Humanity+ San Francisco 2012: Writing the Future — talk abstracts

Humanity+ San Francisco 2012: Writing the Future

“Writing the Future” focuses on how emerging and converging sciences and technologies are the tools for designing our future, based on the advances in robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, human enhancement, brain-computer integration, regenerative medicine, and radical life extension.  Come and join us and register before November 10 to take advantage of early bird specials.

The conference will explore the world of media and communicating transhumanism. The aim is to encourage refined communication about the future in creative ways, and thereby promote serious attention to the opportunities and risks we are facing.  Speakers and attendees will discuss topics such as: What are we working on?  How are we going about doing it?  What have we learned?

The following abstracts give you a flavor of some of the talks which will be presented.

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Aubrey de Grey

Should we write what we think about how the future could be?

The future and its many narratives, both written and spoken, are is created by people of the present. In many cases, notably the biomedical realm, the intrinsic costs of pursuing pioneering technological research mean that the rate of progress is strongly influenced by public enthusiasm for its goals. This creates a dilemma, in that the public are often ambivalent (at best) concerning such goals, even when by any rational standards they should not be. Should those involved in such work therefore understate their goals when writing proposals and addressing a general audience, making them less “scary” and thereby attracting funds to make initial progress? I will discuss various arguments for either answer to this question, with an emphasis on the work of SENS Foundation to postpone the ill-health of old age.


Ben Goertzel

Beyond Language: How Minds Will Communicate Once Advanced Transhumanist Technologies are Commonplace

The invention of spoken, and then written, language was one of the major breakthroughs in the evolution of modern human mind and culture. But just as the current “natural human mind” is not the end-all of intelligence, the current form of “natural language” is not the end-all of communication. Communication among advanced AGI systems, or among humans with advanced brain implants, could proceed according to very different principles. Rather than exchanging linear sequences of words drawn from a culturally common vocabulary, minds will be able to exchange networks of ideas/percepts/actions, using AI helper programs to reduce ambiguity and confusion as needed. A specific design for this sort of communication mechanism, called Psynese, has been worked out in the context of the OpenCog AGI software framework, for the purpose of communication between advanced OpenCog systems. The constructed human language Lojban also has potential to be grown into a communication system of this nature. To minds capable of communicating by exchanging mind-stuff more directly, communication using 21st century style “natural language” will seem terribly primitive — much the way we now view communication using gestures, grunts and groans. A final question is: How could we plain old legacy humans communicate more creatively and effectively NOW, using ideas inspired by this likely future mode of communication?

David Pearce

Prophetic Narratives: Will Humanity’s Successors Also Be Our Decendants?

Accelerating technological progress leads some futurists to predict the imminent end of the transhuman era and the dawn of posthuman superintelligence. But what is superintelligence? How does intelligence relate to sentience? What are the Explanatory Gap, Moravec’s Paradox, and the Binding Problem? Will nonbiological machines ever be more than zombies? This talk explores three different narratives for the major evolutionary transition in prospect. In the first narrative, biological humans will rewrite our genetic source code, recursively self-edit our own minds, and bootstrap our way to full-spectrum superintelligence. Mastery of our reward circuitry will deliver life based on information-sensitive gradients of bliss. In the second, Kurzweilian narrative, cybernetic brain implants will enable humans to fuse our minds with artificial intelligence; and also allow humans to scan, digitize and “upload” ourselves into a less perishable substrate. In digital nirvana, the distinction between biological and nonbiological machines will effectively disappear. In the third scenario, most closely associated with mathematician I.J. Good, is a combination of Moore’s law and the advent of recursively self-improving software-based minds will culminate in an ultra-rapid Intelligence Explosion and an era of nonbiological superintelligence. Posthuman superintelligence may or may not be human-friendly. How strong is the supporting evidence for each of these prophecies?


James Hughes

Re-Awakening the Power of the Utopian Imagination through Speculative Fiction

Futurists and transhumanists have been derided for association with science fiction, and conservatives have warned of the totalitarian implications of utopian speculation. But speculative fiction is the principal arena in which human beings imagine their own future radically transformed by social and technological change, try to anticipate the pitfalls, and motivate themselves to grasp the opportunities. We need to be self-critical of the sandtraps of the utopian imaginary while building on its energies to motivate ourselves and the public to great works. Engaging with culture creators we can push them beyond one dimensional depictions of novel technologies as horrifying hubris to depict more complex futures with both technological benefits and catastrophic risks.


Michael Anissimov

Media Performance of Transhumanism

Since 2005 or so, transhumanism and transhumanist ideas have had a rising profile in the media. What have been our greatest successes of the past few years and how can we repeat them? Which memes are getting the most airtime, and which are being ignored? Is more media exposure always better? What can we do to ensure that we and our organizations are media-savvy? How do we leverage technology to maximize the impact of social media? This talk by the media director of the Singularity Institute will examine these questions and come to concrete conclusions.


Natasha Vita-More

Authoring Transhumans: The Prose of Science, Technology, Philosophy and Design

At our fingertips are the tools to author a feasible approach to designing adaptive humans—the transhuman; one which overcomes obstacles and acts to self-direct its existence. Emerging and speculative technologies are providing the means to actually build a prosthetic body, preserve the brain, and expand the mind. How might genomics, regenerative media, and nanomedicine form the foundation for persons to exist indefinitely? What methods are available now to design existence and a computational person? How do science, technology, philosophy and design cover all aspects of life expansion? This talk is a visionary scaffold for what might be the first full-fledge attempt to author the human as an existence with a time frame ad libitum.


Ramez Naam

Changing Worlds and Minds with Words

The power of writing is the change is creates in the minds of the readers, and thus in the world. But very different strategies apply for different topics, different types of readers, for fiction vs. non-fiction, for entertainment vs. inspiration vs. persuasion. In this talk, I will break down the ways in which writing can be used to affect others – and to make a career for oneself – and give pointed advice to potential writers.

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1 Response

  1. February 6, 2013

    [...] il punto vero, forse, è quello che coglie Aubrey De Grey: «Il futuro e le sue narrazioni, sia scritte che orali, sono creati dalla gente del [...]

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