Technology is Magic Syllabus

Technology -- Indistinguishable from Magic

Current Syllabus -- adding new references as new TED and other resources become available.

Items with the ** indicate ~20 minute videos we will use in class to introduce the topic/discussion.

Topic and Class Index -- See for this syllabus online

(note most resources have links from this online syllabus for easy access)

  • Memes - things that get imitated, ideas, actions, jokes ...
  • Consciousness - what does it mean to be human?
  • Augmented Reality - overlays on what we perecive to create greater insight
  • Augmented Humanity - doing things that make us better - hearing, sight -- able to leap tall buildings ...l
  • Singularity and intellegent machines
  • Immortality

Context: The world is changing (you may have noticed)

    1. See “Did you know”
    2. for some painful insight.
    3. feedback from creator/school teachter Karl Fisch:
    4. and version 4.0 created in 2009 by the Economist tells variation on the story
    5. And what will change everything? the 2009 "edge" question
    6. Memes – the concept, of a concept -- the Second Replicator
    7. Books
      1. Richard Dawkins: The Selfish Gene (identifies the gene's impact as a replicator, defines meme's as a potential second one)
      2. Susan Blackmore: The Meme Machine
    8. TED
      1. ** Susan Blackmore on Memes and Memeitics
      3. Daniel Dennett – Dangerous Memes
      5. Seth Godin - Tribes we lead (spreading memes)
      7. Diane Benscoter on cults and viral memes -- exMoonie and brainwashing/intervention
      9. Deb Roy --Birth of a word -> Starts by tracking development of language in his own child, but then looks at how the tools can track propigation of ideas from media into cyber-sphere
      11. Mark Pagel - How Language Changed Humanity
    9. A few questions to consider
      1. What memes are currently being spread? Political? Nationalistic? Religious?
      2. What makes a meme "sticky"? Is it easier if the meme is "true" or "false"?
      3. How does the Nashua Telegraph "truth meter" (2012 elections) affect perceptions about referenced memes? (or other credibility tests)
    10. Consciousness and what is it to be human?
    11. Books & Articles:
      1. Ian Steward & Jack Cohen: Figments of Reality; related keynote from Jack:
      3. Brian Christian; The Most Human Human
      4. Jeff Hawkins: On Intelligence
      5. Douglas Hofstadter & Daniel Dennett, The mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul
      6. (a delightful collection of short stories in this area, touches on agumented humanity, reality and AI as well)
    12. TED:
      1. ** Jeff Hawkins – Brains (But also see Brian Christian on YouTube below)
      3. Daniel Dennett – consciousness
      5. Michael Pollan - the plant/animal view of humanity
      7. Jill Bolte taylor, Stroke of insight
    13. Other resources
      1. Brian Christian on you tube: 10 minutes
      2. Nova Now: Emergence:
      4. Entangled Life; Discover Magazine; Feb. 2009 (Quantum physitcs & conciousness)
      5. Of Two Minds; Discover Magazine; Dec. 2010 (evolution of conciousness)
    14. A few questions to consider:
      1. Is consciousness a grey scale? Perhaps with humans at one end, bacteria at another?
      2. What are the relevant "stages"? -- self awareness, empathy (other awareness),
      3. If we encounter alien intellegence, how might we determine if it is conscious? (or intellegent?)
    15. Augmented reality
    16. Books & Articles
      1. IEEE Spectrum article (free) on AR:
      2. Mind out of Body; Scientific American; Feb. 2011
    17. TED
      1. **Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology
      2. in India:
      3. in US w/MIT's Pattie Maes
      4. Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos augmented-reality maps Blaise Aguera, Augmented Reality Maps and virtual presence
    18. Other resources
      1. PBS Parents, Augmented reality as our children's future:
    19. A few questions to consider:
      1. Augmenting reality is a layer, presumably external, that provides layers of 'story' or information beyond our default senses
      2. What are potential educational or entertainment uses of "overlaying" reality with an additional layer?
    20. Augmented humanity
    21. Books & Articles:
      1. The Future of Medicine 2013; Scientific American, April 2013 (a number of articles)
      2. Dean Kamen's Luke Arm:
      3. video at IEEE Spectrum:
    22. TED:
      1. **Greg Stock - To Upgrade is Human,
      2. Nina Tando - Tissue Engineering (6min)
      3. Paul Root Wolpe - BioEngineering and ethics (selection, alter env., intentional evolution)
      4. Dean Kamen's Luke Arm:
      5. Eythor Bender - Human exoskeletons - wearable robots
      7. Scott Summit -- designer limbs --
      8. Chris Abani - reflecting my humanity back at me,
      9. Anthony Atala - Growing organs;
      10. Kevin Stone - Joint replacement;
      11. Ed Boyden - A Light Switch for Neurons:
    23. Other resources
      1. BioTech futures - Khanna, Parag:; On Demand Human Enhancement --or;-- full program
      2. Book: Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization
    24. A few questions to consider:
      1. Augmented people are ones with technically enhanced senses - from hearing aids and glasses to implants of many kinds.
      2. Where is the boundary between augmented reality and augmented humanity? Hearing beyond traditional ranges, seeing in infra-red ... to goggles that provide even more.
    25. Intelligent, Conscious Computers, and the Singularity -- the next replicator?
    26. Books & articles:
      1. Ray Kurzweil: Spiritual Machines
      2. The Coming Technological Singularity (1993), Vernor Vinge
      4. Artificial Brain Development; Discover Magazine, Oct. 2009
      5. The Omnipotence Machines; Scientific American; Dec. 2009
      6. The Rise of Robo Scientists; Scientific American, Jan. 2011
      7. Singularity Sky; Charlie Stross; 2003 - a technically informed SF look at a post-singularity future
    27. TED
      1. **Ray Kurzweil: The Singularity University, and How Technology will Transform Us
      3. also:
      4. Cynthia Breazeal - Personal Robots - Kismet, emoting robot
      6. David Brooks - The social animal - interpenetration as essence of being human
      8. Juan Enriquez; the ultimate reboot (with some initial critique on the economy – but keep watching!)
    28. Other Resources
      1. Watson on Jeopardy; Feb. 2011
    29. A few questions to consider:
      1. Will machines/computers ever be "intellegent" or "conscious" -- if not, why not?
      2. How would we know when machines "awake"? What might they do?
    30. Practical Immortality & Transhumanism
    31. Books
      1. Ben Bova: Immortality: How Science Is Extending Your Life Span and Changing the World
      2. Ray Kurzweil : Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever
      3. Vernor Vinge: “Vinge on the Singularity” (short article on the web)
      5. Back from the Brink; Discover Magazine; March 2011
      6. 2045 The Year Man Becomes Immortal; Time Magazine (cover article); 21 Feb. 2011
      7. Why Can't We Live Forever?; Scientific American; Sept. 2010
      8. Live Long and Prosper; Discover Magazine; Oct. 2010
      9. The Healing Power Within; Discover Magazine, July 2011 (pixie dust)
    32. TED
        1. NEW: Juan Enriquez, Will our kids be a different species?
      1. **Harvey Finberg - Are We Ready for Neo-Evolution?
      3. Aubey de ; Grey – Defeating Aging
      5. Hery Markham, modeling the human brain
      7. Greg Petsko – Neurological impact of extended lifespan (even without immortality)
      9. But also see many of the TED items related to agumented humanity, and Greg Stock "to upgrade is human"
    33. Other
      1. NovaNow composite on Netflix: Can We Live Forever? segments on search "live forever" see Immortality Gene (FOXO) portion at
      2. Future Med program at the Singularity University:
      3. The Quest for Immortality; 60 Minutes, CBS News; 2006
      5. Nova Science Now on Aging :
    34. A few questions to consider:
      1. Will life extension be limited to the rich? To folks in a given country?
      2. What things would you suggest be included in Humanity 2.0?
  1. Some Closing thoughts -- or maybe just the TED talk I couldn't pack in:
    1. What does Technology Want? - A book by Kevin Kelly, and touched on in two TED videos:
    2. Kevin Kelly, Evolution of Technology
    3. (2009)

High Impact Possibilities

    1. 12 Events That Will Change Everything; Scientific American; June 2010
      1. Cloning of a human - likely by 2050
      2. Extra dimensions - 50/50
      3. Signal from Outer Space - unlikely
      4. Nuclear Exchange - unlikely
      5. Synthetic life - almost certain
      6. Room Temperature Superconductors - 50/50
      7. Machine self-awareness - likely
      8. Polar Meltdown - likely
      9. The "big one" - California Earthquake - almost certain
      10. Fusion Energy - very unlikely
      11. Asteroid Collision - unlikely
      12. Deadly Pandemic - 50/50
    2. What Comes Next?; Scientific American; Sept. 2010
      1. The Age of Digital Entanglement - human/computer dependency
      2. Life Designed to Order
      3. Era of Infinite Storage
      4. An Answer to the Riddle of Consciousness
      5. The Obsolescence of Oil
      6. Energy that Doesn't Harm Your Health
      7. A New Window of Human Origins - DNA
      8. Medicine I Can Call My Own
      9. The Next Revoluion in Farming
    3. A few additions from Jim:
      1. A colony on Mars (my candidate: China)
      2. Eugenics Renasiance- test for the best; or just a few minor tweeks