inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #76 of 108: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 25 Feb 15 13:21
    
Gurdjieff was really talking about individual evolution. He did say
that most humans were sleeping and dreaming, and talked about
evolution through self-remembering and becoming more conscious. That
explanation feels simplistic; I believe there are complex levels of
consciousness, and what we call "sleep" entails several levels.
Talking about this stuff could easily take us into tl;dr
territory... but it's worth considering whether there are effective
"consciousness technologies," as Paco Nathan used to characterize
them.  I've used machines that produce cycles of light and sound
that "tune" the brain to specific frequencies, facilitating an alpha
or theta state similar to meditative states in Buddhism, shamanism,
Gurdjieff work, etc. Maybe more trance-human than transhuman. 

I don't think most of us, or maybe any of us, understand what
consciousness is, it's a huge blind spot. We tend to identify as a
permanent self, and at some level you can get to an intellectual
understanding that this concept of self is erroneous, but grasping
it intellectually doesn't mean true realization. You can meditate
until your legs drop off, but if you're running the wrong cycles you
don't get anywhere. 

A technical intervention that shocks the user into an understanding
might be cool, but it might be more than you could handle, if you
get there quickly. 

I wasn't planning to talk about this, though. My next question was
going to be about politics - how the kind of open source politics
we've discussed before could be connected to transhumanist thinking.
Is there a potential for a movement?
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #77 of 108: Jay Cornell (jay-cornell) Wed 25 Feb 15 15:12
    
Whenever I hear about a "new kind of politics," it always seems to
be an old kind of politics, scrambled around a bit and with new
labels... but maybe that's too cynical....
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #78 of 108: R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Wed 25 Feb 15 18:37
    
Yes, Jonl and I had some discussions about forming the "Open Source
Party" 

Here it was in 2007.  

The Open Source Party Proposal
http://www.10zenmonkeys.com/2007/11/26/the-open-source-party-proposal/

btw, Jon, Krist Noveselic, former Nirvana Bass player, came up with
the same idea (or at least the same name) independently. 

Anyway, it would seem like the tools are falling into place for
notions of radical transparency (unfortunately now for individuals
and not for government and large institutions, although
sousveillance, wikileaks etcetera provide a counterforce) and
radical (largely decentralized) democracy etcetera, although
unpacking all that will probably lead to a huge digression.

But I would point to the fact that this idea got a generally good
reaction from many leading H+ types. And that while many think
transhumanism is a corporatist sort of thing, our book is full of
countervailing influences and enthusiasms for a "Citizen Scientists"
movement, Open Source everything, and lots of DIY chatter. 

Having said all that, as time keeps on slipping slipping slipping
into the future fladaladaladalup fladaladaladalup it seems to me
what's up and what's coming is increasingly dysfunctional chaos at
the political level. Not anarchy mind you, unless you consider
everybody not knowing what they're doing and being out of control
including the government to be anarchy. 

Having read Marx and McLuhan as a high schooler in the late '60s,
I've always leaned towards the idea that the material conditions and
the media conditions will set the stage for what happens next. What
I failed to understand is that this doesn't happen in a rational way
and that this thing we've come to call "memes" are more powerful
than practical realities. And with the internet being a memetic
duplicator running constantly at increasing spead, you can't get a
consensus on anything... even that down is not up or that your ass
isn't your elbow. 

Which may be a great antiauthoritarian development (We promised to
blow up consensus reality at Mondo 2000. Done.) but seems just as
likely to manufacture new authoritarian tribes and memetic warlords.
After all, any idea is as good as any other idea... and It Doesn't
Have to Make Sense.

It Doesn't Have to Make Sense, btw, is my alternative title for the
MONDO 2000 History book. 

I am writing this on little sleep and shall perhaps regret it
tomorrow...
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #79 of 108: Rob Myers (robmyers) Wed 25 Feb 15 19:39
    
How much of the content of Transhumanism is Baby Boomers having
their Roy Batty moment? The emphasis on avoiding aging and death is
something that probably wouldn't seem so important to Millennials.
Yet.
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #80 of 108: R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Wed 25 Feb 15 23:27
    
From what I can tell, there's a consistent and increasing influx of
young people into this worldwide. Boomers are probably a bit too
cynical or if not maybe they were swept up into the new age.  Young
people tend to like to find a movement to believe in. This is
subjective and based on maybe a few impressions, but I see comments
from young people on various transhumanism oriented sites and they
tend to be the most intolerant of people who don't get it or maybe
just confounded that everyone can't see the wonderfulness of the
project. 
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #81 of 108: Jay Cornell (jay-cornell) Wed 25 Feb 15 23:34
    
I agree, it's not just boomers, though they (we) are a big part of
the current energy. But the pre-boomer sources of transhumanism
(especially in science fiction) should also be noted.
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #82 of 108: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 26 Feb 15 05:53
    
A movement will more likely succeed if it coheres around an
organization. The World Transhumanist became Humanity+, and had a
clear set of stated objectives:

1) to support discussion and public awareness of emerging
technologies;
2) to defend the right of individuals in free and democratic
societies to adopt technologies that expand human capacities;
3) to anticipate and propose solutions for the potential
consequences of emerging technologies;
4) to actively encourage and support the development of emerging
technologies judged to have sufficiently probable positive benefit.

So there seemed to have been coherent organization at the core of
the movement. How well is that holding together? And what do you
think of Zoltan Istvan and the Transhumanist political party?
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #83 of 108: R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Thu 26 Feb 15 14:07
    
H+ doesn't seem to me to be a great attractor of transhumanist
activism and it's hard to tell exactly what that activism would be.
The objectives are coherent... but in an activist sense, vague.
They're mainly conducive to discussions and conferences where people
share ideas. No one is much trying to stop people in "free and
democratic societies" from using technologies, except maybe
something like the FDA, but even there, there's been nothing
specific enough to generate political activism on a scale that could
be noticed.

You see dozens of transhumanist oriented topics and "groups" on
Facebook and lots of people are in many of them, a lot of them being
the same people...

I kind of ridiculed the idea of Longevity Party political activism
in the book as being really tone deaf... not exactly a populist
cause compared to dozens of more pressing concerns, but maybe the
Transhumanist Party is a good idea if you're main goal is to spread
transhumanist ideas. After all, it doesn't matter at this stage if
your idea is weird or meaningless or even alienating to the
majority, what matters is picking up the people who will go for it.

Zoltan Istvan... man, this dude rode into town a couple of years ago
and has really made himself high profile. Lots of articles all over
town that can be perused and a novel about which, for me, the less
said the better. 

I'm trying to find his pres platform which I can't right now (not a
good sign) but his 3 laws of transhumanism, which he laid out in the
novel and which he seems to mean:

1: A transhumanist must safeguard one's own existence above all
else.
2: A transhumanist must strive to achieve omnipotence as expediently
as possible—so long as one's actions do not conflict with the First
Law.
3: A transhumanist must safeguard value in the universe—so long as
one's actions do not conflict with the First and Second Laws.

Errr... #1 hits a reductio ad absurdum after about 10 seconds of
thought, yet a lot of commentators seem to just let it ride. Truly
bizarre.

But the guy himself seems OK, so I'm holding my fire a bit to try to
figure out what he's actually up to...
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #84 of 108: Jay Cornell (jay-cornell) Thu 26 Feb 15 16:44
    
So if other people or their property have "value in the universe,"
but get in the way of a transhumanist striving to "achieve
omnipotence as expediently as possible," then...?

I'm all for individual rights, but I foresee issues with this
philosophy....
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #85 of 108: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 27 Feb 15 09:49
    
Ha!  "We are as gods so we may as well get good...  no, no, wait.  I
am as God and I may as well get good at eliminating anything that
impedes me in my own survival and comfort."   
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #86 of 108: Jay Cornell (jay-cornell) Fri 27 Feb 15 10:14
    
Yeah, if you're trying to calm people's fears about transhumanism,
those "laws" are not going to help.
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #87 of 108: R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Fri 27 Feb 15 12:58
    

Superhumanity may be a positive but it does attract its share of
sociopaths.
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #88 of 108: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 27 Feb 15 13:21
    
Does a company like Craig Venter's Human Longevity, Inc.
(http://www.humanlongevity.com/) fall within the transhumanist
sphere? 
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #89 of 108: Jay Cornell (jay-cornell) Fri 27 Feb 15 15:54
    
I'd say so.
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #90 of 108: Paulina Borsook (loris) Sat 28 Feb 15 10:45
    


max more and i did a 'brain tennis' (you know, point/counterpoint) about
these issues i think in 1995. neither max nor i have been able to dig it up
--- internet archive i guess didnt go back that far. ah, linkrot...would
love if someone somehow archived this somewhere
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #91 of 108: R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Sat 28 Feb 15 12:00
    
>>
Does a company like Craig Venter's Human Longevity, Inc.
(http://www.humanlongevity.com/) fall within the transhumanist
sphere? 
>>

Yes. There are a lot of credible people doing work in areas that are
part of the transhuman vision or wish list. For the most party, they
don't participate in or identify with the culture of transhumanism
or singularitarianism. We could have listed probably a dozen
individuals of this sort in the book but I picked out George Church
as representative http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_M._Church

>>
max more and i did a 'brain tennis' (you know, point/counterpoint)
about
these issues i think in 1995. neither max nor i have been able to
dig it up
--- internet archive i guess didnt go back that far. ah,
linkrot...would
love if someone somehow archived this somewhere
>>

I did a Hotwired Brain Tennis with Mark Dery. Hmmm, have we tried
the Wayback Machine?
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #92 of 108: Paulina Borsook (loris) Sat 28 Feb 15 12:07
    
as i said, i dont think the wyaback machine went back that far....
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #93 of 108: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 28 Feb 15 12:36
    
Perhaps we should have a new round of each of those conversations
here in Inkwell.
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #94 of 108: Paulina Borsook (loris) Sat 28 Feb 15 17:23
    
gack, does anyone remember what the topics of all those -were-? is it worth
revisiting those thrashes?
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #95 of 108: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Mon 2 Mar 15 08:46
    
I used to produce those Brain Tennis web pages from time to time.
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #96 of 108: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 2 Mar 15 10:48
    
We're down to the last day of our conversation about
_Transcendence_, and I realize we've had little conversation about
transhumanism in media and art. What are the best representations of
transhumanism in film, music, literature, and television? What works
can best deepen our understanding of the concepts you've covered in
the book?
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #97 of 108: Jay Cornell (jay-cornell) Mon 2 Mar 15 11:03
    
One of my favorite science fiction movies, and one with a
transhumanist angle, is Brainstorm (1983). The premise: what if
scientists figure out how to record subjective experience, so that
someone else can play it back and see, feel, smell, etc., someone
else's inner experience? And what if someone was recorded as they
died, and for a while afterwards? It's not exactly mind uploading,
but it's related.

Another somewhat dated reference: Cordwainer Smith's stories of the
Underpeople, who are animals modified into human form and
intelligence, involve the issues of defining "human" and whether
human rights should apply to our own creations.
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #98 of 108: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Mon 2 Mar 15 11:30
    

Thanks for mentioning Cordwainer Smith. His stories are still on my
bookshelf to be re-read from time to time.
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #99 of 108: Peter Meuleners (pjm) Mon 2 Mar 15 13:09
    
I love Brainstorm, even though the death of Natalie Wood caused them
to edit it in some ways that lessened the impact of the story.
  
inkwell.vue.481 : R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, Transcendence
permalink #100 of 108: Jay Cornell (jay-cornell) Mon 2 Mar 15 15:59
    
Brainstorm was also intended to be released in Showscan, Trumbull's
60fps process, but it wasn't due to budget issues. The whole process
of the film was such a hassle that Trumbull never directed mother
one.
  

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