I got the chance to ask Aubrey de Grey of SENS Foundation the questions for his Reddit AMA – we got some excellent answers coming you way very soon!
At the dawn of life on this planet, evolutionary changes happened slow. Billions of years slow. One microbe took billions of years to evolve the DNA necessary to replicate itself from simple amino acids. But that first copying mechanism, DNA, allowed information to be transmitted that much faster. Then, evolution only took millions of years to create multi-cellular creatures. Good information was kept, and bad information was discarded. The wheel of time continued until evolution presented the planet Earth with a new species – human beings. Except this species was different – this was the first intelligence on the planet.
This is where the evolutionary process of life really began to accelerate. Instead of millions of years to the next paradigm shift, it was only 50,000 years until Man began to talk. And then, only 10,000 to develop agriculture, written language, society, and government. Another 5,000 elapsed, and we had constructed Pyramids, developed theological and monetary systems, and had begun colonizing the planet. This led to the development of Science a few thousand years later. Science, after a few mere centuries, gave rise to the Industrial Revolution, which after only 50 years gave us the Computer Revolution. Notice the trend? Evolution is a feedback loop.
“Moore’s law describes a long-term trend in the history of computing hardware, in which the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years.”
When Moore made this prediction at CalTech in the 1970’s, computers were the size of buildings. Now one fits in your pocket, and a particle accelerator in CERN is capable of achieving the coldest temperature in the universe and a magnetic field thousands of times more powerful than the Earth’s- all to find the God Particle that allowed the universe to be created. Forty years ago a machine that sized could barely run Pong.
This is only the beginning, however – imagine the things we will achieve with computers the size of red-blood cells floating inside the body. Nanobots will soon be integrating themselves into our biological structure, repairing broken synapses in the brain, cleaning out arteries and creating a virtual-reality interface within your visual cortex. Don’t believe me? Ask Ray Kurzweil, who this year co-founded the Singularity University in Palo Alto with Google and NASA. Their sole mission is to create a human-computer hybrid that will allow us to live forever.
Why a hybrid? Why not simply create a smarter-than-human computer and have it solve all our problems? Because that computer might decide that keeping us humans on Planet Earth would hinder its own progress in evolution – that we pose a threat to its survival. Or, the computer might even convert the entire solar system into a bigger version of itself to solve the problem. In Isaac Asimov’s “The Last Question”, scientists keep building bigger and bigger computers; while constantly asking the meaning of life. It is not until the very end, when, after the entire universe has been converted into a computer that the final answer is given.
The UN even recently passed a law banning “self-replicating nanobots” to prevent the planet from being covered in a “gray goo” of robotic microbes. This only supports how real this is all becoming. Six years ago, Facebook was being invented. Now, 500 million people have moved parts of their lives “online”, and could not imagine life without it. Ten years ago, cell phones and laptops were only just becoming commonplace within the societal lexicon. Now, having a desktop or even laptop computer is viewed as being a nuisance and hassle. In the next ten years, however, the change will be faster. We know this because it’s been speeding up this entire time.
Every day, more things happen than the day before- because today we have better tools for communicating, working, living, and replicating information than we did yesterday. The move from analog to digital will be almost too gradual to notice, but one thing is certain: Humanity is uploading itself onto the internet, which now appears to have turned Planet Earth into a collective brain; every human being a neuron in the system. This collective brain will soon abandon the mortal problems we face today, but it will face problems on a universal scale. Like how to prevent its collapsing, parent star from dying, how to exist in multiple dimensions, or even how to better allocate intelligence throughout the universe.
Maybe then it will even send out tiny seeds to land on distant planets…just like the amino acids that landed on Earth.
First off, there were more people in attendance. I believe we clocked in at over 800(!) people. It seems our message is truly beginning to spread and pick up speed, which is no surprise – alot has happened since March of 2011.
We are finally seeing the rise of the “Internet voice”, as made evident by the huge amount of activism by Twitter, Anonymous, Occupy Wall Street, and many more connectivity-based movements. People are starting to step away from the computer (with iPhone or Droid still firmly in hand) and take to the streets. Information technologies are making people realize how much work there is to do to fix the problems our society still faces. Yet, many people that want and can do something to help don’t know where to turn. I didn’t. Before connecting with the people at BIL, I had motivation and knew what I wanted to do, but didn’t know there were thousands of other people that had the same ideas.
BIL, by nature, is a very geeky event. As a counter-culture shadow conference that not-so-coincidentally occurs right around TED, you would expect this. And by nature, these people don’t have alot of free time for social interaction – and most find the usual “club and bar scene” to be trite and superficial (myself included). The beauty in BIL is that it gives the nerdy, quirky, subversive, think-way-the-fuck-outside-the-box types a singular event to come and talk about all the insanely cool projects they’ve been working on in the past year.
New additions this year included:
- Space Stage, where SpaceX and XCOR showed off some very cool, privately funded space vehicles. A
- Burning-Man-esque….dodecahedron? (It’s a geometric shape I can’t describe in human language). People were relaxing and singing karaoke when they needed a mind-rest from talks.
- Massage/Cupping station.
- Speed Dating and Relationship Discussions in the Red Room.
- College Of Lockpicking
- Crashspace 3D Printing Demonstration
- Halcyon Molecular DNA microscope
- BIL2012 Anthem!
- Performances by Max Lugavere and Ancient Lasers
At the closing ceremony, Reichart auctioned off a chance to sit in on a live reading of Futurama, with the full cast (as well as himself and Simone for dates). Their combined sexiness helped put a deposit for BIL2013! Maria Entraigues and myself also performed the first ever “BIL Anthem” – and we got Aubrey de Grey to jump on stage and bust out a smooth 16 bar rap verse about “biology, nanotechnology, quantum computing, more biology…” That was definitely a fitting way to end the conference. Special thanks to Reichart, Maria, Aubrey and Simone for making that happen with 4 days notice!
In conclusion, BIL expanded my mind and now I have a thirst for knowledge – and meeting the people who possess it. I know I’m leaving out tons of amazing people I met, and I apologize in advance. More posts coming! I have a big list of similar conferences, concerts, and events like BIL in my Google Docs, and I hope to check a few dozen off the list by the time 2012 is over.
BILder’s (as we like to call them) come from all around the world to share ideas, give talks, perform live music, teach classes, network, brainstorm ways to fix the world…whatever! That’s the beauty of BIL, what it is and what it will become is completely up to the BILders themselves – theres no concrete agenda. It is what you make it.
Last year was my first BIL experience, and I can honestly say it set the tone for the rest of my year in the most positive way possible. I met BIL co-founders Simone Syed and Reichart Von Wolfsheild when I hosted the after-party for the Los Angeles premiere of Transcendent Man – Ray Kurzweil‘s feature documentary about the Technological Singularity. I was demoing Ancient Lasers tracks for the singularity folks that night and they asked me if I wanted to play at BIL.
Once there I met some of the most fascinating people I have ever been graced to know. I spend alot of time around people that don’t really share the same interests as me in my daily life, so it was so refreshing to hear phrases like “machine learning”, “brain hacking”, and “nanobot foglets” being thrown around in casual conversation. I got to meet Burning Man guru John Halcyon, Life extension author Aubrey De Grey, lifestyle blogger extraordinaire Judd Weiss, the folks from the Singularity University…The list goes on.
After BIL, we all kept in touch and I personally know more than a couple new startups and other projects that were born from the conference and the connections it facilitated. Its incredible to think about how much has happened since last year and how many new friends I made.
This year Ancient Lasers is performing with special guest Max Lugavere from Current TV Saturday, March 3rd at 8pm. Jimmy Delshad, the mayor of Beverly Hills, life extensionist author Aubrey de Grey, CEO of Virgin Galactic George Whitesides, XCOR co-founder Doug Jones, and many many more.
I highly recommend coming to check it out, I promise you wont leave empty-headed.