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Will Today’s Disabled Become Tomorrow’s First Post-Human? – Article by B.J. Murphy

Will Today’s Disabled Become Tomorrow’s First Post-Human? – Article by B.J. Murphy

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B.J. Murphy


Needs will almost always come before wants. When it comes to Transhumanism, the ability to differentiate the two tends to blur, because a need could also be a want depending on the various methods of achieving a need. There’s the “getting by” need and then there’s the “thriving” need.

For the disabled, this dichotomy determines how well they’ll get by in life. If someone loses a leg, then simply getting by could be achieved with a cane, a walker, or even a low-tech prosthetic. However, if this person wishes to thrive in life, then a high-tech prosthetic would be much more preferable, though could also be considered a want rather than a need.

For Transhumanism to work, however, I’d argue that the ability to thrive should be considered an absolute necessity. Thus when it comes to the disabled, I believe they deserve the ability to reach post-humanity before anyone else. In all actuality, this is already happening.

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The Trolley Problem and Self-Driving Vehicles – Article by B.J. Murphy

The Trolley Problem and Self-Driving Vehicles – Article by B.J. Murphy

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B.J. Murphy


One of the most popular discussions in the field of technology today is that of self-driving vehicles. It’s a topic that brings up both optimistic joy and pessimistic fear, from the elimination of car-related fatalities to the elimination of millions of jobs. I usually stand on the optimistic side of the argument, but I also understand the fear.

After all:

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were nearly 1.8 million heavy-truck and tractor-trailer drivers in 2014, with a 5% increase per year. Meaning, there are likely around 2 million of these drivers today.
  • There were around 1.33 million delivery truck drivers in 2014, with a 4% increase per year. Meaning, there are over 1.4 million today.
  • There were around 233,700 taxi drivers and chauffeurs in 2014, with a 13% increase per year. Meaning, there are nearly 300,000 of these drivers today.

In other words, with the full mobilization of self-driving vehicles, we’re looking at around (+/-) 4 million jobs being automated in the next few years, thus no longer requiring human labor. This particular risk, however, isn’t what I’m currently focused on. The main focus of this article is on what is known as the “trolley problem” – a thought experiment in ethics that has since been rehashed to serve as “criticism” towards self-driving vehicles.

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Would You Allow Your Children To Be Alone With a Robot? – Article by B.J. Murphy

Would You Allow Your Children To Be Alone With a Robot? – Article by B.J. Murphy

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B.J. Murphy


Would you allow your children to be alone with a robot? I ask not for the children’s safety in mind, but rather the robot’s.

As shown in the video provided above, a group of Japanese researchers – from ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories, Osaka University, Ryukoku University, and Tokai University – patrolled a public shopping complex in Osaka using a remotely-operated robot known as Robovie 2.

Children naturally being curious, hordes of them decide to surround the robot when spotted. Some were quite nice and simply wanted to play with the robot. However, others felt the need to attack it either by kicking, punching, or trying to rip its head off.

What I find most fascinating about this is that, like a child, whenever the robot feels like it’s in possible danger (or, rather, there’s an increased probability of danger) – of which it’s able to do so by calculating the probability of abuse based on interaction time, pedestrian density, and the presence of people above or below 4 feet 6 inches in height – the robot then changes course and brings itself within close proximity of a parent for protection.

Robots are, most certainly, coming and will potentially disrupt nearly every major industry in society. However, to ensure their overall safety, it might be best that, whenever a child comes close to one of these robots, a parent should always be nearby – not for the sake of the child, but for the sake of the robot.

Which then raises the question: what is the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s position on protecting robots from unnecessary physical abuse? For now, in accordance with the Party’s Constitution – in particular, Section XXXIII – it states:

“…Level 4 or lower-level entities – including domain-specific artificial intelligences that have not achieved sentience – may be utilized as part of the production systems of the future, in a similar manner to machines, algorithms, computer programs, and non-human animals today and based on similar ethical considerations.”

Speaking as an individual member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, it is of my opinion that we should begin expanding upon the question of “ethical considerations” in regards to the physical abuse of robots. This shouldn’t be confused as being tantamount to giving robots, regardless of sentience, full rights as that of other sapient beings. That, too, is already addressed in Section XXXIII, which states:

“The United States Transhumanist Party stands for the rights of any sentient entities defined in the Preamble to the Transhumanist Bill of Rights as possessing Level 5 or more advanced information integration. Any such sentient entities, including new kinds of sentient entities that may be discovered or developed in the future, shall be considered to be autonomous beings with full rights, and shall not be made subservient to humans, unless they as individuals pose direct, empirically evident threats to the lives of others. The protections of full individual rights shall extend to Level 5 or higher-level artificial intelligences.”

One might think that this question could be juxtaposed with that of the question of property rights. And, to a certain degree, it would. However, when it comes to robots, we also have to consider the psychological ramifications as well. We deliberately give robots anthropomorphic features given the fact that research has shown, time and again, that, unlike other inanimate objects, robots have the ability to evoke empathetic emotional responses by humans as a result – especially when humans believe those robots are being abused.

In other words, by physically abusing robots, one is then potentially causing psychological harm to other sentient entities in consequence.

This then raises a problematic situation when simply juxtaposing non-sentient robot rights to that of property rights. Unlike other property, robots have the capability of evoking empathy out of humans. Thus my reasoning for wanting to bring this particular topic up for further discussion.

Where should Transhumanists stand – and, in particular, the U.S. Transhumanist Party – in regards to the physical abuse of robots, keeping in mind the potential psychological ramifications that may arise among humans as a direct result?

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B.J. Murphy is the Director of Social Media of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

R.I.P. Jacque Fresco – The Mind Behind The Venus Project

R.I.P. Jacque Fresco – The Mind Behind The Venus Project

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B.J. Murphy


“If you think we can’t change the world, it just means you’re not one of those who will.”
– Jacque Fresco

In the early morning of May 18, Jacque Fresco – the visionary futurist behind The Venus Project – had passed away at the age of 101 after years of battling Parkinson’s. Although the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Mr. Fresco had somewhat differing views on how to incorporate a future transformed by advanced science and technology, his passing is a true loss for the movement as a whole.

Mr. Fresco had envisioned a future where poverty was eliminated, war was no longer heard of, religion no longer shackled the mind, and the monetary system no longer had a grip over our socio-economic foundation. Instead, this future society would be solely based on the collective management of resources with the help of automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence – what he called a “Resource-Based Economy” (RBE). This vision would later be known as The Venus Project, whereby a Research Center was constructed in Venus, Florida to serve as a case-by-example in accordance to that vision.

We should consider ourselves extremely grateful that Mr. Fresco dedicated so much time, money, and effort on this vision of his. Not only did he help build a global community devoted to the materialization of his vision, but he had also inspired countless numbers of people within the Transhumanist movement to begin thinking about how to build a better and more peaceful future.

Jacque Fresco was a pioneer, one of the last great futurists of the 20th century. To the Transhumanist movement, Mr. Fresco was a giant, as we all equally stand on his shoulders. He may have passed away, but his vision for the future will always live on.

Rest in peace, our friend. You will truly be missed by millions.

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B.J. Murphy is the Director of Social Media of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

The Importance of 3D Printing to Ensuring the Viability of Interplanetary City Construction

The Importance of 3D Printing to Ensuring the Viability of Interplanetary City Construction

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B.J. Murphy


Starting on March 26, members of the U.S. Transhumanist Party are taking part in the latest platform vote, which include 22 potential planks in total. Before the voting ends on April 2, I’d like to briefly discuss one of those potential planks – in particular, Section E3-G. Space Colonization. To be a little more clear, I wish to present a possible solution to one distinct question we’ll likely need to ask ourselves once actual space colonization efforts are underway.

A little over a year ago, a friend and fellow author Manu Saadia (author of Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek) posed a question to me about the viability of creating actual cities on other planets. It was, in his mind, one of the few things about Star Trek which seemed unrealistic, because of the fact that cities here on Earth thrive due to one important reason: imports/exports, i.e. resource exchange.

I’ll quote him below on his exact phrasing:

“[S]ettling a far away colony on Mars or a bunch of habitats in orbit is not a recipe for prosperity for these space-based outposts. Without fast and reliable means of exchange, I don’t see how these settlements could take full advantage of the network effects and of the endogenous dynamism of Earth’s great cities.”

He is correct in his assessment that, without the fast import and export of necessary resources, today’s cities simply wouldn’t survive. However, as I noted to him, I believe his strict reliance on economics, and much less so on technology, prevents him from understanding how interplanetary cities are still a viable prospect.

That is, he seems to completely ignore key technologies, such as 3D printing, which would directly address the current problem of importing and exporting resources from planet to planet. My own assessment was:

“Thanks to the company Made in Space, astronauts on the ISS are able to receive digital data from Earth that activates their 3D printer to print whatever supplies they need. It’s still in its infancy, but this really isn’t all that different from Star Trek’s teleportation technology.

Once it matures, I can easily see us establishing a base of developing trade agreements between different planets via 3D printing or other advanced technologies that’ll supersede 3D printing.”

If members of the U.S. Transhumanist Party were to successfully vote in favor of Section E3-G, I believe it will be our duty in discussing all of the obstacles that stand in between us and our space colonization aspirations. This brief article here will serve as only one possible solution, for which we should all discuss and consider as a Party.

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B.J. Murphy is the Director of Social Media of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

International Longevity & Cryopreservation Summit (ft. José Cordeiro, Aubrey de Grey and much more)

International Longevity & Cryopreservation Summit (ft. José Cordeiro, Aubrey de Grey and much more)

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B.J. Murphy


On May 26-28, Spain will host the first International Longevity Cryopreservation Summit, with Fundacion VidaPlus serving as the main organizer. In attendance will be several speakers, which will include the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s advisors Dr. Aubrey de Grey and José Luis Cordeiro, where they will discuss longevity, indefinite lifespans, cryopreservation, and other biomedical areas.

If you’re thinking of attending this momentous event, early bird tickets are still on sale at the Summit’s main website. Early bird will end by April 1, so be sure to head on over and reserve your seat.

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B.J. Murphy is the Director of Social Media of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Benchmark Database of Lifespan-Extending Drugs Announced – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

Benchmark Database of Lifespan-Extending Drugs Announced – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

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Note from the Editor: The following Press Release was originally published on EurekAlert! Science News by the Biogerontology Research Foundation. In accord with the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s open support of longevity science – in particular, Article V and Article VI of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights (v. 2.0) – we affirm our support by republishing the Press Release below.

~ B.J. Murphy, Director of Social Media, United States Transhumanist Party, March 16, 2017


Benchmark database of lifespan-extending drugs announced

Finding: The majority of age-related pathways have yet to be targeted pharmacologically

BIOGERONTOLOGY RESEARCH FOUNDATION

Scientists from the Biogerontology Research Foundation (BGRF) and University of Liverpool have announced a landmark database of lifespan-extending drugs and compounds called DrugAge. The database has 418 compounds, curated from studies spanning 27 different model organisms including yeast, worms, flies and mice. It is the largest such database in the world at this time. Significantly, the study found that the majority of age-related pathways have not yet been targeted pharmacologically, and that the pharmacological modulation of aging has by and large focused upon a small subset of currently-known age-related pathways. This suggests that there is still plenty of scope for the discovery of new lifespan-extending and healthspan-extending compounds.

DrugAge is the latest of a number of valuable resources freely available on the Human Aging Genomic Resources (HAGR) website created and maintained by the Integrative Genomics of Ageing Group at the University of Liverpool, led by Biogerontology Research Foundation Trustee Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, in collaboration with many other scientists worldwide, including BGRF Chief Science Officer and CEO of Insilico Medicine, Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD. Other resources available through HAGR include GenAge (a database of age and longevity-related genes in humans and model organisms), AnAge (a database on ageing, longevity records and life-history featuring over 4000 species), GenDR (a database of genes associated with the life extending effects of dietary restriction), and LongevityMap (a database of over 2000 human genes and genetic variations associated with longevity).

“DrugAge is the latest database created by Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, a world leader in the application of advanced bioinformatics and integrated computational approaches to biogerontology and ageing research. I am confident that it will gain widespread use in the ageing research community, and represents a significant milestone along the way to the coming paradigm shift in modern healthcare away from single disease treatment and toward geroprotective multi-disease prevention,” said Dmitry Kaminskiy, Managing Trustee of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.

The database is freely available to the public, and is searchable according to compound name, species and effect on lifespan. The data can be presented as both tables and interactive charts. Functional enrichment analysis of the targets of the database’s compounds was performed using drug-gene interaction data, which revealed a modest but statistically significant correlation between the cellular targets of the database’s compounds and known age-related genes.

The database encompasses the earlier efforts published by the BGRF scientists, Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, PhD and Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD as an open resource called Geroprotectors.org. The publication is available at http://www.aging-us.com/article/100799 .

“DrugAge represents a landmark resource for use in the biogerontology community. It is the largest database of lifespan-extending compounds compiled to date, and will surely come to be recognized as an extremely valuable resource for biogerontologists. Analysis performed using the database has already revealed interesting trends, including a modest but statistically significant overlap between lifespan-extending drugs and known age-related genes, a strong correlation between average/median lifespan changes and maximum lifespan changes, a strong correlation between the lifespan-extending effects of compounds between males and females, and perhaps most significantly that most known age-related pathways have yet to be targeted pharmacologically. More broadly, an understanding of the comparative effects of geroprotectors upon the lifespan of a variety of different model organisms is important both for basic research into the biology of ageing, demonstration of lifespan plasticity via modulation of a variety of distinct biomolecular targets as proof to regulators that healthspan extension is a viable paradigm for disease treatment and prevention, and for the eventual clinical translation of potential geroprotectors,” said Franco Cortese, Deputy Director and Trustee of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.

“Besides introducing the DrugAge database to the larger scientific community, this paper’s overarching significance lies in the finding that the large majority of known age-related pathways have not yet been targeted pharmacologically, and that we are in a very real sense at the starting line of the search for pharmacological agents capable of extending lifespan and healthspan via the modulation of known age-related pathways. There is still very much left to learn,” said Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, PhD, a Trustee of the Biogerontology Research Foundation (BGRF) and a Principal Investigator at the University of Liverpool’s Integrative Genomics of Aging Group (IGAG).

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The paper ‘The DrugAge database of ageing-related drugs’ has been published in the journal Aging Cell.

 

Transhumanist Party Founder Zoltan Istvan to Speak at this Year’s Moogfest

Transhumanist Party Founder Zoltan Istvan to Speak at this Year’s Moogfest

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B.J. Murphy

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Transhumanist Party founder, and now Political and Media Advisor, Zoltan Istvan is scheduled to give a main futurist speech at this year’s Moogfest, which will take place sometime between May 18-21 in Durham, NC.

Zoltan will be speaking about his 2016 Presidential run under the U.S. Transhumanist Party, his travel across the country inside of the famous “coffin bus,” and the history of the Transhumanist movement – including the formation and current endeavors of the U.S. Transhumanist Party itself. If you’d like to attend this event, be sure to purchase tickets here.

In early 2015, when transhumanist US Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan announced he would transform a 38-foot bus into a giant coffin and drive it across America to deliver a Transhumanist Bill of Rights to the US Capitol, many in the transhumanism community reacted with contempt and ridicule. Two years later, the Immortality Bus–created as a provocative symbol of resistance against death–has become one of the most recognized futurist projects in the world and has garnered approximately 50 million views across major media. The New York Times called the bus “the great brown sarcaphogus of the American highway…a metaphor of life itself.” Today feature films, documentaries, and even a likely final home in a major museum are being worked on for the Immortality Bus. Come hear Zoltan Istvan describe his captaining of the “coffin bus” and what really happened during this historic journey. [Source: Moogfest]

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B.J. Murphy is the Director of Social Media of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

 

The Future Business of Body Shops (h/t to Alcott Evans’s ‘Transhumanism, Meet Business’)

The Future Business of Body Shops (h/t to Alcott Evans’s ‘Transhumanism, Meet Business’)

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B.J. Murphy

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The following essay was originally published as a chapter for The Future of Business: Critical Insights into a Rapidly Changing World from 60 Future Thinkers that was edited by Rohit Talwar under Fast Future Publishing. This is not intended to be a response to Party member Alcott Evans’s article, “Transhumanism, Meet Business;” rather to serve as an extension upon its premise that the Transhumanist goal of body modification is now entering the business world.


How will cybernetics, 3D printing, and the biohacking movement change the way we enhance people?

Emergence of a new business sector

In the near future, I expect that the cyberpunk fantasy of cyborgs and genetically enhanced humans will become a lucrative business opportunity. Google co-founder Larry Page once said: “Lots of companies don’t succeed over time. What do they fundamentally do wrong? They usually miss the future.”[1] We are presently accelerating into a future where people can enhance and augment themselves at their whim. The question we need to ask ourselves, and one which I hope to answer in this chapter, is: how will a viable industry business model evolve for a future dominated by cyborgs?

The future of any business is nothing more than a race against time itself. It requires a keen eye on what is going on throughout the different sectors of science and technology, and subsequently a proactionary drive to move forward revolutionary ideas, even with the prospect of there being risks. To not move forward would be to remain in stasis. If you stand still or retreat, the future will continue accelerating, watching as you wither away – cast into the dustbin of history. If you are a business owner, or have any plans to become one in the future, this should scare the hell out of you.

Technology today is accelerating at an exponential pace, with computing power maintaining Moore’s Law – the doubling of transistors in a dense integrated circuit every 18 to 24 months. In addition, most other information technologies are adhering to what inventor Ray Kurzweil refers to as the law of accelerating returns – the exponential growth of evolutionary systems, including but not limited to technological growth.[2] Keeping this in mind, the success of a business – both small and large – requires exponential thinking, as opposed to a linear outlook. My aim is to help you envision that future, consequently allowing you to weigh up the available options carefully and determine the best method of moving your business forward into the future. So keep calm, take a breath, and let’s jump into the rabbit hole, shall we?

Introducing Body Shops

Let me first tell you my vision of this near-future business practice. My vision requires an open-minded understanding of what makes us human and what we can do to help ourselves and others address our current biological limitations. In the next 15 to 20 years, I expect the emergence of what I call Body Shops – that is, essentially, a shop where you walk in human and leave as a cyborg.[3] These shops will be on a par with tattoo and piercing shops in terms of access and popularity. The difference is that with tattoo and piercing shops you merely require staff with experience in both art and the proper means of piercing the body in non-detrimental ways. With Body Shops however, they will require people who are experienced in the fields of both plastic surgery and biotechnology – capable of delivering what I consider to be fast-food plastic surgery.

What do I mean when I say fast-food plastic surgery? Understanding this primarily requires insight into what makes the fast-food industry so popular, as opposed to sit-down restaurants. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the growing popularity of fast food boils down to three simple factors:

  1. Speed – Their service is quick;
  2. Convenience – The restaurants are easy to get to; and
  3. Cost – They are inexpensive compared to full-service restaurants.[4]

When we think of plastic surgery, however, these three factors are practically nonexistent. Plastic surgery requires a lot of time to complete procedures and the healing process; the practice is limited to hospitals and private business establishments; and the price tag for a single procedure costs an arm and a leg (pun intended). So when I say fast-food plastic surgery, I’m basically advocating the idea that we will eventually reach the point where the business practice of modifying the human body will become fast, readily available, and inexpensive for the common person. This will become an essential business model for mass-market Body Shops. Let’s now explore the underlying enablers – cybernetic implants, 3D-printed prosthetic limbs, and biohacking.

Cybernetic implants and 3D-printed prosthetic technology 

Demand for augmentation of the human body is on the rise. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), from just 2012 to 2013, they witnessed a clear increase of interest among 30-to-70-year-olds in modifying their bodies via plastic surgery. In 2013 alone, 15.1 million more cosmetic enhancements were undertaken, alongside a 5.7 million increase in reconstructive procedures.[5] ASPS President Robert X. Murphy, Jr., MD, reported that “Facial rejuvenation procedures were especially robust last year, with more Americans opting for facelifts, forehead lifts, eyelid surgery, fillers and peels. With new devices and products hitting the market each year, there are more options and choices available to consumers wanting to refresh their look or [undergo] a little nip and tuck.”[6]

What Dr. Murphy said is especially important, for it paves the way to understanding the growing popularity of modifying the human body, for both medical and non-medical reasons. As more products hit the market, the more options people are given. Increasingly, this offers the opportunity to start re-looking at ourselves and re-defining what our body can and should do, whether it’s how it should appear or how it should affect our daily lives. We can reasonably assume that, the more technological advances create the potential to enhance our currently limited biology, the more people will take the leap forward and embrace the opportunity to modify themselves in ever-more fundamental and dramatic ways.

In fact, we’re already witnessing an increase in the number of people acquiring cybernetic implant procedures. In 2014, CNN Money interviewed Amal Graafstra, founder and CEO of biohacking company Dangerous Things. Graafstra discussed his company’s business practice of providing people with implantable radio frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication (NFC) tags. Doing so would allow them to control electronics and other devices with simple gestures like waving their hand. “A couple of years ago,” Amal said, “I was selling a tag maybe once a week. Now we’re looking at least one a day. We’ve sold probably around 23,000 implants across all of the different types.”[7]

Dangerous Things isn’t the only company providing implants to help people unleash their inner cyborg either. Grindhouse Wetware is best known for its popular magnetic finger-tip implants. These allow people to acquire the physical sensation of feeling the shape and current of electromagnetic waves.[8] If provision of cybernetic implants is a reality in 2015, imagine what could happen in the next 15 to 20 years!

Pioneering the cybernetic limb market

At the forefront of this revolutionary new stage of human existence are Aimee Mullins and Hugh Herr – two very successful individuals at polar opposites in terms of profession. Both are pushing this train of thought beyond its originally perceived limits by ensuring that cybernetic artificial limbs are readily available, low in cost, and vary in design to help each person acquire their own sense of individuality. Mullins is both an athlete and a fashion model, whereas Herr is an engineer and biophysicist. What connects them is the fact that both are double amputees. I am sure you are wondering: so what? Well, it isn’t so much the double amputation of their legs which brings them together; rather how these two individuals decided to address their disability and their goals for humanity.

During a 2009 TED conference, Mullins walked on stage (you read that right) and started talking about why she no longer considers herself disabled. She recalled the time when she met up with a friend who noticed Mullins was now taller than her friend remembered. Mullins explained that she has an entire assortment of prosthetic legs that vary in length, allowing her the option of choosing her height on any given day. Her friend’s response was perfect: “But, Aimee, that’s not fair!” This response had become her “ah ha!” moment, realizing the practically limitless future possibilities of prosthetic technology and how it could affect our daily lives.

Mullins asserts that: “The conversation with society has changed profoundly in this last decade. It is no longer a conversation about overcoming deficiency. It’s a conversation about augmentation. It’s a conversation about potential. A prosthetic limb doesn’t represent the need to replace loss anymore. It can stand as a symbol that the wearer has the power to create whatever it is that they want to create in that space. So people that society once considered to be disabled can now become the architects of their own identities and indeed continue to change those identities by designing their bodies from a place of empowerment.”[9]

In 2014, during another TED conference, Hugh Herr discussed the remarkable history of his disability and how he made it his life’s mission to not only conquer his own, but subsequently conquer all disabilities as a whole. He leads the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab’s Biomechatronics group, which is making great strides in engineering low-cost, highly efficient prosthetic limbs and exoskeleton suits.

Herr explained how he used different prosthetics to help conquer difficult feats in a more efficient way than he ever could with his original biological limbs, for example mountain climbing. This, in turn, became Herr’s ‘ah ha!’ moment, helping him reach a similar conclusion to Mullins. Herr explains: “Every person should have the right to live life without disability if they so choose — the right to live life without severe depression; the right to see a loved one in the case of [the] seeing impaired; or the right to walk or to dance, in the case of limb paralysis or limb amputation. As a society, we can achieve these human rights if we accept the proposition that humans are not disabled. A person can never be broken. Our built environment, our technologies are broken and disabled. We the people need not accept our limitations, but can transcend disability through technological innovation.”[10]

The coming transformation of the prosthetic limb market

These examples offers an excellent segue into the ongoing efforts of open-sourcing prosthetic technology to the overall populace. Both Herr and Mullins envision a near-future where prosthetic technology is available to everyone, empowering them with nearly limitless options in expressing their self-determination. The largest base of consumers for this future business practice will, at first, largely revolve around those with disabilities. Gradually, as those with disabilities are then enhanced and augmented with advanced technology, we will witness a shift in how we define disabled. In other words, people who are simply able-bodied may start to consider themselves disabled in comparison to those who’ve been enhanced.[11] Once that occurs, a whole new base of consumers could begin to emerge.

The growing popularity of low-cost prosthetic technology is overwhelmingly clear. In 2014, Intel held a contest entitled Make It Wearable. They invited teams to compete in developing new, wearable technologies that would essentially either change how humans go about their day-to-day lives or change the human condition itself. In response, entrants began engineering new and revolutionary technologies.[12] By November 3rd the finalists were selected. The winner was the Nixie – pan autonomous mini-drone that wraps around your wrist. In second place was the newly established UK-based company Open Bionics with a goal of producing low-cost, lightweight, modular limbs by combining bionics with 3D printing.[13]

Since then we’ve witnessed a wave of open-source, low-cost prosthetic limb production. Formed in 2014, volunteer-based group Limbitless Solutions has gained considerable attention for its emphasis on helping disabled youth become able-bodied again using Limbitless’ prosthetics. This was especially welcomed, given the lack of emphasis on youth from corporate prosthetic development companies because they would be developing prosthetic limbs that would need to be re-designed over time as the children grew up. With 3D printing, this problem goes away completely. The company mission states: “Limbitless Solutions is a growing engineering community devoted to changing lives through the innovation of new bionic arm designs and development of a worldwide network of makers and thinkers… Our mission is to create a world without limits, where everyone has access to the tools necessary to manufacture simple, affordable, and accessible solutions through open source design and 3D printing.”[14]

As 3D printing continues its seemingly exponential growth, the amount of options people will be able to choose from to enhance themselves should grow just as fast. As I was writing this, a new 3D printer was introduced to the world that could change the 3D-printing industry forever. Called the CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production), the relatively new company Carbon3D had shocked the world at TED2015 with a 3D printer that uses light, oxygen, and UV-cured resin to develop objects 25-100 times faster than previous 3D printers.[15] This goes hand in hand with the goal of making Body Shop enhancements both affordable and quick.

Biohacking 

So we have covered both cybernetic implants and 3D-printed prosthetic technology. The last major facet of future Body Shop establishments will harness the power of biohacking.[16] As noted previously, there are already biohacking companies helping hack people’s biology via cybernetics. However, as fate would have it, in the last couple of years a new potential in biohacking has presented itself under the guise of genome editing.

Previously there were methods of editing an organism’s genome – for example RNAi (Ribonucleic acid interference); however, those methods were quite limiting. Thanks to a group of researchers, led by geneticist and molecular engineer George M. Church, a new method was developed with near-perfect accuracy throughout an entire range of different organisms, including the possibility of editing human biology.[17] This method has since come to be known as CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). This uses an RNA-guided DNA enzyme known as Cas9 to help target and manipulate, or altogether change, entire genome sequences. The possibilities for such a revolutionary new tool – medical and nonmedical – are practically limitless.

The prospect of gene hacking was predicted by Ramez Naam, who authored the book More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, in which he stated: “In just a few decades, we’ve gone from the first tinkering with human genes to the discovery of dozens of techniques that could alter the human genome in very precise ways. Those techniques give us the power to cure diseases or to enhance and sculpt our bodies. This new control over our genes promises to enhance our quality of life as dramatically as the medical discoveries of the past century.”[18]

The path to body shops – imagining the future

So imagine with me, if you will, what these groups of radical technologies could achieve in the next 15 to 20 years. With cybernetic implants, we have the prospect of changing how people will interact with firstly their various electronic possessions, and subsequently their surrounding environment. A growing number of people are already acquiring magnetic finger-tip implants, solely for the purpose of enhancing their sense of touch. Once cybernetics advance to the point where a person’s entire body is connected in some way to online systems, we will officially give birth to bio-computing.

The markets for 3D printing and prosthetic technology are accelerating at a remarkable rate, delivering open-source, low-cost bionic limbs in just hours, and soon mere minutes! Enhanced and unenhanced people will walk into these Body Shops to try on new synthetic body parts as if they were a pair of glasses. By that time, we could officially have done away with disability altogether. The new market slogan won’t be “Become able-bodied!” Instead it will be “Become augmented!”

With genetic biohacking, we are truly traversing extremely radical grounds. People will be looking to well-regulated Body Shops for proper genetic enhancements, as opposed to DIY underground establishments. The marketing proposition would be to become superheroes; to become gods! For better or worse, this will be a new booming business opportunity.

Once this book is published, and you’re reading this chapter, months will have gone by, and even more new and radical technologies will have been developed. As noted at the beginning, future business strategy requires a keen eye on what is going on throughout the sectors of science and technology. We are moving at an incredible rate, and actually, I believe my 15-to-20-year estimation for the emergence of Body Shops may be a bit conservative. Getting there, however, requires an open mind, a proactionary drive to move forward, and, of course, it requires you.

As business people, it is up to you to determine how you will proceed with the future of human enhancements. I’ve presented a clear case for how enhancement could turn into a viable business opportunity. There will, of course, be a question of risks and how best to manage them. I can only offer the advice of adhering to the proactionary principle (as opposed to the precautionary principle) when discussing the mitigation of any possible risks. And of course, there’s the question of when these Body Shops will emerge. Whenever they do, I predict many will achieve dramatic success with the Body Shop business model, on which other businesses will eventually base their own strategies.

Having said that, this chapter certainly raises other questions you’ll need to answer for yourself:

  • How might your future business respond to laws that may or may not limit the degree in which a person can be enhanced?
  • Given the open-source nature of 3D-printing technologies, how can your company stand out from everyone else in terms of design, manufacturing, and service capabilities?
  • Given the potentially contentious nature of this market, are you prepared to become a business that represents the customers’ interests when they are put into question?

Let the future commence!

Notes

  1. Ha, T., 2014, “Computing Is Still Too Clunky: Charlie Rose and Larry Page in Conversation,” article, 03/15/15.
  2. Kurzweil, R., 2001, “The Law of Accelerating Returns,” article, 03/15/15.
  3. Cyborg (or Cybernetic organism): A being, both human and nonhuman, which contains significantly interconnected organic, biomechatronic and electronic parts that enable it to perform biological, mechanical, and computational functions
  4. Rydell, S. A., Harnack, L. J., Oakes, J. M., Story, M., Jeffery, R. W., French, S. A., 2008, “Why Eat at Fast-Food Restaurants: Reported Reasons among Frequent Consumers,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 108(12), pp. 2066–2070
  5. American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2014, “2013 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report,” report, 03/15/15
  6. 2014, “American Society of Plastic Surgeons Reports 15.1 Million Cosmetic Procedures in 2013; Marks Fourth Consecutive Year of Growth,” article, 03/15/15
  7. Naik, R., 2014, “The Business of Being a Cyborg,” article, 03/15/15
  8. Clark, L., 2012, “Magnet-Implanting DIY Biohackers Pave the Way For Mainstream Adoption,” article, 03/15/15
  9. Mullins, A., 2009, “Aimee Mullins: My 12 Pairs of Legs,” TEDtalk, 03/16/15
  10. Herr, H., 2014, “Hugh Herr: The New Bionics That Let Us Run, Climb and Dance,” TEDtalk, 03/16/15
  11. Murphy, B. J., 2013, “Will Today’s Handicapped Become Tomorrow’s First Post-Human?,” article, 03/16/15
  12. Murphy B. J., 2014, “Intel Wants You To Become A Cyborg!,” article, 03/16/15
  13. 2014, “Development Track Finalists,” webpage, 03/16/15
  14. 2014, “Mission Statement,” webpage, 03/17/15
  15. Murphy, B. J., 2015, “Carbon3D’s CLIP Has Just Re-Revolutionized the Entire 3D Printing Industry!,” article, 03/17/15
  16. Biohacking: Managing or altering the body’s own biology using medical, genetic manipulation, nutritional and electronic techniques.
  17. Mali, P., Esvelt, K. M., Church, G. M., 2013, “Cas9 as a versatile tool for engineering biology,” Nature Methods, 10(10), pp. 957-963.
  18. Naam, R., 2005, More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, Broadway Books, New York, p. 41, Chap.1.

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B.J. Murphy is the Director of Social Media of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

A Techno-Optimist Movement: For an Evenly Distributed Future

A Techno-Optimist Movement: For an Evenly Distributed Future

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B.J. Murphy

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Prominently known as the “noir prophet” of the cyberpunk subgenre, sci-fi novelist William Ford Gibson once said, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” [1]

We are living in a point of time in which we can conceivably recognize the emergence of a future once envisioned throughout science-fiction literature. Unfortunately, as stated by Gibson, the future doesn’t appear to be evenly distributed. Whether or not this is merely the hallmark of a future emerging from its infancy, only to then mature over time, shouldn’t prevent us from recognizing the current problems laid before us.

Like any problem, the first step is the recognition of its existence. While there is good reason to expect that the exponential growth rate of information technologies will help us surpass the unfortunate reality of our uneven distribution of said technologies [2], we mustn’t fall back on the apathetic notion that our inaction will not cause detrimental effects to achieving the future we all desire. Don’t forget, while it remains true that the common layperson is in equal access to necessary medical technologies, the means of which we distribute them are at the cost of a massive debt for most people below an upper-class status. [3]

Instead, by adhering to the Proactionary Principle [4] – that is, an ethical decision-making principle which relies on modern science (as opposed to popular perception) in assessing and mitigating possible future risks – we must enforce a state of dialogue to ensure action plans are set in motion to help alleviate, if not completely expropriate, both present and future problems if and when they present themselves.

Here in the United States, we have an entire set of different problems that are in need of being addressed – poverty, homelessness, climate change, etc. Unlike the politicians in Washington D.C., we are not here to compromise, let alone serve special interest groups, to try to tip-toe our way towards the issues at hand. Instead our interests are with the people and, subsequently, to that of a future contrary to Gibson’s statement. We have a fundamental belief that, by using modern science and advanced technologies, we could feasibly address each issue that has stricken this nation to its core.

The means of which we’ll ensure these technologies see the light of day will come from innumerable sources. Today we’re no longer left with a binary source of funding – whether it’s via taxes or private corporations. In the last few years we’ve witnessed the skyrocketing emergence of crowdfunding, in which the common people are given a say as to which ideas are worth spending large sums of money on. [5] Neither source of funding holds greater importance over the other. We’re left with an amazing opportunity to ensure everyone has a voice – whether it’s the government, private corporations, or the everyday citizen. The key, however, is transparency – one in which we strongly emphasize.

Though, who is “we”? We are what are known as Techno-Optimists – a diverse collective of individuals from all walks of life who envision an optimistic future made up of technologies that, at first glance, appear almost magical in nature, e.g. virtual and mixed reality, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), cyborgs and genetically enhanced human beings, so on and so forth. But what we envision is in conflict with the current socio-economic situation we all bear witness to on a daily basis. It is that unfortunate truth in which our existence carries the utmost importance.

Unlike other organizations and groups that remain focused on specific technologies, our emphasis isn’t just on technological growth, but subsequently the insurance that everyone will be granted access to these technologies as we continue moving forward.

So far, we’re currently lacking in the technological race to the top. Keeping the present state of advancements in mind, the U.S. clearly downplays the importance of updating our systems to accommodate the acceleration of technological growth. In the U.S. we’re known for our poor public transportation systems, refusing to keep pace with the rest of the world in both efficiency and safety precautions, leaving people at risk. [6] If we’re to ensure the horrific Amtrak crash doesn’t occur again, we need to follow NASA’s lead by abandoning the archaic methods of transport and replace them for a more future-oriented system.

In the next 5 to 10 years, expect the emergence of virtual and mixed reality in every home, in every hospital, and every store you walk into. [7] 3D printing will be used throughout every major manufacturing industry, including but not limited to the automobile industry, architecture, and space exploration. [8] Soft A.I. will be integrated into our mobile devices, scanning our medical literature in search of treatments and cures to numerous diseases at the behest of each individual’s bodily self-determination. [9] They’ll subsequently be working hand in hand with our top climate scientists to help better extrapolate massive amounts of data and empower us with greater knowledge of our own planet, including better ways of living on it, e.g. the most efficient methods of cleaning oil spills, keeping environmental corporations in check to ensure they’re adhering to safety procedures, etc. [10]

Getting from here to there, however, is a much more tedious task, one in which necessitates our willingness to act ahead of schedule. It is in this pursuit in which we feel obligated to stand in the frontlines of this massive paradigm shift and help fight in the interests of those falling behind – or, as it would seem, being forced to remain behind by corporate greed and governmental bureaucracy. What is a home coupled with virtual reality and A.I. to whom cannot afford a home? [11] What is a car that is completely autonomous and augmentable to 3D-printed enhancements to whom cannot afford a car? [12] And what is a planet flooded with marvelous technological advancements beyond our wildest dreams to whom is smothered by an atmosphere veiled by greenhouse gases? [13]

Not only that, were none of these issues real, we’d still find ourselves in a dangerous predicament exacerbated by our very own robotics industry – technological unemployment. [14] The issue itself has been debated widely, though with little effect as a result. As the market continues to exponentially march into an autonomous realm – the next industrial revolution – thousands, if not millions, of people will be left without a job. And if we don’t act now, they’ll equally be left without a proper welfare system in place to ensure they remain afloat. [15]

Thankfully a global dialogue has already been initiated in the attempts to address this very serious issue, one in which goes against everything we’ve previously been taught throughout the history of economics. It goes by the name of a Basic Income Guarantee (or a Universal Basic Income) [16], whereby everyone will be granted a fixed income – either monthly or annually – regardless if employed or not, and which doesn’t affect one’s income by other means. This kind of radical policy, however, goes strictly against the interests of those profiting from the widening wage gap, necessitating a new grassroots movement demanding that a UBI welfare policy be discussed and implemented at a nationwide scale.

And finally, with talks of A.I. research reaching out into mainstream headlines for the first time in history, we’re now witnessing the gradual steps of another possible prohibition movement – that is, the prohibition of strong A.I. in fear of a Terminator-esque situation as a result. We might recognize the reasoning of this fear, but we certainly don’t share it. With all the progress that could come as a result of continuing A.I. research – medically, financially, etc. – the withholding of its growth would certainly set us back as the rest of the world moves ahead. If we don’t wish to be thrown into the dustbin of history, fighting in the interests of A.I. will be in tandem of fighting in the interests of our species who’ll greatly benefit from its awakening. [17]

The goal of Techno-Optimists should be to provide public safety information; to advocate for a sweeping technological transformation of society as a whole; and to engineer policies that’ll ensure a positive future equally distributed for everyone to enjoy. Technology by itself will not create the change we wish to convey for our future citizenry; rather technology must be guided with an ethical hand and a keen eye that is prepared for what is to come. To negate the importance of this understanding, one would surely hand over the future to the status quo.

1. 2012, “The Future Has Arrived — It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed Yet,” article.
2. Kurzweil, R., 2001, “The Law of Accelerating Returns,” article.
3. Skinner, J. S., 2013, “The Costly Paradox of Health-Care Technology,” article.
4. More, M., 2004, “The Proactionary Principle,” essay.
5. Neiss, S., Best, J., 2014, “Crowdfunding report signals increased revenue, jobs, and deal flow,” article.
6. Barry, K., 2013, “Public Transit Is Underfunded Because the Wealthy Don’t Rely On It,” article.
7. Orland, K., 2014, “Beyond gaming, the VR boom is everywhere—from classrooms to therapy couches,” article.
8. Ludwig, A., Harvey, S. E., 2013, “3D Printing Affects Every Industry, Even Homebuilding,” article.
9. Krawczyk, K., 2014, “Healthcare, Travel, Other Industries Making IBM Watson Apps,” article.
10. Temperley, J., 2015, “Artificial intelligence: can scientists stop ‘negative’ outcomes?,” article.
11. United States Census Bureau, 2013, “Housing Vacancies and Homeownership (CPS/HVS),” report.
12. Woodyard, C., 2015, “Used-car prices still on the rise,” article.
13. National Climatic Data Center, 2015, “Global Analysis – April 2015,” report.
14. Pistono, F., 2014, Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK: How to Survive the Economic Collapse and Be Happy, CreateSpace.
15. 2015, “Open Letter on the Digital Economy,” letter.
16. The U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network, website.
17. Future of Life Institute, 2015, “Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence: an Open Letter,” letter.

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B.J. Murphy is the Director of Social Media of the Transhumanist Party (USA). This article was originally published on the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.