Notes from the Transhuman Strategies conference, 21 March 2015

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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