Category Archives: Technology

Not Buying This Immortality Thing

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

 

As you’ve probably heard, immortality is again under discussion thanks to Nectome, which promises to preserve your brain in such fine detail you could be one day reconstructed. The process is fatal, but at least they’re open about it.

Allow me to remain skeptical – not if this is possible (at some point in theory maybe you can be copied over to a computer), but if we really can maturely think about – and handle – immortality as we conceive of it (usually in a very immature manner). If you read any of my previous writings on this you probably realize the answer – no.

A lot of quests for immortality I see among modern immortalists is really “how I will perpetuate myself so there’s a sense of continuity.” It’s basically taking the current “you” and extending it as long as possible. It’s a secular idea of heaven that believes there’s enough of a “you” to preserve that it’s really just a soul wearing a funny hat.

First, the idea really ignores that we’re not permanent, we’re not stable, we’re not eternal. We’re a rolling ball of experiences and information that changes. Modern techno-immortalism sounds like a desire to “freeze” oneself.

Secondly, because of this, it’s peculiarly non-evolutionary. All the idea of uploading one’s mind to the internet and such really ignores the idea you can change and evolve. All the life-extension cycles around the current self. There’s no growth or change.

But third, most importantly, modern simple immortalism sounds like it veers way to close to vampirism. I’ve felt this for years, but lately I’m even more convinced this is the truth.

If we extend the life of people, how much more power will they accumulate, and in turn, try to perpetuate their limited selves? We’ve already got serious issues of inherited wealth and power, do we want to jack it up further? Altered Carbon‘s premise is really just a simple idea of far more problems.

If someone’s entire life is about extending said life, that makes the rest of us, our world, our universe prey. It eliminates all meaning in one’s life and one society, an eternal quest for “more years” at the cost of everything.

Will we burden the future with endless seas of preserved brains? With digital personalities languishing away never changing – or making demands? How the hell will our ancestors think of us?

What does having children mean in an agle of immortality? Doesn’t this short-circuit both our need to reproduce but also the ability to create new, independent entities? Is the future a bunch of people repeating the same things and same habits over and over with nothing NEW?

How much could money to give someone another five years be spent on something better and greater?

Are we even building a world we’d want to live longer in?

How sane would people be living the same mind, same personality, immortal? Can we even handle it? Are we suited for immortality?

Our current immature immortalism’s focus on the ego, the stand-in for the soul, has some terrible repercussions for our future and ourselves.

In the end, as I’ve said in various ways, we don’t need to build a better Heaven; we need to build a better reincarnation. Rethink who and what we are. Think of more ways to be connected and leave a legacy. Focus on personal development and evolution – which may require rethinking death and life. Make lives worth living without us trying to find new ways to perpetuate our limited current idea of ourselves.

I would also add this – maybe we need death. We accumulate our burdens, our neuroses, our sadness our weariness. We get tired and wear out. Maybe at some point, having left our best legacies and influences, it’s time to put up the chairs on our lives and turn out the lives. Close the book, so more stories can be written. Approach life not as something to go on forever, but something that can be upgraded and rebooted to make room for more and greater things.

If I had a chance to extend my life? I’d probably go for it. But I’d want to be able to grow, to change, to evolve – and to declare when it’s time to shut it down. And I wouldn’t want to do it at the expense of things much greater and larger and more beautiful than me. Being that big would mean I’m not me.

– Steve

Make It So: Procedural Jogging

The exercise treadmills at my apartment complex are pretty neat – beyond a variety of options (including a game of Solitaire), they have an option to show a video that simulates walking at a location. Basically it gives you something to look at beside your heart rate, has interesting historical notes, and provides an interesting experience. Running indoors can be a might boring, and it’s an appreciated addition I take advantage of because, hey, when am I going to get to jog through scenic parts of Germany.

But it’s the same few tracks. So one day while using the treadmills I began thinking about how it could be more interesting. This conflated with my love of procedurally generated environments, including “walking simulator” Proteus and the amazing environments of the upcoming “No Man’s Sky.”

Then I asked why can’t someone create a Procedural Environment generator for these Treadmills?

Imagine this. You can select from some common setups, or tweak them from the start, and then have the display screen walk you through a generated environment. Maybe you want a desert or a forest, a sci-fi landscape or a fantasy land – set it up and explore as you exercise.

There you go. Every Treadmill trip is a new experience. One day you may walk across a ruin-filled desert, the other up a green mountain path. Maybe you’ll take a run through the Dwarf Kingdom or across an unknown world. Every time it’s different even if you choose the same basic settings.  It’d add a lot to the experience.

Now imagine taking this farther.

Perhaps you could have generated narratives, notes, or events. A bit of history-that-never was pops up here and there. A little note about the properties of an imaginary plant appears. A starship streaks across the sky and crashes nearby. The trip can feel like you’re in a real, living place.

On top of this, perhaps add a bit of gamification. Every now and then you may find an option to climb a stairway or open a door or turn left or right. The trip becomes even more engaging as you have power to affect what you see next – and you never know when the next option will pop up.

Finally, perhaps you can save your experience to share with others, even if it’s just writing down a code. Other people can see the same sites you did – and if there’s options, you can re-explore an old new world differently.

Go on people, Make It So.

  • Steve

Activities For The Civic Geek: Technology Refurb And Access

Technology is critical to people’s lives these days.  Not everyone has access to computers and computer knowledge.  Technical geeks can make sure people have access to technology – and teach people along the way.

If you don’t have internet and computer access, you’re at a disadvantage in the modern world.  A lot of people have trouble getting computers.

Ironically, a lot of people are also throwing equipment away.

These are two causes that can come together – refurbishing computers and getting them to people that need them.  After all, why throw it away when you can fix it, update it, maybe teach a few lessons – and then get them to people who need them.

There’s a few ways to do this:

  • First, you have to collect equipment and get it to people that can fix it. Just the collecting alone can keep you busy – as long as there’s someone to fix it up.
  • Then there’s fixing up and refurbing the equipment.  Any kind of technical geek can probably rally people to do this – or find people that do.
  • Finally, get it to people who need it.  If you can combine this with the fixing, it becomes extra educational.

You can do one or all of these parts of the process to help people out.  But there’s also many ways to do this:

  • Your local club/group/con can do one or all of the parts above.
  • Your can ally with other groups like hackerspaces and schools to do the work.  It might build great alliances.
  • You could combine this with other events – what if you have a fix-it workshop at a convention?  With a hackerspace fix-it session?
  • You could combine this with other educational activities in computer literacy or fix-it skills?  People could make their own computer from old parts.

People need technology.  You can make sure they get it – while learning and make electronics recycling easier.

Resources:

  • Close The Gap – Takes computer donations from european countries and refurbishes them for emerging nations. Also works to recycle unusable equipment safely.
  • Computers With Causes – Takes donated computers and either gets them to charitable programs, or sells them for funds used to go to programs.
  • Free Geek (Portland) – A Portland nonprofit that recycles used computers and parts to provide computers and job training to those in need.
  • Free Geek Chicago – A Chicago nonprofit that recycles used computers and parts to provide computers and job training to those in need.
  • Little Geeks – A Canadian charity that refurbishes donated computers, and gets them to children in need.
  • Motor City Free Geek – A Detroit nonprofit that repairs and recycles computers, teaches and educates, and works on Open Source.
  • PCS For Schools – Refurbishes and upgrades donated computer equipment and uses it to bridge the technology gap in schools
  • World Computer Exchange – A US and Canadian non-profit that reduces the digital divide with education, donated computers, and more.