Woodstock TranshumansI love this town. Last night, just down the road from my office on Tinker Street, in the same studio where I recorded this video, a group of world-class thinkers in applied science fiction came together to talk about what it means to be human.

Ray Kurzweil, James J. Hughes, and Martine Rothblatt concluded that we are little more than the processing power of our neurons–a function that will soon (by 2029 says Kurzweil) be duplicated by machines. All we’ll have to do to back up the wetware between our ears will be to gather as many bits of information about our behavior and memories as possible and feed them into a database.

The one hold out was Wendall Wallach, who questioned whether human emotions will ever be duplicated by machines. “Human beings are evolved, biochemical, emotional instruments out of which higher order rational faculties came in a much later stage in that development–really, in the last 50 to 100,000 years. Our rational faculties are not distinct from our emotional beings.”

To which Kurzweil responded, it is true that emotional, empathic thought is the cutting edge of human cognition.”But it’s not something mystical or magical, it’s something the brain does, it’s something we can understand and recreate and enhance.”

The film 2B, produced by Rothblatt and addressing these issues in dramatic form, followed the panel discussion a couple of hours later.