Volume 2, Issue 4
4th Quarter, 2007

A New Opportunity to Teach and Succeed

Jack Harney

This article was submitted for publication by Jack Harney, South Carolina businessman, futurist and up-and-coming author.

Mr. Harney’s writings express a keen understanding and perspective of how change will be viewed, challenged and accepted by the average person who will be most affected by it. He presents these issues in his upcoming book, “Be Human with a capital H; Five paths to improve your Personal Significance”.

We Humans are amazing creatures. In terms of the sheer size of the universe, we are but the tiniest of microbes living on a round piece of dust. Yet, we are in the process of not only discovering how the entire universe operates, but actually beginning to play the role of co-progenerator in how it will continue to expand and evolve. Rather than being primarily the result of evolution, we are on the verge of planning and implementing our own evolutionary futures. This is sometimes hard to put into context.  It is even more astounding than a tiny ant that lives in the sand under the lion’s habitat at the Bronx Zoo contemplating quantum physics. We Humans are truly that amazing and why, for some time now I always capitalize the word Human.

Part of our advancements will include the transcendence away from the concept of “lesser than”, and the mass inferiority complex that we have heretofore allowed elements like dogmatic religion to visit upon us. However, if the coming Singularity [1] is truly near, and if maximizing the number of Humans who participate is our goal, hurdles like old fears and belief systems must be dealt with. Depending on the vehicle(s) employed to introduce this new advancement may well determine whether it ultimately arrives or not. Having the technology doesn’t guarantee its implementation if social tsunamis rise up against it. It’s not too early to plan strategies to introduce the coming Singularity in order to avoid what many past futurists and inventors endured as rejections. Let’s examine what may lie ahead.

It’s logical to assume that in every generation of Human existence, just as is true today, a rather small portion of the population has always been substantially more intelligent than the rest. In a world where one’s intelligence quotient is just a part of the mix of the vast amount of information that exists about any individual, knowing there are substantial differences in this measure is not news. We know that the mean IQ is 100 because of the large numbers of test results that bear that out. Of course, through a great deal of other evidence, experience and anecdotal information, we Humans have learned to place a much higher value on what any one person accomplishes with their level of intelligence than on their score. As we grow to become a more and more inclusive species by continually upgrading our definitions of personal rights and freedoms, we rely less and less on cold scores and more on potential and performance.

Source: Wikipedia Commons, Eric Gaba, July 2005
Image 1: Aristotle

Having said this however, it is fairly clear from observations of history that the most significant advances and discoveries in every field of Human endeavor, from science to the arts have most often come from the most intelligent Humans of their time. From Aristotle to Michelangelo to Galileo to Einstein…these were not average IQ folks who were simply overachievers. It is likely an easy leap to assume that the first Human to grab a burning tree limb ignited by lightning, in an attempt to control fire, at the sheer horror of his or her peers, might have been endowed with the highest IQ at that time…maybe just 100. Today, we have Humans whose IQ is hard to nail down because they always generate the highest possible score on the test and or others who ace their ACT and SAT exams more than once. It appears that our ability to test is beginning to lag behind the evolution of our capabilities. (Nice problem to have!)

It is therefore going to be no surprise that the coming advancements in our Human experience, and in particular those opening the possibilities of achieving stratospheric intelligence along with virtual immortality through linkage and transformation into cyberconsciousness [2] will come from some of the greatest minds alive today. I was very impressed with this fact after attending the Transvision 2007 conference this last July in Chicago. After listening to the presentations of Martine Rothblatt, Ray Kurzweil, Marvin Minsky, and on a somewhat related subject by Aubrey de Grey, I mused, that depending on what century this conference had been held, we would have likely been graced with the presence of Kepler, Newton or Galileo.[3]

The aforementioned presenters, in my mind, are the current day rock stars in their fields. When the Singularity arrives alongside great strides in longevity and other advancements, these futurists will be household names. However, whether at the time their developments begin to unfold and are more publicly announced, their names are spoken with reverence or potentially taken in vain, may be determined to a great extent on the attention given to the opportunities now available to pre-educate large numbers of the eventual beneficiaries of their work.

There is a TV commercial (the product doesn’t matter) which depicts the circumstances of the narrator as he is about to be burned at the stake in what looks like the heart of the Dark Ages. An angry mob calling for his death surrounds him as he calmly remarks with the obvious understatement that the introduction of new ideas is often met with over reaction. On one level it seems laughable in a modern context, but is it so far fetched even in today’s “we can accomplish anything” environment? It depends. Throughout history, virtually all advances that have been viewed as aiding mankind from cannons to cell phones have enjoyed pats on the back and Hear, Hears from all levels of hierarchies and common folk. However, history teaches that any advancement that challenges religious dogma or entrenched social order may end in unsavory results for its proponents. Clearly, any science based practice that portends to compete with a dogma based God on the subject of immortality and even speculates that this new cyber existence will in itself achieve a godlike state may be headed into an inferno…the mother of all “over reactions”.  What then must be considered?

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1. Technological Singularity - the hypothesized creation, usually via AI [Artificial Intelligence] or brain-computer interfaces, of smarter-than-human entities who rapidly accelerate technological progress beyond the capability of human beings to participate meaningfully in said progress. Futurists have varying opinions regarding the timing and consequences of such an event.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity  November 9, 2007 11:02AM EST.

2. Cyberconsciousness - explores the mathematical, physical, engineering (hardware, software, firmware), philosophical, psychological, biological, socio- economic, and juridical aspects of non-flesh based consciousness, such as could arise from an advanced machine- based computer.
http://www.terasemjournals.org/index.html  November 9, 2007 11:20AM EST

3. Martine Aliana Rothblatt - Ph.D, MBA, J.D. (born 1954 as Martin Rothblatt) is a transgendered American lawyer, author, and entrepreneur. Rothblatt graduated from UCLA with a combined law and MBA degree in 1981, then began work in Washington DC, first in the field of communication satellite law, and eventually in life sciences projects like the Human Genome Project.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martine_Rothblatt  November 9, 2007 11:24AM EST

Ray Kurzweil - (born February 12, 1948) is an inventor and futurist. He has been a pioneer in the fields of optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He is the author of several books on health, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, technological singularity, and futurism.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_kurzweil  November 9, 2007 11:27AM EST

Marvin Minsky - (born August 9, 1927) is an American cognitive scientist in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), co-founder of MIT's AI laboratory, and author of several texts on AI and philosophy.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvin_Minsky  November 9, 2007 11:28AM EST

Aubrey de Grey - Dr. Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey, Ph.D. (born 20 April 1963 in London, England) is a biomedical gerontologist who lives in the city of Cambridge, UK.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aubrey_de_Grey  November 9, 2007 11:32AM EST



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