Thursday, July 01, 2010

Cafe Philo in New York City tonight, Thursday, 7/1: How will technology change the human species?

Cafe Philo in New York City will meet tonight, Thursday, July 1, 2010 with a discussion on the topic of "How will technology change the human species?" The topic was suggested by Frank Biebert.

An article about Stephen Hawking's view on current and future human evolution:

Stephen Hawking: "The Human Species Has Entered a New Stage of Evolution"

In the last ten thousand years the human species has  been in what Hawking calls, "an external transmission phase," where the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. "But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage," Hawking says, "has grown enormously. Some people would use the term, evolution, only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes."

Interesting lecture entitled "The Future of the Human Species" by Dr. Brent Waters:

If a number of pundits are correct, we have already taken some initial steps toward creating a posthuman future. The goal of this project is nothing less than the perfection of the human species. Specifically, human performance will be enhanced and longevity extended through anticipated advances in pharmacology, biotechnology, and bionics. Drugs, for example, can lessen the need for sleep; genetic engineering will slow the aging process; artificial limbs will enhance strength and agility; and brain implants will enhance the speed of interacting with computers. The cyborg becomes the next stage of human evolution. Some visionaries foresee a day when, with the aid of artificial intelligence and robotics, endless lives might be achieved. The underlying binary information constituting one's personality would be uploaded into a computer and then downloaded into robotic bodies or virtual reality programs. With sufficient and reliable memory storage, the process could, in principle, be repeated indefinitely, thereby achieving virtual immortality. In the posthuman future, humans become self-perfected artifacts by blurring, if not eliminating, the line separating the natural from the artificial.

The promise of the posthuman project is the creation of beings that live healthy, productive, and happy lives, and most importantly beings that live for very long timeĀ—perhaps forever. The ultimate promise is immortality. The accompanying peril, however, is that the cost is exorbitant. The price of perfecting humankind is its destruction, for in becoming posthuman humans cease being human. The peril of the posthuman project, in short, is that its optimism disguises an underlying death-wish for the human species.

Also consider Ray Kurzweil's singularity concept and book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, which posits that:

The Singularity is an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today -- the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity.

I have been acting as guest moderator lately. Bernard Roy has been attending this year as a participant.

We will probably continue to meet during the summer, although Bernard will be off, as usual, in the south of France.

Catch up with preparatory online discussions in the Yahoo! group for Cafe Philo NYC.

As usual, the meeting will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the back room at Bamiyan Restaurant (Afghan food) at the northwest corner of Third Avenue and 26th Street in New York City. In exchange for free meeting space, it is expected that each attendee will purchase a minimum of $5 of food or drink. A glass of red wine can be had for $6 (plus tax and tip.)

After winding down our discussion, we entertain and vote on proposals for the topic question for the next meeting.

There is also usually some number of attendees who go across the street to McCormack's Bar for drinks and food and extended discussion after Cafe Philo, but not limited to the scheduled discussion topic.

There are a number of small groups in the U.S. and Europe who meet regularly to discuss topics related to philosophy. Some of these groups go by the name "Cafe Philo." There is one here in New York City that meets every two weeks, every other Thursday. It is organized and moderated by Bernard Roy, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Each meeting focuses on a specific topic which was suggested and voted on by the participants at the last meeting.

Also, there is an online discussion forum for the NYC Cafe Philo at:

There is also a new web site for NYC Cafe

I have been attending the NYC Cafe Philo off and on since 2004. Previously I had attended the Cafe Philo in Washington, D.C. starting in 2001.

-- Jack Krupansky


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