Humanity+ conference in Pasadena

By Razib Khan | December 2, 2010 9:46 pm

humaplusI was going to try and make it to the Humanity+ conference this year, but life intruded and the scheduling didn’t work out. Here’s the program. If you live in the LA area and this is your cup of tea, registration still looks open. Also check out H+ magazine. I noticed that my friend Michael Vassar seems more optimistic about the teens of the 21st century than he was a few years ago, Top 10 Reasons to expect the next 10 years to be more exciting than the last. I’m most excited by #2 b the way, if it’s viable.

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  • benj

    “Science used to largely consist of meticulously gathering data and then using it to test hypotheses.”

    Science consists of exactly the contrary – making hypotheses and *then* gathering data to check it.

  • Razib Khan

    Science consists of exactly the contrary – making hypotheses and *then* gathering data to check it.

    science is a sloppy process which happens to involve a variety of methods. from what i have read the idea that one starts with a hypothesis and then tests it isn’t that strong empirically. some people, and probably most scientists, would agree with the model you propose. but that’s like most scientists who would praise popper without knowing much about his model aside form a few catch-phrases.

    (and this varies from science to science; physics operates most ‘classically’)

  • Katharine

    The main focus of my criticism is the intelligence section.

    Most of the speakers seem to be computer scientists, with very little incursion from neuroscientists (I see one computational neuroscientist).

    I do not think one can build a functioning ‘mind’, at least one resembling that of a human, much less one designed to work fully integrated with that of a human (not just the rudimentary accessory ‘mind’ that is a computer which simply allows us to offload certain kinds of computation to free up more space in our heads for further manipulation of whatever results the computer gives us), without having a good understanding of what ‘mind’ really is.

    The body of research I am aware of seems to suggest ‘mind’ is an emergent, whole-brain property, and that the term ‘mind’ itself is mostly just something we have applied to the brain’s cognitive functions. Memory, as far as we’ve gathered, is distributed around the brain. There are plenty of nuclei that serve various functions, but as far as I can tell the data is so complex that it would take more than we can comfortably do right now to model a human brain. Never mind the fact that there are probably questions about the brain’s cognitive functions that are presently unanswerable due to deficiencies in technology and need new methods to investigate them.

    Never mind the fact that ‘intelligence’ is nebulous and the assessment of it is still somewhat deficient in the breadth and specificity of its scope. Relative intelligence within humans is well-studied from a psychological standpoint, and I’m aware of the work that Robert Plomin, Nick Martin, etc. are doing on it, but sh*t if it hasn’t turned out to be like schizophrenia and autism in that it’s a polygenetic condition.

    Unleashing computer scientists on human intelligence is like unleashing physicists on immunology.

    I find transhumanism’s ideas on this somewhat presumptuous.

  • omar

    I agree with Katharine.
    We should have “like” buttons….


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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