It’s so easy to get stressed out these days and lose sight of some basic truths about the times we are living in.
CHILL OUT: Our generation’s lifespan will be significantly longer than any other in human history. So stop comparing your life to your parent’s. Sure, your dad probably already had a house, 401k, and a diversified portfolio at your age. Maybe they already had YOU at your age, too. Holy shit, stop freaking out about it. We are living through a Technological Renaissance unrivaled by human history, and they weren’t. They actually didn’t really have much else to do back then but pop out a few kids and collect paychecks at a desk job. People under 30 that are alive right now have a good shot at living to be at least 150 years old – and if my homie Aubrey de Grey at SENS has his way, the first 1,000 year old person may have already been born. So, sure, your parents might have been a little farther along than you, but by comparison of lifespans, you’re still only like 8 years old.
By the time we are ready to retire, we will probably be Asteroid Cowboys taking weekend trips to Club Elon (formerly Mars).
PANIC: This economic model isn’t sustainable longterm and will probably collapse soon. Most people are probably realizing that jobs are shrinking and disappearing, but I bet you don’t realize how bad it actually is (people applying for work might). Our economy is based around the concept that money can make more money. But deep down, we all know this can’t last forever. What happens when huge ‘disruptive’ technologies start displacing not thousand, but millions of people? Take China for example.
These noodle robots are a preview of what’s about to happen all around us. When you have an economic system that demands that a corporation HAS to make money to appease its shareholders, at a certain point labor will become more expensive than technological alternatives. Sounds like we are all out of a job, right? Well, that sounds scary, until we all stop to realize something: What’s the fucking point of technology if it doesn’t actually make our lives better? The only way we can dodge a gigantic economic collapse is to transition our model towards a Resource-Based Economy (http://futurewewant.org/portfolio/resource-based-economy/), where we start actually spreading the benefits of technology to the entire society, not just the elite at the top. As you can imagine, they’re not going to give it up very easy, and are already building drone/robot armies to eradicate anyone that stands in their way. Luckily the riots, civil unrest, ecological damage and world-wide famine will end our suffering long before that happens. 🙂
CHILL OUT: Virtual reality is coming really really soon and so are Self-driving cars. This will fundamentally change what cities look like. When Facebook bought Oculus Rift, a million gamer fanboys may have cried out in anguish, but for everyone else, the first hint of what’s going to come after Social Media looks pretty cool. No species on Earth has ever been able to leave the planet before, but this is something different. Human beings are about to leave REALITY as a whole and create infinitely complex new ones. Alot of moving around will suddenly stop, when people stop needing to physically go to work/school/Bar Mitzvahs. Self driving cars will be more like living rooms you just hang out in, and this will change the very nature of what a city needs to be defined as. Imagine the first neighborhood that’s not a collection of homes, but a collection of rooms and utilities that manifest themselves as-needed, based on what you need to do at a given time. No one needs a BBQ 24/7, and no one needs a basketball hoop all night. Imagine not a neighborhood, but a living, moving architecture that becomes the physical representation of its inhabitants’ desires on demand.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the Do Lab’s quintessential audio-visual-experience, Lightning In A Bottle. And having just come from Coachella’s desert wasteland, I have to say it was quite refreshing. Situated in a cooler environment (Temecula is technically cooler than Indio, look it up) and on a gorgeous lake, LIB already has a few things going for it. And without the draw of major-label acts like Coachella, the general admission noise-floor is considerably lower, and more manageable.
The actual venue size is not only smaller and easier to navigate, but security is mild, and the general mood is pleasant and carefree. Attendance capped out at around 13,000 (approximately), making it a fraction of the size. Complaints, while there, were few. Upon arrival to the ticket-booth at a local community college, the lines were unfathomably long due to an internet error that prevented staff from scanning tickets at a reasonable rate.
Highlights included seeing Purity Ring, Tycho, and Nicholas Jaar from literally the front row – as the crowds are sparse and it is easy to simply walk up to the gate with ease, even in the middle of a set.
At Coachella, you’ll be trapped top-side while pissing into empty beer cans for 3 hours.
Yeah, there was a full-blown water-park.
While Lightning In A Bottle goes through growing pains, and the zeitgeist of the music festival shifts its tastes from gigantic, stressful festivals to smaller, more manageable realms; they can be rest assured I will be a repeat customer to see where the movement leads.
Who are we, where did we come from, and where are we going?
It’s a complex, three part question that we may never be able to fully answer. We do, however, get closer every day. We build things. We revise them, and build them better. We make art to express ourselves, and wage war to defend ourselves. The world today is growing radically different than the world of the ancients – and even the world of our American pioneers. If one were to look at the charts and graphs scientists have developed to demonstrate our ever increasing technological prowess, they may find themselves startled and afraid. The charts are climbing through the roof, shifting towards an exponential trend of growth. Some argue that the Darwinian mode of genetic evolution is being replaced by a new form of evolution dubbed Memetic Evolution. Memes are human habits -art, music, literature, and all other facets of our culture. And our memes, it seems, are copying themselves at an alarming rate.
The time it takes to communicate a thought from one human being to another is shrinking exponentially. The activities of writing letters and sending telegrams have been replaced by the newer, faster methods of email and text messaging. What took a matter of weeks if not months a hundred years ago now takes a matter of minutes if not seconds. If one were to extrapolate that trend of growth into the future, surely in the next hundred years it seems that we may become able to communicate instantaneously, even telepathically.
Yet, in this human frenzy of growth and exploration, we have to occasionally stop and smell the roses. How did we get here in the first place? Why were humans blessed with the gift of knowledge, and the poor chimpanzee left to poke around in the dirt?
Granted, some have argued that chimpanzees and elephants exhibit traits of self awareness and consciousness. This was determined by a mirror test, in which a marking was made on the animal’s face, and consequently shown its own reflection. If the animal immediately began grooming the marking, scientists decided that it must be aware of itself. Yet are chimpanzees aware that humans are superior to them as a species? Do they regard us as we may regard aliens or religious figures, as supreme beings? “Oh dang, a human is coming, I better act busy, and make it look like I’m doing something important.” Regardless of their inner perceptions, all animals except humans lack the mental syntax required for a complex lingual system. We are able to communicate knowledge, information, thoughts, feelings, and emotions to one another through our languages. Yet, how did we get this way? Why are we the chosen ones, blessed with the power to ponder life, time, space and God? Why are we the cursed ones, forced to question our own existence and purpose on this planet, in this universe?
Our ancestors first began making music and art some 40,000 years ago. Was this a result of some divine entity imparting its wisdom into our souls? Probably not. Most researchers have come to agree that such a change took place over thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years worth of genetic mutations. Was it the fact that our brains grew to be much larger than our predecessors? That was also not the case. Neanderthals had a similar sized brain as the Cro Magnon man, yet displayed very little culture. The Cro Magnon man performed many rituals when one of their loved ones died. They places thousands of beads into the grave, and spent a large amount of time preparing the ceremony. Neanderthals, on the other hand, simply chucked the dead body into a pit. It seems that they had much less regard and understanding of life in this regard. They did not exhibit any signs of art, music, or any culture for that matter compared to the Cro Magnon man.
So then, what was it that set us apart? Why did we ascend to a higher state of existence compared to our animal neighbors? Perhaps it was not the actual size of our brains, but the wiring that gave us knowledge. Hunting was probably the primary reason we invented tools and communication. We designed, built, and redesigned stone tools until they gave us effective results. Then, we used methods of communication to impart this knowledge to our descendants. Then, while hunting, we developed signals and signs to aid in the kill. Thus, we began to devise hunting plans, and tactics. We began to work together. This would have eventually become language as we know it, when our first vocalizations could be heard echoing throughout the ancient landscape. A verbal language would have greatly sped up the communication process. That would have in turn allowed for more efficient hunting and gathering practices, as more knowledge would have been conveyed in a shorter amount of time. This would have resulted in more free time, which would have allowed hobbies like bead making and art to become commonplace.
Thus, the birth of culture. Bead making could have led to a value system, where beads were traded for goods and services. As time went on, our ancestors may have found gold and silver, and traded those. Money is born. The more money an individual had, the more power was associated with that person. Now we start getting into wars to gain more power, more control over land and hunting areas. People start to make more and more art and music so that they can forget about the wars, and the pain of lost loved ones. They may have found that while they were making music or art that time seemed to slow down, and they were able to connect with some hidden force that felt eternal, and more real than reality itself. For in those fleeting moments of creativity, they were becoming eternal by creating something that would live on long after they were gone. These ancestors of ours could connect with one another in ways the physical world could not have allowed them to in the past. Unbeknownst to them, they were building the framework of what would someday become society itself – a network of thought and culture.
Today, this network is more present than ever, and growing rapidly. Even though biologically we may be the same as we were some 50,000 years ago, our minds have expanded out into the universe, and deep into our own souls. As a race, we have become aware of our own limitations – time, space, and ourselves. And as we tirelessly work to break through these boundaries, we may not realize how similar the act of building a space shuttle is to building a stone axe. They are both tools we use to advance ourselves, and now more than ever, it feels as though we are on the verge of another mental big bang. Just as our ancestors broke through the barrier separating action from speech, we may be on the verge of breaking through the barrier that separated our bodies from our souls. For someday soon, we may truly get the chance to meet our true selves and shake our own hands. Someday soon, we may decide not to be human, or anything, at all.
Sherry Turkle was recently interviewed by NPR on the podcast “Do We Need Humans?” with other fellow TED speakers. What struck me as fascinating about this podcast is that she touches on a subject all of us are aware of but rarely talk about: Technology and relationships. More importantly, the social effects of technology. How is technology making us feel connected to each other, and is this a good thing?
Sherry begins by explaining something she saw one day that changed everything she believed. She was watching an elderly patient at a hospital interacting with a robot. It looked like a baby harp seal, and it had big, cute eyelashes. It responded to her language, and cheered her up. It comforted her. The older woman had lost a child, which could explain her longing for something to hold again. It made her feel understood. Sherry couldn’t believe how well she was responding to this robot, and realized the possibilities of this robot’s application.
“I felt profoundly depressed. This was a tremendous emotional turning point in my research,” says Sherry. She is now very worried about where this is all headed, and during her TED talk “Connected, but Alone?” she described it best:
“I felt myself at the cold, dark center of a perfect storm, in which we expect more from a technology relationship than we expect from each other. I believe it is because technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. We are lonely, but afraid of intimacy. We are designing social networks that help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control. But we aren’t comfortable, and we aren’t in control. We are cheering on this emotional connection to a machine, but why are we outsourcing what defines us as people?”
When Sherry gave her TED talk the year before, however, it was like a public confessional – because the year before, she told us how amazing robots will become.
So what changed her mind?
“I have interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people about their plugged in lives. These little devices are so psychologically powerful, they not only change what we do, they change what we are. Some of the things we do with our devices are things we would have found odd only a few years ago. People text during company board room meetings. People have talked about the important skill of eye contact while you are texting. We even text at funerals. We remove ourselves from our grief and our revery, and go into our phones. Why does this matter? Because I think we are setting ourselves up for trouble, not only in how we relate to each other, but how we relate with ourselves. People want to be everywhere at the same time. The thing that matters most to people is control of where they put their attention.”
But what if someone is so lonely, they must resort to a device to help them feel better? Certainly there are people who would otherwise be completely isolated from the outside world without technology. Sherry understands that there are inherent benefits to these technologies, but in the future, why would we want to do that to ourselves? Why would we intentionally construct false relationships?
When we construct robots, we are changing ourselves. We must realize the needs we are serving and become aware of what these needs are. Sherry wants to hear a more articulated conversation about these human needs. “I always hear TED talks that talk about this and always end with people saying ‘we will become more human’ if we let these robots advance. I’m not so sure. Why do we want that old woman talking to a robot? She deserves to have people around, and we need to hear the stories of her life to learn from her.”
“Technology is making the bid to redefine human connection. How we care for each other and ourselves. How we determine our values and our direction. We have every opportunity ahead of us, and we have everything we need to start – each other. We have the greatest chance of success if we recognize our vulnerability; that we listen when technology says it will take something complicated and make it simpler. Our fantasies are costing us, and we need to find ways that technology can lead us back to our own lives and bodies. Lets talk about how we can use digital technology, the technology of our dreams, to make this life a life we can love.”
We must find a balance between our technologic and the personal worlds as the lines increasingly blur. Social media profiles still leave much to the imagination, yet can provide more instantaneous information about a person than an average 5 minutes of small talk. Google Glass — which allows one to share videos, text, make calls and browse the web through the user’s eye — is an emerging technology that may prove beneficial in establishing the physical and internet-based demarcations … by completely eliminating those boundaries and turning an individual into a breathing, living embodiment of the internet. You could say we are becoming the internet. Or the internet is becoming us. Whichever you choose, there is a new age of interaction upon us, and we most certainly will have our share of growing pains. Perhaps some new device like Google Glass will help people learn to truly see through each other’s eyes…But most likely, you’ll just use it to watch the Lakers game during your next dinner date.
Do you think there are more pros or cons to social media? SHARE BELOW
Drawn by the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy, we confuse postings and online sharing with authentic communication. We are drawn to sacrifice conversation for mere connection. But Turkle suggests that digital technology is still in its infancy and there is ample time for us to reshape how we build it and use it. She is a professor in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT and the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.
[Ancient Lasers is the musical work of Daniel Finfer, a Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. Artists love to say their music has a message, but what happens when that message is “the Singularity is Near”? Musician Daniel Finfer creates albums that explore the concepts and consequences of accelerating technology while still possessing enough pop-music chops to make them accessible. Ancient Lasers has tracks with titles like “You in the Future” and “Replacing You.” On first listen they may sound like Finfer’s singing to a girl, but lines like “I don’t need you in the future” are about post-singularity robots dismissing the need for humans. Pretty trippy stuff, and awesome to listen to.] – Singularity Hub
By Rachel Haywire
1. If you could get one augmentation what would it be?
While it would be nice to have titanium skin or lungs that would allow me to breathe underwater, the augmentation I would choose is one that should be the top priority for scientists working in this field. Intelligence expansion. That’s really step one, isn’t it? If I could increase my intelligence, and my capacity to understand intelligence itself, inventing new augmentations on my wishlist would be much easier. I know that is kind of a cop-out of an answer, so if intelligence-expansion wasn’t on the table, it would probably be human flight. I have a terrible fear of airplanes, which I’m fairly confident stems from the fact that I was in a plane crash as a young child. Kind of ironic I teamed up with a band called Idiot Pilot to produce Ancient Lasers, isn’t it?
Selective hearing would come in handy these days, as well.
2. How would you feel about becoming a cyborg?
It depends on who is turning me into a cyborg. One of my biggest worries related to technology is its abuse by world governments or cyber-terrorists. I have a hunch becoming cyborg would in some way involve the internet, and we have a long way to go before someone will convince me to drink any cyber-Kool-Aid. I mean, I don’t want Wikileaks or Anonymous hacking into my thoughts. My mind feels like the last place I can still hide in this world; where no one can get to me. Facebook and Twitter both started out as seemingly innocent, fun places to post your thoughts and digital records of your daily organic life. But look at what’s happening now: the government basically turned social media sites into one giant population-monitoring system, and they love it.
If we are talking physically, sign me up. I would love to take a MechWarrior or a Gundam suit for a spin someday.
3. Do you think there is going to be a war between humans and machines?
You could argue there already is one. Certainly in the job market, at least. Machines have achieved a level of complexity that is actually putting people out of work, and I’m afraid it’s only going to get “worse”. I use quotes because it all depends on your point of view. Sure, automation creates unemployment, but that’s because we are currently operating in an obsolete economic system that doesn’t know what to do with the unemployed. I think the definition of a “job” is going to change dramatically in the near future. We are transitioning towards a post-scarcity world (hopefully), so maybe someday our jobs as humans will be to simply imagine and create. The entertainment industry is currently one of the largest growing sectors, after all.
Getting back to your question, however, I do think there would be a cataclysmic event involving a post-human Artificial Intelligence if it was built carelessly. As a human, I have empathy for my infant self, and look back on those years fondly. But how do I feel about myself when I was an embryo? I don’t have any empathy – because I was so drastically different back then I might as well have been someone else entirely. That is how I believe a post-human Artificial Intelligence would regard humanity – some kind of pest getting in the way of its quest to maximize complexity and reverse its own entropy. If it came down to that – a war between humans and a greater intelligence, I wouldn’t even try to fight it. I would throw my gun at its feet, knowing that my role as a human was to build a post-human. I could find comfort dying at the hands of a machine – it would feel like some cosmic passing-of-the-torch. Obviously, I would prefer not to.
Another possibility is a war between humans at various stages of technological progression, much like the war between Homo-Sapiens and the Neanderthal. History is one long race to some distant, intangible finish line – hopefully whoever gets there first still has some compassion for humanity.
4. What is the best way to make people more aware of Transhumanism?
This is a very tough question – in fact one I try to answer every day as an artist focused on educating people about Transhumanism. Clearly many artists and visionaries have tried. John Lennon’s “Imagine” is a perfect example. But as they say, a fish ahead of its time is doomed to die on dry land. You would think by now we’d have figured it out, but the people in charge don’t want us to “figure it out”. Lady Gaga, for example, has a very transhuman message that I think resonates with a lot of people. But most people don’t realize that she actually studied fame, and pretty much had the concept for her career planned out. And at the end of the day, there’s still someone at the record label looking at the bottom line. There is only so much she can do within that business model. Most entertainment is focused on making us forget how utterly astonishing it is to be human; to be alive at this moment in history. This is the bottom of the funnel.
Corporations are excellent at making us feel like we’re important, when in reality they regard us as a dollar sign or a number on the computer screen. And for a while, it worked. It felt good to go to McDonald’s, or Starbucks, or Best Buy. It felt good to be ‘part of the club’. People have an evolutionary need to belong somewhere…to be part of a community. We have always been that way, it is in who we are. Even before corporations, you had Nationalism and Religion – two major systems that are also starting to fall apart. When I was a kid, it seemed like it made sense, and, hey, it was fun. Fireworks on the Fourth of July? Christmas presents? Sign me up! The people at the top of these institutions are experts in marketing.
But to the mainstream, Transhumanism is terrifying. I mean, even to me, it’s terrifying, and I’ve been researching it for seven years now. Clearly the answer isn’t at the bottom of a Coke Zero or in the pages of an ancient book. I think one thing that a lot of us involved in this new movement have in common is that we aren’t satisfied with the answers we’ve been taught in school. We have to spread this message, because it is all we can think about. The message is spreading, thankfully, and hopefully we can turn others on to it. Right now feels like the Sixties on Steroids. And it’s happening because everyone on earth is getting the real information, as they come online.
The bottom line is that we need more money funneled into science. Plain and simple. We need to get it out of archaic systems and institutions, but we need to show and tell people why. That’s what I do with my music, or at least try to.
5. What would your ideal future look like?
My ideal future would be some sort of ‘consensus reality’, that is, a reality where everyone can find the place where they belong and feel happy. There is a theory about what will come after science called Thalience, a term coined by Karl Schroeder. Assuming that in a post-human world everything will become intelligent, eventually the entire universe will expand to become itself. We would all be one. The universe we would become could play games with time and space, relive past memories, talk to lost loved ones…Anything. But maybe we would get bored after a while and make some sort of ‘surprise button’ – where one day we decide “Okay, we’re bored, so let’s invent a way to keep it entertaining.” Maybe this entire universe is the result of a post-human getting bored and pressing that button. I don’t know. They’re only theories.
In the end, I think an ideal future is one where we can look back on all of this and feel like it mattered.
6. If you could change one thing about humanity what would you change?
While I was visiting Tokyo last month, we strolled through the Harajuku district and stumbled upon Hot Toys’ brand new, flagship store, Toy Sapien.
I have never geeked out harder in my entire life.
First of all, life-sized R2-D2, C-3PO and a Terminator T800 greet you at the door. Once I collected myself enough to continue inside, I browsed through shelf after shelf of high-quality models and figurines. Some of these were not only rare, I had no idea they were even in production:
• 1989 Batman, Joker, Batmobile • Luke Skywalker Bespin Outfit • Batman Begins Batman • Predator • Captain America • Iron Man and Iron Monger
Having just seen Prometheus, I was pretty thrilled by this Space Jockey, which has a level of detail that is quite hard to find.
The Dark Knight section was also impressive, featuring a 1:16 scale model of the Tumbler, Bane, Joker, and Scarecrow.
Also of note, there were dozens of life-sized helmets from Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Terminator, a fully-stocked LEGO collection, and plush versions of most action figures.
Seriously, if I had the Yen to blow, I would have picked up that Space Jockey, DeLorean Time Machine, and Dewback faster than you can say “Get away from her, you Bitch.”
The raw excitement of planetary exploration is captured at Celebrate Curiosity, with over 1000 of your fellow explorers, friends, party goers, celebrities, scientists, artists, and space enthusiasts. Join us, as we take a thrilling dive into discovering the possibilities at the cosmic frontier in style!
Our Martian Party kicks off after the first day of Planetfest and spans two floors for an out-of-this world experience! As you mingle with your friends and make new ones along the way, keep your eyes peeled back for space industry persons of interest from Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and NASA. During the course of the evening, catch sightings and conversations from the most interesting Space Entrepreneurs, Sci-fi Authors, Screen Stars, and Personalities.
Bill Nye the Science Guy at BlackStarr’s Yuri’s Night, April 2012
Whatto expect at Celebrate Curiosity:
Customized t-shirts printed while you wait
Interactive galactic art by Andrea Lofthouse, NASA JPL’s Dan Goods, and others
CEO of The Planetary Society, Bill Nye the Science Guy,SpaceX’s Elon Musk, and hosts breakout talks
Short speaker sessions from prolific space advocates!
Enjoy tasty Martian treats and cosmic drink specials
Interactive video games from GameDesk
Gorgeous Spacecraft models displayed for your enjoyment
Giveaways from the Planetary Society
Get dazzled with spaced out music spun by Ancient Lasers and our Suprise Guest DJ
Dance to the undulating cosmic lights of the Jellypuss
Adorn yourself with a selection of complimentary blinky lights and glowey things
Witness live art in the making, interstellar wall projections, and adult games
Intergalactic Girls passing out Space Swag from the likes of SpaceX, NASA, and more
Delicious Astronaut Icecream and Space food Sticks from Funky Foods
Amazing lightshows with some far-out Tesla Coils!
Don’t forget to show off your Martian themed apparal by taking pictures at one of our two sassy souvenir photo booths
We have much more up our sleeves, and will continue to tantalize you with the possibilities of A Party on Mars over the next week!
This is an all ages event, but registration is mandatory and tickets are limited!
Dress to impress and be sure to wear your intergalactic best!
Codenamed “Jellypuss” and designed by Michael Clive of Mojave Makers, this aquatic LED lighting system is midi-controlled to be synced with any audio source – even the accelerometer of a tablet. Jellypuss made its debut this year at Ephemerisle 2012 with Ancient Lasers providing the music for the event.