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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

Name:

The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Global Uplift

*
I originally wrote the following on Warren Ellis' potential futures website:

Incidentally, on the subject of transcending human limitations, is anyone else getting ready to do any dramatic human augmentation projects? Preferably with multiple volunteers?

My efforts are still contigent on mustering enough money from my various business projects -- but if that works out, I'm making plans to start with my first band of local prospects by this winter/holiday break. I'm interested in exploring the potential for the radical enhancement of human capabilities, and hope the protocols I'm putting together -- modified, synergistically combined and techologically enhanced methods from leading accelerated learning and creativity researchers -- will enable us to achieve levels of mental function beyond anything seen before.

Or at least, beyond anything other than certain specific prodigies and savants (see Ramanujan, Shereshevski, Tesla, etc). And perhaps, at least in terms of the overall talents gained and refined, even better than that.

I should add that I'm not planning to introduce any invasive technologies into this particular project -- no gene therapy, no cybernetics, no nootropic drugs. I'm sure others will explore those permutations in due course. The focus of my experiment, instead, will be to see what happens when you take several young, healthy and fairly bright and well-motivated students for a six-week brain-development marathon.

I'll have to pay them, of course, and plan to pay them reasonably well (another reason why I have to get the finances assembled or put this project aside till at least mid-2007). But I'm sure there are organizations and individuals out there which could plunge right into this kind of research. So why not, people? If you're in a position to do this kind of thing for yourself, why delay?

I'm picking "kids" who are pretty decent, tolerant and unlikely to try to dominate others or create pointless mayhem if we do have an impressive breakthrough in our initial marathon attempt. But I don't know that most augmentation-intensive projects will have the same criteria in mind for their subjects... indeed, I don't know how well you could maintain such standards. After all, how well could you know that many people? It's one thing if you start out with a group of just ten and consider each prospect carefully.

But what happens with your second group, or your third? When you expand these groups to 20 or 30 or 100? Eventually, even if you screen extremely well, the simple diversity of attitudes and personalities prevalent among gifted people insures that you will end up with individuals whose ultimate decisions, plans and goals can not be anticipated. Especially once they've undergone a "ten-fold"* or greater increase in their basic intelligence.

So let me suggest -- if you're planning to be among those "early adopters" who radically enhance their intelligence *first*, then you might want to start arranging things now.

Because I honestly doubt most experimental groups will be put together the way mine is -- young people of good will who are all friends or are at least very friendly. But I'm sure plenty of enthusiasts could pull something like that together, if only a group of four or five or six.

I'm starting with small, close-knit bands of decent people not just to avoid creating transhuman gangs or lone sociopaths but to establish micro-societies -- collections of intensely bright people who share a powerful connection and who can "be there for each other" no matter how dramatically some of them may change. And which can remain as a safety net for sucessive "generations" of the enhanced who come after them. That psychological support may prove crucial -- the last thing you want to do with a nascent supermind is convince her or him that s/he is completely alone and practically a different species from all the mindless sheep milling about them.

My concern with many organizational attempts to do the same thing is that while they may put together some people of considerable goodwill (be they scientists or law-enforcement or artists or military personnel or writers or performers or inventors), most governments, companies and NGOs are unlikely to put forward a group of friends living in relative proximity to each other as their best option for such work -- and over the long term "just a bunch of friends" probably isn't the best option.

But if you're trying to develop a kind of local sub-culture that can support the newly enhanced and restrain the more volatile augmentees, it could be just the ticket for you.

So I ask again... Who else has plans to radically evolve in the near future? Details welcome.


*And yes, I know that "ten-fold" is a poor descriptor for most forms of enhanced mental abilities -- these gifts rarely increase with perfect precision across every single area of performance, even assuming all of your basic abilities and esoteric talents could possibly be quantified.

AL, Bio, CPS, Noo, Soc
Future Imperative

87 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to discuss with Ralph a general enhancement technology that might be included in this exploration. I have begun a similar experiment using the technology with repeat test takers. Three SAT retakers had 280, 170, and 135 point increases in a pilot study. I see this to be one last "meat" upgrade to create the generation of transhuman inventors.

Alan Bachers
abachers@gmail.com

July 04, 2006 11:06 AM  
Blogger Ralph Cerchione said...

Alan, thanks for the offer. What's the technology, if I may ask?

Admittedly, I'm a bit leary of getting involved with anything proprietary or requiring a degree of secrecy. Though I appreciate the need to hold on to intellectual property rights, I'd like to keep the first couple of pilot projects as "simple as possible." They're already apt to require substantial resources, organization and manpower, I'm afraid.

July 04, 2006 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ralph - Thanks for your interest. The technology is neurofeedback in which brain activity is displayed in video and audio presentations that advance as the brain enters states of optimal performance and stop as activity becomes turbulent, inefficient, or enters attractor vortices of pathology. While the field struggles to establish its scientific credibility in the disease model, these results will be considered trivial when compared to neurofeedback's contributions across the entire range of human capcacities. I can put here a two page intro: "What is Neurofeedback?" or forward it to you.

Alan Bachers
abachers@gmail.com

July 17, 2006 5:27 AM  
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