Future Tech

Tomorrowland's Forecast: It's the End of the World (As We Know It) - VIDEO

Tomorrowland1

This is the first in a recurring series of posts related to all things tomorrow - from emerging tech and culture trends to breakthroughs in artificial intelligence to new entertainment and inventions that are helping change the way we experience and understand the world around us. In short, it's a glimpse into what the future might hold for humanity as we try and answer the ever-present question: What happens next?

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 12.04.14 AMAsk the average bystander on the bus or subway what the definition of transhumanism is and you'll likely get blank stares or a mistaken answer that the term clearly has something to do with gender identity. But transhumanism, as this recent introductory video from the British Institute of Posthuman Studies shows below, is actually a global, cultural, and intellectual movement that considers current trends to see how future technology will develop and revolutionize what it means to be human. And it's an idea that's steadily gaining steam - Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin are just two of the bright minds of today who are working on solutions to questions that fall under the transhumanist umbrella.

Continue reading "Tomorrowland's Forecast: It's the End of the World (As We Know It), AFTER THE JUMP...

 

As the video illustrates, transhumanism centers around three key topics, or "Supers":

Super Longevity - Extending human life as long as possible with the premise being that ageing itself can one day be overcome through breakthroughs in medicine and technology. Advocates point to Google's newly announced company Calico and its goal of "solving death" as proof of the concept's popularity and potential.

Super Intelligence - sometimes referred to as "the singularity" or "humanity's final invention," it's the idea that artificial intelligence may soon eclipse that of human intelligence, leading to a radical merging of AI and human nature. Just imagine being able to upload the internet directly to your brain, and perhaps even being able to do it in our lifetime!

Super Wellbeing - the idealistic aim to investigate and phase out suffering as a concept. It's the hardwiring of our genes to maximize happiness and wellbeing while minimizing pain and depression.

Charles DuellAt its core, transhumanism is about discovering humanity's potential, an idea that's been around for centuries. Yet at times we've also done the opposite by selling our species short and throwing in the towel early. Towards the end of the 1800s, for example, conventional wisdom suggested that all the great scientific discoveries had already been made and that there wasn't much left to do beyond some "tidying up" of existing theories. As Charles Duell (right), commissioner of the United States Patent Office, boldly asserted in 1899, "Everything that can be invented - has already been invented."  

Obviously (and thankfully!) humanity had not yet reached the pinnacle of its potential then and we can now recognize the humorous absurdity in that statement. But what if there was a way to prevent this notion from happening in the future? What if we were able to figure out what happens next? That's transhumanism.

What happens next? It's a universal question that every one of us is confronted with during major events in our lives, a question that presents itself at the birth of every child, the death of every loved one, and the beginning and ending of every relationship. Trying to figure out what happens next is even the driving force behind every great page-turner and thrill movie. 

Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 11.59.08 PMAnd far from arguing the end of all potential, transhumanists foresee a future of limitless potential as a result of technology radically redefining what it means to be human. Unsuprisingly, the cultural, social, and political ramifications that this limitless potential would bring to the table could fill an entire post (which I hope to address in a later column)

But what about you? What do you make of all this? Do you think it's a load of crock, "the most dangerous idea in the world," or the future as we know it? Sound off in the comments below. 

News tips? Comments/Suggestions? Tweet me @kylergee.

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Comments

  1. well that's a stretch.

    Posted by: Mayer | Nov 12, 2013 8:24:58 PM


  2. Too abstract and too far away. Read Karen Armstrong's History of God if you want to know what happens to those gods: they get replaced by more accessible and user-friendly gods (e.g. the virgin Mary.)

    I'm far more interested in the future of convenience and heightened status. See the Walter Cronkite series circa 1967, "The 21st Century."

    Posted by: BZ | Nov 12, 2013 9:11:04 PM


  3. I think it's a great thought experiment--providing we acknowledge it as such. It's also very American, and driven, and I like it. Until I don't--when it's dishonest, serves merely to distract, or maybe even does evil? :-; haha

    It does seem a natural extension of mr. Towle's apparent longstanding popular-mechanics type interests. Well done, tr.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Nov 12, 2013 9:17:35 PM


  4. Everyone should check out futuretimeline.net. It predicts transhumanism and the integration of humans into massive universal AI and computing.

    Posted by: RK | Nov 12, 2013 9:21:21 PM


  5. As always in Human history, there will be those who progress and those left behind. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote of this in one of his Venus series books.

    Posted by: gordon | Nov 12, 2013 9:45:23 PM


  6. We may be doomed by technology. Unintended consequences are deadly.

    Posted by: JonnyNYNY2FLFL | Nov 12, 2013 10:38:17 PM


  7. I do think the singluarity is possible in the near future (within our lifetime), where machines will technically out-think and design and reproduce better machines. I don't agree that merging with machines will produce a substantional benefit but rather dependence.

    Posted by: Kev C | Nov 12, 2013 10:58:28 PM


  8. Try everything somewhere else first.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Nov 12, 2013 11:01:24 PM


  9. Humans can ultimately destroy everything, and the idea of living a hyper-extended life on an overpopulated, polluted planet holds no appeal. I'm sure that our lives will become increasingly dependent on technology, as has been the trend for many years. But life isn't going to become Star Trek for the world's poor people. These are ideas for wealthy escapists.

    Posted by: Paul R | Nov 12, 2013 11:15:22 PM


  10. 5,000 years later, the Vedas still have it right:
    oh, how the ego enjoys taking hold and assuming
    ownership of Truth.
    we are That; whether we realize it, or not.

    Posted by: my2cents | Nov 12, 2013 11:29:21 PM


  11. Don't get your hopes up. I'm still waiting for that jet-pack.

    Posted by: BobN | Nov 13, 2013 12:11:47 AM


  12. "Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them."

    Words to live by.

    Posted by: OddBet | Nov 13, 2013 12:47:53 AM


  13. The singularity will probably happen, but not soon.

    And for the love of god, don't let Zuckerberg be involved.

    Posted by: Reidsb | Nov 13, 2013 1:29:09 AM


  14. Great, great, great idea for a column! Looking forward to reading more of this series!!

    Posted by: Tom S. | Nov 13, 2013 9:36:58 AM


  15. Spot on, Paul R.

    Also, sounds like a new religion (with Zuckerberg as Pope? Bleh).

    It's a shame there isn't more emphasis on TransHUMANEism, where people can look around and, using the intelligence they already have, see how f*ked up and insignificant they've made everything, and maybe try to actually do something to repair the damage they've caused. Except everyone has got their face in their smartphone screens and aren't even looking up anymore. Brave new world. I'm glad I'll be dead by the time any of this happens.

    Posted by: tinkerbelle | Nov 13, 2013 1:43:29 PM


  16. I just want to say I'm surprised and astonished that this blog is actually talking about this topic. I've had an interest in Transhumanism as a movement for some time keeping tabs every now and then. Just paying attention to the ideals as technology gets better. So I'm very surprised to see this topic on this blog. But want to say thank you Andy Towle and the rest of the contributors for bringing up this certain topic. Thank you again.

    Posted by: MickyFlip | Nov 13, 2013 2:26:32 PM


  17. Transhumanism is just a religion. When Kurzweil dies, even transhumanists will begin to admit it.

    Posted by: Randy | Nov 13, 2013 3:53:13 PM


  18. Moore's law won't last forever. Smaller/faster/cheaper every 18 months will hit a wall. Question is, when we do hit that wall, and have stretched the ability of atoms to act as computational devices to the practical limit... will it still be enough for this 'singularity' to happen ... or will it fall short?

    We're running towards a cliff, of some kind. We could smack into it (presuming we're at the bottom of the cliff), and then we'd have to learn how to climb... or we could fall off it... or we could fly. A-Diminishing returns, B-devastating consequences or C-radical transformation. A is by far the most likely I think.

    Posted by: Jexer | Nov 13, 2013 5:50:17 PM


  19. @ Randy ~ I wouldn't go so far as to compare it to any theological or spiritual pov. Personally, I tend to see it as more from a perspective on how technology changes and we change with it. I mean, great example being the wireless devices we use now. From iPads to iPhones to prosthetic devices. And the list goes on. It's about how we as people, as individuals, become...co-dependant(?)...on the technology around us. And how it influences us through our everyday lives. It will only be a matter of time till we finally get to the stage of Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell. Or William Gibson's Neuromancer. Or the Wachowski's The Matrix. Where we can download our subconscious into cyberspace. It's not a means of spiritual enlightenment. I see it as a means of evolution within technology to enhance our individual selves. If that makes any sense?

    Posted by: MickyFlip | Nov 13, 2013 9:21:09 PM


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