlds leading neuroscientist. Hes unlocked how to create new senses for humans from bat-like echolocation and seeing heat to electromagnetism. As his new book shakes up the world of science, he talks to Neil Mackay about how the coming biological revolution will change the nature of humanity forever
DR David Eagleman has just finished his morning dad chores, getting his kids ready for their day. He sits down over a coffee and starts to explain how hes developed superpowers.
Eagleman can walk into a library, run his hand along a shelf and tell you which books were most recently touched just from their heat signature alone.
He can walk through a parking lot and work out the order in which the cars arrived from the level of warmth pulsing off their engines.Eagleman can see heat. Its pretty cool, he says, with a knowing smile. Hes not the monster from the Predator films, though he wasnt bitten by a radioactive spider, nor did he drop to Earth from the planet Krypton.
Eagleman is a witty and very youthful 50-year-old neuroscientist probably the greatest scientist in his field today who just happens to be the father of the coming Biological Revolution.
He has a genius for the workings of the brain and how we can harness the power of the mind in previously unimaginable ways just as Einstein had a genius for physics or Shakespeare the sonnet.
Eagleman is able to create new senses for humans. His investigations into the plasticity of the brain his discoveries that the lump of jelly in our heads can be trained to do just about anything have led him to create, among many science fiction-style inventions, the Neosensory Wristband.
The size of a large FitBit, the wristband allows the wearer to feel senses humans dont have ultrasonic, infrared, electromagnetic.
The wristband is simply a first step into the foothills of a scientific Everest. Eagleman is taking the world on the path towards transhumanity where the melding of biology, robotics and computers redefines what it means to be Homo Sapiens.
He has just written Livewired. It is already being hailed as a book which will change the planet.
It is not hyperbole to imagine it one day taking its place beside Darwins On The Origin Of Species and Stephen Hawkings A Brief History Of Time, as one of the most important popular scientific books ever written. It has already been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Eagleman, who lives in the heart of Californias Silicon Valley, is a professor at Stanford University where he teaches neuroscience. He also directs the Centre for Science and Law. Talking to Eagleman is a dizzying experience in an instant, he can move from discussing the coming science of mind control, to how we could soon be reading the mummified brains of the long dead.
When The Herald on Sunday sat down with Eagleman the conversation was often interrupted with the question are you serious? to which Eagelman always replied with a deadpan: Yes, absolutely serious.
Superpowered brainAT the heart of Eaglemans work lies the plasticity of the brain. Our brains unlike the brains of all other animals are endlessly malleable. Human brains are livewired not hardwired. The human brain isnt static, it constantly adapts.
A chick can walk almost as soon as its hatched, and itll basically remain the same kind of chicken, with the same kind of brain, until it dies. Humans are born relatively useless, but our brains are blank slates and are continually altering and learning new skills until the moment we die.
As far as being human, one of the illusions that we live with is that were the same person through time. In fact, were changing every moment of our lives, Eagleman says.
This constant learning and adaption is what makes humans human. Its why a 90-year-old who was born before the TV age can use a mobile phone. This plasticity is what makes us clever; its what makes us the planets apex predator; its what gives us consciousness and art and science. Thats why as a species were capable of producing both Mozart and Hitler.
Potato Head theoryKEY to understanding where Eagleman is taking us are experiments which show how the human brain can be completely rewired. If the visual cortex is damaged the part of the brain which lets us see the eye can be rewired to the auditory cortex, used for hearing.
The hearing part of the brain will quickly learn to see. This can return sight and points to a cure for all sorts of sensory problems, from blindness to deafness.
It is what Eagleman calls the Mr Potato Head Theory. The brain is so multi-purpose that like the Potato Head toy you can jack just about anything in anywhere and get it to function. We previously thought that the sight parts, sound parts, taste, touch and smell parts of the brain could do only one thing: see, hear, taste, touch, smell. Not true. The brain can be rewired to do just about anything.
Experiments with a device called a Brain Port rigged a camera to the forehead of a blind person which was linked to a sensory receptor on the tongue. The images coming into the camera were converted into vibrations on the sensor so the subject saw with their tongue. It wasnt sight as we conventionally know it but an approximation where bright light created more vibrations and darkness no vibrations. But it gave awareness of direction, movement, distance, size and shape.
Homing pigeon humanWITH this knowledge of how the brain can be rewired, and hacked, to do just about anything, Eagleman realised it was possible to create new senses for humans. That set him on the path to the Neosensory wristband. Eagleman isnt alone in this field other scientists are working on similar projects.
German inventors created the feelSpace Belt, which allows the wearer to experience the magnetic field, just as birds like homing pigeons do, meaning theyre constantly aware of magnetic north and so can navigate with far more precision than ordinary humans.
Now lets add in the developing concept of neural dust or smart dust which involves the ingestion of microscopic sensors that interface with the brain. Again, this is science in development, not science fiction.
With simple everyday Bluetooth, which creates wireless connections, a device like the Neosensory Wristband or the feelSpace Belt wouldnt have to vibrate or pulse on your wrist or round your belly to give you the sensation of a new sense that new sense could be received directly into those microscopic receptors in the brain, and experienced just like sight or sound. In the future, people could see ultraviolet light and have insect-like vision.
This ability to remotely relay senses was proved in one experiment where a brain-interface was set up which allowed a monkey to make a robot walk on the other side of the world simply by thinking about moving its own body. Imagine the applications in war, space travel, or underwater exploration.
Feel the planetEAGLEMAN, though, isnt content with just harnessing existing senses that humans dont have like infrared, electromagnetism, or the echolocation of a bat. He wants to create brand new senses senses which exist nowhere in nature. Hes looking at technology which will allow humans to feel data streams, like the movement of the stock market.
He says a CEO could feel the output of their factory or office. All of us could feel Twitter tapping into the consciousness of the planet.Its one of those moments when the only response is: Are you serious, Dr Eagleman?
He replies: God, yes, I mean this is going to happen in the next five years. Oh yeah, I mean, were already doing it now were doing a number of experiments right now.
The skin, Eagleman says, is the largest organ of the body its a really good way to push information into the brain, but it doesnt do much more than keep our insides inside and allow us to experience touch.
Harness this great floppy covering of ours with sensors, hooked up to data streams and the brain and bingo, the human mind can feel information we otherwise take in through reading or listening.Trying to imagine what these new sense would be like feeling Twitter is impossible, just like trying to imagine a new colour. Well only have words for these senses once we experience them.
Real Dr OctopusBUT transhumanism is coming rest assured of that. As we get a better understanding of whats happening inside this inner sanctum of the skull, it allows us to build new senses, new bodies, says Eagleman.
One way to think about this coming sensory leap is how humans use current physical technology that already gives us powers beyond our capabilities. Humans werent built to fly, but a pilot, encased in a plane, moves their body and the machine as one rolling, pitching, altering altitude.
The brain and the body didnt rebel against this unnatural state of affairs when flight was invented, we just adapted.
Eagleman isnt kidding when he suggests that we could, if we wanted, one day soon to develop a Dr Octopus style human. We could jack extra arms and legs into the human body, Bluetooth them to the cerebral cortex, and the brain is so cunningly adaptable that it would work out how to operate new limbs relatively quickly. The brain can, he says, learn skills it didnt evolve for.
Robot avatarsWE will even be able to have functioning avatars of ourselves online and in the physical world. It will change forever what it means to live inside this meat robot, as Eagleman describes the human body.
By the end of our lifetime I think itll be quite trivial to run an external body for all of us to have a robot helper, maid or cook, and youre just running it on the side.
Does he mean its being run by our minds? Yes, exactly, he says. The plasticity of the brain means wed find it relatively easy to go about our daily lives while we also think orders to robotic and digital helpers. Its a form of mind control? Yes, is Eaglemans answer.
It would be trivial, he explains. It would be just as difficult as controlling my arm or leg. Its exactly the same thing just now youd be using Bluetooth instead of muscle fibres.
No free will?THE brain, Eagleman says, is an imprinting machine. The mind is like a clay tablet if you push an experience into it an indelible impression is left. It raises big questions around free will and responsibility. If someone suffers appalling abuse in childhood and goes on to commit some dreadful act as an adult, are they really to blame? Or is it down to whats imprinted in their mind?
You dont chose the genes you are born with and you dont chose your experiences as a child, Eagleman says. These are the things that shape you and make you what you are. We like to think about everyone making their own choices. When we think of criminals we think of a guy who walks into a room and choses to do this terrible thing so lets make him suffer, punish him. But the fact is, we dont chose the features that make us who we are certainly not as children. So the issue of freewill is hotly debated in neuroscience.
Probably most neuroscientists feel that we dont have free will because its not clear where that comes from.
Hearing the dead?THE way the brain livewires itself the way it constantly adapts by imprinting our ever-changing experiences literally onto our grey matter means that memories are laid down like pathways. The more you do a certain act say, driving your car then the deeper and more defined the physical neural pathway becomes.
In another of those are you serious moments, Eagleman explains how one day well be able to read the brains of the dead. I totally think well get there as every single thing you experienced and learned is all reflected in the structure of your brain, he says. Metaphorically, the brain is a book. Right now, we dont know how to read that book.
Its a totally foreign language. Pick up the book of your brain, and its just a forest of neurons, and who the heck knows what that says.He adds: But once we find the Rosetta Stone, well be able to look at a brain and say okay, this is who this person was. I think the technology required is so enormous and detailed that its probably not going to happenin our lifetimes but its going to happen.
How long? A hundred years, maybe, he says. Then we could open the skull of someone like Otzi the Iceman preserved frozen in the Alps around 3000BC and read his experiences from the whorls and curls of his brain.
Man to SupermanEAGLEMANS work is setting humanity off on a new industrial revolution weve had fire, agriculture, steel, gunpowder, medicine, steam, electricity, nuclear power, and now were in the digital age. But this coming biological revolution will completely redefine the nature of humankind in a way that no previous technology has done.
Theres a clear risk of speciation where the rich develop into something bigger, better, stronger, faster, smarter than current humans, and the rest of us get left behind.
Eagleman puts his hopes of equality in the mobile phone revolution. Were all walking around with these rectangles in our pockets with the entirety of humankinds knowledge on them, he says. If such an incredible technology is now cheaply available to most of the world and so ubiquitous its no longer remarkable then livewiring brain-tech can also be taken up by the majority. If the technology is inexpensive, it goes everywhere, he says. Im jazzed by that.
End of evolutionTHERES a big and mind-boggling question hanging over all of this: are we on the verge then of eliminating evolution? Weve already done that, Eagleman says.
Weve completely bypassed evolution by natural selection [what] applies to other species doesnt apply to us clearly anymore. We dont need to wait for Eagleman to perfect the science of giving us all new senses, the simple act of saving the life of a sick baby in hospital already sidesteps Mother Nature. Theres no going back either.
This stuff is now inevitable, says Eagleman. Theres no more chance of arresting this biological revolution than there was stopping the digital revolution as it happened in the late 1990s.
Living machinesTHERE is an astonishing coda to Eaglemans work. Its not just that we can teach the brain to experience new senses and interface with machines we can also teach machines to be brainlike too.
He envisions machines which are plastic like brains adaptable and livewired like our minds that know how to change. Imagine a livewired house that realises there are more people than usual inside and so grows extra bathrooms and taps to accommodate the additional guests. Or a Martian rover that loses a wheel and simply reconfigures its body to fix the problem.
This is his next project. Nobody has ever built a livewired machine, he says. Weve existence of proof which is our own brains but we dont have a single example of that in the technology weve built because weve gone down the particular road of building out of metals, plastics and wires.
We arent just on the cusp of transhumanity, then, of humans melding with machines, were also on the cusp of the living machine. Now imagine that concept taken onto a global scale with the internet of things all those digitally-linked smart devices in homes, factories, offices and hospitals.
Is Eagleman fearful of whats brewing in his laboratory? Not at all, hes optimistic.
He sees the future for his two children aged just nine and five as one with so many more opportunities than he, or any of the rest of us, had. A world of limitless horizons and endless access to knowledge and experience through the mastery of technology and the unravelling of the secrets of the brain.
My father was a psychiatrist, he says a fact that makes sense of his passions. He said the job of a parent is to open doors for a child. Thats it thats the job: to make sure a child gets exposed to everything and finds what resonates with them.
As the father of the coming biological revolution, Eagleman is opening doors for all of us to step through. Crossing the threshold may well represent the moment humanity moves from childhood to adulthood.
Once we take that step, though, well have to make some very grown-up decisions about what we do next.
Posted: May 20, 2021 at 4:45 am
The desire to transcend our nature is a continuation of the Enlightenment ideal of human perfectibility: todays ideas of transhumanism can be directly traced back to two 18th century thinkers.
By Henry-James Meiring
Modern transhumanism is the belief that, in the future, science and technology will enable us to transcend our bodily confines. Scientific advances will transform humans and, in the process, eliminate ageing, disease, unnecessary suffering, and our earthbound status.
Artistic representations of humans uploading their minds to cybernetic devices or existing independently of their bodies abound.
In Altered Carbon (2018-2020) we are introduced to a future where human consciousness can be downloaded onto devices called cortical stacks. This technology reduces physical bodies to temporary vehicles or sleeves for these storage devices which are implanted and swapped between various bodies.
The Matrix (1999, 2003) depicts humans living in a digital simulation while their bodies remain inactive in liquid-filled pods. The artist Stelarc explores our transhuman future in monstrous creations examining the boundaries between human and machine.
But these speculations are not limited to art and science fiction.
The public intellectual Sam Harris and world-renowned physicist David Deutsch imagine a future where we are able to download conscious states and live in matrix-like virtual simulations. The historian Yuval Noah Harari suggests, in the not too distant future, these technological advancements will transform us into new godlike immortal species.
Some thinkers, like the philosopher Nick Bostrom, believe we might already be living in a computer simulation. Elon Musk is developing brain-machine interfaces to connect humans to computers.
These imaginings of our transhumanist future take many divergent forms, but they share the idea science will enable us to free our minds from bodily constraints.
But these ideas arent modern. In fact, the desire to transcend our nature is a continuation of the Enlightenment ideal of human perfectibility: todays ideas of transhumanism can be directly traced back to two 18th century thinkers.
Marquis de Condorcet: life will have no assignable limit
Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794) was a French revolutionary who believed science would bring about unprecedented progress.
Condorcet was a mathematician who aimed to apply a scientific model to the social and political dimensions of society. He thought improvement in education would produce more knowledge, which in turn would further improve education creating an ever upward spiral of progress.
His reception speech to the French Academy in 1782 captured the optimistic spirit of the age. He declared: the human mind will seem to grow and its limits to recede with the advancement of science.
In Outlines of an Historical View (1795) he wrote:
Would it even be absurd to suppose  a period must one day arrive when death will be nothing more than the effect either of extraordinary accidents, or of the flow and gradual decay of the vital powers; and that the duration of the middle space, of the interval between the birth of man and this decay, will itself have no assignable limit?
Condorcet imagined science would lead to humans transcending their bodies and, in the process, attaining immortality.
William Godwin: the extinction of anguish, and passion
Enlightenment thinker William Godwin (1756-1836) was convinced science would lead to human perfectibility.
Godwin was a political radical whose sympathies lay with contemporary French revolutionaries like Condorcet. He believed an expansion in knowledge would lead to improvements in our understanding, and thereby increase our control over matter.
Godwin outlined this vision in his book Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Morals and Happiness (1793).
He wrote that human passions and desires would become extinct along with disease, anguish, melancholy and resentment. This was a future in which people no longer had sex nor reproduced. The Earth instead would be populated by disembodied humans who have achieved immortality.
There will be no war, wrote Godwin, no crimes, no administration of justice as it is called, and no government. Scientific progress for Godwin not only meant we would be rid of ailments plaguing the physical body, but also those affecting society.
For Godwin, like Condorcet, human perfectibility was unlimited and, more importantly, achievable.
Godwins daughter, Mary Shelley, went on to write one of the earliest literary works to depict transhumanism, Frankenstein (1818). Her vision of a scientific future was much less rosy.
Science fact or science fiction?
Godwin and Condorcet imagined humans progressing towards perfect harmony, transcending bodily existence and achieving immortality without desires nor suffering.
Like their modern transhumanist descendants, they believed these radical transitions would occur in their own lifetime. Critics thought their work to be fantastical; more fiction than fact.
As we now know, the critics were right: neither Godwins nor Condorcets extraordinary visions came to fruition. It has been more than 200 years, and we are still waiting for science to deliver us from our bodies.
This does not seem to deter transhumanist punters. Will we become the immortal human-machine gods, as Yuval Noah Harari predicts? Or will we still be waiting to transcend our fleshy bodies in the 23rd century?
Only time will tell. But, for those of us who prefer to hold on to our bodies for a little while longer, the fate of Godwin and Condorcets visions should be good news.
Henry-James Meiring, PhD Candidate, The University of Queensland
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Feature image: Wikimedia Commons/Geralt
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Posted: at 4:45 am
At the beginning of the year, Cosmos Games and GameBoom VR announced Into the Darkness, a virtual reality (VR) shooter which is focused on portraying accurate physics within its mechanics. With a PC VR launch currently stencilled in for 2021, the teams have released a new trailer showcasing everyones favourite weapon, the shotgun.
Ever since the original Doom era, the shotgun has held a special place in fans hearts, with it being almost unthinkable to have a first-person shooter (FPS) without some type of shotgun present. And then theres the double-barrel shotgun as present in Into the Darkness trailer. Like most videogames, youre presented with a short barrel version designed for maximum destruction at close range, get for enclosed environments where enemies can pop out suddenly.
Into the Darkness double-barrel certainly looks the part, highly details with plenty of intricate engraving giving it that old-school wild west look. As you can see from the footage the weapon makes short work of the videogames robotic enemies when they get in close. But like any gun of this ilk, you need to make sure youre on target, as with only two shots youre constantly having to reload.
A single-player action-adventure, Into the Darkness is set in a near-future where the human race is trying to attain immortality by transferring consciousness into machines. As a special agent, youre sent to a research facility experimenting with Transhumanism, one where contact has been lost and previous agents have not returned.
Gameplay is going to be physical and physics-based, so players can freely interact with the environment and the objects they find. The same goes for the combat and puzzles, with weapons ranging from guns to swords and knives. But those mechanics also allow you to get creative. Run out of ammo, well find something useful to smack over an opponents head.
The trailer is the first in a series Cosmos Games and GameBoom VR plan on releasing. Into the Darkness will get a Steam launch later this year supporting Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. As further details are released, VRFocus will keep you updated.
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Posted: at 4:45 am
(Photo: Unsplash / Amin Moshrefi)
William Bird is director of Media Monitoring Africa. Thandi Smith is head of programmes at Media Monitoring Africa.
Week 12: Weekly trends strange bedfellows: Covid fruit-cakery, and Politics
This past week we have had some disinformation reported that isnt just bonkers, its like the clown from Stephen Kings It took hallucinogens. This is one of them.
We noted in earlier pieces how one of the aspects about disinformation that makes it enticing is that it helps explain and reduce the complex into the simple, or into evil plans filled with conspiracies that we arent meant to understand. In other words, if we dont understand it is because we arent meant to. Lets look at a few lines from one of the complaints:
The end result of this is that your body is put into a chronic hyper-inflammatory state so that next time you are exposed to any garden variety coronavirus from the environment, it produces a deadly response in your body. If what I have just said sounds very complicated and has just gone over your head, dont worry I will do my best to explain the details of how this works, in as simple language as possible.
I want to emphasise that these Trojan horse Covid-19 vaccines ARE NOT VACCINES! It is a MEDICAL DEVICE that comes in the size of a molecular package, designed to stimulate the human cell into becoming a PATHOGEN CREATOR!
The deep nasal Covid test swabs are far more than a supposed test they are also a multi-purpose nano-bio- weapon and transhumanism technology. On the end of the nasal swab, various forms of nanotechnology, nano-particles and smart dust as well as the bioengineered weaponised virus itself can be introduced through the cribriform plate across the blood brain barrier into your brain and blood stream.
Yes, really. There is a coordinated global plan to control us, kill off a lot of people to control the rest, and of course fill our bodies with nanotechnology to track us all and make us ill. Much of the content is also dressed up in some perverse interpretation of doing the Lords work, seemingly to give it some form of moral legitimacy.
So, you may well ask, what is the link between this fruit cakery and our impending local government elections? A few things. First, the issue of denial of reality. With many of our politicians, you could literally catch them with their hand in the cookie jar with a note around their neck saying, I am stealing cookies, witnessed by a group of nuns, recorded on 12 cameras all with no editing, and they would still say it wasnt them stealing the cookies. They might then say it was a plot by nuns and the cookie jar instruction was unconstitutional and driven by Satan. It might sound far-fetched, but we hope beyond the obvious denial-of-reality nature of the response (and that around Covid) that it rings a few other bells.
The notion that just because it is utterly mad doesnt mean it will get dismissed out of hand. Often, such responses lend themselves to the idea that the truth possibly lies somewhere in between. This in turn can serve two purposes: First, it sets up a false dichotomy that says the reality that the Covid vaccine is not a means of killing people, but saving them, might not be true. It isnt. This isnt to suggest we dont question and interrogate, but the moment we allow a false alternative we give disinformation the chance to get its hooks into the issue. The second purpose of such content is that it helps legitimise the more reasonable sounding anti-vaccine information.
The problem with our politics is that it is very similar to the Covid fruit cakery just look at the events in our political parties over the past few weeks and the comments being made. Unlike Covid, for example, where there is science and evidence, believing one party over another often comes down to the credibility of the party and person involved, and those are both subject to manipulation. Not only does this mean it is harder to discern reality from fiction, and agenda, but it opens the opportunities for spreading mis- and disinformation.
We should be deeply concerned about disinformation and our coming elections. We have already witnessed the spreading of disinformation in the run-up to our 2019 national elections and this time we are dealing with a more complicated set of circumstances.
As a result of Covid restrictions on face-to-face campaigning, we are likely to see greater use of and reliance on digital media by political parties. The factions across, within and between parties mean we have a multitude of actors who will all be enticed to create and spread disinformation.
How will ordinary people know who and what to believe? Equally important, how do we ensure that those who already support a party or faction are able to discern reality from disinformation?
We know also that many factions within parties wont directly attack their own party, rather they will find another means of taking them on using disinformation like using xenophobia to suggest that those currently in power are doing a bad job. It can be seen as a critique of a faction of those currently governing.
All in all, while we have a few dominant parties, we have many factions and hundreds of reasons why they will try to push their interests, meaning the potential for disinformation is likely from multiple sources, without even considering possible interference from foreign powers.
You can also play your part. Remember, if you come across content on social media that could potentially be hate speech, incitement, harassment or disinformation, report it to Real411. To make it even more simple, download the Real411 mobile app.
Again we take this chance to also remind you: We are approaching that magical period where political parties need to show us that they care, so in addition to asking about what they will do in your area, ask them to issue one public statement a month in the lead-up to elections that highlights and condemns any attacks on our journalists and then to demonstrate what action they took to help combat that. If they are edgy or push some other agenda, dont vote for them because they dont believe in democracy. DM
Remember, if you come across content on social media that could potentially be disinformation, report it toReal411. To make it even more simple, download the Real411 mobile app on Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
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Posted: April 11, 2021 at 5:44 am
Elon Musk's Neuralinkfirm is a neurotechnology firm that develops implantable brain-machine interfaces. The company's short-term goal is to make devices that treat serious brain diseases and eventually focus on human enhancement or what is called transhumanism.
They have already demonstrated the use of Neuralink devices on various animals, like a rat, pig, and monkey to show the public how it works.
Although today its primary focus is on humans, Neuralink's co-founder Mark Hodak said that Elon Musk's firm has the technology to build a real-life version of Jurassic Park just like in movies. Could this really be possible?
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)Elon Musk in August 2020 during a demonstration of Neuralink device in a pig's brain.
The Sunreported that last Sunday, April 4, Mark Hodak posted on Twitteran outlandish claim that if they wanted to, Neuralink has the technology to make Jurassic Park a reality.
"We could probably build Jurassic Park if we wanted to. wouldn't be genetically authentic dinosaurs but ... maybe 15 years of breeding + engineering to get super exotic novel species," he wrote.
"Biodiversity (antifragility) is definitely valuable; conservation is important and makes sense," he added later in the day. "But why do we stop there? Why don't we more intentionally try to generate novel diversity?"
However, Hodak did not add any specific details about how Neuralink could be able to revive prehistoric creatures that went extinct over 65 million years ago.
Several commentators on his pointed out that there are already books and movies on why reviving extinct dinosaurs is not a good idea.
Similarly, conservationists have expressed concerns about de-extinction, the term for resurrecting extinct species, because the ecosystems that those species once lived in have moved on without them.
That means resurrecting species and creating a novel form of biodiversity would also mean introducing a new invasive species to an ecosystem that can no longer support them, Futurismreported.
So, it might be a cool idea but it could end up just like the movies wherein genetically resurrected species have lost control.
ALSO READ: Did Elon Musk Confirm that Neuralink Implanted a Brain Chip on a Monkey?
In 2020, Elon Musk demonstrated the technology by his Neuralink firm that builds a digital link between computers and brains. A surgically implanted Neuralink computing device showed a pig's brain activity as it snuffed the pen on stage.
According to CNet, the demonstration showed the improvements of Neuralink's technology and how far it had gone since its 2019 product debut that only showed photos of a rat with the Neuralink connected via a USB-C port.
Also, Science Times previously reportedthat Elon Musk has confirmed that Neuralink has wired up a monkey so that it could play computer games. Musk said that they are one step closer to developing wireless chips that would allow monkeys to manipulate a device using their technology.
Additionally, Musk has shown a second-generation implant that could fit into a small cavity of the skull wherein the tiny electrode threads could detect an electric impulse from the brain to show how it works. The electrode threads are designed to communicate back using a computer that generates signals of their own.
"It's like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires," Musk said of the device.
RELATED ARTICLE: Elon Musk's Neuralink - Can It Make Humans Compete with AI?
Check out more news and information on Neuralinkon Science Times.
Posted: March 20, 2021 at 3:10 am
Antivaccine conspiracy theorists blame vaccines for many things, such as autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, autoimmune diseases of all kinds including fake ones, childhood obesity, this generation of children supposedly being the sickest generation, infertility due to primary ovarian insufficiency, and even death, as in death by sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Basically, whatever the health issue, to antivaxxers, it is, first and foremost, always about the vaccines. Always. No mater how implausible and lacking in evidence the link between vaccines and a given disease or health condition is, antivaxxers will find a way to blame it on vaccines. Indeed, even now, in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, theyve found ways to blame the influenza vaccine for COVID-19, particularly now that flu season is here. However, one of the wildest claims Ive ever seen about vaccines is that they are transhumanism, a claim being made by ber-quack Dr. Joe Mercola in an article on The Vaccine Reaction, the house blog of Barbara Loe Fishers antivaccine group the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), entitled Will New COVID Vaccine Make You Transhuman?, an article based on a video by one Dr. Carrie Madej:
Two years ago, in October 2018, Forbes contributor Neil Sahota, a United Nations artificial intelligence adviser and UC Irvine professor, warned that transhumanism is fast approachinglikely faster than you think.1 In the past few years, there has been considerable discussion around the idea we are slowly merging with our technology, that we are becoming transhuman, with updated abilities, including enhanced intelligence, strength, and awareness, Sahota writes.
The goal of the transhumanist movement, or Human 2.0, is to transcend biology into technology. Or, as Dr. Carrie Madej explains in the video above, to meld human biology with technology and artificial intelligence.
Two visible proponents of transhumanism are Ray Kurzweil (director of engineering at Google since 2012) and Elon Musk (founder of SpaceX, Tesla and Neuralink).
Well get to the video in a minute, because it is truly beyond the pale. I had never heard of Carrie Madej, DO before (or, if I had, I didnt remember her). The website featuring her video, Stop World Control, describes her thusly:
Dr Carrie Madej directed two large medical clinics in the state of Georgia, USA. Since her twenties she has been fascinated by vaccines and studied them ever since. Her in depth research led her to discover what the proposed technologies are for the new COVID-19 vaccines. What she is revealing is alarming.
This video is an in depth documentary that shows how these new vaccines can alter our DNA, turning us into hybrids. The plans are to connect humans to artificial intelligence and global control networks. This is the start of transhumanism, turning us into HUMANS 2.0.
Study. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Seriously, I bet that Dr. Madej studies vaccines in the same way that Mike Adams does, her being a physician notwithstanding.
In any event, I found out a bit more. Dr. Madej is an internist in McDonough, Georgia. Shes Medical Director of Phoenix Medical Group of Georgia, where she has a full time practice in Internal Medicine. Her Twitter feed is a wretched hive of scum, quackery, and conspiracy theories. Unsurprisingly, she is an antimasker, seems to buy into every major conspiracy theory about COVID-19 out there, and has appeared on The Alex Jones Show, antivaxxer Sherri Tenpennys show, and on Mike Adams show. She also gave a virtual speech to the gathering of antimaskers and COVID-19 lockdown protesters at Trafalgar Square last month. Its odd that I havent heard of her before.
So what is transhumanism? However, I describe it, Im sure someone will object, but here goes anyway. Basically, it is a social, scientific, and philosophical movement devoted to the idea that humans can be enhanced by technology, be it biological, computer-based, or physical. The idea is that such technologies would augment or increase human perception, physical abilities, intelligence, and cognition, and also radically improve human health and extend human life spans. Unsurprisingly, the movements adherents tend to be employed in technology, biotech, and academia, and there is a strong link between libertarianism and transhumanism. The ultimate outcome is thought to be the singularity, a time when computers become so advanced that artificial intelligence transcends human intelligence, potentially erasing the boundary between humanity and computers, even leading to the merging of humans and computers. Personally, Ive always looked a bit askance at transhumanism, because there is certainly a lot of woo in the movement. Moreover, transhumanists do tend to assume that the coming singularity will necessarily be a good thing. Science fiction, however, provides many potential counterexamples, SkyNet in the Terminator movies and the Borg in Star Trek being two of the most famous of them.
Nonetheless, I am not opposed on general principle to human-enhancing technologies. After all, what is medicine but an effort over many millennia to overcome the inherent biological weaknesses and defects in humans in order to enhance and extend lifespans by preventing at least premature death from infirmity and external disease? True, there is a philosophical argument to be had over how much modification might be too much, but thats not what Mercola and his antivax cranks are about. Rather, just as antivaxxers have used the COVID-19 pandemic and President Trumps Operation Warp Speed program to stoke fear that any new COVID-19 vaccine will be unsafe, having been rushed to approval too quickly with inadequate safety testing, and thereby to cast doubt on all vaccines, here antivaxxers are painting COVID-19 vaccines as incipient transhumanism in order toyou guessed it!spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about all vaccines. Naturally, theyre focusing on mRNA vaccines, such as the COVID-19 vaccine candidates from Moderna, BioNTech, Fosun Pharma, and Pfizer:
Many of the COVID-19 vaccines currently being fast-tracked are not conventional vaccines. Their design is aimed at manipulating your very biology, and therefore have the potential to alter the biology of the entire human race.
Conventional vaccines train your body to recognize and respond to the proteins of a particular virus by injecting a small amount of the actual viral protein into your body, thereby triggering an immune response and the development of antibodies.
This is not what happens with an mRNA vaccine. The theory behind these vaccines is that when you inject the mRNA into your cells, it will stimulate your cells to manufacture their own viral protein. The mRNA COVID-19 vaccine will be the first of its kind. No mRNA vaccine has ever been licensed before. And, to add insult to injury, theyre forgoing all animal safety testing.
First of all, this is a bit silly. If theres one thing about mRNA, its that (1) it doesnt integrate into the genome of the cells that it enters, meaning that it cant permanently reprogram a cell and (2) its a remarkably unstable molecule, which is why RNA vaccines currently have to be stored at -90C and why theres been concern about the mass distribution of such vaccines, given that few doctors offices and clinics have the capability of storing doses at that cold a temperature and there would be concern about keeping the vaccines sufficiently cold during transport. (Its also why Moderna is working to make its vaccines more stable, now claiming that they can be stored at -20C and will be stable for about a week at 2 to 8C, and other companies making mRNA vaccines are frantically working to make the required storage conditions less frigid.) Indeed, some of these logistical issues are why Ive always been a bit skeptical of RNA vaccines. Im not skeptical that they can work. Im sure they can. The problem is that Im not convinced that whatever advantages they might have outweigh the many disadvantages in terms of their storage and distribution, slick videos by companies like Moderna notwithstanding:
So how do RNA vaccines work? The idea is that the mRNA (messenger RNA) gets into the human cells and does its thing, providing the template that the cells ribosomes use to translate the genetic code in the mRNA into protein, in this case the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which is secreted and generates an immune response. I was quite amused by how impressed Mercola was by Dr. Carrie Madejs claims. First:
Madej goes on to discuss how this mRNA vaccine is going to be administered. Rather than a conventional injection, the vaccine will be administered using a microneedle platform. Not only can it be mass produced quickly, but it can also be administered by anyone. Its as simple at attaching an adhesive bandage to your arm.
The adhesive side of the bandage has rows of tiny microneedles and a hydrogel base that contains luciferase enzyme and the vaccine itself. Because of their tiny size, the microneedles are said to be nearly painless when pressed into the skin. The idea is that the microneedles will puncture the skin, delivering the modified synthetic RNA into the nucleus of your cells. RNA is essentially coding material that your body uses. In this case, as mentioned, the instructions are to produce the SARS-CoV-2 viral protein.
The part of Dr. Madejs video where she describes this couldnt be more obvious. While explaining the microneedle platform, the video flashes an image of a viper and its long fangs, ready to strike. Shes also conflating technology being developed with the actual Moderna vaccine and other RNA vaccines. Right now, they are not going to be delivered using microneedle bandages. Thats a technology thats still being tested. Dr. Madej is getting ahead of herself here. After all, the current form of the Moderna vaccine doesnt use microneedles. Its a standard vaccine thats injected, two shots given a month apart, and is intended to work as described in the video above.
I also laughed out loud reading the above passage. The nucleus of your cells? Nonsense! Thats not how protein synthesis works! mRNA is translated to protein in the cytoplasm (the part of the cell outside the nucleus but within the cell membrane). After DNA in the nucleus is transcribed to mRNA by an enzyme called RNA polymerase, the mRNA thus produced is transported out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm, where ribosomes use it as the template to make proteins. Sure, the system is more complicated than that, but I dont need to go into how some mRNAs start out as longer precursors that are spliced into the final mRNA before being used in translation. The basic outline above is enough for a lay person to understand why Dr. Madej is full of you-know-what. Heres a handy-dandy image from Wikipedia:
Seriously, Drs. Mercola and Madej need to pick up a Biology 101 textbook. No, really. This stuff is in the early chapters about cell biology. Its really, really basic. It gets worse, though:
Dr. Madej says this is not true. Well whoop-de-doo and la-dee-da! No, seriously. This is not a DNA vaccine. It is not possible for the RNA to become stable and be taken up into the genome. (Indeed, RNA viruses that can integrate into the genome rely on first being reverse transcribed into DNA.) Again, this is not even Molecular Biology 101. Its high school Biology 101. As for transfection, all that is is a technique to introduce RNA or DNA into cells. Most commonly its used to introduce plasmids (circular lengths of DNA containing genes of interest) into cells. Methods range from really old school methods that I used in graduate school 30 years ago, such as calcium phosphate precipitation (which is horrendously inefficient) to various liposome-based methods. (Liposomes are small spheres of lipid, which can bind to the cell membrane and fuse with it, thus delivering plasmid into the cytoplasm.) While, it is true that the introduction of mRNA into a cell will produce a temporary change, namely the cells ribosomes using the mRNA to make the desired protein, that temporary change is just that. It has nothing to do with altering the cell permanently, and as soon as the mRNA degrades naturally the cell will go back to normal. Seriously, Dr. Madej, molecular biologists are laughing at you.
Dr. Madej is also apparently all worked up about a protein called luciferase. Luciferase is an enzyme that is commonly used in molecular biology because it produces bioluminescence. (More specifically, it acts on a compound called luciferin.) Most commonly, its used as a reporter gene. The idea is that you insert the gene for luciferase into a plasmid after various DNA sequences that regulate gene expression (how much mRNA and protein the gene makes). These sequences are known as promoter or enhancer regions. You then transfect cells with the plasmid. By measuring changes in light emission of the cells, either by harvesting them and extracting the proteins and measuring how much bioluminescence is produced when substrate and appropriate cofactors are added, or by looking at them under an appropriate microscope, you can see how various manipulations of the cells (e.g., drugs, changes in the media, changes in expression of other genes) communicate with the reporter/enhancer sequences to increase or decrease the activity of the reporter gene luciferase.
So whats the obsession with luciferase, other than that some cranks (Im looking at you, Mike Adams) have latched onto its name to associate it with the Devil? Lets see:
Another part of the delivery system that raises its own set of questions is the use of the enzyme luciferase, which has bioluminescent qualities. While invisible under normal conditions, using a cellphone app or special device, you will be able to see a glowing vaccination mark.
As described in the journal RSC Advances7 in 2015, luciferase gene-loaded quantum dots can efficiently deliver genes into cells. The abstract discusses their use as self-illuminating probes for hepatoma imaging, but the fact that quantum dots can deliver genetic material is interesting in itself.
The hydrogel, meanwhile, is a DARPA invention that involves nanotechnology and nanobots. This bioelectronic interface is part of how the vaccination mark will be able to connect to your smartphone, Madej says, providing information about blood sugar, heart rate and any number of other biological data.
It has the potential to see almost anything that goes on in your body, Madej says. This will have immediate ramifications for our privacy, yet no one has yet addressed where this information will be going. Who will collect and have access to all this data? Who will be responsible for protecting it? How will it be used?
Again, this is not how the Moderna and other mRNA vaccines are going to be administered, at least not now. Also, the reference she cites merely describes using luciferase vectors as a way to image liver cancers. As for the luciferase, as its just there to show where the vaccine was injected and to demonstrate that cells did take up whatever was on the microneedles. Im also amused how Dr. Madej apparently doesnt know how to pronounce luciferase. I laughed out loud when she first mispronounced it, although she started pronouncing it closer to the correct pronunciation as time went on. Moreover, luciferase is an enzyme, and, unless the vector used to introduce it into human skin cells truly did integrate with the nucleus, any luminescence from luciferase would be temporary. The enzyme would degrade, over time, as would the plasmid that makes it.
As for the marking, Ive discussed that before. Shes appears to be referring to quantum dot tags, basically copper-based quantum dots embedded in biocompatible, micron-scale capsules. Theyre tagged with a near-infrared dye thats invisible, but the pattern they set can be read and interpreted by a customized smartphone. Even these are not permanent, as the currently estimated time during which they can be read is five years.
None of this stops Dr. Madej from going full conspiracy crank:
Were gonna be branded. Each person will have their own ID. This reminds me of World War II. You know, its something to think about, being branded like a product in the storeSo well be branded. What can that be used for. There are lots of technologies out there, and thats something we need to be concerned about.
Gee, that reference to World War II and branding wouldnt be a reference to the Nazis tattooing prisoner identification numbers on the inmates in their concentration camps, would it?
Theres so much more in this video that I might have to do a second post at some point. (The segment on Hydrogel make me chuckle and groan in equal measure) However, this post is about COVID-19 vaccines and the claim that they will us transhuman. Whats depressing is that there are real issues to consider when it comes to using technology like quantum dots to mark us, but the paranoid conspiracy mongering, coupled with the ignorance of basic biology, used by cranks like Mercola and Madej obscures any legitimate concerns, subsuming them into full blown QAnon-like conspiracy:
Getting back to the mRNA vaccines, time will tell just how hazardous they end up being. Clearly, if the changes end up being permanent, the chance of long-term side effects is much greater than if they end up being temporary.
In a worst-case scenario, whatever changes occur could even be generational. The problem is these issues wont be readily apparent any time soon. In my view, this vaccine could easily turn into a global catastrophe the likes of which weve never experienced before.
We really should not be quick to dismiss the idea that these vaccines may cause permanent genetic changes, because we now have proof that even conventional vaccines have the ability to do that, and they dont involve the insertion of synthetic RNA.
No, we do not, and the example cited doesnt show what Mercola thinks it does:
After the H1N1 swine flu of 2009, the ASO3-adjuvanted swine flu vaccine Pandemrix (a fast-tracked vaccine used in Europe but not in the U.S. during 2009-2010) was causally linked9 to childhood narcolepsy, which abruptly skyrocketed in several countries.
Children and teens in Finland, the U.K. and Sweden were among the hardest hit. Further analyses discerned a rise in narcolepsy among adults who received the vaccine as well, although the link wasnt as obvious as that in children and adolescents.
A 2019 study16 reported finding a novel association between Pandemrix-associated narcolepsy and the non-coding RNA gene GDNF-AS1a gene thought to regulate the production of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor or GDNF, a protein that plays an important role in neuronal survival.
They also confirmed a strong association between vaccine-induced narcolepsy and a certain haplotype, suggesting variation in genes related to immunity and neuronal survival may interact to increase the susceptibility to Pandemrix-induced narcolepsy in certain individuals.
Steve Novella has discussed the issue of whether Pandemrix caused a spike in the incidence of narcolepsy in these countries. Its important to note that this is a strange case. The association was only observed in specific countries and not in others (including the US) in which the vaccine does not appear to be a consistent or unique risk factor for narcolepsy in these populations. Overall, it was a confusing set of data to derive any clear picture of whether the H1N1 vaccine was a true risk factor. On the other hand, there are data suggesting that Pandemrix might trigger the production of antibodies that can also bind to a receptor in brain cells that help regulate sleepiness in genetically susceptible people. Basically, the whole situation is confusing, and its not clear if any of the H1N1 vaccines truly caused narcolepsy.
Also, the study cited by Mercola does not show that the H1N1 vaccine caused permanent genetic changes. The investigators did a genome-wide association study (GWAS), a type of study that frequently finds associations that do not hold up to scrutiny but can nonetheless be useful for hypothesis generation. What this study shows is an association between the haplotype and vaccine-induced narcolepsy, not that the H1N1 vaccine produced permanent genetic changes. Mercola is either grossly ignorant of basic biology, or hes lying, knowing that his audience doesnt know the difference. Take your pick.
The bottom line is that Mercola and Madej are doing nothing more than putting a COVID-19-based spin on an old antivaccine trope, one that I first saw eight years ago, when Sayer Ji claimed that vaccines are transhumanism in the service of subverting evolution by interfering with how we have co-evolved with pathogens. A few years later, antivaxxer Sherri Tenpenny was making the same sort of nonsensical argument, but by then antivaxxers had started pointing to DNA vaccines as a hopelessly unnatural corruption of our genes that reminds me a lot of the claim that trace amounts of contaminating DNA from the cell lines used to grow viral antigens for some vaccines can somehow get into the brain, express non-self proteins, and trigger an autoimmune response causing autism. (Truly, to antivaxxers, DNA and RNA are magic!) Again, its all an appeal to nature as being somehow always superior to anything humans can do. They view vaccines as unnatural to the point of altering what human beings are.
Of course, just because something is natural does not make it good, benign, or even just neutral. Nature is harsh, and the battle for survival brutal, and its completely natural for all manner of animals to be eaten by bigger, faster, and hungrier animals, and its just as natural for humans do die horrible deaths from infectious diseases. Yet the mindset behind so much of alternative medicine and antivaccine views is that natural is always good and that anything synthetic should be viewed with extreme suspicion. Its silly, because even natural nutrients and medicines are just as much chemicals as any synthetic nutrient or chemical. We have to judge whether such chemicals are harmful based on science and where the evidence leads us, not based on whether the chemical is natural or not.
In the end, theres so much antivaccine and COVID-19 pseudoscience coming from Madej that I suspect this will not be the last time I write about her. She really is an up-and-coming crank, and now that Mercola has amplified her message I expect, alas, to see a lot more of her. Shes an all-purpose conspiracy theorist.
The rest is here: