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Robert J. Sawyer on Humanity 2.0

Robert J. Sawyer and Socrates

Robert J. Sawyer is one of my all-time favorite science fiction writers. Thus, when I heard that the Literary Review of Canada and TV Ontario’s Big Ideas are co-hosting a talk by Robert at the Gardiner Museum, I simply had to attend.

Robert J. Sawyer is one of those very rare people who truly know a lot about everything and — even rarer ones — who can communicate clearly and convincingly about what they know. Below you can watch the recording of Sawyer’s very engaging, eloquent and empassionate presentation touching up on a variety of issues such as cosmology, SETI, transhumanism, the singularity, longevity, mind uploading and other ways of upgrading humanity to version 2.0.

The event was held on November 21, 2011 in Toronto and it took a couple of months before it was eventually aired on TVO and posted online.

Program Synopsis: When Marshal McLuhan published Understanding Media, in 1964, the U of T English professor’s radical arguments about technology’s role in shaping human existence made him a unique media oracle. Now, 100 years after McLuhan’s birth, many simply take as given that our future will be shaped, not by ethical or cultural precepts, but by our fast-changing technological advances.

In fact, we’re approaching the moment —not too far off—at which computer intelligence will exceed that of humans. Today, some already dream of uploading their consciousnesses into artificial bodies or virtual worlds; others wish to radically prolong their lives or enhance their bodies through biotechnology. These changes are feared by some, embraced by others, and point to key questions: What will it mean to be human in the future? Can we look forward to a Utopian tomorrow? Might some of us simply become obsolete? What will it mean to be human in the future?

Robert J. Sawyer discusses how to approach our brave new future without (too much) fear and trembling and points out that uploading consciousness into virtual worlds and prolonging life through biotechnology are already being contemplated.

Who is Robert J. Sawyer?

Called “The Dean of Canadian Science Fiction” by The Ottawa Citizen and “just about the best science-fiction writer out there these days” by The Denver Rocky Mountain News, Sawyer is one of only eight writers in history (and the only Canadian) to win all three of the science-fiction field’s top honors for best novel of the year – the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He has taught writing at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Humber College, the National University of Ireland, and the Banff Centre. His keen insights into the human impact of technological change have led to consulting work for corporate clients such as Google, and Sawyer has also advised bodies from the Canadian Federal Department of Justice to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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