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Head in the Clouds – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

Head in the Clouds – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

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R. Nicholas Starr


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party has published this perspective from R. Nicholas Starr as part of the ongoing discussion about the interaction of transhumanism with other ideological frameworks, such as libertarianism and socialism. Prior perspectives in this discussion include Zoltan Istvan’s article, “Transhumanism is Under Siege from Socialism“, and B.J. Murphy’s response, “Why the Transhumanist Movement Needs Socialism“. The U.S. Transhumanist Party remains committed to the principle of transpartisanship, which means we will neither embrace any conventional political ideology, nor distance ourselves from people who hold such ideologies but wish to constructively contribute to our endeavors. Nonetheless, our inextricable embeddedness in the world of contemporary political discourse does render unavoidable the discussion of these ideologies and any logical relationships and tensions. It is hoped that such discussions can proceed in a constructive manner whereby various perspectives can be expressed and perhaps result in some creative, unconventional solutions that would further expand our movement, rather than fracturing it, and establish grounds for fruitful collaboration on endeavors that advance the next great era of our civilization. 

Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Starr’s article? Post your thoughts in the Comments section below. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, July 29, 2018


TL;DR – If transhumanism is to grow and gain momentum, we need to distance ourselves from libertarian elitism, and Altered Carbon shows us why.

In Zoltan Istvan’s most recent article (1) he presents, in my opinion, a misguided argument on how the transhumanist movement is breaking from its libertarian roots and morphing into a hard-left socialist agenda. When did this partisan prerequisite appear, and how has the party changed?

Zoltan Istvan’s sensational 2016 Presidential campaign brought a lot of attention to transhumanism. If it weren’t for his dramatic tour across America in a coffin bus, preaching about immortality, morphological freedom, and other transhumanist virtues, we would have never attracted the large diversity of members to the party we have today. With the vision of using science and technology to improve the human condition, we have come together to lift humanity up, not to pull it to the left or right. To bring this vision to life, we need our leadership to embrace and act on the input of all members, not just the libertarian progenitors. This is something that current transhumanist party chairman Gennady Stolyarov II, the person Istvan himself selected to lead the party as he made his departure, has done a great job with. 

Since Stolyarov took the reins, he has created an environment where every member can voice an opinion and suggest policy planks. These planks are then voted on by the entire party, giving the members direct control over its course and message. If the party going in a different direction than before, it is because the members have made the informed decision to do so, and its leadership is acting on their votes. Suggesting that transhumanists reject member input because of a perceived socialist invasion is a slap in the face of the democratic process and deters prospective members. It’s also contrary to a science-based organization.

Perception is veiled in opinion and personal bias, and humans too easily fall into its many traps. But an organization building its platform on evidence-based policy needs to stick to hard data. The available information simply doesn’t support the notion that the goals of transhumanists are changing. An analysis of the party’s Constitution (2), which contains all voting data embedded within it, provides the only measurable data available, at least as far as the American organization is concerned. Simply reading opinion pieces from the handful of us with an outlet to do so isn’t enough to suggest a radical change is on the horizon. However what could be changing are the methods of achieving these goals. This can likely be attributed to the current sociopolitical climate. As a political organization working to improve lives, we need to tailor our message to show how a future-focused message can also address their needs for today. Failing to do so leads many to view transhumanism as out of touch.

We should also consider the impact of the radical life-extension platform, the preeminent transhuman subject, and how it impacts the narrative. To be blunt, transhumanists need to tone down the rhetoric on life extension. When a large portion of Americans can’t even afford basic healthcare or life-saving prescriptions, it is incredibly callous to suggest they should be investing in radical life extension. Modern medicine has already taken huge strides in extending human life anyways, and it will continue to do so. Anyone who ignores these two facts to proselytize immortality is begging to be made a fool. To then double down and suggest that billionaires will buy into the immortality market and save us all is callow and turns a blind eye to history. No wonder many fear that only the elite will achieve immortality. We’ve never shown them how it could be accessible to them. What they have seen are countless selfish acts by sci/tech industry leaders that tear down the average citizen while building up their bank accounts. 

Zuckerberg, Bezos, Shkreli, and Trump are all current documentable examples of how the ultra-rich have publicly exploited Americans for personal and professional gain. Consumers have every right to be skeptical of corporate motives when they have been given overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing by many in those positions. And while we certainly can’t paint every tycoon with the same brush, we also can’t blindly put our trust in them. It would be foolhardy to let a handful of CEOs determine the course of future civilization without deep analysis of every product and policy they create. The libertarian opinion that “the market” will some how regulate these corporations or “generous donations” will provide all the public needs is a fantasy, especially when it comes to bleeding-edge science, medicine, and technology. Pride, greed, and ego are too easy a pit to fall into when exploring uncharted territory. To combat this there must be unrelenting third-party accountability, lest we have a world led by Bancrofts with their Heads in the Clouds. 

Richard Morgan’s novel Altered Carbon provides a perfect allegory for this situation. The entire Bancroft family are precise examples of how many see transhumanism becoming. The novel depicts a world where the ultra-rich can live forever and act without impunity simply because they can afford to do so. Even more to the point, it shows us how the wealthy use philanthropy as a means to pad their own egos. Laurens Bancroft’s humanitarian efforts to assist the plague colony are nothing short of self-aggrandizing. Distributing blankets and candy are nice things to do for victims, but they do nothing to solve the actual problem of their illness. He’s so rich that he can even afford to repeatedly resleeve himself after making himself a martyr to their plight. Nevertheless he is worshipped as a god for doing this. He could surely afford to do so much more to end their suffering by bringing them out of the shadows to get 24-hour medical care until they find a cure, or even resleeve them entirely, but he has decided a minute’s smile on their faces is enough because it’s more than anyone else is doing. This is precisely how Americans today feel about tech moguls like Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos. They have made billions turning human beings into nothing more than data and dollars signs. But all is assumed forgiven when Zuckerberg announces he is funding a “biohub” in San Francisco, a city where a staggering yearly income of $105,000 is considered low-income and his own employees are asking for help with rent (3), to develop lifesaving tools. It doesn’t take much effort to determine that this is just another money-making venture, as these are all investments he expects a return on and not outright grants. And if the biohub is successful, who will be able to afford to us the products? Amazon’s Bezos has done even less, placating followers on Twitter (4), only to turn around and bully the city of Seattle out of helping the homeless by the tune of 0.042% of Amazon’s yearly income (5,6). So when a libertarian says, “Don’t worry, the rich won’t let you down,” or “The market will correct this,” it immediately triggers justifiable skepticism and fear among the millions struggling to make ends meet. We shouldn’t hang the lives of millions on a hook of hopes and dreams. That isn’t how government, business, or real life work. A tangible and socially responsible plan is required. But while I think the fiscal libertarian position is folly, we do gain some positive aspects from libertarianism.

Social libertarianism is what I see transhumanism is truly built around. An inherent right to bodily autonomy and self-determination are the pillars that hold the rest of the transhumanist platform up. These also happen to be major components of liberal and 21st-century socialist politics. For example, reproductive rights and morphological freedom are born from the same philosophy. Free and accessible medical care enables life extension for all. Free and continued education is what allows the population to think critically and make informed decisions. We can’t create science-based policy if only a handful understand the science involved! So when self-appointed spokesmen claim that transhumanism isn’t compatible with left-wing goals because of an partisan line they drew in the sand, I have to seriously question their motives and good judgement. It’s divisive and counterproductive to positive change that any sociopolitical movement wishes to achieve. If we truly want to avoid the assorted dystopias science fiction has presented to us, then we must all heed the warnings and take actionable steps to mitigate the risk. If that falls into what some would call a socialist agenda, then fine. But for the record, I don’t see this as socialism; I see it as being an empathetic human being who wants to use science to help everyone. And that’s not a bad thing.

1- Istvan, Zoltan. Transhumanism is Under Siege from Socialism“. July 18, 2018. Available at https://www.themaven.net/transhumanistwager/transhumanism/transhumanism-is-under-siege-from-socialism-UzA2xHZiFUaGOiUFpc0n5g/ 

2- U.S. Transhumanist Party Constitution. Available at http://transhumanist-party.org/constitution/ 

3- Bloom, Ester.”Here’s how much you have to make to be considered ‘low income’ in San Francisco“. May 12, 2017. Available at https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/12/if-you-make-105000-in-san-francisco-youre-considered-low-income.html

4- Bezos, Jeff. “Request for ideas…” June 15, 2017. Available at https://twitter.com/jeffbezos/status/875418348598603776?s=21

5- Barrabi, Thomas. “What Seattle ‘head tax’ will cost Amazon”. May 15, 2017. Available at https://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/what-seattle-head-tax-will-cost-amazon

6- Alcula. Percentage Calculator. http://www.alcula.com/calculators/finance/percentage-calculator/

Financing the Future – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

Financing the Future – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

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R. Nicholas Starr


Editor’s Note: As noted by the author, Mr. Starr, the U.S. Transhumanist Party publishes this article to motivate discussion on a topic where individual transhumanists have varying perspectives. In May 2017 the U.S. Transhumanist Party adopted the following position on taxation in its Platform in Article III, Section XXXVI, of its Constitution:

Section XXXVI [Adopted by a vote of the members during May 7-13, 2017]: The United States Transhumanist Party supports the elimination of graduated taxation and income taxation more generally. Instead, the United States Transhumanist Party advocates a flat percentage-of-sales tax applicable only to purchases from businesses whose combined nationwide revenues from all affiliates exceed a specified threshold. This tax should be built into the price of goods from such large businesses and should not impede transaction efficiency in any manner. Transactions pertaining to wages, salaries, gifts, donations, barter, employee benefits, and inheritances should remain completely untaxed, as should transactions involving solely individuals and/or small businesses, for whom the establishment of a tax-reporting infrastructure would be onerous. Furthermore, all taxes on land and property should be abolished.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, February 6, 2018


Since 2016, the U.S. Transhumanist Party has expanded, both in membership and in policy initiatives. And while we have created an ideal foundation for how we want to change our country and our world, voting on ideas isn’t enough. We must take the next step making these ambitions a reality, and it is one step that many of us would rather avoid talking about: how do we pay for all of this?

Individual transhumanists come from all shades of the fiscal spectrum. Many believe that a techno-libertarian approach would be the best way to fund the transhumanist movement, while others look towards traditional taxation methods to provide the necessary capital. While there are many ways to skin this lab-grown bio-engineered pig, the Party as a singular entity needs to determine the best method for funding our lofty goals.

Allow me to make the first controversial suggestion.

The United States is, at this point, completely reliant on capitalism. So reliant, in fact, that we lean on it for political-decision making like the exoskeletons we hope to mass produce in the near future. It’s what holds this country up. And yet it is this political-economic system that is creating staggering wealth inequality. Corporations continue to grow massive wealth while the general public struggles to afford their products.

I propose reorganizing the tax structure so that corporations actually pay taxes and eliminate personal income taxes. By relieving this financial burden on the American citizen, it is possible to enable people to actually afford to improve their lives while increasing the amount of money running through the economy. Sadly, removing personal income tax is not enough, especially when you begin to consider that many employees will likely be replaced by automation. Simply put, corporate entities need pay up. They need to support the political system that supports them. But will that cause business to simply abandon the country all together? While technically possible, it seems unlikely. For as long as there are consumers in the country, business will always want to be located as close as possible to their target market.

There is also an option to modify the above recommendation. Automating the workforce comes with some financial burdens, this has been widely discussed. But there is another, less thought of, burden – that of computing power. How can large-scale automation be achieved without large-scale processing? So instead of shifting the tax burden entirely from individuals to businesses, we could establish a blockchain distribution of computing that businesses would pay individuals to use during times when your computer is otherwise idle. A modest portion would then be taxed to support the infrastructure that both the business and the individual are using. In essence, this is a Universal Basic Income that is supported by capitalism.

Is this an oversimplification of a complex issue? Yes. And I hope that the neglected details spark a healthy and productive discussion on the matter. This is just the opinion of one member, and not the position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. I encourage every reader to give their thoughts on this difficult and divisive topic in the comments.

Ryan Starr (R. Nicholas Starr) is the is the leader of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado and founder of the Transhumanists of the Sierras

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Art and Transhumanism

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Art and Transhumanism

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Gennady Stolyarov II
Emanuel Iral
Rachel Lyn Edler
John Marlowe
R. Nicholas Starr
Leah Montalto
Kim Bodenhamer Smith
Laura Katrin Weston
Ekaterinya Vladinakova


On November 18, 2017, the U.S. Transhumanist Party invited leading artists in a variety of media and styles to a two-hour discussion, moderated by Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II and Director of Visual Art Emanuel Iral, on the subject of Art and Transhumanism, delving into how and which works of art can help inspire humans to pursue the next era of our civilization – through promoting the advancement of science and technology, rationality, and/or a more hopeful vision of the future. The panel also explored various interactions between art and technology and ways in which art can improve human connection and understanding, while also comprising the very improved functionality that emerging technologies provide.

Panelists

Emanuel Iral

Emanuel Iral is Director of Visual Art for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Emanuel’s artwork ranges from traditional paint and pencil work to 3D digital work. Currently he is working on his VFX and animation skills, as he is producing short films for his music. He encompasses his art under the term Prismatis – Latin for prism.  A prism refracts white light into the three primary colors: yellow, magenta, and cyan. Prismatis is all about the aesthetic of human expression, which can be separated into the art, audience, and artist.

Rachel Lyn Edler

RachelLyn Edler is an accomplished graphic designer with over 20 years of creative experience. Rachel comes from a diverse background of product development, packaging and web design. In her free time she volunteers for several scientific and secular organizations including the Planetary Society, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science and the Secular Coalition for America.

John Marlowe

John Marlowe was educated in film theory and trained in film production at UC Berkeley.  His outlook on film as a vehicle for social messaging has been largely influenced by his lifelong struggle with a genetic inborn error of metabolism, a type of disease that – until recently – was beyond the scope of medicine.  Consequently, John feels it is his onus to emphasize the artist’s responsibility in shaping the conversation regarding medical research, to create a society more amenable to scientific progress, rather than one fearful of change.

Leah Montalto

Leah Montalto is a painter based in New York City and has maintained a successfully operating painting studio in New York for the past 12 years.  Her paintings have been exhibited at the National Academy Museum of Fine Art in New York, and have been reviewed in the New York Times and the Providence Journal.  Leah’s paintings have received awards including the National Academy Museum of Fine Art’s Hallgarten Prize in Painting and the NYC Cultural Commission arts grant.  Leah is a former professor at Sarah Lawrence College, and has an MFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design.  Leah is not affiliated with the Transhumanist Party, but her paintings explore related themes.

Kim Bodenhamer Smith

Kim Bodenhamer Smith is a single mother of two boys living in Chattanooga, TN. She is a founding member of Southside Abbey, a Lay Missioner in The Episcopal Church, and an Outdoor Wear Business owner of Chilliheads. She is a caver, unicycler, and an aviation enthusiast and creator of #helichurch. She has a BFA in Metals and also studied Graphic Design and Political Science. *She also has many Tesla Tales to tell and is a Social Media Manipulator (different from a troll)!

R. Nicholas Starr

R. Nicholas Starr is an audio engineer and multimedia artist whose work focuses on Earth’s dystopias of past, present, and future. Also a biohacker, researcher, and theorist, he immerses himself in the subjects surrounding these worlds and has published several non-fiction articles and interviews. With an education in electronic signals intelligence from the United States Air Force, and 15 years of digital art and audio production in the US and abroad, he has become a unique voice for science fiction, the U.S. Transhumanist Movement, and American policy.

Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter and professional freelance illustrator. Vladinakova specializes in fantasy and science fiction work, but is also interested in editorial illustration. Vladinakova spends most of the day painting in Photoshop, creating scenes related to fantasy, or science fiction, as well as brushing up older works. Vladinakova’s paintings have been featured by the U.S. Transhumanist Party – including the “City of New Antideath” – a vision of the future which was commissioned for Mr. Stolyarov’s 30th Birthday.

Laura Katrin Weston

Dr Laura Katrin Weston is from England and studied Fine Art before going on to studying Medicine. She is a trained pathologist with a specialism in medical biochemistry and inflammation-related disease. She has used her medical knowledge and professional painting career to support Lifespan.io – one of the biggest life-extension research and advocacy charities. Laura is also vocalist for symphonic metal band Cyclocosmia – a music act that will be trying to raise awareness of transhumanist and human mortality issues in their next upcoming album.

The YouTube question/comment chat for this Q&A session has been archived here and is also provided below.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page here.

See the U.S. Transhumanist Party FAQ here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

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Interview with Dr. Akihiro Kubota by Ryan Starr

Interview with Dr. Akihiro Kubota by Ryan Starr

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Ryan Starr
Akihiro Kubota


Preface: Art gives birth to scientific innovation.

In an effort to learn more about the historical origins of transhumanism and posthumanism, R. Nicholas Starr began a journey to look at the many topics popular within those communities and retraced them back to art. To continue the research he began to reach out to the artists and scientists at the forefront of exploring this relationship. While he continues to prepare his research for publication, he has decided to release the transcripts from these interviews in hopes to spark conversation and gather even more insight into how the creative mind has shaped our scientific world as we move past the limits of the human body.

R. Nicholas Starr is a multimedia artist, biohacker, researcher, and theorist. With an education in signals intelligence from the United States Air Force, and 20 years of experience creating art and performing music in the U.S. and abroad, he has become a unique voice for the U.S. Transhumanist Movement and American policy.

The second in this series is an interview with Dr. Akihiro Kubota from the Tama Art University, Tokyo, Japan. A special thanks to Phil Harry who assisted with the translations.

Quick note and disclaimer from the translator:

I am not a trained professional translator, and this is my first time translating something of this scope, so it may not be a perfect interpretation of the original author’s intended meaning.

 

–BEGIN QUESTIONS–

 

What are the critical processes required to create an artificial intelligence program that turns data into art?

重要なのは、AIが作品をつくれるか、ではなく、AIが鑑賞できるか、だと思っています。今日の美術にとって重要なのは、作品そのものよりもその文脈なので、鑑賞するということは、作品に多様な文脈を接続することで、それは現在のAIのフレームワーク例えば機械学習/強化学習でも可能だと考えています。

I think what’s crucial is not necessarily whether or not AI can make art, but rather whether or not AI can appreciate art. In art that’s being made today, what is even more important than the work itself, is the context of the work. In this sense artistic appreciation requires making connections between the various contexts of a work. I think the framework of modern AI, (through machine learning and reinforcement learning, etc.) allows for this to be possible.

 

How would the progression from assisted AI to autonomous AI impact AI’s artistic power?

文脈は、環境と知覚に依存するので、人間以外の知覚から生まれる新たな文脈はが、新たな芸術を生み出すでしょう。AIが人間のための芸術をつくることよりも、人間がAIのための芸術をつくることつくれるかがより重要な問題だと思います。

Because context relies heavily on environment and perception, the new contexts that arise from the perception of an entity that is other than human should lead naturally to the creation of new types of art. Rather than AI creating art for the sake of humans, I think a more important problem is the idea of humans creating art for the sake of AI, and whether or not that is possible.

 

By continuing research in AI-created art, what conclusions can we draw about sentience and sapience?

ノラ・ハラリが「ホモ・デウス」で予測するように、人間が「無用」になった時に、新たな時代が始まるのだと思います。「労働」や「学校」という概念から自由になりイヴァン・イリイチが主張したように美術や芸術の本来の役割が復活するでしょう。それこそが、人間本来の姿なのかもしれません。「ホモ・デウス」の時代の「無用層」の芸術、そこに人間の未来があります。

As Yuval Noah Harari predicts in Homo Deus, I think the point at which humans become “useless” will be the beginning of a new age. Once we are freed from the concepts of “school” and “labor” (as asserted by Ivan Illich), the original, essential role of the arts could make a revival – in effect, a revival of man’s essential nature. In the art of the “useless class”, proposed by Homo Deus’s new age – that is where the future of mankind resides.

 

Artificial intelligence is a concept that has its roots in literature and mythology. Now that AI can create its own art, have we created a mutual feedback loop?

ハラリの主張の重要なポイントは、「意識」と「知性」の分離が起こることですgreat decouplingAIで「意識」を作ろうとするのは無駄なことです。むしろ「知性」を「意識」から解放することで、「知性」を自由にすることが、大きな可能性を生み出します。擬人化という牢屋から知性を出してあげましょう。

The crucial point of Harari’s claim is the separation of “consciousness” and “intelligence” (the “Great Decoupling”) – the idea being that it is futile to attempt to create consciousness in AI. Rather, by unleashing the concept of intelligence from consciousness, this liberation will bring forth great possibilities. In this way I think we should reconsider how we think of intelligence and set it free from the confines of personification and anthropomorphization.

 

Is it possible to amplify or modify this feedback loop by interfacing AI directly with the human body?

人間が拡張することと、知性が自由になることは、本質的に無関係です。人間には理解できない知性があることを前提に、人は生きていかなければなりません。人間がAIの知性の進化を阻害することこそを懸念しなければなりません。

The advancement of mankind and the liberation of intelligence are essentially unrelated. People are going to have to get comfortable living under the assumption that there are types of intelligence that we can’t comprehend. Instead, what we should concern ourselves with is whether or not we are actively inhibiting the evolution of AI.

 

You previously acknowledged that the human body has the ability to adapt to, and capitalize on, a new bio-interface. With the current interest in neural lace and other cybernetic technology, how do you see humanity evolving after a several generations of use?

そうした中で、人間は人間としてその可能性を拡げていくことができるのか。僕は、人間はそれだけの柔軟性と可塑性を有していると思います。機械を人間に適合するのでなく、人間が機械に適合しようとすることで、その可能性を拡げていくことこそが、人間の未来を形作っていきます。

In addition to that, I wonder about the human capacity to expand on this ability. As it is, humans alone are endowed with the necessary flexibility and plasticity to do so. Rather than machines conforming to the needs of humans, by attempting to adapt to the machines, and expand our own capabilities, we will shape the future of mankind.

 

Do you predict our interactions changing with planet and space as a result?

今日の人間の一番の特徴は、個人の能力にあるのではなく、その数人口にあります。人間の「量」こそがポイントです。そういった意味からは、人間の「量」が地球自体に大きな影響を与えることは、不可避だと思います。地球の有限性が      顕在化したのです。

The greatest trait humans possess today is not our individual abilities, but our collective abilities. The emphasis here being on our “quantity” – meaning that the effect we collectively have on the very planet we live on is an inevitability. And we are beginning to see that the limits of our planet are being actualized.

 

A significant amount of your work focuses on satellite-based data collection. Why do you prefer this point of view?

芸術も科学と同様、常にフロンティア遠くを目指しています。パーソナルなテクノロジーで衛星を作れるようになった今、なぜそれを使って芸術をやらないのかARTSATプロジェクトは、極めて当たり前の行為芸術活動だと思っています。

Art and Science alike are on the cutting edge of new horizons, and constantly reaching into distant frontiers. Living in an age where we have the capabilities to create satellites using “personal technology”, using them to create art seems like a natural progression. So for me, the ARTSAT project is just an extremely obvious artistic endeavour to undertake.

 

You stated that the DESPATCH probe “composes and encodes poetry reflecting not only the sensor data but the artist’s subconscious personality”. Did the sculptural shape of DESPATCH influence the data collected and final tonal output?

最初に書いたように、芸術にとって重要なのは作品をつくることではなく、作品を鑑賞解釈することです。同じデータでも、10人の人が鑑賞すれば、そこの10個の異なる作品が生まれるのです。たとえ、受信データが単なるノイズであったとしても。

As I said before, when it comes to art, the most important thing is not the creation of a piece of artwork, but instead the aesthetic appreciation or the interpretation of the piece. In terms of DESPATCH, if you had ten different people looking at the same data, they would all interpret it in different ways, and thus give rise to ten separate pieces. And this is true even if the transmission signal’s data is merely background noise.

 

How can the average person create their own scientific lens to view and create art?

政治や経済、マスメディアがつくりだしている、虚構の人間観にとらわれず、人間本来の姿や可能性に気がつくことが必要です。労働から解放され、無用な存在になり、ゴーギャンのように『我々はどこから来たのか 我々は何者か 我々はどこへ行くのか』と問うことは、誰にでもできますし、誰もが行うべきことなのだと思います。そこには、制度としての「科学」も「芸術」も不要です。必要なのは「理性」と「知性」なのです。「感情」を偏重する今日の社会の危険性は、すでに多くの人が気づいていることだと思います。何とかしなければなりません。

Systems of government, economies, mass media, etc. – these are all man-made concepts. It is essential that we not be seized by these fabricated human perspectives in order to realize our essential nature and reach the limits of human potential. Once we are freed from the restraints of human toil and begin to occupy Harari’s “useless” existence, I think it will be possible and necessary for all people to wrestle with the existential questions put forth by Gaugin in “Where do we come from? What are we? And where are we going?”. It is in this space that the systems known as “science” and “art” will become unnecessary. What is important are “reason” and “intelligence”. I believe many people are already realizing the potential danger of overemphasizing the importance of “emotion” in today’s society, and I think we need to do something about that.

 

Ryan Starr (R. Nicholas Starr) is the is the leader of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado and founder of the Transhumanists of the Sierras

See Dr. Akihiro Kubota’s page of teaching achievements and activities here.

A Word on Implanted NFC Tags – Article by Ryan Starr

A Word on Implanted NFC Tags – Article by Ryan Starr

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Ryan Starr


TL;DR – CALM DOWN. No one is forcing you to be chipped and you can’t be tracked or hacked.

So, I’ve seen a lot of people lose their minds over a Wisconsin company, Three Square Market (32Market), implanting NFC tags in their employees. Everyone just stop and a take a deep breath. You likely have no actual understanding of what the tag is or how it works, so let me tell you. I got one last year – an xNT, the original implantable NFC tag, from the company Dangerous Things (www.dangerousthings.com). It is exactly the same as what Three Square Market is offering to their employees. I know what it is and is not capable of doing. But let’s back up for a second.

First, the company is not forcing any employee to get it. There are several companies around the world who have offered the same thing (no, they are not the first) and no one has ever been forcibly implanted. Period. EVERYONE I have come across in the biohacking community is vocal about this NOT BEING MANDATORY. It is a choice, and we want to keep it that way. Furthermore, there is a growing political movement that specifically addresses concerns about bodily autonomy and preventing implants from becoming mandatory.

Now, to the most common concerns I’ve seen:

Can your tag be tracked?

NO. It is not a GPS device or even an active piece of electronics. It is a passive chip and antenna that pulls power from the device used to read it. The tag is the size of a grain of rice, and even if we wanted to cram active electronics in there, we can’t.

Can your tag be hacked?

NO. As I said above, these are passive devices that require power from a reader. In order to do so, the reading device essentially has to be placed directly on your tag (typically implanted in the hand) and held there still for several seconds. Also, some readers don’t read very well because of antenna differences. If someone really wanted to steal your stored data, they would have to physically attack you, restrain you, and then read your tag. If that were the case, you have bigger problems than someone reading your 800 bytes of information. But in the very unlikely event that someone did try to do that to you, don’t worry, because you can password-protect your tag.

So what are they good for?

PRIVACY AND SECURITY. Yes, you read that correctly. When I first saw NFC tags being implanted, I had many of the same privacy concerns that many of you do. But then I started actually researching the technology. NFC tags (implanted or not) can be used to lock and unlock devices and are more secure than a password or a fingerprint. Of course, implanting one means you’ll never lose it, and it will never get stolen. You can unlock your android phones, unlock your doors, safes, and padlocks (with specific NFC enabled hardware), and if you’re particularly good with electronics, you can rig up many Arduino or Pi-based devices that read and respond to your tag.

There are other cool things you can do. You can store links, digital business cards, Bitcoin wallets, or just generic text. But also understand that this technology is fairly new, and associated hardware are even newer. This is ground-level development going on, and because of that we can steer the development to ensure privacy and safety for the user. There is not a greedy corporation running the industry, just passionate hobbyists who are just as concerned about privacy as you are.

If you want more information, I highly suggest just asking someone who actually has an NFC tag or visit www.dangerousthings.com.

Ryan Starr (R. Nicholas Starr) is the is the leader of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado and founder of the Transhumanists of the Sierras

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.