31.10.03

"We risk seeing technologies lose out to prejudice and procrastination"

A Times article highlights the tide of neglect and abuse that is haunting British science.

More than 100 leading scientists have signed an open letter to Tony Blair to save British science from a "backward slide" in the climate for debate over technologies such as genetic modification. The letter is a response to a largely hysterical media response to recent GM farm trials, misreported as spelling doom for the technology and to the way the public debate on GM technology which ran during the summer was allowed to be highjacked by green militants. The scientists accuse the government of having abandoned them on the subject of GM crops where false claims about 'Frankenfoods' and 'superweeds' where left unchallenged, and demand that the Government does not "give way to misguided protesters who stand in the way of medical and economic advance."

Such concerns are shared by those who looks forward to the day when advanced technologies will be able to have a significant impact on the human condition (see ExtroBritannia's submission to the Royal Society's public consultation on nanotechnology). If this is what happens to what is after all a rather trivial technology (GM crops), what is going to happen when "transhumanist technologies" begin to emerge? Are we going to let the anti-progress groups have the upper hand - again?

LINKS:

The Times article: Scientists test Blair and find him wanting

Professor Derek Burke, the lead signatory, on GM crops

30.10.03

Eric Drexler's submission to the Royal Society's Working Group on Nanotechnology

The author of the seminal Engines of Creation attempts to clarify the confusion surrounding what exactly is meant by "nanotechnology"

From Drexler's submission: "Confusion around divergent uses of this term have spawned much of the confusion around the subject. [...] it has increasingly been used to re-label a diverse and often little-related collection of research efforts [...] It was the Feynman vision and its consequences that gave "nanotechnology" its reputation as a revolutionary technology with enormous promise and dangers, but it is current research that gives a different sort of "nanotechnology" a reputation as something happening right now. Confusion between these meanings -- and the natural urge of numerous researchers to dissociate their current work from promises and dangers that they neither understand nor plan to deliver -- has generated much heat."

In order to avoid confusion, Drexler suggests we look at the number of distinct parts in a molecularly manufactured product, typically on the rough order of a sextillion (10^21). Since the prefix "zetta-" denotes this number, the term "zettatechnology" naturally describes molecular manufacturing and its products.

Some extracts from the submission on Nanodot:

From Nanotech to Zettatech, by K. Eric Drexler

26.10.03

Science fiction: Karl Schroeder's website.

An interesting science fiction author with his own take on issues like the Singularity and the imagined 'death of science fiction'. Just as nanotechnology fired imaginations a decade ago, now cognitive sciences and emergent systems are providing inspiration for the science-fictional muse.

Philip Chaston

25.10.03

ExtroBritannia November meeting: meet Nick Bostrom

The next ExtroBritannia lunch/get-together is scheduled for Saturday the 8th of November, in Oxford.

The title of the meeting is "Meet Nick Bostrom, transhumanist philosopher and WTA founder": Nick will give a presentation on transhumanism, followed by a Q&A session.

We will meet at 1pm for lunch at "Chiang Mai" a Thai restaurant in the tiny Kemp Hall passage, about 10 meters off 130 High Street. If it's your first time at an ExtroBritannia meeting I'll be the guy clearly displaying a copy of Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines" on the table. The talk will take place in a room at the Philosophy Faculty, but you won't be able to access the room unaccompanied, so it's essential to meet at the restaurant beforehand. We will be there until 2.30pm.

Chiang Mai, Kemp Hall Passage, 130A High Street, Oxford OX1 4DH
Tel: (01865) 202233

Click here for a MAP

(the Oxford train station is almost visible on the left of the map - watch out for "xford" in red letters)

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This will be the first of our meetings to be run in conjunction with Alcor UK

22.10.03

ExtroBritannia's contribution to the Methuselah Mouse Prize

The Methuselah Mouse prize is an initiative designed to further the development of truly effective anti-aging interventions, by promoting public interest and involvement in research on mammalian life extension and by encouraging more such research to be done. At ExtroBritannia, we have decided to put our wallet where our mouth is and have collected a total of £245 ($409) toward the prize fund (see donors list).

Should you be interested in donating to the prize, you have two options:

1) Donate via ExtroBritannia: join our mailing list and let us know how much you want to pledge, or simply bring your donation along to one of our meetings.

2) Donate directly to the Mathuselah Mouse Prize and have your name proudly listed in the donors page.

Either way, do not miss this easy opportunity to do something useful to potentially extend your own life!

17.10.03

The big GM controversy

The Royal Society has released the first batch of results from the government-sponsored "Farm Scale Evaluations" of GM crops, and everyone is claiming victory...

According to Greenpeace, "UK research confirms that GM crops will harm the environment", while, according to CropGen "The Farm Scale Evaluations show that, contrary to what campaigners have been asserting for years, GM technology, if managed properly, can benefit the environment as well as farmers and consumers" The common sense conclusion seems to be that GM crops are not a single monolithic technology that will either kill us or save us, but a vast field of different technologies and applications. The study in question points out that two of the applications tested have a heavier impact on wildlife than conventional agriculture and that one (maize) has a lighter impact, which is exactly the point of Farm Scale Evalutation trials: to test which GM crops can be safely planted in the UK.

For the full Farm Scale Evaluation results from the Royal Society, click HERE

15.10.03

NEW: the ExtroBritannia documents section

Nanotechnoloy and nanoscience public consultation

In June 2003 the UK Government commissioned the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to carry out an independent study of likely developments and whether nanotechnology raises or is likely to raise new ethical, health and safety or social issues which are not covered by current regulation. An entry to the study was submitted by two ExtroBritannia regulars, highlighting our concerns that nanotechnology's development might suffer in a similar way to GM crops due to the action of idelogically motivated pressure groups.

The submission

11.10.03

Space Blogs

If you wish to look at space developments through a blogging mirror, Rand Simberg is as good a place to start as any commentator. One of his latest entries is an examination of US legislation to encourage private manned spaceflight. Look at his blogroll for related blogs.

A sparser dedicated site that sometimes follows the X Prize is www.spacefuture.com.

And don't forget that the Chinese will launch a manned space vehicle on October 15th, following the end of their latest elites meeting.

2.10.03

ExtroBritannia's October meeting: Nano & Bio - the road ahead

The next ExtroBritannia lunch/get-together is scheduled for Saturday the 11th of October at 12 noon in central London.

We will have two themes for the meeting, Nano & Bio: nanotechnological and biomedical interventions will both be needed to achieve our primary goal of a open-ended lifespan. Both technologies are under intense scrutiny right now and it is time we made our voice heard on the direction we want them to take.

NANO: In June 2003 the UK Government commissioned the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to carry out an independent study of likely developments and whether nanotechnology raises or is likely to raise new ethical, health and safety or social issues which are not covered by current regulation. An entry to the study was submitted by two ExtroBritannia regulars, highlighting our concerns that nanotechnology's development might suffer in a similar way to GM crops due to the action of idelogically motivated pressure groups. The next stage of the study will involve NGO workshops and public consultations: this is an unmissible chance of influencing public policy regarding what is arguably the holy grail of transhumanist technologies.

For further info on the study click here

BIO: Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence: Reasons Why Genuine Control of Aging may be Foreseeable. That was the title of the recently held 10th Congress of the International Association of Biomedical Gerontology and a few ExtroBritannia regulars attedend. Come along for views, comments and info on what's happening in the field of practical life-extension research.

For further info on the conference and some online presentations click here

WHERE & WHEN---------------------------------

If you want to attend, you have three choices:

1) you can show up at the basement cafe' of Europe's largest bookshop (Waterstone's in Piccadilly, London) at 12,00

2) you can go directly to the restaurant for lunch ("Chowki", 1,00 o'clock). The table will be booked under my name (Fabio).

3) you can join us back at Waterstone's for coffee/drinks and further discussion at about 2,30/3,00 pm.

If it's your first time at an ExtroBritannia meeting I'll be the guy clearly displaying a copy of Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines" on the table we'll be sitting at.

DETAILS/MAPS/ETC------------------------------

WATERSTONE'S

From Piccadilly Circus, Waterstone's is about 50 yards down Piccadilly (on the left handside). Once inside take the stairs on
the right, down to the lower floor cafe'/restaurant: the cafe will be right in front of you. MAP

CHOWKI

The restaurant is a five minutes walk from Waterstone's.

Chowki, 2-3 Denman Street, London W1D 7HA (Nearest Tube Station: Piccadilly Circus). MAP

1.10.03

Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence: Reasons Why Genuine Control of Aging may be Foreseeable

A number of presentations from the recently concluded 10th Congress of the International Association of Biomedical Gerontology (Cambridge, Sept. 2003) are now available online.

The presentations are being collected from as many speakers as possible for free download from this page. The first to become available are those in PowerPoint format, but a few speakers did not use PowerPoint and some other will only make their presentations available after the material presented has been published. Audio recordings of the conference are being converted to MP3 format and will soon be available online.