Monday, March 23, 2009

Terminator and Philosophy: I'll Be Back, Therefore I Am


Paperback 'Philosophy': Descartes meets Terminator - USATODAY.com: "Terminator and Philosophy is part of a series of more than a dozen paperbacks in which lowbrow pop culture meets highbrow academia. The book is due in May, just as Terminator Salvation hits theaters....

In each title, American and foreign academics write essays that use the philosophies of heavy hitters such as Nietzsche and Plato to answer the big questions raised by movies, TV shows, rock bands and video games."

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

TRANSCENDENT MAN Premieres at 2009 Tribeca Film Festival

TRANSCENDENT MAN Premieres at 2009 Tribeca Film Festival

This film looks to be worth seeing:

LOS ANGELES - (Business Wire) Filmmakers Barry and Felicia Ptolemy (Ptolemaic Productions) along with partners (Therapy Studios) make their festival debut at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival (April 22-May 3, 2009) with TRANSCENDENT MAN, which makes its world premiere in the World Documentary Feature Competition on April 25. No distributor is attached at this time. See below for premiere screening details.

The compelling feature-length documentary film--a first for Director Barry Ptolemy--chronicles the life and controversial ideas of luminary Ray Kurzweil. For more than three decades, inventor, futurist, and NY Times best-selling author Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future.

In TRANSCENDENT MAN, Ptolemy follows Kurzweil around the globe as he presents the daring arguments from his best-selling book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Kurzweil predicts that with the ever-accelerating rate of technological change, humanity is fast approaching an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly non-biological and trillions of times more powerful than today. This will be the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations. In Kurzweil’s post-biological world, there will be no clear distinction between human and machine, real reality and virtual reality. Human aging and illness will be reversed, world hunger and poverty will be solved, and we will ultimately cure death.

...Ptolemy expertly explores the social and philosophical implications of these profound changes and the potential threats they pose to human civilization in dialogues with world leaders such as Colin Powell; technologists Hugo de Garis, Peter Diamandis, Kevin Warwick, and Dean Kamen; journalists Kevin Kelly and Tom Abate; and luminary Stevie Wonder. Kurzweil himself maintains a radically optimistic view of the future course of human development, while acknowledging new dangers. As such, TRANSCENDENT MAN offers a view of the coming age that is both a dramatic culmination of centuries of technological ingenuity and a genuinely inspiring vision of our ultimate destiny.

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Designer Babies: A Right to Choose? | Wired Science from Wired.com


Designer Babies: A Right to Choose? | Wired Science from Wired.com

Wired.com has an interesting debate on creating designer babies. What I find interesting is the brief quotation in the introduction: the technology will, in a commercial world, get away from any ideals the creator of the technology might have had in mind.

"When a Los Angeles fertility clinic offered last month to let parents choose their kids' hair and eye color, public outrage followed. On March 2, the clinic shut the program down — and that, says transhumanist author James Hughes, is a shame.

According to Hughes, using reproductive technologies — in this case, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), in which doctors screen embryos before implanting them — for cosmetic purposes is just an old-fashioned parental impulse, translated into 21st century technology.

If nobody gets hurt and everybody has access, says Hughes, then genetic modification is perfectly fine, and restricting it is an assault on reproductive freedom. "It's in the same category as abortion. If you think women have the right to control their own bodies, then they should be able to make this choice," he said. "There should be no law restricting the kind of kids people have, unless there's gross evidence that they're going to harm that kid, or harm society."

Hughes' views are hardly universal. "I'm totally against this," said William Kearns, the medical geneticist who developed the techniques used by the Fertility Institutes for cosmetic purposes, in a newspaper interview. In the same article, Mark Hughes, one of the inventors of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, called its non-therapeutic use "ridiculous and irresponsible."

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Brain-machine interfaces for cyborgs


DVICE: Brain-machine interface today, cyborgs tomorrow: "While prosthetic limbs are common, real cyborgs remain in the realm of science fiction. That's because the trickiest part — creating a reliable brain-machine interface (BMI) — is a tough job, since we don't fully understand how the brain works. One man on the case, however, is Miguel Nicolelis, who's developed a chip that lets human brains communicate directly with robotic limbs, whether they're in the same room or on the other side of the world."

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Two-armed nanorobotic device can alter and exchange DNA

Chemists Create Two-armed Nanorobotic Device To Maneuver World's Tiniest Particles

"Chemists at New York University and China's Nanjing University have developed a two-armed nanorobotic device that can manipulate molecules within a device built from DNA. The device was described recently in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

"'The aim of nanotechnology is to put specific atomic and molecular species where we want them and when we want them there,' said NYU Chemistry Professor Nadrian Seeman, one of the co-authors. 'This is a programmable unit that allows researchers to capture and maneuver patterns on a scale that is unprecedented.'"

"The new, two-armed device employs DNA origami, a method unveiled in 2006 that uses a few hundred short DNA strands to direct a very long DNA strand to form structures that adopt any desired shape. ..."

"As with Seeman's previous creation, the two-armed nanorobotic device enables the creation of new DNA structures, thereby potentially serving as a factory for assembling the building blocks of new materials. With this capability, it has the potential to develop new synthetic fibers, advance the encryption of information, and improve DNA-scaffolded computer assembly."