* Under Construction *

Science & Technology


"Society of Mind" Marvin Minsky (2011)

"Models of Consciousness" Anil Seth (2006-Present)

[email protected] David Baker (2005-Present)

Art & Design


"Ghost in the Shell" Andrew Baker (2016)

"The Witness" Jonathan Blow (2016)

"Riven" Cyan (1997)

{Note: This page is under construction. I hope to use it to discuss studio explorations and influences, as well as share unique and enjoyable links! Therefore, the categories should not be read as set in stone, but as an in-flux process.}

Veganism

Many people have asked about the motivations underlying my commitment to veganism (starting with vegetarianism ~2014, and then transitioning to veganism ~2016). Given the amount of inquiry, I've decided to articulate my position here, both as a method of clarifying my own thought and as a means toward having better conversations and debate moving forward etc. While I primarily make the case for ethical veganism, varients such as environmental veganism also make compelling points.

Essentially, a primary catalyst was reacting to the realities of the factory farming industry. However, the more crucial foundation was a reflection upon the commodity status of other species in our culture. Even the word "animals" reveals the lack of sophistication of our language, as an "us vs. them" binary. There are a great variety of species, of which we are but a branch upon the tree of life.

Many people immediately jump to pointing out differences in evolved capacity, such as intelligence, as baseline requirements for moral consideration. But as Bentham put it, “the question is not, can they reason? nor, can they talk? but, can they suffer?”. Many of the primary species in question not only have evolved nervous systems capable of experiencing pain, but have an inner world and interests in seeking out well-being. As for species which appear to lack sentience, nervous systems etc, there's no doubt a gradient and the degree to which species across the tree of life are most worth our moral attention, is up for debate.

Another point often raised is interspecies violence and consumption in the wild as "natural", but valuing nature in principle is a fallacy. Putting aside cases of altruism that also exist across species, I do believe that (at present) humans are unique in their evolved cognitive capacity for moral agency. I view this capacity as a great responsibility and one we should take seriously. 

In the context of today's world and what's available to the average person in an industrialized nation, using other species as a commodity is not a necessity for survival. An appeal to tradition, in and of itself, is another fallacy. The American Dietetic Association has stated that, "well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes." Going vegan has not been a matter of personal purity. It is simply taking the ethics as far as practically and reasonably possible. 

All in all, I am therefore in favor of "animal sanctuaries".

Synthetic Biology

I first encountered synthetic biology via the work of Craig Venter and George Church. Particularly, the lectures on Venter's Life at the Speed of Light (2013) and Church's Regenesis (2014). The field astonished me in its boldness, not only in its investigation of fundamental questions of life, but in learning how much we had already accomplished in areas such as genome sequencing. I believe the medical applications are among the most critical applications of the field. Via gene therapy and protein design etc we can permanently alter the cell, which is an incredible responsibility. Bioinformatics and systems biology analysis of whole genome sequencing is an equivalently profound emerging technology that will shape personalized medicine.

Thus far, my investigations of the field have led to an interview with George Church, as well as genotyping (through 23&Me) and submitting to the Personal Genome Project.

Bionics

I was first exposed to bionics via science fiction. However, I never saw it applied in practice until encountering the work of Hugh Herr. Bionics has a feedback-loop, double-meaning (quite apt) of 1) engineering inspired by forms found in nature, as well as 2) engineering novel forms that have never been expressed in nature and then integrating that into biology. It is closely related to the field of cybernetics, which deals with systems and feedback loops.

I view bionics (alongside syn-bio) as a key engineering methodology by which, given evolution's lack of directionality (or "teleology"), we may become the means to design ourselves. It opens the door to both compassionate / medical / assistive applications, as well as artistic / self-expressive potential.

Neurotechnology

Arguably a subset of bionics, there are two key areas fundamental to neurotech. On the clinical side, neuralprosthesis may help functionally replace a damaged cognitive structure via a biomimetic device. On the augmentative side, brain computer interfaces and neural engineering (long term) may facilitate novel forms of cognition, such as web-symbiotic thinking, improve mental health, even optimize our cognitive architecture. Elon Musk's venture Neuralink, which has stated to be working on both these applications, has fueled the public's imagination about what may be possible.

Artificial Intelligence

I view artificial intelligence in the long-term as (potentially) a novel domain of life, alongside archaea/bacteria/eukarya. With artificial general intelligence, perhaps a novel form of sentience capable of self-awareness and worthy of personhood.

Ideally, given an emphasis on research safety, as well as a responsible societal attitude of granting A.I. rights, ethical treatment, etc, they would not only inherit our culture as the foundation to develop their own, but work symbiotically with us to develop civilization forward (up the Kardashev scale). 

Cognitive Science

How do brains produce minds? How do neural systems function? Where is memory, personality, perception, learning and decision making etc happening? Cognitive science is a key interdisciplinary field that explores cognition broadly, in all its forms.

Both neurotech and artificial intelligence, without a doubt, will derive insight from cognitive science to flourish. For those curious, my view of consciousness, in part supported by Marvin Minsky's Society of Mind, is as an emergent property (nicely summarized by neuroscientist Paul King here).

Minsky viewed the mind as a society of agents, as opposed to the result of a simple formal system. Different agents can be based on different types of processes with different purposes, ways of representing knowledge, etc. In short, "the power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity, not from any single, perfect principle."

I'm hoping to interview Dan Dennet on his multiple-drafts theory and his current view on functionalism!

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