Supersapiens, the Rise of the Mind

July 23, 2017

In the new film Supersapiens, writer-director Markus Mooslechner raises a core question: As artificial intelligence rapidly blurs the boundaries between man and machine, are we witnessing the rise of a new human species?

The film features scientists, philosophers, and neurohackers Nick Bostrom, Richard Dawkins, Hugo De Garis, Adam Gazzaley, Ben Goertzel, Sam Harris, Randal Koene, Alma Mendez, Tim Mullen, Joel Murphy, David Putrino, Conor Russomanno, Anders Sandberg, Susan Schneider, Mikey Siegel, Hannes Sjoblad, and Andy Walshe.

“Humanity is facing a turning point — the next evolution of the human mind,” notes Mooslechner. “Will this evolution be a hybrid of man and machine, where artificial intelligence forces the emergence of a new human species? Or will a wave of new technologists, who frame themselves as ‘consciousness-hackers,’ become the future torch-bearers, using technology not to replace the human mind, but rather awaken within it powers we have always possessed — enlightenment at the push of a button?”

“It’s not obvious to me that a replacement of our species by our own technological creation would necessarily be a bad thing,” says ethologist-evolutionary biologist-author Dawkins in the film.

Supersapiens in a Terra Mater Factual Studios production. Executive Producers are Joanne Reay and Walter Koehler. Distribution is to be announced.

Markus Mooslechner | Supersapiens teaser

Why Haven’t We Met Aliens Yet? Because They’ve Evolved into AI

June 18, 2016


While traveling in Western Samoa many years ago, I met a young Harvard University graduate student researching ants. He invited me on a hike into the jungles to assist with his search for the tiny insect. He told me his goal was to discover a new species of ant, in hopes it might be named after him one day.

Whenever I look up at the stars at night pondering the cosmos, I think of my ant collector friend, kneeling in the jungle with a magnifying glass, scouring the earth. I think of him, because I believe in aliens—and I’ve often wondered if aliens are doing the same to us.

Believing in aliens—or insanely smart artificial intelligences existing in the universe—has become very fashionable in the last 10 years. And discussing its central dilemma: the Fermi paradox, has become even more so. The Fermi paradox states that the universe is very big—with maybe a trillion galaxies that might contain 500 billion stars and planets each—and out of that insanely large number, it would only take a tiny fraction of them to have habitable planets capable of bringing forth life.

Whatever you think, the numbers point to the insane fact that aliens don’t just exist, but probably billions of species of aliens exist. And the Fermi paradox asks: With so many alien civilizations out there, why haven’t we found them? Or why haven’t they found us?

The Fermi paradox’s Wikipedia page has dozens of answers about why we haven’t heard from superintelligent aliens, ranging from “it is too expensive to spread physically throughout the galaxy” to “intelligent civilizations are too far apart in space or time” to crazy talk like “it is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself.”

Millions of singularities have already happened, but we’re similar to blind bacteria in our bodies running around cluelessly

Given that our planet is only 4.5 billion years old in a universe that many experts think is pushing 14 billion years, it’s safe to say most aliens are way smarter than us. After all, with intelligence, there is a massive divide between the quality of intelligences. There’s ant level intelligence. There’s human intelligence. And then there’s the hypothetical intelligence of aliens—presumably ones who have reached the singularity.

The singularity, David Kelley, co-founder of Wired Magazine, says, is the point at which “all the change in the last million years will be superseded by the change in the next five minutes.”

If Kelley is correct about how fast the singularity accelerates change—and I think he is—in all probability, many alien species will be trillions of times more intelligent than people.

Put yourself in the shoes of extraterrestrial intelligence and consider what that means. If you were a trillion times smarter than a human being, would you notice the human race at all? Or if you did, would you care? After all, do you notice the 100 trillion microbes or more in your body? No, unless they happen to give you health problems, like E. coli and other sicknesses. More on that later.

One of the big problems with our understandings of aliens has to do with Hollywood. Movies and television have led us to think of aliens as green, slimy creatures traveling around in flying saucers. Nonsense. I think if advanced aliens have just 250 years more evolution than us, they almost certainly won’t be static physical beings anymore—at least not in the molecular sense. They also won’t be artificial intelligences living in machines either, which is what I believe humans are evolving into this century. No, becoming machine intelligence is just another passing phase of evolution—one that might only last a few decades for humans, if that.

Truly advanced intelligence will likely be organized intelligently on the atomic scale, and likely even on scales far smaller. Aliens will evolve until they are pure, willful conscious energy—and maybe even something beyond that. They long ago realized that biology and ones and zeroes in machines was literally too rudimentary to be very functional. True advanced intelligence will be spirit-like—maybe even on par with some people’s ideas of ghosts.

On a long enough time horizon, every biological species would at some point evolve into machines, and then evolve into intelligent energy with a consciousness. Such brilliant life might have the ability to span millions of lights years nearly instantaneously throughout the universe, morphing into whatever form it wanted.

Like all evolving life, the key to attaining the highest form of being and intelligence possible was to intimately become and control the best universal elements—those that are conducive to such goals, especially personal power over nature. Everything else in advanced alien evolution is discarded as nonfunctional and nonessential.

All intelligence in the universe, like all matter and energy, follows patterns—based on rules of physics. We engage—and often battle—those patterns and rules, until we understand them, and utilize them as best as possible. Such is evolution. And the universe is imbued with wanting life to arise and evolve, as MIT physicist Jeremy England, points out in this Quanta Magazine article titled A New Physics Theory of Life.

Back to my ant collector friend in Western Samoa. It would be nice to believe that the difference between the ant collector and the ant’s intelligence was the same between humans and very sophisticated aliens. Sadly, that is not the case. Not even close.

The difference between a species that has just 100 more years of evolution than us could be a billion times that of an ant versus a human—given the acceleration of intelligence. Now consider an added billion years of evolution. This is way beyond comparing apples and oranges.

The crux of the problem with aliens and humans is we’re not hearing or seeing them because we don’t have ways to understand their language. It’s simply beyond our comprehension and physical abilities. Millions of singularities have already happened, but we’re similar to blind bacteria in our bodies running around cluelessly.

The good news, though, is we’re about to make contact with the best of the aliens out there. Or rather they’re about to school us. The reason: The universe is precious, and in approximately a century’s time, humans may be able to conduct physics experiments that could level the entire universe—such as building massive particle accelerators that make the God particle swallow the cosmos whole.

Like a grumpy landlord at the door, alien intelligence will make contact and let us know what we can and can’t do when it comes to messing with the real estate of the universe. Knock. Knock.

Zoltan Istvan is a futurist, journalist, and author of the novel The Transhumanist Wager. He writes an occasional column for Motherboard in which he ruminates on the future beyond natural human ability.

The Brain vs Deep Learning Part I: Computational Complexity — Or Why the Singularity Is Nowhere Near

June 04, 2016


In this blog post I will delve into the brain and explain its basic information processing machinery and compare it to deep learning. I do this by moving step-by-step along with the brains electrochemical and biological information processing pipeline and relating it directly to the architecture of convolutional nets. Thereby we will see that a neuron and a convolutional net are very similar information processing machines. While performing this comparison, I will also discuss the computational complexity of these processes and thus derive an estimate for the brains overall computational power. I will use these estimates, along with knowledge from high performance computing, to show that it is unlikely that there will be a technological singularity in this century.

This blog post is complex as it arcs over multiple topics in order to unify them into a coherent framework of thought. I have tried to make this article as readable as possible, but I might have not succeeded in all places. Thus, if you find yourself in an unclear passage it might become clearer a few paragraphs down the road where I pick up the thought again and integrate it with another discipline.

First I will give a brief overview about the predictions for a technological singularity and topics which are aligned with that. Then I will start the integration of ideas between the brain and deep learning. I finish with discussing high performance computing and how this all relates to predictions about a technological singularity.

The part which compares the brains information processing steps to deep learning is self-contained, and readers which are not interested in predictions for a technological singularity may skip to this part.

Part I: Evaluating current predictions of a technological singularity

There were a lot of headlines recently about predictions that artificial intelligence will reach super-human intelligence as early as 2030 and that this might herald the beginning of human extinction, or at least dramatically altering everyday life. How was this prediction made?

More at:

Google patents robots with personalities in first step towards the singularity

April 27, 2015


Google has been awarded a patent for the ‘methods and systems for robot personality development’, a glimpse at a future where robots react based on data they mine from us and hopefully don’t unite and march on city hall.

The company outlines a process by which personalities could be downloaded from the cloud to “provide states or moods representing transitory conditions of happiness, fear, surprise, perplexion, thoughtfulness, derision and so forth. ”

Its futuristic vision seems to be not of a personalised robot for each human but a set of personality traits that can be transferred between different robots.

“The personality and state may be shared with other robots so as to clone this robot within another device or devices,” it said in the patent.

“In this manner, a user may travel to another city, and download within a robot in that city (another “skin”) the personality and state matching the user’s “home location” robot. The robot personality thereby becomes transportable or transferable.”

It doesn’t sound dissimilar from the opening of a Will Smith sci-fi movie, with one robot’s evil data genes spreading via the cloud to all its other robot brethren.

While this sounds far-fetched, the technological singularity – the point at which artificial intelligence exceeds man’s intellectual capacity and produces a runaway effect – is something that Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk have all expressed concern over.

Google is probably just safeguarding for the future, however, and is unlikely to release any products that require the patent to be employed anytime soon. We’ve still yet to create a robot that can convincingly walk up stairs, so an apocalyptic army is probably a long way off.


The Law of Accelerating Returns

August 3, 2014


An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The “returns,” such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.

You will get $40 trillion just by reading this essay and understanding what it says. For complete details, see below. (It’s true that authors will do just about anything to keep your attention, but I’m serious about this statement. Until I return to a further explanation, however, do read the first sentence of this paragraph carefully.)




Michio Kaku on Singularity: Science is the Engine of Prosperity!

June 7, 2014

During our 90 min conversation with Dr. Michio Kaku we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: why he shifted his focus from the universe to the human mind; his definition, classification and ranking of consciousness; his take on the Penrose-Hameroff Orch OR model; Newton, Einstein, determinism and free will; whether the brain is a classical computer or not; Norman Doidge’s work on neuro-plasticity and The Brain That Changes Itself; the underlying reality of everything; his dream to finish what Einstein has started and know the mind of God; The Future of the Mind; mind-uploading and space travel at the speed of light; Moore’s Law and D-Wave’s quantum computer; the Human Brain Project and whole brain simulation; alternatives paths to AI and the Turing Test as a way of judging progress; cryonics and what is possible and impossible…

The new technologies that will change human civilization as we know it

April 29, 2014


Where are technologies heading in the next 30 years ? How will they affect our lifestyle and human society ?

Most adults alive today grew up without the Internet or mobile phones, let alone smartphones and tablets with voice commands and apps for everything. These new technologies have altered our lifestyle in a way few of us could have imagined a few decades ago. But have we reached the end of the line ? What else could turn up that could make our lives so much more different ? Faster computers ? More gadgets ? It is in fact so much more than that. Technologies have embarked on an exponential growth curve and we are just getting started. In 10 years we will look back on our life today and wonder how we could have lived with such primitive technology. The gap will be bigger than between today and the 1980’s. Get ready because you are in for a rough ride.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Supercomputers & Robotics

Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, predicts that by 2029 computer will exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to that of a human, and that by 2045 computers will be a billion times more powerful than all of the human brains on Earth. Once computers can fully simulate a human brain and surpass it, it will cause an “intelligence explosion” that will radically change civilization. The rate of innovation will progress exponentially, so much that it will become impossible to foresee the future course of human history. This point in time is called the singularity. Experts believe that it will happen in the middle of the 21st century, perhaps as early as 2030, but the median value of predictions is 2040.

Let’s start with cognitive computing. IBM’s Watson computer is already capable of reading a million books a second and answering questions posed in natural language. In 2011 Watson easily defeated former champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings at the TV game show Jeopardy!, reputedly one of the most difficult quiz competitions in the world. Watson’s abilities are not merely limited to finding the relevant facts and answers. It can also make jokes and clever puns. Most remarkably, Watson can provide better medical diagnostics than any human medical doctor, give financial advice, as well as generate or evaluate all kinds of scientific hypotheses based on a huge amount of data. Computer power increases in average 100 fold every 10 years, which means 10,000 fold after 20 years, and 1 million fold after 30 years. Imagine what computers will be able to do by then.

The X Prize Foundation, chaired by Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Singularity University in the Silicon Valley, manages incentivized competitions to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. One of the current competitions, the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE, aims at developing a smartphone-like device that can test vitals like cholesterol, blood pressure, heart rate or allergies, analyse your DNA for genetic risks, diagnose medical conditions, and predict potential diseases or the likelihood of a stroke. All this without seeing a doctor. The device could be used by you or your relatives anywhere, anytime. All this is possible thanks to highly sensitive electronic sensors and powerful AI.

Google is working on an AI that will be able to read and understand any document, and learn the content of all books in the world. It will be able to answer any question asked by any user. This omniscient AI will eventually become people’s first source of knowledge, replacing schools, books and even human interactions. Just wonder about anything and the computer will provide you with the answer and explain it to you in a way you can easily understand, based on your current knowledge.

Once AI reaches the same level of intelligence as a human brain, or exceeds it, intelligent robots will be able to do a majority of human jobs. Robots already manufacture most products. Soon they will also build roads and houses, replace human staff in supermarkets and shops, serve and perhaps even cook food in restaurants, take care of the sick and the elderly. The best doctors, even surgeons, will be robots.

It might still be a decade or two before human-like androids start walking the streets among us and working for us. But driverless cars, pioneered by Google and Tesla, could be introduced as early as 2016, and could become the dominant form of vehicles in developed countries by 2025. The advantages of autonomous cars are so overwhelming (less stress and exhaustion, fewer accidents, smoother traffic) that very few people will want to keep traditional cars. That is why the transition could happen as fast as, if not faster than the shift from analog phones to smartphones. Robo-Taxis are coming soon and could in time replace human taxi drivers. All cars and trains will eventually be entirely driven by computers.

AI will translate documents, answer customer support questions, complete administrative tasks, and teach kids and adults alike. It is estimated that 40 to 50% of service jobs will be done by AI in 2025. Creative jobs aren’t immune either, as computers will soon surpass humans in creativity too. There could still be human artists, but artistic value will drop to zero when any design or art can be produced on demand and on measure by AI in a few seconds.

Once computer graphics and AI simulation of human behaviours become so realistic that we can’t tell if a person in a video is real or not, Hollywood won’t need to use real actors anymore, but will be able to create movie stars that don’t exist – and the crazy thing is no one will notice the difference !

3-D Printing

3D printers are the biggest upheaval in manufacturing since the industrial revolution. Not only can we print objects in three dimensions, they can now be printed in practically any material, not just plastics, but also metals, concrete, fabrics, and even food. Better still, they can be printed in multiple materials at once. High-quality 3D printers can copy electronic chips in the tiniest detail and have a functional chip. High-tech vehicles like the Koenigsegg’s One:1 (the world’s fastest car) or EDAG’s Genesis are already being made by 3D Printing. Even houses will be 3D-printed, for a fraction of the costs of traditional construction.

In a near future we won’t need to go shopping to buy new products. We will just select them online, perhaps tweak a bit their design, size or colour to our tastes and needs, then we will just 3D print them at home. More jobs going down the drain ? Not really. Retail jobs were already going to be taken by intelligent robots anyway. The good news is that it will considerably reduce our carbon footprint by cutting unnecessary transport from distant factories in China or other parts of the world. Everything will be “home-made”, literally. Since any material can be re-used, or ‘recycled’ in a 3D printer, it will also dramatically reduce waste.

3D printing is also good news for medicine. Doctors can now make customized prosthetics, joint replacements, dental work and hearing aids.


The other advances in robotics, AI, 3-D printing and nanotechnologies all converge in the field of bioengineering. Human cyborgs aren’t science-fiction anymore. It’s already happening.

  • There are artificial hand with real feeling controlled directly by the brain thanks to a nerve interface converting electric impulses in the nervous system into electronic signals for the robotic prosthesis. From that point on, any improvement is possible, like this drummer who got an extra bionic arm.
  • Electronic membranes can keep the heart beating forever.
  • Microchips implanted into the brain can restore vision in blind people and hearing in deaf people. Soon such chips will allow bionic humans to see and hear better than humans in their natural state. Equipped with one of these, humans will be able to see ultraviolets and infrareds, hear ultrasounds like dogs, echolocate like bats, and perhaps even eventually understand animal languages, including the whale vocalization. The potential for improvements is unlimited.
  • We are on the verge of developing telepathic abilities. Placing microchips on the brains of two individuals, then connecting them with one another through the internet, one person can hear what the other hears directly in their brains. Studies with rats went further. Microchips implanted in their motor cortices effectively caused one rat to remotely control the movements of the another rat in a separate room.
  • Neural prostheses have been used to repair a damaged hippocampus inside a monkey’s brain, and could be used in a near future to repair various types of brain damages in human beings too.
  • Robotic exoskeletons like Iron Man will augment our physical capacities tremendously. The advantage of these exoskeletons is that they can be easily removed and don’t require permanent changes to our body. Researchers at Stanford University are currently working on Stickybot, a gecko robot capable of climbing smooth surfaces, such as glass, acrylic and whiteboard using directional adhesive. It’s only a matter of time (years, not decades) before a gecko suit enables humans to climb buildings like Spiderman. And what next ?

Stem cells & Bioprinting

Regenerative medicine offers even more promises than artificial limbs and body parts. What if instead of having a robotic arm, you could regrow completely your original arm ? Sounds impossible ? It isn’t. Lizard regrow their tails. Axolotls regrow severed legs. We now understand how they do it: stem cells. These pluripotent undifferentiated cells have the power to repair any body part. Using organ culture, stem cells can regrow any organ as fresh as new through. In the future it will be possible to regrow limbs or organs directly on a person, as if the body was simply healing itself.

Combing 3-D printing and stem cell regeneration paves the way to the printing of human organs, a field known as bioprinting (read articles on the topic in New Scientist and The Economist).


Genetics has progressed tremendously too over the last 15 years. From the sequencing of the first full human genome in 2003, we have now entered the era of personal genomics, gene therapy and synthetic life, and could be approaching the age of genetically enhanced humans.

Gene therapy is perhaps the most revolutionary of all the medical advances, as it will effectively allow to fix any disease-causing gene and to engineer humans that are better adapated to the modern nutrition, life rythmn, and technology-dominated lifestyle. Not only will all diseases and neuropsychological problems with a genetic cause disappear, but humans will also become more resistant to stress, fatigue and allergens, and could choose to boost their potential mental faculties and physical abilities, creating “superhumans”. This is known as transhumanism.

Gene therapy also permits genetic modifications for purely cosmetic reasons, such as changing one’s skin, hair or eye pigmentation. Gene therapy can be done over and over again, switching back or refining earlier modifications if necessary, just as one would edit text on a computer. Once the human genome is fully understood, we could even imagine applications that let people customize their physical appearance of a virtual avatar of themselves, then transcribe these changes to their DNA. This is the age of customizable humans, or rather the age of customizable life forms.

Vertical farming

Ecologist Dickson Despommier of Columbia University came up with the idea of using skyscrapers in New York for agricultural production, eventually founding the Vertical Farm Project. The virtues of vertical farming are manifold. Food can be produced in optimal conditions inside purposely-built skyscrapers, maximizing the amount of sunlight for photosynthesis. By controlling the inside temperature, and the amount of water and nutrients each plant receives, indoor farming can produce crops year-round ultiplying by a factor from 4 to 6 the productivity compared to traditional farming. What’s more all this is possible without using pesticides since skyscrapers are a closed ecosystem of their own, free of insects or rodents. Additionally, vertical farms free up agricultural land, which in turn prevents deforestation and allows for reforestation and the safeguard of the environment.

The end of the capitalist economy

Ironically it is the extreme success of the capitalist economy that will lead to its demise. The very nature of competitive markets that drives productivity up and brings marginal costs down, eventually to near zero, will make goods and services nearly free much sooner than we think. Accelerating factors include Moore’s law of exponential growth in digital technologies and the fast development of 3-D printing. The Internet alone has already had a huge impact in providing billions of people around the world with an amazing range of free services, including for example online higher education such as Khan Academy.


The first step is providing free ultrafast Internet to all the world. Google and Facebook are both working on different ways of achieving this, starting with developing countries where Internet connections are extremely sparse today, notably in Africa. Google’s Project Loon plans to acheive this by launching high-altitude balloons into the stratosphere, while Facebook wants to build flying drones and satellites to beam Internet around the world. 5G mobile networks (coming around 2020) will be so fast (downloading a full HD movie in one second) that cable Internet connections will disappear. The merger that is under way between TV, computers, tablets, smartphones and game consoles will very soon result in a single universal type of device being used everywhere, all connected via 5G networks. In other words, telephone, cable TV and Internet Service Providers will all go out of business, as all TVs and phones will be connected through free mobile networks.

By 2035, humanity is likely to have achieved free electricity for all the world, mostly thanks to the exponential efficiency and decreasing prices to harness solar energy, but also thanks to 4th generation nuclear reactors and later fusion power.

The Internet of Things will connect all the electric and electronic devices in the world and optimally manage energy supply through a smart-grid known as the Enernet, expected to become a reality around 2030.

Over the coming decades the economy is going to be transformed by the rise of the Collaborative Commons, i.e. peer production coordinated (usually with the aid of the Internet) into large, meaningful projects mostly without traditional hierarchical organization. Almost any consumer product will be downloadable online and 3-D printed at extremely low cost at home, which ultimately will lead to the end of capitalism and the start of an unprecedented era of abundance, as Peter Diamandis of Singularity University convincingly explains in his remarkable book.

Toward the Singularity

As amazing as all this seems, keep in mind that all these advances in bioengineering, genetics, robotics and 3-D printing are barely the what is being developed now and will become available to us within the next decade (horizon 2025). This isn’t the singularity yet. Once the singularity has been reached, in 25 to 40 years, this is when everything will change beyond our wildest dreams (or nightmares).

This article was originally posted on


TED Talks. “Ray Kurzweil: A university for the coming singularity”


Ray Kurzweil’s latest graphs show that technology’s breakneck advances will only accelerate — recession or not. He unveils his new project, Singularity University, to study oncoming tech and guide it to benefit humanity.

Ray Kurzweil is an engineer who has radically advanced the fields of speech, text, and audio technology. He’s also one of our finest thinkers, revered for his dizzying — yet convincing — writing on the advance of technology, the limits of biology, and the future of the human species.

Ray Kurzweil: A university for the coming singularity