04 November 2007

The Yellow Brick Road

The road to the "Emerald City" of the future is taking us past some interesting technological scenery. From biotech to nanotech to robotics and machine intelligence, if we can keep the violent religious and ideological fanatics occupied elsewhere, our future should look even stranger than the Land of Oz.
A few weeks ago, bioengineers at Keio University in Japan demonstrated control of the computer game Second Life using a non-invasive “brain-computer” interface. Cyberonics, a Houston-based company, markets an implantable brain chip that was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat depression.

Of course depression is just one of many human ills the Transhumanists promise to eliminate — along with cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, baldness, poverty, global warming, aging and ultimately death.

Perhaps the futurists’ predictions are too wild, and their time scale overly ambitious. Surely human inefficiency, religious reticence and global political instability could slow down the transformation. But ultimately, we are quibbling over when, not if, it will happen.

Consider the many things you will ask your "Home Fab" to make for you. And once we understand the magic of "self-assembly" better, what nanotechnological marvels will we eventually "shake and bake?"

We need smarter brains, and pharmacologists are working on that. Using marvelous new tools for imaging the body and the functioning brain, scientists are solving many of the problems that have prevented us from shaping our own future selves.

We do need to be smarter, and certainly if we suffer damage to our brains, we need better ways of restoring ourselves to full neural function. We plan to live a long time, and the brain will certainly suffer from traumatic and degenerative change over many decades and centuries of time.

We can try to follow the many projects of organisations such as SENS, CRN, The Lifeboat Foundation, the Singularity Institute, Foresight Institute, and those of many other institutions. Although we cannot possibly follow them all as closely as we would like, with the magic of high speed internet and hyperlinked multimedia, we can at least scan across the tip of the iceberg. I do recommend making personal connections with people who at least are dipping their toes in the current. Check out some of the links on the Al Fin sidebar.


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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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