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Meet the Microchipped Transhumanist Cyborg Whos Running Against Trump in the 2020 GOP Primary – Mediaite

Posted: November 26, 2019 at 12:42 am

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Zoltan Istvan, a transhumanist journalist, is running for the U.S. presidency as a Republican in 2020, challenging President Donald Trump in the primary.

Istvan, who also ran for president in 2016 on a lesser scale, has written for The New York Times, Vice, and National Geographic, and describes himself as the founder of the Transhumanist Party, the original author of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, and a frequently interviewed expert on AI, genetic editing, tech policy, and futurism.

His campaign policies for 2020 range from the relatively normal to the quite absurd, from ending the drug war, beating China in the artificial intelligence race, restoring the environment, and providing universal basic income for all, to the development of artificial wombs, nearly open borders, stopping mass shootings and terrorism with drones, robots, AI scanners, and other technology, and licensing parents, or as Istvan explained, requiring prospective parents to pass a series of basic tests, similar to a DMV driving test, to quality and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children.

As a passionate transhumanist (or, as philosopher Max More explains, someone who supports the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology), reportedly with a microchip in his hand that allows him to open doors and use his phone, Istvan also wants the Republican Party to reclaim transhumanism from the far-left.

This week, Mediaite got the opportunity to talk with Istvan about his 2020 campaign and the policies within.

Your campaign policies are very interesting. Typical libertarian policies mixed with some quite out-there stuff like artificial wombs, nearly open borders, and stopping borders with drones. What was the inspiration behind such an odd variety of campaign focuses?

I was busted for dealing marijuana I guess maybe 26 years ago, where I was convicted of a felony conviction for distribution of narcotics, which also made me highly libertarian kind of from the start of my adult years. And then as I went through the National Geographic days I began to try to think about what would be better policy so we didnt get in these wars all the time and the government sort of left us alone. But at the same time, its not that I want to be left alone entirely. I think there should be some safety nets.

If you look through some of my 2020 plans youll see theres a lot of liberalism built into it, so it kind of tries to take the very best parts from all the different ideologies that are out there and put it in one. To be honest, I just dont understand why there cant be conservative people like myself who are totally socially liberal, and while thats classic libertarianism, the reality is that the Libertarian Party just doesnt have enough connections, money, and all these other things to run campaigns that can actually win office, which is ultimately why Im now with the Republicans trying to make a difference, trying to get people that might be fiscally conservative to have some sensibility when it comes to being more open-minded.

You say on your campaign website that youre trying to reclaim transhumanism from the far-left. What do you mean by that?

Thats probably my number one policy goal right now, and its because whats happened recently, at least in the last four or five years, is it seems like transhumanism has been growing dramatically. Im excited about that, but its also growing dramatically to the left, and if it continues to grow and grow in that direction it means that it will be almost this socialist dystopia, in my opinion, where everyone thinks they own everything and they can just do what they want.

Innovation, capitalism and Im saying this from an entrepreneur of twenty years it requires free markets in many ways to come up with these creative ideas in the first place. We all love going to Europe. We all love the quasi-socialism that they have there when were there. But Europe hasnt really created anything innovative in fifty years. I mean not much when you compare to, lets say, America. We want to be careful that in order for transhumanism to survive, it doesnt fall into the hands of the new breed of socialists that America is contending with. Silicon Valley is going that direction, Ive been watching that happen over the last ten years, and so I thought it was finally time somebody stood up and said, Wait a second, we need a better balance here. We need a balance of people who are willing to innovate in libertarian-minded economical ideals without bowing down to the far left.

So do you think transhumanism would die out if we did end up with a socialist society?

No. I dont think it would die out. I just think so you gotta understand the number one goal of transhumanism is really to try to overcome biological death by finding technology. And really, what happens when you put socialism into medicine and some of these other things, innovation dramatically stops. So somebody like myself whos 46-years-old, and of course all the other older people that have been involved in the movement forever, if innovation and science and all that other stuff stopped just even for ten or fifteen years, or doesnt go as fast as it is, a huge amount of extra people wont make it to this new generation where well have all these different techniques to keep people alive.

So theres actually a race going on. A race to keep transhumanism in kind of this capitalistic, libertarian somewhat framework so that innovation continues to move forward and that people like myself will have a chance in thirty years to actually benefit from these life extension medications and innovations that come out.

If we are able to overcome death with science by 2030 versus the year 2050, over one billion lives will be saved. So the meaning here is incredibly important, which is why Im very cautious about socialists being in charge.

Are you not worried that we could end up with a Fallout: New Vegas Mr. House situation, where you have a really really rich guy, or a bunch of rich people who are practically living forever, while no one else can get access to this technology?

That is one of my number one fears.

First of all, from a transhumanist perspective, if everyone lives forever, were going to have overpopulation problems, and I already believe we have overpopulation problems. You can see the climate changing and things like that.

But I think the other one is, whats to keep the Mark Zuckerbergs and the other people of the world from taking this radical technology, using it on themselves, and leaving the rest of us behind? This is where I lose a little bit of my libertarianism, and all the libertarians get mad at me. I actually think under these circumstances there should be some government mandate when it comes to healthcare, when it comes to different types of rights to life extension. That we should all have some type of a universal right to life extension and some of these medicines, even it requires government grants and things like that, because the very last thing that I want to do is create a world where only the one percent has access to these technologies, or even beyond the one percent, and the rest of the people get left behind in some kind of dystopia.

So, this is where I kind of break down and say a little bit of big government is fine, especially if its going to protect and make sure everyone has benefits to this new future that were talking about: the Transhumanist Age.

Do you think there are already some minor life extension schemes going on in the one percent?

I dont believe that theres a conspiracy going on with the one percent, because if it is, I havent heard about it. There are companies like Human Longevity. They cater only to the very wealthy But its not that they dont cater to the super poor, its just that their prices are expensive and theyre not covered by insurance, so only the very wealthy use them.

I would be very surprised if even someone like Peter Thiel has a very strict regiment of kind of undercover, secretive longevity people. I think were all working on this together. We realize the humanitarian aspects of making us all live longer. The person who could come up with the magic pill, or 3D-printing organs, however were going to keep ourselves alive longer, I think not only is it the most important capitalistic thing someones going to become a trillionaire off these kinds of innovations but I also think theres a very deep humanitarian aspect to share with your family, your friends. So I dont think people are hording this technology. I just dont think weve come up with the right technologies yet.

But if you look at the statistics, five years ago this was maybe a one or two billion dollar industry when you talk about longevity, and Bank of America recently said its going to be a 600 billion industry by 2025. I mean it is skyrocketing in terms of venture capital and investment. A lot of money is coming into it, so I hope by now in the next two to five years youre going to have a lot more innovation and announcement.

It seems like youre putting up more of a fight this primary to beat President Trump. Last election you put up a fight, but you werent listed on the ballots, whereas this time youre going to be listed on some the ballots, right?

Yeah, were going to be on basically all the ballots we can be until Super Tuesday, and were going to see how we do. Were spending a lot of our funding for ballot access right now, but thats okay. What happened is the first time around, I had some unique ideas. Of course, I had been a writer for a lot of major media, and so people listened and they liked those ideas, but for the Transhumanist Party as an independent, you really cant make any ground unless you have ballot access.

Were hoping that if we do well in New Hampshire, and were hoping that if we do well in Iowa, maybe get a few delegates here, then we could all of a sudden take it to the next level and make a real push to try to compete against Trump.

Id be lying to you if I said, Look, I think were going to win this thing. Thats not really what were trying to do. What were trying to do is get the attention of the Republican Party and say, Isnt it time there could be a new way of looking at things? Does it always have to be fiscally conservative and also conservative moral values? Why doesnt the Republican Party open itself up to socially liberal values? They would make a lot more room for people like myself who fit right there in the middle. Who dont want to necessarily give up all their money to the government, but also want to say to people, Hey you can do exactly what you want to do with your body. This is something that I dont think the Republican Party has had yet from any kind of public figure or anyone whos run a real viable campaign.

If you could address Republican voters right now with a short statement, what would you say?

The premise here with Trump is that we were promised greatness, and that sounded kind of neat in the beginning, and I was excited not to have an attorney at the top of the chain of command in America, but it turns out that Trump didnt really deliver that.

All we have are these squabbles in America. It seems like peoples views are just attacking each other. I really think its time not only just for a professional to be in the White House, but for somebody with really brand new ideas. And I dont mean empty the swamp. I mean lets fly above the swamp. Why do we even need to be in the swamp anymore? This is the kind of thing Im trying to bring.

Photo courtesy of Zoltan Istvan.

This interview has been edited and condensed for content and clarity.

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Meet the Microchipped Transhumanist Cyborg Whos Running Against Trump in the 2020 GOP Primary - Mediaite

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November 26th, 2019 at 12:42 am

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What it means to be a cyborg in 2019 – Quartz

Posted: November 21, 2019 at 11:44 am

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I have a four-foot-tall robot in my house that plays with my kids. Its name is Jethro.

Both my daughters, aged 5 and 9, are so enamored with Jethro that they have each asked to marry it. For fun, my wife and I put on mock weddings. Despite the robot being mainly for entertainment, its very basic artificial intelligence can perform thousands of functions, including dance and teach karate, which my kids love.

The most important thing Jethro has taught my kids is that its totally normal to have a walking, talking machine around the house that you can hang out with whenever you want to.

Given my daughters semi-regular use of smartphones and tablets, I have to wonder how this will affect them in the future. Will they have any fear of technologies like driverless cars? Will they take it for granted that machine intelligences and avatars on computers can be their best friends, or even their bosses?

Will marrying a super-intelligent robot in 20 years be a natural decision? Even though I love technology, Im not sure how I would feel about having a robot-in-law. But my kids might think nothing of it.

This is my story of transhumanism.

Courtesy of Zoltan Istvan

My transhumanism journey began in 2003 when I was reporting a story for National Geographic in Vietnams demilitarized zone and I almost stepped on a landmine.

I remember my guide roughly shoving me aside and pointing to the metal object half sticking out of the ground in front of me.

I stared at the device that would have completely blown my legs off had my boot tripped the mine. I had just turned 30. The experience left me shaken. And it kept haunting me.

That night as I lay tense and awake in my hotel room, I had the epiphany that has helped define the rest of my life: I decided that the most important thing in my existence was to fight for survival. To put it another way: My goal was to never die.

Because I was not religious, I immediately turned to the thing that gave meaning to my world: science and technology. I took a leap of faith and made a wager that day. I later called this (and even later, dedicated a book to it) the transhumanist wager.

The life extension business of transhumanism will be a $600 billion industry by 2025.

My idea for an immortality wager came from Pascals Wager, the famous bet that caught on in the 17th century that loosely argued it was better to believe in God than not to, because you would be granted an afterlife if there was indeed a God. My transhumanist wager was based in my belief that its better to dedicate our resources to science and technology to overcome death while were still aliveso we dont ever have to find out whether there is an afterlife or not. It turns out I wasnt alone in my passion to live indefinitely through science. A small social movement, mostly of academics and researchers, were tackling similar issues, starting organizations, and funding research.

Some of them called themselves transhumanists.

Fast-forward 16 years from my landmine incident, and transhumanism has grown way beyond its main mission of just overcoming death with science.

Now the movement is the de facto philosophy (maybe even the religion) of Silicon Valley. It encapsulates numerous futurist fields: singularitarianism, cyborgism, cryonics, genetic editing, robotics, AI, biohacking, and others.

Biohacking in particular has taken offthe practice of physically hacking ones body with science, changing and augmenting our physiology the same way computer hackers would infiltrate a mainframe.

Its pretty obvious why it has emerged as such a big trend: It attracts the youth.

Not surprisingly, worrying about death is something that older people usually do (and, apparently, those younger people who almost step on landmines). Most young people feel invincible. But tell young people they can take brain drugs called nootropics that make them super smart, or give them special eye drops that let them see in the dark, or give them a chip implant that enhances human ability (like the one I have), and a lot of young people will go for it.

In 2016, I ran for the US presidency as the Transhumanist Party nominee. To get support from younger biohackers, my team and I journeyed on the Immortality Busmy 38-foot coffin-shaped campaign busto Grindfest, the major annual biohacking meet-up in Tehachapi, California. In an old dentists chair in a garage, biohackers injected me with a horse syringe containing a small radio-frequency-identification implant that uses near-field communication technologythe same wireless frequency used in most smartphones. The tiny deviceits about the size of a grain of ricewas placed just under the skin in my hand. With my chip, I could start a car, pay with bitcoin, and open my front door with a lock reader.

Four years later, I still have the implant and use it almost every day. For surfers or joggers like myself, for example, its great because I dont have to carry keys around.

One thing I do have to navigate is how some religious people view me once they understand I have one. Evangelical Christians have told me that an implant is the mark of the beast, as in from the Bibles Book of Revelations.

Even though Im tagged by conspiracy theorists as a potential contender for the Antichrist, I cant think of any negatives in my own experiences to having a chip implant. But as my work in transhumanism has reached from the US Military to the World Bank to many of the worlds most well-known universities, my chip implant only exasperates this conspiracy.

While people often want to know what other things Ive done to my body, in reality becoming a cyborg is a lot less futuristic and drastic than people think.

For me and for the thousands of people around the world who have implants, its all about functionality. An implant simply makes our lives easier and more efficient. Mine also sends out pre-written text messages when peoples phones come within a few feet of me, which is a fun party trick.

But frankly, a lot of the most transformative technology is still being developed, and if youre healthy like me, theres really not much benefit in doing a lot of biohacking today.

I take nootropics for better brain memory, but theres no conclusive research I know of that it actually works yet. Ive done some brainwave therapy, sometimes called direct neurofeedback, or biofeedback, but I didnt see any lasting changes. I fly drones for fun, and of course I also have Jethro, our family robot.

For the most part, members of the disabled community are the ones who are truly benefiting from transhumanist technologies today. If you have an arm shot off in a war, its cyborg science that gives you a robot arm controlled by your neural system that allows you to grab a beer, play the piano, or shake someones hand again.

But much more dramatic technology is soon to come. And the hope is that it will be availableand accessibleto everyone.

I asked to be added to a volunteer list for an experiment that will place implants in peoples brains that would allow us to communicate telepathically, using AI. (Biohacking trials like this are secretive because they are coming under more intense legal scrutiny.)Im also looking into getting a facial recognition security system for my home. I might even get a pet dog robot; these have become incredibly sophisticated, have fur softer than the real thing (that doesnt shed all over your couch or trigger allergies) and can even act as security systems.

Beyond that, people are using stem cells to grow new teeth, genetic editing to create designer babies, and exoskeleton technology that will likely allow a human to run on water in the near future.

Most people generally focus on one aspect of transhumanism, like just biohacking, or just AI, or just brainwave-tech devices. But I like to try it all, embrace it all, and support it all. Whatever new transhumanist direction technology takes, I try to take it all in and embrace the innovation.

This multi-faceted approach has worked well in helping me build a bridge connecting the various industries and factions of the transhumanist movement. Its what inspired me to launch presidential and California gubernatorial campaigns on a transhumanist platform. Now Im embarking on a new campaign in 2020 for US president as a Republican, hoping to get conservatives to become more open-minded about the future.

The amount of money flowing into transhumanist projects is growing into many billions of dollars. The life extension business of transhumanism will be a $600 billion industry by 2025, according to Bank of America. This is no time for transhumanism to break apart into many different divisions, and its no time to butt heads. We need to unite in our aim to truly change the human being forever.

Transhumanistsit doesnt matter what kind you arebelieve they can be more than just human. The word natural is not in our vocabulary. Theres only what transhumanists can do with the tools of science and technology they create. That is our great calling: to evolve the human being into something better than it is.

Because transhumanism has grown so broadly by now, not all transhumanists agree with me on substantially changing the human being. Some believe we should only use technology to eliminate suffering in our lives. Religious transhumanists believe we should use brain implants and virtual reality to improves our morality and religious behavior. Others tell me politics and transhumanism should never mix, and we must always keep science out of the hands of the government.

We need unity of some significant sort because as we grow at such a fast rate there are a lot of challenges ahead. For example, the conservative Christian Right wants to enact moratoriums against transhumanism. The anarcho-primativists, led by people like the primitivist philosopher and author John Zerzan (who I debated once at Stanford University), want to eliminate much technology and go back to a hunting-gathering lifestyle which they believe is more in tune with Earths original ecology. And finally, we must be careful that the so-called one percent doesnt take transhumanist technology and leave us all in the dust, by becoming gods themselves with radical tech and not sharing the benefits with humanity.

I personally believe the largest danger of the transhumanist era is the fact that within a few decades, we will have created super-intelligent AI. What if this new entity simply decides it doesnt like humans? If something is more sophisticated, powerful, intelligent, and resilient than humans, we will have a hard time stopping it if it wants to harm or eliminate us.

Whatever happens in the future, we must take greater care than we ever have before as our species enters the transhumanist age. For the first time, we are on the verge of transforming the physical structure of our bodies and our brains. And we are inventing machines that could end up being more intelligent and powerful than we are. This type of change requires that not only governments act together, but also cultures, religions, and humanity as a whole.

In the end, I believe that a lot more people will be on board with transhumanism than admit it. Nearly all of us want to eliminate disease, protect our families from death, and create a better path and purpose for science and technology.

But I also realize that this must be done ever so delicately, so as not to prematurely push our species into crisis with our unbridled arrogance. One day, we humans may look back and revel in how far our species has evolvedinto undying mammals, cyborgs, robots, and even pure living data. And the most important part will be to be able to look back and know we didnt destroy ourselves to get there.

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What it means to be a cyborg in 2019 - Quartz

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November 21st, 2019 at 11:44 am

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Raju Foundation Essay Contest Winner On the Ethics of Genetic Engineering – The Philadelphia Citizen

Posted: November 20, 2019 at 5:55 am

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Editors Note: The Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundations annual high school essay writing contest was inspired this year by the Philadelphia Museum of Arts latest exhibit, Designs for Different Futures, which features ways to address the values, needs and desires of society in a changing world. The winner, Mary Cipperman, won a $5,000 scholarship, another $5,000 to support an internship with the PMAs curatorial team and naming rights on a piece of artwork purchased by the Raju Foundation (which also supports The Citizen) and donated to the museum. Mary chose the gift pictured above, called Raising Robotic Natives.

What would happen if humans could sense ultraviolet light? What if we could run twice as fast or see twice as far? What if we never aged? Technology has shaped human beings since Mesopotamian times; however, in the past two decades, we have begun to elevate the human condition beyond our current sensory and cognitive functionalities. This movement has a name: Max More, founder of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation and leading futurist, first defined transhumanism as a class of philosophies that seek the continuationof intelligent life beyond its current human form and human limitations. He described not one invention but rather a framework for applying and developing transformative technologies, such as genetic engineering, cybernetics, brain emulation, and artificial intelligence. While transhumanism could threaten our identity and welfare, it potentially affords improved productivity and survival for the future of humanity.

The idea of enhancing human beings is not new, nor is its bioethical concerns. Steroid hormones as well as neurological stimulants such as caffeine alter the human body and heighten performance. Likewise, amphetamine gained pharmacological praise as early as the 1920s. Such neurological enhancers beg the question of misuse. Doctors and ethicists alike question whether we should apply drugs that could improve mood or lessen fatigue to individuals with perfectly normal hormone levels. After all, such usage would leave behind individuals with disorders and elevate others beyond normal human abilities. Steroid hormones, for example, allow athletes to enhance their workouts and performance, but we consider this practice unethical in certain formal competitions. Still, if dietary supplements have similar effects on the human body, how do we draw a distinction between these two practices?

Unfortunately, these concerns bear even greater consequences as the magnitude of our technological development grows. Consider the difference between erythropoietin-stimulating agents and genetic engineering. Both can increase hormone levels, but the latter can alter the allelic frequencies of subsequent generations. This distinctionof inheritability, lack of precedent, and magnitude of impactmarks a new subset of enhancing technologies; those that alter human nature.

In light of these radical developments, bioethicists have begun to question how transhuman technologies could affect the boundaries and wellbeing of humanity. Permanent alterations, such as gene editing, could facilitate exploitation. Governments or higher institutions could use these technologies to increase submissiveness or institute eugenic programs. Certain individuals could choose not to alter their genes. These circumstances would increase polarizations of power and undermine equality and freedom.

As we look forward, we can postulate that engineers and scientists will design not only our future, but ourselves.

Genetic engineering raises another, deeper, concern with transhumanism as well: whether we should consider human nature to be malleable and changeable, as transhumanists suggest. The 1997 Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights suggests that the genome, as the heritage of humanity, belongs not to individuals, but to our species collectively. This might indicate that genetic engineering of any kind infringes on human rights. Furthermore, cognitive technologies like brain emulation have the potential to separate consciousness from physicality. This, and other uses for AI, demonstrate that intelligent life can exist beyond human beingswhether in the form of robots or enhanced posthumans. This change is occurring now: four years ago, the Open Worm Project at Oxford modeled over three-hundred neurons of a C. elegans with computer software. The scientists then uploaded the worms brain onto a robot that emulated the movement of the original organism. If these, and other intelligences, were to gain consciousness, we would need to determine whether these constitute living beings. Further, we must be willing and able to control them.

Despite these concerns, transhumanism has enormous potential. Cochlear ear implants and bionic eyes, for example, have already enhanced human capabilities for decades. Altering the human body via cyborgization may not be inherently wrong; otherwise hearing aids would be unethical. Transhumanists merely intend to extend the magnitude of these alterations in order to overcome all death, disability, and disease. We could potentially decrease decisional fatigue and improve memory. Others even argue that pursuing these advances is not just ethical, but morally obligatory. Psilocybin, for example, has the potential for moral enhancement. If we could make human beings more empathetic, our viewpoints towards climate change and nuclear warfare could save us as a species. Thus, many bioethicists do not object to the concept of enhancement itself, but rather to its unintended consequences or safety concerns.

While transhumanism raises the concerns of exploitation and safety, it has transformed lives already and promises even greater advances for the future. Transhumanism describes not one invention or development but rather a radical alteration of the interaction between humans and their environments. To embrace it too readily would be to accept a complete and potentially dangerous redefinition of both technology and humanity. Yet, to reject it would be to relinquish a plethora of multidisciplinary opportunities. The future certainly promises a new cultural, social, and political framework for defining the very essence of humanity. It holds machines that create art and recognize faces, as well as human beings designed with metallic limbs and silicon brains. As we look forward, we can postulate that engineers and scientists will design not only our future, but ourselves.

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Raju Foundation Essay Contest Winner On the Ethics of Genetic Engineering - The Philadelphia Citizen

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November 20th, 2019 at 5:55 am

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Faith groups reckon with AI and what it means to be truly human – Worcester Telegram

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On a recent Sunday at the Queen Anne Lutheran Church basement, parishioners sat transfixed as the Rev. Dr. Ted Peters discussed an unusual topic for an afternoon assembly: "Can technology enhance the image of God?"

Peters' discussion focused on a relatively new philosophical movement. Its followers believe humans will transcend their physical and mental limitations with wearable and implantable devices.

The movement, called transhumanism, claims that in the future, humans will be smarter and stronger and may even overcome aging and death through developments in fields such as biotechnology and artificial intelligence (AI).

"What does it mean to be truly human?" Peters asked in a voice that boomed throughout the church basement, in a city that boasts one of the world's largest tech hubs. The visiting reverend urged the 30 congregants in attendance to consider the question during a time when "being human sounds optional to some people."

"It's sad; it makes me feel a lot of grief," a congregant said, shaking her head in disappointment.

Organized religions have long served as an outlet for humans to explore existential questions about their place in the universe, the nature of consciousness and free will. But as AI blurs the lines between the digital and physical worlds, fundamental beliefs about the essence of humanity are now called into question.

While public discourse around advanced technologies has mostly focused on changes in the workforce and surveillance, religious followers say the deeper implications of AI could be soul-shifting.

It doesn't surprise James Wellman, a University of Washington professor and chair of the Comparative Religion Program, that people of faith are interested in AI. Religious observers place their faith in an invisible agent known as God, whom they perceive as benevolent and helpful in their lives. The use of technology evokes a similar phenomenon, such as Apple's voice assistant Siri, who listens and responds to them.

"That sounds an awful lot like what people do when they think about religion," Wellman said.


When Dr. Daniel Peterson became the pastor of the Queen Anne Lutheran Church three years ago, he hoped to explore issues meaningful both to his congregants and to secular people.

Peterson's fascination with AI, as a lifelong science-fiction fan, belies skepticism in the ubiquity of technology: He's opted out of Amazon's voice assistant Alexa in his house and said he gets nervous about cameras on cellphones and computers.

He became interested in looking at AI from a "spiritual dimension" after writing an article last year about the depiction of technologies such as droids in "Star Wars" films. In Peterson's eyes, artificially intelligent machines in the films are equipped with a sense of mission that enables them to think and act like humans without needing to be preprogrammed.

His examination of AI yielded more questions than answers: "What kind of bias or brokenness are we importing in the artificial intelligence we're designing?" Peterson pondered. If AI developed consciousness, "what sort of philosophical and theological concerns does that raise?"

Peterson invited his church and surrounding community to explore these questions and more in the three-part forum called "Will AI Destroy Us?," which kicked off with a conversation held by Carissa Schoenick from the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, followed by Peters' discussion on transhumanism, and concluded with Peterson's talk on his own research around AI in science-fiction films.

Held from late September to early October, the series sought to fill what Peterson called a silence among faith leaders about the rise of AI. Peterson and other religious observers are now eager to take part in a new creation story of sorts: Local initiatives held in places of worship and educational institutions are positioning Seattle as a testing ground for the intersection of AI and religion.

The discussion on transhumanism drew members of the community unaffiliated with the church, including David Brenner, the board chair of Seattle-based organization AI and Faith. The consortium membership spans across belief systems and academic institutions in an effort to bring major religions into the discussion around the ethics of AI, and how to create machines that evoke "human flourishing and avoids unnecessary, destructive problems," Brenner said in an interview at the church. As Brenner spoke, a few congregants remained in the basement to fervently chat about the symposium.

"The questions that are being presented by AI are fundamental life questions that have now become business [ones]," said Brenner, a retired lawyer. Values including human dignity, privacy, free will, equality and freedom are called into question through the development of machines.

"Should robots ever have rights, or is it like giving your refrigerator rights even if they can function just like us?" Brenner said.


Religious leaders around the world are starting to weigh in. Last April, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission_the public-policy section of the Southern Baptist Convention published a set of guidelines on AI adoption that affirms the dominion of humans and encourages the minimization of human biases in technology. It discourages the creation of machines that take over jobs, relegating humans to "a life of leisure" devoid of work, wrote the authors.

In a speech to a Vatican conference in September, Pope Francis echoed the guidelines' sentiment by urging tech companies and diplomats to deploy AI in an ethical manner that ensures machines don't replace human workers. "If mankind's so-called technological progress were to become an enemy of the common good, this would lead to ... a form of barbarism dictated by the law of the strongest," he said, according to The Associated Press.

On the other hand, some faith perspectives have cropped up in recent years that hold AI at the center of their value systems. Former Google and Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski formed Way of the Future church in 2017 with the aim of creating a peaceful transition into an imminent world where machines surpass human capabilities. The church's website argues that human rights should be extended to machines, and that we should clear the path for technology to "take charge" as it grows in intelligence.

"We believe it may be important for machines to see who is friendly to their cause and who is not," the website warns.

But Yasmin Ali, a practicing Muslim and AI and Faith member, has seen AI used as a tool for good and bad. While Ali believes technology can make people's lives easier, she has also seen news reports and heard stories from her community about such tools being used to profile members of marginalized communities. China, for instance, has used facial-recognition technology to surveil Uighur Muslim minorities in the western region, according to a recent New York Times investigation.

"I think we need to get more diversity with the developers who provide AI, so they can get diverse thoughts and ideas into the software," Ali said. The Bellevue-based company she founded called Skillspire strives to do just that by training diverse workers in tech courses such as coding and cybersecurity.

"We have to make sure that those values of being human goes into what we're building," Ali said. "It's like teaching kids you have to be polite, disciplined."

Back at Queen Anne Lutheran, congregants expressed hope that the conversation would get the group closer to understanding and making peace with changes in society, just as churches have done for hundreds of years.

Bainbridge Island resident Monika Aring believes the rise of AI calls for an ongoing inquiry at faith-based places of worship on the role of such technologies. She shared the dismay she felt when her friend, a pastor of another congregation, said the church has largely become irrelevant.

"It mustn't be. This is the time for us to have these conversations," she said. "I think we need some kind of moral compass," one that ensures humans and the Earth continue to thrive amid the advancement of AI.

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Faith groups reckon with AI and what it means to be truly human - Worcester Telegram

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November 20th, 2019 at 5:55 am

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Zoltan Istvan, a Leader in Science and Technology, Will Run for US President and Challenge Trump in the 2020 Republican Primaries – PR Web

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Zoltan Gyurko Istvan

SAN FRANCISCO (PRWEB) November 19, 2019

Born in California, Istvan is a former journalist for National Geographic and has recently penned articles for The New York Times opinion section. In 2013, Istvan published his novel The Transhumanist Wager, which became a #1 Philosophy and Science Fiction bestseller on Amazon. The book has been compared more than 1,000 times to Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged. Istvans most recent book of political essays titled Upgrading America was a #1 bestseller in Politics on Amazon.

Istvan has become known around the world for spearheading the multi-million person transhumanism movement, which aims to upgrade the human body with science and technology. The #1 goal of transhumanism is to overcome biological death. While still outside the political mainstream, the worlds largest companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft are key innovators in the transhumanist movement.

Istvan has consulted for the U.S. Navy and given speeches at conferences around the world, including for institutions such as the World Bank and the World Economic Forum. Istvan has traveled to over 100 countries and is a former director of a major wildlife organization, WildAid. He has a degree from Columbia University in Philosophy and Religion. A successful entrepreneur with multiple businesses, Istvan lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his physician wife and two young daughters.

Istvans 20-point political platform, available on his campaign website, advances ideas that so far have been absent in the Republican primaries. Although his years as a businessman have made him fiscally conservative, Istvan supports a Universal Basic Income that is based off monetizing government resources, called a Federal Land Dividend. He proposes ending the war on drugs, making public preschool and college both free and mandatory, and licensing parents to make sure they are ready to raise children. He supports artificial wombs as a third option in the pro-life vs pro-choice debate, and would like to cut the military budget in order to create a science industrial complex in America. He aims to fight climate change with geo-engineering and end the IRS with a straightforward national sales tax. He favors nearly-open borders, tort reform, deregulation, banning private prisons, and using AI-operated drones and robots to stop mass shootings in public places and schools.

Istvan is also worried that China is beating America on the technological front in areas such as artificial intelligence, genetic editing, and neural prosthetic development. As president, he promises to get America innovating again, because once the Chinese take a lead in innovation, the United States may never get it back.

Pratik Chougule, Istvans campaign manager, says that Istvan is running as a new type of Republican politician. He expects Istvans bold ideas about the countrys future will resonate with a wide cross-section of Americans.

Istvans campaign slogan is: Upgrading America.

For more information, contact campaign manager Pratik Chougule at:

To schedule an interview or talk to Mr. Istvan, email: or call: 415-802-4891http://www.zoltan2020.comTwitter: @zoltan_istvan

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Zoltan Istvan, a Leader in Science and Technology, Will Run for US President and Challenge Trump in the 2020 Republican Primaries - PR Web

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The Most Elaborate Display of Ineptitude I Have Ever Witnessed: The BiChip Hoax – Patheos

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The first email was forwarded back and forth internally for a while due to a general sense of skepticism and a lack of clear interest:

From: S E

Date: Fri, Sep 13, 2019 at 1:12 PM

Subject: Bichip Mark of the beast

Hail Satan

Hope you are all fine

I am writing to you since our Human Microchip company is having a big international event here in Copenhagen, November 26th. We are unveiling the cutting edge technology of human microchip implant with long distance read and internet data, for the first time in the history that is also known as the mark of the beast in the bible of Jesus and we have been facing opposition from churches and even been in the news for that:

‘Transhumans’ reveal why they want everyone to implant chips under their skin

Anyway, here is the link to the event is

I wonder if you guys would like to help us promote the event which is actually free to attend? there are about 400 seats left yet and we can provide free VIP tickets to the temple members (Including free Flight and Accommodation)



Bichip, Denmark


Professional emails lacking in basic details are, unfortunately, the norm. I receive emails from career journalists at major media outlets sometimes saying nothing more than that they would like to interview me. I get invitations to conferences that merely state that they seek my participation, leaving it to me to ask if they are asking me to speak, seeking sponsorship, or what, exactly? The fact that this email merely asked if we would help promote the event did not make it particularly suspect. The fact that there was apparently no cap set on flights and accommodations, however, was suspect, but could easily be seen as another common failure to specify. If one were to reply, one might then learn that a plus one is acceptable, but no more. It also is not unheard of for a start-up with delusions of grandeur to overspend on something like a conference. Still, they seemed to be offering too much while asking for too little.

Interestingly, the reference to the Mark of the Beast hardly caught my attention at all. Despite the email apparently referring the the biochip as the literal Mark of the Beast, I assumed it a matter of clumsy wording indicating the viewpoint that protestors were taking against the technology, certainly not the viewpoint of the manufacturers themselves. Still, I was not interested. I would not care to get the implant, nor am I horrified by the prospect of others carrying such implants in the future. The technology is not new, it is not terribly interesting, and the alleged controversy seemed a bit outdated in the social media age. In a world wherein nearly everybody willingly submits their most private information to Google and Facebook, and those companies work toward supplying face-recognition technology to public environments for the purposes of instant-tailored marketing, what does it matter if those using e-currency carry it always on their phone, a card in their pocket, or in a chip under their skin?

At some point, I was discussing current issues regarding social media and its regulation with our Ordination Director, Greg Stevens, when I remembered the BiChip email and forwarded it to him. Greg did a cursory investigation and replied to me:

As you know, Im an enthusiastic supporter of transhumanism as an overall direction and love the idea of biotech. Im looking forward to the day we have both the biotech and the AI to provide us with what I call full phenotypic freedom the ability to augment ourselves to be whatever types of creatures we want, and to interface with computer and each other in whatever way we want.

But, based on the material that I saw out there, BiChip is nothing more than a cute initial proof-of-concept in the early stages. Any details of BiChip as a company or its dealings aside, I like that promotion of the BiChip is something that can get the conversation started so that we can confront things like: what does it need to have to be useful? what are the risks and how do we build in protections against those risks from the beginning (instead of stumbling into abuses later and having to fix things after-the-fact).

I would not get the BiChip as its been described. Its simply not useful. I dont make purchases using e-currency in day-to-day life. The only reason something like ApplePay from my iPhone or Apple Watch is useful is that the software can access whatever bank account or credit card I set it up for.

Ive never seen actual whitepapers for BiChip. I saw marketing material, and marketing material is always vague. But based on what I read, BiChip was inherently crippled in that it only operated in ecurrency and was limited in what it could communicate with.

There is no revolution in this tech. The only thing exciting about it is that it was marketed as a product that might get people talking about what biotech may be able to do in the future.

This, of course, led to more in-person discussions and disagreements between Greg and I (I am far more the privacy advocate while he is more for cultivating a cultural adjustment to privacys natural diminishment through technology). Neither of us were against the concept of implants necessarily, though of course they would have to be implanted of ones own free will, without undue coercive influence. For my part, I thought that the very topic of implants might make people begin to look more clearly at the privacy they abdicate daily, finally considering regulation regarding proper usage and retention. We again began to wonder what BiChip was all about, what their event was meant to entail, and how they imagined that we would promote the event.

Over a month had passed from the original email, so I reached out to see if they were still interested in discussing details:

On Wed, 16 Oct 2019 at 07.24,

Dear Simon

We are very interested in the event.

My own position is that Data Privacy is going to necessarily be an ongoing dialogue that will always change as technology advances. I do not think we need to declare privacy dead, but I also do not think that the convenience of a microchip implant poses a deeper threat to privacy than RFID, smartphones, and social media. The question is one of responsible retention and usage of data, not a matter of withholding technologies.

Please let us know if you are still interested in our attendance and how we might help you popularize the event.

Thank you

Lucien Greaves

Spokesperson, Cofounder

The Satanic Temple

The reply came the same day:

Hi Lucien and friends

The offer is still valid and we can provide free vip tickets and free flights and hotel to Denmark for the attendees. However we prefer to have important members/board members as the priority but we can book up to 100 of these tickets.

Regarding the way you help out the event, you can come with any idea. I personally consider myself a member of the temple as i officially joined some years ago and maybe the time and money we are spending on this technology is directly a promotion for the satanist movement I guess it is time that the temple considers Bichip as a partner and help us fight together.

I recommend a direct call to Bichip president (Finn) on 004531751127 or to me 0013232180018 to speed up the process .



Of course, this did not make any sense to me. An offer to fly some hundred members of The Satanic Temple (TST) to Denmark was grossly improbable even for a delusionally enthusiastic start-up. Further, the email again failed to be explicit in what Bichip would expect from me personally or TST as an organization. I lost interest entirely, but Gregs interest was piqued. Attempting a further investigation into what the whole thing was really about, Greg attempted to contact the numbers provided only to find that they were inoperative numbers. Clearly, none of this was on the level, but it was difficult to understand what exactly the scam was.

On November 08 I received a Direct Message through Twitter, which I never replied to:

I simply forgot about the whole matter.

Then, on November 16, I was tagged in a reply to a bizarre tweet by the same account that had reached out to try and confirm my presence at the international gathering.

This dialogue, I came to discover, was in reference to an article that had just been posted by claiming that authorities had raided the Bichip offices for unspecified reasons and that the event I had been invited to was therefore cancelled.

Of course, by now it was clear that the event was never intended to happen to begin with, but it was still unclear what this whole scam was meant to achieve. According to the Biohackinfo article:

Two days ago on November 14, Danish police raided the Copenhagen offices of tech company BiChip. This was three days after we broke the story about BiChips bizarre Chief Technical Officer Simon Sallienjavi, who is also the leader of a growing satanic cult that fuses devil worshiping with biohacking and transhumanism.

With all its operations shut down, BiChip has announced that all its offices are closed until December 29, and they have cancelled their much hyped November 26 event that was to be hosted at the Black Diamond building in Copenhagen. At the event, BiChip was set to unveil what it claims is a revolutionary human microchip implant that is both distance-readable and internet-connectable. Christian groups in Denmark and elsewhere in Europe were planning on protesting this event in part due to Sallienjavis notoriety in Denmark for converting Christians to satanism.

All of this was written without a single citation or hyperlink to any credible source that could confirm any of the claims made. No news articles about the police raid, no hyperlinks outside of those to other articles on the Biohackinfo page itself supporting the claims of Christian uproar, nor anything of any credible nature related to the very existence of Sallienjavi himself. The article went on to make even more extreme claims for which there are no reference anywhere outside of the Biohackinfo site:

Despite Sallienjavis eccentricities, despite his satanic cult, despite the bizarre claims he repeatedly makes in public about being the anti-Christ figure prophesied in the Bible, despite his questionable and borderline criminal activities one of which includes the disappearance of a former cult member named Anna Smolar; Sallienjavi has high level security clearance in many bureaus of the Danish government including Denmarks security services. Sallienjavi also oversees a Danish government-funded multinational called BEZH, which is the parent company of most of his numerous startups, including BiChip.

This was not a conspiracy theory. This was a conspiracy fantasy. The characters do not even exist in the real world. Searches for the story of missing cult member Anna Smolar yield nothing, and Sallienjavi is a fictional character. A significant population of people were credulous enough to believe the PizzaGate conspiracy theory which alleged that a small pizzeria in Washington, DC harbored underground tunnels where political elites engaged in human trafficking, but even that gullible audience (probably) needed at least the pizzeria in question to exist in reality before accepting claims of their covert activities.

The abrupt cancellation of the November 26 event, is going to be met with much anguish and grief from some of the people who were unexpectedly invited like American satanists from both the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple. The latter in particular, could not wait to attend, and according to our source inside BiChip, Lucien Greaves, the founder of the Satanic Temple, which BiChip has been donating to for years, practically begged Sallienjavi to let him attend the event.

Please let us know if you are still interested in our attendance and how we might help you popularize the event, Greaves had pleaded in an email to Sallienjavi.

Although Sallienjavi wants to absorb both the Satanic Temple and the Church of Satan into his growing cult, he has little to no respect for the Temple and merely regards them as useful idiots and thralls. Sallienjavi however has respect for the Church of Satan, and BiChip had even invited Peter H. Gilmore, the current high priest of the church, to speak at the November 26 event as a secret special guest speaker. BiChip paid Gilmore with 10 bitcoin in advance, a book deal, and $15000 for his flight to Denmark. Gilmore also has an invite to the opening of Sallienjavis cults church.

The most nonsensical part about this, from my perspective, was that the Biohackinfo Twitter account reached out to me directly to taunt me with this article, thus bringing this whole farce to my attention. The claim that BiChip had heavily donated to The Satanic Temple was accompanied by a hyperlink to an image of a document with the TST letterhead at top. The text of the document stated, in embarrassingly poor English, that thanks were in order for the large donations to our church, imploring the donors, Finn and Flemming, to reach out into your network of trans humanists and pull others into the donation circle. The signature read, Kind regards, On behalf of Jacob McKelvy, T.H.

The letter, of course, is a fake, and that is why Biohackinfos enthusiasm in pointing this all out to me was perplexing. Why on earth would anybody create a story so absurd and then immediately send it to somebody who can immediately debunk it? Turns out, Jacob McKelvy is the name of some slob who pretended to be a Satanist for a while only to make a display of converting to Christianity in hopes of marketing himself to Evangelicals. He never had anything to do with TST. It is as though some fool merely Googled Satanist name and went with whatever sounded good at the time. Was Biohackinfo the gullible victim of somebody elses bizarre misinformation campaign? This seems unlikely, as in another article on the Biohackinfo site about the same fictitious Sallienjavi cult, the author writes again of my pleading to attend the international conference stating, This desperate plea by Greaves the self-professed progressive, is despite the fact that in his communication with Sallienjavi, Sallienjavi had made crazy statements to the tune of privacy is dead or privacy should be done away with. In fact, my only communication with the hoax conference (above) expressed my opposition to that perspective, a fact that Biohackinfo revealed to be fully aware of when confronted. When I replied to Biohackinfo, via public tweet, that I was confused by the extreme incompetence in their conspiracy-creation, the Twitter account responded saying, Dont lie followed by an image of my email reply to the hoax conference. And this was not an image of forwarded text from the email. It was clearly an image from the email account itself, indicating that Biohackinfo was in fact the same person behind the conference outreach email to begin with. I am hard-pressed to think of any other time I have seen something so elaborate also be so poorly-thought. This seemed to be the work of somebody who was not terribly bright, who was also quite convinced of their superior intelligence, acting in ways being mistaken for clever toward people who were being mistaken for severely mentally impaired.

Anyway, the fact that Biohackinfo was openly lying about the content of my email reply indicated that they were hardly gullible innocents being misled by another source. However, in a fit of tweets that again indicated the source to be at least partially fooled by the lies they were propagating, Biohackinfo soon began to post screenshots illustrating that they were uploading their files to Wikileaks, apparently believing that this would be of genuine concern to me

The Twitter account also began taunting the Church of Satan (which is actually little more than a Twitter account itself) with screenshots alleging to be a text correspondence with their Magus, Peter Gilmore. Gilmore, according to Biohackinfo, had accepted a speakers fee to deliver a keynote at the conference.

For their part, the Church of Satan denied that the correspondence was legitimate, and it certainly does not approach any reasonable vision of authenticity. For one thing, the correspondence suggests that monies were actually paid, which certainly never happened. Yet, here was Biohackinfo insistently sending these screenshots to the CoS Twitter, revelling in their whistleblower victory. The whole thing grew more confusing by the moment. If somebody is going to make up false accusations, why accuse somebody of something that is not even illegal, nor is it even clearly, in any way, immoral? When I asked Biohackinfo how Gilmore could have been faulted for accepting a speaking gig at the conference, if in reality he had (which he clearly did not), they replied that the effort to produce the literal so called mark of the beast was wrong.

I know that both Peter Gilmore and myself have imposter accounts manifest on a regular basis from Nigerian scammers looking to collect membership fees in our names. Is it possible that Biohackinfo was both trying to constuct an idiotic conspiracy theory about the Mark of the Beast while simultaneously being duped by an imposter Gilmore account? But what about the $15,000? Well, we dont know where the conversation went before or after that, but it looks as though the money was said to be in the mail, and the would-be scammer talking to the hoaxter may well have been skeptical, but what did they have to lose?

Interestingly, the Biohackinfo site is ostensibly a site advocating for Transhumanist agendas the technological augmentation and improvement of human biology but chip implants are a fairly mundane Transhumanist technology, and certainly not one any Transhumanist would be expected to refer to in superstitious fear-mongering language. Is it possible that Biohackinfo is a paranoid, ridiculously inept, religiously superstitious attempt to infiltrate and discredit the Transhumanist movement?

On October 22nd, 2019, the official website of the US Transhumanist Party published an article naming Biohackinfo in the creation of slanderous allegations against them:

The United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) unequivocally condemns the false, invented, and malicious allegations contained in two recent articles one by the pseudonymous authors Glyph and CyphR on the yellow-journalism Biohackinfo website, and another by the pseudonymous Nick Sobriquet, published in the Trigger Warning magazine edited by Rachel Haywire. These articles are part of a deliberate, coordinated attack on the transhumanist movement and the many decent, distinguished, accomplished, and benevolent people working within it. These articles also contain numerous outright lies and other half-truths and cherry-picked facts distorted beyond recognition.

The article reveals that the people behind Biohackinfo ran in the recent USTP Electronic Primary, speculating that it was their loss in that election that prompted them to sow chaos and exact vengeance. The Biohackinfo candidate, Rachel Haywire, apparently did not accept her second-place defeat gracefully, prompting the site to fabricate a story in which the USTP was connected to Jeffrey Epstein and intertwined in a massive web of nefarious special interests. Given that the simpletons of Biohackinfo could even make a credible run for the Transhumanist Party candidacy, my guess is that they are not very well connected with any established political players, nefarious or otherwise.

The next day, I received a Direct Message on Twitter from the legendary Sallienjavi himself:

I looked through the feed of the account. No mention of BiChip. Poor English. Various posts about President Trump that can not seem to decide whether the character of Sallienjavi is for him or against him. A few Tweets to indicate Satanism, not to mention he follows 666 accounts and has 666 embedded in his user name. Obviously, were duped by a press release when they interviewed Simon, who they then stated only uses his first name and doesnt appear on camera. The account was created in 2012. What kind of deranged fool would maintain this account for this long? Whose bitter antagonism could sustain such prolonged motivation for so long? There were no interactions on any of the posts of this alleged CEO. His followers appear to be nothing but bots and instant follow-backs. Why were these Biohackinfo clowns now messaging me from this account asking me to ignore them? My guess is that they were upset by the way I easily poked holes in their ludicrous story. At one point, the night before, they seemed to be trying to offer an olive branch so as to entice me to desist in my mockery of their infantile scheme:

Shortly thereafter, I received, also via Twitter DM, an unrelated piece of lunacy

And with that, I felt, normalcy had returned. This was a return to pure paranoia the likes of which I regularly receive without flagrant willful and grossly inept attempts at deception.

This Biohackinfo episode is easily the most elaborate and complicated display of absolute ineptitude that I have ever witnessed. I can only assume that they actually think their ploy is clever and that it will somehow prove convincing to a wider audience. They just may even be delusional enough to truly believe that their manufactured revelations will cause as they put it a geopolitical shitstorm, though to what end I can only still just speculate. One would pity them for their troubled idiocy if it were not so visibly stained with antagonistic malice. They created marketing materials for a fictitious product. They created a company and a villainous CEO. They managed to get media to pick up a press release. They manufactured a hoax conference. They put a massive amount of work into a complicated plot that was simultaneously so absurdly poorly-thought.

There is clearly more to this story for anybody who cares to look. That somebody is not presently me, but please let me know what you come up with

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The Most Elaborate Display of Ineptitude I Have Ever Witnessed: The BiChip Hoax - Patheos

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What is biohacking? The new science of optimizing your brain and body. –

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Even if you havent heard the term biohacking before, youve probably encountered some version of it. Maybe youve seen Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey extolling the benefits of fasting intermittently and drinking salt juice each morning. Maybe youve read about former NASA employee Josiah Zayner injecting himself with DNA using the gene-editing technology CRISPR. Maybe youve heard of Bay Area folks engaging in dopamine fasting.

Maybe you, like me, have a colleague whos had a chip implanted in their hand.

These are all types of biohacking, a broad term for a lifestyle thats growing increasingly popular, and not just in Silicon Valley, where it really took off.

Biohacking also known as DIY biology is an extremely broad and amorphous term that can cover a huge range of activities, from performing science experiments on yeast or other organisms to tracking your own sleep and diet to changing your own biology by pumping a younger persons blood into your veins in the hope that itll fight aging. (Yes, that is a real thing, and its called a young blood transfusion. More on that later.)

The type of biohackers currently gaining the most notoriety are the ones who experiment outside of traditional lab spaces and institutions on their own bodies with the hope of boosting their physical and cognitive performance. They form one branch of transhumanism, a movement that holds that human beings can and should use technology to augment and evolve our species.

Some biohackers have science PhDs; others are complete amateurs. And their ways of trying to hack biology are as diverse as they are. It can be tricky to understand the different types of hacks, what differentiates them from traditional medicine, and how safe or legal they are.

As biohacking starts to appear more often in headlines and, recently, in a fascinating Netflix series called Unnatural Selection its worth getting clear on some of the fundamentals. Here are nine questions that can help you make sense of biohacking.

Depending on whom you ask, youll get a different definition of biohacking. Since it can encompass a dizzying range of pursuits, Im mostly going to look at biohacking defined as the attempt to manipulate your brain and body in order to optimize performance, outside the realm of traditional medicine. But later on, Ill also give an overview of some other types of biohacking (including some that can lead to pretty unbelievable art).

Dave Asprey, a biohacker who created the supplement company Bulletproof, told me that for him, biohacking is the art and science of changing the environment around you and inside you so that you have full control over your own biology. Hes very game to experiment on his body: He has stem cells injected into his joints, takes dozens of supplements daily, bathes in infrared light, and much more. Its all part of his quest to live until at least age 180.

One word Asprey likes to use a lot is control, and that kind of language is typical of many biohackers, who often talk about optimizing and upgrading their minds and bodies.

Some of their techniques for achieving that are things people have been doing for centuries, like Vipassana meditation and intermittent fasting. Both of those are part of Dorseys routine, which he detailed in a podcast interview. He tries to do two hours of meditation a day and eats only one meal (dinner) on weekdays; on weekends, he doesnt eat at all. (Critics worry that his dietary habits sound a bit like an eating disorder, or that they might unintentionally influence others to develop a disorder.) He also kicks off each morning with an ice bath before walking the 5 miles to Twitter HQ.

Supplements are another popular tool in the biohackers arsenal. Theres a whole host of pills people take, from anti-aging supplements to nootropics or smart drugs.

Since biohackers are often interested in quantifying every aspect of themselves, they may buy wearable devices to, say, track their sleep patterns. (For that purpose, Dorsey swears by the Oura Ring.) The more data you have on your bodys mechanical functions, the more you can optimize the machine that is you or so the thinking goes.

Then there are some of the more radical practices: cryotherapy (purposely making yourself cold), neurofeedback (training yourself to regulate your brain waves), near-infrared saunas (they supposedly help you escape stress from electromagnetic transmissions), and virtual float tanks (which are meant to induce a meditative state through sensory deprivation), among others. Some people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on these treatments.

A subset of biohackers called grinders go so far as to implant devices like computer chips in their bodies. The implants allow them to do everything from opening doors without a fob to monitoring their glucose levels subcutaneously.

For some grinders, like Zoltan Istvan, who ran for president as head of the Transhumanist Party, having an implant is fun and convenient: Ive grown to relish and rely on the technology, he recently wrote in the New York Times. The electric lock on the front door of my house has a chip scanner, and its nice to go surfing and jogging without having to carry keys around.

Istvan also noted that for some people without functioning arms, chips in their feet are the simplest way to open doors or operate some household items modified with chip readers. Other grinders are deeply curious about blurring the line between human and machine, and they get a thrill out of seeing all the ways we can augment our flesh-and-blood bodies using tech. Implants, for them, are a starter experiment.

On a really basic level, biohacking comes down to something we can all relate to: the desire to feel better and to see just how far we can push the human body. That desire comes in a range of flavors, though. Some people just want to not be sick anymore. Others want to become as smart and strong as they possibly can. An even more ambitious crowd wants to be as smart and strong as possible for as long as possible in other words, they want to radically extend their life span.

These goals have a way of escalating. Once youve determined (or think youve determined) that there are concrete hacks you can use by yourself right now to go from sick to healthy, or healthy to enhanced, you start to think: Well, why stop there? Why not shoot for peak performance? Why not try to live forever? What starts as a simple wish to be free from pain can snowball into self-improvement on steroids.

That was the case for Asprey. Now in his 40s, he got into biohacking because he was unwell. Before hitting age 30, he was diagnosed with high risk of stroke and heart attack, suffered from cognitive dysfunction, and weighed 300 pounds. I just wanted to control my own biology because I was tired of being in pain and having mood swings, he told me.

Now that he feels healthier, he wants to slow the normal aging process and optimize every part of his biology. I dont want to be just healthy; thats average. I want to perform; thats daring to be above average. Instead of How do I achieve health? its How do I kick more ass?

Zayner, the biohacker who once injected himself with CRISPR DNA, has also had health problems for years, and some of his biohacking pursuits have been explicit attempts to cure himself. But hes also motivated in large part by frustration. Like some other biohackers with an anti-establishment streak, hes irritated by federal officials purported sluggishness in greenlighting all sorts of medical treatments. In the US, it can take 10 years for a new drug to be developed and approved; for people with serious health conditions, that wait time can feel cruelly long. Zayner claims thats part of why he wants to democratize science and empower people to experiment on themselves.

(However, he admits that some of his stunts have been purposely provocative and that I do ridiculous stuff also. Im sure my motives are not 100 percent pure all the time.)

The biohacking community also offers just that: community. It gives people a chance to explore unconventional ideas in a non-hierarchical setting, and to refashion the feeling of being outside the norm into a cool identity. Biohackers congregate in dedicated online networks, in Slack and WhatsApp groups WeFast, for example, is for intermittent fasters. In person, they run experiments and take classes at hacklabs, improvised laboratories that are open to the public, and attend any one of the dozens of biohacking conferences put on each year.

Certain kinds of biohacking go far beyond traditional medicine, while other kinds bleed into it.

Plenty of age-old techniques meditation, fasting can be considered a basic type of biohacking. So can going to a spin class or taking antidepressants.

What differentiates biohacking is arguably not that its a different genre of activity but that the activities are undertaken with a particular mindset. The underlying philosophy is that we dont need to accept our bodies shortcomings we can engineer our way past them using a range of high- and low-tech solutions. And we dont necessarily need to wait for a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, traditional medicines gold standard. We can start to transform our lives right now.

As millionaire Serge Faguet, who plans to live forever, put it: People here [in Silicon Valley] have a technical mindset, so they think of everything as an engineering problem. A lot of people who are not of a technical mindset assume that, Hey, people have always been dying, but I think theres going to be a greater level of awareness [of biohacking] once results start to happen.

Rob Carlson, an expert on synthetic biology whos been advocating for biohacking since the early 2000s, told me that to his mind, all of modern medicine is hacking, but that people often call certain folks hackers as a way of delegitimizing them. Its a way of categorizing the other like, Those biohackers over there do that weird thing. This is actually a bigger societal question: Whos qualified to do anything? And why do you not permit some people to explore new things and talk about that in public spheres?

If its taken to extremes, the Whos qualified to do anything? mindset can delegitimize scientific expertise in a way that can endanger public health. Luckily, biohackers dont generally seem interested in dethroning expertise to that dangerous degree; many just dont think they should be locked out of scientific discovery because they lack conventional credentials like a PhD.

Some biohacks are backed by strong scientific evidence and are likely to be beneficial. Often, these are the ones that are tried and true, debugged over centuries of experimentation. For example, clinical trials have shown that mindfulness meditation can help reduce anxiety and chronic pain.

But other hacks, based on weak or incomplete evidence, could be either ineffective or actually harmful.

After Dorsey endorsed a particular near-infrared sauna sold by SaunaSpace, which claims its product boosts cellular regeneration and fights aging by detoxing your body, the company experienced a surge in demand. But according to the New York Times, though a study of middle-aged and older Finnish men indicates that their health benefited from saunas, there have been no major studies conducted of this type of sauna, which directs incandescent light at your body. So is buying this expensive product likely to improve your health? We cant say that yet.

Similarly, the intermittent fasting that Dorsey endorses may yield health benefits for some, but scientists still have plenty of questions about it. Although theres a lot of research on the long-term health outcomes of fasting in animals and much of it is promising the research literature on humans is much thinner. Fasting has gone mainstream, but because its done so ahead of the science, it falls into the proceed with caution category. Critics have noted that for those whove struggled with eating disorders, it could be dangerous.

And while were on the topic of biohacking nutrition: My colleague Julia Belluz has previously reported on the Bulletproof Diet promoted by Asprey, who she says vilifies healthy foods and suggests part of the way to achieve a pound a day weight loss is to buy his expensive, science-based Bulletproof products. She was not convinced by the citations for his claims:

What I found was a patchwork of cherry-picked research and bad studies or articles that arent relevant to humans. He selectively reported on studies that backed up his arguments, and ignored the science that contradicted them.

Many of the studies werent done in humans but in rats and mice. Early studies on animals, especially on something as complex as nutrition, should never be extrapolated to humans. Asprey glorifies coconut oil and demonizes olive oil, ignoring the wealth of randomized trials (the highest quality of evidence) that have demonstrated olive oil is beneficial for health. Some of the research he cites was done on very specific sub-populations, such as diabetics, or on very small groups of people. These findings wouldnt be generalizable to the rest of us.

Some of the highest-risk hacks are being undertaken by people who feel desperate. On some level, thats very understandable. If youre sick and in constant pain, or if youre old and scared to die, and traditional medicine has nothing that works to quell your suffering, who can fault you for seeking a solution elsewhere?

Yet some of the solutions being tried these days are so dangerous, theyre just not worth the risk.

If youve watched HBOs Silicon Valley, then youre already familiar with young blood transfusions. As a refresher, thats when an older person pays for a young persons blood and has it pumped into their veins in the hope that itll fight aging.

This putative treatment sounds vampiric, yet its gained popularity in the Silicon Valley area, where people have actually paid $8,000 a pop to participate in trials. The billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel has expressed keen interest.

As Chavie Lieber noted for Vox, although some limited studies suggest that these transfusions might fend off diseases like Alzheimers, Parkinsons, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis, these claims havent been proven.

In February, the Food and Drug Administration released a statement warning consumers away from the transfusions: Simply put, were concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of plasma from young donors as cures and remedies. Such treatments have no proven clinical benefits for the uses for which these clinics are advertising them and are potentially harmful.

Another biohack that definitely falls in the dont try this at home category: fecal transplants, or transferring stool from a healthy donor into the gastrointestinal tract of an unhealthy recipient. In 2016, sick of suffering from severe stomach pain, Zayner decided to give himself a fecal transplant in a hotel room. He had procured a friends poop and planned to inoculate himself using the microbes in it. Ever the public stuntman, he invited a journalist to document the procedure. Afterward, he claimed the experiment left him feeling better.

But fecal transplants are still experimental and not approved by the FDA. The FDA recently reported that two people had contracted serious infections from fecal transplants that contained drug-resistant bacteria. One of the people died. And this was in the context of a clinical trial presumably, a DIY attempt could be even riskier. The FDA is putting a stop to clinical trials on the transplants for now.

Zayner also popularized the notion that you can edit your own DNA with CRISPR. In 2017, he injected himself with CRISPR DNA at a biotech conference, live-streaming the experiment. He later said he regretted that stunt because it could lead others to copy him and people are going to get hurt. Yet when asked whether his company, the Odin, which he runs out of his garage in Oakland, California, was going to stop selling CRISPR kits to the general public, he said no.

Ellen Jorgensen, a molecular biologist who co-founded Genspace and Biotech Without Borders, two Brooklyn-based biology labs open to the public, finds antics like Zayners worrisome. A self-identified biohacker, she told me people shouldnt buy Zayners kits, not just because they dont work half the time (shes a professional and even she couldnt get it to work), but because CRISPR is such a new technology that scientists arent yet sure of all the risks involved in using it. By tinkering with your genome, you could unintentionally cause a mutation that increases your risk of developing cancer, she said. Its a dangerous practice that should not be marketed as a DIY activity.

At Genspace and Biotech Without Borders, we always get the most heartbreaking emails from parents of children afflicted with genetic diseases, Jorgensen says. They have watched these Josiah Zayner videos and they want to come into our class and cure their kids. We have to tell them, This is a fantasy. ... That is incredibly painful.

She thinks such biohacking stunts give biohackers like her a bad name. Its bad for the DIY bio community, she said, because it makes people feel that as a general rule were irresponsible.

Existing regulations werent built to make sense of something like biohacking, which in some cases stretches the very limits of what it means to be a human being. That means that a lot of biohacking pursuits exist in a legal gray zone: frowned upon by bodies like the FDA, but not yet outright illegal, or not enforced as such. As biohackers traverse uncharted territory, regulators are scrambling to catch up with them.

After the FDA released its statement in February urging people to stay away from young blood transfusions, the San Francisco-based startup Ambrosia, which was well known for offering the transfusions, said on its website that it had ceased patient treatments. The site now says, We are currently in discussion with the FDA on the topic of young plasma.

This wasnt the FDAs first foray into biohacking. In 2016, the agency objected to Zayner selling kits to brew glow-in-the-dark beer. And after he injected himself with CRISPR, the FDA released a notice saying the sale of DIY gene-editing kits for use on humans is illegal. Zayner disregarded the warning and continued to sell his wares.

In 2019, he was, for a time, under investigation by Californias Department of Consumer Affairs, accused of practicing medicine without a license.

The biohackers I spoke to said restrictive regulation would be a counterproductive response to biohacking because itll just drive the practice underground. They say its better to encourage a culture of transparency so that people can ask questions about how to do something safely, without fear of reprisal.

According to Jorgensen, most biohackers are safety-conscious, not the sorts of people interested in engineering a pandemic. Theyve even generated and adopted their own codes of ethics. She herself has had a working relationship with law enforcement since the early 2000s.

At the beginning of the DIY bio movement, we did an awful lot of work with Homeland Security, she said. And as far back as 2009, the FBI was reaching out to the DIY community to try to build bridges.

Carlson told me hes noticed two general shifts over the past 20 years. One was after 2001, after the anthrax attacks, when Washington, DC, lost their damn minds and just went into a reactive mode and tried to shut everything down, he said. As of 2004 or 2005, the FBI was arresting people for doing biology in their homes.

Then in 2009, the National Security Council dramatically changed perspectives. It published the National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, which embraced innovation and open access to the insights and materials needed to advance individual initiatives, including in private laboratories in basements and garages.

Now, though, some agencies seem to think they ought to take action. But even if there were clear regulations governing all biohacking activities, there would be no straightforward way to stop people from pursuing them behind closed doors. This technology is available and implementable anywhere, theres no physical means to control access to it, so what would regulating that mean? Carlson said.

Some biohackers believe that by leveraging technology, theyll be able to live longer but stay younger. Gerontologist Aubrey de Grey claims people will be able to live to age 1,000. In fact, he says the first person who will live to 1,000 has already been born.

De Grey focuses on developing strategies for repairing seven types of cellular and molecular damage associated with aging or, as he calls them, Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. His nonprofit, the Methuselah Foundation, has attracted huge investments, including more than $6 million from Thiel. Its aim is to make 90 the new 50 by 2030.

Wondering whether de Greys goals are realistic, I reached out to Genspace co-founder Oliver Medvedik, who earned his PhD at Harvard Medical School and now directs the Kanbar Center for Biomedical Engineering at Cooper Union. Living to 1,000? Its definitely within our realm of possibility if we as a society that doles out money [to fund research we deem worthy] decide we want to do it, he told me.

Hes optimistic, he said, because the scientific community is finally converging on a consensus about what the root causes of aging are (damage to mitochondria and epigenetic changes are a couple of examples). And in the past five years, hes seen an explosion of promising papers on possible ways to address those causes.

Researchers who want to fight aging generally adopt two different approaches. The first is the small molecule approach, which often focuses on dietary supplements. Medvedik calls that the low-hanging fruit. He spoke excitedly about the possibility of creating a supplement from a plant compound called fisetin, noting that a recent (small) Mayo Clinic trial suggests high concentrations of fisetin can clear out senescent cells in humans cells that have stopped dividing and that contribute to aging.

The other approach is more dramatic: genetic engineering. Scientists taking this tack in mouse studies usually tinker with a genome in embryo, meaning that new mice are born with the fix already in place. Medvedik pointed out thats not very useful for treating humans we want to be able to treat people who have already been born and have begun to age.

But he sees promise here too. He cited a new study that used CRISPR to target Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a genetic disorder that manifests as accelerated aging, in a mouse model. It wasnt a total cure they extended the life span of these mice by maybe 30 percent but what I was very interested in is the fact that it was delivered into mice that had already been born.

Hes also intrigued by potential non-pharmaceutical treatments for aging-related diseases like Alzheimers for example, the use of light stimulation to influence brain waves but those probably wont help us out anytime soon, for a simple reason: Its not a drug. You cant package and sell it, he said. Pharma cant monetize it.

Like many in the biohacking community, Medvedik sounded a note of frustration about how the medical system holds back anti-aging progress. If you were to come up with a compound right now that literally cures aging, you couldnt get it approved, he said. By the definition weve set up, aging isnt a disease, and if you want to get it approved by the FDA you have to target a certain disease. That just seems very strange and antiquated and broken.

Not everyone whos interested in biohacking is interested in self-experimentation. Some come to it because they care about bringing science to the masses, alleviating the climate crisis, or making art that shakes us out of our comfort zones.

My version of biohacking is unexpected people in unexpected places doing biotechnology, Jorgensen told me. For her, the emphasis is on democratizing cutting-edge science while keeping it safe. The community labs shes helped to build, Genspace and Biotech Without Borders, offer classes on using CRISPR technology to edit a genome but participants work on the genome of yeast, never on their own bodies.

Some people in the community are altruistically motivated. They want to use biohacking to save the environment by figuring out a way to make a recyclable plastic or a biofuel. They might experiment on organisms in makeshift labs in their garages. Or they might take a Genspace class on how to make furniture out of fungi or paper out of kombucha.

Experimental artists have also taken an interest in biohacking. For them, biology is just another palette. The artists Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr from the University of Western Australia were actually the first people to create and serve up lab-grown meat. They took some starter cells from a frog and used them to grow small steaks of frog meat, which they fed to gallery-goers in France at a 2003 art installation called Disembodied Cuisine.

More recently, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg has used old floral DNA to recreate the smell of flowers driven to extinction by humans, enabling us to catch a whiff of them once more.

And this summer, a London museum is displaying something rather less fragrant: cheese made from celebrities. Yes, you read that right: The cheese was created with bacteria harvested from the armpits, toes, bellybuttons, and nostrils of famous people. If youre thoroughly grossed out by this, dont worry: The food wont actually be eaten this bioart project is meant more as a thought experiment than as dinner.

When you hear about people genetically engineering themselves or trying young blood transfusions in an effort to ward off death, its easy to feel a sense of vertigo about what were coming to as a species.

But the fact is weve been altering human nature since the very beginning. Inventing agriculture, for example, helped us transform ourselves from nomadic hunter-gatherers into sedentary civilizations. And whether we think of it this way or not, were all already doing some kind of biohacking every day.

The deeper I delve into biohacking, the more I think a lot of the discomfort with it boils down to simple neophobia a fear of whats new. (Not all of the discomfort, mind you: The more extreme hacks really are dangerous.)

As one of my colleagues put it to me, 40 years ago, test tube babies seemed unnatural, a freak-show curiosity; now in vitro fertilization has achieved mainstream acceptance. Will biohacking undergo the same progression? Or is it really altering human nature in a more fundamental way, a way that should concern us?

When I asked Carlson, he refused to buy the premise of the question.

If you assert that hackers are changing what it means to be human, then we need to first have an agreement about what it means to be human, he said. And Im not going to buy into the idea that there is one thing that is being human. Across the sweep of history, its odd to say humans are static its not the case that humans in 1500 were the same as they are today.

Thats true. Nowadays, we live longer. Were taller. Were more mobile. And we marry and have kids with people who come from different continents, different cultures a profound departure from old customs that has nothing to do with genetic engineering but thats nonetheless resulting in genetic change.

Still, biohackers are talking about making such significant changes that the risks they carry are significant too. What if biohackers upgrades dont get distributed evenly across the human population? What if, for example, the cure for aging becomes available, but only to the rich? Will that lead to an even wider life expectancy gap, where rich people live longer and poor people die younger?

Medvedik dismissed that concern, arguing that a lot of interventions that could lengthen our lives, like supplements, wouldnt be expensive to produce. Theres no reason why that stuff cant be dirt-cheap. But that depends on what we do as a society, he said. Insulin doesnt cost much to produce, but as a society weve allowed companies to jack up the price so high that many people with diabetes are now skipping lifesaving doses. Thats horrifying, but its not a function of the technology itself.

Heres another risk associated with biohacking, one I think is even more serious: By making ourselves smarter and stronger and potentially even immortal (a difference of kind, not just of degree), we may create a society in which everyone feels pressure to alter their biology even if they dont want to. To refuse a hack would mean to be at a huge professional disadvantage, or to face moral condemnation for remaining suboptimal when optimization is possible. In a world of superhumans, it may become increasingly hard to stay merely human.

The flip side of all this is the perfect race or eugenics specter, Jorgensen acknowledged. This is a powerful set of technologies that can be used in different ways. Wed better think about it and use it wisely.

Sign up for the Future Perfect newsletter. Twice a week, youll get a roundup of ideas and solutions for tackling our biggest challenges: improving public health, decreasing human and animal suffering, easing catastrophic risks, and to put it simply getting better at doing good.

Josiah Zayner is a biohacker whos famous for injecting himself with the gene-editing tool CRISPR. At a time when the technology exists for us to change (or hack) our own DNA, what are the ethics of experimenting on ourselves, and others, at home? On the launch episode of this new podcast, host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks to Zayner about how hes thinking about human experimentation today. Plus: new efforts to come up with a code of conduct for biohackers, from legislation to self-regulation.

Subscribe to Reset now on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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What is biohacking? The new science of optimizing your brain and body. -

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November 20th, 2019 at 5:55 am

Posted in Transhumanism

Are LED lights and other techno-implants slowly turning us into the Borg? – SYFY WIRE

Posted: October 16, 2019 at 8:45 pm

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You can sleep tonight, because we probably wont be assimilated into a colony of cyborgs who are more machine than human and call each other by number instead of their names. No one isturning into the Borg (like Captain Picardabove). The thing is that some transhumanists are willingly getting cyber-implants to fast-forward themselves into a future where man fuses with machine.

Transhumanists believe that we can upgrade ourselves through LED lights, computer chips and other implants that can give different human capacities an assist. Were already seeing this in the plans for Elon Musks Neuralink. Now an interview with BBC Scotlands The Nine has given us some insight into the people who voluntarily got LED lights under their skin for some cosmic sparkle or have chip implants in their hands that can open a car doorand already make keys seem archaic.

After engineer Winter Mraz nearly lost her life in a car accident that sent her to the operating room with a fractured back, ankle and knees, she had no idea how cybernetic enhancements would change her life forever. Her back needed to be bolted together, and one of her kneecap was so busted that she needed a 3D-printed replacement.

It if was not for my cybernetic kneecap I would not be able to walk, Mraz told the news channel. She also didnt know what she would be getting herself into.

It was the nearly fatal accident that convinced Mraz to get personal modifications unrelated to her injuries, like the microchips in her hands that can operate things as if by magic. She has a NFC (near-field communication) chip in her right hand that lets her phone, tablet and other gadgets share data. The RFID (radio-frequency-identification) chip in her left hand locks and unlocks her house door kind of like a workplace security card lets you open the door to the office. It also keeps her hand free for the cane she needs to get around.

Microchips are usually injected into the back of the hand like a syringe. When you really think about it, if you have a device like an Apple watch or Fitbit, microchip implants might freak you out right now, but they are (at least according to many transhumanists) the evolution of that technology.

If you want to see a really futuristic view of transhumanism, as in something that takes place in a fictional altverse where the cybernetically enhanced are at odds with the non-enhanced, read Steve Aokis Neon Future comic series. It will blow your mind.

(via BBC Scotland)

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Are LED lights and other techno-implants slowly turning us into the Borg? - SYFY WIRE

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October 16th, 2019 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Transhumanism

The transhumanists who are ‘upgrading’ their bodies – BBC News

Posted: October 8, 2019 at 6:48 am

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Winter Mraz says she loves having her keys in her hand but she does not mean holding them. She has actually had her door key implanted into her left hand in the form of a microchip.

In her right hand, she has had another microchip implant that acts as her business card but could also be used to store important medical information for use in the case of an emergency.

The 31-year-old engineer also has a magnet in one finger that allows her to sense electro-magnetic fields, which she says helps in her work.

But not all her body upgrades are practical. Her latest procedure is to have two LED implants, that turn on when a magnet is passed above them, illuminating her skin from inside.

Why? "Because they are sparkly and I'm a magpie," she says. "I like things that light up."

Winter is one of a growing number of people who call themselves "transhumanists".

It is the belief that the humans can improve beyond their physical and mental limitations and "upgrade" their bodies by incorporating technology.

For Winter, her first "cyber-enhancements" were not voluntary, they were through the hospital after a serious car crash in the United States that fractured her back, both her ankles and her knees.

Her back was bolted together by surgeons and one of her kneecaps was replaced with one that was 3D-printed, on the NHS.

"If it was not for my cybernetic kneecap I would not be able to walk," she told BBC Scotland's The Nine.

After her accident she moved on to voluntary personal modifications such as the microchips in her hands.

The RFID (radio-frequency-identification) chip in her left hand works on the lock in her house door in the same way as many workplace security cards operate. This means she does not have to carry keys and keeps her hand free for her walking cane.

The NFC (near-field communication) chip in her right hand has many potential uses. It is the same type of chip that allows phones and tablets to easily share data with each other.

Winter says: "I think saying that you should not alter your body and you should not change your body is a very ableist way to go about living. People who are disabled don't have that choice. It is made for us."

Steven Ryall, a 26-year-old technical operator from Manchester, says he wants to have chips implanted to make "smart hands".

"We have smart TVs, smart phones, everything is smart," he says. "Why can't I be smart?"

Steven believes that transhumanism is the logical next step in human development. He wants be able to programme the technology in his body to respond to his personal biology.

His "technological baptism" was at a private clinic in Leicester, where he had his first implant.

The microchips are usually delivered by a syringe into the back of the hand.

"I am slowly turning myself into part machine," he says. "I don't mind being biological but if I could be part mechanical that is so much more awesome than just my plain self."

Steven says the chip is "essentially" like those in a contactless bank card. "I can get an RFID or NFC reader and hook it up to a chip that I programme and then get that chip to recognise the chip in my hand and do whatever I want," he says.

Steven is an evangelist for humans "upgrading" themselves but he can understand why people might think it is an extreme thing to do. He says friends and family think it is "weird and kooky" but he believes that in the next five years they will start getting into it too.

Winter says wearable tech such as the Apple watch and Fitbit and other "doctor on your wrist" health monitors have taken off in the past few years and she believes that implants are the next logical step.

She says: "I don't think implants are inevitable but I think they are getting better, longer-lasting, cooler and have more functionality. It's going to be one more option people have."

Steven says he can easily see a time when companies are asking employees to have implants for security ID to access building or computer networks.

"I think that people would see it as an extreme thing because they are looking from a historical perspective, they are not looking forward," he says.

At the moment there are loose regulations on who can do it and most implants are done by tattoo artists and body piercers.

There are some people who are taking things into their own hands by buying the tools off websites to perform the procedure themselves.

Bio-hacker Jenova Rain, who implanted Steven's chip at her Leicester practice, said she was doing five implants a week and the numbers were rising as interest grows.

Although regulations on bio-hacking specifically are sparse, Jenova says she is covered to do implants as a tattoo artist and piercer.

Even though she promotes the idea of upgrading yourself through her YouTube channel and website she has no chips or "upgrades" herself. She says they would be "useless" for her.

Dr Mary Neal, professor of medicine and ethics at Strathclyde University, said she was "not surprised" more people were getting involved but there needed to be better regulation.

She said the procedure was similar to other body modification such as botox but there were many ethical discussions that needed to be had around bodily autonomy and regulation.

Dr Neal also said there were safety risks with people buying the equipment from online sites and doing the procedures from home.

The Scottish government told BBC Scotland's The Nine it intended to regulate procedures carried out by non-healthcare professionals and it was consulting on how this could be done.

A spokesman said it was looking at the "most proportionate and appropriate measures" and the government's priority was the safety of those involved.

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The transhumanists who are 'upgrading' their bodies - BBC News

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October 8th, 2019 at 6:48 am

Posted in Transhumanism

Insight: Transhumanists believe in the bionic body beautiful – The Scotsman

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No of course there shouldnt really be a religion based on The Bionic Woman that would require you to watch the show and it is cheesy and definitely for kids, laughs Ana Matronic, pop diva and Jaime Sommers obsessive.

We are having this conversation because, in her teens, she turned her fictional hero into a quasi deity the combination of the forces of science and nature and placed her at the centre of a belief system called Bionic Love. While she may now mock her fanzine flights of fancy, she still has faith in technology to transform humanity.

Matronic has been captivated by robots and cyborgs since C-3PO squeaked into her life at the age of three. Her right arm is a declaration of love a half-sleeve tattoo which began as a mishmash of cogs and springs, la Sommers, but now incorporates other favourites such as R2-D2 and Maria, the female robot from Fritz Langs 1927 film Metropolis.

Matronic, who was originally called Ana Lynch, has always been attracted to the blurring of boundaries. This is the woman who was once the only female drag queen in San Franciscos The Trannnyshack. That was before she became lead singer of the self-consciously flamboyant Scissor Sisters: a band that revelled in its own campness.

Today, she has lost none of that flamboyance; she still hosts the BBC Radio 2 programme Dance Devotion. But, an academic at heart, she also tours the country evangelising about transhumanism the merging of human and machine as well as warning of the dangers.

Later this month, she will be appearing at an event in the Dundee University Festival of the Future, along with Graeme Gerard Halliday, aka Hallidonto, a Scottish-born, London-based artist, who creates images of cyborgs, and Kadine James, Creative Tech Lead with Hobs 3D, a company that specialises in 3D printing.

Im really interested in all aspects of technology, from the three-minute pop song to AI [Artificial Intelligence] and advances in medical treatment, says Matronic.

I am interested in how things work and how they affect humanity. Technology holds so much promise, but it moves faster than governments. Thats a dangerous thing and something we ought to talk about.

The Dundee University event is timely. Not long ago, cyborgs were of mostly hypothetical interest, explored in science and speculative fiction, but not generally regarded as a contemporary reality impacting on everyday behaviour.

In the past year or so, however, transhumanism appears to have entered the mainstream; every day seems to bring a news story that could have come straight from Charlie Brookers Black Mirror; a story that challenges our preconceptions about what it means to be human.

Some of the technology we are seeing changes us physically. Blade prostheses that allow amputee athletes to run as fast as able-bodied ones for example, and power-suits that strengthen the muscles of elderly people, mean cyborgs are already in our midst.

Just last week, we learned a Frenchman paralysed in a nightclub accident had walked again thanks to a mind-controlled exo-skeleton suit. Recording devices implanted either side of his head between the skin and the brain read brainwaves and send them to a nearby computer, where they are converted into instructions for controlling the exo-skeleton.

Technology is developing so rapidly that both scientists and philosophers are pondering the possibility that we may eventually be able to transform ourselves into beings with abilities so great as to merit the label post-human.

The extent to which the concept of transhumanism (if not the word itself) has entered the public consciousness could be seen in the recent Russell T Davies drama Years And Years in which one of the main characters, Bethany, wants to become part-machine.

She has mobile phone implants in her hands, camera implants in her eyes and brain implants that allow her to make a mental connection with the internet. Set just a few years hence, and building on existing technology, the interesting thing about the series is not how futuristic it seems, but how feasible. Even when, towards the end, her aunt Edith uploads her consciousness to the cloud so she can continue to exist after death, it does not feel too far-fetched.

Martine Rothblatt, the founder of SiriusXM Satellite Radio, a super-fascinating person No 1 on my fantasy dinner party list is already developing the technology to create a mind file, says Matronic. The idea is you gather as much information on yourself as you can so that when you die your mind-file can be downloaded into a phone or into a robot and you or rather a facsimile of you can live on for your family. There are also people working on substrate independent minds brains that dont need a body to function. And people who are trying to extend life or eradicate death.

But if death becomes an option then the fairy tale of unlimited economic growth becomes even more of a fairy tale. And thats before we start thinking about storage. If you are a digital person, where do you live? And if the storage facility is so big it can store digital people then the computational power of that facility is not a what but a who. The whole thing is a crazy, crazy rabbit hole I love to jump down.

The first robot

Matronics right; it is a rabbit hole, and the further you go down it the more you lose yourself in an ethical maze.

At its best, technology has the power to tap into human potential; to make us the best we can be. When Makoto Nishimura created Japans first robot, Gakutensoku (the name means learning from natural law), he was conceived as an ideal.

At an exhibition to mark Emperor Hirohitos ascension to the throne in 1926 the year before Metropolis was released spectators were awe-struck as the God-like bronze figure appeared before them clutching a mace and arrow and smiled beatifically. Nishimura believed robots were a continuum of humanity a natural evolution. If humans are the children of nature, then robots are the grandchildren of nature, he said.

Yet, ever since the industrial revolution, western society has tended to have an adversarial attitude towards machines, viewing them as sleekit creatures who will steal our jobs or turn against us, like Frankensteins monster. In literature too, we are accustomed to the idea of scientific progress producing dystopias such as Airstrip One in 1984 or the boarding school for clones in Kazuo Ishiguros Never Let Me Go.

Overemphasising the downsides of technological advance may be discriminatory, says Matronic. When we have conversations about the evils of technology, we are being ablist. If you say, social media is bad, I will show you someone with locked-in syndrome or crippling social anxiety for whom it has opened up the possibility of friendship.

Technology could also eradicate paralysis; there would be no more quadriplegics. Also, at present we only use 10 per cent of our brains. If we have machines that can help us explore more of that, then its amazing.

Even so, neither Matronic nor Hallidonto is naive. They understand the potential pitfalls of transhumanism in a capitalist society where efficiency and profits are the most powerful drivers.

Technology initially developed for positive purposes may be subverted for negative ones, while the push to create a super-race of better, fitter, more cognitively capable humans veers perilously close to eugenics.

And then there is the question of marginalisation. We are already living in a world where those who do not own a smartphone are disadvantaged. How much greater will that socio-economic inequality become once it is possible to pay for superior physical strength and brain power?

Professor Kevin Warwick, the worlds leading expert in cybernetics, has been called the first cyborg. In the late 1990s/early 2000s, he experimented with his own body. First, he had an RIFD transmitter implanted under his skin which allowed him to control doors, lights, heaters and other devices. Then he had a BrainGate electrode array fitted which allowed him to control a robotic arm on the other side of the Atlantic a feat that conjures up the image of Thing in the Addams Family. Finally, he linked his nervous system electrically to his wifes in such a way that every time she closed her hand, his brain received a pulse. Was that not freaky? It was very intimate, he says. You are getting signals from someone elses body and nobody else knows.

The link cannot yet be made brain to brain, but when it can, it will be the basis of thought communication: telepathy, but for real.

Back in the 90s, Warwick faced criticism, not technically, just people saying: Youre a buffoon, because they didnt understand what I was doing. In the end, of course, the joke was on them.

Yet today, some people are still dubious, not about the science, but about the morality. The ethical dilemmas sparked by some of these developments are huge. For example, if you can control an arm miles from where you are, then presumably you can use it to commit crimes. Meanwhile the linking up of brains if achieved would be a useful way to communicate with someone who couldnt speak but, in the wrong hands, it could be used for coercive control.

Warwick accepts all this, but seems unperturbed. As a scientist, you are aware of things potentially going in a negative way, but you hope society will look at applications and say: Yes, this one is great it will help people and No, we dont think this one should be allowed.

Asked if it would be ethical to amputate a normal human leg in order to replace it with blades that allowed an athlete to run faster, he says yes.

I cant see a problem. We have to look to the future. At the moment, we have a body. The body does things OK and the brain controls it and its all a pretty limited package. But we have the possibility of redefining what our body and our brains can do. Why should anyone lag behind with ordinary human body parts when they could have something thats much better?

When I suggest this will exacerbate the disenfranchisement of the most vulnerable, he implies a degree of inequality is a social inevitability and points out that wealthy people can already pay for physical enhancements through cosmetic surgery.

Not everyone is this sanguine. Hallidonto is as passionate about robots as Matronic. Growing up in the 80s, the first cyborg he encountered was the one in The Terminator. I remember sitting on the sofa with my dad at three years old and being completely traumatised by it, he says. Later, I had Darth Vader toys and I would pretend I was wearing a robotic suit. I would feel quite powerful.

When he was 12, Hallidonto suffered a collapsed lung. He was put in a machine and experienced visceral, morphine-induced dreams about babies with wires coming out of their eyes. Then when he was 25, he had a brain injury on a holiday in Germany and it changed how he saw the world.

A graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College in Dundee, his work has always featured robots. At the launch of his exhibition, Cyborg Cadavers, in London last week, he explored some of the pitfalls. I spoke about the Anthropocene and the Promethean allegory and pointed out that if we dont watch what we are doing we may end up, not with the body we desire, but with the body that is required, he says.

With technology developing so rapidly, Matronic believes there is an urgent need for tech companies and governments to talk about ethics before it is too late.

Most of the negative stories about robots/cyborgs, from Frankenstein on, involve someone with a God complex thinking they can do what the Creator does. Those stories are a warning against hubris.

So we definitely need to have conversations about morality and every tech company should have its own ethicist. They should be saying things like: Dear Elon Musk loving the SpaceX stuff, but do we really need a flamethrower?

Matronic says some of her worst fears, technologically speaking, are already being realised with Facebooks lack of transparency and peoples identities and data being turned into a commodity.

I am really concerned about autonomous weapons too, she says. Mines are horrible enough, but guns that can walk and speak? That is a terrifying prospect. I dont think they should be allowed to exist.

The potential for technology to reinforce inequality will have to be addressed too because otherwise only some people will lag behind. It will be: Oh my God did you get the brain update? No, I am still working with version 2.4. Well, version 3 just came out and its amazing.

Chair of the Dundee University event, Karen Petrie, associate dean for learning and teaching in science and engineering, is developing educational software that can adapt to the learning speed of individual students.

Her biggest fear is the one feminist activist Caroline Criado Perez touches on in her book Invisible Women: that as computers take over more and more tasks, they will replicate existing biases.

Most AIs are built on machine learning, she says. That means they take a large quantity of data, mine that data and learn behaviour. Unfortunately, if theres any bias in that data, even if it is implicit bias, then the machine will learn it. A good example of this is a big tech firm that was trying to use a machine learning algorithm to scan CVs and work out who they should or shouldnt employ.

However, until now this tech firm has employed 95 per cent men, so when this algorithm was used it pretty much screened out all the women.

Body hacktivism

For all the potential problems, the notion that technology could transform us aesthetically, cognitively, spiritually cannot fail to excite the imagination. The myriad possibilities it throws up are proving a rich source of inspiration for both artists and philosophers.

Indeed they have engendered a new art form: body hacktivism. Tight restrictions on the kinds of surgery that can be done on humans has led to a school of DIY body modification artists, who carry out work on themselves or others. There is Neil Harbisson, who sees the world in black and white, but wears an antennae that translates the frequency of colours into sounds; Tim Cannon, who had magnets implanted in his fingers; Lukas Zpira, author of the body hacktivism manifesto, who offers tongue splitting, implants, and subincision (the splitting of the penis); and Steve Haworth, who specialises in subdermal and transdermal implants, such as the Metal Mohawk a row of spikes inserted into the head to replicate a punk haircut.

Despite her fixation with cyborgs, Matronic is a late adopter of new technology. I am last to everything I never even have the latest smartphone. But she believes the future will be more fluid. Others have connected this fluidity to transgenderism; after all, if you can change the human body at will, then sex and gender become less important. And if your consciousness can exist without corporeal form then, arguably, they cease to matter at all.

If you see yourself as a religious person and you believe in the soul, then, when your soul leaves, is it male or female? says Matronic.

You have just your body you can be anything. Gender really is a construct something that is mandated by society. Different societies have different expressions of gender and different codes. I think as we expand as humans, we understand there are different ways of being and definitions loosen, so we are going to have new words and new definitions and new genders.

Everything will be new, new, new. It might be scary for some people and difficult conversations will have to be had but I believe that us humans learn to human better as we evolve and I look to the future with hope.

How Robots Are Shaping the World We Live In, 6.30pm, October 19, Juniper Auditorium, V&A, Dundee

Continued here:
Insight: Transhumanists believe in the bionic body beautiful - The Scotsman

Written by admin

October 8th, 2019 at 6:48 am

Posted in Transhumanism

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