Transhumanism philosophy & book reviews

Earlier this year I had a series of panic attacks over a couple of weeks.  Makes you think more about your own mortality. Given this unexpected nudge I have taken some time out to read on the topic of transhumanism. Living in the geek ecosystem / culture you hear the word from time to time along with the technological singularity and even talk on post human beings.  There is much to read, listen or code to review online but my online searches got to me to two books.

The first by Ben Geotzel, A Cosmist Manifesto. Ben is the founder of the open source AGI (artificial general intelligence) project, OpenCog .  Written with many headings and quick burst of thoughts, explanations and philosophy history or own opinions.  The second book was authored by an Economist, Ted Chu, Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential. This was a more demanding read with the breadth and depth of content, thinking and reasoning and sheer range of topics, including putting religion equally at the heart of the book.

Religion and especially religious history would not normally be my choice of reading but I found Ted’s global vantage point, from East to West, believer to atheist, he covered it all and beyond.  The rigor of research and references is impressive although I have not had the time to follow any of it to source yet. Before expanding on the main thrust of the topics of both books, I found myself seeing part of my own personal path through the Universe or cosmos being described.  How pioneers or those providing a different view point and thinking are not always embraced and often the opposite of encouragement put in the way.  Both achieved a person connection along with the big future looking visions.

Both books are putting the case for a post human future, as Ted puts it, Cosmic Evolution.  A Universe full of CoBe’s (cosmic beings).  AGI could well be one of the technologies that takes us to this state of being.  Ted, builds on the thinking of Darwinsm in the context of biological evolution, cultural evolution (which if I understand right includes technology, religion and social forces) and conscious evolution or consciousness 2.0 which will take the the lead in evolution and us humans will ‘give birth to it’. Ted ties all these stands together into a coherent argument to describe the future.

A future not with out many risks.  The risks discussion takes up large parts of both books. Morality, playing god or human extinction are all big hitting subjects that both authors rationally discuss from various stance points.

Both authors bring much to think on about the future.  By sharing their knowledge, more general awareness is brought to us new or newer to the topic.  What gets me is the time scales are not eons away.  The most optimistic predictions are a 10% change of transhumans in the next 10 years, 50% chance in the next 20 years.  Time will produce the date if ever.  Finally, the personal role we each can and do play in the future is brought up by both authors and I found renewed focus and commitment to the part I want to play in the future.

Both books have all or a couple of chapters open sourced and free to read.  Invest your attention and mind in one or both.



Putting QS on the blockchain

Putting QS – Quantified Self on the blockchain.  I read/listened about the notion of a smart contract on the bitcoin blockchain from Mike Hearn a few months back now.  I had been aware of bitcoin for some time, even downloading the mining software but did not persist in getting it to work.  The motivation of a currency just was not that strong a pull to put in more effort.  However, I had overlooked the whole underlying blockchain technology but on understanding the notion of a smart contract I did not make the same mistake again. I went back to the beginning and read the founding bitcoin paper paragraph by paragraph with the aid of blog posts and video tp aid learning.  It seemed to me that a smart contract would allow the semantic web to hit the blockchain.

I use the words, semantic web but I was thinking much broader, knowledge itself combined with the time-stamping transaction logic of the blockchain.  From this insight, I started to think through how my ‘day to day job/project’ would apply.  One of the key problems I was coding at the time was allowing individual swimmers to share this personal best times with each other Peer to Peer.  The data would be self added initially so how could we trust the data inputted?  How would a club verify a new club record has been achieved and should become part of the clubs publicly list records page?  What if that time record was a masters Scottish record, British, European or even an alright world record?  This is a time plus knowledge + identity example, but what about if two individuals were to exchange genomes peer to peer?

All this data adds up to make the Quantified Self.  How do we put this data on the blockchain?  Is a blockchain the best place for it to be? Lets break it down into three parts,  QS data collection, QS storage and knowledge or intelligence extracted some how, ie the smart contract.  QS data collection is about knowledge structuring, the sensor records a measurement, whether it be time, movement, medical heart rate, genome, self descriptive perspective, location etc. etc..  Each sensor can be uniquely described and the knowledge description of the data captured, time, units, distance, frequency etc. The term Internet of Things is applied. Each sensor could – should have its identity on the blockchain?

Storage is somewhat easier, right now cloud computing dominates, EC2 or S3 are popular services.  Now we have the likes of Peer to Peer decentralised storage and compute power.  Even brand new blockchain platforms are emerging e.g .  Right now you can have Peer accounts in the cloud but on the same instance, therefore storage in affect centralized, albeit with back up services to reduce this risk.

Data is just data, what does it mean to me, us, the Universe?  Can personal statistics, data mining or machine learning software be run as a smart contract on each new sensor data element added and feedback displayed or fed back into a body directly.  All life’s activities happen where they happen, not in the cloud so the decentralized nature of the blockchain provides instant analysis, in the context of me, the others at the location networked and via the web to all.  Decentralized over cloud wins in QS all the time.

What is the overall goal of putting QS on the blockchain?  Transhumanism or post humanism would be a logical conclusion.

An example: I have to travel to London for an internet conference. This turns out to be the hottest week of the year and combined with the heat is pollution and pollen.  I am a hayfever suffer.  I need to get a taxi back to my lodging for the week.  I look at my taxi app and see a taxi offers special hayfever air conditioning, its a bit more expense but I go for it.  Could happen today? Well, in this example, there is no human involved on the taxi side.  It is a smart contract on the blockchain that had data mined its own and other sensor data, data mined twitter and decided a hayfever filter would be a good differentiation in the marketplace this week.  It entered autonomously into a contract with a local garage to fit the improved filter.  My own QS data analysis had shown my own increased stress levels and those were used to filter against the taxi options.  And if a ‘currency payment’ still exists in the future the resulting transaction would join the blockchain too.