Partial transcript of an interview with journalist Joel GarreauMP3 author of Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies—and What It Means to Be Human from Changesurfer Radio

Play this page as an MP3 playlist

You can see 4 technologies that I call the GRIN technologies: Genetics, Robotics, Information technology and Nanotechnology, and all of them are following a curve of exponential change.

You're seeing a curve that goes straight up. The most obvious example of this is in the information technologies with what the techies call Moore's Law. That's named after Gordon Moore, one of the three founders of Intel... He observed back in 1965 that since the chip was invented 6 years previous, the number of transistors on a chip was doubling every 12 months. His very bold prophesy was that it would continue for the next 10 years. As a matter of fact what you're seeing is the doubling of information power that you can buy for a dollar doubling every 18 months since 1959, and you've never seen a curve of change like that in all of human history. We're now up to something like the 28th doubling. Doubling is an amazing thing, it means that each step is as tall as all the previous steps put together. So 27 doublings means an increase of like 100 million times. Not only are you seeing that in information technology, this is allowing us to do extraordinary things in other fields.

The advances in information technology is now causing an exponential increase in genetic technology and the same thing is true of robotics... and nanotechnology which is this exploding field of the very very small, putting things together one molecule or one atom at a time.

The bottom line to all this is all of these technologies are causing us to arrive at a hinge in history... Increasingly these exponentially advancing technologies are aimed inward at modifiying our minds, memories, metabolisms, personalities, progeny and possibly our immortal souls... When you start talking about changing what it means to be human you're looking at one of the great profound changes in human history.

In our lifetime you're looking at a profound change in what it means to be human, and this is a real, no kidding scenario... This is the real nuts and bolts of what is in the engineering lab right now that can change our minds and memories and metabolisms and personalities. Trying to figure out where this is all going to take us on this magic ride I started talking to people who had been thinking a great deal about this... and they break down basically into three camps.

 

Heaven

The first camp... the Heaven Scenario I call it, the poster child is Ray Kurzweil. What makes him notorious is his books. In his books he is laying out a future that is essentially indistinguishable from the christian version of heaven. He is looking at this curve of technological change and he's saying that this is going to be driving humans affairs and that it's all going to be good. That's the heaven scenario, and it's a scenario to be taken seriously... He's talking about us becoming something like god-like, and he's not kidding, and this is a serious guy, he's not a new-age fruitcake, he's a serious technologist.

Accelerating Intelligence
» FEEDSITE

  • Laser could trigger rain and lightning
  • Building ‘smart’ cell-based therapies
  • Creating spontaneous ‘cell’ division in artificial cell models
  • A neuromorphic-computing ‘roadmap’
  • Preventing an autonomous-systems arms race
  • Thinnest-possible nanomembrane produced
  • 3D microvascular network allows for repeated self-healing in composite materials
  • CNN’s Spurlock Inside Man explores extreme life extension
  • First Earth-size planet in ‘habitable zone’ discovered
  • Brain abnormalities associated with casual marijuana use
  • Functional brain imaging reliably predicts which vegetative patients have potential to recover consc...
  • Low-cost, compact optics that turn a smartphone into a powerful portable microscope
  • Drones to extend Internet to remote areas
  • The lowest-price, easiest-to-use 3D printer yet
  • Ten ways 3D printing could change space
  • International Space Station to beam video via laser back to Earth
  • Bio-inspired transparent synthetic materials could protect cars and people
  • A new self-healing chemistry for plastics
  •  

    Hell

    Then there is the Hell Scenario. The hell scenario is eeriely similar to the heaven scenario. It starts with the same premises. It observes that we have this curve of technological change and that it's increasing exponentially... It also basically assumes that technology drives history, just like the heaven scenario does, but in this case it's the mirror image of the heaven scenario. If the heaven scenario imagines a curve of human history that smoothly goes straight up, the hell scenario is one in which people look at this increasing technology and see a curve that goes straight down, and they don't mess around when they're talking about going straight down. The optimistic view of some of these hell scenario people... is that we simply wipe out the human race in the next 25 years or so. The pessimistic scenaro... is that we don't just wipe out the entire human race but that we wipe out the entire biosphere, and leave this planet just a barren lump.

    My poster boy for that scenario is Bill Joy

    The reason he's so pessimistic is that, he says, "look at these GRIN techologies... each one of those has the potential for incredible evil... these are knowledgle-enabled weapons... if we keep on spreading the knowledge of how this works around, he likens it to giving everybody on the planet an atomic bomb... what are the odds that a few of them would go off in the hands of some nut?" He views it as incontrovertible that the answer is, of course, something like this would happen. So he is deeply concerned about the future of the planet... and there are other people like him...

    Ecoshock Radio
    » FEEDSITE

  • Religion Versus Climate Science
  • Climate Change Has Arrived
  • Rapid Collapse
  • The Center Sees The Edge
  • CLIMATE DARK AGE
  • AMERICAN FUKUSHIMA
  • California Drought: Is this the big one?
  • READY TO SCRAMBLE TO THE POLES?
  • CLIMATE CHANGE = EXTREME WEATHER DISRUPTION
  • VOICES IN A FOG OF EXTREME CLIMATE
  • CRASH ON DEMAND
  • WHAT KIND OF DOOMER ARE YOU?
  • Over the Climate Cliff
  • Home Planet Blues - 4 Voices
  • The Awful Truth About Fracking
  • Scandals of Nuclear Waste
  • Radio Ecoshock Green Music Festival 2013
  • Why Is The Weather So Crazy?
  •  

    Prevail

    The Prevail Scenario is profoundly different from both the heaven or hell scenario in that it doesn't think that human culture and values is necessarily inextriably tied to this curve of technological change. It doesn't see any smooth curves to human history. It propounds that history as we've known it has been a series of pick-ups and reversals and loops and stops, and that that's not likely to change... I think it's a profoundly human instinct to throw the curve a curve.

    My poster child for the prevail scenario is Jaron Lanier.

    He says where these heaven and hell guys go wrong is that the way they measure change is by how many transistors you can fit on the head of a pin. He says that's a profoundly anti-humane version of viewing progress. It's not about technology and it's not about individuals, to Jaron the benchmark of the prevail scenario will be how many humans we can connect up. He's looking for a metric that involves the human spirit and the human will to go on, and he's much more interested in connecting humans than in connecting up technology, and that's his measure of how we will prevail, and that's the one that is not technological determinism...

    RealityCarnival
    » FEEDSITE

  • Great panel from an old Eerie Comic book that just jumped out at me
  • Mathematics, symmetry, paper cutting, and the divine
  • Cyclist plays with gravitational laws along a wall to win race
  • Anti-dyslexic font
  • Taste the heavens. Eat Jupiter cake
  • Resurrection burial tomb. US patent application with images
  • 35 Scientific Concepts That Will Help You Understand The World
  • The function Z = -cos(x*y)*t wakes up and prays to the mathematical gods of yore
  • Guess who is the most prolific inventor in the world (based on patents)?
  • "Sine Wave in Action." We don't know what this is, but it is cool to contemplate
  • Magical experiments with high speed photography and viscous liquids
  • 1) Put kids in a white room. 2) Give them thousands of stickers. 3) Wait
  • Colonies of Growing Bacteria Make Psychedelic Art
  • Melodie says, "Bouncing balls in a circle gives one of the simplest systems to exhibit chaos"
  • I coined the phrase "Juggler Sequence" and love 24906114455136. Here's why
  • Mathematics in action: Voronoi Nebula Mural Wall Drawing
  • I coined the word "factorion" in the 1990s. Here's why.
  • I'm sorry to inform you that Earth is about to be been eaten by a fire demon
  • Long exposure reminds me of ghosts and spirits. Rush hour in Mumbai
  • The big difference with prevail is you'll see humans beginning to control their own future. It won't be technology in charge, it'll be humans in charge. If you start seeing bottom-up solutions, kind of like co-evolution. For example, back in the 1500s and 1600s they had all sorts of intractable problems that they were facing and suddenly the printing press came and that allowed us to co-evolve new solutions like democracy and world trade and all sorts of brand new innovations that allowed solutions to problems that were beyond the scope of any one person or nation... Do we see new solutions? It's child's play to say that we're looking at an increase in problems.

    The critical question is are we seeing an increase in solutions, especially for hundreds of millions of people who are newly connected in ways that weren't possible even a generation before who are coming up with brand new solutions that we could never imagine?