Monday, 26 April 2010

Humanity+ Conference, London, April 24th

I attended the Humanity+ conference in London this last Saturday.

All in all it was a great day, and very useful.

The speakers were as follows:

*) Max More, on "Singularity Skepticism: Exposing Exponential Errors";
*) Anders Sandberg, on "Making humans smarter via cognitive enhancers";
*) Rachel Armstrong, on "The impact of living technology on the future of humanity";
*) Aubrey de Grey, on "Human regenerative engineering – theory and practice";
*) David Pearce, on "The Abolitionist Project: Can biotechnology abolish suffering throughout the living world?";
*) Amon Twyman, on "Augmented perception and Transhumanist Art";
*) Natasha Vita-More, on "DIY Enhancement";
*) David Orban, on "The Singularity University", and "The Internet of Things";
*) Nick Bostrom, on "Reducing Existential Risks".

Max More addressed what he perceives as some misperceptions regarding the nature of the Singularity. One such thing is the idea that the Singularity will occur all at once, rather than part by part. Assuming that technology will continue to come along piece by piece, there may be no single point beyond which we cannot see, upon which the world can be defined as thus changed, in the manner generally associated with the word when applied to the Transhumanist meme.

For my part, I'll take it as it comes, and accelerate as I may.

Anders Sandberg looked at the merits and methods of cognitive enhancement. I was very pleased to hear most of what I heard, and his thoughts are mostly in line with my own, which is good by my reckoning when he is generally considered amongst the foremost of his field. He addressed the poverty of current education methods, and the laughability of how this is considered so important as to be made mandatory, given how little direct cognitive enhancement comes out of such.

I would agree with this wholeheartedly. Ellen and I plan to homeschool our child, unless something bucks up somewhere in terms of educational standards.

Anders also spoke on nootropic drugs, from the arcane to the ubiquitous. Personally I'm good with a lot of these, such as caffeine, fish oils, etc. I also take small doses of modafinil primarily for its nootropic qualities.

I do disagree with the use of sugar; personally I consider its dangers to vastly outweigh its benefits.

Technological augmentations of the mind are certainly an excellent direction in which to head, Anders and I agree. Personally, my dream is to have an external technological brain, in a far away very safe place, with some manner of instantaneous / quasi-instantaneous connection to my biological brain, such that I can access it with a thought, to find information as needed, and perform complex computations as needed.

Rachel Armstrong spoke on how certain organic chemical processes can behave a lot like biological organisms. To clarify, this means non-living chemicals behaving like living cells.

This is remarkably cool, and the implications of this are as diverse as they are far-reaching.

From biotech utility fog to non-humanoid substrate for intelligence, this is pretty damned ground-breaking!

Many thanks to Rachel for this exposé.

Lunchtime, I spent chiefly in the pub with Aubrey de Grey and Shannon Vyff. We conversed socially, primarily exploring the various things the three of us had going on.

After lunch...

Aubrey de Grey spoke regarding the general work of SENS, in a manner that won't have been new to most listeners, but is still really important information to get out there. He went on to address how the popular media often focus on trivial things and old news, while missing out on latest relevancies.

This needs to be fixed! I'm open to suggestions of what I can do to help.

David Pearce spoke regarding the Hedonistic Imperative. While not being a Utilitarian myself (very far from it), I endorse fully David's plan to abolish suffering in the world, and I agree completely that biotechnology is an excellent tool with which to work towards accomplishing this.

Amon Twyman spoke regarding augmented perception and Transhumanist art; alas I missed this talk as I was attending a Immortality Institute Directors' meeting at the time. I'll be sure to check out his talk on YouTube, however!

The afternoon break saw me continuing this meeting, and thereafter discussing memory archiving and retrieval with various people whose attention were drawn to my life recorder glasses.

After the break...

Natasha Vita-More spoke regarding DIY Enhancement. This is some of the stuff of which I dreamed as a small child and never thought there would be someone else so crazy as to be working on actuating these things. Excelsior!

David Orban spoke on Singularity University, and also on the interconnectivity afforded by today's online world, and the way this has panned out, to extrapolate the likely continuation of this. Personally, I will not be satisfied until I have continuous HUD internet feed, EEG-reader tech as a HID, and super-fast mobile internet, such that I can, without carrying any external device with my, access anything, any time, anywhere. Add Skype-like tools to this, and social networking etc, and this becomes pretty brilliant technology, and you know what the killer is? Pretty much everything we need to do this is already here. It's just a matter of making the product and marketing it.

Nick Bostrom spoke regarding existential risks facing humanity. It is surprising (or perhaps not) that there have been more studies into the sex lives of dung beetles than there have into things that could easily wipe out the human race.

Personally I invest my energies into becoming as ineradicable as possible.

Skynet, bring it on. I'll be back.

There was, after the conference, dinner and drinks. For some of us, this extended into the early hours of the morning. Personally I made many excellent connections in this time, and felt fully enriched by those with whom I shared the evening.

Not to mention the excellent food. Good choice of restaurant!

Here's to life. I love life!