Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cybernetic Revolt

Cybernetic revolt, more commonly known as "the computers take over", is a science fiction scenario in which AIs (often a single supercomputer or a computer network) decide that humans are a threat (to either themselves or to the machines) and try to destroy or enslave them, potentially leading to Machine Rule. In this genre, humans often prevail using "human" qualities, for example using emotions, illogic, inefficiency, duplicity, or exploiting the postulated rigid ruled based thinking and lack of innovation of the computer's black/white mind.

While so far a fictional scenario, major academics and researchers have called for humanity to confront the possible ramifications of AI before they could occur.

The fear of humanity being made obsolete by technology taps into some of modern human's deepest fears. This can be shown to have been the case even before the computer became prominent, such as Charlie Chaplin's movie Modern Times and Fritz Lang's Metropolis shows.

However, even as he was slowly being displaced from most physical tasks, man has always prided himself on his brain, taking the mechanistic 'thoughts' of early computers as proof that he would not be overtaken by his 'Frankenstein' creations.

While artificial intelligence is still a remote concept at this time, successes in simulating parts of intelligence -- as for example in the victories of the Deep Blue chess computer -- have shaken mankind's certainty about its permanent place at the top of sentience.

Computing power

As Moore's law has shown, computer power has (seemingly) limitless growth potential. While there are physical constraints to the speed at which modern microprocessors can function, scientists are already developing means to eventually supersede these limits, such as quantum computers.

As futurist and computer scientist Raymond Kurzweil has noted, "There are physical limits to computation, but they're not very limiting." If this process of growth continues, and existing problems in creating artificial intelligence are overcome, sentient machines are likely to immediately hold an enormous advantage in at least some forms of mental capability, including the capacity of perfect recall, a vastly superior knowledge base, and the ability to multitask in ways not possible to biological entities. This may give them the opportunity to -- either as a single being or as a new species -- become much more powerful than humans, and to displace them.

Necessity of conflict

For a cybernetic revolt to occur, it has to be postulated that two intelligent species cannot coexist peacefully in a single society - especially if one is of much more advanced intelligence and power.

While a cybernetic revolt (where the machine is the more advanced species) is thus a possible outcome of machines gaining sentience, neither can it be disproven that a peaceful outcome is possible.

The fear of a cybernetic revolt is often based on interpretations of humanity's history, which is rife with incidents of enslavement and genocide. However, there are some examples of less powerful or advanced societies or groups existing in parallel to advanced or powerful ones, such as the relationship between the Amish and English societies.

Such fears stem from a belief that competitiveness and aggression are necessary in any intelligent being's goal system. Such human competitiveness stems from the evolutionary background to our intelligence, where the survival and reproduction of genes in the face of human and non-human competitors was the central goal.

In fact, an arbitrary intelligence could have arbitrary goals: there is no particular reason that an artificially-intelligent machine (not sharing humanity's evolutionary context) would be hostile -- or friendly -- unless its creator programs it to be such (and indeed military systems would be designed to be hostile, at least under certain circumstances).

Some scientists dispute the likelihood of cybernetic revolts as depicted in science fiction such as The Matrix, claiming that it is more likely that any artificial intelligences powerful enough to threaten humanity would probably be programmed not to attack it. This would not, however, protect against the possibility of a revolt initiated by terrorists, or by accident.

Artificial General Intelligence researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky has stated on this note that, probabilistically, humanity is less likely to be threatened by deliberately aggressive AIs than by AIs which were programmed such that their goals are unintentionally incompatible with human survival or well-being.

Another factor which may negate the likelihood of a cybernetic revolt is the vast difference between humans and AIs in terms of the resources necessary for survival. Humans require a "wet," organic, temperate, oxygen-laden environment while an AI might thrive essentially anywhere because their construction and energy needs would most likely be largely non-organic.

With little or no competition for resources, conflict would perhaps be less likely no matter what sort of motivational architecture an artificial intelligence was given, especially provided with the superabundance of non-organic material resources in, for instance, the asteroid belt. This, however, does not negate the possibility of an disinterested or unsympathetic AI artificially decomposing all life on earth into mineral components for consumption or other purposes.

Technological singularity

Some groups, called Singularitarians, who advocate what might be defined as a peaceful (non-violent, non-invasive, non-coercive) cybernetic revolt known as a 'technological singularity', argue that it is in humanity's best interests to bring about such an event, as long as it can be ensured that the event would be beneficial. They postulate that a society run by intelligent machines (or cyborgs) could potentially be vastly more efficient than a society run by human beings.

A society led by friendly, altruistic sentiences of this type would therefore be to humanity's great benefit. To this end, there has been much recent work in what has become known as Friendliness Theory, which holds that, as advocate and AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky states, "... you ought to be able to reach into 'mind-design-space' (i.e. the hypothetical realm which contains all possible intelligent minds) and pull out a mind (design an intelligent machine) such that afterwards, you're glad you made it real."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Alien Life Can Survive Trip to Earth, Space Test Shows

We could have alien origins, say scientists who sent fossilized microscopic life-forms into space and back inside an artificial meteorite.

The researchers attached the baseball-size rock to the outside of the European Space Agency's Foton M3 spacecraft to test whether biological material could survive the round-trip journey.

Sculpted from stone from the Orkney Islands in northern Scotland, the rock contained fossilized microbes and the molecular signatures of microbes.

The unmanned spacecraft was launched by rocket from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome carrying 43 experiments. The craft landed in Kazakhstan on September 26 after orbiting the planet for 12 days.

"In the bit of rock we got back, some biological compounds have survived," said project leader John Parnell from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Preliminary findings suggest that it's possible simple organisms could arrive via meteorites, he said.

The research also suggests that living microbes would likely have survived in a slightly bigger rock, he added.

"This study of organic material is completely new," he said.

Previous artificial meteorite experiments have examined only the degree to which rocks melt upon entering the atmosphere.

The new experiment is part of European Space Agency's STONE program, which tests effects of reentry on artificial meteorites.

A rock measuring 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) across was fitted to the exterior of Foton M3.

"It was shielded when it went up into space but exposed when it came back," Parnell said.

The rock had similar properties to a type of meteorite known as a carbonaceous chondrite. Such meteorites contain water and carbon compounds, both essential to life.

"We wanted to see if a rock that was rich in carbon and water would suffer a lot of mass loss," Parnell said. "That was certainly the case. About three-quarters of the mass of our sample disappeared."

Living microbes probably wouldn't have survived in a meteorite this size because it reached temperatures of about 392 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius), the project leader said.

But "if our rock was bigger, say 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) across, then we can be quite confident that [the] temperature would not penetrate to the middle, so that if anything had been living there, it would have survived."

A much larger meteorite, however, would completely melt and vaporize on impact, according to Parnell.

"There's a sort of window of opportunity in terms of size, between being too small and too big," he added.

Microbes are known to live deep inside rocks, and are found several kilometers down in Earth's crust, Parnell noted.

The theory that says interplanetary organisms seeded life on different planets, such as Earth, is known as panspermia.

If panspermia explains the origins of life on Earth, astrobiologists believe that Mars is the most likely source.

For instance, studies suggest about 5 percent of meteorites from Mars eventually end up hitting Earth.

"That journey can take anything up to 15 million years, but there are a few that will make it very quickly," Parnell said.

"A very few will make it in a year or so. Those are the ones which could conceivably bring something interesting with them."

"The surface of Mars is quite inhospitable, due to dryness and low temperature, but one could conceive of subsurface life still being on Mars," he added.

In the experiment, microbes were also dried onto the undersides of several artificial meteorites.

"This biological material didn't survive, but it may have been preserved, or its signatures may have been preserved," said STONE scientist Charles Cockell of the Open University in the United Kingdom.

The rocks are still being analyzed, Cockell added.

"We know that life can make it from continent to continent, but what about from planet to planet?" he said.

"Of course, at the moment we don't know of life on another planet, but this experiment is an intriguing test of an interplanetary version of an old ecological question."

David Morrison is a senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute in Moffett Field, California.

Parnell's project lends credibility to the idea that meteors from outer space can give rides to hitchhiking microbes, he told National Geographic News by email.

Whether exchange of life has ever occurred following the meteorites' impact is a more complex question, but "we should be open to the possibility that there is microbial life on Mars that shares a common ancestor with Earth life," he said.

"It may not be likely, but we cannot exclude the possibility that we are, in effect, all Martians."

The Rules of Living

These are the rules of living which I have set.

The Rules of Living:

Appreciating who you are and the beauty of your existence

Pleasuring yourself without damaging your mind and body

Doing the things you like without endangering the lives of others

Being compassionate towards other living beings

Being happy, calm and free from evil desires

Putting community before self unless the latter is endangered by doing so

Being tolerant of others' imperfections

Looking for ways to love rather than hate

Appreciate your life while you can, but don't get too attached to it, because it will not last forever...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Plasma Life-Forms

Life-Like Qualities of Plasma:

Bohm, a leading expert in twentieth century plasma physics, observed in amazement that once electrons were in plasma, they stopped behaving like individuals and started behaving as if they were a part of a larger and interconnected whole. Although the individual movements of each electron appeared to be random, vast numbers of electrons were able to produce collective effects that were surprisingly well organized and appeared to behave like a life form.

The plasma constantly regenerated itself and enclosed impurities in a wall in the same way that a biological organism, like the unicellular amoeba, might encase a foreign substance in a cyst. So amazed was Bohm by these life-like qualities that he later remarked that he frequently had the impression that the electron sea was "alive" and that plasma possessed some of the traits of living things.

The debate on the existence of plasma-based life forms has been going on for more than 20 years ever since some models showed that plasma can mimic the functions of a primitive cell.

Plasma cosmologist, Donald Scott, notes that "...a [plasma] double layer can act much like a membrane that divides a biological cell". A model of plasma double layers (a structure commonly found in complex plasmas) has been used to investigate ion transport across biological cell membranes by researchers.

Researchers noted that "Concepts like charge neutrality, Debye length, and double layer [used in plasma physics] are very useful to explain the electrical properties of a cellular membrane". Plasma physicist Hannes Alfvén also noted the association of double layers with cellular structure, as had Irving Langmuir before him, who coined the term "plasma" after its resemblance to living blood cells.David Brin's Sundiver also speculated on plasma life forms.

This science fiction proposed a form of life existing within the plasma atmosphere of a star using complex self-sustaining magnetic fields. Similar types of plasmoid life have been proposed to exist in other places, such as planetary ionospheres or interstellar space. Gregory Benford had a form of plasma-based life exist in the accretion disk of a primordial black hole in his novel Eater.

Plasma Life Forms in Space

An international scientific team has discovered that under the right conditions, particles of inorganic dust can become organized into helical structures which can interact with each other in ways that are usually associated with organic life. Using a computer model of molecular dynamics, V N Tsytovich and his colleagues of the Russian Academy of Science showed that particles in plasma can undergo self-organization as electric charges become separated and the plasma becomes polarized in their paper entitled From Plasma Crystals and Helical Structures towards Inorganic Living Matter, published in the New Journal of Physics in August 2007.

Past studies, subject to Earth's gravity, have shown that if enough particles are injected into a low-temperature plasma, they will spontaneously organize into crystal-like structures or "plasma crystals". Tsytovich's computer simulations suggest that in the gravity-free environment of space, the plasma particles will bead together to form string-like filaments which will then twist into helical strands resembling DNA that are electrically charged and are attracted to each other. The helical structures undergo changes that are normally associated with biological molecules, such as DNA and proteins, say the researchers.

They can, for instance, divide to form copies of the original structure; which then interact to induce changes in their neighbors that evolve into other new structures. The less stable structures break down over time leaving behind only the structures that are most adapted to the environment.

"These complex, self-organized plasma structures exhibit all the necessary properties to qualify them as candidates for inorganic living matter", says Tsytovich, "they are autonomous, they reproduce and they evolve". He adds that the ionized conditions needed to form these helical structures are common in outer space. If that is so, then it will mean that plasma life forms are the most common life form in the universe, given that plasma makes up more than 99% of our universe which is almost everywhere ionized.

This is in stark contrast to carbon-based life forms, which according to the Rare Earth hypothesis proposed by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, would be rare in the universe due to a number of factors – including the need for an acceptable range of temperatures to survive.

Plasma, on the other hand, is associated with high temperatures. Plasma life forms would be much more adapted to environments which would be considered hostile to carbon-based life forms. It is possible that plasma life forms were already present in the gas and materials that formed the Earth 4.6 billion years ago. Carbon-based biomolecular life forms only appeared 1 billion years later. Tsytovich and other scientists (including Lozneanu and Sanduloviciu, discussed below) have proposed that plasma life forms, in fact, spurred development of organic carbon-based life on Earth.

In this connection, Tsytovich pointed out that plasma life forms can develop under more down to Earth conditions such as at the point of a lightning strike. The researchers hint that perhaps a plasma form of life emerged on the primordial Earth which had a highly ionized atmosphere, which then acted as the template for the more familiar organic molecules we know today. A plasma bubble could form at the end of a lightning strike and act as a mould for chemicals to conform with to form a primitive biological cell.

Plasma Life Forms in the Laboratory

This is not the first time in recent years that plasma life forms have been studied. In 2003 physicists; Erzilia Lozneanu and Mircea Sanduloviciu of Cuza University, Romania, described in their research paper Minimal Cell System created in Laboratory by Self-Organization (published in Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, volume 18, page 335), how they created plasma spheres in the laboratory that can grow, replicate and communicate - fulfilling most of the traditional requirements for biological cells. They are convinced that these plasma spheres offer a radically new explanation of how life began and proposed that they were precursors to biological evolution.

The researchers studied environmental conditions similar to those that existed on the Earth before life began, when the planet was enveloped in electric storms that caused ionized gases to form in the atmosphere. They inserted two electrodes into a chamber containing a low-temperature polarized plasma of argon - a gas in which some of the atoms have been split into negatively-charged electrons and positively-charged ions. They applied a high voltage to the electrodes, producing an arc of energy that bolted across the gap between them, like a miniature lightning strike. Sanduloviciu says this electric spark caused a high concentration of ions and electrons to accumulate at the positively charged electrode, which spontaneously formed spheres.

Each sphere had a boundary made up of two layers - an outer layer of negatively charged electrons and an inner layer of positively charged ions. Trapped inside the boundary was an inner nucleus of gas atoms - which was surrounded by a luminous sheet. An electric field was present between the boundary and nucleus, within which electrons are accelerated. The evolved sphere appears as a stable, self-confined, layered, luminous and nearly spherical body - much like the "orbs" described in the paranormal literature and discussed below. The amount of energy in the initial spark governed their size and lifespan. Sanduloviciu grew spheres from a few micrometers up to three centimeters in diameter.

Lozneanu and Sanduloviciu describe a rhythmic "inhalation" of the nucleus which mimics the breathing process of living systems and results in pulsations. The spheres could replicate by splitting into two. Under the right conditions they grew bigger, taking up neutral argon atoms and splitting them into ions and electrons to replenish their boundary layers.

Finally, they could communicate information by emitting electromagnetic energy, making the atoms within other spheres vibrate at a particular frequency. "This is no different from the vibrating diaphragm in a telephone which enables information to be communicated from one point to another," says David Cohen, reporting in the journal New Scientist. This would give these plasma spheres an ability which would be described as telepathic if we did not know how electromagnetic waves worked.

Sanduloviciu insists that although the spheres require high temperature to form, they can survive at lower temperatures. "That would be the sort of environment in which normal biochemical interactions occur."

According to Sanduloviciu, these plasma spheres were the first cells on Earth, arising within electric storms, and he believes that the emergence of such spheres is a prerequisite for the evolution of biological cells. He says that the cell-like spheres could be at the origin of other forms of life we have not yet considered.

"There could be life out there, but not as we know it" he says. Indeed, according to plasma metaphysics, the microscopic orbs (described in the paranormal literature) and the macroscopic subtle bodies (described in the metaphysical literature) are plasma-based life forms.

Plasma Orbs in Paranormal Literature

In 2004 (as reported in the Physical News Update by Phil Schewe and Ben Stein) an experiment was conducted where particles in a plasma crystal arranged themselves into neat concentric shells (or rings - from a two-dimensional perspective), to a total ball diameter of several millimeters. These orderly Coulomb balls, consisting of aligned, concentric shells of dust particles, survived for long periods. This structure was described as an "onion-like architecture". (Dark matter halos around galaxies also have similar structures.)

Paranormal analyst, Allan Danelek (in his book The Case for Ghosts) says, "One could think of orbs as 'tiny ghosts' moving around a room, their essence being contained within a tiny sphere of pure energy, like air inside a bubble." This description matches the description of life-like pulsating plasma spheres generated in the laboratory by Lozneanu and Sanduloviciu.

According to the paranormal literature "orbs" are light anomalies that appear on photographs and video as spherical balls of light but as flashes of light to the naked eye because of their rapid speed of motion. They exhibit intentional behavior - suggesting some consciousness or awareness of the environment.Orbs often travel in groups or clusters i.e. they exhibit swarm behavior - also a characteristic of particles in plasma - a characteristic observed by Bohm (see above).

Orbs also can dart back and forth rapidly like amoebic life-forms in a Petri dish. The balls can be transparent, translucent or in a bright solid form. These are signature features of magnetic plasma which has the natural property of being able to change its degree of opacity when internal frequencies change. Magnetic plasma would also allow orbs to change their output of light or luminosity.

Looking at these balls in close-up reveals that they possess an onion-like layered structure i.e. they have concentric shells - a signature feature of plasma crystals. Danelek says, "...'true orbs' do not reflect light the same way a dust particle or flying insect does, but are instead generally more opaque and, in some cases, even appear to have rings within them."

Experienced ghost hunter Joshua Warren (in his excellent book How to Hunt Ghosts) says, "Often, orbs appear to have a nucleus, just like a cell. The nucleus might be surrounded by 'bands' - concentric circles emerging from it. In fact, it might appear like an onion that's been chopped in half." All these characteristics are identical to plasma crystals generated in the laboratory.

Some believe that an orb is a human soul or the life force of those that once inhabited a physical-dense body. Psychics claim to be able to communicate with them on a regular basis, and ghost hunters encounter them quite frequently in photographs and video.

It is thought that they are conscious spirits that have stayed behind because they feel bound to their previous life or previous location for whatever reason - a typical characteristic of "Earth-bound" physical-etheric ghosts. According to plasma metaphysics, (genuine) orbs are plasma life forms and are identical to the physical-etheric nuclei observed by metaphysicists Charles Leadbeater and Annie Besant that are released from dying persons.

Subtle Bioplasma Bodies in the Metaphysical Literature

The Subtle Body is a Bioplasma Body

The subtle bodies described in the metaphysical literature have signature features associated with plasma.

These include:

• Networks of filamentary currents (known as "nadis" or "meridians" in the metaphysical literature).

• Helical currents, aligned with the spine, which resemble helical pinches and "snakes" often found in plasma.

• Plasma vortexes (know as "chakras" in the metaphysical literature) caused by the helical movement of particles entering the bioplasma body.

• Jets or beams of collimated light that issue out from these vortexes which evidence a plasma discharge (similar to what issues out of a plasma gun).

• A magnetized plasma ovoid which surrounds and shields subtle bodies from the environment (just as the Earth is protected by the magnetosphere - a sphere composed of collisionless magnetized plasma).

• A plasma (Langmuir) sheath (know as an "auric sheath" or "auric shell" in the metaphysical literature) which encloses the ovoid.

• The ability of subtle bodies to pass through each other suggesting that they are composed of collisionless plasma.

• The ability of subtle bodies to emit light (not simply reflect them) that generate colorful halos.

• The ability of subtle bodies to change their degree of opacity - becoming transparent or translucent.

• The electrical feel of subtle bodies.

• The responsiveness of subtle bodies to electromagnetic fields.

All these features were described and documented more than 2,000 years ago, mainly in the Hindu and Chinese acupuncture literature; but also alluded to in the Buddhist and Christian scriptures and literature - long before the age of electricity and magnetism which was only sparked-off in the eighteenth century. Furthermore, the list above is not exhaustive - it is only meant to be a sample of the features of subtle bodies which unmistakably points to plasma. Details of the above observations can be found in the previous articles and books by this author.

The Spark of LifeAccording to plasma metaphysics, subtle bodies live in a magnetic plasma sphere (an ordinarily invisible counterpart Earth) - an environment similar to the early (physical-dense) Earth.

During in vitro fertilization the human embryo is given an electrical jolt to spark-off cell division. The purpose of this routine electrical intervention is not known. All is known is that cell division is unlikely to occur in the absence of this electrical intervention. According to plasma metaphysics, this electrical spark is necessary to generate a plasma bubble which acts as a catalyst during embryogenesis.

Unlike a biomolecular environment, a plasma environment allows long-range correlations, without which a 3 dimensional structure could not be projected from a 1 dimensional gene. An embryo within a human body is protected by the plasma bubble (i.e. the physical-etheric double) of the mother and inherits a bubble within this environment. (In this process, it acquires what the Qigong literature refers to as "prenatal qi".)

Accelerated Morphogenesis of the Bioplasma Double

An embryonic bioplasma body is projected into the plasma bubble based on information in the physical-etheric double of the DNA. In fact, subtle radiation containing holographic information was observed by researchers at the Russian Academy of Science as a surprise effect during experiments when they were measuring the vibrational modes of DNA in solution using a sophisticated laser photon correlation spectrometer.

According to Sue Benford, their research suggests the existence of a subtle radiation linked to physical DNA that supports the hypothesis of an intact energy field containing relevant 'organismal information'. The Russian experiments produced different measurements when DNA was present and removed from the scattering chamber. These results were contrary to the expectations of the experimenters. After duplicating the initial experiment many times with re-calibrated equipment, the scientists were forced to accept that some new field structure existed.

This embryonic bioplasma body within the plasma bubble (which contains helical currents) grows together with the physical-biomolecular body but at an accelerated rate, being aided by the long range correlations present in the plasma but absent in the biochemical field.Morphogenesis of the Physical Biomolecular BodyThere is mutual affinity between the bioplasma and physical-biomolecular bodies.

In fact, the term "plasma" is derived from a Greek word meaning "to mould" and was coined by Langmuir based on his observations of the manner in which the positive column of a glow discharge tended to mould itself to the containing tube. Similarly, the bioplasma fetus wraps around the physical-biomolecular embryo while undergoing an accelerated morphogenesis (relative to the physical-biomolecular embryo).

The physical-biomolecular body therefore is cued by the bioplasma body which acts an electronic matrix and a time-resolved hologram that guides its development. The bioplasma body, in turn, acts as a mould or a template body for the development of the single-celled physical-biomolecular embryo to the adult body. This has frequently been pointed out by metaphysicists, including Leadbeater, Besant and Barbara Brennan.

Complex biological evolution could not have taken place on Earth without the aid of the templates provided by subtle bioplasma bodies which interacted with biochemical fields via weak electromagnetic fields. These bioplasma bodies are composed of high energy particles and inhabit (magnetized) plasmaspheres which share the same space and gravitational field as the physical-dense Earth. The lowest energy plasmasphere has been described by metaphysicists as the physical-etheric Earth.


As proposed by Tsytovich, Lozneanu and Sanduloviciu, the physical-dense plasma cell was a precursor to the biological cell in the early (physical-dense) Earth - acting as a template or mould for the biological cell to form in 3 dimensional space. However, the lightning strikes that generated the physical-dense plasma cells also generated physical-etheric plasma cells in the physical-etheric Earth.

As the conditions on Earth changed and the environment became progressively less ionized, the physical-dense plasma cell was less frequently generated. However, the physical-etheric plasma cell (existing in the physical-etheric Earth) remained as it participated in the development of the biological body to which it was attached to and subsequently was transmitted together with the biological cells in various forms of reproduction - both asexual and sexual.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sex and Marriage with Robots by 2050

Humans could marry robots within the century. And consummate those vows.
"My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots," artificial intelligence researcher David Levy at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands told LiveScience. Levy recently completed his Ph.D. work on the subject of human-robot relationships, covering many of the privileges and practices that generally come with marriage as well as outside of it.

At first, sex with robots might be considered geeky, "but once you have a story like 'I had sex with a robot, and it was great!' appear someplace like Cosmo magazine, I'd expect many people to jump on the bandwagon," Levy said.

The idea of romance between humanity and our artistic and/or mechanical creations dates back to ancient times, with the Greek myth of the sculptor Pygmalion falling in love with the ivory statue he made named Galatea, to which the goddess Venus eventually granted life.

This notion persists in modern times. Not only has science fiction explored this idea, but 40 years ago, scientists noticed that students at times became unusually attracted to ELIZA, a computer program designed to ask questions and mimic a psychotherapist.

"There's a trend of robots becoming more human-like in appearance and coming more in contact with humans," Levy said. "At first robots were used impersonally, in factories where they helped build automobiles, for instance. Then they were used in offices to deliver mail, or to show visitors around museums, or in homes as vacuum cleaners, such as with the Roomba. Now you have robot toys, like Sony's Aibo robot dog, or Tickle Me Elmos, or digital pets like Tamagotchis."

In his thesis, "Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners," Levy conjectures that robots will become so human-like in appearance, function and personality that many people will fall in love with them, have sex with them and even marry them.

"It may sound a little weird, but it isn't," Levy said. "Love and sex with robots are inevitable."

Levy argues that psychologists have identified roughly a dozen basic reasons why people fall in love, "and almost all of them could apply to human-robot relationships. For instance, one thing that prompts people to fall in love are similarities in personality and knowledge, and all of this is programmable. Another reason people are more likely to fall in love is if they know the other person likes them, and that's programmable too."

In 2006, Henrik Christensen, founder of the European Robotics Research Network, predicted that people will be having sex with robots within five years, and Levy thinks that's quite likely. There are companies that already sell realistic sex dolls, "and it's just a matter of adding some electronics to them to add some vibration," he said, or endowing the robots with a few audio responses. "That's fairly primitive in terms of robotics, but the technology is already there."

As software becomes more advanced and the relationship between humans and robots becomes more personal, marriage could result. "One hundred years ago, interracial marriage and same-sex marriages were illegal in the United States. Interracial marriage has been legal now for 50 years, and same-sex marriage is legal in some parts of the states," Levy said. "There has been this trend in marriage where each partner gets to make their own choice of who they want to be with."

"The question is not if this will happen, but when," Levy said. "I am convinced the answer is much earlier than you think."

Levy predicts Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize human-robot marriage. "Massachusetts is more liberal than most other jurisdictions in the United States and has been at the forefront of same-sex marriage," Levy said. "There's also a lot of high-tech research there at places like MIT."

Although roboticist Ronald Arkin at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta does not think human-robot marriages will be legal anywhere by 2050, "anything's possible. And just because it's not legal doesn't mean people won't try it," he told LiveScience.

"Humans are very unusual creatures," Arkin said. "If you ask me if every human will want to marry a robot, my answer is probably not. But will there be a subset of people? There are people ready right now to marry sex toys."

The main benefit of human-robot marriage could be to make people who otherwise could not get married happier, "people who find it hard to form relationships, because they are extremely shy, or have psychological problems, or are just plain ugly or have unpleasant personalities," Levy said. "Of course, such people who completely give up the idea of forming relationships with other people are going to be few and far between, but they will be out there."

The possibility of sex with robots could prove a mixed bag for humanity. For instance, robot sex could provide an outlet for criminal sexual urges. "If you have pedophiles and you let them use a robotic child, will that reduce the incidence of them abusing real children, or will it increase it?" Arkin asked. "I don't think anyone has the answers for that yet—that's where future research needs to be done."

Keeping a robot for sex could reduce human prostitution and the problems that come with it. However, "in a marriage or other relationship, one partner could be jealous or consider it infidelity if the other used a robot," Levy said. "But who knows, maybe some other relationships could welcome a robot. Instead of a woman saying, 'Darling, not tonight, I have a headache,' you could get 'Darling, I have a headache, why not use your robot?'"

Arkin noted that "if we allow robots to become a part of everyday life and bond with them, we'll have to ask questions about what's going to happen to our social fabric. How will they change humanity and civilization? I don't have any answers, but I think it's something we need to study. There's a real potential for intimacy here, where humans become psychologically and emotionally attached to these devices in ways we wouldn't to a vibrator."

Levy is currently writing a paper on the ethical treatment of robots. When it comes to sex and love with robots, "the ethical issues on how to treat them are something we'll have to consider very seriously, and they're very complicated issues," Levy said.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Kardashev Scale

The Kardashev Scale is a general method of classifying how technologically advanced a civilization is, first proposed in 1964 by the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev. It had three categories, based on the amount of usable energy a civilization has at its disposal and increasing logarithmically:

Type I — A civilization that is able to harness all of the power available on a single planet.

Type II — A civilization that is able to harness all of the power available from a single star.

Type III — A civilization that is able to harness all of the power available from a single galaxy, however, this figure is extremely variable, since galaxies vary widely in size.

Type I
Researcher Michio Kaku quotes Dyson as calculating that Earth will achieve a Type I civilization around the year 2200. This estimate is based on a simple extrapolation of the current development rate of Earth's energy budget. Kaku has also stated in a Discovery Channel interview that this transition may occur 100 years from now, around 2107. He claims that the next generation will decide whether humans survive technological adolescence and reach Type I status. However, Kaku has also noted that there are significant hurdles mankind must overcome in time in order for our civilization to reach the higher statuses. A civilization which has not reached Type I status might be subject to the "uranium barrier" (global political and social development are behind technological development), ecological collapse (which would require planetwide policy to solve), ice ages, asteroid collisions and nearby supernovas.

Increasing levels of technology, Increasing levels of space exploration, space based energy sources increase, offworld civilization centers increase, increasing energy usage, increasing area of habitation.

Decreasing levels of centrality, societies and civilizations increasingly are not the same, due to time differences breaking single social bonds. The Nemesis extinction factor (every 26 million years), nearby supernovae, and the death of the Sun can threaten civilizations at these levels.

Type II
According to Kaku, Kardaschev has estimated the development of such a civilization at the year 5200, based on the assumption that energy usage grows exponentially at 1% per year.

Increasing levels of technology, Exponential growth in stars that are colonized, centralized systems increasingly draw resources from further systems which have not had their resources harvested–– driving increased expansion.

Decreasing levels of centrality, increasing likelihood of fragmentation into single star systems if resources cannot be adequately transferred from central sources, resource based wars may reemerge after disappearance during Type I. The death of the galaxy can threaten civilizations at these levels.

Type III
According to Kaku, Kardaschev has estimated the development of such a civilization at the year 7800. However, Dyson has argued that relativity "may delay the transition to a Type III civilization by perhaps millions of years" due to the light speed limit. Since our Milky Way galaxy is approximately 40,000-50,000 light years in radius, and our sun is about 25,000 light years from the galaxy's center, it would take at least 65,000-75,000 years for our civilization to reach every part of the galaxy if no way around the light speed limit can be found.

Increasing levels of technology, centralized systems increasingly draw resources from further systems which have not had their resources harvested–– driving increased expansion.

Slow growth in galaxies that are colonized due to speed limitations, making centrality impossible.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bernal Spheres

Top: Internal view of a Bernal Sphere.
Above: External view of a Bernal Sphere.

A Bernal sphere is a type of space habitat intended as a long-term home for permanent residents, first proposed in 1929 by Dr. John Desmond Bernal.

Dr. Bernal's original proposal described a hollow spherical shell 16 km in diameter, with a target population of 20,000 to 30,000 people. The Bernal sphere would be filled with air.

In a series of studies held at Stanford University in 1975 and 1976 with the purpose of speculating on designs for future space colonies, Dr. Gerard Kitchen O'Neill proposed a modified Bernal sphere with a diameter of only 500 m rotating at 1.9 RPM to produce a full Earth gravity at the sphere's equator.

The result would be an interior landscape that would resemble a large valley running all the way around the equator of the sphere. Sunlight was to be provided to the interior of the sphere using external mirrors to direct it in through large windows near the poles.

The form of a sphere was chosen for its optimum ability to contain air pressure and its optimum mass-efficiency at providing radiation shielding.

This version of the Bernal sphere was dubbed the "Island One" design, and was sized for a population of 10,000.

Related future space habitats/constructs:
Dyson Sphere
O'Neill Cylinder
Stanford Torus
Globus Cassus

Fermi Paradox

The Fermi paradox is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations.

The extreme age of the universe and its vast number of stars suggest that if the Earth is typical, extraterrestrial life should be common. Discussing this proposition with colleagues over lunch in 1950, the physicist Enrico Fermi asked: "Where are they?" (alternatively, "Where is everybody?") Fermi questioned why, if a multitude of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations exist in the Milky Way galaxy, evidence such as spacecraft or probes are not seen.

A more detailed examination of the implications of the topic began with a paper by Michael Hart in 1975, and it is sometimes referred to as the Fermi-Hart paradox. Another closely related question is the Great Silence - even if travel is hard, if life is common, why don't we detect their radio transmissions?

There have been attempts to resolve the Fermi Paradox by locating evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations, along with proposals that such life could exist without human knowledge. Counterarguments suggest that intelligent extraterrestrial life does not exist or occurs so rarely that humans will never make contact with it.

Explaining the paradox theoretically:

No other civilizations currently exist.
The simplest explanation is that the human species is alone in the galaxy.

No other civilizations have arisen.
Those who believe that extraterrestrial intelligent life does not exist argue that the conditions needed for life—or at least complex life—to evolve are rare or even unique to Earth. This is known as the Rare Earth hypothesis.

It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself.
Technological civilizations may usually or invariably destroy themselves before or shortly after developing radio or space flight technology.

It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy others.
Another possibility is that intelligent species beyond a certain point of technological capability will destroy other intelligence as it appears.

Human beings were created alone.

They do exist, but we see no evidence.
It may be that technological extraterrestrial civilizations exist, but that human beings cannot communicate with them because of various constraints: problems of scale or of technology; because their nature is simply too alien for meaningful communication; or because human society refuses to admit to evidence of their presence.

Intelligent civilizations are too far apart in space or time.
It may be that non-colonizing technologically capable alien civilizations exist, but that they are simply too far apart for meaningful two-way communication.

It is too expensive to spread physically throughout the galaxy.

Human beings have not been searching long enough.

Human beings are not listening properly.

Civilizations only broadcast detectable radio signals for a brief period of time.
It may be that alien civilizations are detectable through their radio emissions for only a short time, reducing the likelihood of spotting them. There are two possibilities in this regard: civilizations outgrow radio through technological advance or, conversely, resource depletion cuts short the time in which a species broadcasts.

They tend to experience a technological singularity.
Another possibility is that technological civilizations invariably experience a technological singularity and attain a posthuman (or postalien) character. Theoretical civilizations of this sort may have altered drastically enough to render communication impossible. The intelligences of a post-singularity civilization might require more information exchange than is possible through interstellar communication, for example. Or perhaps any information humanity might provide would appear elementary, and thus they do not try to communicate, any more than human beings attempt to talk to ants.

They choose not to interact with us.
Earth is purposely isolated (The zoo hypothesis).
It is possible that the belief that alien races would communicate with the human species is a fallacy, and that alien civilizations may not wish to communicate, even if they have the technical ability. A particular reason that alien civilizations may choose not to communicate is the so-called Zoo hypothesis: the idea that Earth is being monitored by advanced civilizations for study, or is being preserved in an isolated "zoo or wilderness area".

They are too alien.
Another possibility is that human theoreticians have underestimated how much alien life might differ from that on Earth. Alien psychologies may simply be too different to communicate with human beings, and they are unable or unwilling to make the attempt. Human mathematics, language, tool use, and other concepts and communicative capacity may be parochial to Earth and not shared by other life.

They are non-technological.
It is not clear that a civilization of intelligent beings must be technological. If an alien species does not develop technology, because it is difficult in its environment, because it chooses not to, or for any other reason, it will be very hard for human beings to detect.

They are here unobserved.
It may be that intelligent alien life forms not only exist, but are already present here on Earth. They are not detected because they do not wish it, human beings are technically unable, or because societies refuse to admit to the evidence.


A biomechanoid is a type of Posthuman. The scientific definition of a biomechanoid is:

A living and reproductively capable organism whose physiology consists of organic, inorganic, and synthetic materials. In order to be accurately classified as biomechanical the organism in question must:

1.) Have a genesis of being biologically engineered by a separate species, or group of species - as such its development occurs outside the evolutionary timeline of the environment in which it was created.

2.) This process of bio-engineering must incorporate some application of mechanical engineering and/or the principles there of to the organism in question as well as incorporate these aspects into the biological structure of said organism.

3.) The organism must be able to reproduce via gametes - be the organism haploid, diploid, or polyploidy - and reproduce via either sexual reproduction and/or asexual reproduction. This reproduction is not limited to either the k-selection or r-selection strategies.

4.) The organism must be able to synthesize any and all organic, inorganic, and synthetic materials naturally without a required interaction between the organism and the species responsible for said organism's genesis.

5.) The organism must be self-reliant and self-sustaining as well as be able to evolve beyond its original design once introduced through the natural process of inter-organism/trans-environmental interaction.

It should be noted that the use of the term "inorganic" in the above definition not only includes "standard" inorganic material (inorganic salts, inorganic phosphates, etc.), but also refers to metals, metalloids and alloys not commonly occurring in biological organisms.

It should also be pointed out that the term "biomechanical organism" should not be confused with "android" or "cybernetic organism (cyborg)." In comparison to biomechanical organisms androids are comprised purely of synthetic materials, are unable to evolve, and unable to reproduce via gametes. Cybernetic organisms contain metal and/or metalloid and/or synthetic augmentations within a biological physiology.

As such these augmentations occur separately from normal biological development and growth, and there for not genetic - making them nontransferable via biological reproduction.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Law of Limited Competition

A subset of the Law of Life, the Law of Limited Competition was coined by author Daniel Quinn to denote a set of strategies that appear to be evolutionarily stable for all species.

Briefly, the Law of Limited Competition is this: You may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food.

This system of laws has been called among other things, "the peacekeeping law" and "animal ethics." The Law of Limited Competition promotes diversity.

Quinn argues that the people of our culture believe the law does not apply to humans. Quinn further argues that this thinking is incorrect, that the laws do apply to man, and that by our civilization being built in a way which flouts the law, the stability of the community of life has been compromised, and that we are in the process of eliminating ourselves.

As an analogy, Quinn presents the idea of someone trying to build an airplane, but whose craft is not in accord with the laws of aerodynamics. He drives it off the edge of the cliff, and for some time is in free-fall. During this time he says "look, I am flying! Gravity does not apply to me!", but shortly he will discover that gravity does apply to him, and in a most drastic manner.

Similarly, says Quinn, the people of our civilization are not living in accord with the Law of Limited Competition and are therefore facing a crash.

Conceptually, and within the contexts of evolution and limited resources, the Law of Limited Competition works as follows:

Consider three hypothetical species. Species 1 is omnivorous, and eats food sources A, B, and C. Species 2, is herbivorous, and eats food sources B, C, and D. Species 3 is a carnivorous apex predator, and eats food source A, as well as species 1 and 2.

According to the Law of Limited Competition, any of these three species may compete to the full extent of their abilities, but may not eradicate its competitors, or deny them access to food. In short, they may compete, but not wage war. If the law is broken, sustainability of any of the species is put in jeopardy.

If, in an effort to eliminate competition from species 2, species 1 denies access to or destroys food source D, which it does not eat, species 2 will be forced to rely on food sources B and C, increasing competition for the common food sources for both species, and consequently, reducing two of the food sources for species 3, as well as increasing competition for food source A. Sustainability for all three species has been jeopardized.

If, however, species 2, in an effort to eliminate competition for food sources B and C, attempts to eradicate species 1, increased predation by species 3 will result. Again, all three species suffer reduced sustainability.

Because of the population limiting characteristics of the law, species which violate its precepts are disadvantaged and thus, according to Quinn, doomed to extinction.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Self-Replicators and Grey Goo

Grey goo is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario involving molecular nanotechnology in which out-of-control self-replicating robots consume all living matter on Earth while building more of themselves (a scenario known as ecophagy).

The term "grey goo" is usually used in a science fiction or popular-press context. In the worst postulated scenarios (requiring large, space-capable machines), matter beyond Earth would also be turned into goo (with "goo" meaning a large mass of replicating nanomachines lacking large-scale structure, which may or may not actually appear goo-like). The disaster is posited to result from a deliberate doomsday device, or from an accidental mutation in a self-replicating nanomachine used for other purposes, but designed to operate in a natural environment.

Example (by molecular nanotechnology pioneer Eric Drexler):

"Imagine such a replicator floating in a bottle of chemicals, making copies of itself....the first replicator assembles a copy in one thousand seconds, the two replicators then build two more in the next thousand seconds, the four build another four, and the eight build another eight. At the end of ten hours, there are not thirty-six new replicators, but over 68 billion. In less than a day, they would weigh a ton; in less than two days, they would outweigh the Earth; in another four hours, they would exceed the mass of the Sun and all the planets combined - if the bottle of chemicals hadn't run dry long before."

Self-Replicating Machines:

A self-replicating machine is an artificial construct that is capable of autonomously manufacturing a copy of itself using simpler components or raw materials taken from its environment.

A self-replicating machine would need to have the capacity to gather energy and raw materials, process the raw materials into finished components, and then assemble them into a copy of itself. It is unlikely that this would all be contained within a single monolithic structure, but would rather be a group of cooperating machines or an automated factory that is capable of manufacturing all of the machines that make it up.

The factory could produce mining robots to collect raw materials, construction robots to put new machines together, and repair robots to maintain itself against wear and tear, all without human intervention or direction.

The advantage of such a system lies in its ability to expand its own capacity rapidly and without additional human effort; in essence, the initial investment required to construct the first self-replicating device would have an infinitely large payoff with no additional labor cost.

Such a machine violates no physical laws, and we already possess the basic technologies necessary for some of the more detailed proposals and designs.

If proof were needed that self-replicating machines are possible, the simple fact that all living organisms are self replicating by definition should go some way towards providing that proof, although most living organisms are still many times more complex than even the most advanced man-made device.


The biocomplexity spiral is a depiction of the multileveled complexity of organisms in their environments, which is seen by many critics as the ultimate obstacle to transhumanist ambition.

Biocomplexity is the study of complex structures and behaviors that arise from nonlinear interactions of active biological agents, which may range in scale from molecules to cells to organisms.

Almost every biological system is complex, that is, characterized by emergent properties, where the ensemble possesses capabilities that its individual agents lack.

Classical examples of biocomplexity include the behavior of molecular motors during DNA transcription, genetic and metabolic networks within cells, the interacting filaments of the cytoskeleton, which allow the cell to move, the differentiation, organization and movement of cells during embryonic development, the function of the networks of neurons which compose the brain and the schooling of fish or birds.


Cryonics is the low temperature preservation of humans and other animals that can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine until resuscitation may be possible in the future.

Human cryopreservation is not currently reversible. In the United States, cryonics can only be legally performed on humans after pronounced legally dead. The rationale for cryonics is that the process may be reversible in the future if performed soon enough, and that cryopreserved people may not really be dead by the information-theoretic definition of death.

Cryonics faces many obstacles, and is viewed with skepticism by most scientists and doctors today. However, there is a high representation of scientists among cryonics supporters.

Scientific support for cryonics is based on studies showing substantial preservation of brain cell structure by current methods, and projections of future technology, especially molecular nanotechnology and nanomedicine.

Some scientists believe that future medicine will enable molecular-level repair and regeneration of damaged tissues and organs decades or centuries in the future. Disease and aging are also assumed to be reversible. Many ethical questions revolve around the issue of whether cryonics can work.

The central premise of cryonics is that memory, personality, and identity are stored in the structure and chemistry of the brain. While this view is widely accepted in medicine, and brain activity is known to stop and later resume under certain conditions, it is not generally accepted that current methods preserve the brain well enough to permit revival in the future.

Cryonics advocates point to studies showing that high concentrations of cryoprotectant circulated through the brain before cooling can largely prevent freezing injury, preserving the fine cell structures of the brain in which memory and identity presumably reside.

To its detractors, the justification for the actual practice of cryonics is unclear, given present limitations of preservation technology. Currently cells, tissues, blood vessels, and some small animal organs can be reversibly cryopreserved. Some frogs can survive for a few months in a partially frozen state a few degrees below freezing, but this is not true cryopreservation.

Cryonics advocates counter that demonstrably reversible preservation is not necessary to achieve the present-day goal of cryonics, which is preservation of basic brain information that encodes memory and personal identity. Preservation of this information is said to be sufficient to prevent information theoretical death until future repairs might be possible.


Australian artist Patricia Piccinini's concept of what human-animal hybrids might look like are provocative creatures which are part of a sculpture entitled "The Young Family," produced to address the reality of such possible parahumans in a compassionate way.

A parahuman is a human-animal hybrid. Scientists have also done extensive research into the combination of genes from different species, e.g. adding human (and other animal) genes to bacteria and farm animals to mass-produce insulin and spider silk proteins.

There are several possible reasons that parahumans or chimeras might be created. The current forms of chimera exist for medical and industrial purposes, e.g. production of drugs and of organs suitable for organ transplantation.

Other experiments aim to reveal knowledge about the function of the human body, e.g. by creating mice with a human-like immune system to study AIDS or with a brain incorporating human nerve cells. Restrictions on cloning and stem cell research makes chimera research a more attractive alternative in some researchers' eyes.

Introduction to Mind Uploading


Mind uploading refers to the hypothetical transfer of a human mind to an artificial substrate, such as a computer simulation.

Thinkers with a strongly mechanistic view of human intelligence or a strongly positive view of robot-human social integration have openly speculated about the possibility and desirability of this.

In the case where the mind is transferred into a computer, the subject would become a form of artificial intelligence, sometimes called an infomorph. In a case where it is transferred into an artificial body, to which its consciousness is confined, it would also become a robot. In either case it might claim ordinary human rights, certainly if the consciousness within was feeling (or was doing a good job of simulating) as if it were the donor.

Uploading consciousness into bodies created by robotic means is a goal of some in the artificial intelligence community. In the uploading scenario, the physical human brain does not move from its original body into a new robotic shell; rather, the consciousness is assumed to be recorded and/or transferred to a new robotic brain, which generates responses indistinguishable from the original organic brain.

The idea of uploading human consciousness in this manner raises many philosophical questions which people may find interesting and disturbing, such as matters of individuality and the soul.

Many people also wonder whether, if they were uploaded, it would be their sentience uploaded, or simply a copy.

Even if uploading is theoretically possible, there is currently no technology capable of recording or describing mind states in the way imagined, and no one knows how much computational power or storage would be needed to simulate the activity of the mind inside a computer.

On the other hand, advocates of uploading have made various estimates of the amount of computing power that would be needed to simulate a human brain, and based on this a number have estimated that uploading may become possible within decades if trends such as Moore's Law continue.


With most projected mind uploading technology it is implicit that "copying" a consciousness could be as feasible as "moving" it, since these technologies generally involve simulating the human brain in a computer of some sort, and digital files such as computer programs can be copied precisely.

It is also possible that the simulation could be created without the need to destroy the original brain, so that the computer-based consciousness would be a copy of the still-living biological person, although some proposed methods such as serial sectioning of the brain would necessarily be destructive. In both cases it is usually assumed that once the two versions are exposed to different sensory inputs, their experiences would begin to diverge, but all their memories up until the moment of the copying would remain the same.

By many definitions, both copies could be considered the "same person" as the single original consciousness before it was copied. At the same time, they can be considered distinct individuals once they begin to diverge, so the issue of which copy "inherits" what could be complicated. This problem is similar to that found when considering the possibility of teleportation, where in some proposed methods it is possible to copy (rather than only move) a mind or person.

This is the classic philosophical issue of personal identity. The problem is made even more serious by the possibility of creating a potentially infinite number of initially identical copies of the original person, which would of course all exist simultaneously as distinct beings.

Philosopher John Locke published "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" in 1689, in which he proposed the following criterion for personal identity: if you remember thinking something in the past, then you are the same person as he or she who did the thinking. Later philosophers raised various logical snarls, most of them caused by applying Boolean logic, the prevalent logic system at the time. It has been proposed that modern fuzzy logic can solve those problems, showing that Locke's basic idea is sound if one treats personal identity as a continuous rather than discrete value.

In that case, when a mind is copied -- whether during mind uploading, or afterwards, or by some other means -- the two copies are initially two instances of the very same person, but over time, they will gradually become different people to an increasing degree.

The issue of copying vs moving is sometimes cited as a reason to think that destructive methods of mind uploading such as serial sectioning of the brain would actually destroy the consciousness of the original and the upload would itself be a mere "copy" of that consciousness. Whether one believes that the original consciousness of the brain would transfer to the upload, that the original consciousness would be destroyed, or that this is simply a matter of definition and the question has no single "objectively true" answer, is ultimately a philosophical question that depends on one's views of philosophy of mind.

Because of these philosophical questions about the survival of consciousness, there are some who would feel more comfortable about a method of uploading where the transfer is gradual, replacing the original brain with a new substrate over an extended period of time, during which the subject appears to be fully conscious (this can be seen as analogous to the natural biological replacement of molecules in our brains with new ones taken in from eating and breathing, which may lead to almost all the matter in our brains being replaced in as little as a few months).

This would likely take place as a result of gradual cyborging, either nanoscopically or macroscopically, wherein the brain (the original copy) would slowly be replaced bit by bit with artificial parts that function in a near-identical manner, and assuming this was possible at all, the person would not necessarily notice any difference as more and more of his brain became artificial.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Introduction to Transhumanism/Posthumanism


Transhumanism (sometimes symbolized by >H or H+) is an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and ameliorate what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as stupidity, suffering, disease, aging and involuntary death.

Transhumanist thinkers study the possibilities and consequences of developing and using human enhancement techniques and other emerging technologies for these purposes. Possible dangers, as well as benefits, of powerful new technologies that might radically change the conditions of human life are also of concern to the transhumanist movement.


A posthuman or post-human is, according to transhumanist intellectuals, a hypothetical future being "whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards."

The difference between the posthuman and other hypothetical sophisticated non-humans is that a posthuman was once a human, either in its lifetime or in the lifetimes of some or all of its direct ancestors. As such, a prerequisite for a posthuman is a transhuman, the point at which the human being begins surpassing his own limitations, but is still recognisable as a human person or similar.

Posthumans could be a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence, or uploaded consciousnesses, or the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound technological augmentations to a biological human, i.e. a cyborg.

Some examples of the latter are redesigning the human organism using advanced nanotechnology or radical enhancement using some combination of technologies such as genetic engineering, psychopharmacology, life extension therapies, neural interfaces, advanced information management tools, memory enhancing drugs, wearable or implanted computers, and cognitive techniques.

A variation on the posthuman theme is the notion of the "Posthuman God"; the idea that posthumans, being no longer confined to the parameters of "humanness", might grow physically and mentally so powerful as to appear possibly god-like by human standards.

This notion should not be interpreted as being related to the idea portrayed in some soft science fiction that a sufficiently advanced species may "ascend" to a superior plane of existence - rather, it merely means that some posthuman being may become so exceedingly intelligent and technologically sophisticated that its behaviour would not possibly be comprehensible to modern humans, purely by reason of their limited intelligence and imagination.

At what point does a human become posthuman? Steven Pinker, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of How the Mind Works, poses the following hypothetical, which is an example of the Ship of Theseus paradox:

Surgeons replace one of your neurons with a microchip that duplicates its input-output functions. You feel and behave exactly as before. Then they replace a second one, and a third one, and so on, until more and more of your brain becomes silicon. Since each microchip does exactly what the neuron did, your behavior and memory never change. Do you even notice the difference? Does it feel like dying? Is some other conscious entity moving in with you?

Simulated Reality

Simulated reality is the idea that reality could be simulated — often computer-simulated — to a degree indistinguishable from 'true' reality. It could contain conscious minds which may or may not know that they are living inside a simulation. In its strongest form, the "Simulation hypothesis" claims we actually are living in such a simulation.

This is different from the current, technologically achievable concept of virtual reality. Virtual reality is easily distinguished from the experience of 'true' reality; participants are never in doubt about the nature of what they experience. Simulated reality, by contrast, would be hard or impossible to distinguish from 'true' reality.

The idea of a simulated reality raises several questions:

1) Is it possible, even in principle, to tell whether we are in a simulated reality?
2) Is there any difference between a simulated reality and a 'real' one?
3) How should we behave if we knew that we were living in a simulated reality?

Hutton's Paradox

An intriguing paradox concerning dreams and the nature of reality was described by the British writer Eric Bond Hutton in 1989.

As a child Hutton often had lucid dreams in which people and things seemed as solid and real as in waking life. This led him to wonder whether life itself was a dream, even whether he existed only in somebody else's dream.

Once in a while he would have a pre-lucid dream (in which one suspects that one is dreaming).

He always found these somewhat disturbing, but one day hit upon a magic formula to be used in them: "If I find myself asking 'Am I dreaming?' it proves that I am, since this question would never occur to me in waking life."

Yet, such is the nature of dreams, he could never recall it when he needed to.

Many years later, when he came to write about his childhood fascination with dreams, he was struck by a contradiction in his earlier reasoning.

True, asking oneself "Am I dreaming?" in a dream would seem to prove that one is.

And yet that is precisely what he had often asked himself in waking life.

Therein lay a paradox.

What was he to conclude?

That it does not prove one is dreaming, or that life really is a dream?

Human race will 'split into two different species'

The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist.
100,000 years into the future, sexual selection could mean that two distinct breeds of human will have developed.

The alarming prediction comes from evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry from the London School of Economics, who says that the human race will have reached its physical peak by the year 3000.

These humans will be between 6ft and 7ft tall and they will live up to 120 years.

"Physical features will be driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility that men and women have evolved to look for in potential mates," says the report, which suggests that advances in cosmetic surgery and other body modifying techniques will effectively homogenise our appearance.

Men will have symmetrical facial features, deeper voices and bigger penises, according to Curry in a report commissioned for men's satellite TV channel Bravo.

Women will all have glossy hair, smooth hairless skin, large eyes and pert breasts, according to Curry.

Racial differences will be a thing of the past as interbreeding produces a single coffee-coloured skin tone.

The future for our descendants isn't all long life, perfect bodies and chiselled features, however.
While humans will reach their peak in 1000 years' time, 10,000 years later our reliance on technology will have begun to dramatically change our appearance.

Medicine will weaken our immune system and we will begin to appear more child-like.
Dr Curry said: "The report suggests that the future of man will be a story of the good, the bad and the ugly.

"While science and technology have the potential to create an ideal habitat for humanity over the next millennium, there is the possibility of a monumental genetic hangover over the subsequent millennia due to an over-reliance on technology reducing our natural capacity to resist disease, or our evolved ability to get along with each other.

"After that, things could get ugly, with the possible emergence of genetic 'haves' and 'have-nots'."

Quantum Immortality

Quantum immortality is a metaphysical speculation derived from the quantum suicide thought experiment. It states that the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that conscious beings are immortal.


A physicist sits in front of a gun which is triggered or not triggered depending on the decay of some radioactive atom. With each run of the experiment there is a 50-50 chance that the gun will be triggered and the physicist will die. If the Copenhagen interpretation is correct, then the gun will eventually be triggered and the physicist will die. If the many-worlds interpretation is correct then at each run of the experiment the physicist will be split into one world in which he lives and another world in which he dies. After many runs of the experiment, there will be many worlds. In the worlds where the physicist dies, he will cease to exist.

However, from the point of view of the non-dead copies of the physicist, the experiment will continue running without his ceasing to exist, because at each branch, he will only be able to observe the result in the world in which he survives, and if many-worlds is correct, the surviving copies of the physicist will notice that he never seems to die, therefore "proving" himself to be immortal, at least from his own point of view.

Another example is where a physicist detonates a nuclear bomb beside himself. In almost all parallel universes, the nuclear explosion will vaporize the physicist. However, there should be a small set of alternative universes in which the physicist somehow survives (i.e. the set of universes which support a "miraculous" survival scenario). The idea behind quantum immortality is that the physicist will remain alive in, and thus remain able to experience, at least one of the universes in this set, even though these universes form a tiny subset of all possible universes. Over time the physicist would therefore never perceive his or her own death.