The Intelligent Workplace

The Intelligent Workplace

Episode 8

Transhumanism…the future, or just science fiction?

Alyse Sue, Transhumanism & AI Speaker

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

What do you know about Transhumanism? Well, whether it’s a little or a lot, after listening to Alyse Sue’s insights on the topic you will be inspired to find out more.

Alyse Sue is at the forefront of a new wave of young and energetic tech influencers who are dreaming big in a fast moving tech world that is only too happy to support their dreams and ideas. Alyse has a rich and varied skill set that she’s assembled from her experiences as a software developer, a freelance tech writer and an entrepreneur. Once a founding member of KPMGs Innovate Team, Alyse has co-founded three ventures since including a genomic data machine learning startup and her latest venture, Transhumanism Australia.

An intriguing discussion that certainly had me thinking about where this technology could take us.

Alys Sue:            

Thanks so much for having me on your podcast. Chris, I’m so excited to join you in talking about Transhumanism and other emerging tech today.

Chris L.:              

Well, I’m excited too because I don’t know a lot about the topic and as I said to you off air earlier, there was a lot of chatter around our office this week when I mentioned that you were coming on the podcast. I think it’s going to be a great one.

Alys Sue:            

Yeah, I’m really excited. Love it.

Chris L.:              

Awesome. Now look, it’s fair to say that you’ve had quite a varied career to date. What sparked your interest in the world of technology?

Alys Sue:            

Yeah, I was actually during uni when I was talking to my industrial designer friend whose actually co-founded his own startup code, [inaudible 00:01:57] helmets. He used to tell me about how you could create these really cheaply 3D printed prosthetics so that people who’ve lost a limb or finger could easily replace their lost function. Then he also started telling me about his work in NFC and RFID chips. That sparked my interest in technology.

Alys Sue:            

But it wasn’t until about three or four years ago when my co-founder and I, where we had given up alcohol. I think we were having a dry July or something. Then we thought, what are we going to do on Friday night now? People go to pubs or bars to drink, but what are we going to do? So, we started hanging out in these bars in five star hotels but just sipping tea and not much else. We suddenly just started having in depth conversations about technology. We thought, there must be other people on a Friday night who don’t want to drink, and they probably want to talk about technology as well.

Alys Sue:            

That’s when we came up with the idea to start this group called Transhumanism Australia. We really wanted to talk about big ideas like being able to augment ourselves, maybe even extending our cognitive capabilities. That’s how my interest in the whole emerging tech scene sparked.

Chris L.:              

It is fascinating. But you’ve also been a tech writer. Like this day and age, there must be so much content for you out there to better write about. It seems things are just moving so fast. Other than Transhumanism, what are some of the favorite subjects you’d like to cover on your tech writing site?

Alys Sue:            

I like to write about AI and blockchain mostly. Those are two areas that I’ve worked in as a developer in the last couple of years. I like to write about those. But funnily enough, one of the reasons I got into freelance tech writing was because my co-founder and I wanted to attend these tech conferences and we thought, what better way than to become a freelance writer?

Chris L.:              

Yeah, that works. Yeah.

Alys Sue:            

Yeah. I really like to write about AI and blockchain and other emerging tech just as a way for myself to learn, and what better way to learn than to, I guess share the knowledge with others?

Chris L.:              

Absolutely. You mentioned, you worked as a software developer, and you are at the pointy end of the tech movement with that. Working with algorithms, AI, bots, blockchain, like you said, and many other buzz words appear on your LinkedIn profile. Is the desire to innovate something that you feel could really be part of your DNA?

Alys Sue:            

Yeah, that’s a good question. A lot of people ask, why would you want to create AI that can surpass the capabilities of a human, or which can think and reason and much like a human? I think, why not? Why not explore the capabilities of what humans can do? It’s also posing the question, are we the type of civilization that just dies on earth or are we the type of civilization that explores the multi-verse? It’s really about exploring the capabilities and what we can do, which is potentially limitless as humans.

Alys Sue:            

I think it’s just curiosity that I have in me about how can we just look at what’s possible and explore all those possibilities? I really think of it as curiosity rather than a desire to innovate.

Chris L.:              

I feel like if it wasn’t already part of your DNA, one of your areas of expertise might lead you to believe that you could modify your DNA to make it so. I say that in jest, but obviously, as we’ve mentioned, one of your passions is the idea of Transhumanism. Now, before we dive too deep into that, why don’t you just give us a quick elevator pitch about what drives that whole Transhumanism movement within Australia?

Alys Sue:            

Yeah. Transhumanism is about overcoming the limitations of human biology through science and technology. There’s a lot of people who are very interested in this topic, especially as I can see that our meetup group on Transhumanism is growing pretty much every month. What’s really driving this in my mind is that a lot of people are concerned about these media reports about robots taking over their jobs, about this change in I guess economic stability and also climate change as well. People are looking for solutions to these grand challenges. That’s what’s really sparked this interest in Transhumanism.

Chris L.:              

Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I was having a great chat with my colleagues this week about it and they were filling me in on what some of the simplest forms of Transhumanism might look like. Things like magnets or scanners implanted in the body. Then we got onto the more extreme ideas that might actually scare some people. The idea that one day you could upload your entire brain to the cloud and effectively live forever. I’m interested in how you communicate your message around that to people without actually scaring them?

Alys Sue:            

I actually find that there’s a lot of people who are quite interested in this, like I said before. I think it is because it has started to enter the mainstream. Like you said, your colleagues in the office are talking about it, you’re Googling it. There’s these Netflix series like Black Mirror and Altered Carbon, which are presenting these transhumanist themes. I think a lot of people are really interested in things like being able to augment their bodies through these NFC or RFID chips, brain implants even. And even perhaps in the future, replacing their perfectly healthy limbs with prosthetic limbs just so that they can give themselves super human strength or super human cognitive capabilities.

Alys Sue:            

I think there’s a lot of interests in it today, rather than being scared of these technologies and the opportunities that it might present to them. But actually if they are scared, I want them to be scared because I want them to think about what could go wrong with these technologies so that they put in place some safe guards so that we can prevent this potentially dystopic future happening to us like we’re seeing in Black Mirror. I want people to start thinking about how they could implement AI frameworks even using or following Asimov’s three rules for robotics so that we can make sure that we don’t have a dystopia.

Chris L.:              

It’s interesting that you say that because that science fiction series, Black Mirror has been very popular. I was wondering to myself if you maybe wished that the writers would tone it down a bit in the subject matter as maybe it creates an unwelcome hysteria for your movement, or do you see it from the other perspective as preparedness for a future that we might be closer to than what we can imagine, and that maybe as you say, we need to prepare and put safeguards in place to be ready for it?

Alys Sue:            

I believe on Black Mirror and other similar shows like Altered Carbon are actually pretty good for popularizing Transhumanism. Because at least it’s forcing people to have a conversation about science fiction and the themes that are presented in it. Funnily enough, I think it’s a bit like life imitating art, because you’ve probably seen the episode on the killer drone robots, and also bringing back your dead relatives from the past. I’ve actually seen startups pop up which are exactly doing that. I think really, have you seen what’s happened on Black Mirror? Are you sure?

Alys Sue:            

Then you might also remember the Black Mirror episode which is on being able to rate your interaction with the other person through this social app, and you’re given this score based on how people rank you. We’ve seen this play out in China’s social credit score, which they’re trialing now in a couple of provinces. I just think, could go so wrong, but at the same time, I think in China at least, it could be a really good idea because you’ve got a lot of mass urban migration, and a lot of people that you don’t know. You don’t know who your neighbor is anymore. A social credit score system like that could actually help build trust between people.

Alys Sue:            

But in terms of whether Black Mirror and other Sci-fi shows like that are good for Transhumanism? I think so. In the short term, it is good for creating awareness and conversation, and also it will force us to think about what could go wrong like I said before.

Chris L.:              

The idea of uploading your brain to the cloud just absolutely fascinates me. We did have a long chat about this in the office. Do you think that points towards some kind of global super brain being assembled in the cloud and then been augmenting with artificial intelligence over the top?

Alys Sue:            

Yeah, absolutely. I love that idea, Chris. I was just thinking about Elon Musk’s neuro link, which you may have heard of already. They’re creating this neural lace, which is essentially an ultra-thin mesh like layer that’s injected into your brain. Then once it’s injected, it will expand over your brain and then also eventually merge with your biological brain, so that it creates this perfect symbiosis between artificial and also biological brain.

Alys Sue:            

Then it’s meant to be able to allow you to upload and download your thoughts directly to the internet or even to download information or upload information from a computer so that you could potentially be like Neo in the Matrix. I know Kung Fu.

Chris L.:              

Yeah. Do you think that might be the eventual answer for curing cancer or world hunger or something like that? Is that how it’s supposed to work?

Alys Sue:            

Yeah, that could be. The biggest benefit I see is that it could allow a lot more people to learn quickly and access more information. I guess a one benefit is that it could allow people to communicate on a better basis. Because if you’re able to upload your thoughts or even emotions to a computer and then share it with people on a brain net.

Alys Sue:            

Essentially what I think Elon is imagining is being able to create a brain net where people can upload and download their thoughts directly to it. You can actually opt in to share what you’d like. You can just share some parts of your thoughts or maybe all of your thoughts with people who are connected to the brain net, so that it can actually enable more empathy between people, allow better communication, but also allow people to become much smarter than they already are.

Chris L.:              

But part of me sitting here listening to you talk and feeling a little bit worried that maybe Elon Musk is going to become this massive puppeteer. Once he’s got that connection with our brains that he can then do the reverse and start to get us to do things that he wants.

Alys Sue:            

Yeah, let’s hope he is not evil.

Chris L.:              

Let’s hope he’s doing it for the right reason. Look, this is a podcast about the intelligent workplace. How about we bring these two concepts together and talk about how the idea of Transhumanism now, or into the future might make for better experiences in the intelligent workplace?

Alys Sue:            

There’s three pillars to Transhumanism. Which are, achieving super longevity, super-intelligence and super wellbeing. I’d argue that a lot of intelligent workplaces are trying to achieve those three things.

Chris L.:              

Absolutely.

Alys Sue:            

Some examples for super longevity are being able to use a CRISPR gene editing technology. I think that’s something that you alluded to before, which I didn’t quite catch. I think that’s a really … I think CRISPR gene editing technology is a technology we should really be keeping an eye out on, because it can help us eliminate chronic diseases that people needlessly suffer from like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. That can help people in the workplace live longer and healthier, and also be able to work or do work that they love for much longer time.

Alys Sue:            

But also, just taking the drugs like Rapamycin or Metformin which are already available on the market that researchers are looking into how these drugs can potentially keep people healthier for longer. For example, limiting their probability of getting chronic diseases like heart disease. Other things for achieving super-intelligence are, for example, having AGI, so, artificial general intelligence, which is much more advanced AI than the narrow AI that we have today.

Alys Sue:            

You can imagine a scenario how in space odyssey 2001, it didn’t work out quite well there. But a scenario that could work for us is having these smart digital assistants, which we currently already have. Like Amazon Alexa, we’ve got a Google Home.

Chris L.:              

Absolutely.

Alys Sue:            

These have changed our lives a lot already. Just getting rid of these mundane admin tasks in our lives. I think that can really help build an intelligent workplace. But also in terms of the last pillar of Transhumanism, which is super wellbeing, that is about the health of the human mind. So, mental health-

Chris L.:              

That’s so important these days, isn’t it?

Alys Sue:            

Yeah. I noticed that you’ve got LiveSmiles, which is all about promoting mental health.

Chris L.:              

Yes, absolutely. Yes.

Alys Sue:            

Definitely LiveSmiles is a part of Transhumanism, which is about super wellbeing.

Chris L.:              

Well, there you go, that was my next question covered, how could we use Transhumanism to solve some of the common problems in the modern workplace? So, stress levels and mental health. Another one is challenges with communications across a global workplace. Do you think that it can help with that and helping to ensure that employees are also engaged?

Alys Sue:            

Yeah, that’s a good point. When you mentioned them, modern workplace challenges, I can already think of, like you said, communication. The second could be about accessing information and the third would be probably using that information so you can make intelligent decisions. I think those challenges could be addressed a lot by brain, computer interface technology, also AGI, and also things like bionic limbs or implants, especially if you work in a labor intensive industry.

Alys Sue:            

For example, SingularityNET is working on decentralized AI that anyone can access with the ultimate goal of creating artificial general intelligence, which is AI which can think reason, act just like a human. With things like that, you can imagine having an AGI, which is sitting on your board of directors and it has access to the world’s information at its fingertips. Because while you’re sleeping, it can access all the world’s information in a matter of hours. It can actually take this information, synthesize it so that you can come up with better insights, and then potentially it could present those insights to your board so that they can make better decisions for your company.

Alys Sue:            

But also in terms of management, like for the CEO, then they’re able to be able see everything that’s relevant to their company today, whether it’s inside information or whether it’s in industry information. They can use that so that they know exactly what decision they should be making to ensure the sustainability of their company and the wellbeing of their employees.

Alys Sue:            

I think there’s a lot of different technologies, like I mentioned, SingularityNET, looking at Elon Musk’s, neural lace, but also Kernel as well. Kernel is a company which is making noninvasive brain technology, which can extend your cognitive capability. For example, if you have been in an unfortunate car accident, or you’ve had a stroke, you will lose part of your brain function. Kernel was looking at making technology which can help you replace that brain function, and in the future, maybe even extending your brain’s capabilities so that you could have perfect memory or you could be able to learn faster as well.

Alys Sue:            

A lot of people are concerned that as AI and robotics becomes more advanced, that their jobs are at risk. A lot of people are saying that in order for humans to keep up, we have to look at merging with machines so that humans are still relevant. That’s why it’s important to keep up with technologies like what Kernel’s doing with the noninvasive brain technology, neural lace is doing with brain computer interfaces, but also projects like SingularityNET, which is about creating AGI.

Chris L.:              

Speaking of that topic around people losing their jobs to AI. I read an article that you wrote just recently about how losing your job to AI could actually be the best thing that could happen to a person. I’d love to close with that statement and ask you why you believe this is so?

Alys Sue:            

Yeah. I’m not sure if you share my sentiments, but I think there’s just jobs that people are needlessly doing, especially jobs which are just downright boring or they’re dirty or they’re dangerous. These jobs are probably better performed by software or robot. I think why subject people to this when we could potentially solve this problem?

Chris L.:              

No, that’s fair enough. That’s great. I love your opinion. That’s what we’re here to do is discuss some sort of thought leadership ideas. In fact, this week I was watching a video of a garbage truck that I think was driven by a robot and you could see there was a scanner on the side of the road which was identifying whether or not things on the side of the road were actually pieces of rubbish, or rubbish bins that will be picked up or people, et cetera. It was amazing. That’s exactly what you’re talking about there. That’s a job that could potentially be replaced by some form of AI and let the people that are doing those jobs move on to bigger and better things.

Alys Sue:            

Yeah, absolutely. Just leave humans to do what they’re best at, like nursing or caring for the elderly or the young.

Chris L.:              

Fantastic. Well, look, Alys, thank you very much for joining me today. It has been a fascinating chat with you. I know I can’t wait to get back to the people in the office here and tell them about what I’ve learned because it is really, really interesting. Sometimes a little bit scary, but I think maybe the benefits certainly outweigh that sense of a little bit of hysteria that people might have about the Transhumanism movement. So, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts today and I look forward to talking to you soon.

Alys Sue:            

Thank you so much for having me, and thanks for the opportunity.

Chris L.:              

Thanks for joining me on the Intelligence Workplace Podcast, brought to you by LiveTiles. If you have any feedback, or want to suggest a guest for a future show, email podcast@livetiles.nyc. Thanks for listening. I’ll catch you next time.

 

More Episodes

New-world networking…lessons from LinkedIn.

Sally Illingworth, is one of the new wave of influences with a network of 50,000 LinkedIn followers. She is an experienced Content Marketing Strategist who is an engaging presenter.

Sally is also passionate about diversity in the workplace. #brainsoverbreasts is her online campaign that recognises women for their intellect, not their inherent female body features.

View Episode