Volume 3, Issue 3 
3rd Quarter, 2008

Awaken the Universe - Introducing the Order of Cosmic Engineers

Philippe Van Nedervelde

This article was adapted from a lecture given by Philippe Van Nedervelde, MA Comm., FLF, co-founder of the Order of Cosmic Engineers (OCE), during the 4th Annual Workshop on Geoethical Nanotechnology on July 20, 2008 at the Terasem Island Amphitheatre in Second Life.

Philippe discusses the benefits and methods to developing the technologies purported to enhance, thus expand, human health and life spans.
Terasem in Second Life
Image 1: Terasem Island, Second Life

The focus of the Terasem workshop is the appropriate geo-ethical management of nanotechnology. Not so much nanotechnology in general (which by the way most definitely requires appropriate geo-ethical management) as the specific nanotech which will be needed for bringing the quiescent consciousness of human persons back to wide-awake, vibrant life.

In my capacity of spokesperson at the already twenty-two year old Foresight Nanotech Institute [1], I have been and still am a rather vocal public advocate of the responsible development and use of nanotechnology. For well over a decade now, the central theme and focus of my professional non-profit work has been and still is maximizing the upsides and minimizing the downsides of the genuinely revolutionary, game-changing technology that nanotechnology, in its key role of catalytic enabler of the so called Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno (NBIC) [2] technology convergence, is becoming.

Image 2

Even in my bread and butter for-profit business that centers on Virtual Reality and 3D graphics, the focus of this workshop is near and dear to my heart as you can see from this still shot of the high-definition 3D animation that we made of a possible future nano-robot replacing a neuron inside the human brain.

Powerful, mature nanotechnology is rightfully believed by numerous experts and futurists to be one of the key technologies, if not THE key technology, needed for the future resuscitation of the dormant consciousness of human individuals in cryonic biostasis or electronic storage.

Powerful, mature nanotechnology is most likely to be what it will take to revive human beings from long-term biostasis or enabling the embodiment of digitized personalities onto and into new physical substrates and forms.

For your information, the relatively conservative forecast of leading nanotech experts today is that they would be surprised to see this powerful form of nanotech reach mainstream use before 2025... or after 2040.

Most people, including many scientists, still believe such future technological feats to be so difficult and improbable as to still be all-too-readily dismissed as impossible. In the slowly but surely growing group of people and scientists who believe that these feats may one day become achievable, not everybody thinks this is a good idea.

Some people out there really do NOT approve of greatly extended, let alone, indefinitely extended human life spans. So it sure looks like diverging interests will be defended by different groups of stakeholders. This in turn suggests that appropriate geo-ethical management will be needed to arbitrate this potential conflict of interests.

In passing, I should note that we need to take into account that this likely conflict of interests may, to a very significant degree, already come to a head and possibly even be substantially resolved well BEFORE the advent of powerful nanotech.

Thanks to initiatives like Dr. Aubrey de Grey's SENS Project [3] we may very well see the arrival of biotech-based technologies yielding significant life-extending results without requiring mature nanotech, possibly not even requiring any nanotech at all. The societal ethical debate about significant life-extension may already come to a head and be resolved around such pre-powerful-nanotech technologies.

Included in that scenario, the reasonable and responsible solution seems to me to be one where those who really want to dramatically extend their life spans... should not be prevented from doing so... provided they do it in a responsible manner that is at least ACCEPTABLE to those who do not wish significantly extended life spans for themselves. In other words, extreme life-extension should be optional at the discretion of each individual.

Conversely, the freedom of people to NOT significantly extend their life spans should equally be rigorously respected... without going so far as to impose such as a limitation on the freedom of those that do wish such. Live and let live. Or to be fully accurate: live as briefly as you wish and let others live as long as they wish.

Note that there are also some statistics which should come in handy in our favor. The historical data of the lengthening of human life spans shows, for instance, that the life expectancy in the year 1900 was 49.7 for men and 50.9 for women.

Image 3

Advocates of what they think of as their own non-extended lives all too easily and readily forget, and should be duly reminded, that they are already the beneficiaries of significantly lengthened life spans thanks to the essentially technological interventions of better public sewage systems, better hygiene, better food, and better medicine.

I know there are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics, but still.

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1. Foresight Nanotech Institute - Foresight is the leading think tank and public interest institute on nanotechnology. Founded in 1986, Foresight was the first organization to educate society about the benefits and risks of nanotechnology. At that time, nanotechnology was a little-known concept.
http://www.foresight.org/  July 31, 2008 10:19AM EST

2. Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno (NBIC) – [T]remendous human progress becomes possible through converging technologies stimulated by advances in four core fields: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology Information technology, and new technologies based in Cognitive science (NBIC). Many individual authors had noticed the gathering convergence of technical disciplines, and
sociobiologist E. O. Wilson wrote an especially influential 1998 book on the emerging harmony among the sciences. However, convergence became especially visible, and scholarship about its causes and consequences became very active, through a major 2001 conference, sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation and Department of Commerce, that resulted in a
substantial book (Roco and Bainbridge, 2003). The intellectual basis of convergence was strengthened by three further annual conferences held in Los Angeles in 2003, New York City in 2004, and near Kona, Hawaii, in 2005. The Los Angeles meeting resulted in a second book (Roco and Montemagno, 2004), and this third volume is an outgrowth of the New York
conference. The question raised at the first conference – “if visionary activities related to NBIC would have impact?” – has been replaced in the following meetings with “how and when?” – aiming at anticipatory measures for taking advantage better, sooner and in a responsible way for society.
http://www.wtec.org/ConvergingTechnologies/...  July 31, 2008 10:29AM EST

3. Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s SENS Project – De Grey, a Cambridge University researcher, heads the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) project, in which he has defined seven causes of aging, all of which he thinks can be dealt with. (Senescence is scientific jargon for aging.)
http://www.livescience.com/health/...   July 30, 2008 
 4:39PM EST



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