Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SL discussion about Apocalyptic AI

Extropia DaSilva, one of the more significant SL folks whom I quote in my book, Apocalyptic AI, recently discussed ideas from the book at a Thinkers meeting in Second Life. She was kind enough to invite me but, unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to the summer research colloquium.

The transcript from her event is here.

There seemed to be issues of defining religion v. spirituality and religion/spirituality v. escapism (neither of which is necessarily a distinction i would make as they were being discussed: "spirituality" is a form of non-institutional religion invented rather recently and all religions, for whatever else they may also be, are to some extent escapism). They finished with an interesting discussion of the ontological status of SL avatars, focusing on what happens when an individual logs out of the system. The conversation seems (from the transcript) to have been reasonably lively and people seem to have been interested in the topic.

Whether or not I'm correct in seeing SL as a platform for religious activity remains, I'm afraid, as inconclusive as at the end of my book.  : )  Regardless, it's nice that people are engaging the ideas and appreciate the Extro enjoyed the book enough to be passing along some of its content.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

one among a multitude

i have been invited to join a foundation's board of advisors for the first time. along with some actual transhumanists (who probably have more to contribute!), i'm among the recently added members to the lifeboat foundation's enormous board. duties will apparently range from nothing to possibly engaging in their grant process and providing input when they put together working papers on stuff.

my wife wonders if this would constitute a conflict of interest, given that i do research about transhumanism. i don't think so, given that a) i've never mentioned the lifeboat foundation before (though i had heard of them) and don't intend to start and b) they're not giving me anything. hopefully i'm right. :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 ARIL colloquium and book progress

so i'm one week into my participation in the summer colloquium for the association for religion and intellectual life and crosscurrents.

it's been good thus far, though it's definitely had its quirks. on the first night, we all met and had dinner together. a pleasant event for familiarizing ourselves with the folks who had come to play. several struck me as having projects relevant to my interests and worth immediately getting to know but several were "off topic" for this year's theme. i knew that would be the case, though, so no big deal. after all, part of the joy of academic life is learning new stuff!

there were 3 talks in the first week (6 to come each week from here on out). of the three, one was about the need for contemplative perspectives in modern culture, one was about religion blogs, and one was about the bodily relationship between humanity and our technologies. a solid start to the colloquium. i have been surprised by the tone of some of the post-talk discussion, which has been more "red in tooth and claw" than is customary in academic discourse.

on the downside, the day we were introduced to columbia's library had me fuming...some of the questions were simply not appropriate for individuals allegedly engaged in scholarly labors. on the other hand, the library is air conditioned and gorgeous, which makes up for a lot when it's 100 degrees outside. when we were led to the rare books collection, i simply wanted to explore for the next 10 hours.

my own progress has been great. this is motivating me through my chapter on world of warcraft. in the past week, i've written 11 or 12 single-spaced pages, read a lot, extensively outlined the rest of the chapter, spent one day incoherent out of combined alcohol poisoning/lack of sleep/brutal heat, and took one day off to visit queens and eat a heck of a lot of indian food. i'll definitely have the chapter fully drafted by the end of colloquium (and possibly by the end of the week if my current pace keeps up).

in the meantime, i'll keep enjoying everyone's research presentations.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

transvision 2010 conference

I've been invited to present (hopefully in person, but the logistics have not yet been worked out) at this year's Transvision conference and encourage you to check it out.  Link and description (from Giulio Prisco):

TransVision 2010, October 22-24 in Milan

Transvision 2010 is a global transhumanist conference and community
convention, organized by several transhumanist activists, groups and
organizations, under the executive leadership of the Italian
Transhumanist Association (AIT) and with the collaboration of an
Advisory Board. The event will take place on October 22, 23 and 24,
2010 in Milan, Italy with many options for remote online access.

While Transvision 2010 is not organized by or connected with Humanity+
(formerly WTA), the organizer of previous Transvision conferences, we
wish to thank the Humanity+ Board for allowing the use of the name.

TransVision 2010 will be a very intense, informative, scientific as
well as entertainingly tour de force in contemporary transhumanist
thinking, activism, science, technology & innovation and grand
visionary dreams, with over 40 talks distributed over three days.
Join us to explore the scientific, technological, cultural, artistic
and social trends which could change our world beyond recognition and
may result in a singularity in only a few decades.

The first day will be mainly dedicated to the philosophical, cultural
and social aspects of transhumanism. We will also explore new forms of
artistic expressions and design inspired by transhumanist thinking.

The second day will be mainly dedicated to technology: we will cover
life extension, biotechnology and genetic engineering, cryonics and
brain preservation, whole brain emulation and mind uploading,
synthetic biology, virtual and augmented reality, artificial
intelligence, nanotechnology, converging technologies and the
technological singularity, and other transhumanist technologies,
either already emerging from the research labs and almost ready for
operational deployment, or still in a conceptual development phase.

The third day will be dedicated to the big picture, the wonderful
cosmic adventures in which the human race is about to embark, leaving
our little blue planet and spreading to the stars and beyond together
with our AI mind children. We will also cover the metaphysical,
spiritual, and even religious impact of transhumanist cosmic visions.

The conference program is packed with very well known and less known,
but also outstanding, speakers. The morning sessions are reserved for
invited talks, and the afternoon sessions are also open to contributed
talks by other participants. The official language of the conference
is English. We will also have some talks in Italian, for which
simultaneous translation will be provided. Besides the main talks, the
conference will feature round tables, debates, satellite meetings and
social events. Please contact us for any question that you might have,
register now, post a link to your blog, Twitter, Facebook etc., and
consider submitting your proposal for a talk.