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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.


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.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Feedback on... X3 (X-Men 3) Is Coming Out -- Let the Pop Culture Enhancement Debate Begin

One or two readers of my article "X3 (X-Men 3) Coming Out -- Let the Pop Culture Enhancement Debate Begin" have gotten the impression I was offering it up for educational purposes, and have recommended that I consider other sources of enlightenment such as longevity researcher Aubrey de Grey. So I decided to clarify my comments...

I may have given a false impression in the above article... I'm not recommending the next X-Men film as some kind of educational tour de force for Transhumanists or "the Unconverted." I'm merely noting that blockbuster movies -- in particular SF and especially superhero films (whether blatantly or subtly affiliated with that subgenre) have a far greater voice on issues of human augmentation and dealing with posthuman beings than almost anyone or anything in American or global society. And yes, I do acknowledge the value in being able to share truly brilliant and insightful science fiction with the public.

I also have great respect for researchers like Aubrey de Grey, which is why I've discussed issues like longevity before. But again, probably more people were thinking about the consequences of living for centuries after watching Aeon Flux -- even if the feelings they got were negative ones -- than have ever heard of the Good Doctor de Grey. You may not like that fact, but there it is.

I should probably also add a slight correction. X-Men 3 may not be the film most blatantly discussing human augmentation questions. UltraViolet is about a conflict between humans and a breed of posthuman beings deemed too dangerous to be allowed to live. (Trailer here.)

Future Imperative

Fending Off Dementia -- New Scientist Podcast -- Bio, Soc

Imagine that staying mentally active could help fend off dementia. A 2005 New Scientist podcast goes into the details of research on this subject.

You know, though the benefits of conventional mental exercise doesn't always get the press (or the controversy) of human augmentation research (like genetic engineering), challenging mental activity seems to be extremely useful in maintaining your mental abilities as you age. Just as regular exercise is an obvious way to maintain your physical health. And a good diet seems to be a means of achieving both ends.

It's worth adding... this kind of "acceptable" human augmentation, using conventional means, helps point out just how blurry the line can be between mundane fitness and educational goals and dramatic human enhancement. How, really, do you make a clear distinction between the two if using accelerated learning methods like faster reading and Image Streaming, non-invasive technologies such as floatation/sensory deprivation tanks, and non-drug supplements such as vitamins, ginseng and ginkgo biloba can, in aggregate, help make you far, far smarter than you were before?

What happens if you don't stop at "okay" and make yourself "better than well?"

And how do we classify you (or celebrate you, or scorn you) if your methods fall outside of accepted definitions of human augmentation?

The point to remember is that not every life-or-death therapy or radical human transformation has to come from overt technological modification. A human can be dramatically modified -- made, in the view of some, "Not Human" -- without drugs, cybernetics, genetics or complete bodily recomposition. And in fact, we may end up with many humans who have strayed across that line before we know where we intend to draw it.

As Alice said in Wonderland, "Curioser and curioser."

Future Imperative

Friday, February 03, 2006

Bio-Terror Threat, on Sale Now! -- Bio, Soc

New Scientist is now offering podcasts of interviews and reports related to the magazine's latest issues. One curious point raised in a past podcast is the fact that gene sequences can be ordered from companies online, which means that someone with a valid email address who knew what they were doing could get a plague custom-sequenced by these organizations. Though, if they wanted to avoid suspicion, they would want to order the sequence in pieces and put it together themselves.

Possible safeguards for this system are discussed in the interview.

Honestly, this isn't the first time I've heard a discussion of how (relatively) easy it would be to create a formidable bio-weapon. And I still think the kind of damage a smart, dedicated individual or small group could do makes it imperative that serious participants in human enhancement research give some thought as to how society is going to protect itself from ruthless, fanatical and/or psychotic people who have augmented minds. If Al Qaeda were over run with members who could build weapons of mass destruction, we would be living in a very different world today.

Yet it hasn't taken enhanced intelligence for terrorists, drug cartels, warlords, pirates and criminals of every stripe and background (including white collar) to create tremendous suffering in the world in recent years. So what happens when the capacity to create bio-weapons becomes widespread? When the capacity to do even more devastating things becomes widespread?

That's the kind of game plan you want to have figured out before every lunatic on Earth has their own pandemic and the trained pigeons to distribute it.

Future Imperative

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Consumer's Guide to Human Enhancement Resources? -- ACL, Bio, Body, CPS, Cyber, Long, MA, Mind, Myst, Noo, Psych, Soc

Dr. Win Wenger, an accelerated learning and creativity researcher and the author of many books on those subjects, has put forth the following proposal to everyone in the human enhancement/ human augmentation field:

I hereby renew my suggestion, which I issue from time to time, that various interests and various programs join together to create a "Consumer's Guide" to the various resources offered as enhancing human abilities, well-being, learning, and creative problem-solving. Can anyone here, with connection to other programs, draw said program's attention to this invitation and join Project Renaissance in at least very preliminary explorations toward such a project?

Programs which have really good resources and techniques to offer for such effects, have the most to gain other than the wider public who could then be engaging these resources with much better confidence and information. Which programs would be interested in exploring such a project and possible "Consumer's Guide?"

I agree with Dr. Wenger that a fair, honest, accurate consumer's guide, stripped of corporate hype and simply assessing those enhancement/augmentation techniques that are already available would have a powerful impact on the field of human development. For those interested in such a collaboration, or even discussing the concept, here is the contact info from Dr. Wenger's website. His Yahoo discussion group can be found here (joining is free) and his other discussion group (if you just want to pop in) is here.

Future Imperative

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Creeping Revolution or... Meet the New Boss, Scrap the Old Boss -- AI, Soc, $$$

Well, if you enjoy the self-assurance of knowing, whatever the AI enthusiasts may say, that artificial intelligence research is still limping aimlessly along at a snail's pace -- and possibly in the wrong direction... well, if you prefer to think that way, please skip this article. And also this one, which discusses another incremental step towards rudimentary intelligence in machines. The mobile robot system IFOMIND is described thus:

IFOMIND reacts initially in an 'instinctive' way to its first perception of an unknown object that it encounters; at first it is generally fearful. However, because the robot is equipped with a human-like capability of inquisitiveness, it realises that it can react in another way and does not have to be scared of something that may not be harmful to it.

So, the robot observes the object from a distance and takes note of how it behaves and how it reacts to different approaches; the robot is then able to decide on the best approach or whether to avoid it. This knowledge can then be retained by the robot as it carries on and meets many more objects.

This is a leap forward in the domain of Machine Intelligence as IFOMIND is able to use logical thought processes in order to decide the best way to interact with the objects that it meets. David Bell from the IFOMIND team explains, "A system that can observe events in an unknown scenario, learn and participate as a child would is a major challenge in AI. We have not achieved this, but we think we've made a small advance."

Frankly, I "got nervous" when non-AI computers evidenced the ability to perform scientific research -- in one case by sifting through medical reports looking for potential dual-use/multi-use drugs, and in the other by systematically testing the genome of a simple animal one gene at a time to determine what each gene does. That was pretty stellar.

But this kind of modest, steady progress can be revolutionary also -- even if it doesn't lead to omniscient god-computers or rebelling robot armies. Why? Because these incremental steps towards adaptable systems could eventually lead to the development of machines capable of independent, relatively unsupervised action.

Imagine you've got an automated Taco Bell. But instead of just having a robotic assembly line churning out your food as soon as you've punched in your order and paid at the drive through, imagine that the "owner" isn't human either. Instead, a limited AI did an analysis of traffic flows and consumer preferences in your area and bought this particular franchise based upon its own best projections. It may have hired a part-time human manager or technician to keep an eye on the business, or it may have been able to replace those positions as well.

Does buying and managing a Taco Bell seem like a complex series of tasks? Then consider an even simpler proposition. Suppose you have a computer analyzing data about the movement of consumers and general foot traffic in a mid-sized city. Said computer then determines where the best locations are for locating vending machines, based upon a relatively simple equation that takes into account the cost of renting space, known buying habits in established locations, any demographic information available, and, of course, the cost of actually relocating a vending machine, so it doesn't move them around willy-nilly.

Said computer, operating through email, post, voicemail and the occasional "face man" human representative, could essentially be "in charge of" an entire business operation for that city -- all the Coke machines, for example. Once the model worked for one city, and one brand of vending machines, it could be extended to others.

Why would this be revolutionary? Simple businesses like fast food, holding rental properties or even managing vending machines may not be very complicated, but if they can be run by computers with virtually no human oversight -- even with regards to critical decision-making -- then you have essentially introduced new actors to your overall economy. Instead of merely attempting to enhance the productivity of our exisiting workers for a particular business, we may be able to create businesses that operate almost independently of human oversight. In other words, we may be able to take a step towards that mythical notion, the "Living Corporation."

In particular, those businesses which can be broken down into basic mathematical formulas and simple elements (basic products, agreements, locations) with few variables (such as the vending machine scenario above) will be particularly workable options. Instead of being "cogs in the machine," these machines will be driving economic decisions. Now, you might ask, "How does this differ from the automation that's been going on since the Industrial revolution?"

This situation differs because the historical trend in automation has generally been to replace unskilled workers engaged in brute labor with more skilled and/or educated workers. So you might substitute one semi-skilled worker with a bulldozer for 50 unskilled people with shovels. Even when people doing mentally challenging work have been replaced by machines -- such as accountants being replaced by user-friendly accounting programs -- the trend has been to eliminate only repetitive tasks requiring little judgement.

In theory, the above machines would be following this trend, except that we would no longer be retaining that last worker or workers. The machines, to an extent, would be capable of looking after themselves. Which means that instead of assisting those who drove actual economic activity, they would be driving that activity themselves.

You might also ask, "How does this differ from computers which are doing independent biotech research? How is replacing entrepreneurs and managers a dramatic improvement over replacing scientists?"

Well, in many ways the digital businessentity and the independent cyberscientist are co-equal as revolutionary forces -- because they fill the same role. You're not just increasing worker productivity, you're replacing critical workers whose efforts are key to driving the economy. Instead of just trying to increase the productivity of a certain set, finite number of workers in your population, you are effectively increasing the size of your working population altogether. And you are increasing that population without expanding the overall demand on most of your infrastructure. (Electrical and communications grids, yes; housing and transportation, no.)

A common concern in U.S. high-tech executive circles is the lack of new American engineers and scientists being produced by American universities and the faltering stream of technically immigrants compensating for that shortfall. If computer systems can be designed to replace multiple scientists and technicians in doing critical, if basic, scientific research, then it is possible to dramatically increase the number of de facto scientists in your country by acquiring and utilizing vast numbers of such systems.

As with the "businessentity" programs, some science will be easier to adapt to automated researchers. The Human Genome Project probably contained some early examples, biotech research could undoubtedly make use of more (if only by expanding upon the two systems already active) as could any field in which the systematic collection, parsing and coelation/analysis of data would be profitable. For example, cataloging every object in the visible sky while noting anomalies, likely planet-bearing systems, etc. The most complex and inspirational kinds of scientific work like developing major new theories will still require human scientists. But this latter work will only require the best scientists we have today. People who are doing plodding, pedestrian work -- or who are doing a lot of repetitive "grunt work" for a paycheck or as graduate students -- will be in far less demand. Our ability to replace or even multiply less brilliant scientists with computers changes the entire research and development end of a region's economic equation.

How immanent are the "living corporation" programs in this equation? Sadly, there's probably a spambot program out there which already meets these criteria, and probably more than one currency speculation system which does so. These, obviously, are fields where the business was easily broken down into numbers, equations and discrete products and strategies. But as the technology and our understanding of its potential improve, more and more status quo businesses will be interpreted into a virtual battlefield which these machines can understand and thrive in.

How will these changes effect economies and societies? I strongly suspect we will find ourselves in a race with our own machines as well as the rest of the world. But it is not necessarily a race we don't want to run. If artificial entrepreneurs and pseudo-AI scientists become widespread, and if, at the same time, more and more manufacturing and physical labor are being automated as well, we may discover our strongest economic and human imperative is to educate people to fill those many jobs our robots and computers will still be unable to handle.

Using various methods of human augmentation, creating superhumanly intelligent and creative scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, writers, leaders, etc may prove to be relatively easy. The will to embrace any form of radically improved human ability may prove very challenging. But faced with the alternative, many people will take that option, rather than be left in the dust.

Future Imperative

There Is No Stop Button in the Race for Human Re-Engineering -- Bio, Soc

Madeleine Bunting of The Guardian has written an article on human enhancement technologies. Bunting expresses some concerns about the pace and disruptive potential of human augmentation -- even her "most positive" scenario is meant to be rather disturbing. After discussing her daughter's quandary about whether to take nootropic drugs to keep up mentally with everyone else at work and whether to give her granddaughter intelligence enhancements -- which she does, to dramatic effect -- we learn...

The other thing that concerns us is that many of the children in my grandchild's school have had much better enhancement programmes. The cleverest went to China for the latest technology. I can see that my grand-child is never going to keep up. At the moment, she doesn't mind that she's bottom of her class, but she'll be lucky to get to a good university. The one hope I've got is that they might introduce quotas for "naturals" or "near-naturals" like her.

Bunting's best point, though, is that Europe would be well served by getting into a debate that has mainly raged on this side of the Atlantic (if quietly, from the perspective of the typical American).

It's time we got our heads around this debate on this side of the Atlantic so that we can influence what technologies are developed, rather than leaving it to the scientists and the pharmaceutical and military interests who sponsor their research. There's a growing sense of urgency to get the public debate up to speed with what's at stake.

Last week, a remarkable exercise in public consultation in Brussels, Meeting of Minds, drew people from across the EU together to discuss the subject. Next week, the thinktank Demos launches a pamphlet, Better Humans. Oxford University's Said Business School is hosting a big international conference, Tomorrow's People, in March - at which Garreau is a keynote speaker.

The point well made by Better Humans is how far advanced public acceptance is of many of the principles that underlie these technologies. So we're not talking about radical new steps, only an acceleration of existing trends. For example, if you can have Viagra for an enhanced sexual life, why not a Viagra for the mind? Is there a meaningful difference? If we show such enthusiasm for "improving" our noses and breasts with cosmetic surgery, why not also improve our brains? As computers continue to increase in power and shrink in size, why shouldn't we come to use them as prostheses, a kind of artificial limb for the brain? If we have successfully lengthened life expectancy with good sanitation and diet, why can't we lengthen it with new drugs? Ritalin is already being traded in the classroom by US students to help improve their concentration.

Bunting doesn't feel there's a "stop button" available to halt augmentation research (if only because making medical advances against very real diseases are too important to shut down dual-use research). But I think her point that far more people need to be engaged in this debate, or at least cognizant of it, is extremely well taken.

Future Imperative

Invention-on-Demand Training -- ACL, CPS

I have always found the creativity enhancing and accelerated learning methods I've learned from Dr. Win Wenger to be exceptionally productive. So when I found this advertisement for a weekend training workshop for developing inventive abilities in which he will be a trainer and which will feature a number of his innovations, I knew I had to share it.

As quoted from the web page on WinWenger.Com:

World Premiere — March 31 through April 2, 2006

Program Schedule
Friday, March 31, 2006 — 10:00-5:00
Saturday, April 1, 2006 — 9:00-5:00
Sunday, April 2, 2006 — 9:00-4:00

Holiday Inn Gaithersburg
2 Montgomery Village Avenue, Gaithersburg, MD 20879
(see directions below)

$395 for the full three days
Register online below

In one astonishingly short weekend, become able to immediately see your way clear to the best hypothesis to test. Discover your way into ranges of scientific or technical consideration — a decade or more ahead of your peers.

Trained in Invention-On-Demand, you can, if you wish, forever afterward come up with meaningful original inventions or invention concepts every day, often simply as asides to your ongoing everyday activities.

Invention-On-Demand trains you in the experience and skills of creating invention, innovation and discovery ideas. Invention-On-Demand does not teach how to develop your invention or discovery, nor how to get rich inventing. But Invention-On-Demand does give you some extraordinarily effective problem-solving skills which might be of some help even to those processes, should you apply them for such purpose.

How these methods were discovered:
For decades, Project Renaissance has specialized in methods for retrieving in useful form the information you already know on key matters. The 2300 years of proven success with Socratic Method point one clear avenue to this a priori knowledge. Albert Einstein's "Deep Thought Experiments" discovery technique, through which he learned relativity, was a signpost on another avenue used by Kekule, Elias Howe, Nicola Tesla and others.

Both of these avenues have been greatly modernized and others discovered as a result of Win Wenger's proposing, in 1967, that if you have a good problem-solving method, one of the best problems to work it on is on the problem of how to create better problem-solving methods. One of the best problems to work those on in turn is, of course: ......! That simple principle, re-investing your best method into the creation of even better methods, has helped drive nearly four decades of new problem-solving, discovery and inventing methods.

Invention-On-Demand now brings you the rewarding results of all those decades of ever-escalating discovery.

If you've been trained only in science fact and ritual instead of in scientific inquiry and disciplined spirit of inquiry, and consequently believe that formal scientific method is the best or even the only problem-solving method of value and relevance, you are cordially invited to use scientific method on the question of how to make a better method! Is "scientific method" (and/or your grasp of it) good enough to let you do that?

Key resources you'll acquire:
Meanwhile, here's the short-cut to some of the best methods yet found, the key bases of some of the resources you'll acquire in this world-premiere training session of Invention-On-Demand, conducted by Project Renaissance and facilitated by Win Wenger, Ph.D., with Charles P. Roman and Andre de Zanger.

* Master the key visual-thinking techniques — Einsteinian Deep Thought Experiment Discovery Method — and go Albert Einstein one better. Match the visual-thinking skills of Nicola Tesla. Project Renaissance has uncovered a basic natural phenomenon, ongoing in every human being, which is the most sensitive and accurate known means to sort among and assemble insights from long-forgotten information and awarenesses and relate them to current questions and situations.

Better than 99% of all human individuals prove able to use the basic modern form of Einsteinian method — ImageStreaming — and the many other visual thinking procedures which stem from it. Had Einstein himself had the advantage of these modern forms of his process, he probably would have been able to discover his long-sought unified field theory, even from the base of such understandings that existed then. Once equipped with these modern forms, you have a considerable advantage even over Albert Einstein.

* Master modern Socratic Method — Learn easy, astonishingly productive ways to draw forth, from yourself and from others, your deepest, subtlest awarenesses on whatever topic, question or problem.

Science now understands why, over 2300 years, practice of even traditional forms of Socratic Method always led toward understanding and towering intellectual achievement. Project Renaissance has been able to apply science's understandings to render new forms of Socratic Method not only even more reliably productive, but easier to perform than what you are doing now.

* Master some third- and fourth-generation advanced descendants of the Osborn-Parnes CPS methodology which started the whole world-wide creativity movement. Rapid Flow Method is a descendant both of Osborn-Parnes CPS Method and the free-creating "brainstorming" principle established by Alex Osborn, and of the "Flow" principles developed by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi.
Even more important to creativity than "suspended judgment" is speed of process, in surges which literally pull forth hidden insights and awarenesses. Alternate these with critical judgment phases in order to "pull the weeds from your gardens of truth."

Such creating and judging are like two feet of the mind — you need to move each foot freely in its turn to get very far, instead of trying to hop all your way on one foot the way so many people try to go through life and career. The Windtunnel Method is one of many excellent demonstrations of these key principles.

* Become adept at Notice-Focusing — Noticing little oddities, even noticing the seemingly common-place, is behind many if not most of the greater inventions and scientific discoveries. Those "lucky few" who made those breakthroughs? "Most men stumble across breakthrough discoveries," said Sir Winston Churchill, "but most of us then pick ourselves up and walk away."

We all have ongoing streams of awareness within us containing elements which, if noticed, would make for such breakthroughs. How to notice those ongoing streams and those breakthrough-making elements? Project Renaissance has developed devices, methods, "windows" through which you may far more easily notice these things and make use of them. Even before or outside of the Invention-On-Demand training workshop, request Sidebands from Win Wenger and receive, for free, easy, comfortable, convenient-for-you sets of instructions for review and ready practice.

* Acquire an easy, instant way to apply the TRIZ system, even if you've never learned that highly involved system before — with the aid of the ingenious de Zanger Inventium cardpack. The TRIZ system analyzed out most of the unifying principles to be found behind all patented inventions and discoveries. Understanding these will readily guide you to solutions to current technical and scientific issues and problems. Normally, it takes months or years of intense applied study to learn and make good use of the TRIZ system. De Zanger's ingenious Inventium cardpack system has you permanently on top of that in an hour or less.

* Build scientific and technical discovery techniques for finding great, immediate shortcuts to the best hypothesis to test. Find your way in minutes or hours instead of costly years.

* Never, ever again be at a loss for what to try next. Time costs! You no longer have to wait for inspiration — find that it is already there, waiting for you to consciously notice it.

* Equip yourself hands-on with an astonishingly wide and varied range of profoundly effective techniques to facilitate invention, innovation and discovery.

Special Exception:
We advised above that Invention-On-Demand is a hands-on workshop training in how to conceptualize inventions, innovations and discoveries. Except for certain very basic problem-solving skills, this is not a training in how to develop your inventions. However, one exception to that limiting statement is that we will feature, Sunday afternoon, the Win/Win-Finder as a means to search for backing and markets for such items as you (and/or we) choose to pursue development of. This is a systems-based sorting and mapping of stakeholders and potential stakeholders which is amazingly helpful in planning your strategies for seeking support and for working around, or even converting, previously unsuspected sources of resistance. In a group, Win/Win-Finder is a lot of fun — but is also extraordinarily illuminating.

Other Caveats:
How practical can this Invention-On-Demand training be? As you know, few independent inventors any longer see their brainchildren make it through to development and remuneration. The only parts of the world that beat a path to your door for that better mousetrap are development firms, which make their money not from development but from sale of their services to struggling inventors. However, a few positive exceptions have emerged, and also some options which most inventors haven't thought of. So if you are acting as an individual, don't expect automatic easy riches — but don't rule them out, either. For you, this weekend will be as practical as you can make it — more so while you have a workshop-full of problem-solving partners to help you make it so.

If you are already part of a technological or scientific enterprise, with or without your colleagues this weekend can be the most productive of your life thus far. If you are in major projects, or if you are going after discoveries or inventions involving several advanced technologies together or which are otherwise complex, you will be especially interested in the team versions of the Beachhead scenario excursions, where you can marshal together some of your most advanced and varied specialists on common and highly challenging invention and discovery projects.

Getting A Jump Ahead on Some of Our Methods:
This can only help you derive still more value from the Invention-On-Demand weekend and build both your experiences there and the skills you take from there to a handsomely higher level. Some of the already-published methods you might want to steal a march on include:

* Inclined toward making basic discoveries and toward formal problem-solving? — Have a go at the four methods posted free online as a fair sample, which are yours self-taught in Idea Generator.

* The above-mentioned Win/Win-Finder is described, explained, and self-taught through a set of specific step-by-step instructions, free online for you to preview.

* The late Leo Zajac's Inventing Method, derived from Osborn-Parnes CPS, begins on page 113 of Win Wenger's book, Discovering The Obvious. In exploratory group sessions, this method was so very productive of invention ideas that participants were very reluctant to move on to any other method.

* Windtunnel problem-solving, mentioned above, a remote descendant of both Socratic Method and Osborn-Parnes CPS, is also free online.

* The Inventium Deck for inventing and ingenious creative problem-solving, derived from TRIZ, was created by and is available from Andre de Zanger at The Creativity Institute.

* ImageStreaming, the basic modern version of Einsteinian Discovery Technique, many of its applications, and even how to teach it — an entire self-taught curriculum — is free online. More than a dozen other authors and programs and disciplines have started teaching ImageStreaming since Win Wenger's discovery of the phenomenon in 1973. This basic skill feeds into nearly every other skill and ability. The workshop will teach some especially focused forms of ImageStreaming.

* Several of the various Beachhead scenario discovery and invention methods are online and self-taught on pages 123-165 of Win's book, Discovering The Obvious. This family of methods is the most advanced visual-thinking work you will find anywhere, remarkably productive of understandings, insights, useful perspectives, and workable detail.

Andre de Zanger, Ph.D., is Co-Director of the NYC-based Creativity Institute. He is an engineer, inventor, author, and seminar leader. He has facilitated “Creative-Innovation” projects at AT&T, Bell Labs, Ogilvy and Mathers, United Technologies, Federal Reserve and the DOD. He is the author of The Creative Genius Book, Zingers, TRIZ—40 Principles of Inventing, and Instant Selling. He co-authored the creativity chapter in The Advertising Manager's Handbook (1997) and The Tao of Living on Purpose (1998). Andre is creator of the INVENTIUM® Card Game and inventor of the “Flasher” (an anti-theft auto device). He also is co-creator of the “Creativity Machine”, a creativity computer software program.

Charles P. Roman has an MS in Nuclear Engineering and is a certified senior reactor operator instructor. Chuck is also certified as a Project Management Professional and has been a project manager for Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh for over 15 years. He has co-authored, with Win Wenger, the new Core Book Image-Streaming, and teaches classes in creative problem-solving at a local community college. Chuck is also a certified trainer on behalf of Project Renaissance.

Win Wenger, Ph.D., is the source for much of what will be taught in Invention-On-Demand. Founder and president of Project Renaissance, Win has invented and developed more than one hundred new methods of creative problem-solving and innovation, many of which are now in professional use around the world. Win has facilitated workshops in many locations around the world. He has authored and published forty-nine books and is co-author of the international near best-seller, The Einstein Factor. He has taught at the annual Creative Problem-Solving Institute, a kind of world Congress on creativity, every year since 1977, and is the one who discovered that every effective creativity-related method can also serve as a powerful accelerated-learning method. He founded the branch of social theory known as Sociotectonics. A few of his inventions can be viewed online under Inventions.

Tuition for all three days combined is $395 for this first-ever, world-premiere demonstration training session of the Invention-On-Demand program. Space for this inaugural session is very limited. Register online via our secure shopping cart by clicking the REGISTER button below. When the order form opens, select "Registration" in the pull-down menus for shipping and sales tax to prevent these from being automatically added by the program.

3-day Invention-On-Demand Training Workshop, $395

Holiday Inn Gaithersburg, 2 Montgomery Village Avenue, Gaithersburg, MD 20879, phone 301-948-8900, fax 301-258-1940. It faces major route 355, and only one block off interstate I-270. Because of its convenient location, various shuttle services run directly to this Holiday Inn from Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore International Airport in Maryland.

Room rate at the Holiday Inn, if you announce as part of the Project Renaissance training there, is only $79.00 per night.

One short, intense weekend and you can easily invent-on-demand, invent-at-will, discover and invent as prolifically as you please for a lifetime. You will have a start on that lifetime by creating one or more unique original inventions of your own during the hands-on experiences through which you build those skills, in the world premier session of the Invention-On-Demand training workshop, as created by Project Renaissance, Box 332, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20884-0332 U.S.A. Questions to Win Wenger.

Future Imperative

Monday, January 30, 2006

X3 (X-Men 3) Coming Out -- Let the Pop Culture Enhancement Debate Begin -- Soc, Super

Apparantly you need Quicktime 7 to open this trailer for the new X-Men movie. Having seen the preview in movie theaters, I find it interesting that perhaps the most influential voice on the subject of human augmentation (pro or con) may be a movie about rebel mutant superheroes. I will say more on this subject later, but it goes without saying that X-Men comics and films tend to avoid the cliche suspicion of all forms of enhancement found in more "bio-conservative" fiction.

The X-Men, needless to say, are the heroes of their own film. And the automatic assumption many bio-conservatives have about biotech enhancement -- that it's recipients will no longer be definitively "human" -- is not one the X-Men try to finesse. They're not human... biologically. Their differences range from relatively trivial to the profound, but X-Men's mutants are most definitely not members of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

But in spirit, mutants are most definitely like you and me, for good or for evil. Of course, by making these people so clearly human in their essential nature, X-Men comics steer away from fully exploring what it would mean to be far beyond the mortal sphere in terms of, say, intelligence. But occasionally they go into those questions, too. Not bad for four-color comic book characters...

The "shame" of this movie, though, is that most people don't know much more about human enhancement than the limited science fiction glimpses they've already received, and most science fiction films lack the educational virtues of Gattacca.

Perhaps even more telling is the fact that no one has yet proposed a code of ethics for "superior beings" more involved than the X-Men's general sense of heroic virtue, of helping those unable to help themselves. Or a philosophy more powerful than Spider-Man's "With great power comes great responsibility."

This lack of a strong sense of ethics is of concern to me, as I personally am more concerned with the general moral inclinations of the average human being apt to undergo human augmentation in the near future. Where the X-Men were augmented by a quirk of nature or other unseen forces, we real-world humans are in a position to choose. Which means the things we're personally apt to choose are of particular interest in developing human enhancement policies. We can't assume augmentees will fall neatly into categories such as "Iconic Hero," "Dastardly Villain," "Raving Fanatic," "Self-Absorbed Narcissist" or "Hapless Sheep."

Real people are going to be more complicated. And as far as the readers of this site are concerned, if you end up on the leading edge of this wave, then with the resources available and open field ahead of you, you'll have a vast range of options to choose from. Including exactly where you fit, or don't fit, on the above scale. Or on any other scale, assuming your life can still be measured by any conventional yardstick at all.

So give it a bit of thought. What do I want to be like when I get to this place? And how do I want to get there?

Future Imperative

And the Tortoise Becomes the Hare -- Exoskeletons for Strength and Mobility -- Soc, Tech

This article on international exoskeleton research from IEEE Spectrum is worth a quick glance. Exoskeletons, of course, are robotic limbs and shells which lend their wearers enhanced, mechanical strength. The article comments:

Science-fiction fans have long become accustomed to the idea of steely commandos clad in robotic exoskeletons taking on huge, vicious, extraterrestrial beasts, shadowy evil cyborgs, or even each other. Supersoldiers encased in sleek, self-powered armor figure memorably in such works as Robert A. Heinlein's 1959 novel Starship Troopers, Joe W. Haldeman's 1975 The Forever War, and many other books and movies. In 1999's A Good Old-Fashioned Future, for example, Bruce Sterling writes of a soldier dying after crashing in his "power-armor, a leaping, brick-busting, lightning-spewing exoskeleton."

This article gives a good overview of relatively recent exoskeleton research. The idea of "power armor" is, naturally, of particular interest to advanced militaries such as America's. Giving every infantryman the capacity to carry more powerful weapons and a truly bulletproof shell of armor would in fact make the average soldier "superhuman" compared to most unenhanced "groundpounders." Curiously, such "armor" already exists in the form of powerful vehicles -- tanks, hoverjets and so forth. While conventional vehicles can not be taken into small spaces or provided affordably to every combat specialist, such armor conceivably could be. Thus creating a "walking tank."

Similar advantages would also accrue to other professionals who need to carry powerful equipment into harms way -- firemen, emergency rescue personnel, etc.

The article includes a quick summary of major exoskeleton projects in America, Europe and Asia. A gallery of images showing various innovations is also included.

Future Imperative

Feedback on... South Korea Is Building Legions of Robots -- Soc, Tech

One reader offered the following comment on my article on military and security robots in South Korea:

An all-machine army could be easily defeated by an E.M. Pulse. I do think that in the future, wars will be fought my computer, especially as we start adding computer intelligence to do everything for us. Terrorist will be able to commit crimes from a remote server and not even set foot in the US.

To which I replied...

Most electronics-dependent military equipment is shielded against EMP radiation. A simple Faraday cage will suffice.

Your point is well-taken, though. An EMP generator or just a huge jammer could be used to cut off remote controlled vehicles from their controllers, either rendering them useless in some situations or even making them vulnerable to subversion or critical logic errors.

As to your point about cyber-terrorism, it's already prevalent. Advisors to the Chinese military have already recommended it as a method of "asymmetrical warfare" (as it's called in American military jargon) for use against a conventional superpower. The Pentagon and other U.S. military sites are apparently being assailed by hackers all the time, making it difficult to determine who is merely a hobbyist, who is a criminal/subversive/anarchist hacker, and who might be an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist.

So your latter prediction has, to some degree, already come true. Incidentally, my favorite kind of prophecy... =)

Future Imperative