Stuart Mason Dambrot has written a special article (part 1 only, part 2 has yet to be published) about the recent Global Futures 2045 Congress held June 15-16, 2013 (program) in New York City. Dambrot’s piece draws together contemporary research and frames it within the context of transhumanism. From the Aug. 1, 2013 feature on phys.org (Note: Links have been removed),
Futurists, visionaries, scientists, technologists, philosophers, and others who take this view to heart convened on June 15-16, 2013 in New York City at Global Futures 2045 International Congress: Towards a New Strategy for Human Evolution. GF2045 was organized by the 2045 Strategic Social Initiative founded by Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov in February 2011 with the main goals of creating and realizing a new strategy for the development of humanity – one based upon our unique emerging capability to effect self-directed evolution. The initiative’s two main science projects are focused largely on Transhumanism – a multidisciplinary approach to analyzing the dynamic interplay between humanity and the acceleration of technology. Specifically, the 2045 Initiative’s projects seek to (1) enable an individual’s personality to be transferred to a more advanced non-biological substrate, and (2) extend life to the point of immortality …
Attendees were given a very dire view of the future followed by glimpses of another possible future provided we put our faith in science and technology. From Dambrot’s article (Note: Link has been removed),
… the late Dr. James Martin, who tragically passed away on June 24, 2013, gave a sweeping, engaging talk on The Transformation of Humankind—Extreme Paradigm Shifts Are Ahead of Us. An incredibly prolific author of books on computing and related technology, Dr. Martin founded the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University – an interdisciplinary research community comprising over 30 institutes and projects addressing the most pressing global challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. Dr. Martin – in the highly engaging manner for which he was renowned – presented a remarkably accessible survey of the interdependent trends that will increasingly threaten humanity over the coming decades. Dr. Martin made it disturbingly clear that population growth, resource consumption, water depletion, desertification, deforestation, ocean pollution and fish depopulation, atmospheric carbon dioxide, what he termed gigafamine (the death of more than a billion people as a consequence of food shortage by mid-century), and other factors are ominously close to their tipping points – after which their effects will be irreversible. (For example, he points out that in 20 years we’ll be consuming an obviously unsustainable 200 percent of then-available resources.) Taken together, he cautioned, these developments will constitute a “perfect storm” that will cause a Darwinian survival of the fittest in which “the Earth could be like a lifeboat that’s too small to save everyone.”
However, Dr. Martin also emphasized that there are solutions discussing the trends and technologies that – even as he acknowledged the resistance to implementing or even understanding them – could have a positive impact on our future:
The Singularity and an emerging technocracy
Genetic engineering and Transhumanism, in particular, a synthetic 24th human chromosome that would contain non-inheritable genetic modifications and synthetic DNA sequences
Artificial Intelligence and nanorobotics
Yottascale computers capable of executing 1024 operations per second
Graphene – a one-atom thick layer of graphite with an ever-expanding portfolio of electronic, optical, excitonic, thermal, mechanical, and quantum properties, and an even longer list of potential applications
Nuclear batteries in the form of small, ultra-safe and maintenance-free underground Tokamak nuclear fusion reactors
Photovoltaics that make electricity more cheaply than coal Capturing rainwater and floodwater to increase water supply
Eco-influence – Dr. Martin’s term for a rich, enjoyable and sometimes complex way of life that does no ecological harm
Dambrot goes on to cover day one (I think that’s how he has this organized) of the event at length and provides a number of video panels and discussions. I was hoping he’d have part two posted by now but given how much work he’s put into part 1 it’s understandable that part 2 might take a while. So, I’ll keep an eye open for it and add a link here when it’s posted.
I did check Dambrot’s website and found this on the ‘Critical Thought’ bio webpage,
Stuart Mason Dambrot is an interdisciplinary science synthesist and communicator. He analyzes deep-structure conceptual and neural connections between multiple areas of knowledge and creativity, and monitors and extrapolates convergent and emergent trends in a wide range of research activities. Stuart is also the creator and host of Critical Thought | TV, an online discussion channel examining convergent and emergent trends in the sciences, arts and humanities. As an invited speaker, he has given talks on Exocortical Cognition, Emergent Technologies, Synthetic Biology, Transhumanism, Philosophy of Mind, Sociopolitical Futures, and other topics at New York Academy of Sciences, Cooper-Union, Science House, New York Future Salon, and other venues.
Stuart has a diverse background in Physiological Psychology, integrating Neuroscience, Cognitive Psychology, Artificial Intelligence, Neural Networks, Complexity Theory, Epistemology, Ethics, and Philosophy of Science. His memberships and affiliations include American Association for the Advancement of Science, New York Academy of Sciences, Lifeboat Foundation Advisory Board, Center for Inquiry, New York Futurist Society, Linnaean Society National Association of Science Writers, Science Writers in New York, and Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.
I have yet to find any written material by Dambrot which challenges transhumanism in any way despite the fact that his website is called Critical Thought. This reservation aside, his pieces cover an interesting range of topics and I will try to get back to read more.
As for the GF 2045 initiative, I found this on their About us webpage,
The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimale conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies.
The main science mega-project of the 2045 Initiative aims to create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality. We devote particular attention to enabling the fullest possible dialogue between the world’s major spiritual traditions, science and society.
A large-scale transformation of humanity, comparable to some of the major spiritual and sci-tech revolutions in history, will require a new strategy. We believe this to be necessary to overcome existing crises, which threaten our planetary habitat and the continued existence of humanity as a species. With the 2045 Initiative, we hope to realize a new strategy for humanity’s development, and in so doing, create a more productive, fulfilling, and satisfying future.
The “2045″ team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one’s individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality.
An annual congress “The Global Future 2045″ is organized by the Initiative to give platform for discussing mankind’s evolutionary strategy based on technologies of cybernetic immortality as well as the possible impact of such technologies on global society, politics and economies of the future.
Future prospects of “2045″ Initiative for society
The emergence and widespread use of affordable android “avatars” controlled by a “brain-computer” interface. Coupled with related technologies “avatars’ will give people a number of new features: ability to work in dangerous environments, perform rescue operations, travel in extreme situations etc.
Avatar components will be used in medicine for the rehabilitation of fully or partially disabled patients giving them prosthetic limbs or recover lost senses.
Creation of an autonomous life-support system for the human brain linked to a robot, ‘avatar’, will save people whose body is completely worn out or irreversibly damaged. Any patient with an intact brain will be able to return to a fully functioning bodily life. Such technologies will greatly enlarge the possibility of hybrid bio-electronic devices, thus creating a new IT revolution and will make all kinds of superimpositions of electronic and biological systems possible.
Creation of a computer model of the brain and human consciousness with the subsequent development of means to transfer individual consciousness onto an artificial carrier. This development will profoundly change the world, it will not only give everyone the possibility of cybernetic immortality but will also create a friendly artificial intelligence, expand human capabilities and provide opportunities for ordinary people to restore or modify their own brain multiple times. The final result at this stage can be a real revolution in the understanding of human nature that will completely change the human and technical prospects for humanity.
This is the time when substance-independent minds will receive new bodies with capacities far exceeding those of ordinary humans. A new era for humanity will arrive! Changes will occur in all spheres of human activity – energy generation, transportation, politics, medicine, psychology, sciences, and so on.
Today it is hard to imagine a future when bodies consisting of nanorobots will become affordable and capable of taking any form. It is also hard to imagine body holograms featuring controlled matter. One thing is clear however: humanity, for the first time in its history, will make a fully managed evolutionary transition and eventually become a new species. Moreover, prerequisites for a large-scale expansion into outer space will be created as well.
It all seems a bit grandiose to me and, frankly, I’ve never found the prospect of being downloaded onto a nonbiological substrate particularly appealing. As well, how are they going to tackle the incredibly complex process of downloading or is it duplicating a brain? There’s still a lot of debate as to how a brain works (any brain: a rat brain, a dog brain, etc.).
It all gets more complicated the more you think about it. Is a duplicate/downloaded brain exactly the same as the original? Digitized print materials are relatively simple compared to a brain and yet archivists are still trying to determine how one establishes authenticity with print materials that have been digitized and downloaded/uploaded.
As well, I wonder if these grand dreamers have ever come across ‘the law of unintended consequences’. E.g. cane toads in Australia or DDT and other pesticides, which were intended as solutions and are now problems themselves.