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Homo Evolutis
February 18, 2009 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Juan Enriquez: Tech evolution will eclipse the financial crisis. "Even as mega-banks topple, Juan Enriquez says the big reboot is yet to come. But don't look for it on your ballot -- or in the stock exchange. It'll come from science labs, and it promises keener bodies and minds. Our kids are going to be ... different."
posted by homunculus (41 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Futurists make PZ Myers cranky.
posted by homunculus at 9:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Where's my hovercar? And get off my damn space lawn.
posted by ryoshu at 9:42 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tech Boom 2.0
posted by pompomtom at 9:43 PM on February 18, 2009


Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Spice must flow.
posted by orthogonality at 9:47 PM on February 18, 2009


LOLTranshumanists
posted by eclectist at 10:01 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


'Homo Evolutis'

Anyway I doubt these new super beings are going to be genetically incomparable from us and therefore -- not another species.
posted by delmoi at 10:05 PM on February 18, 2009


Our kids are going to be ... different.

They already are, if we go by child obesity rates.
posted by grounded at 10:07 PM on February 18, 2009 [11 favorites]


er, I meant to say genetically incompatible.
posted by delmoi at 10:08 PM on February 18, 2009


Is it going to be like "Cocoon?" Is Tahnee Welch involved in some way?
posted by krinklyfig at 10:11 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


ULTIMATE REBOOT

That really doesn't sound like a good thing...
posted by heathkit at 10:14 PM on February 18, 2009


Is it going to be like "Cocoon?" Is Tahnee Welch involved in some way?

Unfortunately no, but a naked Wilford Brimley will get into the shower with you, and ask if you want a piece of candy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [9 favorites]


D I A B E E T U S
posted by orthogonality at 10:20 PM on February 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


yeah; we're barely halfway through the UNIX epoch & I think the difference between 2038 and 2009 is going to be bigger than the difference between 1970 & now.

This is kinda a dumb crisis since on the whole we are already immensely more wealthy now than we were in the 1970s. . . .we've let rising home values and rents keep us on a treadmill, hiding how much easier life is now than it was in the 1970s.

I'm typing this on a Dynabook 100X better than what Alan Kay dared dream; music and video playing is 100X better now than then, computer games are 100X better, the practice of medicine is at least 10X better, or would be if we trained more doctors, the web is about a trillion times better than a set of encyclopedias and the Readers Guide to Periodic Literature.

The energy economy, brain-computer intercommunication, CAD-CAM, medicine -- all of these will quite possibly progress more in the next 30 years than they have in the previous 30.
posted by troy at 10:27 PM on February 18, 2009


So, this new species won't need food or water or oil or a stable environment in which to live?

*peers into future, puts on shades*
posted by you just lost the game at 10:28 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


computer games are 100X better

I'm sending my ZorkBots back to prove you wrong. FROM THE FUTURE.
posted by ryoshu at 10:53 PM on February 18, 2009


Did he really mean to imply there would be a new species within the next hundred years or so that will be able to ~make its own evolution~ or whatever (and called it "homo evolutis")? That's what he said but it's surprising to hear such a horrible misinterpretation of evolution in a TED talk. Now the futurist stuff I'm kind of used to, and have grown accustomed to groaning at the "TECHNOLOGY!!!!" pronouncements and silly transhumanist stuff and the like. Can't we just talk about the technology without positing how it will radically transform "our" future? I say "our" because I am unsure if myself or my grandkids or whomever will have the status to join the space country club self-evolvers of HOMO EVOLUTIS.

Sorry it just seems like a common thread in mediocre TED talks where some guy goes on about a few neat new technologies or research or something and decides it will CHANGE EVERYTHING. Stop trying to show off and just talk about the neat thing(s).
posted by palidor at 10:58 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, he doesn't even explain what any of that has to do with the financial crisis or recession or anything besides labeling some waves on that one picture I inexplicably love. Seriously, he wrote the talk the night before at like 3 AM.
posted by palidor at 11:06 PM on February 18, 2009


All of this is moot. The upcoming galactic eclipse and the resulting Singularity is a mere three years away, after which we'll be telepathic lightbodies and won't need this crude...matter. It's best to imagine that said by Max von Sydow in his Ming the Merciless costume.
posted by zardoz at 11:19 PM on February 18, 2009


It's best to imagine that said by Max von Sydow in his Ming the Merciless costume.

I see your Max von Sydow and raise you Maximilian Schell at 1:45
posted by Sparx at 1:20 AM on February 19, 2009


in, oddly enough, his Maximillian costume.
posted by Sparx at 1:24 AM on February 19, 2009


Does this mean in the future the penis enlargement products in spam will actually work?
posted by chillmost at 2:44 AM on February 19, 2009


This 'we' doesn't really include that many people, does it?
posted by tawny at 2:56 AM on February 19, 2009


palidor, I agree that the whole transhuman/posthuman thing is mostly tired (excepting assemblage and actor-network theory) because it conflates technological use with biological change.

Enriquez is talking about something entirely different. Not sure if you got far enough (or too far) into his talk to see this but he's talking about the technological and genetic modification of our organs and genome. By directly affecting the kinds of bacteria, to use one of Enriquez's examples, that process waste in our bloodstream, we and our descendants directly manipulate the path of our evolution.

Some of it is hypertechnologized cyborgism, sure. But the bioengineering is of an order of sophistication beyond what passes as transhuman forecasting.

Homo evolutis, in my opinion, is a perfect term and, to answer delmoi, I do think some group of the individuals produced by such techniques will be genetically, if not sexually, incompatible with plain ol' vanilla-chocolate-and-strawberry homo sapiens.
posted by mistersquid at 4:21 AM on February 19, 2009


People definitely ARE changed by technology so I don't think the transhumanists are wrong in their vision. However, they are still completely boring to listen to because they are all wrong in the details, which is where the devil is.

Moreover, they (by and large) take no action. They are armchair inventors, which is the worst kind. "Won't the world be awesome/terrible when Magical Power X is available?" Why not work on creating/preventing Magical Power X rather than pretending you can predict what the outcome will be, if you are so excited about/afraid of it.
posted by DU at 4:34 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can we please use this post as the gravestone for TED posts? Enough with the echo-chamber for techno-twaddle.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:15 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


"With the massive growth in mandatory spending, Enriquez called for an end to entitlements, and a return to the acceptance of austerity. Tough times are unavoidable."
How will I afford all this awesome transhumanist surgery? By pimping myself out?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:15 AM on February 19, 2009


Not all of TED is techno, let alone twaddle.
posted by DU at 6:30 AM on February 19, 2009


"Don't worry about today's problems! Tomorrow, we're all gonna get PRESENTS."
posted by 235w103 at 6:46 AM on February 19, 2009


But will they have a plan?
posted by thivaia at 7:35 AM on February 19, 2009


Moreover, they (by and large) take no action. They are armchair inventors, which is the worst kind. "Won't the world be awesome/terrible when Magical Power X is available?" Why not work on creating/preventing Magical Power X rather than pretending you can predict what the outcome will be, if you are so excited about/afraid of it.

Not always the case. Kurzweil for instance has invented and improved a whole hell of a lot of stuff. Sure he's a kook, but he's my favorite kook.
posted by Foosnark at 8:15 AM on February 19, 2009


ULTIMATE REBOOT OF ULTIMATE DESTINY!
posted by Michael Roberts at 9:31 AM on February 19, 2009


Right, I'm pretty OK with Kurzweil. He likes to show off the future, not just wave his arms grandly and shout "one day all this will be yours!"
posted by DU at 9:47 AM on February 19, 2009


I've come to accept the TED talks as grand entertainment — a kind of edified Toastmasters — but a poor vehicle for real ideas or thought. Why is that? I don't know. Somehow the premium seems to be on conveying a sensation of insight without the pain and give-and-take of real insights. (I dare you to stomach Elizabeth Gilbert's entire talk, for instance.) I'm sure some Romans thought the same thing when the powerful were jockeying for their prime-time gig speaking in the Senate. Oratory is seductive.

They seem to be this generation's middlebrow culture, the equivalent to Leonard Bernstein on the cover of Time in 1960's. And I think a functioning middlebrow culture is a good thing, but limited.

(FWIW: Enriquez' self-satisfaction is nearly unbearable. He just knows all this stuff, doesn't he?)
posted by argybarg at 10:59 AM on February 19, 2009


/facepalm. I'm continuously amazed by the naysayers that appear every time Kurzwiel and other appear around here. LOLTranshumanists!!! haha!! Granted, I may have been overly passionate about these themes when I read The Age of Intelligent Machines and The Singularity is Near, repeating all the main themes to everyone around me who would listen to me spout off about techno-utopia fueled by nanoswarms and benevolent super intelligent AI. I've since toned down my rhetoric to prevent from seeming too over enthusiastic and scaring people who are uncomfortable with the idea that we might implant computers into our brains to augment our memory, or let tiny machines swim through our blood to keep us healthy. It's as if there's not enough brain matter for some people to entertain the idea of a human/technology symbiosis that goes beyond the Borg or the Matrix.

My fiancee and I disagree tremendously on these issues. She likes to believe that everything that comes out my mouth is the gospel I believe, and loves to berate me for believing that my mortal death will be avoided by brain upload. She expects that I will become severely disappointed as life goes on and I reach old age and the Turning test has not been passed. I am as skeptical of her belief in a Living God.

This is the same fiancee that until last month was incapable of driving, reading or doing much of anything at all without glasses or contact lenses on. Now, after a thousand dollar hour long operation, she can see better than I do and has 20/15 vision in both eyes. Now I get to joke that she's the one who's been augmented.

As much as I might have been excited by the possibility of such things, I have become a bit more skeptical after reading some of the more well-reasoned arguments here on Mefi. Also some of the sustainability issues that have preceded the current financial crisis have made me question whether or not we'll get that far. Enriquez has put a little glimmer of hope back in my soul. What's so sensational about his talk of things that we are doing right now in the world?! We have quadriplegics with computer interfaces drilled directly into their skulls and some people are up in arms because this guy said we are are self-directing our own evolution?

I couldn't bring the haters out faster if I posted a link in defense of Pick Up Artists.
posted by daHIFI at 11:56 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I think futurists are a product of an urban culture divorced from nature. I don't think someone who hunts, or works with livestock, or who deals with our mortality on a day-to-day basis (like a nurse or neurosurgeon) can deny our biological and physiological limitations to the degree that someone who works in an office in New York or LA can.

It's easy to think all obstacles can be overcome when you've surmounted so few.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:59 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


My fiancee and I disagree tremendously on these issues. She likes to believe that everything that comes out my mouth is the gospel I believe, and loves to berate me for believing that my mortal death will be avoided by brain upload. She expects that I will become severely disappointed as life goes on and I reach old age and the Turning test has not been passed. I am as skeptical of her belief in a Living God.

Oh, baby! This is totally a wacky sit-com. She's an old school Christian; he's a transhumanist Singulatarian. Sort of like Dharma and Greg with more body mods.

Speaking only for myself, daHIFI, I'm happy to concede that some, maybe many, of the predictions made by people like Enriquez or Kurzweil will come to pass and I don't feel threatened by them. They're fun to entertain. It's the fervor with which such predictions are frequently proclaimed that sets people's eyes rolling, I think.

I couldn't bring the haters out faster if I posted a link in defense of Pick Up Artists.

Brains in vats don't need PUAs.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:17 PM on February 19, 2009


Hail the new flesh.

“she can see better than I do and has 20/15 vision in both eyes. Now I get to joke that she's the one who's been augmented.”

Y’know, what do you do if you’re 100% natural? Last time I took an eye test nurse asked me to read as far down on the bottom as I could and I read “made in Cincinnati, Oh, by the American Vision corporation” (or whoever made the chart). So I’m about 20/10. Most of my life if I haven’t been faster than someone else, I’ve been stronger, if not stronger than I have more endurance. And I’m pretty healthy. Can’t remember last time I was seriously ill.

So really, I don’t see the benefits. Or rather, they seem artificial to me.
Postman talked about the changes very basic technologies such as writing brings - e.g. people used their memories less.
Now, I wouldn’t argue things are worse because of the written word, and I wouldn’t say it’s not possible to develop and maintain a strong memory despite the use of whatever external system to keep track of stuff. Hell, given the complexity and depth of information we often work with, those advanced systems are necessary.
But how much of ‘augmentation’ is artificial to begin with?
I mean - took me a long time to tune and maintain a system of physical fitness. Someone who can just pop a pill full of nanomachines and lose the gut - that’s swell.
But there’s plenty of trade offs and a lot of side-benefits lost (e.g. time management, how to prioritize and coordinate certain muscle groups, body awareness, nutrition, etc.) if we assume a goal of limited focus.
Is it health when you just pop a pill and look thin? Or is health a set of practices integrated with your fitness?
I think it’s the latter.
So - more broadly speaking - that comes from an internal awareness and self-regulation, self-discipline, not from any technology.
Again, not arguing here against corrective eye surgery and such (although there’s a difference between fake breasts as a corrective - say from cancer - vs. the kissing bandit/ porn star fake balloons). Just asking what the hidden assumptions in the goals we’re seeking here are and what systems we may allow to atrophy in favor of what is only a surface appearance.

Seems to me cyborgs would get pretty fat given their fat burning muscles are replaced with (at least currently non-fat burning) robotics.
I’ve got an uncle who shy one leg. He’s got to bust his ass in the gym and watch his diet to make up for it.

Although I will slightly disagree with PZ Myers - I don’t like or dislike the whole speculation on how to classify augmented humans or deny there need be a classification given the extremity of modification (beyond, as I’ve been saying, just the for show stuff - putting those ground effect lights under your car doesn’t make it a hot rod, it’s still stock).

I agree folks are somewhat lost in terms of mixing it with the biological. But looking at it from a specialization POV - e.g. the skier thing - I think folks are just dancing around what this really is - the commodification of humans to serve certain conceptual ends (sports, etc.).
I mean, who the hell really needs to go down a mountain better?
A pro-skier makes money that way, but money itself is a human construct.
I’ll grant it’s a kind of environmental adaptation. And indeed a kind of evolution. But it’s an evolution within and adaptation for the human thoughtsphere, not of (as Myers says) nature.

Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t find a reinforced organic sheathed spine plenty useful when I want to move a hide-a-bed.
But there’s a lot to be said for technique.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:40 PM on February 19, 2009


I couldn't bring the haters out faster if I posted a link in defense of Pick Up Artists.

Try fedoras. Works every time.
posted by slogger at 3:10 PM on February 19, 2009


Speaking only for myself, daHIFI, I'm happy to concede that some, maybe many, of the predictions made by people like Enriquez or Kurzweil will come to pass and I don't feel threatened by them.

Neither do I. Why should I feel threatened, when I'm the one who's going to be re-booted into a giant time-travelling space robot? The rest of you should feel threatened. That is, of course, you want to join forces with me and do battle with Space Hitler.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:43 PM on February 19, 2009


Smedley, my boy, if you could augment your natural paragraphing abilities, your remarks would be so much easier to read.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:34 AM on February 20, 2009


octobersurprise - sorry man. Y’know, even on preview it looks ok. But then I punch it and it gets all screwy. I’m still trying to find a way to format this without it going goofy on me.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:56 AM on February 20, 2009


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