Friday, October 29, 2004

Brazil signs on to Open Source Socialism

From Slashdot vis the Transhumantech list

We Pledge Allegiance to the Penguin

"Wired magazine has an excellent four page article
discussing Brazil's new approach to Intellectual Property rights. It
discusses everything from battling with the international
pharmaceutical industries, to song sampling, to the national adoption
of Linux. Richard Stallman stated that India's political commitment
to free software is second only to Brazil's after attending a
weeklong free software teach-in for members of the Brazilian national
congress, where 161 out of 594 members of congress, from a broad range
of parties, had signed up with the free software caucus - making it
one of the largest caucuses in the Brazilian government."

Lessig points out that US is 13th in broadband access

Lawrence Lessig ironically notes "America world leader in technology(?)"

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Fukuyama rejects Bush & neocon foreign policy, fights with fellow neocon "bioethicist" Krauthammer

In Danny Postel's startling "Fukuyama's moment: a neocon schism opens" Danny quotes U of Chicago Prof Mearscheimer:
"Fukuyama and Krauthammer are without a doubt the two heavyweights of the neoconservative intelligentsia, and their debate is about terribly important issues, issues of central importance to American foreign policy."
Turns out Fukuyama has concluded that Bush and his neocon cabal screwed the pooch in Iraq, and he's washing his hands of the "democratize the Middle East in a US tank" strategy.

I don't have to remind the readers of this blog that Fukuyama and Krauthammer also both have been members of Kass' President's Council on Bioethics for the last couple of years. Would that there was real debate and openness among the neocons on bioethics policy. Says Fukuyama
“I would forgive a lot if any of these people who were very strong advocates of the war showed any reflectiveness about what’s happened or any acknowledgement that maybe there was something problematic in what they were recommending. Krauthammer doesn’t do that, and President Bush doesn’t do that. I take that as a big flaw. It seems to me it’s not going to help their case to keep insisting that they were right about everything.”

Neo–conservatism faces a test, says Fukuyama. Either it will adapt in the face of changing realities on the ground or “stick to a rigid set of principles.” The outcome, he says, will “mean either the death or the survival of this movement.”...

For Fukuyama, the prospects of a Bush victory in the presidential election are troubling. In the Financial Times (14 September 2004) he wrote:... “if Mr Bush is returned with a large mandate in November, the administration will have got away with a Big Lie about the war on terrorism ..."
Well, at least he's thinking about something other than the looming threat from transhumanism.

Extrapolation

In the last forty years American men have gotten 25 pounds fatter and one inch taller on average.
AP: "In 1960-62, the average man weighed 166.3 pounds. By 1999-2002, the average had reached 191 pounds, according to the National Center for Health Statistics -- part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- which issued the report. Similarly, the average woman's weight rose from 140.2 pounds to 164.3 pounds. The trends are the same for children: Average 10-year-olds weighed about 11 pounds more in 1999-2002 than they did 40 years ago."
Extrapolating backwards, American men would have been 5'1" tall and only weighed 16 pounds in 1720. Amazing that we were able to kill so many native Americans. Even our newly discovered Hobbit cousins could have kicked our ass.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bulge-Gate: Is GW the first Cyborg president?

George Bush Bulges: Does Bush have a device under his Jacket? Is it an earpiece/transmitter? Is he being remote-controlled by Dick Cheney? You be the judge.

Buttiglione: Crucial vote on EU panel delayed

Facing an embarrassing defeat in the European Parliament, incoming EU chief Jose Manuel Barroso has delayed a vote on his embattled 24-member executive team (CNN). Many observers were furious that Rocco Buttiglione, a Catholic who thinks homosexuality a sin, had been included in the team. As Mr Buttiglione has now found out, thinking homosexuality a sin has a profound effect on the politics of the European Parliament. Outraged by his views of a group whose fundamental rights are in his care, MEPs were equally appalled by his rather primitive conception of the family, an institution which exists so that women can bear children and enjoy the protection of a husband, Mr Buttiglione believes (The Economist).
The 732-member assembly had been set to vote Wednesday on the new European Commission, but Barroso was unable to convince enough lawmakers to give him the simple majority he needed to win approval.
"If a vote was taken today, the outcome would not be positive," Barroso told parliament. "In these circumstances, I have decided not to submit a new commission for your approval today."
Barroso faced strong opposition over his proposed justice commissioner, Italian Rocco Buttiglione, who offended many lawmakers with his conservative views on homosexuality, marriage and women.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

BioCon Intervention at Foresight Meeting in Washington

I'm writing a longer piece reviewing the very encouraging progress made by Foresight at their big Nanotechnology conference in Washington D.C. this weekend, which I've been attending. But I wanted to share with you radical cyborgs one of the odd, although possibly promising, aspects of the conference: The endorsement of the meeting by, and enthusiastic participation of, the religious conservatives from the Ethics and Public Policy Center. In particular the EPPC’s wunderkind Adam Keiper, managing editor of their bioconservative journal The New Atlantis, set up a blog for the conference, blogged every talk, and even posted video clips of speakers.

In the summer of 2003 Keiper authored “The Nanotechnology Revolution” in The New Atlantis which argued that the prospect of molecular manufacturing had to be debated in Washington. He noted that the only opposition at that time was from nutty leftists and environmentalists (although the Christian Right joined the fray shortly after that). And he outlined what he thought the real debate over nano should be. The problems of inequitable access and structural unemployment will quickly fade “as usually happens in our innovative market economy.” Rather, Keiper argued that the real problems were the “extinctionist challenge,” deciding how much “we tinker with and revise our bodies,” and “choose a future as men or machines.”
“The era of nanotechnology may be one of hubris and overreach, where we use our godlike powers to make the world anew. Is there room for wonder in a future where atoms march at our command?...Those who care about the deeper questions—about what nanotechnology means for human nature—must also master the details, both political and scientific. And they must offer not only lamentations for the disruptions and dehumanization that nanotechnology might cause, but a sensible vision of how nanotechnology might do some practical good—or even stir the very wonder that could be diminished by rearranging the smallest parts without seeing the whole.”
In other words, bioconservatives need to join the nanotech movement, champion everything short of radical changes in the human body, and militate against transhumanists. Most of Keiper’s blog entries from Washington were simple enthusiastic reportage, but some of the motivation of EPPC’s unexpected enthusiasm for engagement with such a transhumanist-inclined crowd was revealed in asides such as:
“There has been very little talk at this conference about transhumanism and cryonics, two fields intimately connected to nanotechnology. I'll spare you my own rather skeptical feelings on these subjects, and will instead let a cryonics true-believer explain his interest in his own words….”
When Keiper got up to speak on "The Importance of Nanotech Politics" he avoided flacking for Bush (anti-)“science policy,” as he does in other fora, and focused on winning the crowd with a pragmatic argument for how they could win more federal largesse. He noted the disproportionate numbers of political extremists in the audience, mentioning “anarcho-capitalists” and “neo-Marxists,” who are not engaged with the actual debates on nanotech policy in Congress and the parties. As a consequence, the molecular manufacturing faction was “getting its ass whipped” politically. In other words (pounding on the podium) if the Foresight types really want funding for molecular manufacturing they need to join the parties, especially the dominant party, the GOP. They need to stop tipping their hat the United Nations, which he noted was despised in Washington (at least by his friends).

The final conclusion he offered the audience: shun transhumanists. The “great political realignment” that is emerging, he argued, is between transhumanists of right and left, and those on the right and left who fear the “dangers of human hubris.” If the nano-enthusiasts want to get their horse ridden they need to ensure their prospects don’t rise or fall along with those of transhumanism and singularitarianism.

So call me a Pollyanna, but this made me smile. A flack from the party that controls all three branches of government, who sits in an office in a multi-million dollar complex on Capitol Hill, who serves as an adjunct to Leon Kass’ cleansing of American bioethics of post-Reformation ideas, this young policy warrior thinks the most important political intervention he can make is get nanotechers to cut loose transhumanists?

Pro-life or pro-death?

I am reading a lot about the ongoing UN debate on therapeutic cloning. Fortunately, at this moment it appears that the proposed worldwide ban on all cloning (reproductive and therapeutic) will not pass, but things could change also as a result of the forthcoming presidential elections in the US. If Bush wins, the US support for the ban will increase, but if Kerry wins (fingers crossed) the US may gradually switch side. Let's hope for the best.
Support for therapeutic cloning derives from its potential medical applications and the positive and very promising early results. At the same time it is clear that more research is needed to develop operational therapies. A worldwide ban, if respected, would prevent such research and the development of therapies that could save lives. Of course, even if the ban were agreed there would be no means to actually enforce it, and the result could be that in many countries all cloning, including reproductive, would be pursued without regulation.
The debate on therapeutic cloning will continue for a long time. In a debate, the camp that manages to appropriate words with a positive connotation gains a competitive advantage. At the beginning of a debate, it is always wise to try preventing the other camp from subliminally establishing ownership of "good" words.
I am referring to the widespread use of the term "pro-life" to indicate the anti-research camp. Most journalists, including many who openly support the right to research, use it. The term carries positive connotations: most people feel that something "pro-life" is good, and that opposing it must be "anti-life" and no good. But what right do those in the anti-research camp have to call themselves "pro-life"?
The terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice" were used at the time of the abortion debate to indicate respectively those against and in favor of abortion. Since the cultural and political polarizations in the current therapeutic cloning debate are similar, it appears that anti-research forces have inherited the "pro-life" label without any critical thinking.
But let's ask the question: what is more "pro-life" - pursuing research that can lead to the development of therapies to save and improve actual lives of thinking and feeling human beings - or banning such research on the basis of vague religious concepts?
Who can say that refusing to save lives is "pro-life", and saving lives is not? Come on, this is just ridiculous!
I wish to invite all those who write on therapeutic cloning to refrain from applying the "pro-life" label to those who want to let people die. "Pro-death" is a much clearer and more correct label.