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Martine Rothblatt, Satellite Radio Founder and Futurist, Extols the Singularity at Moogfest

"I'm not really sure why I was invited," said Dr. Martine Rothblatt from the stage of Durham, N.C.'s Fletcher Hall. Probably, she said, "because of creating SiriusXM."

“I’m not really sure why I was invited,” said Dr. Martine Rothblatt from the stage of Durham, N.C.’s Fletcher Hall. Probably, she said, “because of creating SiriusXM.” Rothblatt had come to Durham as a keynote speaker during Moogfest, an annual event that takes as its mission the honoring and furthering of synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog’s work in music and technology.

She was being modest — the reason for Rothblatt’s appearance was self-evident. As a technologist and executive, Rothblatt conceived of satellite radio, and founded Sirius, the industry’s founding consumer-facing company. As a futurist, she espouses the decoupling of humanity from its anatomy — clear credentials for an event with literal cyborgs milling. As a transgender mother of four, her presence alone was a protest against North Carolina’s controversiall “bathroom bill” HB2, which is widely perceived as discriminatory towards gender-fluid individuals and has caused a steady stream of musicians to cancel concerts in the state.


“Gender is in the mind,” Rothblatt said, referencing HB2 before referring to Moogfest as a festival in active protest against that bill. She also called for universal free education, which she said would be “the best investment since the Louisiana Purchase.”

In her talk, punctuated with a slideshow of strikingly low-rent stock imagery (the design instincts of a scientist at play, perhaps) Rothblatt outlined her struggle with founding SiriusXM, then Sirius, outlining the universal opposition she faced. “When SiriusXM started, virtually everybody said it was a fools errand.” She faced pposition from the National Association of Broadcaster, an extremely powerful lobby group, saying the organization probably has a “somewhat of an incestuous situation” in the nation’s capitol. Add to that the pessimism she received from “the current chairman of SiriusXM,” who” said there’s no market to get people to pay for radio. He turned to me and said Martine get a real job… now he has that job.”

From there Rothblatt held forth on her favorite subject: the singularity, or the point at which humans and computers meld completely, making us cognitively immortal. She hopes to see this happen by mapping a person’s psychology and uploading it into a digitized ‘mindfile.’

“A human mind running on mindware” in the cloud “is still a mind.” Her speech was punctuated with the sunny, dramatic catch-phrasing common to (often very wealthy — Rothblatt was the highest-paid female executive of 2013) futurists. 

“Instead of each song being everywhere, each soul will be everywhere.”

“The meme is mightier than the gene.”

“It’s autonomy that rules, not anatomy.”

“We are Persona Creatus,” not Homo sapiens.

“Information wants to be free because we want to be free.”

At a festival in near-perfect parallel to Rothblatt’s own ‘unlocked’ personality, the presentation tended towards the skin when it could’ve bitten off more meat. The audience could clearly handle it. She closed the first audience question with a simple koan: “I think the most awesome cool thing about be human mind is that everyone is different.”