Hiking is for Everyone.

We all have gone through the beautiful coffee table books and stared at awe of the beautiful photography and landscape.  We wished we could go see it in person. That’s exactly what hiking is: walking and trekking in the areas that inspire us the most.

Something new I am planning to do once  or twice a week is to make a short post about a hiking book, hiking trail, hiking organization, piece of equipment, movie, piece of media, or something that I found remotely interesting and share it! Why, because I want to share my love of the outdoors with everyone that I know.  Personally, hiking is one of the few times in my life where my mind is at ease and truly focused and enjoying the moment in awe of the natural world we all share in all its wonder.  I will be going through my own hiking book collection first to show everyone a little bit of what I enjoy and hope others when they come to southern California and many other wonderful areas.


Even though this was published ten years ago, most of the trails in Joshua Tree National Park do not change or erode much at all, due to lack of really strong winds or rain, being a high altitude desert.  Went there in early January 2015 and ended up climbing 4 different mountain peaks, and also completed two smaller trails in 48 hours.  A wonderful place to go visit but truly soak in, for the land area of the park is larger than the state of Rhode Island.

I recommended this book for several reasons, the first being that the trails and their routes are easily found with the descriptions, and provides excellent contextual information to help you comprehend the geography around you.  The relevant information regarding how much water, elevation gain and loss, total milage, rating, and current trail condition phone numbers to call all help to encapsulate the wonderful trails within the park.

Hope you enjoyed this post, and will be providing some more hiking books for your knowledge.

Consider purchasing the book directly from the Joshua Tree National Park Store from the link below. Cheers


Below I have some pictures from my Joshua Tree trip:











The Transhumanism Librarian


Print Books Still in High Demand



Print books are high in demand.  However sadly, the majority of books are still printed on tree pulp, when we have every opportunity to use hemp for all paper products but those in legislative power are afraid and are deeply indebted to the timber industry.

In a recent poll, only 4% of respondents gave feedback that indicated that they exclusively read e-books, which is a pretty low percentage when you consider the media coverage about the “age of the e-book”.  Sadly, e-books are still quite a long way from becoming fully functional books with full notetaking, audio, visual, and sensory enhancements.  Until them, e-books will continue to grow, but not at the pace at which is expected.

Luckily, libraries of all kinds and with great effort are providing amazing access to resources and materials, and still highly rely on print books as well.  More and more people are reading a combination of ebooks and print books, which should be the trend for a decade or two yet, before more of the developing world develops the technology and internet infrasturcture neccessary to be able to provide opportunities to purchase computers and mobile computing devices.  The number of people who are reading just print books rose 4% from 2012, which is also a significant statistic to understand.  This means more people are reading print books than ever before, primarily caused by the increase in demand for education for employees in many fields, and also the overall increasing demands for reading in general, and people on average seek out print books before ebooks and this is for several reasons.

First, ebooks are wonderful and all, but require either a computer or laptop, tablet, which for most people are becoming more commonplace, but still require a stiff initial investment of several hundred dollars even for the most basic of computing devices.  Sadly, Overdrive and other ebook access companies frown up library patrons reading and downloading ebooks in the library, which in my opinion severly limits the number of patrons who could be served by ebooks. For example, if a patron comes in, who is interested in ebooks but does not own an ebook device or computer, then they are pretty my screwed.  If patrons could dowload ebooks and then read them in the browser on the public computers, that would allow access to ebooks for everyone, because everyone has access to the public computers, and are not limited by external technology.

Secondly, ebooks still have a long way to go in terms of overall functionality, long term preservation, affordable pricing model and the ability to work across multiple platforms.  Ebooks do not last near as long as the print book, even if take care of, most digital file formats will become corrupt through time, and is not a vial long term option for data storage as of yet.  For transhumanist purposes, the technology needs to be driven for futher integration into ourselves.   Ebooks that can read to us and define words are now coming out, but ar far from standard features on ebooks.

Thirdly, ebooks lack any sort of organized pricing and stanardized file format, and this stifles grow of the ebook industry considerably.

Print books are still a large part of reading for many people. That being said ebooks will become more functional and prices will drop with increasing technology and publisher production.  As long as we continue to use trees to print books on, then we really have no sustanable print publishing model set in place.

Artificial Cartilage…One Step Closer




Two engineers from Duke University have come together to build a cartilage substrate from synthetic materials that is the closest production so far that resembles natural cartilage, and outperforms previous synthetic cartilage attempts.  Being able to develop these synetheic cartilage scaffolds will be used in animal models in 2014, which is the next step before this candidate and others can be attempted in humans. Nonetheless, synethic cartilage is a vital aspect of scientific research and development, for without cartilage the human body cannot function nearly as well, if hardly at all. 

Cartilage in the body wears down over time considerably, and is suspectible to tearing and breaking.  Being able to replace old cartilage parts with synethic and bio-synethic designs can help many humans live longer healthier lives, essentially extending the peak years of flexibility, agility, and overall ability to move as if you have more youthful cartilage in the body.  Funding for these types of research focuses need to continue to rise, while also shifting the focus slightly to understand the processes of aging itself and how those processes effect the lifespan and pliability of the cartilage within our bodies.  One of the engineers in the project had this to say, “It (the designed synthetic cartilage) has all the mechanical properties of native cartilage and can withstand wear and tear without fracturing.  From a mechanical standpoint, this technology remedies the issues that other types of synthetic cartilage have had,” says Zhao, founder of Duke’s Soft Active Materials (SAMs) Laboratory. “It’s a very promising candidate for artificial cartilage in the future.


Let’s continue pushing the boundaries of the engineering of science, especially pertaining to our bodies.  The more parts of our bodies we can replace, and understand the aging process, the longer, and healthier our lives will become.  The idea is just not to live longer, but to “extend” the peak years of health well beyond the normal ranges today.  So for instance most of us consider the ages of 15-50ish as the peak years of performance and vitality. Even with proper training and consistent tough exercise, meditation and proper diet, most will still begin to age considerably post 50 years and may extend our peak years a few more, being diligent.  However, with the advent of the converging technologies of biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology and cognitive science, we will have decades worth of research on replacing body parts, and extending human lifespan, and in particular, the peak years of life.  The natural evolution of our species will take us to a new level of life extension.  The first human in recent history to live to 150 years has already been born.

Transhumanist Librarian will be back soon with another article.

Robot Competition…To Save Us From Disaster

DARPA, the all encompasing technological agency of the United States has come out with another robot, called Valkyrie.  DARPA is the sponsor for the competition, with their own entry Valkyrie among 17 other competitor entries.  The event is scheduled for December 20, and 21 in Florida.


The robots, and their capabilities will be tested on their ability to provide assistance in future natural and man-made disasters.  The entry by NASA’s Johnson Space Center is Valkyrie, and honestly strikes quite a presence once you look at it.  First of all the robot is 6’2″, which is a perfect height for assistance in natural disasters because the content of the body will be able to withstand the weather, due to more surface area and independent limb movement.  The total weight of Valkyrie is 262 pounds, which also allows for complete movement in tough weather.  It has seven degree of freedom arms, with actuated wrists, and six degree of freedom hands.  This means that the range of motion for this particular robot is some of the largest range of motion every built for a single autonomous robot.

The goal of the Robot Challenge is to present robots “That demonstrates critical improvements in what robots can do to help out in disaster relief efforts, when human intervention is unsafe and time is of the essence, such as nuclear power plant disasters, oil spills, and wildfires. That means the robots who compete need to be agile and responsive to move through disaster zones and do needed rescue tasks. In the words of DARPA, the Challenge itself was designed “to catalyze the robotics community to help mitigate the effects of future disasters”

Valkyrie took nine months to build, working 22 hours a day! A pretty awesome feat considering the amount of technology, and converging technologies involved to create a robot of this magnitude.  However, we still have considerable room to grow in terms of engineering and nanotechnology that is specific to building robots for these specific purposes.  The robots in the challenge will need to prove the extent of their capabilities such as walking over uneven terrain, climbing a ladder and using tools.

The design team took several important functions of the body and made sure that parts were easily replaceable.  For example, the battery in the backpack of the robot can be replaced very easily, within two minutes.  They also designed the robot’s limbs as removable parts that can be swapped out for new parts in minutes. What’s more, they designed the left and right arms to be identical in construction, so that right and left arms can be swapped if needed.


For the competition itself, the robots will be graded on how well they can complete designated tasks the kinds that first responders would face in actual natural and man-made disasters.  Perhaps Valkyrie will be the robot in the challenge with the highest amount of embedded intelligence.  Not surprisingly, Valkyrie will enter the competition with lots of onboard computing. Sensors are generously spread all over Valkyrie. There are cameras and LIDAR (a remote sensing method, LIDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging) in the head, cameras in the abdomen, forearms, knees and feet. Valkyrie’s clothing consists of panels of fabric-wrapped foam armor which can protect Valkyrie from falls and impacts. The clothing was built on site by a dedicated design staff.

Only a few years from now these robots will be working with first responder teams in response to disasters while also being sent to Mars first to help setup the initial infrastrucuture for colonization, while then working with humans collaboratively when humans arrive a few years later.  Each year, the price of building robots comes down, thus why there are more and more robot competitions, and particularly more competitions for the younger generation.  We must build robots to replace some human work, and also build specific robots to supplement and lead our physical capabilities, such as this article describes.  As humans we will always lead ourselves to danger in some way.  Having robots by our side and integrated robotic technologies integrated into our bodies, will allow us to have less death and destruction from a human loss standpoint, and will allow more of us to live through disasters, both natural and man-made.  As long as we continue to fund the converging technologies of biotechnology, cognitive science, nanotechnology, and engineering.

Robots will help us live through disaster, now and in the near-future.

Robots Helping Us Live Longer


Not only are robots an excellent opportunity for humans to extend their knowledge and practical uses of science, engineering, information technology, and cognitive science, but they also currently and in the near-future will help us to live longer, healthier lives.


In this article, by the University of Exeter helps provide several insightful examples of how robots can help us.  The article specifically focuses on the uses of robots to help fill spots where we are expected to be physically, but cannot due to any number of variables, including sickness, physical impairment, prior demands, or just overall too busy.

In a research project funded by the university titled, “Being There: Humans and Robots in Public Spaces”, helps bridge the gap of possible uses of robots for when we physically cannot be present.  The focus of the study is primarily, “To look at the social and technological aspects of being able to appear in public in proxy forms, via a range of advanced robotics platforms”


For transhumanists and those interested in using technology to better our lives and our bodies, this is excellent news.  The project overall aims to enhance the public realm where people can express themselves in public with full equality and privacy, which is most important.  Professor Mark Levine of the University of Exeter has this to say, “Being able to interact with others in plays an important role in the well-being of individuals and societies. Sadly, many people are unable to do this – because they are ill, housebound or unable to travel. However, if a robot proxy can act for them – and can transmit back the full experience of being with others – we can help to reduce social isolation and increase civic participation

This aspect of the study and the use of robots in general should definitely be researched and studied even further.  Especially if more humanoid type robots can be implemented, the relaying of facts and experiences to the host human will become more meaningful and more productive. Perhaps we could have multiple robot proxys and can be present via those proxy’s in various physical locations, further enhancing our production capabilities. Opening up the public sphere to the use of robots proxys is vital if we are opening up ourselves to integration of technology into our bodies and our behaviors and decision-making.

If we are to use robot proxys to replace our physical representations both in public and family events, it will be paramount for us to use this technology in a responsible way.  Designing articificial intelligence following the three rules of Asimov’s Robots will help insure this.  Lastly, intergrating robots into our daily social interaction, will aid in our social development from a health standpoint, and will lead us to live longer, more healthful lives.  Simple social interaction, via technology and robots.  Perfect!

Transhumanist Librarian will be back with another article soon!

Uploading Your Mind…Part 1


Mind uploading or whole brain emulation (sometimes called mind transfer) is the hypothetical process of scanning and mapping a biological brain in detail and copying its state into a computer system or another computational device. The computer would have to run a simulation model so faithful to the original that it would behave in essentially the same way as the original brain, or for all practical purposes, indistinguishably ( p., 24).

Mind uploading is deemed as a logical endpoint for many of those in the in transhumanist and life extension circles. The term was originally suggested in biomedical literature in 1971, so the concept has been around a few decades but still abstract to many. Substantial mainstream research and development are however being done in relevant areas including development of faster super computers, virtual reality, brain-computer interfaces, animal brain mapping and simulation, and information extraction from dynamically functioning brains (p., 24).

The question of mind uploading is highly debated by philosophers, and contradicts the dualist of the human mind that is common in many religions, but then again religion has no place in reality.

The concept of mind uploading is based on the mechanistic view of the mind, and denies the vitalist view of human life and consciousness. “Consciousness is part of the natural world. It depends, we believe only on mathematics and logic and on the imperfectly known laws of physics, chemistry, and biology; it does not arise from some magical or otherworldly quality” (p., 25). Even though we do acknowledge that consciousness is not just confined within the biological parameters of the brain and human anatomy, it is in our best interest to emulate as much of the physical properties of the mind as possible in attempting to creating a mind, or copying a mind to a computational substrate. Converging science disciplines will allow the mechanistic and vitalist research to become collaborative in nature and allows the possibility of mind uploading that much more plausible, and perhaps in the near future, even practical.

The amount of storage and computational power required for mind uploading is quite astounding and at the current time is difficult to predict, but several theoretical scientists have presented models describing how much would be needed based on their own calculations. Using these particular models, some of them have estimated that mind uploading may become possible within decades if trends such as Moore’s Law continues. Although Moore’s Law has been fairly accurate on the exponential change of computer transistors and computational processing power, Moore’s Law does not extend beyond these types of computing. Quantum computing will allow us to get much closer to actual mind uploading due to the nature of its potential hardware not running from transistors, but the quantum energy that exists all around us, and allows for much more complexity and depth of models and simulations, with the possibility of mind uploading included.

Benefits of Mind Uploading


If the information and processes of the mind can be disassociated from the biological body, then they are no longer tied to the individual limits and lifespan of that body. Information within a brain could be partly or wholly. Opined or transferred to one or more other substrates, including digital storage or another brain, thereby reducing or eliminating mortality risk. This general proposal was first made in 1971by renowned University of Washington bio gerontologist George M. Martin. For transhumanists, this is just one possibly method of becoming post human, living on in a different form of yourself via a computational substrate.

A possible benefit of mind uploading is the possibility of running more than one copy of a human mind existing at once. Such copies could potentially allow an individual to experience many things at once. And later integrate the experiences of all copies into a central mentality at some point in the future, effectively allowing a single sentient being to be many places at once, and do many things at once; this concept has been explored in fiction. Such partial and complete copies of a sentiment being raise interesting questions regarding identity and individuality (p., 26).

Issues of Mind Uploading

The Bekenstein bound is an upper limit on information that can be contained within a given finite region of space, which has finite amount of energy, or conversely, the maximum amount of information required to perfectly describe a given physical system down to the quantum level. I won’t get into the theoretical and physics math involved, but just know that it represents the maximum information needed to perfectly recreate the average human brain down to the quantum level, and will list further reading resources at the end of this article.

No matter the techniques used to capture or recreate the all of the functions of a human brain , the demands of a computational process are immense, directly related to the huge number of neurons within the human brain and the innate complexity of each one of those neurons in completing human movement and thought.  Henry Markram,lead researcher of the Blue Brain Project has this to say:

“It will be very difficult because, in the brain, every molecule is a powerful computer and we would need to simulate the structure and function of trillions upon trillions of molecules as well as all the rules that govern how they interact. You would literally need computers that are trillions of times bigger and faster than anything existing today” (p., 27).


Those whom are advocating and supporting the possibility, and advancement of research and development of mind uploading point to Moore’s Law, that the neccessary computing will become available in the coming decades.  We need more people in the STEM fields dedicated to the advancement of computing power, and many nations across the world are recognizing the increasingly demanding need for people dedicated to STEM, which are vital converging technologies.

Part 2 of this article will discuss:

Philosophical issues, including copying v moving

Legal and economic issues

Relevant technologies and techniques

Current Research

Criticisms of mind-uploading

The next article will obviously be much lengthier, so it will take longer to write, but hopefully this article has sparked some interest.  Below are some further reading suggestions:





Brain-Computer-Interfaces…Controlling With Your Thoughts


BCI, or what is commonly known as Brain-Computer Interface is an emerging group of technologies which can also be presented as brain-machine interfaces (BMI), or mind-machine interfaces (MMI). In the recently published book of research, Introduction to Neural Engineering for Motor Rehabilitation (2013) by Dario Farina, Winnie Jensen and Metin Akay, the summary on the chapter covering BCI’s provides an excellent definition of BCI’s and the current applications they are being used in.

“A BCI monitors the user’s brain activity, extracts specific features from the brain signals that reflect the intent of the subject, and translates them into action. BCI Technology offers a natural way to augment human capabilities by providing a new interaction link with the outside world and, thus it is particularly relevant as an aid for patients with severe neuromuscular disabilities.” (Millan, p. 237).

A BCI used on a patient may monitor quite a few different signals which can include, electrical, magnetic and metabolic. It is important for those studying the effectiveness of BCI’s to have the varying levels of these signals available at all times. Magnetic fields within the brain can be recorded with (MEG), or what is also known as magnetoencephalography while brain metabolic activity, which are measured by changes in blood flow to the brain can be witnessed with positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and near-infared spectroscopy (NIRS). (Millan, p., 239). However, electrical brain activity can be measured more accurately and using both invasive and non-invasive procedures.
History of BCI Research
The notion of brain-computer interaction did not become a full-fledged research focus and the object of grants until 1973 at UCLA. That research headed by Jacques J. Vidal and pursued by DARPA, ushered in a new era of technology for humans: linking human brains with the interfaces and operating systems of computers.

In a recent article , “Researchers at the University at Buffalo and elsewhere are helping to advance technology that allows people to control robots with their minds. UB isn’t focused on world domination, but rather applying these brain-computer interface (BCI) devices to manufacturing, medicine and other fields.”

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-11-mind-controlled-robots-medicine-video.html

BCI technologies have so many possibilities with each advancing year, and it comes to show that our thoughts really can control objects, computers, robots, among other things that we may want to control with our thoughts. You are thinking expensive right? Well, the sticker shock is not as rough as one might think. The device used in the article referenced above, retails for $750 and fits on your head pretty much like a normal cap. Personalized BCI interfaces such as this will become more commonplace by the end of this decade. There are a total of 14 sensors that are connected to help the software recognize your thought patterns. This has come quite a ways, even from the mid 1990’s when BCI interfaces were quite bulky, much more expensive and essentially were not available for retail purchase. Each succeeding year will see decreases in price, decreases in the number of and surface area of sensors, increases in sensitivity and more robust interactive software and hardware. The potential uses are profound:


“For example, it could help paraplegic patients to control assistive devices, or it could help factory workers perform advanced manufacturing tasks”. The device begins to learn your synapse patterns within a few days and can complete simple tasks, such as demonstrated by the graduate student in the video from the link above. BCI technologies also have the potential to remove repetitious and tedious tasks, while we control a robot through BCI to complete that task for us, the future of multitasking!

“The devices can also leverage the worker’s decision-making skills, such as identifying a faulty part in an automated assembly line, while also improving workers safety and productivity.” It is just a matter of time until BCI technologies become widely available especially with the converging sciences of nanotechnology, biotechnology, cognitive science, information technology and synthetic biology.

Near-Future Thoughts:

Currently, with BCI, the feedback to the software of the computer is the only direction in which the input goes.  The next stage of research the rest of this decade will be focusing on is getting feedback to go both directions.  For example, say you think of an action for the robot to complete and when you visually see it happen, the movement is not as smooth as you would’ve liked.  In near-future BCI the robot, or artificial intelligence will help direct you to think in a manner to get the exact moment you are seeking and the speed of which it can learn complex actions and behaviors will decrease.  Essentially, it will aid in manifesting your subconscious.  Multi-tasking indeed!

The more our brains get intertwined with computers the more ‘uploaded’ we essentially are.  This leads to the next article.