SkepTech Reminder!

Today, tomorrow, and Sunday…SkepTech, at the University of Minnesota campus. I’m leaving for the big city this afternoon after I finish dispensing justice teaching/advising today, so I plan to be there the whole session, and maybe hang about into the evening.

Look at all the lovely speakers at this free conference:

Oh, and if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, my title is “Hacking Evolution: Transhumanist Fantasies, Biological Realities”: it’s a strangely sympathetic and simultaneously scathing critique of transhumanism.

Which reminds me…the talk isn’t quite done. I should get to work.


  1. says

    Alas that I am 1500 km away – that is a lot of impressive speakers. I join the horde in asking: will the talks will be recorded and archived?

    If I read the conference website correctly, I had intro world history in one of the rooms you’ll be using (10 years ago – when did that happen?). Have fun, and I hope the light rail line construction along Washington Ave. doesn’t mess up the traffic too much.

  2. Robert B. says

    my title is “Hacking Evolution: Transhumanist Fantasies, Biological Realities”: it’s a strangely sympathetic and simultaneously scathing critique of transhumanism.

    The interests. I have them.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    As a transfelinist, I am going to “uplift” cats to sentience. And give them poison glands to supplement their existing weapons.
    Fortunately for us, cats are just too lazy to take over the world, which makes them perfect for my first uplift project. Next, can we uplift humans to some degree of intelligence?
    — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
    I am all in favor of hacking evolution. Recently, a tortoise genome shows they are capable of hibernation in frozen lakes without having radically different genes than humans. Find out how they do it, and you can go to Mars or Zeta Reticuli.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    PZ, you should hack the cephalopod genome and make them long-lived. They will be unable to do stuff if they die just after the “plotting evil deeds” phase.

  5. says

    OK, talk is done, time to drive east. I’m going to arrive in Minneapolis right around rush hour, oh boy, but at least I’ll be going the wrong way.

  6. says

    @birgerjohansson, re. the tortoise and assuming you are not joking:
    340 million years or so of divergent evolution meaning that tortoises _do_ have very different genes than humans aside, hibernation is not a blanket solution to the problems of extremely long-term spaceflight. Tortoises lose ~1% of their body mass for each month spent in hibernation. Mammals that hibernate lose more, 3-5%/month (more for mice than for bears – makes sense given heat loss/mass goes as surface area/volume).
    Putting a human to sleep like a bear would use a factor of several less than the mass of food a human would have to eat while being awake, but said human couldn’t sleep for six months and wake up in any healthy state. Interstellar spaceflight by humans will require very high speeds and very efficient recycling, because the subjective durations of any interstellar journey will be measured in years, decades, centuries, or possibly even longer.
    Closer to home, sending humans to Mars is not primarily a problem of flight time (~6 months each way) or the mass of food required with the crew being awake and active on the way out and on the way back, although both are serious concerns. It’s a problem of the size of the spacecraft necessary for the operation.
    Re. the cephalopods and again assuming you are not entirely joking:
    You don’t just ‘hack’ a genome to make something long-lived. There isn’t a single switch that controls lifespan. I assume PZ will give some examples in his talk to show what life-extension genetic engineering would actually involve.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    Yes, I know we cannot just “hack” a genome, I was doing a Ray Kurzweill :)
    Is Zach Weinersmith the same Zach W of a certain webcomic?

  8. birgerjohansson says

    Damn, maybe I should try clicking on links before asking questions…

  9. says

    @birgerjohansson: Not bad, but I think a good Kurzweill imitation requires at least one log-scale graph with a curve that goes up to the right.