For my first, and quite possibly strangest, panel of Moogfest 2016, I had the pleasure to sit in on the keynote presentation delivered by the impossibly groovy Dr. Martine Rothblatt.
The lawyer, entrepreneur and medical ethicist, who happens to be transgender and the highest paid female CEO
in the world, immediately launched into a monologue seemingly penned by the acid-drenched love child of Hunter S. Thompson, Elon Musk and Aldous Huxley. If you think this is hyperbole, take a look at some of the following quotes I was able to scribble down.
“Our anatomies have become less important than our infographics; the memes are now mightier than the genes.”
“Get in a war with everyone who wants to stamp you out like a bug… act like a black ops scout.”
She churned through slides, spouting strange 31st century catchphrases about stardust and mind waves while drawing laughs, applause and looks of earnest confusion.
The structure of the speech was hazy and wandering, but she made a few key points about the human mind and creativity over the course of her hour on stage.
Firstly, she called to question our nation’s attitude towards education and the cultivation of the mind.
Echoing the call of Sanders supporters across the country, she railed on the US government for not providing free or dirt cheap education for this generation of Americans, going so far as to say we should be paid for bettering ourselves through education.
"How can we afford to drop trillions of dollars of bombs? (...),” she said. “Of course we can afford free college for all.”
“Our futures are only as good as our minds”, is a point she made time and time again. If the cheap education offered to baby boomers has led to the advanced technologies we enjoy today, she argues, just imagine what the children of our generation can do with limitless access to education.
The second point she stressed hearkens back to the “memes and genes” quote above. Rothblatt is a futurist through and through, and she spent the rest of her speech discussing the emerging promise of transhumanism and artificial intelligence for the human race.
What follows was strange, rambling and hard to follow at times, but from what I could gather she believes that the transhumanism movement holds the key to our future as a species, and that instead of naysaying ideas that may seem far fetched or surreal, we should nurture this creativity.
According to Rothblatt, we’re on the cusp of one of the greatest technological leaps in human history—transcending the mortal coil.
In a video showed during the talk, Morgan Freeman sat down for a chat with a cybernetic head programmed to resemble the thoughts and speech of a real human woman. He described the experience as analogous to watching the first flight of the Kitty Hawk. The plane may have only been in the air for 12 seconds, but it was a start.
The mechanized bust and A.I. behind it may seem strange or clunky at the moment, but it's paving the way for a much greater movement.
If technology progresses as rapidly as we’ve seen with Dr. Rothblatt’s own Sirius XM and the guts that make it work, in a few decades we may be able to program our own minds into machines that would let our mirror image and personality live on indefinitely.
In the meantime, she thinks, we may be able to rely on synthetic organ replacement. Companies exist that think they can clone our organs for replacement, with one even printing and autonomously delivering these organs to hospitals via A.I. controlled quad-copters.
These ideas seem insane, but according to Rothblatt, the things we might think of as science fiction are closer to reality. Technology is an extension of our personality as a civilization, and if we continue to nurture the human mind and embrace the chase of distant dreams, what we can create and program and build is limitless.
Both the theme of the speech and her modus operandi appear to be “embrace the weird”. Anyone who bore witness to the keynote here at Moogfest 2016 could see weirdness abound, both on and off the stage.