ALS Topic 40 - What are we humans evolving into? What's the competition?

Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar, ALS 40
Saturday, August 17, 2019 12:15 PM to 2:30 PM (end time flexible)

Venue: The Rose - 31 East Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000 (Upstairs. Please buy a drink or something. We are "renting" the chairs in this small business)

About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding.

Focus questions -

1. WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE, IF ANY, IN RECORDED HISTORY THAT HUMANS HAVE EVOLVED GENETICALLY (AS OPPOSED TO JUST DEVELOPING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS)? Why might the PACE of such change alter in the future?

2. IF YOU WANTED TO DEVELOP AN IMPROVED HUMAN TYPE, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

3. HOW LIKELY DO YOU THINK IT IS THAT CYBORGS WILL ACTUALLY DISPLACE OR CONTROL HUMANS? What is the present evidence for this? Note: A cyborg is a modified organism (e.g. a human base) that has been enhanced by technology (which may be organic or inorganic) to the point of becoming a different kind of creature. Research into human modification is proceeding at great speed in many fields.

4. CYBORGS WILL SOON BECOME SMART ENOUGH TO RECOGNIZE THAT CLIMATE CHANGE (OR HUMAN ACTIVITY) IS A THREAT TO THEIR OWN FUTURES AND ACT TO SAVE THE PLANET. What do you think of this argument? The idea is proposed by James Lovelock, a famous scientist who in 1972 proposed that Earth itself is a living organism, which he called Gaia. There is a good discussion in the journal, Nature at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01969-y , and Lovelace has just written a book on the subject: "Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence". By James Lovelock with Bryan Appleyard.

5. MOST OF THE PROBLEMS WE HAVE, INDIVIDUALLY OR IN GROUPS, ARE CREATED BY HUMANS.. WHEN OR WHERE CAN NON HUMAN INTERVENTIONS SOLVE HUMAN PROBLEMS (ESPECIALLY SOCIAL OR POLITICAL PROBLEMS)? Examples?

6. IS MORALITY AN ENTIRELY HUMAN ISSUE (PUTTING ASIDE THE IDEA OF A GOD OR GODS)? For example, if Earth itself is a living organism, should its preservation be a higher moral calling than human preservation?

7. HOW USEFUL IS IT FOR ORDINARY PEOPLE TO THINK ABOUT CONCEPTS LIKE CYBORGS AND GAIA? Most people want to vegetate in the corner where they were born and think only about their creature comforts. Yet in the last 3 centuries ordinary lives have changed beyond recognition as ordinary people have been forced to shape their lives in a totally transformed environment. The pace of these changes is multiplying. Can you adapt better by thinking ahead a little to near future frameworks like living with cyborgs in your daily life?

8. IF CYBORGS BECOME PART OF OUR DAILY LIFE, WHAT KIND OF PERSONAL EMOTIONAL RELATIONSHIP CAN YOU IMAGINE HAVING WITH THESE BEINGS? Will friendship be possible? There are likely to be different kinds of cyborgs, but some at least will have enhanced general intelligence. Note that even among humans it can be difficult (though not impossible) for extremely gifted individuals and ordinary or even retarded individuals to develop deep friendships.

9. IF ADVANCED CYBORGS BECOME COMMON IS IT LIKELY, OR NOT, THAT THEY WILL BE PSYCHOPATHS? OR HYPER SENSITIVE? What political consequences can you imagine flowing from this equation?

10. WITHOUT TRUST EVERYTHING IS MUCH HARDER. IN A TORRENT OF CHANGE HAS TRUST BEEN LOST AS WE CEASE TO UNDERSTAND OTHER PEOPLE, CREATURES, PROCESSES AND MACHINES? Where will this take us as humans?

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Extra Reading

Bartosz Czekala (n.d.) "What to do instead of nootropics in order to maximize your brain power permanently". Universe of Memory website @ https://universeofmemory.com/what-to-do-instead-of-nootropics/ 

Wikipedia (2019) "Cyborg" @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyborg 

Stevens Institute of Technology (November 7, 2018) "'Bionic mushrooms' fuse nanotech, bacteria and fungi - Researchers have taken an ordinary white button mushroom from a grocery store and made it bionic, supercharging it with 3D-printed clusters of cyanobacteria that generate electricity and swirls of graphene nanoribbons that can collect the current". Science Daily @ https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181107082454.htm 

Bernhard Warner (October 16 2018) "Invasion of the ‘frankenbees’: the danger of building a better bee ... in the narrow, windowless laboratory where genetically engineered honeybees are created on the campus of Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. One June day, three students in T-shirts were on the morning shift. Two of them silently inspected plastic honeycomb discs. Each disc contained 140 tiny plug holes, in each of which a single honeybee embryo was growing. These discs were then passed to a third student at a separate workstation, where, with remarkable dexterity, she injected each egg with an sgRNA gene-manipulation solution, a main ingredient in a revolutionary new gene-editing technique called Crispr-Cas9...". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/16/frankenbees-genetically-modified-pollinators-danger-of-building-a-better-bee 

Sarah Marsh (1 January 2018) "Neurotechnology, Elon Musk and the goal of human enhancement - Brain-computer interfaces could change the way people think, soldiers fight and Alzheimer’s is treated. But are we in control of the ethical ramifications?" The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jan/01/elon-musk-neurotechnology-human-enhancement-brain-computer-interfaces 

Adam Piore (November 30, 2017) "The Surgeon Who Wants to Connect You to the Internet with a Brain Implant - Eric Leuthardt believes that in the near future we will allow doctors to insert electrodes into our brains so we can communicate directly with computers and each other". MIT Technology Review @ https://www.technologyreview.com/s/609232/the-surgeon-who-wants-to-connect-you-to-the-internet-with-a-brain-implant/ 

Sarah Knapton (23 August 2017) "Astronauts could turn their own body waste into tools" Brisbane Times @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/astronauts-could-turn-their-own-body-waste-into-tools-20170822-gy1zca.html 

Peter Ward (November 1, 2012) "What May Become of Homo sapiens - Conditions of modern life could be driving changes in the makeup of our genes. Our bodies and our brains may not be the same as those of our descendants." Scientific American @ https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-may-become-of-homo-sapiens/  [Thor, comment: Pleas look at this article. It is key reading for this meetup.]

Wikipedia (2019) "Homo Sapiens" @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_sapiens 

Chris Stringer (5 July 2016) "The origin and evolution of Homo sapiens." The Royal Society @ https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2015.0237  [ This article is written to academic standards]

Eric Haseltine (September 2018) "Where Will Evolution Take Humans Next?" Psychology Today @ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/long-fuse-big-bang/201809/where-will-evolution-take-humans-next 

Daily Galaxy (July 12, 2019 ) "Paleo Migration — “A 210,000-Year-Old Human Skull Resets the Clock”. Daily Galaxy @ https://dailygalaxy.com/2019/07/paleo-migration-a-210000-year-old-human-skull-resets-the-clock/ 

John Naughton (January 20 2019) “'The goal is to automate us': welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism”. The The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/20/shoshana-zuboff-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-google-facebook  [Quote: “Now the … dilemmas of knowledge, authority and power have surged over the walls of our offices, shops and factories to flood each one of us… and our societies. Surveillance capitalists were the first movers in this new world. They declared their right to know, to decide who knows, and to decide who decides. In this way they have come to dominate what I call “the division of learning in society”, which is now the central organising principle of the 21st-century social order, just as the division of labour was the key organising principle of society in the industrial age. …. our own behaviour, denied access to or control over knowledge derived from its dispossession by others for others. "Knowledge, authority and power rest with surveillance capital, for which we are merely “human natural resources”. We are the native peoples now whose claims to self-determination have vanished from the maps of our own experience. … It is no longer enough to automate information flows about us; the goal now is to automate us. These processes are meticulously designed to produce ignorance by circumventing individual awareness and thus eliminate any possibility of self-determination."]

ABC (14 August 2019) "Robotic tail built by Japanese researchers in bid to keep ageing population mobile". Australian Broadcasting Commission @ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-15/japanese-researchers-build-robotic-tail-to-keep-elderly-upright/11415876  [Thor, comment: Ah, just what I've always wanted, a tail ...]

ABC (12 October 2018) "Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot shows off parkour, agility skills in new video" Australian Broadcasting Commission @ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-12/boston-dynamics-atlas-robot-shows-off-parkour-skills/10370444 

Benjamin Haas (4 April 2017) "Chinese man 'marries' robot he built himself - Zheng Jiajia had grown tired of pressure to get married so he turned to Yingying, a robot spouse he constructed last year". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/04/chinese-man-marries-robot-built-himself 

Benjamin Haas (5 April 2018) "'Killer robots': AI experts call for boycott over lab at South Korea university". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/apr/05/killer-robots-south-korea-university-boycott-artifical-intelligence-hanwha 

Kirsty Needham (16 August 2018) "Robots caught in the crosshairs of US-China spat - Liu He, China's point man on trade negotiations with Washington, warned the challenges posed to humans by the rise of robotics – which included ethical challenges – could not be solved by individual countries alone." Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/asia/robots-caught-in-the-crosshairs-of-us-china-spat-20180816-p4zxul.html 

Thor - Wherever there is difference between humans there is discrimination, xenophobia or outright racism. At bottom it is a form of tribalism that is also sometimes found in animal packs. This can be based on something as trivial as skin colour. In the future, if significant design differences emerge, either through evolution or technical design (cyborgs) then you can guarantee that all kinds of discriminatory behaviour will lead to conflict. Here are a couple of interesting articles on the downside (or sometimes upside) among humans who differ in some visible way: 1. Colin Anthony Spears (2018) "How different is racism in Japan compared to the U.S.A.?" Quora.com @ https://www.quora.com/How-different-is-racism-in-Japan-compared-to-the-U-S-A ; 2. The Economist (14 August 2019) "What is “White Nationalism”? - Governments have underestimated a growing, and murderous, threat." @ https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2019/08/14/what-is-white-nationalism?cid1=cust/dailypicks/n/bl/n/20190814n/owned/n/n/dailypicks/n/n/n/293495/n 


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Thor's own websites:

1. articles at http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay ;

2. legacy site: http://thormay.net .

 


What are we humans evolving into? What's the competition? (c) Thor May 2019 return to Ddiscussion