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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, of 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.

Why I Fear Aging – Article by Hayley Harrison

Why I Fear Aging – Article by Hayley Harrison

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Hayley Harrison


My mother had leukemia. I really loved her, and she really loved me. When I went to the supermarket at night, she asked me to hurry back, and said she was worried about me. She really enjoyed my company and talking to me. She could talk to me about things she couldn’t tell anyone else. It was like we were best friends. Even though my mom was 74 when she died. I was adopted when my mom was 51 and my dad was 57, so they were already older.

I was closer to her than to any member of my family. Since I lost her, I feel like I’ve lost everything. Aging made her really sick. I found out that the AML leukemia that my mom had mostly affects the elderly.

My father has been in hospital nearly two weeks. He had an operation to remove something on his lung. He’s been unwell for a few weeks now. His appetite has gone right down. He kept sleeping in the chair a lot because of the infection. He’s 81. He’s had tests to see if he has cancer, but we don’t know the results yet.

My friend told me that if my father hadn’t have had the biopsy, his chest infection would have turned into pneumonia, and that would have killed him. The antibiotics have not worked yet. So I keep thinking, “What’s going to happen to him?”. I love my father, too.

If anti-aging medicine were available now, the doctors could have treated my mother as well as my father. My mother’s leukemia was caused by aging, as I discovered. I’d love to be able to talk with my mother and father again.

I don’t want to get old, because I don’t want to get decrepit and sick. The thought of me being so shrivelled up like my parents have got terrifies me.

This is why I’m so motivated to cure aging. I’m trying to do everything I can. I keep hearing a lot that science to cure aging is underfunded. I share science articles and promote science. I’m writing this article to get the message out to all the people about getting aging under medical control.

There’s quite a few people trying to solve the aging problem. Aubrey de Grey and SENS are working on rejuvenation biotechnology. They are doing this by solving the seven deadly causes of aging. These include cell loss, junk inside and outside the cell, extracellular crosslinks, death-resistant cells, and cancerous cells.

Imagine a world where nobody gets old anymore, where everyone is young and healthy. Some people would like to do their favorite sports again, and currently they cannot because of aging.

If I lived forever, I would look to have more confidence. I would try to not be scared of people anymore.

If I were to live longer, I’d imagine I could hang out with a few of my friends in America. I enjoy fashion. I have always wanted to look like a model. I would have the time to select the best clothing and look fantastic.

Hayley Harrison is an Allied Member of the United States Transhumanist Party and the Nevada Transhumanist Party. She resides in the United Kingdom. 

 

Transhumanist Society Nightmares: EMPs – Article by Cody Meadows

Transhumanist Society Nightmares: EMPs – Article by Cody Meadows

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Cody Meadows


The electrical grid is a concern for every citizen in our society. Without it, we, as an advancing society, would be thrown backward in advancement or at least heavily thwarted in achievement until we get the problem fixed. Just thinking about how people would begin to act in a situation where the grid went down strikes fear in the hearts of millions. This is supported by the observation that “doomsday prepping” has became more mainstream. This is a situation that could be even more devastating for transhumanists.

An EMP attack strong enough to take out the electrical grid could be the equivalent to a transhumanist having a stroke. Imagine your mechanical arm or leg being shorted from such an attack. It literally could paralyze those who have chosen to or medically needed to utilize such a device. It could also be an equivalent to a heart attack. Integrated devices would no longer work; mechanical hearts, life-supporting technology would be knocked offline. The effects would be devastating. Battery backups, if unaffected, would have limited life spans or have power greatly reduced due to lack of working energy resources to recharge.

Unfortunately this will be a real threat to transhumanists. The possibility of getting all nations to use nuclear power for energy purposes only – especially those that believe they must retain the concept of mutually assured destruction and rouge nations – is slim to none.

Now that I have doomed and groomed us, let me bring some mitigation to the table. We as transhumanists must first advocate for the dismantling of such weapons by all nations in unison. The probability of this happening with such nations a North Korea and Iran is probably very low. Yes, I just brought us some more doom and gloom, but advocating for such a thing should not be overlooked either as the world develops.

The second mitigating factor would be for us to harden the grid. Let us advocate to protect our transformers, power lines, and plants. This can be achieved but will cost the taxpayers. The Foundation for a Resilient Society estimated in a May 13th, 2015, study that the cost to taxpayers of hardening the grid would be between 10-30 billion dollars.*A small tax or movement of existing taxes to protect the grid would be cost-effective and could help protect us from EMP attacks and save lives. This would increase our national security and should be brought to the attention of your lawmakers.

Aside from strengthening the grid itself and advocating for the dismantling of EMP weapons, public or privately made EMP safe rooms should be developed and funded. These would essentially be bunkers for transhumanists who rely on technology for “life” and require electronic equipment not strong or hardened enough to withstand an EMP. Equipment to detect an attack early would also be essential.

I’m sure there are more brilliant ideas out there about how to mitigate EMPs early. But the most important thing to take away from all this is EMPs are a real threat to both transhumanists and those who choose to live a non-transhumanist life. It is our right not to be injured or killed by an EMP. It is our duty to encourage our lawmakers to protect our rights by hardening the grid, developing early-warning systems, developing EMP-safe bunkers for transhumanists and essential sensitive electronic devices, and ultimately advocating for the dismantling of EMP-type weapons.

Source

The Foundation for Resilient Societies. “Fact Sheet on Preliminary Costing Model of The Foundation for Resilient Societies to Protect the U.S. Electric Grid from Man-made Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Hazards and Solar Geomagnetic Disturbances (GMD)“. 2015.

Cody Meadows is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and submitted this article as a guest post.

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.

***

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

Transhumanism, Meet Business – Article by Alcott Evans

Transhumanism, Meet Business – Article by Alcott Evans

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Alcott Evans


Being the tech and business enthusiast that I am, I have a weekly subscription for Bloomberg Businessweek, so the latest issue arrived in the mailbox yesterday.

After checking through the front-page index which provides headlines for every major topic, I noticed the title “Do-It-Yourself Transhumanism” under the Technology section of the magazine. The article can be read online here.

“Harbisson, whose U.K. passport shows he’s the first legally recognized cyborg, was born colorblind. He designed his antenna—which translates colors into one of 360 musical tones he’s memorized—back in 2003 with help from a cyberneticist. At first, he connected it to headphones and a laptop. Eventually, he persuaded a surgeon to drill into his skull, implant a chip, and fuse the antenna to his occipital bone.”

The field of human augmentation is rapidly becoming its own corporate industry, and many can openly assert that it already is its own industry; plastic surgery and liposuctions are becoming more and more common as we speak. As time passes and technological breakthroughs become more prominent, we will move from surgically fixing asymmetrical faces and other human cosmetic desires to programming “nanobots” which can dive into our bodies to perform the same tasks with relative ease.

Even in today’s early stage of mental and physical augmentations, we can clearly see the industry growing rapidly as individuals seek freedom of expression, a right granted to us by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Alcott Evans is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and submitted this article as a guest post.

Elon Musk and Merging With Machines – Article by Edward Hudgins

Elon Musk and Merging With Machines – Article by Edward Hudgins

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Edward Hudgins


Elon Musk seems to be on board with the argument that, as a news headline sums up, “Humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant in AI age.” The PayPal co-founder and SpaceX and Tesla Motors innovator has, in the past, expressed concern about deep AI. He even had a cameo in Transcendence, a Johnny Depp film that was a cautionary tale about humans becoming machines.

Has Musk changed his views? What should we think?

Human-machine symbiosis

Musk said in a speech this week at the opening of Tesla in Dubai warned governments to “Make sure researchers don’t get carried away — scientists get so engrossed in their work they don’t realize what they are doing. But he also said that “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” In techno-speak he told listeners that “Some high-bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence.” Imagine calculating a rocket trajectory by just thinking about it since your brain and the Artificial Intelligence with which it links are one!

This is, of course, the vision that is the goal of Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis, co-founders of Singularity University. It is the Transhumanist vision of philosopher Max More. It is a vision of exponential technologies that could even help us live forever.

AI doubts?

But in the past, Musk has expressed doubts about AI. In July 2015, he signed onto “Autonomous Weapons: an Open Letter from AI & Robotics Researchers,” which warned that such devices could “select and engage targets without human intervention.” Yes, out-of-control killer robots! But it concluded that “We believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways … Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea…” The letter was also signed by Diamandis, one of the foremost AI proponents. So it’s fair to say that Musk was simply offering reasonable caution.

In Werner Herzog’s documentary Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected World, Musk explained that “I think that the biggest risk is not that the AI will develop a will of its own but rather that it will follow the will of people that establish its utility function.” He offered, “If you were a hedge fund or private equity fund and you said, ‘Well, all I want my AI to do is maximize the value of my portfolio,’ then the AI could decide … to short consumer stocks, go long defense stocks, and start a war.” We wonder if the AI would appreciate that in the long-run, cities in ruins from war would harm the portfolio? In any case, Musk again seems to offer reasonable caution rather than blanket denunciations.

But in his Dubai remarks, he still seemed reticent. Should he and we be worried?

Why move ahead with AI?

Exponential technologies already have revolutionized communications and information and are doing the same to our biology. In the short-term, human-AI interfaces, genetic engineering, and nanotech all promise to enhance our human capacities, to make us smarter, quicker of mind, healthier, and long-lived.

In the long-term Diamandis contends that “Enabled with [brain-computer interfaces] and AI, humans will become massively connected with each other and billions of AIs (computers) via the cloud, analogous to the first multicellular lifeforms 1.5 billion years ago. Such a massive interconnection will lead to the emergence of a new global consciousness, and a new organism I call the Meta-Intelligence.”

What does this mean? If we are truly Transhuman, will we be soulless Star Trek Borgs rather than Datas seeking a better human soul? There has been much deep thinking about such question but I don’t know and neither does anyone else.

In the 1937 Ayn Rand short novel Anthem, we see an impoverished dystopia governed by a totalitarian elites. We read that “It took fifty years to secure the approval of all the Councils for the Candle, and to decide on the number needed.”

Proactionary!

Many elites today are in the throes of the “precautionary principle.” It holds that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm … the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those proposing the action or policy. Under this “don’t do anything for the first time” illogic, humans would never have used fire, much less candles.

By contrast, Max More offers the “proactionary principle.” It holds that we should assess risks according to available science, not popular perception, account for both risks the costs of opportunities foregone, and protect people’s freedom to experiment, innovate, and progress.

Diamandis, More and, let’s hope, Musk are the same path to a future we can’t predict but which we know can be beyond our most optimistic dreams. And you should be on that path too!

Explore:

Edward Hudgins, “Public Opposition to Biotech Endangers Your Life and Health“. July 28, 2016.

Edward Hudgins, “The Robots of Labor Day“. September 2, 2015.

Edward Hudgins, “Google, Entrepreneurs, and Living 500 Years“. March 12, 2015.

Dr. Edward Hudgins is the director of advocacy for The Atlas Society and the editor and author of several books on politics and government policy. He is also a member 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.

A Transhumanist Opinion on Privacy

A Transhumanist Opinion on Privacy

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Ryan Starr

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Privacy is a favorite topic of mine. Maintaining individual privacy is a crucial element in free society. Yet there are many who want to invade it for personal or political gain. As our digital fingerprint becomes a part of our notion of self, how do we maintain our personal privacy on an inherently impersonal network of data? Where do we draw that line on what is private, and how do we enforce it? These are questions that are difficult to answer when looking at a short-term perspective. However, if we look further into the probable future, we can create a plan that helps protect the privacy of citizens today and for generations to come. By taking into account the almost certain physical merger of human biology and technology, the answer becomes clear. Our electronic data should be treated as part of our bodily autonomy.

The explosive success of social media has shown that we already view ourselves as partly digital entities. Where we go, what we eat, and who we are with is proudly displayed in cyberspace for eternity. But beyond that we store unique data about ourselves “securely” on the internet. Bank accounts, tax returns, even medical information are filed away on a server somewhere and specifically identified as us. It’s no longer solely what we chose to let people see. We are physical and digital beings, and it is time we view these two sides as one before we take the next step into enhanced humanity.

Subdermal storage of electronic data is here, and its storage capabilities will expand rapidly. Soon we will be able to store a lot more than just access codes for our doors. It is hard to speculate exactly what people will chose to keep stored this way, and there may even come a time when what we see and hear is automatically stored this way. But before we go too far into what will be stored, we must understand how this information is accessed in present time. These implants are currently based in NFC technology. Near-Field Communication is a method of storing and transmitting data wirelessly within a very short distance. Yes, “wireless” is the key word. It means that if I can connect my NFC tag to my smart phone by just waiving my hand close to it (usually within an inch or so), then technically someone else can, too. While current antenna limitations and the discreetness of where a person’s tag is implanted create a highly secure method of storage, advances in technology will eventually make it easier to access the individual. This is why it is urgent we develop a streamlined policy for privacy.

The current Transhumanist position is that personally collected intellectual property, whether stored digitally or organically, is the property of the individual. As such, it should be protected from unauthorized search and download. The current platform also states that each individual has the freedom to enhance their own body as they like so long as it doesn’t negatively impact others. However, it does not specify what qualifies as a negative impact or how to prevent it. Morphological freedom is a double-edged sword. A person can a person enhance their ability to access information on themselves, but they can also use it to access others. It is entirely feasible enhancements will be created that allow a person to hack another. And collecting personal data isn’t the only risk with that. What if the hacking victim has an artificial heart or an implanted insulin pump? The hacker could potentially access the code the medical device is operating with and change or delete it, ultimately leading to death. Another scenario might be hacking into someone’s enhanced sensory abilities. Much like in the novel Ender’s Game, a person can access another to see what they see. This ability can be abused countless ways ranging from government surveillance to sexual voyeurism. While this is still firmly within the realm of science fiction, a transhuman society will need to create laws to protect against these person-to-person invasions of privacy.

Now let’s consider mass data collection. Proximity beacons could easily and cheaply be scattered across stores and cities to function as passive collection points much like overhead cameras are today. Retail stands to gain significantly from this technology, especially if they are allowed access to intimate knowledge about customers. Government intelligence gathering also stands to benefit from this capability. Levels of adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin stored for personal health analysis could be taken and paired with location data to put together an invasive picture of how people are feeling in a certain situation. Far more can be learned and exploited when discreetly collected biodata is merged with publicly observable activity.

In my mind, these are concerns that should be addressed sooner than later. If we take the appropriate steps to preserve personal privacy in all domains, we can make a positive impact that will last into the 22nd century.

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Ryan Starr is the leader of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado. This article was originally published on his blog, and has been republished here with his permission.