1.12.08

Transhumanims: Arguably the world’s most important idea in the coming ten years?

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday December the 13th 2008; 2:00pm - 4:00pm. Venue: Room 539, 5th floor (via main lift), Main Building, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX (map). The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

What is the idea that most deserves support and publicity, over (say) the next ten years, in order to best allow individuals and societies to avoid nightmare scenarios and to achieve optimal outcomes? Various people might pick ideas such as democracy, free-market economics, rationalism, the "precautionary principle", sustainable living, globalisation, anti-globalisation, carbon emission trading, open source, and web 2.0.

Instead, this meeting will examine the case in favour of transhumanism. Transhumanism is more than a fondness for technology, and a willingness to endorse the thoughtful application of technology within society. Transhumanism is also a view about what it means to be human, and an affirmation of radical evolution. It is no wonder that some elements of society find transhumanism to be threatening.

The meeting will also look at some current major risks faced by society: religion-inspired terrorism, the global economic crisis, the potential for rapid discontinuous climate change, and threats to existing social norms caused by rapidly improving technology. Is transhumanism relevant to these larger matters, or is it in some ways a kind of distraction – "opium for the geeks"?

The discussion will be led by David Wood. The intent is to provoke a stimulating and deeply illuminating debate – and ideally to reach some views about "what next?"

If you’re interested in ideas such as the Technological Singularity, Life Extension, Radical Evolution, Intelligence Augmentation, Nano-scale Engineering, or Geo-scale Engineering, but are unsure how credible and relevant these ideas are, you will probably find this discussion rewarding!

The meeting is organised by the UKTA (Extrobritannia), the United Kingdom Transhumanist Association. There is no charge to attend and everyone is welcome.

Why not join some of the UKTA regulars for a light lunch beforehand, any time after 12.30pm, in The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ.

28.10.08

Emulating brains: silicon dreams or the next big thing?

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday November the 22nd 2008; 2:00pm - 4:00pm. Venue: Room 403, 4th floor (via main lift), Main Building, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX. The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

The idea of creating a faithful copy of a human brain has been a popular philosophical thought experiment and science fiction plot for decades. How close are we to actually doing it, how could it be done, and what would the consequences be? This talk will trace trends in computing, neuroscience, lab automaton and microscopy to show how whole brain emulation could become feasible in the mid term future.

Speaker: Anders Sandberg (Wikipedia, Homepage), Neuroethics researcher at the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University.

Join the debate! There is no charge to attend and everyone is welcome.

Venue: Room 403 is on the fourth floor (via the main lift) in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations. MAP

Discussion is likely to continue after the event, in a nearby pub (see below), for those who are able to stay. Why not join some of the UKTA regulars for a light lunch beforehand, any time after 12.30pm, in The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ.

Extrobritannia is the monthly public event of the United Kingdom Transhumanist Association.

2.10.08

How Feasible is a Nanofactory?

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday October the 18th 2008; 2:00pm - 4:00pm. Venue: Room 538, 5th floor (via main lift), Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX. The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

Lead speaker: Professor Philip Moriarty, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham

Nanotechnology, and in particular the molecular manufacturing and nanoassembler concepts first put forward by K Eric Drexler [1] in the eighties, have been lauded as key enabling technologies to advance the human condition. At the core of Drexler's approach is the manipulation of single atoms and molecules using computer-controlled actuators or probes, which he argues will enable the assembly of "virtually anything" from basic raw materials [2]. Widely decried in both the academic scientific community and in a variety of popular science publications and media [3], this "Drexlarian" molecular nanotechnology approach has thus yet to be explored or tested experimentally. Nevertheless, at the core of Drexler's approach there is a demonstrably valid idea: the controlled positioning and manipulation of single atoms and molecules using, for example, scanning probe microscopes. The talk will critically assess Drexler's approach to nanotechnology from the perspective of an experimental nanoscientist [4], focussing in particular on the aims and objectives of a recently-funded programme of work [5] on computer-controlled assembly of diamond nanostructures.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K._Eric_Drexler
2. http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/8148/8148counterpoint.html
3. http://cohesion.rice.edu/NaturalSciences/Smalley/emplibrary/SA285-76.pdf
4. http://www.softmachines.org/wordpress/?p=70
5. http://crnano.typepad.com/crnblog/2008/08/building-digital-matter.html


The venue: Room 538, 5th floor (via main lift), Birkbeck College, Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations. MAP.

Discussion is likely to continue after the event, in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay. There's also the option of joining some of the UKTA regulars for lunch beforehand, starting c. 1pm at The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ. To find us, look out for a table where there's a copy of Eric Drexler's "Engines of Creation" displayed.

8.9.08

Nine key questions about the coming Technological Singularity

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday September the 20th 2008; 2:00pm - 4:00pm. Venue: Room 539, 5th floor (via main lift), Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX. The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

Vernor Vinge wrote the following words in 1993, introducing the concept of the Singularity:

"Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended".

This UKTA meeting will be a group discussion, led by David Wood, on the following nine key questions:

1. Defining what we're talking about: What's the relation between the various different notions of the Singularity?

2. Are there arguments in principle against the Singularity?

3. What are the lessons we should learn from what's been called "the embarrassing history of AI"?

4. Is the Singularity a plausible occurrence within (say) the next 50 years?

5. What are the critical bottleneck determinants of development towards the Singularity?

6. What's the likeliest timescale for the Singularity?

7. Should we be doing everything in our power to prevent the Singularity from happening?

8. Can we influence the Singularity to make its outcome more likely to be good for humanity rather than disastrous?

9. What are the biggest uncertainties with the Singularity?

There is no charge to attend and everyone is welcome. Join the debate!

Venue:

Room 539, 5th floor (via main lift), Birkbeck College, Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations. MAP.

Discussion is likely to continue after the event at "The Friend at Hand", nearby. There's also the option of joining some of the UKTA regulars for drinks/lunch beforehand, starting c. 12.30, in "The Friend At Hand" pub which is situated behind Russell Square tube station on Herbrand Street. To find us, look out for a table where there's a copy of Aubrey de Grey's book "Ending Aging" displayed.

4.8.08

Enhancing minds: the pros and cons of hi-tech methods for improving cognition.

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday August the 23rd, 2008; 2:00pm - 4:00pm. Venue: Birkbeck College - Room 153, 1st floor (via lift B), Main Building, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX. The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

What's the latest state of play with different methods (drugs, computer games, neuroimplants, genetics, etc) for enhancing cognition - and what are their benefits and problems?

Speakers:

Anders Sandberg, Neuroethics researcher at the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University;

Heather Bradshaw, Centre for Ethics in Medicine, University of Bristol, and Visions intern at the IEET.

Join the debate!

The meeting is sponsored by the United Kingdom Transhumanist Association (UKTA). There is no charge to attend and everyone is welcome.

Venue:

Room 153 is on the first floor (via lift B, down the corridor to the right of reception) in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations. MAP.

Discussion is likely to continue after the event at "The Friend at Hand", nearby. There's also the option of joining some of the UKTA regulars for drinks/lunch beforehand, starting c. 12.30, in "The Friend At Hand" pub which is situated behind Russell Square tube station on Herbrand Street. There's also the option of joining some of the UKTA regulars for drinks/lunch beforehand, starting c. 12.30, in the same pub. To find us, look out for a table where there's a copy of Aubrey de Grey's book "Ending Aging" displayed.

16.7.08

Cryonics: Why it has failed, and possible ways to fix it - with Mike Darwin

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday August 2, 2008; 2:00pm - 4:00pm. Update! The venue has now been confirmed: Room 541, 5th floor, Main Building, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX. The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

Guest Speaker: Mike Darwin.

President of Alcor Life Extension 1983-1988, Research Director 1988-1992. Described by Wikipedia as "Second only to Robert Ettinger as one of the most influential figures in the controversial field of cryonics".

The talk will draw on the speaker's extensive personal experience with cryonics - the low-temperature preservation of humans and other animals that can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine, until such time in the future when resuscitation may be possible.

The talk will cover: the audacious ambition and vision of cryonics, practical details of how it works, a whistle-stop history of cryonics, issues with the governance of cryonics organisations,
factors influencing public perception of cryonics, and reasons for both fear and hope for the future of cryonics.

Special attention will be given to the decline of cryonics in the UK and the failure of UK cryonics to establish a robust, full-service beachhead in Britain. The talk will also highlight what can be done to re-establish cryonics in the UK as a stable enterprise that will deserve the confidence of both its members and the public as a competent, high quality undertaking offering services which meet the highest ethical, scientific and biomedical standards.

The meeting is sponsored by the UK Transhumanist Association. There is no charge to attend. Join the debate!

The venue

Birkbeck College - Room 541, 5th floor, Main Building, Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square), London WC1E 7HX - MAP

The nearest tube station is Russell Square. Come out of the tube station and turn left, to walk west along Bernard St. Cross over Herbrand St then Woburn Place and keep walking westwards, on the north side of the square. Cross Bedford Way, and turn right into Thornhaugh St, then immediately left to enter Torrington Square through the pedestrian-only courtyard outside SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies). Veer right and you'll see the main entrance to Birkbeck College on the left as you walk up Torrington Square. Take the lift to the 5th floor and follow the signs to room 541.

Discussion is likely to continue after the event in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay. There's also the option of joining some of the UKTA regulars for drinks/lunch beforehand, starting c. 12.30, in "The Friend At Hand" pub which is situated behind Russell Square tube station on Herbrand Street. There's also the option of joining some of the UKTA regulars for drinks/lunch beforehand, starting c. 12.30, in the same pub. To find us, look out for a table where there's a copy of Aubrey de Grey's book "Ending Aging" displayed.

24.6.08

Living longer and longer yet healthier and healthier: realistic grounds for hope? Speakers: Aubrey de Grey and Alistair Tweed.

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday the 12th of July 2008, 2pm-4pm. Venue: Room 152-153, 1st floor (via lift B), Main Building, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX. The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

Alistair Tweed, aging-management.com (Optimising Health for Longevity): "Finding the right diets, pills, and supplements for a long and healthy life - assessing the evidence"

Aubrey de Grey, Chairman and Chief Science Officer, The Methuselah Foundation: "an engineering project for curing human aging within the present generation"

Join the debate!

Discussion is likely to continue after the event, in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay.

There's also the option of joining some of the UKTA regulars for drinks/lunch beforehand, starting c. 12.30, in "The Friend At Hand" pub which is situated behind Russell Square tube station on Herbrand Street. To find us, look out for a table where there's a copy of Aubrey de Grey's book "Ending Aging" displayed.

Venue:

Room 152-153 is on the first floor (via lift B, down the corridor to the right of reception) in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations. MAP

This event is sponsored by the UKTA (Extrobritannia), the United Kingdom Transhumanist Association.

Keep an eye on our mailing list for updates.

1.6.08

Technology risks and the survival of humanity: Is emerging technology more likely to destroy human civilisation or to radically enhance it?

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday the 14th of June 2008, 2pm-4pm. Venue: Room 539 (fifth floor), Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX. The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

This meeting previews and summarises some of the discussions that will be taking place in July at the (four day long) conference "Global Catastrophic Risks" that will be taking place in Oxford in July.

This is arguably the single most important topic that can ever be discussed!

Risks worthy of review include:

*) Runaway greenhouse effects and other drastic climate change - vs possible geo-engineering solutions and new, cleaner, sources of energy
*) Nuclear wars provoked by catastrophic nuclear terrorism
*) Supervolcanoes - potentially tamed by future super-strong nanomaterials
*) A global pandemic of some horrible new disease
*) Hazards from comets and asteroids
*) The emergence of malevolent super-AI - vs the chance that super-AI will allow us to find better solutions to our existential risks

Speakers who will lead the discussion include:

Julian Snape - looking at technology risks and solutions from the point of view of both nanotechnology and possible collisions from NEOs (Near Earth Objects - comets and asteroids)

John Dinsdale - looking at technology risks and solutions around Global Warming, Peak Energy (fossil fuel,nuclear) and EROEI (energy return on energy invested)

Join the debate!

Venue:

Birkbeck College - Room 539, 5th floor, Main Building, Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square), London WC1E 7HX - MAP

The nearest tube station is Russell Square. Come out of the tube station and turn left, to walk west along Bernard St. Cross over Herbrand St then Woburn Place and keep walking westwards, on the north side of the square. Cross Bedford Way, and turn right into Thornhaugh St, then immediately left to enter Torrington Square through the pedestrian-only courtyard outside SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies). Veer right and you'll see the main entrance to Birkbeck College on the left as you walk up Torrington Square. Take the lift to the 5th floor and follow the signs to room 539.

Discussion is likely to continue after the event in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay. There's also the option of joining some of the UKTA regulars for drinks/lunch beforehand, starting c. 12.30, in "The Friend At Hand" pub which is situated behind Russell Square tube station on Herbrand Street. If it's your first ExtroBritannia look out for a copy of Ending Aging on display on our table.

Keep an eye on our mailing list for updates.

10.4.08

Tomorrow's technologies emerging today - nanotechnology and stem cell rejuvenation: seizing the opportunity despite the scaremongers

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday the 10th of May 2008, 2pm-4pm. Venue: Room 538 (fifth floor), Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX. The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

Come to hear and discuss the exciting possible near-term developments with some key 21st century technologies. This is not science fiction - it could be science fact, well within our lifetimes. Nanotech means manipulating substances at the level of individual molecules, creating materials and compounds with remarkable properties. Stem cell therapy has the potential to cure cruel degenerative diseases like Parkinsons and Motor Neurone Disease. Both technologies deserve to be progressed carefully and thoughtfully, but also quickly and seriously. In each case, misguided interventions such as the opposition to the Human Fertilisation & Embryology bill threaten to frustrate progress and prolong disease and impoverishment. The speakers describe how we can seize and guide the opportunity despite the scaremongers.

The meeting is sponsored by the UKTA, the United Kingdom Transhumanist Association. There is no charge to attend.

Speakers:

Julian Snape: "Latest developments with nanotechnology"

Darren Reynolds: "Reasons to support and improve the Human
Fertilisation & Embryology bill"

Venue:

Birkbeck College - Room 539, 5th floor, Main Building, Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square), London WC1E 7HX - MAP

The nearest tube station is Russell Square. Come out of the tube station and turn left, to walk west along Bernard St. Cross over Herbrand St then Woburn Place and keep walking westwards, on the north side of the square. Cross Bedford Way, and turn right into Thornhaugh St, then immediately left to enter Torrington Square through the pedestrian-only courtyard outside SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies). Veer right and you'll see the main entrance to Birkbeck College on the left as you walk up Torrington Square. Take the lift to the 5th floor and follow the signs to room 539.

Discussion is likely to continue after the event in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay. There's also the option of joining some of the UKTA regulars for drinks/lunch beforehand, starting c. 12.30, in "The Friend At Hand" pub which is situated behind Russell Square tube station on Herbrand Street. If it's your first ExtroBritannia look out for a copy of Ending Aging on display on our table.

4.3.08

Transhumanism in the UK, 2008-2012: Hopes and fears, opportunities and risks - a series of provocative short presentations (15 minute each), followed by group discussion.

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday the 15th of March 2008, 2pm-4pm. Venue: Room 538 (on the fifth floor), Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX. The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

Questions to be considered will include: What changes are feasible in the UK, regarding attitudes towards transhumanism and progress with specific H+ projects, between now and 2012? What role can interested individuals play in regard to these projects? What could go wrong - and how can we guard against these drawbacks?

The panel of presenters include:

Anders Sandberg, Neuroethics researcher at the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University;
Ben Zaiboc, UKTA, London;
David Wood, UKTA, London.

Discussion is likely to continue after the event in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay. There's also the option of joining some of the UKTA regulars for drinks/lunch beforehand, starting c. 12.30, in "The Friend At Hand" pub which is situated behind Russell Square tube station on Herbrand Street. If it's your first ExtroBritannia look out for a copy of Ending Aging on display on our table.

More details of the venue:

Room 538 is in the main Birkbeck College building, known as the Malet Street building, but the entrance is in Torrington Square. Note that Torrington Square is pedestrian-only.

Here's how to reach the lecture room from the nearby Russell Square tube station (this may sound long but it will take less than 10 minutes):

Come out of the tube station and turn left, to walk west along Bernard Street. Cross over first Herbrand St then Woburn Place and continue to walk roughly westwards, keeping to the north side of Russell Square. Cross Bedford Way, and turn right into Thornhaugh St, then immediately left to enter Torrington Square through the pedestrian-only courtyard outside SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies). Veer slightly right and you'll see the main entrance to Birkbeck College on the left hand side as you walk up Torrington Square. Take the lift to the fifth floor and then follow the signs to room 538.

18.1.08

NEXTROBRITANNIA - After a few months of inactivity, the UKTA is ready to spring back into action. What's the next step? NextroBritannia, obviously...

Saturday the 16th of February 2008, from 12:30 at the Penderel's Oak in Holborn, London (see below for address and map). Everyone welcome.

The plan is to catch up with each other's news over lunch and then discuss the way forward. The points on the agenda are:

- The possibility of a rotating chair system for organising meetings and events
- How to structure meetings and events
- Candidates for the future UKTA roles
- Date, time, place and person responsible for organising the next meeting
- Any other business

Penderel's Oak
283-288 High Holborn
London WC1V 7HJ
Tel: 0207 242 5669
Nearest tube: Holborn
MAP

If it's your first time at an ExtroBritannia event, look out for a copy of Aubrey de Grey's "Ending Aging" at our table. Here's a picture of the book's cover: