Peter Thiel (founder of PayPal, investor, and Singularity Institute board member) railed against the general public’s distrust and discomfort with technology.
And Steve Job’s making technology accessible and friendly? Said Thiel: “… a large part involves designing technology in order to hide it. And so the experience of iPad, iPhone is that it’s almost like magic. It fits the zeitgeist extremely well of a society which is actually not that technological and where it’s more a fashion statement.”
David Brin (scientist and sci-fi novelist) gave advice on how to convince a fundamentalist that the Bible is actually pro-science: Quoting Genesis, Brin pointed out that God asked Adam to name the animals. Adam therefore was the first taxonomist. QED.
Ray Kurzweil (inventor, restless genius, and author of The Singularity is Near) believes the law of accelerating returns (exponential performance improvements as far as the eye can see) will overcome all those pesky objections from AI contrarians. His use of the e-word in his talk was exponential.
Dimitry Itskov (founder of Russia 2045) is leading an effort to extend and improve life through cybernetics. And Itskov sees a day when humanity will have a choice of bodies to inhabit. Itskov has a campaign slogan for a future candidate: “Free and immortal should be a right”.
Stephen Badylak showed it’s possible to regrow muscles and an esophagus in human patients.
Tyler Cowen (economist, George Mason University): According to Cowen, we’re heading for stagnation because American society is too “egalitarian” and soft. His model for the way to organize our culture: Germany, circa 19th century. That ended well, of course.
Dan Cerutti (IBM executive charged with marketing Watson) announced that IBM will introduce a “Watson for Healthcare” to improve medical diagnoses, making it evidence based. Watson comes not to replace doctor-kind but to help them. Well, at least at first.
Stephen Badylak, deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania described successes with tissue engineering and regeneration.
Success so far has come from using a special connective tissue — called the extracellular matrix (ECM) — to act as a biological scaffold for healthy cells to build upon. Badylak showed a video where his team of surgeons stripped out the cancerous lining of a patient’s esophagus like pulling out a sock, and relined the esophagus with an ECM taken from pigs. The patient remains cancer-free several years after the experimental trial.
The connective tissue of other animals doesn’t provoke a negative response in human bodies, because it lacks the foreign animal cells that would typically provoke the immune system to attack. It has served the same role as a biological foundation for so long that it represents a “medical device that’s gone through hundreds of millions of years of R&D,” Badylak said.
If work goes well, Badylak envisions someday treating stroke patients by regenerating pieces of the functioning human brain.
Sonia Arrison, a futurist at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, Calif., said that by tackling end-of-life chronic diseases such as cancer, medical advances could nearly double human life expectancy beyond almost 80 years in the U.S. to 150 years.
The boldest scheme for immortality came from media mogul Dmitry Itskov, who introduced his “Project Immortality 2045: Russian Experience.” He claimed support from the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Education and Science, as well as actor Seagal, to create a research center capable of giving humans life-extending bodies.
Itskov’s wildly ambitious plans include creating a humanoid avatar body within five to seven years, transplanting a human brain into a new “body B” in 10 to 15 years, digitally uploading a human brain’s consciousness in 20 to 25 years, and moving human consciousness to hologram-like bodies in 30 to 35 years.
Dmitry Itskov apparently did not give a good presentation and did not seem credible.