Notes from the Transhuman Strategies conference, 21 March 2015

Jul 17, 2015

At long last, here are my notes from the Transhuman Strategies conference held by the Brighter Brains Institute on 21 March 2015. It took me a while to find the notebook I wrote them in, so that's why they're a few months late in coming. Anyway, my notes are under the cut. Hank Pellissier - Transhumanitarian Projects

  • Goals: Extending life, increasing mental ability
  • Life expectency in Japan is 80, in Sierra Leone is 35
  • Hunger is still the greatest killer
  • Shipping food or backing projects
  • De-worming - parasiting infections in children
  • The energy deficit incurred by parasitic infection lowers IQ in children
  • De-parasitization treatments are very cheap - 400 people for $25us
  • Setting up medical clinics
  • Weekly disease reports
  • Education - sponsoring kids, starting schools
  • Building libraries, hands-on education
  • Carpentry workshops to build infrastructure
  • The Mormon Transhumanist Organization does a lot
  • $100us == several hundred pounds of clothing
  • Outfitting physicians and laboratories
  • The BiZoHa Orphanage
  • The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer
  • Altruism has been observed to increase lifespan
  • Cuban medical model: Get a medic, task them with a community, pay them

John Smart - Eight Skills of Foresight Development

  • The Foresight Company
  • Acceleration Studies Foundation
  • To be human is to extend one's abilities beyond the natural, i.e. to become tool using
  • Technological change - ten areas but only two drive acceleration of progress
  • Ten places to get Ph.Ds in futurism, 23 to get a masters' in same
  • Good futurists tell weeble stories - they wobble but they don't fall down
  • Get critical feedback. If they survive, then tell them to larger groups.
  • Professor Jim Dator's four futures model
  • Kuznets curves depicting developmental cycles
  • As tech enters an environment it creates great economic inequality, environmental degredation, social stability, tech import
  • J curve - super-exponential curve of state change
  • Energy flow density - Φ (Phi)
  • The acceleration of history
  • The Birth of Plenty by William J. Bernstein
  • Ten areas of change: Infotech and nanotech (which change the scale of information processing), resources, engineering, cognotech, social, health, economic, political, security
  • Mind the hype, find what's useful
  • Mastering the Hype Cycle by Jackie Fenn and Mark Raskino
  • Three P's of Foresight
  • Preferable - what you want
  • Probable - what you'll get
  • Possible - what might be
  • All three are critical in teams
  • Kirton's three personality traits: Innovator/Creators, Bridgers, Protectors/Predictors
  • StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath
  • KAI model
  • Cognitive diversity brought to bear on hard problems
  • Perception -> Decision -> Action cycles
  • Relations - the speed of trust
  • If people don't trust you, you won't get any traction with them
  • Kuznets issues - things always get worse before they get better
  • Dehumanization followed by rehumanization
  • Human-built knowledge bases
  • Crowds and competition
  • Crowd-funded companies
  • Syndicates on Angelist
  • Trustable, transparency, and immunity
  • Simulations and fastspace learning
  • Machine learning and machine-built knowledgebases
  • Edutainment
  • New platforms
  • Usability - conversational interfaces
  • Ubiquity
  • Strictly speaking, Google and Facebook are the largest countries on the planet
  • The wearable web and global English
  • Skype's realtime language translation
  • Wearable smartphones
  • Graphnets and the valve-mapped web (I don't know what I wrote here...)
  • Early hiveminds - symbiont memnets and socnets
  • "Did it happen to me, or one of my Facebook friends?"
  • Personal software agents
  • Lean forward - creating positive chainge
  • Lean backward - partaking of positive change
  • Extended lifespans
  • Groups who include people who disagree outperform those who don't because they force people to work harder
  • Technological Cycles and Changes - Carlota Perez
  • Evo-devo model of technical ecosystems

Maria Konovalenko & Mikhail Batin - Main Strike

  • Where do we find funding for research?
  • Abandon wishful thinking.
  • Stop talking about the future.
  • Are we going to be the ones?
  • Tech that works and brings about particular goals for life extension, not life extension as the goal.
  • The right to live is a fundamental value.
  • Life extension is a political topic.
  • Logical extension of the definition of politics.
  • Political tasks are necessary.
  • Not part of the political agenda yet.
  • In 2014, twice as many people reached the age of retirement as the year before.
  • Aging is the primary cause of aging. It's a syndrome with well characterized symptoms that collectively lead to the death of the organism.
  • Fighting aging is a primary goal.
  • Slowing the aging process has to happen first, if only to buy us time.
  • Multiple avenues of attack: Gene therapy, cell therapy, drugs (geroprotective compounds), diet, regenerative medicine, exercise, ...
  • No funding as a whole so there isn't a complete protocol.
  • NIH and NIA have very little budget and very different goals.
  • Too few drug tests - 3 of 3000 submitted every year.
  • No clear goal.
  • Fighting AIDS was more successful due to the amount of work and money applied to it.
  • But it shows that we can accomplish complex things. Everybody at this conference working together in concert could do it, in fact.
  • Target audience - the population of this planet.
  • Medical professionals and lawyers must promote it.
  • Leaders will be the first to adopt it. They have the most at stake.
  • The solutions lie in basic science.
  • Buskiness wants a return on investment on existing drugs, not fundamental hard science.
  • No speculative investment.
  • Work must be open for maximum benefit.
  • Nonprofits most likely.
  • Public interest group - 501(c)(3) - social organization
  • Political Action Committee - 501(c)(4-6)
  • Both kinds must make it their political goal.
  • Super PACs have no direct communication with politicians, must engage in social engineering, more avenues of funding and can exert more pressure upward.
  • Pressure senators
  • Grassroots agitation (anarcho-transhumanists?)
  • "Do you choose life or death for your fellow Americans?"
  • Member network - activists and speakers
  • Advertising and memetic campaigns - PR
  • Lobbyists for GR - .gov relations
  • Social engineering
  • Automation of certain tasks for contacting senators, representatives, et al
  • Standard stuff
  • Hashtag bombing of socnet presences
  • Pandora
  • Fax bombing because those are still prevalent within the DC Beltway
  • Think tanks with political capital

Getting Funding for R&D - Peter Rothman

  • Money is a tool.
  • The future doesn't just happen.
  • Warren Ellis' observations of the future...
  • The early stuff is always crappy looking.
  • Stop whining and get busy.
  • DIY or it won't get done.
  • What do I want to do? What physical properties are involved? What already exists?
  • What science has already been done?
  • Money is required. Stonking lots.
  • How to raise funds to do research?
  • Funding sources: Debt; equity investment, grants, contracts, product sales, awards and gifts
  • Crowdfunding is one of the other forms that seem to work.
  • Things like the X-Prize require lots of work and significant monetary investment up front.
  • Debt: Entreprenureship won't work. Don't do it, it won't work. You don't get rich spending your own money.
  • Equity: VCs want part of the company in exchange for giving you money. There are many all over the place.
  • Angel investors
  • VCs are sophisticated operators - they do this more than you do, and you're at a disadvantage. They ultimately want a controlling interest in what they invest in.
  • Grants - SBIR, STTR, NIAC Symposium, DARPA
  • You provide your work to whoever gave you the money.
  • Match your work to the grant.
  • Not repayable, no equity required.
  • IP restrictions - they usually a perpetual royalty free license, so don't expect a trickle of funds from them after you deliver.
  • SBIR - Small Business Industrial Research
  • Three phases: Proposal, where you get 50-100k. Development, where you get 500k-1m to finish the research and build the prototype and test types. Market - you finish, bring it to market, and they buy it from you.

Transhumanist Culture and Techno-Optimism - R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell

  • Five tips for techno-optimists:
  • Doubts must be acknowledged and answered.
  • Technology will not save everything.
  • Technology is a tool. It's up to us to fix things. Get to work.
  • Beware of unintended consequences.
  • Things we can't imagine happen.
  • The ripple effect.
  • Beneficial side effects can happen as well as baneful ones.
  • The Singularity(tm) will not be singular.
  • Progress is always unfair at first, and will effect everyone but even less evenly.
  • Cost of advances.
  • Beware of politics.
  • This is largely a trap of H+.
  • Trotsky - you may not be interested in politics, but you can be damned sure that politics is interested in you.
  • Tribalism sets in within parties. Always.
  • It hinders, not helps, biotech.
  • Keep it simple. Don't give anyone a reason to legislate you out of existence.
  • Recentralization and liberty.
  • Apple vs. the FDA
  • Politics create red tape.
  • Think about what's already here.
  • Breakthroughs are all around us, just waiting to happen.
  • Put the pieces together to build something more.
  • Those who broadcast that they are "righteous" and "good" tend to not be good communicators and drive people away.
  • Passing memes on is important - get them out there!

Politics, Media Outreach, and My Presidential Campaign - Zoltan Istvaan

  • To improve society we need to play politics.
  • The Transhumanist Party
  • Using a presidential campaign as a social engineering technique.
  • Publicity, if nothing else.
  • We're scientists, engineers, and supporters
  • We've had a lot of impact.
  • Until top politicians are publically discussing it, H+ may not be able to grow as far as it should.
  • How can the leading candidates address our issues?
  • Zoltan admits that he has no chance of being elected.
  • Memetic infection of other parties' electoral teams - they'll have to respond to the questions that Zoltan's presence is causing to be asked in response to his position.
  • Advancing politics to the degree of popular discourse about H+.
  • Al Gore at least has heard of it. That's something.
  • Bring the ideas to the table, lock the politicians to it, and force them to face what's happening right now because their constituents are in many ways far beyond them.
  • Disrupting politics.
  • Challenging front runners.
  • Memetic engineering and infection.

Evaluating Paradigms - Riva Melissa-Tez

  • Strategy underlies a successful plan.
  • Depends on the quality of the planners.
  • Plans are products of the psychology of the strategists.
  • We're all fallible.
  • Problems of belief.
  • Assumptions
  • What belief systems are is never taught or examined.
  • No critical analysis.
  • Assumptions are rarely tested.
  • Many prefer comforting lies.
  • Meta-analysis.
  • Minds move markets; markets move minds.
  • By understanding minds and collective mindsets better, we can learn how to move markets better and vice-versa.
  • Rational arguments simply do not scale.
  • Edward Bernays (also this and this)
  • Consumerism as desire
  • Manipulating emotions to get people to spend money they don't need to.
  • Creating insecurities and satisfying them by buying stuff.
  • Understand what people really want and give it to them.
  • The Engineering of Consent (online and local mirror)
  • Case study: getting women to start smoking
  • So much money, so many problems, so few good thinkers allocating the money.
  • What matters is who judges the allocation.
  • Basic research > philanthropy
  • "How does this work?" is never asked
  • Intelligent arguments don't scale.
  • Understanding one person is hard enough.
  • Plans that depend on this will fail.
  • Paradigm shifts don't come from hypotheses, they come from breakthroughs.
  • One success makes it plausible.
  • Social expectations -> policy/agenda -> formalization -> control
  • Four year cycle
  • Liabilities increase as options narrow.
  • Goals are difficult to actualize in such a short cycle.
  • We have the responsibility of laying the correct foundations.
  • Look at problems from a first principle perspective.
  • Most startups and investors act as polyfillers stuffing cracks, when we actually need bricklayers.
  • What are the right questions to ask?
  • Question -> hypothesis -> solution
  • Much needed tools
  • How do we test ideas more quickly? More cheaply?
  • Disrupt the research cycle.
  • Researchgate(tm)
  • Speed in itself can be helpful. Time saving adds up to more work done.
  • Paradigm cycle
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition by Thomas Kuhn and Ian Hacking
  • Basic science
  • Basic research
  • We're not even sure what some of the basic assumptions are.
  • Forced, false models and no instruction in critical analysis and reasoning.
  • Disrupt education to create more outlier thinkers.
  • Critical thinking
  • Our community will not save the world, millions of people working to bring about change will.
  • Steve Aoki's latest albums reflect some of these themes, infiltrating them into the overmind.
  • "all the names wil lbe erased from the billboards and the theaters and the piers and the magazines and the monuments."
  • Make your life valuable.
  • Reverse problems to first principles. Work backward.

Brain Science to Re-Risk Transformative Technology - Adam Marblestone

  • Understanding the brain is a pre-requisite for truly transformative progress.
  • Person-specific structures encode memory and personality, complicating regenerative medicine.
  • Regenerating brains will be significantly more different from regenerating kidneys.
  • Regeneration might damage informational patterns.
  • We don't embrace a really useful computational model of the brain.
  • Or anything like a detailed simulation.
  • Or a realistic biophysical simulation.
  • What do we actually have?
  • What do we need to invest in?
  • Coarse-grained brain maps.
  • What is all of it doing? We can't really test any hypotheses.
  • Computationally relevant molecular complexity.
  • Way too many fundamental questions are still open.
  • How do we copy with the brain's complexity?
  • Activity history
  • Behavior
  • Connectome
  • Development - cellular lineage tree
  • Expression - epigenetic cell types and simple synaptic proteomes
  • We need to be able to cheaply and rapidly measure one brain at subcellular resolution and whole-brain scope.
  • Neurons have long-range connections. Nanometer diameter x centimeter distance.
  • Incredibly dense structure.
  • Scanning Electron Microscopes (which some private entities have) could be used to scan 5 nanometer slices of a brain.
  • c.elegans' 302 neurons took 50 person-years to map with questionable accuracy.
  • What about mice? Not a chance. Too complex.
  • Each neuron could be given a molecular barcode to uniquely identify it. Cell membranes could be marked with unique repeating sequences.
  • Digital 4" color microscopy
  • FISSEQ - Fluorescent In situ SEQuencing
  • Using RNA to map neuronal connections.
  • Rosetta Brains: A Strategy for Molecularly Annotated Connectomics (local mirror)
  • 1 cubic millimeter of brain has approximately 100,000,000 neurons