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Archive for the ‘emergent technologies’ Category

This is the kind of innovation Detroit needs to seriously look at. Humans and technology are just another ecosystem subject to the same laws of nature including gravity and evolution. No matter how superior we may think are we cannot defy either of them. Our automobile paradigm is unsustainable and therefore it is a matter of time before it becomes extinct. This futuristic concept is rightly called Horizon.

Horizon-System-537x267

Source: Inhabitat.com

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Enjoy the view!

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Metropolis film poster (1926)

Metropolis film poster (1926)

Continuing on my previous post on trans-humanism I recognize this is a complex subject where a one size fits all analysis could risk the required understanding of and engagement with this movement.

On the one hand I am convinced repressing our human capacity to create and develop technology goes directly against human nature, self-realization and purpose. Subsequently I vehemently oppose the demonization of trans-humanism and by default, the demonization of human progress.

On the other hand I cannot stress enough the urgency to (1) raise awareness of the risks inherent to the trans-humanist agenda and (2) to manage such risks.

I am probably less optimistic or idealistic than most people in our society’s ability to manage the impact of these new powerful life altering technologies effectively and timely. We have been indoctrinated by modern society, primarily by corporations and universities into a blind faith in technology. Such faith keeps us complacent believing technology will save us all in the end. This inability to question technology’s limitations and safety keep us powerless in the face of considerable risks.

History has shown society does not wake up to major risk until we have come to the very brink of the crisis. An example of such human behavior was the insane arms race escalation which drove the US and Russia to the so-called Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) scenario. It was long after both super powers had made enough weapons to destroy several planets like earth that both parties realized nuclear war could not be won by either side. No nation could escape the enormity of the resulting nuclear holocaust. It took such an overwhelming and terrifying realization before the parties recovered the common sense to reduce their nuclear arsenals.

I am still looking for a way to manage the challenges that trans-humanists goals like human life extension will bring to a world where the carrying capacity of the Earth will have been exceeded several times over. We would need fantastic technologies to compensate for the extra people who would live by immediately reducing the ecological-footprint they would add.

And that is where my main argument arises. What will take to remove our anthropocentrism (human centeredness) from technology and from the human perception and interaction with the planet? That achievement would allow us to approach reality with a true consciousness that will call for the most ethical, rational and responsible use of technology. Such level of consciousness would enable us to prioritize our never ending list techno-wish list accordingly and allow us to better manage our development. It comes down to prioritizing planetary threats such as water scarcity over saving 40 year-old women from wrinkles.

It is amazing to see how the egotistical obsession with ourselves can cloud our judgment so much that we can completely detach from reality and  the urgent growing list of planetary issues which make such self-indulgent trans-humanist goals not just unimportant but shamefully frivolous. Resolving the global threats upon us, assuring the health of our life sustaining system and ensuring social justice and equality should take priority over any other goal by humanity. I will support trans-humanism in as much as it may contribute to the progress of sustainability.

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Anyone would think this is a scene from a sci-fi or James Bond film but the scary thing about it is that this gentleman is no actor and he represents a growing fundamentalist movement called trans-humanism set to harness human evolution through technology to ultimately become God. This particular character is very serious about his plan to become God. He says “if you’re going to interfere with me becoming God, we’ll have big trouble. Then we’ll have warfare”.

I think the threat posed by this new religious worship and absolute belief in the almighty power of technology is more serious and far greater than global terrorism, global warming or global financial meltdown. We are dealing with what is after all a religious fanaticism far more dangerous than any militant religious extremist group or ideology.  What makes this extreme faction of the so called  trans-humanism movement such a concern is the very acceptance of the movement – even its radical elements. Such acceptance is won because modern society sees trans-humanism as mere science and that is enough to make it legitimate and unlikely to be questioned.  So much for Homeland Security when we have such a threat well rooted inside our borders brainwashing our very own populations. Their technique is extremely powerful and subtle: to hook the public with luring promises such as human perfection and eternal youth.

Let’s examine where this techno-dogma comes from. The mission of trans-humanism’s is the development of the next stage of human evolution called post-human or neo-human. Writer and globalization expert Carl Teichrib describes the premises of trans-humanism:

“1. DNA: Now that we are unlocking the secrets of DNA, we can alter our genetic makeup to augment desirable traits and block negative characteristics. It’s hoped such a move will bring longevity and eradicate diseases. Other possible outcomes include the production of designer babies in the womb, and even introducing DNA from other species into the human code; thus building a ‘Human Plus’ equipped with advanced physical and cognitive traits. Such a trans-human/hybrid would be ‘transgenic’, in other words a human Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) just like corn or soy.

“2. Computer Interfacing and AI: As the secrets of the brain are discovered, it is anticipated that a time will arrive when the mind is efficiently interfaced with cyber-space. It is believed that in such a scenario the brain, once ‘plugged-in,’ could allow the mind to surf the network, download and upload from the web, receive memory upgrades, and converge with a global mind-to-machine-to mind community—forming a type of cyber-hive. Or, according to some cybernetic purists, to allow one’s consciousness to completely leave the bounds of flesh and enter cyber-space as an electronic entity. After all the brain, it’s argued, is an electrochemical organ. This mind uploading, it’s believed, could culminate in what the Catholic mystic, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called the noosphere: the emergence of a living, global consciousness. The web would thus ‘come alive’.”

The objectives stated above have been used by sci-fi literature and films to warn us about the potential for the future to become a horrible nightmare, but guess what? I am wide awake and by looking at the news I can only realize the plan for this nightmarish future is already under way, and apparently with no one willing or able to stop it. Despite the risks and horrific consequences the misuse of technology can bring such as that  posed by Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) destabilizing the fragile balance of natural ecosystems, I take comfort in the fact that the core believes held by transhumanists are false. We humans are not machines and consciousness is not a computer algorythm.

Those two facts alone make the trans-humanist agenda a childish fantasy which nonetheless can cause great irreversible damage to humans and planet. Thus the activities of these people still need to be closely monitored and controlled. Alongside the supervision by those institutions whose role is to enforce bioethics and safety on the use of technology, we need to counter trans-humanism with a new humanism driven by core timeless human values. It is the removal of values from science that has allowed science to run unchecked, unquestioned and ironically become the greatest threat to civilization and the planet, despite all the benefits it has also brought to humanity. Deep ecology illustrates the true nature of human beings and the life honoring values which were upheld by our indigenous ancestors and that we urgently need to restore.

I am not against progress. Man must not give up on his inherent nature to develop science and technology. It is his right and duty. However after  four centuries of reckless exploitation of planet and people in the name of science and progress, man needs to retake responsibility for his power by re-infusing  science and technology as well as all his activities and his very own perception of reality with the mentioned human values and overall sensibility. We must contain our human progress within the domain the human of human values and ensuring we will not disrupt the fragile order of the natural world who we are not even close to fully understand due to its enormous complexity and the limitations of our scientific knowledge.

Let’s continue honoring our inherently human ambition for growing human knowledge and bringing progress, but let’s ensure we do it in a responsible, safe and ultimate sustainable manner.

 

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I want to inspire primarily the younger generation of inventors and engineers to dream with space with a new focus: Earth. Before we forget about our planetary backyard investing in the exploration and even creation of life in distant planets, we should apply our space technical might to help save the single island of life known in the universe.

Space Solar Power (SSP) offers considerable advantages over other energy technologies including conventional earth based solar power.

  1. Lack of green house emissions during operation
  2. It location above the atmosphere, allows for he solar collectors to acquire 144% more energy than peak earth based solar energy values and provides an immunity against weather
  3. Continuous renewable solar power 24/7 except for a negligible less than an hour of Earth shadow per night at the spring and fall equinoxes and some expected maintenance
  4. Ability to direct power to specific regions of the planet allowing power transmission where it  is most required
  5. Operation can have zero impact on any living ecosystems
  6. Elimination of the pollution and the energy investment used by other alternative, nuclear and fossil fuel based energy sources

As so many emergent technologies there is a high upfront capital challenge to develop this SSP but the fact that it is based on current technologies provide the potential for implementation in a few years. In addition the sustainability of SSP could eventually be maximized extracting the construction materials for the energy generation and transmission portions of the SSP systems from the moon or asteroids.

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From Nature to Hardware

The International Bionic Engineering Conference represents a critical agent of change to make our technology sustainable. Nature’s engineering and manufacturing solutions have been maximized through countless designs resulting from the unlimited creativity of complex living systems, and validated to perfection through the test of time .  It would be ludicrous to compare our man-made technologies to those in the natural world just comparing the time scale difference between humans and nature developing their respective technologies. Humans have taken years while Nature has used billions of years. Such abysmal gap should make us realize we were never the center of the living universe but a contributor, a co-creator whose ego has grown as out of control as the global environmental degradation that such ego has created.

Bionics is a big part of sustainability as it forces us to shift our anthropocentric conception of reality back to a life centered, earth centered realism. We as entrepreneurs, engineers, educators and common citizens can promote this noble approach to science and technology. This will be a fundamental step in our painful challenging  shift from  the industrial paradigm to the sustainable one.  I encourage anyone interested in high-tech and the latest gizmos to follow this conference and its culture.

Culture and consciousness are the key operating words here, much more so than technology. In order to create truly sustainable human environments the way humans do it, technologically, we need to restore human innovation and progress with the humanism that we lost during the scientific revolution. This is our chance to turn around our aging industrial “train freight” attitude sentenced to a gradual but catastrophic collision in the not too distant future. We can all put our two cents by learning about designs cool enough to temper this ever heating planet.

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The fascinating vehicle shown in this video uses ultracapacitors to achieve a level of performance that is light years away from today’s electric vehicles. If you want to learn quickly how ‘ultracaps’ could make our green technologies more competitive including electric vehicles, check my Examiner.com article on ultracapacitors made up of part 1 and part2

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