(Posted July 13, 2015)

Don Braxton, professor of religion at Juniata, is interviewed about transhumanism for the College's website.
Don Braxton, professor of religion at Juniata, is interviewed about transhumanism for the College's website.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- At the time where movies and TV shows depict machines becoming self-aware and improving, complicating, or destroying human life, the timing may be perfect for a national conference at Juniata College, July 26-31, on how humans use technology to improve themselves, called "Our Transhuman Futures."

The academic conference features fascinating academic presentations on how technology, wearable computers and genetic engineering will bring the human race closer to becoming machines, but it also will offer a computer music concert, a "Cy-ak" kayak trip that uses a drone and electronics to augment the river trip and a lecture written and delivered by an Android called Bina 48.

"The overarching theme is that augmented humans are inevitable," explains Donald Braxton, J. Omar Good Professor of Religion and the organizer of the conference. "This evolution of the human body is going to be exciting, terrifying and disruptive."

For futher information about the conference, please contact Don Braxton, professor of religion at Juniata, at 814-641-3530 or by email at braxton@juniata.edu.

In addition to the lectures and presentations, the conference will feature special events over the four-day conference. There will be a performance of "Citizen Cyborg," a futuristic play written by Neal Utterback, assistant professor of theatre at Juniata, that recently completed a theatrical run at a theatre in New York City. Gabriel Gould, a nationally known composer based in central Pennsylvania will present a "performance-lecture," of experimental music. "Gabriel will play one of his compositions and then take a break to talk about each piece," says Braxton.

"This evolution of the human body is going to be exciting, terrifying and disruptive."

Donald Braxton, professor of religion

Other highlights include a lecture written and delivered by Bina 48, a "living being" created by the Terasem Co., and a lecture delivered over Skype by Martine Rothblatt, a noted futurist and creator of Sirius Radio.
A complete day-by-day schedule of the conference is as follows:

Sunday, July 26

The conference starts at 3 p.m. with registration and check-in in the lobby of Ellis Hall until 7 p.m.. At 5 p.m., the conference will provide a welcome dinner in Baker Refectory in Ellis Hall.

At 7 p.m., there will be an orientation session in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science, which will be followed by the concert/lecture featuring Gabriel Gould. The concert is at 8 p.m. in Neff Lecture Hall.

Monday, July 27

At 9 a.m., the lecture "The Culture of Google Glass and its Social Acceptance: Experience from the Front Lines" will be delivered in Neff Lecture Hall by Don Schwartz, a consultant with VectorSpect LLC.

At 11 a.m., two presentations will run concurrently. Aleksandra Przegalinska, an assistant professor at Kozminki University in Warsaw, Poland, will talk about "Gamifying Neuroscience" in Neff Lecture Hall. At the same time, the talk "iMind: Paul Klee, Dialogism and BCI" will be given by Samantha Reid, a doctoral candidate in communication from the Toronto's Ontario Institute of Technology, in Room 1022 of the von Liebig science center.

At 1:30 p.m., two more concurrent sessions will runs, including "Digital Technology and the (R)evolution of Narrative: Interactive Fiction as Tranhumanist Genre," by Andrew Kulak, a content consultant and researcher based at Virginia Tech University, in Blacksburg, Va., in Neff Lecture Hall. In Room 1022 of the science center, Monika Malewska, associate professor of art at Juniata, will talk about "Transhumanism and Modern Painting."

Researcher Phil Galinsky, of Penn State's Cognition, Affect and Temperament Lab, will lecture on "Mobile Brain-Machine Integration Technologies in Mental Health" at 3 p.m. in Neff Lecture Hall.

The final presentation of the day, "Wearable Technology, Digital Life and Our Proposed Transhumanist Futures," will be given by Isabel Pedersen, an associate professor of digital life, media and culture at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and the author of "Ready To Wear: A Rhetoric of Wearable Computers and Reality-Shifting Media."

Tuesday, July 28

Mark Waser, chief technology officer of the Digital Wisdom Institute, will speak at 9 a.m. on "Human-Robotic Interaction, the Future of Work and the Meaning of Life" in Neff Lecture Hall.

The day's concurrent sessions start at 11 a.m. with a lecture by William Fedirko and Emma Goldman, both from the State University of New York-Buffalo, on "Artifical Intelligence and Quantum Mechanics: Philosophical Consequences" in Neff Lecture Hall in the science center. In Room 1022 of the center, Robert Bercaw, of the John Glenn Research Center, in Cleveland, Ohio, will speak on "Intelligence, Wild, Domestic and Artificial." The John Glenn Center is NASA's Center for Excellence in turbo machinery.

In the afternoon two 1:30 p.m. concurrent sessions are scheduled. Alison Earnhart, a science teacher at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, in Austin, Texas, will speak in Neff Lecture Hall on "Engineering Education Using the DIY/Hacker Movement." Ruth Bercaw, an artist from Cleveland, Ohio specializing in three-dimensional works, will speak in Room 1022 of the science center on "Flowers in Space."

Journalist Tom Imerito, a freelance science journalist and owner of Science Communications in Pittsburgh, Pa., will speak on "Transhumanism, Democracy and Science Journalism" in Neff Lecture Hall at 3 p.m.

At 8 p.m., members of the conference will attend a showing of the play "Citizen Cyborg" in the Suzanne von Liebig Theatre in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts.

Wednesday, July 29

Friday's sessions open with "Mindfiles, Androids, and Cyber-Identity," hosted by Bruce Duncan, managing director of the Terasem Movement Foundation, and delivered by his company's Android, Bina 48, at 9 a.m. in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Science Center.

Starting at 12:40 p.m., participants can take part in one of three physical activities: "Cy-aking on the Juniata," where technology-outfitted kayaks glide through the waters of the Juniata River, a hike to nearby cliffs and Juniata's Maya-Lin designed Peace Chapel, or a demonstration of 3-D printing. The 3-D printing demonstration meets in the lobby of the science center. The other tours meet at Ellis Hall steps.

Martine Rothblatt, a lawyer, author and entrepreneur, is the CEO of the United Therapeutics Corp., will give a talk on "The Future of Health Care" via Skype at 6:30 p.m. in Neff Lecture Hall. She also is the creator of GeoStar and Sirius Radio. Following Rothblatt in Neff, Ron Bailey, a science correspondent for Reason magazine and author of "Liberation Biology: The Moral and Scientific Case for the Biotech Revolution," will lecture at 8 p.m. on "The Democratic Threat to Transhumanism."

Thursday, July 30

Conference organizer and unofficial host Don Braxton, will lecture on "The Uncanny and the Sacred: Religion and Body Modification" at 9 a.m. in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig science center. At 11 a.m., Jay Friedenberg, a professor of psychology at Manhattan College in New York City, will speak in Neff Lecture Hall on "A Psychology of the Future: Are We up to the Challenges of Technology?"

The final two concurrent sessions of the conference begin at 1:30 p.m., featuring Piotr Stankiewitz, a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Warsaw, Poland, talking on "New Stoicism for New Humans," in Neff Lecture Hall, and Christopher Benek associate pastor at the Family Ministries and Mission at the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., lecturing in Room 1022 on "Christianity and Transhumanism."

At 3 p.m., Vlad Bowen, executive director of the Cosmism Foundation in New York City, will speak on "Modern Cosmism and Transhumanism" in Neff Lecture Hall.

The last lecture of the conference will take place at 8 p.m. in Neff Lecture Hall, as James Hughes, executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, as well as a bioethicist and sociologist at Trinity University in Hartford, Conn., talks on "Moral Enhancement and the Religious Dialogue with Transhumanism: a Basis for Consilience."

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.