28 April 2021
While this semester has been challenging for me to ideate concepts for my thesis project, I feel like I finally have a concrete idea for what I’d like to create. I first considered things I was passionate about, one of them being sustainability, so with this field in mind I started my research. I needed to align sustainability with some other field and I realized design would be perfect since I’m also passionate about that subject. I looked through a whole bunch of articles and various scholarly readings to help me gather key information to implement into my pre-thesis. I finally constructed an idea for my project which was Sustainably Late, a clothing company where consumers could donate plastic bottles in exchange for a shirt or jacket. After a couple of weeks, I developed a storyboard and mockups for how the concept would work, however, I ended up pivoting to another concept which was transhumanism. With this subject in mind, I spent weeks trying to nail down exactly what I wanted my prototype to be: I knew it would be difficult to develop a post-human invention since the theory is a bit controversial and technology hasn’t progressed enough to reach transhumanism capabilities just yet. After much research, I finally came up with a concept that would be a simulated, virtual experience for individuals who would like to see what a post-human society may look like.
The reason why I chose to switch my pre-thesis concept from a sustainable fashion company to a transhumanism, simulated experience is due to a discussion my seminar class had one day on the idea of separating the mind from the body, also known as dualism. This theory always intrigued me because I had always been fascinated by sci-fi movies portraying whole brain emulation and human-like cyborgs, and I figured this would be a great theory to depict for my seminar project proposal. After meeting with my professor, Ahmed Ansari, to discuss the format of my paper, he informed me I could tie my research into what I’m developing for my pre-thesis project. Since this was the case, I chose to pivot because I realized I was more interested in the subject over sustainable fashion, and I could allocate more time to both the paper and pre-thesis since the two coincide. While I was tying Georges Batailles’ theories to my paper, I also researched different forms of predicted transhumanism outcomes and became fairly interested in the idea of whole brain emulation, also known as mind uploading. I ask two different individuals, one age 65 and the other age 23, what their thoughts on transhumanism were: the 65-year-old said “to be honest I don’t think I would feel comfortable with transhumanism because I don’t like the idea of never dying, however, I would like to go to space,” while the 23-year-old stated, “I don’t know how I feel about uploading my mind onto a computer, but I would be interested in trying nano-medicine and possibly an external robotic accessory.” I looked through various articles and watched many Youtube videos on this concept, and came up with an idea — a virtual experience where humans could look into the future and see the possible outcomes of a post-human world.
The experience would consist of what society may look like five hundred years from now: users could look at our Earth’s current state, travel around space, and interact with others who are both AI and users with the same program (this would be a multiplayer component). I tried to create wireframes and mockups around my idea, however, it just seemed to be difficult to produce as a solely visual VR experience. As I continued my research, I watched a video on what it would be like for humans to reach Proxima Centauri B, which is the closest planet outside the Milky Way and has the potential to be habitable for human life. I figured Proxima B could integrate well into my VR experience, however, I contemplated how it would take nearly 73,000 years to reach the planet and there would have to be much health/technical support for the ride to go smoothly. Since it may be impossible for humans at their current state to travel into deep space, uploading a human consciousness may be one of the best ways for humanity to reach space limits. From this concept, I finalized what I wanted my prototype to be. The program I’m proposing is an experience where humans use a VR headset, such as the Oculus, and are greeted by an AI voiceover informing them about what’s happening in the year 2521. The program then informs the user they’re mind has been uploaded into a light sail spacecraft, allowing them to only have to take 20 years to reach Proxima B. As the user starts the journey through space, which only takes about 5 minutes in the simulation, the voiceover explains why they’re headed to Proxima B and what’s happened to civilization since the year 2021. Once they reach the planet, the user can look around and point to various objects that display little bits of information about what they are and why they’re on the planet.
While I feel like I finally have a solid idea for what I’d like to create for my thesis project, I still have a significant amount of contemplation, research, sketching, designing, testing, and prototyping to implement towards my thesis. Right now, I have a bunch of sources, feedback, storyboards, sketches, and mockups, although my idea could entirely change to a different concept by the Fall. Over the summer, I plan on finalizing my idea and seeing if it’s something I’d like to stick with by the time I start my thesis course, so I don’t pivot halfway through the semester and have to start all over again. If I do decide to stick with my project, which I’ll set a deadline for myself to think about by June 1st, then I’ll start to interview more individuals on what their thoughts about my potential prototype are. After receiving their feedback, I’ll use it to wireframe more and then implement the insights into a virtual reality creation program, like Unity or Unreal Engine. I’ll first have to learn whichever program I’m using or I might reach out to fellow peers with VR creation experience. Once the program is complete, I’ll execute it as an app for users to try and develop my thesis. I look forward to my thesis class and can’t wait to see what I end up developing by the time I graduate, whether it be my concept now or a totally different one.
Proxima B/Whole Brain Emulation Research
Sustainably Late Research
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Final Report Presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1bFdO3aLPju7n5V-eJo-sN54vrIVJuMsNw3hxDOyxUao/edit?usp=sharing