Features & Columns

Transhuman Strategies Conference Explores our Robotically
Augmented Future

Futurists will convene to discuss bots, biometrics and all things
forward-thinking at the first-ever Transhuman Strategies conference
H+ FOR EFFORT: Futurists will convene to discuss bots, biometrics and all things forward-thinking at the first-ever Transhuman Strategies conference

Prospect silicon valley, a nonprofit clean-tech commercialization incubator, sits on Las Plumas Avenue in East San Jose, somewhere between King Road and 101.

Located in a mysterious wilderness of business parks and industrial landscapes, the venue already seems "out there" beyond good and evil, beyond native and exotic, beyond urban and suburban. So it seems fitting in post-cyberpunk fashion that San Jose's first-ever Transhuman Strategies conference will unfold this Saturday.

Our old pal R.U. Sirius and several other edge-thinking provocateurs will wax poetic about life extension, biohacking, anti-aging technologies, neuroscience, biometrics and all sorts of subjects related to transhumanism. In particular, Sirius, along with compadre Jay Cornell, will sign copies of their new book, Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity.

Crudely simplified, transhumanism (sometimes abbreviated as H+) is a futurist ideology aiming to enhance the intellectual, physical and psychological capacities of humans. In many cases, the discussion revolves around the use or misuse of technology to augment human capability. For example, this could involve cutting-edge medical research in anti-aging, the use of nanobots in your bloodstream, or even the garage tinkerer taking a scalpel to himself and implanting diodes in his fingers. There's a wide variety of activity and discussion continuing to unfold, all under the banner of transhumanism. There's even a magazine called H+.

"Transhumanists believe that humans can, should and have an implicit right to enhance themselves through technology beyond the currently perceived limits," Sirius tells me. "Currently, the focus is largely on slowing, stopping and perhaps reversing aging soon. This means increased healthspan as well as lifespan. And on increased intelligence, whether through neural and chemical interventions or through unifying with advanced artificial intelligence."

Way back in the pre-Internet days of the late '80s/early '90s, Sirius co-founded Mondo 2000, a pioneering magazine of radical technology, cyberpunk visions, fractals, drugs, artificial intelligence, cellular automata, raves, robot sex, electronic music and other faster-than-light energy fields for the tech-savvy masses. Ten years ago, he also published Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House, a cosmopolitan romp through dropout culture from biblical patriarchs to the current day. (Abraham being the first dropout, of course.) These days, Sirius shows up in all the transhumanism arguments. His new book, Transcendence, is yet another taxonomic table-spread of characters, movements, technologies and ideas intended to apply a sense of humor to the whole shooting match. Sirius says the time was right for such a book.

"In 1993, I coauthored Mondo 2000: A User's Guide to the New Edge, which told people about the digital reality that was about to swallow them up," Siri

us says. "Now seems like a good time to talk about how robotics, longevity drugs, replaceable parts and a whole host of other transhumanoid technologies are likely to start having an effect." Several others on the cutting-edge will present at the conference, which begins with a "Meet & Greet" session from 12:15-1pm, followed by speakers from 1-5pm. In one case, Hank Pellissier, director of the Brighter Brains Institute, has produced eight transhumanist conferences in in the last few years, while also authoring Invent Utopia Now: Transhumanist Suggestions for the Pre-Singularity Era, and Brighter Brains: 225 ways to elevate or injure IQ. In another case, life extension activist Maria Konovalenko is a Biology of Aging PhD student at USC and also Vice President of the Science for Life Extension Foundation in Moscow. Even better, the writer, futurist and philosopher Zoltan Istvan is the founder of the Transhumanist political party and is that party's 2016 presidential candidate. All of these innovative characters will dazzle the audience with radical forward-thinking ideas on how to augment the human lifespan.

Sirius says that even though Google and DARPA are working on huge projects related to transhumanist ideas, there's a tremendous fervor below the surface, whether it's citizen science, biohacking or even maker culture.

"I don't think anybody in the know would be surprised if some 12-year-old prints an improved kidney in his basement in a few years," Sirius says.