Could Technology Make You Immortal? Transhumanism Seeks the Answer.

Jason Silva offers a crash course on the tech-centric philosophy that seeks to overcome the limitations of humanity.

Jason Silva: Transhumanism is essentially the philosophical school of thought that says that human beings should use technology to transcend their limitations. That it's perfectly natural for us to use our tools to overcome our boundaries. To extend our minds, to extend our mindware using these technological scaffoldings. The philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers talk about technology as a scaffolding that extends our thoughts, our reach, and our vision. Ray Kurzweil reminds us 100,000 years ago in the savannahs of Africa when we picked up a stick on the floor and used it to reach a fruit on a really high tree, we’ve been using our tools to extend our reach. Technology is us. Technology is our extended phenotype as [Richard] Dawkins says. Technology is our second skin. We’re not the only species that does so. You know the termites build these enormous termite colonies, which are temperature-controlled. I mean our cities like the termite colony are really who we are, you know.

If you’re able to like make that cognitive shift and transcend what Andy Clark calls the skin bag bias and realize that we don’t end where our skin tissue ends, but that we are tethered to our technological surroundings and to our dwellings. And that what we design, designs us back because what we design is us ultimately. You start to realize that technology — we are a technology-making species the same way a spider is a spider web-making species, you know. Kevin Kelly, who co-founded Wired magazine, describes technology as the seventh kingdom of life. He calls it the technium. He says that it's subject to the same evolutionary forces as biological evolution, you know. That’s the craziness here is that we’re finding more and more that our technological systems are mirroring some of the most advanced natural systems in nature. You know the Internet is wired like the neurons in our brain, which is wired like computer models of dark matter in the universe. They all share the same intertwingled, filamental structure. What does this tell us? That there is no distinction between the born and the made. All of it is nature; all of it is us. So to be human is to be transhuman.

The reason we’re at a pivotal point in history is because now we’ve decommissioned natural selection, you know. This notion that we are now the chief agents of evolution, right. Edward O. Wilson reminds us we now get to decide who we become. Freeman Dyson — in the near future a new generation of artists composing genomes with the fluency that [William] Blake and [Lord] Byron wrote verses. You know with biological, biotech transformation we’re talking about software that writes its own hardware. Life itself, the new canvas for the artist. Nanotechnology, patterning matter. Programmable matter. The whole world becomes computable. Life itself programmable, upgradable. What does this say about what it means to be human? It means that what it is to be human is to transform and transcend. We’ve always done it. We’re not the same species we were 100,000 years ago. We’re not going to be the same species tomorrow. Craig Venter recently said we’ve got to understand that we are a software-driven species. Change the software, change the species. And why shouldn’t we?

Transhumanism, a tech-centric philosophy of humanity, has grown so rapidly in popularity in recent years, it even boasts its own 2016 presidential candidate. But what does Transhumanism truly aspire to? What is the core of the transhumanist manifesto? According to philosopher, futurist, and overall cool guy Jason Silva, Transhumanism is all about harnessing technology to overcome the limitations of humanity. For example, our lives are limited by the mortality of our physical bodies. Transhumanists would therefore support the creation of technology that transfers your consciousness into an immortal coil, like software being run on better hardware. At the core of this philosophy is the idea that there isn't really anything that separates the natural from the artificial, that technology is not something external from our experience. Technology is us. And why wouldn't we want to use it to upgrade humanity to the next level?


For more from Jason Silva, be sure to check out "Brain Games" from National Geographic.

Astronomers find more than 100,000 "stellar nurseries"

Every star we can see, including our sun, was born in one of these violent clouds.

Credit: NASA / ESA via Getty Images
Surprising Science

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

An international team of astronomers has conducted the biggest survey of stellar nurseries to date, charting more than 100,000 star-birthing regions across our corner of the universe.

Stellar nurseries: Outer space is filled with clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. In some of these nebulae, gravity will pull the dust and gas into clumps that eventually get so big, they collapse on themselves — and a star is born.

These star-birthing nebulae are known as stellar nurseries.

The challenge: Stars are a key part of the universe — they lead to the formation of planets and produce the elements needed to create life as we know it. A better understanding of stars, then, means a better understanding of the universe — but there's still a lot we don't know about star formation.

This is partly because it's hard to see what's going on in stellar nurseries — the clouds of dust obscure optical telescopes' view — and also because there are just so many of them that it's hard to know what the average nursery is like.

The survey: The astronomers conducted their survey of stellar nurseries using the massive ALMA telescope array in Chile. Because ALMA is a radio telescope, it captures the radio waves emanating from celestial objects, rather than the light.

"The new thing ... is that we can use ALMA to take pictures of many galaxies, and these pictures are as sharp and detailed as those taken by optical telescopes," Jiayi Sun, an Ohio State University (OSU) researcher, said in a press release.

"This just hasn't been possible before."

Over the course of the five-year survey, the group was able to chart more than 100,000 stellar nurseries across more than 90 nearby galaxies, expanding the amount of available data on the celestial objects tenfold, according to OSU researcher Adam Leroy.

New insights: The survey is already yielding new insights into stellar nurseries, including the fact that they appear to be more diverse than previously thought.

"For a long time, conventional wisdom among astronomers was that all stellar nurseries looked more or less the same," Sun said. "But with this survey we can see that this is really not the case."

"While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies," he continued, "just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world."

Astronomers have also learned from the survey that stellar nurseries aren't particularly efficient at producing stars and tend to live for only 10 to 30 million years, which isn't very long on a universal scale.

Looking ahead: Data from the survey is now publicly available, so expect to see other researchers using it to make their own observations about stellar nurseries in the future.

"We have an incredible dataset here that will continue to be useful," Leroy said. "This is really a new view of galaxies and we expect to be learning from it for years to come."

Protecting space stations from deadly space debris

Tiny specks of space debris can move faster than bullets and cause way more damage. Cleaning it up is imperative.

Videos
  • NASA estimates that more than 500,000 pieces of space trash larger than a marble are currently in orbit. Estimates exceed 128 million pieces when factoring in smaller pieces from collisions. At 17,500 MPH, even a paint chip can cause serious damage.
  • To prevent this untrackable space debris from taking out satellites and putting astronauts in danger, scientists have been working on ways to retrieve large objects before they collide and create more problems.
  • The team at Clearspace, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is on a mission to capture one such object using an autonomous spacecraft with claw-like arms. It's an expensive and very tricky mission, but one that could have a major impact on the future of space exploration.

This is the first episode of Just Might Work, an original series by Freethink, focused on surprising solutions to our biggest problems.

Catch more Just Might Work episodes on their channel:
https://www.freethink.com/shows/just-might-work

Credit: fergregory via Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
  • Researchers used photography capture technology in 30-minute intervals every day to capture the movement.
  • This study could help better identify time of death.
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Meet the worm with a jaw of metal

Metal-like materials have been discovered in a very strange place.

Credit: Mike Workman/Adobe Stock
Personal Growth
  • Bristle worms are odd-looking, spiky, segmented worms with super-strong jaws.
  • Researchers have discovered that the jaws contain metal.
  • It appears that biological processes could one day be used to manufacture metals.
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