Technologies of Transcendence at Singularity University

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The concept of “technological singularity,” a point in time in which artificial intelligence will supersede human intelligence that was made famous by computer scientist and leading transhumanist Ray Kurzweil, is frequently uttered in the same breath with “transhumanism.” However, the Singularity University (SU), cofounded by Kurzweil and entrepreneur Peter Diamandis is, according to people both inside and out, not about the Singularity and not a university. It is certainly not specifically for transhumanists, and it does not teach transhumanism as such.

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... This thesis attempts to demonstrate this by claiming that the transhumanist goal is much more a superhuman than a posthumana perfect rather than a cosmic bodyinspired, among others, by imageries as that of the superhero that oscillates between the realms of science and magic (Jeffrey, 2011 (Evans 2014, p. 815) and that the impact and acceptance of this 32 movement depend on public faith in science as an institution but also as a source of societal hope and as producer of meaning. Thereby, the author elaborates on the importance of how problems are defined and where they are said to originate, showing that there exists an increasing tendency to see social issues as technoscientifically approachable in today's knowledge societies (Evans, 2014;Boenig-Liptsin & Hurlbut, 2016). As an example, the author refers to the hyperactivity in children that is seen as pharmaceutically treatable rather than produced in and by competitive environments like school. ...
In the last decade, the world has seen an increasing prominence of the transhumanist movement. Whereas Silicon Valley has proven to be a center for the movement’s visionaries, transhumanist political parties have risen as a global trend. As a philosophy that promotes the technoscientific transformation of the human, transhumanism strives to go beyond the limits of nature. While frequently criticized on a theoretical level, case studies about transhumanism are rare within and outside of Science and Technology Studies. The research at hand approaches this gap by focusing on the linguistic production of sociotechnical visions in two transhumanist documents: the constitution of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and the party program of the German Transhumanist Party. Two sociotechnical visions became visible: the vision of Technology = Magic and the vision of Paradise (Lost). While a proneness for prestigious culture and a romanticization of the Enlightenment era produced the vision of a paradise that was lost in a different time, technology was mystified as a magical fix and universal remedy for solving human problems. On the background of these findings, this thesis does not only elaborate on transhumanist understandings of culture – rather than nature – but also proposes that transhumanism can be conceptualized as a ‘cult of technoscience’.
The article explores whether sociotechnical imaginaries of digitalization as inevitable accelerating development can be traced in Denmark’s official policy papers concerning digitalization 2015–2020. It identifies imperatives of speed, acceleration and agility equal to what has been described as a corporate data imaginary as well as tropes of an imaginary of the fourth industrial revolution and inevitable exponential technological development and disruption. The empirical analysis discovers a shift in the studied period mid-2018, before which inevitabilism is prominent and after which the focus on non-economic values increases and the aim of influencing the development, instead of adapting to it, emerges. The article then addresses how imperatives of acceleration and narratives of inevitabilism may be considered problematic from a democratic point of view employing Hartmut Rosa’s critical diagnosis of the acceleration society and the notion of discursive closure. Finally, it discusses the empirical findings in light of technological determinism and constructivism inherent in the notion of sociotechnical imaginaries and introduces a sociotechnical selectionist theory allowing both for human agency in technological development while also providing a mechanism for explaining the emergence of law-like technological trends, as Moore’s Law, at macro level.
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Article on digital death and startup culture from the Apocryphal Technologies special issue of continent
In 2015, the World Economic Forum announced that the world was on the threshold of a ‘fourth industrial revolution’ driven by a fusion of cutting-edge technologies with unprecedented disruptive power. The next year, in 2016, the fourth industrial revolution appeared as the theme of the Forum’s annual meeting, and as the topic of a book by its founder and executive chairman, Klaus Schwab. Ever since, the Forum has made this impending revolution its top priority, maintaining that it will inevitably change everything we once know about the world and how to live in it, thus creating what I conceptualize as ‘future essentialism’. Within a short space of time, the vision of the fourth industrial revolution was institutionalized and publicly performed in various national settings around the world as a sociotechnical imaginary of a promising and desirable future soon to come. Through readings of original material published by the Forum, and through a case study of the reception of the fourth industrial revolution in Denmark, this article highlights and analyses three discursive strategies – ‘dialectics of pessimism and optimism’, ‘epochalism’ and ‘inevitability’ – in the transformation of a corporate, highly elitist vision of the future into policymaking and public reason on a national level.
'Imagined Communities' examines the creation & function of the 'imagined communities' of nationality & the way these communities were in part created by the growth of the nation-state, the interaction between capitalism & printing & the birth of vernacular languages in early modern Europe.
An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The “returns,” such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light. You will get $40 trillion just by reading this essay and understanding what it says. For complete details, see below. (It’s true that authors will do just about anything to keep your attention, but I’m serious about this statement. Until I return to a further explanation, however, do read the first sentence of this paragraph carefully.) Now back to the future: it’s widely misunderstood. Our forebears expected the future to be pretty much like their present, which had been pretty much like their past. Although exponential trends did exist a thousand years ago, they were at that very early stage where an exponential trend is so flat that it looks like no trend at all. So their lack of expectations was largely fulfilled. Today, in accordance with the common wisdom, everyone expects continuous technological progress and the social repercussions that follow. But the future will be far more surprising than most observers realize: few have truly internalized the implications of the fact that the rate of change itself is accelerating.
With the promise to address societal challenges by engineering life, synthetic biology claims the authority to declare what technological futures are possible, desirable, and good. This represents a reimagination and reordering of responsibilities of governance that demands public assessment and deliberation. Yet dominant approaches to assessing social and ethical issues in the biosciences generally neglect the role of scientific authority in configuring responsibilities of governance. This essay offers a diagnosis of this failure and suggestions to address it.
In the second half of the twentieth century, humanism— namely, the worldview that underpinned Western thought for several centuries—has been severely critiqued by philosophers who highlighted its theoretical and ethical limitations. Inspired by the emergence of cybernetics and new technologies such as robotics, prosthetics, communications, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology, there has been a desire to articulate a new worldview that will fit the posthuman condition. Posthumanism is a description of a new form of human existence in which the boundaries between humans and nature and humans and machines are blurred, as well as a prescription for an ideal situation in which the limitations of human biology are transcended, replaced by machines. The transition from the human condition to the posthuman condition will be facilitated by transhumanism, the project of human enhancement that will ultimately yield the transformation of the human species from the human to the posthuman. As an intellectual movement, transhumanism is still very small, but transhumanist ideas exert deep and broad influence on contemporary culture and society. This essay highlights the religious dimension of transhumanism and argues that it should be seen as a secularist faith: transhumanism secularizes traditional religious themes, concerns, and goals, while endowing technology with religious significance. Science-Religion Studies is the most appropriate context to explore the cultural significance of transhumanism.
Long before the terrorist atrocities of 11 September 2001 in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania, the anthrax attacks through the US mail, and the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, signs were mounting that America’s ability to create and operate vast technological systems had outrun her capacity for prediction and control. In a prescient book, published in 1984, the sociologist Charles Perrow forecast a series of ‘normal accidents’, which were strung like dark beads through the latter years of the twentieth century and beyond — most notably, the 1984 chemical plant disaster in Bhopal, India; the 1986 loss of the Challenger shuttle and, in the same year, the nuclear plant accident in Chernobyl, USSR; the contamination of blood supplies with the AIDS virus; the prolonged crisis over BSE (‘mad cow disease’); the loss of the manned US space shuttle Columbia in 2003; and the US space programme’s embarrassing, although not life-threatening, mishaps with the Hubble telescope’s blurry lens, and several lost and extremely expensive Mars explorers (Perrow 1984). To these, we may add the discovery of the ozone hole, climate change, and other environmental disasters as further signs of disrepair. Occurring at different times and in vastly-different political environments, these events nonetheless have served collective notice that human pretensions of control over technological systems need serious re-examination.
Technology evolves at a dazzling speed, and nowhere more so than in the field of genetic engineering, where the possibility of directly changing the genes of one's children is quickly becoming a reality. The public is rightly concerned, but interestingly, they have not had much to say about the implications of recent advancements in human genetics. Playing God? asks why and explores the social forces that have led to the thinning out of public debate over human genetic engineering. John H. Evans contends that the problem lies in the structure of the debate itself. Disputes over human genetic engineering concern the means for achieving assumed ends, rather than being a healthy discussion about the ends themselves. According to Evans, this change in focus occurred as the jurisdiction over the debate shifted from scientists to bioethicists, a change which itself was caused by the rise of the bureaucratic state as the authority in such matters. The implications of this timely study are twofold. Evans not only explores how decisions about the ethics of human genetic engineering are made, but also shows how the structure of the debate has led to the technological choices we now face.
How much do we humans enjoy our current status as the most intelligent beings on earth? Enough to try to stop our own inventions from surpassing us in smarts? If so, we'd better pull the plug right now, because if Ray Kurzweil is right, we've only got until about 2020 before computers outpace the human brain in computational power. Kurzweil, artificial intelligence expert and author of The Age of Intelligent Machines, shows that technological evolution moves at an exponential pace. Further, he asserts, in a sort of swirling postulate, time speeds up as order increases, and vice versa. He calls this the "Law of Time and Chaos," and it means that although entropy is slowing the stream of time down for the universe overall, and thus vastly increasing the amount of time between major events, in the eddy of technological evolution the exact opposite is happening, and events will soon be coming faster and more furiously. This means that we'd better figure out how to deal with conscious machines as soon as possible--they'll soon not only be able to beat us at chess, they'll likely demand civil rights, and they may at last realize the very human dream of immortality. The Age of Spiritual Machines is compelling and accessible, and not necessarily best read from front to back--it's less heavily historical if you jump around (Kurzweil encourages this). Much of the content of the book lays the groundwork to justify Kurzweil's timeline, providing an engaging primer on the philosophical and technological ideas behind the study of consciousness. Instead of being a gee-whiz futurist manifesto, Spiritual Machines reads like a history of the future, without too much science fiction dystopianism. Instead, Kurzweil shows us the logical outgrowths of current trends, with all their attendant possibilities. This is the book we'll turn to when our computers
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